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View all diaries in Eight Days a Week.





[posted 03.14.2001]


The life of a hired gun/artist. Sound romantic? Spend a week inside the never-static brain of Andrew Skwish, a freelance illustrator residing in Chicago. Gushing over indie rock records, carrying a camera with him wherever he goes, producing sketches with the energy of a Russian nuclear submarine, grinning wryly over a beer at Chicago rock clubs — these are the things an Andrew Skwish is made of. Come take a peek.

WEDNESDAY. DAY ONE. [02.28.01]

Trying to make some sense of time. Today is the first day in a while where I have to be somewhere at a specific moment. I have taken my clocks out of the bedroom and most of the other rooms so I don’t break down my days into the number of hours left and number of hours gone. I was feeling guilty for not sleeping as much as I should or need, hoping this will help.

Took the red line downtown to pick up some slides for my talk at Northwestern University tomorrow. They will be entered into contests afterwards. I have no illusions that the pieces will win anything. It is just part of the routine that they have to be entered. These particular ones will be submitted to Communication Arts. Never got in that one. (And that won’t change this year.) But I have gotten assignments from art directors who judged these contests, even when I haven’t won.

Met another illustrator for lunch. I don’t really know her. I met her briefly in San Francisco and planned to have lunch with her when I moved to Chicago about a year ago, but only finally got around to it this week. Really on top of things. There are not many illustrators who I know here, so I’m looking forward to this. It brings inspiration and calm.

Rest of the day devoted to work. Organized slides for the Northwestern talk; stomach has been uneasy about this for a few days now. Finished up two pieces for InfoWorld. The main play illustrations.

Watched TV until the sun started to show itself.

Song of today: “I Have Space” — Mates of State.


The morning is devoted to working on two secondary pieces for InfoWorld. The story changed because the writer was injured before he could finish writing the article. So my original sketches were killed. A bit disappointing. I liked those pieces. Had a devil in them. The art directors have a specific idea of what they want, so the job will go easily and quickly. Some days it’s nice just to be told exactly what to do. Just have to wait for their approval.

Package slip arrives with the mail. Ah, the farce that is known as the Chicago postal service. This is both a final notice and the first I have received. Not the first time this has happened. I’m surprised I’ve gotten any notice at all — usually they just send the packages back or the packages disappear. When I see who it is from, I’m filled with a chill … a thrill of anticipation. One of my favorite people. That little boy anticipation.

This is a brief moment of relief as my anxiety continues to build as I head to Evanston to speak at Northwestern. I can’t emphasize just how horrible a mess my body becomes when I agree to talk to any group. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Yet I never say no. Riding the red line helps. I have an odd affection for the Chicago El.

Seven people show up for the lecture. A bit of a relief. They seem interested and it goes quickly. I don’t get lost in this one like I have in others. At some talks I remember arriving and speaking with people afterward but don’t remember any of the actual talk. I get wound up and my mouth moves and I have no control over what is coming out. That didn’t happen this time. It wasn’t a room of empty stares. But it was pretty much an empty room. I wondered on the train home if I lost out to an episode of Survivor.

Tooth starting to bother me.

Song of today: “She’s Leaving Town” — Corn Sisters.


This sleeping-without-a-clock-around is starting to fascinate me. I’m getting up at the same time every morning regardless of when I go to sleep. I wake up many times during the night, and without a clock it feels like I’m completely lost. Sometimes I wonder where I am. But the sleep is deeper than it has been. Good dreams. Brighter colors.

To the post office to pick up the package. Box is horribly beaten up, but inside it is safe. A handmade, stuffed little creature of unknown origin. We become fast friends and he sits in the front window making fun of all the people going by. Takes a bit of the burden off me; I can’t do that all the time. Sometimes I have to work.

Took an assignment from Newsweek. And worked on the two secondary pieces for InfoWorld. Want to get them done by the end of the day so I will have the weekend to finish up a piece for Harvard Business Review and to do the sketches for a cover piece for InfoWorld. The InfoWorld art goes quickly.

I don’t think I have spoken all day. Hmmm.

I can’t escape this one: “Clouds Will Clear” — the Aislers Set.


Up early and right to work. It is the Harvard piece all day. Something about a centralized boss for many subdivisions of a company. I like how it is turning out.

A straight-through day. Sit down at the computer and just make little shapes and fill with textures. I stopped keeping track of the hours. Just work until done. I probably should eat something. (I often forget.)

My buddy Steve picks me up and we are off to see The Doves. I don’t really know anything about them and have no expectations. It’s a beer, a band and hanging out. They are good; it is good.

Torn from some bizarre dream with my body in a knot and feeling as though I’m being beaten from the inside. Maybe shouldn’t have eaten at Clarke’s after the show. (The place has changed since I was last there some five years ago, before the demise of Lounge Ax — less interesting kids and many, many more young pros, bah.) Decide not to stuggle with the pain. And just lay there for a long time letting it beat on me. Quietly sweating, finally fall asleep again.


Need a day away from working. Not feeling well, so it’s The New York Times and TV and not much else.

Hook up tape deck into my computer and start transfering old college tapes to CDs. Much nostalgia and finding some old forgotten gems.

One of them: “Throw Your Arms Around Me” — Hunters & Collectors.


A sketching morning. The Newsweek piece and the InfoWorld cover piece. I like doing work for the west coast. It feels like I’m way ahead because of the time difference. A sketch is done by noon and they aren’t even in the office yet. It is oatmeal and The Dating Show while I wait. Turns out not to be very long and I get started on the final. Should be done by the end of the day. Don’t hear back from Newsweek at all. I’m not sure if they even work on Mondays. Well, tomorrow then.

Craving Hostess cupcakes — the yellow cake ones with chocolate icing.

A night of letter writing.

Tooth starting to really bother me. Anyone know a good dentist?

Another nostalgia inducer: “Les Balser d’Amant” — Rip Rig and Panic.


Remember a piece I had been putting off. “Throwing an Oscar Party.” Work on sketches for a few hours. Not entirely happy with any of the ideas (four in total), but I’m fairly sure one of them will be OK. Not unhappy, but I think I can do something more interesting. Send them off and hear back almost immediately. They pick the best of the batch.

Still no word from Newsweek. No panic yet; it isn’t due until Friday. I do bug them via email. The waiting is the most frustrating part of working solitary.

Run errands. It feels like I haven’t been outside in days. I know I can go stretches of two or three days without ever leaving the house. It is that time thing again. Got to stop being concerned about the 9-to-5 thinking.

More nostalgia: “Must Be the Music” — Secret Weapon.


Finally hear from Newsweek. One of the four sketches is a go. That’s what I spend my entire day working on. Trying to get it done today so I can get started on some sketches for another piece tomorrow and get started on the Oscars piece before the end of the week. I wonder if perhaps I can have a weekend. Nah, never happens (and it doesn’t). Send off the Newsweek piece late at night (1 a.m.? 2 a.m.?), all done. (I find out on Thursday the story is being held… at least I’m done with it.)

Messages from a couple of friends remind me of something/someone I’m trying to forget. It stays with me for the rest of the day. And probably for quite a bit longer….

Torn between “I Want You” — Elvis Costello, and “Black Monk Theme” — The Fall. The Fall is winning (“You maladjusted little monkey you”).

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andrew skwish is an illustrator and transient. educated in business, he found this drawing pictures thing to be much more fun to do. he’s terribly afraid of puppets.