Miss Led realised her penchant for performing live after she won Monorex’s live street art battle Secret Wars, at the 2007 Illustrate Festival, and now actively pursues this line of work. Another recent project included painting a mural on a dutch barge for The House of Curves, recorded in a time-lapse video.
But putting yourself centre-stage as part of a marketing campaign is not about becoming the brand or a brand ambassador. Most veterans of this type of work stress the importance of their own creative integrity – after all, companies are buying into an illustrator’s individuality and distinctiveness.
Terry ensures that all Monorex projects have “the Monorex signature stamp of authenticity”, whether they are managed by the network or by other brands or creatives. “In negotiation of all projects, we explain our terms and conditions, and the ways we would like to work.”
Adrian, who oversee Ted’s Drawing Room, points out that the illustrators involved in the project “were allowed to do whatever they wanted”. He adds: “If not, if it looks in any way artificial or straight-jacketed, I just don’t think it makes for interested content.”
On the other hand, you have to be aware of your own persona. “Doing lots of stuff live means that you’re not just an invisible person producing a drawing, but it’s a physical act, it’s a performance,” says artist Jon Burgerman. “It’s about how you talk, how you walk, how you dress; the pens and the theatre of it all. All those things come into play so they all need addressing.”
Some creatives aren’t too bothered by conveying a certain appearance when the camera trains on them. But Good Wives and Warriors “try to coordinate what we’ll be wearing and try to come across well – much easier said than done with filming”.
Where the work is concerned, sticking to personal standards is paramount. “I knew I wanted to complete each illustration in the same way that I would do if I was sat in the studio at home, because ultimately it’s a piece of me that’s going out into the world,” says Dale of his Ted’s Drawing Room experience. “I didn’t want it to look slapdash, but to take the time so that it looked like my work and not some kind of Dale Edwin Murray-lite version.”
Another challenge is that by definition, the audience features significantly in any live showcase or broadcast of a creative process – whether as silent or appreciative bystanders or enthusiastic Facebook fans. How to interact with those viewers very much depends on the project and artist, however.
Simon Spilsbury, whose recent projects include live iPad illustrations projected onto a large screen during the Bath Half Marathon as well as an on-site illustration stint at Adobe’s CS6 launch event, believes you shouldn’t engineer the work towards your audience, “otherwise you’re not doing what you do – you’re just lessening the impact if you do”.
But often interaction is an integral part of a project. Ted’s Drawing Room was all about getting consumers to engage, for example, by watching live feeds or having their picture taken; Jon made an appearance at the British Library’s Illuminate event in London via Skype, remotely illustrating projected murals in reaction to the guests in the room; and Monorex’s Terry says: “99 per cent of the things we do across all platforms has an element of creative interactions and a very organic social media follow through”. Adding that: “It’s important that you create a strong narrative from the start, and for this idea to grow and snowball on its own online.”
With such emphasis on interaction, tailoring work to specific audiences can also be required. Miss Led always bears the audience in mind when planning performance projects. “Creatively I work in a number of styles. This is really helpful for me and prospective clients,” she explains. “I will adapt and shape it in consideration of the brand, audience and format.”
Equally challenging is the question of fees – pricing live or interactive performances is a different proposition from valuing one final piece of work. Most creatives agree that too many clients tend to ask for extras such as ‘making of videos’ or live performances for free.
“A lot of brands feel they can trade clout for payment,” says New York illustrator Mike Perry, who recently completed a 24-hour interactive draw-along to raise money for his exhibition and event space Wondering Around Wandering. “That feels like a big scam. Publicity in exchange for free work seems wrong.”
“Of course, it’s great to have a big brand promoting you and pushing your work out, but you’re doing them a massive favour as well by giving them really good content,” says Jon. He advises asking as many questions as possible on how the work will be used, before settling on a fee.
At Monorex all pricing is tailored to each individual brief. “PR value and other factors can come into play, but you need to know your worth,” explains Terry.
Miss Led recommends becoming a member of the Association of Illustrators. “In this field, it’s tricky to price without guidance,” she says.
With the involvement of big-bucks clients, a responsive audience, camera lights and other peripheral action, the pressure of live illustration and design can be enormous. Keeping calm and having confidence in your talent will see you through, and as the many masters of creative performance point out, mistakes don’t matter.
“You might make a mark that you don’t particularly like but nothing’s wrong,” says Simon Spilsbury. “Whatever happens happens – you have to trust your instincts and usually what happens the first time is the best one you do.”