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.
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.
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 So now my painting will not be published.
Here's the sketch that was approved.