Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Today's my tenth anniversary. April 26, 2001 was the day that I began life as a fulltime freelance illustrator in the worlds of science fiction, fantasy and horror publishing. That was my last day of what many would call a promising and safe professional career in architecture, and pursued what many would call an extremely risky career as a fulltime freelancer. Why do something so boneheaded? Pure and simple, I wanted to be a fulltime professional artist more than anything in the whole world. That simple. Still do.

I always say that I'm an illustrator trying his best every day to be an artist. I don't think you get to be an artist just because you can paint or draw well. It also takes years of seeing and shaping a fresh vision of the world that others can share too. It's more than just mechanical skill. And I never believed the stereotype that all artists are flakes. Some of the savviest, strongest people I know are pro artists. It takes guts to take chances, which is what the best ones do. And it takes time and experience to build a life like that.

Being a fulltime pro artist is my world. Back on April 26, 2001, I had a mortgage, car payment, credit card debt, and the needs of adult survival. The chances of living in a town like San Antonio, Texas while all of my clients were in New York City, and trying to build a client list, on the fly, while not losing my livelihood was...daunting. Understatement of a decade. Advice for those trying to emulate the same? Have a strong stomach, and if not, get one fast. :)

I'm not interested in reminiscing here about these past ten years. I'd prefer my last ten years of work to do the talking. Hopefully it's done some already. I could list the trusted friends and associates I've grown up with in this field, but they know who they are. And yup, I've been fortunate to win a few awards and recognitions along the way. Grateful for all, and actually THAT might be the understatement of the decade. :)

But here's a hard truth I can proudly say today that I couldn't until now -- at last count, over this last ten years, I've produced over 120 cover illustrations for major science fiction, fantasy and horror books. In other words, I've averaged one major published piece of cover art in sf/f/h for every single month of the last ten years. I don't know how many pro artists can match that book cover ratio in that span, but I suspect the number is....tiny. And by the way, that's not counting the piles of magazine covers and interior artworks and dozens of book interior illos that I did while producing those 120+ covers in ten years.

What that number means to me is I came to work every single day, blue-collar all the way, and never quit for even a day. Nothing more, nothing less. And yeah, that may be the thing I'm most proud of.

What happens in the next ten years? No idea. I didn't go into the previous ten with 120+ sf/f/h covers as a goal. I hope I can continue to make art, and continue to get better at it. I want to be a great artist. That's what I wanted more than anything in the world on April 26, 2001. That's what I want today.


Blogger Lev Grossman said...

Bravo my friend

9:53 AM  
Blogger Scott Altmann said...

Great post John - a well deserved "congrats" is in order.

9:53 AM  
Blogger ces said...

WOW! Ten years! And lots of beautiful art!

Here's to 10 more, and even more beautiful art!

10:20 AM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Lev: Thanks very much, man! Congrats again on the John W. Campbell nom. Well-earned!

Scott: Very much appreciated. Wish we crossed paths in person a little more often. :)

Christine: Thank you! Would be nice to make it up to the Seattle area again someday soon. I'd trade your weather for ours today. 98 degrees today and it's not even summer yet. Yikes!

10:28 AM  
Blogger StuSegal said...

John, congratulations! My bet is . . . the next 10 will be even more rewarding than the prior 10.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Lou Anders said...

Fantastic post. Huge congratulations.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Kat Howard said...

Great post. And congratulations - your work is amazing, and I can't wait to see what you do in the next ten years.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Gloria Oliver said...

CONGRATS! Way to go! You went for your dream, fought for them, and here you stand now. Great achievement! Can't wait to see what you do for the next 10. :)

1:58 PM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Stu: I would take that deal if it were offered to me. :) Hopefully I'll get better at what I do....that's the main thing...

Lou: Thanks as always, man.

Kat: Thank you, Kat. Congrats on your big event tomorrow night. Very cool!

Gloria: Much appreciated! Long way to go still! :)

4:38 PM  
Blogger Mair said...

Well said, John. Your fire and determination shows in your level of success. And we're all so lucky to have your talent to enjoy. Congrats on your anniversary.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Villafranca said...

Wow! John you're really making the field shine! Of those twelve images you posted, the "Sword and Roses" and "Fast Forward 2" really jump out at me. I guess that's because those two hang in my studio and I look at them everyday! Keep up the beautiful work! Vincent

4:52 PM  
Blogger Adrian Johnson said...

That's fantastic and congratulations, John. The sheer quality of your oeuvre and the tenacity to stay strong for ten years within an hyper-changing marketplace gives people like myself a tangible inspiration to keep after our own dreams of freelancing.

Here's to another 10 years, sir.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Great post, John. Showing up every day and doing the work, doing it as well as you can, and then doing it again, is, in the end, all there is. The work is what matters. I'm proud and happy to have one of those covers (and soon another) be on one of my books.

1:09 AM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Mair, Vincent, Adrian, Mark -- Thanks! Much appreciated!

Adrian -- Will holler at you and the Sidebar fellas to see when our schedules finally connect. :)

3:26 PM  
Blogger Paul Vaughn said...

Congratulations! Great work, thanks for sharing this milestone.

4:00 PM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Thanks, Paul. Much appreciated. :)

10:29 AM  

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