Find Your Fortune

Early in my career, I started to experiment with watercolor painting, trying to make a shift from magic markers which I was using to color my illustrations. I was practicing with a lot of techniques and for fun decided to branch out from architecture for a bit and try different subjects. I was always intrigued by movie posters and book cover art, so I gave it a go. 



I was a fan of the TV show, Magnun P.I. staring Tom Selleck and chose that as my first subject. I compiled some reference photos from magazines and came up with a collage of activities that related to the show. The hardest thing was to create a likeness of the actor and I think I did pretty well for a first effort.

Next I thought I'd try a made-up magazine cover and chose Malcolm Forbes as the subject. He was Chairman, CEO and editor-in-chief for Forbes magazine.

I showed it to my mother and she loved it. (Mom's do that). She told me to send it to Mr. Forbes and I thought she was nuts. Evidently when my Dad was alive he had some business dealings with Forbes and met with him in New York a couple of times.

I really thought I was wasting my time because I was harboring a painful memory of a rejection letter from a magazine I submitted a cartoon to when I was twelve (I was a sensitive kid!) It was time to get over it and move on, so I composed a letter dropping my Dads name (hoping Forbes would remember after twelve years) and sent it to him along with a photo the artwork.

A few weeks passed and the whole thing was practically forgotten when I received a letter with a Forbes Magazine logo on it. To my surprise inside was a personal letter from Malcolm Forbes himself on a letterhead. It read: "Dear Mr. Stilwell, I found the cover and the picture fabulous and I thank you for it. Your letter and the enclosures are being passed on to our Editor--super-talented and fairly all-powerful in such matters--for his consideration."

Very cool!

I never heard another word from the magazine. The reality is it takes a lot of time to hone the skills for this type of artwork and I was concentrating heavily on my field of architectural illustration: my bread and butter. The moral of this story is be bold. Whether you are an artist, photographer, writer or other creative person, don't hesitate to submit your creations because you'll never now what will happen.

There are three books published yearly: Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market, Photographer's Market, and Writer's Market that are great sources for places to submit your freelance work. Check them out!

Practice a craft you love and the universe will reward your dedication.

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