A few years before I retired from illustration to focus on writing, my agent contacted me to ask how much more work I could produce. There’s a lot of down time being an illustrator so I told her I could probably churn out twice as many illustrations as I was currently producing—if she could sell them. She said, “Why don’t you change your style?”
I was insulted; I liked the way I painted and had spent a lifetime mastering my craft. But I was lured by the prospect of more money and decided to try. Over the next few months I painted some of my worst pictures. Mrs. Chatterbox provided a solution. She said, “Don’t just change your style; change everything. Create another identity.”
At first I thought she was nuts, but the more I thought about it the better the idea seemed. After all, actors do this all the time. So I decided to become someone else. But who? My agent said the market was ripe for non-white artists from countries other than the USA. So I chose my mother’s maiden name (Correia) and became an artist from Brazil (where I’m told there are many Portuguese people). In my fake profile I described myself as Esteban Correia, an artist from Sao Paulo who taught himself how to paint while working as a lifeguard on a nude beach.
Both artists are currently marketing their illustrations online, and some months Esteban’s work outsells mine. Esteban is edgier than I am and seems to have suffered in love more, judging by this peculiar illustration.
This picture is a good example of why neither of us ended up working for Hallmark. It looks like a Valentine’s Day Card from hell.