Knowing When to Quit and Go Freelance
Maximilian Bode | Artist

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Why Should You Care

Maximilian Bode is an illustrator and fine artist born and raised in New York City. Bode’s first job out of college was as an art director at The New Yorker. After 5 years behind a desk, Bode knew it was time to move on, and quit to pursue the uncertainty of a freelance illustration career and his own creative practice.

In his interview, Bode discusses the unpredictable “ups and downs” of a freelance career, how to know when it’s time to quit your job, and the importance of creativity.


Maximilian Bode, a New York-raised artist, left his job as an art director at The New Yorker to work as a freelance artist.

His art has been published in The New Yorker and The New York Times, and his freelance clients include NASAColumbia PicturesMTVToyotaNickelodeonHigh Times and many more.

Maximilian Bode is a born and bred New Yorker; he was raised in the tough streets of Soho, where he lived until he moved to Brooklyn to attend Pratt Institute. Out of school, he largely supported himself as a freelance artist.

In January of 2006, Max was asked to join the art department of The New Yorker magazine as an art director, and the youngest employee in their organization. He remained there for five years, all the while focusing on his art. During that time his work was shown in galleries in Brooklyn, the East VillageDumbo, and Chelsea.

In 2010 Max left The New Yorker to devote more time to his own practice and to teach at Pratt Institute. Since then Max has continued to show his art and art direct for television and major motion pictures.

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When I was in my 20’s, I was working at this desk job that was really prestigious in my mind at the New Yorker. And I knew it was time to move one when…I lived 3 train stops away from my house to the office, and I would doodle in a little moleskin notebook on the way there. So, I found in the 20 minutes going to work and the 20 minutes going home from work were more beneficial to me, and I had more fun doing them than I did in the 8 hours that I spent at the office.

And that wasn’t always the case but once that became the case, it was apparent to me that it was time to move on.

When I was in my junior year of Pratt, I got an internship at the New Yorker, and most the internships there lasted for 3 months, but mine, I ended up staying there for a whole year, so I got to really know these people, and then they called me to say that someone was leaving the art department and if I’d be interested in the job. I said yes. And I think my mother would have killed me if I had said no.

So I took this job at the new yorker as an art director and I stayed there for 4 and a half years which was, it was a really interesting time, I got to meet a lot of interesting writers, a lot of interesting editors, read a lot of stories, and it’s a great place, but it still is a desk job.

And so, I couldn’t make my own work, I couldn’t draw… The kind of thing that after 4 and a half years, I had to leave.

If you work for… in a desk, you basically… and if you work for somebody else for a company, you kind of live this very even-keeled lifestyle. It’s like… your days are very structured, you have these hours you have to work, you’re always gonna get a paycheck, you have health insurance.

When you’re freelance and you’re your own boss and you have to find your own work, I think life becomes more chaotic. And it’s not this even-keel but it’s more of like a wave. So, there are times where you’ll get a lot of work and your paychecks are rolling in and you just feel this high, and it’s amazing. And then there are times where you go a couple of weeks – 2 to 3 weeks, maybe a month – where you have no work, and it’s just like this incredible low.

You spend a lot of time by yourself. When you’re in the lows, it’s kind of like this isolation. It’s somehow… finding something to enjoy about that low. It’s not even finding the positive in it. It’s just enjoying it for that experience and knowing that it’ll change.

But usually, you wake up in that low and you’re like… well, now I gotta… I gotta light a fire under my butt and start and, you know, start finding more work.

Made By

Cinematography: Danielle Calodney

Audio by: Andi Velazquez

Interviewed by: Laura Lehmann

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