Champagne and Wax Crayons – book review

Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries

By Ben Tallon

Published by LID Publishing Ltd ISBN: 978-1-907794-93-3

Review by Andy Robert Davies

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This is a memoir, a brutally honest account of the struggle of a creative individual, with whom Illustration students and recent graduates will be able to identify. Tallon has an energetic writing style that reflects his signature loose drawings and inky compositions, which have been used by a host of high profile clients.

This book follows the usual format of an autobiography, giving an overview of the foundations of creativity during childhood, moving on to the challenge of flying the nest, entering university and then the struggle of cultivating a creative career. Tallon is a raconteur and is not afraid to poke fun at himself, but there is an underlining knowledge and desire to learn his craft.

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The text is punctuated by commentary from a range of design and music professionals, most notably, Ken Garland, that help to give Tallon’s experience a wider context. The main attribute of this book to which readers will respond, is its honesty. When we look at the artwork of an artist we admire we usually only see the end product, maybe sometimes we will have the pleasure of observing a sketchbook or rough drawing, what we don’t usually hear or discuss is the day-to-day toil of an artist. Tallon discusses how to survive both practically and mentally through periods without any paid work and most importantly how to keep focused on self-initiated projects when times are tough.

This book does not just show the reader how to create a successful freelance business, it is a manual for how to live and survive as a freelancer. Living on reduced items from the supermarket, part-time job purgatory, finding free Wi-Fi and hot-desking in coffee shops are all discussed in humorous detail. There is a bag of tricks here that may help young Illustrators and Designers survive the hustle of the creative industries.

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The term ‘Entrepreneur’ or indeed ‘the Entrepreneurial Illustrator’ has been discussed in great detail in recent years. Tallon is a good case study for this topic and this book should be seen as a practical guide of how to initiate the business from which to generate income. This will be most helpful to students and graduates as it is a map towards the goal of a creative career.

Tallon has many job titles including Illustrator, Art Director, and Writer. The latter is a role not always considered by those who have studied image making, but Tallon shows that by the very production of this book, he is an ever-evolving creative, with an eye for marketing and a new business opportunity – which are essentials skills for anyone who desires a career of this nature.

For any newly graduated Illustrators out there, chapters 4. Welcome to Freelancing and 5. Self-Unemployment, are a must read! The experiences the author discusses here have been shared by many before and will be endured by countless more in the future. But readers will take heart that in the end, the writer overcame his struggles to work for his dream client and hopefully this book will help the newly graduated do the same.

You may also be interested in these book reviews:

Becoming a Successful Illustrator

Illustration: Meeting the Brief

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