Monday, February 6, 2012

Decisions and Paths

-By John Jude Palencar

Many times in your career you’ll have to make decisions that may effect your future or present financial course. Often it is a simple as deciding whether to take an assignment or what to charge for a particular illustration. You‘ll have to live with them and continue on despite any misgivings or “burned bridges”.

 A few years ago I heard a story about Don Ivan Punchatz the illustrator. This story does serve to be an example of a potential career changing moment. Don was commissioned for a video game cover. The company was a new video game developer. They offered him the choice two types of payment... the first was payment by check (at a reduced fee) for the cover illustration and the 2nd type of payment was a small percentage of the video game’s profits. Don Ivan chose to be paid by check. Now you have to consider the video game market at that time. Most video games were not doing well and in fact Atari was on shaky financial ground and Nintendo was in it’s early stages of life. By the way the game was  “Doom”. To Don’s credit , he chalked it up to experience and  said “So how was I to know, this thing called Doom would make a jillion smackers?”. Don continued to have a fruitful and well established career until his death in 2009.

Don Ivan Punchatz - Wiki

Fast forward to present day: David Choe is a graffiti artist living in Los Angeles. In 2005 when Facebook needed murals for their first headquarters David was contacted to produce a number of murals for their walls. I don’t know  if he was offered a regular cash fee or made the decision to receive a stock option for payment.  David received stock in the company..... Needless to say when the company finally goes public with it’s first IPO... David’s stock will be worth around $200 million. Not bad for a graffiti artist from Los Angeles.

Whether you choose to turn right or left in a decision always remember it is your creativity that got you there. Never regret any missed opportunities but continue on your journey toward creative nirvana.

David Choe

Article on Choe


  1. great read! Thanks! Im not even close to being in a position to sell any art right now. but that sort of thing has always haunts me. i guess knowing what to charge comes from experience, and i can see -especially a person's first few- being undervalued. But the last couple of lines is a good reminder of why we do what we do.

  2. It's hard to know sometimes how things will play out. Don took the DOOM job sort of as a favor at the time (the developer was in Texas, too), but no one knew whether it would be a success or not ("Many are called: few are chosen"). I think Don's son, Gregor (an effects artist), worked on the game, too, and was offered the same pay-or-stock deal: I don't know if he took it or not.

    Frazetta was approached to do promo art for the first STAR WARS...and turned them down. Who knows where that might've led? (Though, of course, Frank did fine financially on his own.)

    Ron Cobb was working on a film that I think he was going to direct with Steven Spielberg called NIGHT SKIES, a sort of scary sequel to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Some problems arose over special effects that required a major rewrite. While Cobb was in Spain working on CONAN THE BARBARIAN, Spielberg supervised the rewrite into E.T. and ended up directing it himself. Cobb received a net profit participation in E.T., which turned out to be significant.

    So it's always hard to know what will result in any decision...which, I guess, makes life as a freelancer interesting.

  3. I can't believe Choe is gonna make that much money. Not that he doesn't deserve it, but I was just watching Thumbs Up on Netflix last year. (Great show, by the way)

    It's great to see that he won't need to be hitchhiking anymore.


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