Illustrator and fine artist, Janice Fried never knew a time when she wasn't drawing or doing some kind of artwork. "My mother is also an artist so I grew up learning to find beauty in all kinds of things like an old piece of lacy rust or a smooth stone or a piece of birch bark.", says Fried. As a child, Janice loved to create her own children's books and so being an illustrator, matching words with pictures was the most natural thing for her to do.
Ever since I was a child I loved anything that belonged to another time other than the one I lived in.
I loved old movies from the silent era to Film Noir. I loved big band music and scratchy recordings meant to be played on a Victrola. I loved padded shoulder jackets from the 1940’s, spats, and fedoras. My parents used to call me a “throwback”. These days, I’m just Old School.
As an artist, my love of old things extended to using old photographs as inspiration. Images of wasp-waisted women in big ornate hats, mustached men in vests with pocket watch chains, peddlers and immigrants, daguerreotypes in gold frames or tiny tintypes with a blush of hand coloring. Formal portraits or early snapshots of day to day life fascinated me. I’d try to imagine their lives.
I would stare at these photographs endlessly as if by staring at them I could somehow transport myself back in time to New York City circa 1908 even for just a few moments. Of course, the world would only be sepia colored.
Eventually, I began using these photographs to draw from by putting my own twist to the images.
Needless to say, the drawings were and still are done on paper using pencils, pen and ink and paint.
As much as I enjoy poking around online, I struggle with the idea of actually creating artwork using the computer.
I recently read that Thomas Nast, the great political illustrator from the late 19th century couldn’t keep up with the latest technology of his time, which was photo engraving. He was an old school wood engraver. It somehow made me feel better knowing that even then it was difficult for an illustrator to change with the times but there was a lesson in there too.
There is always a choice. You can stubbornly choose to live in the past or you can find a way to live and make a living in the present. Of course it’s just not that black and white.
I am trying but somehow I keep hoping hats will make a comeback.
This world leaves me spinning sometimes.
I decided to put my name into a Google image search recently and was stunned to see how many pieces of mine were being used without my permission on numerous blogs and websites. Most of them gave me a copyright credit but some of them did not. Somewhere in my head I knew this could happen once you put anything online be it a website or a blog or in a publication but seeing it for real was disturbing.
I can forgive the ones who gave me credit for creating a piece of art that happened to fit nicely with their poem or article but it would have been nice to have been asked first.
But then there were the magazines that should have known better. One of these magazines is a major publication that has been around for a very long time and one that I always included in my promotion campaigns.
The fact that the only way I could get my work published by them was by having them steal it is particularly upsetting. Yes, I was credited but I was neither asked nor compensated.
For the last few years I have struggled and wrestled with, mourned over and tried to maintain a career as an illustrator. I have questioned my talent as well as my ability to compete against younger artists born in the digital age.
I have attempted to keep a positive approach with this blog but something about seeing my work used all over the world for free in other people’s blogs makes me question the way the world works now.
Yes, it’s crucial to have some kind of online presence these days if you want to be seen or heard or read but that also leaves you open to thieves. Just because it’s visible to anyone with a computer doesn’t give people the right to use it without asking. People don’t see it as stealing but it is.
Many people feel everything online should be available for anyone to use for free. As an artist, I don’t agree. It devalues what we do and removes any controls from our creations.
People like to say, but it’s great exposure! But as my songwriter husband and creative ally, likes to say, “You could die of exposure”.
Copyright laws were meant to protect the creative. There is also common decency.
Artists need an audience and a way to make a living. We are thrilled when you like our work but please ask first before you just take it. We might just say okay.
“Love Thief” © Janice Fried
One morning when I was about 15 or 16 years old, I woke up to find a curious book with a black and white cover propped up on my yellow bench in my room. It was a gift from a dear friend of my parents who shared the same birthday as me and was always very fond of my artwork.
The book was a collection of work by the artist Aubrey Beardsley whose name would occasionally came up when people looked at my drawings. “Very Beardsleyesque” people would say.
Later some art directors would say the same thing. Sometimes it was said disparagingly and sometimes admiringly. Sometimes it was the reason I was called and sometimes it was the reason I didn’t get the job.
My sketchbooks are filled with black and white line drawings although not all of them “Beardsleyesque”. The style was my own but Aubrey was probably hovering somewhere nearby.
Illustration Promotion from another time and place…
The last couple of months of 2012 were full of drama.
Hurricane Sandy stormed in and swept away some people’s lives and gave purpose to others. We lost power and heat for a week and considered ourselves extremely lucky losing not much more than the food in our refrigerator.
Shortly after the hurricane, there was a huge lottery of almost $300 million dollars. The odds were 1 in 175,223,510.00 to win the jackpot.
I ask myself what would I do with that kind of money? What dreams could I make come true?
My dream was always to be a successful working illustrator. Something money couldn’t buy. A successful career is a blending of so many factors: timing, persistence, talent and yes, luck. $300 million in the bank wouldn’t hurt either….
Despite the odds, I took a chance on doing the thing I most wanted to do with my life and I even won a few golden tickets over the years but the jackpot would have been a lifetime’s worth of illustration jobs.
Over the next few years, I did a total of three decks of cards for them; 175 pieces of artwork that brought new life to my illustration portfolio.
So here’s to 2013. Will it be win, lose or draw?
I choose Draw.
I have several hatboxes in my closet with letters tied in bunches with ribbons. Yes, I know I am old fashioned. I have always loved writing letters. Although more than that, I love to receive them. I have love letters, letters from friends in summer camps, precious letters from my grandfather with his magnificent artistic handwriting and from my grandmother who rarely wrote letters but did when I was away at college. I have letters from friends who lived only a few miles away and letters from my brother who lives thousands of miles away. I save them all.
I’ve heard talk about email reviving the art of writing letters but the ding of an incoming email or text message is just not the same thing as finding a lovely colorful jewel in the mailbox that was hand delivered and mixed in with boring, white enveloped bills. It’s magical.
Sometimes you’d wait for days or weeks for a letter. The waiting made the arrival even more exciting when it finally showed up.
Whenever my family went on a camping trip, which we did each summer, invariably I’d become friends with someone in a neighboring campsite who might for a time become my pen pal.
Occasionally I’d be lucky and one would hang on for a number of years. Pam was one of those. She and I met on a camping trip to Cape Ann, Massachusetts when I was about 9 years old. We wrote voraciously for many years.
Once in awhile we even exchanged a phone call. Pam enjoyed hearing my New York accent, which of course I wasn’t aware of having. Around the time I went to college she and I stopped writing. She and I recently reconnected via email but somehow it just isn’t the same.
My other long time pen pal is Ine whose name and address I got via Seventeen Magazine. Ine lives in Holland and we’ve been writing to each other for decades. Our pen and paper friendship does dip into email once in awhile when one of us gets concerned that we haven’t heard from the other for a while.
Ine and I have lived our lives through our letters, from teenage angst to college and careers, from the death of her parents to the adoption of my son. It’s all there on paper and written in ink, stamped and mailed.
She keeps my life and I keep hers, never to be deleted, bundled in a hatbox and tied with a ribbon.
The summer always starts with grand plans of things I want to do, people I want to see and places I want to go. Usually the plans I have at the beginning of the summer bear no relation to what I actually did or didn’t do. This summer was no different.
There was our wonderful town pool of course where we spent many evenings with a thermos of cocktails, watching our son do double somersaults off the diving board.
There was a trip to visit my wonderful dear friend in Olympia, Washington, that despite my initial anxiety about traveling alone was a trip full of love.
There was the untimely death of a local man who coached my son’s Little League team one season. He was a widower with two children whose good humor touched many in our small community.
There was the planned visit from my brother and his family who live many thousands of miles away. It was their first visit here as a family in three years.
Their trip coincided with my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary.
We finally got to see the new Yankee Stadium for the first time courtesy of my cousin. It was my son’s first Yankee game and luckily, they won.
There was the birth of our friend’s baby in late August.
There was a short vacation to the beach for a couple of nights and a long talked about dinner with friends.
There was lots of time and little time.
But now summer’s haze is beginning to dissipate and I can feel the clarity and creative energy of autumn creeping in.
I was very excited to be interviewed for Tikkun Magazine’s Daily Blog and art gallery.