Tuesday, February 27, 2007

69,982.8 miles

So. I got a letter from my car insurance company asking me to write down the mileage on my car and the estimated miles I expected to drive in a year. It seemed to be a very important letter because it stated that if I didn't send the sheet in within thirty days they could (or would) raise my rates!

So not wanting that, I quickly enter the garage, open my car door and look at the mileage.

It reads: 70,000 miles.

No kidding.

Not a mile more. Not a mile less.

So I walk back into the kitchen from the garage and return to the sheet.

I think for a minute before writing anything down.

And then I write: my mileage: 69,982.8

. . . because I was worried they would think I was lying if I wrote down the truth.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Believe it or Not!

Do you remember Rodney Allen Rippy from the Jack in the Box commercials a zillion years ago and he couldn't talk because his jumbo jack burger was too big?

Well, he wasn't born in my hometown, but believe it or not, Robert L. Ripley was! Yup! He was born in Santa Rosa and is buried here. too. And, in fact, I walked past his birthplace and his final burial ground just this afternoon. See those photos? He was born in that house and is now buried less than a mile way. (Notice the orbs? I sware.. I never heard of an orb until a month ago on my blog!) Now they're everywhere!

I walk past his house quite a bit on warm evenings.

He was a talented, self-taught artist and sold his first drawing to LIFE magazine when he was just 14 years old! He at one point, nearly became a professional baseball player but he broke his pitcher's arm while playing his first professional game.

As you know, Charles Schulz also lived in my hometown and his drawings were first published by Robert Ripley in his "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" back in 1937.

Read more amazing facts about him.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Just say No

"What will you charge to design a business logo / t-shirt design / an ad for me? I don't want you to spend any more than twenty minutes on it..."

Do you know how many times I have been asked that?

A few months ago I was asked, "Can you do 30 high-end illustrations for my book I hope to publish? I don't have any money but can pay you once it gets published. If. it. gets. published."

My backbone just got a bit tougher today.

Just say no.

Let me tell you about a recent experience. I was hired to do a lot of illustration work for a large toy company. I was thrilled! It was budgeted for $300 for the project and I started working on it at once. It sounded fun and easy enough and I thought I could design it between five and seven hours. What I didn't take into account, was that the creative director was difficult to please and after excessive and relentless amount of changes, it took me 43 hours and I only ended up making $6.42 an hour for the completed project before taxes.

Last week the creative director called me in a panic: "Shawn! I need your help again! I need more artwork! Much like the previous one you did! Can you do it!? I need it on my desk first thing in the morning!"

I cancelled dinner plans and went to work on it right away. I took her art direction from the previous job, and created work I was proud of. I worked through the night and uploaded the project an hour before she downloaded it. Mission accomplished. It felt good she could count on me. I told her I wouldn't let her down and I didn't. I was so excited to hear how her meeting went. I sent her a ton of well wishes.

She sent me off a quick email. "Looks great! Thank you!!"

And then I sent her an invoice for both projects.

I charged her on the agreed price of $300 for the first project that ended up taking me 43 hours and $300 for the similiar project that took me nine hours.

Last night I received a rather cool email from her that left me feeling dehydrated. She coldly remarked that the second project which I worked all through the night was only budgeted in the price range of $75.

Her words made me feel sad and used up. I wrote her back immediately but did not back down on my price.

Freelance business can be a tough business. I've done it off and on most of my life and happily for me, I am employed now and only do freelance on occasion. But it's so easy to say yes to accepting low paying jobs with unappreciative or difficult clients because it pays the bills and it will look good in the portfolio.

About fifteen years ago, I videotaped weddings for a living.

The daughter of a doctor-friend I respected a great deal hired me to videotape her wedding but cancelled at the last minute due to going over her wedding budget. She invited me, instead, to attend the wedding. As a kind gesture and excitement of attending the wedding, I went ahead and with my crew, we videotaped her wedding, anyway, as a wedding present. It didn't cost just our time, but it cost me quite a bit of money in tapes and mics and rental fees and gas for the 3-hour trip. Two months later, I got a call from her brother who I didn't know. "Can you videotape our wedding on the beach in Malibu in September?" I was so excited!

"Of course!"
I told him.

For a moment there, I actually believed that my doctor friend who I so loved and admired, would want me to be paid this time around to videotape her son's wedding. I thought it was so obvious, because she knew the endless hours and energy and expense it took to create her daughter's wedding videotape a few months earlier. But. Somewhere during the conversation, he said "I'm so glad! My mother said you'd probably love to do it for free and we don't have any money to pay you for your travels or the hotel... so I appreciate you saying yes..."

I stood there with the phone to my ear, stunned. I could barely speak. Somehow, I managed to choke out the words "I will not do it for free..."

It would have cost me several hundred dollars to do it for free out of my own pocket. I was young and vulnerable and charged cheaper rates to get the job. But I believe my cheaper prices was the very reason why they didn't respect me in the first place.

I stopped that business after one last wedding I had booked and that was it for me.

After last night and much contemplation today, I have decided to be much more selective of my freelance clients. I want to work with people I like and people who value my creativity. Too often in my past, I felt obligated to work on a project simply because I was asked to do it. And because I would feel guilty for turning down a paying job no-matter-the-price.

Being self-employed can be absolutely wonderful and it is for so many artists. It can open doors to great opportunities and financial success and lots more freedom. But it can also be full of distractions and tempting choices that take you away from the very activity that you really want to make time for.

We can get too caught up on doing mundane and low-paying work that pays the bills, but we run out of time to do what we really dream about. At least, it has certainly been that way with me many times.

Today, even though I feel used up and depleted, I'm so grateful I have a fulltime creative job that I enjoy and don't need to rely on outside jobs to put food on my table. And I will focus on that. I will be grateful for the job I have. And for now on, I will only do freelance work that I love by those who value my work.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How many of you?

Have you ever googled your name? I do on occasion. Sifting through a myriad of names to recognize if any are me. And then I discovered this site. And I learn there are 272 others in the United States with my same name. And, nearly 90% of these people are men! I figured that. I have to jump through hoops to convince folks I'm really Shawn.

"We can't give you that information over the telephone without Shawn's permission", they tell me smugly. "Please have him call us directly for the balance on his credit card."

How many of you are out there with the same name? And, have you ever met anyone with your complete name before?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Backyard Makeover

In September, we transformed my dumpy backyard into a spectacular party place showcasing a line of our fabrics. It's being featured in Quilter's Home magazine this month!

Saturday, February 10, 2007



Only one hour old. My niece forever. I watched the nurse give you your first bath and wash your hair and press your tiny feet into ink to mark your foot prints. You are adorable. You are Tyler's younger sister. And, I already love you. You fill my heart.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Duck, Duck, Goose!

Remember that game as a kid? We'd sit down in a circle facing each other and the person that was it walked around the circle behind us, and as they did, they tapped our heads and said whether or not we were a duck or a goose. Once someone is the goose, they'd get up and chase it around the circle trying to tap that person before they are able to sit in the gooses's spot. If the goose isn't able to do this, they become it for the next round and the game continues.

I loved that game and would sit there on the grass, repeating, "pick me, pick me, pick me..." while my heart beat out of my chest. As soon as they tapped my head, I would be up and running in a flurry. I was a fast runner and would often catch up to it. But other times, I didn't want to catch up to it, because by not catching up, meant I got to become . . . . it. That was even more fun. So I would run as fast as I could just behind it, but never tap their head. So though I lost, I won because I was able to play in the game a bit longer. I would skip around the circle a few times over.. not being able to make up my mind who I wanted to call goose. And if I felt like I wanted to stay in the game longer, I would tap on a head and run slowly to be tapped, so I could play it again! I never understood why no one else stole the game like I did.

I thought of that game after I got tagged by Jannie Ho. Let me tell you something about her that I just discovered this past week.

I have an old box filled with printed out artwork by certain artists whose work has inspired me over the years.

I haven't looked through this box in a few years, but last week when I thumbed through it, I paused at something adorable. Then I caught the name of the artist. I wrote her name on top of the page: Chickengirl Design / July 2004. Imagine that!! That's Jannie Ho! A wonderful artist I just happened upon nearly three years ago!

I had no idea I even knew who she was back then. And now we're playing the same game and she tapped me on the back of my head!

She tagged me to write a list of six weird things about me. That was a hard one for me, believe it or not, but friends of mine had no problem reminding me what they are, so here goes.

Six Weird Things About Me:

1. I have this terrible habit that I'm hardly aware of until someone points it out to me. Whenever someone is talking to me with a really thick accent or in broken english, I respond talking the same voice back to them! I am like a miner bird!

2. Having the soul of a toon, whenever I sneeze, I say "AwWw-Cho0Oo0ooo" and when I knock on someone's door, I knock to the the tune of, "A shave and a haircut, two bits".

3. I unconsciously describe everything by putting the word "little" in front of it. It can be a mansion and I'd say, "That little house is the biggest mansion I've ever seen!"

4. I really don't know how to boil an egg. I have to ask someone first, "Do I put the eggs in when the water is still cold or do I wait til they boil? And, for how long after they start to boil?") I never ever remember.

5. I can find cartoon faces in every day objects.

6. I memorize telephone numbers pretending they are dates. For instance if your number is 389-0704, I would see it as March '89 July 4th.