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Alan Witschonke
August 2009
Bolden Interrupted
posted:
This is a sad story about a promising illustration assignment that went bad. I was called by a new client to do a portrait of Buddy Bolden, the famed New Orleans cornet player, who some claim was one of the originators of Jazz music. Being a big Jazz fan, I couldn’t very well say no to this job, despite the fact that my time was really crunched due to a book job I’d been working on since September. (I’ll post something about that job soon). Getting a good likeness was not an issue since there is only one surviving photo of Buddy and it is so grainy and damaged that it’s practically useless. So I was free to adlib a little on his features while trying to make it look like the same person in the photo.
Detail #1
The dispute centered more around his clothing. Without getting into too much detail about the whole interaction, suffice it to say that I wasn’t given very much information up front. I did the best I could with what I had to work with and the time frame involved. After two rounds of sketches, I got approval to proceed to finish. When I sent them the scan of the final painting, I felt like the time and effort I had expended had paid off, that they would like it. To my dismay, they said they loved it BUT they wanted different pants, shirt, shoes and a bow tie added. I knew that these extensive author’s alterations could not be made without redoing the entire painting.

Detail #2
After I calmed down a bit, I started playing with the scan on the computer. I called the client and said that I could do some of the changes digitally but that I would have to charge an hourly rate since these were post-approval changes. I also said that the revisions were perfectly legitimate, to be historically accurate, but that they should have been articulated at the sketch stage. So I revised the painting on the computer and sent it in, thinking that they would finally be satisfied. Wrong. They wanted more revisions. At that point I emailed them  and said I could not do any more changes because I had no guarantee that there would not be additional changes after that. So now my painting will not be published. 

Revised finish
Here's the sketch that was approved.

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Witschonke is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!