Three days ago, a job request came in from my rep. The client was a major corporation asking for a fairly ambitious image with ten days to turn it around. The first week was structured for multiple rounds of sketches and only two days were scheduled for the actual painting.

This Place is Best Shunned by David Palumbo
A few points of context for me as this came in:
1. As a traditional media painter, two days to get from sketch approval to final on a large scale image is ridiculous
2. I’m currently finishing up pieces for a steady client
3. That steady client due date overlaps with this project, but I believe the lost time between feedbacks would make it possible to have both running
4. Client work has been slow overall
5. AI is looming over us, making me depressed and anxious
6. The job pitch included several AI images for tonal reference
7. AI makes me want to retreat from the world and never come back
8. I’m working in a temporary studio space while my proper studio is renovated
9. I’m currently on week six of the renovation being “one week away from finished” and the contractor is not responding to texts
10. It’s extra hard to focus on getting shit together in a temporary space
11. Been in a bit of a funk due to points 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10
12. The money for the job was not that high for a huge corporation asking something very demanding
13. The money was pretty high for a week’s work


Lolth's Warrior by David Palumbo

I entertained “no” for a minute. I mean, the ask is ridiculous, and these big corporate jobs never come through anyhow. I’d be better off just finishing my other project and then diving into collector commissions that are on deck.

On the other hand, turning down a good payday when client work is slow and AI anxieties are looming feels pretty… well, doesn’t feel great. If I was going to make this decision, I thought it would hinge on the money, but the money wasn’t low enough or high enough to make it obvious what to do. And then I started thinking about the reality of the project. Combined with existing commitments, It would be intense with little time to rest. But it would also be… a challenge.

That got me kind of excited. I mean, every project is challenging in some aspect, but this was A CHALLENGE. It was a “is this actually possible?” type of challenge. That, much to my surprise, got me fired up for the first time in many months. Well, that and the money.

So I said yes, count me in!

And then I didn’t hear anything. And then the next day nothing either. And the next day nothing. And nothing today. I mean, technically I guess I haven’t been told that I’m not getting it, but I think it’s pretty plain that this job, like so many other big corporate illustration projects, “went another way.”

But here’s the fun twist: I took up the challenge, and that felt really good. That the job never came through doesn’t diminish that. In my heart, I said “I will do this.” In a small way, I feel like that shook some funk away and got my engine going again. If I’d said no, I’d be in the same place exactly, but with a heart of “no” instead of a heart of “I can.” Nothing has changed, but I feel different.

I’m not sure if or how this personal anecdote might be instructive to anybody else but, if you’re also in a funk, let me suggest you take on a challenge. A “can I even do this?” challenge. Things might not work out, but it’s a tremendous feeling to know that you still rose to meet it.

Dragon Rider by David Palumbo