Thursday, February 27, 2014

Save Time Looking For Information With This Google Tip!

Here is an online search time saver: Google Alerts!  

This handy dandy page allows you to monitor the Web for interesting new content and have that info mailed to your inbox based on your queries. You can set up many searches and save them while customizing the results to be mailed as it happens, daily or once a week. 

Examples of what you can use this page for: 
• Find out news about the illustration industry. 
• Calls for submissions.
• See feedback on posted work, news or published works and blogs. 
• Monitor news on conventions, seminars, classes and podcasts.  
• Keep tabs on your online google profile. 
• Publishing news. 
• Spotlights, mentions or reviews on kid lit books you may of illustrated or published. 
• Upcoming shows, group shows or networking meetings. 

And the list could go on. If you are like me and are always on the lookout for great reading content then this is a very useful tool. Give it a try! 

I really appreciate you reading my blog post. When I'm not illustrating, I regularly write about illustration, creative business and freelancing. If you would like to continue the discussion, leave a comment and feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebook and my other blog, Diary Of An Illustrator


Monday, January 20, 2014

Keep Drawing!

© Holly DeWolf- Keep drawing! 

As part of my big learning year, I'm going to sketch more, doodle more and I will be doing more narrative based posts like this. As fast paced as illustration can be and sometimes not, it's good to get back to basics and get in touch with the natural process of creating. 

Have a great week and happy doodling! ~ Holly 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Forget Resolutions- Choose A Theme Instead!

© Holly DeWolf- Happy Learning Year!

Happy New Year! 

I'm sure by now you've been inundated with reminders to make resolutions, make huge changes in your life while devising a better business plan. Yes, it's January 12th and apparently we're all running behind. 

This year, instead of a long list of resolutions and ideas that may or not may not happen, I'm focusing on a theme instead. 

“Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.” 

This year's theme: LEARNING! 

Its a simple concept but will require time set aside to give it real focus. The great part: I can add to it as I go along. I'm going to celebrate my strengths and learn so I can earn! 

Here is what I'm panning to do: 

1. Take online classes: signing up for classes is as easy as hitting a button! Sites such as Skillshare offer very quick informative classes on a variety of topics. Here is a great one from Seth Godin: 

The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time

2. Read more books: start with a reading list and set up a heaping pile by the bed or the comfiest chair you have. My current reading list: 
2014 Children's Illustrators & Writer's market
Leap Write In
Encyclopedia Of Writing & Illustrating Children's Books
The Power Of Habit

3. Learn to be a better illustrator: like many industries you need to evolve or be left behind. Illustration is no different and will always be on a continual learning curve. Instead of reinventing my wheel, I'm going to focus on my strengths and while adding new ways of working. I have developed skills over the years that I should not have to put away because of new technologies. I'm a creator so I still want to show a human side to my work in an increasing computerized world.  

4. Learn to be a better at business: how we do business changes almost daily. It's a challenge to keep up as well as a challenge to learn it. Since I do not have an agent, I am going try a business coach instead. Coaches discover and help you move past hurdles, blocks, slumps, challenges, they can change your perspective and can help you be the best you can be. There's no shame in asking for help. I'm sure if I put my mind to it I could get to the third dimension but it helps to know the best directions too!  

5. Read more articles: Recently, I learned that abibliophobia means the fear of running out of things to read. Good thing we have the internet to solve that problem. I have set aside Saturdays as my reading articles day. Best advice: set up a list of found articles that you can pour over when you have to time to read them. Even if you only get 1 thing out of an article, you are that further ahead! 

6. Learn about podcasting: This will be a continuation from the chats I do with illustrator/designer Brian Bowes called Creative Coffee. Our caffeinated east meets west collaboration offers ideas, inspiration, and tips. As a creative collaboration, this is turning out to be highly motivating and inspiring. Connecting is good and feels like a gift to help motivate your career!    

7. Learn to hack life more to save time: sites such as Lifehacker, Mental Floss and Instructables are extremely useful. Life moves pretty fast these days so quick tips are definitely welcomed! Just recently, I learned that opening blister packs with a can opener works. Who knew? I will now save time and my fingers.  

8. Learn something different- As much as I love illustration and writing, I also want a life too. This year I'm going to challenge myself on a different level. The first item on my list, learn how to do a handstand! Wish me luck! 

"Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." - Earl Nightingale 

I wish you a very productive and happy new year! 

What are you planning on learning?   

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working For Free- The New Freelance Cliché!

Cliché: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. A banal phrase, stock phrase; a stereotype or electrotype. 

I've been reading more and more posts and grumblings from illustrators and designers about the constant requests for free work. Is this the new freelance cliché

A great article that got everyone talking was from The New York Times: 

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

I'm realizing that the old stereotype of the "starving artist" idea has now been surpassed by the request of "work for free." As someone who has been dutiful in my education and as an illustrator this continually saddens me. 

Please understand this post is not going against doing charity work which is an important to do. I'm talking about the lack of appreciation of your skills as someone in the business of illustration offering a worthwhile creative business service. In other words, you are not a hobbyist! 

Ok. So it's 2013. We have everything at our creative disposal when it comes to promotional freedom, wide open access to markets and endless places to promote ourselves. This is all advanced compared to the olden days of illustration where you relied solely on mail, word of mouth, a smaller world of competition and the phone. If we are so advanced with resources up the yin-yang then we do we still hold onto the idea that our time and our work are not worth being paid for? Too many are believing that free exposure is a good thing. Exposure can leave you cold. It can leave you hungry with unpaid bills. As the old expression goes: You can die from too much exposure. 

Next time you see a contest advertising for free art work, have a look at how many line up to participate. Again, this saddens me. Not only does it make it hard on the participants but for the rest of too. Just like spec work, it's a gamble. 

I remember a time I was asked to do free work for a business. When I asked how long they were in business they said 3 years. I replied that I was in my career at the time for 15 years. Do you see the perspective shift there? A light bulb went off that day! 

Ever hear the expression confidence is sexy? So is confidently standing up for your career! Good workers like wages. Dedicated illustrators like to create daily. Now we need to combine the two. 

Here's a great quote by James Goldsmith- "If you pay peanutsyou get monkeys." Now here's something to think about: If they pay you nothing then what do they really get? What's truly in it for you?  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Introducing The Creative Coffee Pod-Chat With Brian Bowes And Yours Truly!

© Holly DeWolf- Coffee Mug Doodles

Quite a few months ago I was invited by illustrator/designer Brian Bowes to join in on a creative pod-chat. Here we have been discussing actively developing creativity and finding inspiration, to help support you in your creative endeavours. Our first big tip, enjoy a nice cup of coffee!

Have a listen here!  

There will be another one to listen to soon where we discussed our studio spaces, working at home as opposed to a studio outside the home and creating the right energy/organization for your space. Sty tuned. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How To Be Of Service

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
-Albert Einstein

Here are four ideas to consider when it comes to being of service:

1. How can you be of service to your clients?
2. How can you be of service to your audience?
3. How can you be of service to your industry? 
4. How can you be of service to yourself? 

Being of service goes beyond a project- it's your own value you place on your work and the illustration industry. These are not rules but more like good creative codes to live by. To me, being in this industry is a lot of give and take. What makes your career even better-when you include yourself into the process too. 

Once again, this is one of those things we are not taught at art school. It's just another way to think about illustration and that is a good thing. 

Being of Service To Clients
Being of service to clients involves a lot of active listening and idea solving. 
Your clients are part of your creative community. By creating a connection with them could lead to more work and greater word or mouth. By acting as a creative consultant you can further the importance of illustration and to create a bigger understanding about what you do. It's a good thing to communicate effectively throughout the illustration process. Remember to include them in the process: they hired you in the first place so they should be!

Being of Service To Your Audience
You can be of service to audience by promoting what you can do. This can a tricky balance of push and pull. The hard sell can drive your audience away so try the conversational and story style. If direct promotion is not your style try positive posts that share your personality that offer something to your audience. Consistently reaching out by sharing your ideas, links, thoughts, and experiences tells your audience you are involved.  

Being Of Service to Your Industry
To me, a true illustration pro works in the best interest for themselves, their clients and the industry combined. A big thing to avoid is unprofessional spec work and questionable contests. It's a gamble that is not good for you and it makes the industry look bad. These practices are not going away anytime soon, so once again, you need to go with your instincts. Stay informed!   

Staying professional, promoting, supporting, mentoring and teaching can go a long way. Team up with your creative community online or around the corner. No one needs to create in a bubble! 

Being of Service To Yourself
You can be of service to yourself by really honing your skills and fully understanding what markets you want to focus on. Another big one- ask for what you want. Having a good relationship with your idea process and experiments are just as important as knowing when to go with your gut.

Important: Be kind to your work and yourself by always using a contract and DO NOT give your work away. Understand that the illustration industry can act like an exclusive club sometimes, so persistence and assertiveness is key! Take rejection and criticism for it is and know that not everyones "expert" opinion is fact- it's just an opinion.  

You have a life outside of your work. Remember that. 

Mistakes, rejection, burnout, heavy deadlines and stress happens so it's important to take care of your health and head. Time management, sleep, and letting yourself shut off from work is important to do. Give yourself time to work productively and always make time for other creative pursuits

Happy creating this week! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Asset Of Taking Chances!

Danielle Laport
"Personal insignificance is provocative when you’re making your art. Remembering how insignificant you are helps you to be more daring, more honest, more … here." 

Sir Ken Robinson
"What all children have in common is that they will take a chance. They're not frightened of being wrong. I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. But if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original. By the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong."

Two very powerful statements that I believe we need to read. Why? Because as creators we are the movers and shakers of the world. We do because we can. We do because we are driven to. We think big because we are hard wired that way.

Hope attracts chances
Being a maker means letting go of a certain kind of fear: the fear of take chances on our ideas. We throw it out there. We visually show our thought process and what we can make from our hands. It's sounds powerful but in a way it is so very humbling at the same time. It's not without mishaps! 

It could get rejected. 

It could be ignored. 

It could hang out with the crickets.

But it could also be appreciated. 

Taking chances creates the following assets:
• a chance to evolve. 
• the chance to get the right work, the right clients and income you've always wanted. 
• the chance to teach others. 
• the chance to inspire others. 
• the chance to be part of something bigger. 
• the chance to create the career you always wanted.
• the chance to really love your process. 
• the chance to learn well from your important mistakes. 
• the chance to really start making the kind of work you always knew you could! 

Don't put away childlike things!
Many of us have not lost that child like concept of taking a chance. However, we don't come to it as innocent and random as a child might. We instinctively know that it could be great or that it could bomb. We make mistakes and start again. Perhaps we shouldn't worry so much about it because we're going to make things anyway-our ideas are never finished. To me, all these ideas create a true makers mind! 

"To live a creative life we must lose the fear of being wrong." 
-Joseph Chilton Pearce 

There is a certain amount of freedom in taking a chance when you know at any given moment your audience gets a chance to see something new. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Good Content Is The Ticket!

"Is my site boring?" 

"Should I hire a designer to redesign my blog?" 

"Why can't my blog look like that?" 

Honestly, I've wondered this myself. This site looks pretty and I love that background on theirs...and wait... how did they do that?


I think we are in an online state where many feel that things do not quite visually measure up. Pesky comparisons can really shake up our perceptions of what's good and what's useful. Being online can be a pain in the membrane! 

Plain Need Not Be Boring
Worrying about our sites is a genuine concern. There's a lot of competition out there and there are many sites that get noticed before ours. We get swept up by articles everyday and yes, we do pay attention to layouts and design. However, HTML does not mean what is on a site is good. It may have attracted us there but the fluff wont keep us there! 

My thoughts: We're illustrators not designers. Scratch that-not all illustrators are designers and HTML experts. Secondly, the purpose of a site or a blog should never be hidden under all the flash, pop ups, banners, big text and multiple colours.   

Creative Gold
Call me old school (yes I've been called that), but when I read a blog I am looking for good content not glittery flashy design. If you can write, share ideas and show good work then it's all GOLD! Content should be the most important thing. Focus on what's important and add the subtle details later.  

Art Directors want the quick visit. They stop by and say hello but really there is no time for tea. They want to see it right away and they do not have time to dig through page after page to find your work and information. It makes sense to have it simple and effective. You've invited them there to show them what's important. 

This does not mean you cannot add your own personal touches but just try the have that 'keep it simple Spock' approach on standby along with 'a less is more' mix. We cannot drive away clients in this day and age. 

Good words count and titles should be attention getting too. SEO is not as big a worry as it used to be. Twitter has built in SEO and so does google. The proof: Google is now making it easier for good content to be found. So now we do not have to worry as much about SEO and focus on that important stuff. 

Things to consider: 
• Ample use of white space is a good approach. Too much clutter means your message could get lost. It's more visual noise and we really do not need any more eye strain as it is.   
• No flash because it's labour intensive. Not everyone has optimum Internet or the latest computer. Our computers are already being put to the test daily with all sort of new apps and technology updates. 
• Avoid interrupting the viewer. It's not a pop up book so try not to scare your audience. One time I was jolted by a popup and I spilled my coffee all over myself. I wasn't impressed. 
• Make sure your audience gets to see what they wanted to view in the first place. Be a good host!    
• Write in your own voice. Avoid art speak and big words (your tongue does not want to take an exam). If you are like me and you want to share ideas, then do that so your audience feels like they are part of the equation. 

Reminder: It's a busy internet so think simple, create value and always include your audience.