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Scott Bakal
April 2010
New York Times OP-ED
posted:
It's not often anymore that I get that feeling like I did when I did a black and white illustration in 1993 for ABA Banking Journal and got my copies of the magazine hot off the press.  It was my very first published illustration job.  I know that my illustrator friends know what I am talking about and all the new illustrators out there are waiting to feel that same tingle.  (To all the new illustrators...it feels effin' awesome and treat yourself to a celebration when it happens!)

After 17 years being an illustrator and doing jobs for all types of magazines, book companies and most things imaginable, the feeling of seeing my work in print isn't as forceful as it once was.  Maybe I sound like a dork and not 'cool' but this morning I popped out of bed at 6:30AM totally awake like it was Christmas morning and ran down to the local 7-11 to pick up today's copy of the New York Times with that old 'first job' feeling.  I bought two copies.

I think one of every budding illustrators dreams, especially editorial illustrators, is to get published in the OP-ED section of the New York Times.  It certainly was always a fantasy and a career goal of mine.  I saw it as one of those watermarks in my career and to be able to have the ability to say as many of my friends have said, 'Yeah, I did work for the Times'.

Many years ago when I got started, people told me to go in and see Steven Heller and show him my work because he was always willing to support new talent and to my understanding, give pretty honest thoughts about artist's work.  I never did go see him nor drop off a portfolio.  As much as I would've loved to, my personal view of my work was that 'it wasn't quite there' compared to the many great illustrators doing work for the New York Times.  Over the years, I just forgot about attempting to do it because I've concentrated on many other projects and goals.  In the back of my mind though, it sat there.  That goal.

Nearly two years ago from out of the blue, Sam Weber, then an art director for the Times, a brilliant illustrator in his own right, called me to do a job.  The feelings of attaining this goal bubbled.  Sadly, I had to turn it down because of a scheduling issue. Then a second time he called somewhere around 1PM needing art by 5PM the same day...I didn't get the message until 6PM.  Now I have a handy dandy smart phone so THAT doesn't happen again.

After Sam and Brian Rea left the Times, I feared the brass ring of opportunity to work with the Times had passed.  Until I got an email last Saturday night around 9PM from Aviva Michaelov (Thank you!!!!) wondering if I could do the job.  I wasn't home or even in the state....no matter...damn right...I took the job.  I even got the job in a day early.

'Third time is a charm.'
 
Maybe 17 years is a long time to wait to reach a career goal but since making art is all I want to do in my life, as long as I get to my goals before I die, I'll have plenty of patience.

Yeah, I did work for the Times.

New York Times - 'Ending the Slavery Blame Game' By Henry Louis Gates
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Bakal is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!