My Illustration Career. The Early Years: Part 1

They say there are no mistakes, there are only lessons.

Early in my illustration career I was working at The Bulletin, the daily newspaper in Bend, Oregon and learned a good one. I was working in the advertising department laying out ads, creating art, taking walk-in customers and “cutting color” for the color ads. This was the early 80’s– before the Macintosh computer came along and radically changed publishing.

Cutting color was still a manual process of layering Amberlith film over the ad and cutting the amber film with an exacto knife. Each layer became either cyan, magenta, yellow or black. Lettering and other elements were pasted on each layer to separate the colors for platemaking for the newspaper press. Greens, oranges, purples and flesh tones were on other layers that became combined percentages of CMYK. Flesh tone was 30% magenta and 20% yellow, etc. On some ads there could be 8 layers or more of these breakouts. It sounds pretty time consuming, but I had to become speedy at it since it was a DAILY paper.

Christmas was coming up and the newspaper always put a full page color ad in to wish their readers a merry one. That year the ad consisted of a full page happy Santa and the words “Merry Christmas from your friends at The Bulletin!” Sounds pretty simple.

Well, I somehow forgot to put Santa’s happy face on a flesh tone layer. It stayed on the black layer. About an hour after I turned it in, the head press operator came in with an open early copy of that day’s paper in his hand. He came up to me with a slight grin, showed me the Santa ad and said “ Is this how you wanted this to look?”  I said no! But I knew it was too late to change it.

How I may have looked when I saw it. A low point in my illustration career.
I think I looked like this at that moment

I had given Bend, Oregon its very first Black Santa.

I almost ran into the Ad Directors office to try to explain what had happened, but he already had a copy and knew. I stammered and stuttered, red faced until he put his hand up to stop me. He laughed and said “don’t worry about it. This is a daily paper. People will forget about it by tomorrow.”

Ha! Everyone but me. I didn’t save a tear sheet of that ad, I didn’t want the reminder, but now I wish I had so I could post it on here.

Somebody once said what’s the point of making mistakes if you don’t learn from them? What I learned early in my illustration career is mistakes don’t last forever, but the lessons do. To this day every project gets a thorough review before I let the client see it. Even then mistakes will happen, and when they do I look for the lesson.

What about you? Do you have a story? Please feel free to comment on this post. I look forward to hearing from you.


P.S. I’m calling on all Grammar Police and Spelling Wizards to comment on any errors or omissions you may find in any of my posts. It will help make me a better writer, give me a thicker skin and bring a bright smile to your face knowing you have once again rescued the english language from certain annihilation.

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