Clip Art


One of my first clients as a freelancer was a company that specializes in clip art for Churches (i.e. bulletins, newsletters, etc.) I worked for them for a couple of years. It was reassuring to have a client who gave me steady work every month.

Then I started reading about how clip art is bad for freelancers. Because clip art is inexpensive it encourages clients to use cheap pre-existing art instead of hiring up a professional for a fresh illustration. In addition, the artist who creates the clip art usually signs away all rights for a low fee and never sees any profit. So, as my business began to pick up steam I dropped them as a client. I was grateful for the experience, but it wasn’t a good fit anymore.

Things hummed along for a few years, and then I hit a really bad stretch. For several months I could only land a few freelance jobs, none of which paid very well. In desperation I humbled myself and went back to the clip art client. They graciously signed me back on. I still believe clip art is not a good thing for freelancers in general, but I also know most churches don’t have the budget to hire freelancers for their monthly newsletters. So it wasn’t like I was taking work away from clients who would otherwise call up a professional artist.

After the dry spell finally ended, I stayed on with the clip art company “just in case” things got slow again. It’s been a couple of years now and I’m busier than ever. So busy that I don’t feel like I can give them my best work anymore. Besides, graphic design was never my strong suit, and frankly the pay is still low–in fact, they are still paying the same rate they paid ten years ago. Each month it gets harder and harder for me to justify the late nights I spend for them producing less-than-my-best work for below-market rates.

So, this month I turned in my last clip art assignment.

Unless I hit another slow spot. A really slow spot. They were great people to work with, but its just not a good fit for me right now.

I’ve posted three of the better samples I did for them over the last couple of years, just for fun. If you see any of these popping up in a Sunday bulletin or newsletter, you can say, “Hey, I read this guy’s blog!”


One thought on “Clip Art

  1. I agree with you that stock art ussually ends up being a raw deal for illustrators and the industry in general. Another, better option for illustrators would be to create your own clipart collection. If you just happen to find yourself with freetime just draw your own collections of clipart. In this day it it fairly simple to open up a webstore for this type of thing. I think Font Creators are ahead of illustrators when it comes to retaining the rights to thier work and selling thier work independently.

    As a matter of principle I’ve made it a point never to give the rights to my work unless they pay extra. This has actually paid off for me a few times where the client will come back several years later and want to by the copyright or I can sell the same image overseas for no additional work. There is nothing better than gettting a $7000 check when you are not expecting it.

    A lot of artist don’t realize it but they already have a collection of stock art in thier sketchbooks that they could just clean up and sell.

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