Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Have A Cool Yule & A Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas 2010... and what a year it was.

The past 12 months were quite a challenge but I came out on top with new ideas, inspirations and a new creative out look on things. This year I took a leap and officially finished every goal I set forth since High School. Now I am at an interesting cross road-What to do next? Good question. The coming year I get to make a new creative blue print for my life and I'm totally looking forward to it.

2010 was my year of big changes, survival and moments of introspection. I did not do this all alone. I have a new special person in my life who has stood by my side even at the most challenging of times. I thank you Jason for everything.

I wanted to thank those who have supported me and my book the past year. Sales of Breaking Into Freelance Illustration are going exceptionally well. I loved the emails, twitter and Facebook notes from those who wanted to thank me personally for the help that my book provided. I welcome more letters and questions come the future.

So what is next?

The coming year I have a very cool project that I will begin shortly that will be a year long creative gig. I will announce that shortly. I will continue with my freelance work and another book.

I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a creative successful New Year.


© Holly DeWolf

Friday, December 10, 2010

What to get the illustrator on your Christmas list.

I have been asked by some creative folks what I think are good illustrator gifts. That's a tough one since I am more about giving than receiving. So after some pondering and mulling that question over with a cup of coffee, I came up with this list:

1. An itunes card- pretty basic but if you're anything like me you need the right mix of tunes to move your creativity along.

2. A copy of the 2011 Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market- This is a must for the bookshelf. For 36 years this has been an invaluable resource for artists, illustrators, designers and cartoonists who want to market themselves in the right direction. It is updated every year in a easy to follow format that way your promotional mailers and other marketing efforts go to the right people and to the right address.

3. A membership to Hire An Illustrator- which reminds me... I need to join that the coming year.

4. A fun desk toy- we all need toys for our desk for mini moments of distraction. Plus this adds a bit of optimistic whimsy to the table!

5. A week of mentoring advice from Ilise Benum the Marketing mentor- If anyone can get your marketing efforts into shape it is her. "With Marketing Mentor, you always have an expert by your side!"

6. A notebook- A really great notebook helps any creative idea from getting away! I prefer spiral bound books for ease of use. Anything in the 6" by 9" size range is good so it will fit nicely in a bag, desk and night stand for those moments of brilliance.

7. A gift card from their favourite art supply shop- there are many to choose from but an essential gift that helps keep those projects moving along and makes clients happy!

8. Tickets to the 2011 How Design conference- the conference the coming year will be held in the windy city of Chicago June 24-27.

9. Coffee- gifts of cool mugs, coffee beans, coffee cards are always welcome for those long creative days of productivity and those late nights too!

10. A really awesome USB pen- for those quick storage needs and printing jobs why use any old pen when you can find one that rocks your creative socks off!

11. A subscription to How magazine- since 1985 this magazine's goal has been to help designers and illustrators run successful creative and profitable studios. They mix business, technology, creative needs, tips, spotlights of movers and shakers in the design world wrapped up in a great magazine.

12. Lastly, a copy of my book, Breaking Into Freelance Illustration: the guide for artists, designers and illustrators- this is a bit of self-promotion but on a good note I have had a lot of interest in another book by many illustrators and aspiring illustrators and I am happy to say a book is in progress come the new year!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The quote that says it all!

Rushmore by Wes Anderson is one of my favourite movies. My favourite scene goes like this:

Max turns the page of his book. There is a photograph of Jacques Cousteau laughing uproariously. A little note is written in pencil in the margin next to it with an arrow pointing to the picture. Max frowns. He turns the book sideways to read it.

"When one person, for whatever reason, has a chance to lead an exceptional life, he has no right to keep it to himself."
-Jacques Cousteau

Then you can hear the ocean in the background. Very charming and a very true quote that all creatives should live by.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Latest interview from The Free Creatives

The site The Free Creatives interviewed me about my freelance business, the challenges of being a freelancer, lessons I've learned so far, advice I could tell anyone just starting out as a freelance designer/illustrator, my daily routines, and the benefits that my book can provide. The Free creatives host a number of freelance-related articles. "Some of us freelance, some us don't, but the point is that we all genuinely love what we do." Well said!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spotlight on Applied Arts Wire

My book was spotlighted on the Applied Arts Wire from Applied Arts Magazine. Here is part of the post:

"Holly DeWolf is a freelance illustrator based in New Brunswick. Frustrated by the lack of resources for aspiring freelance illustrators, she took it upon herself to write the book she wish she had when she first graduated from art school: Breaking Into Freelance Illustration.

Holly recently sent us an e-mail about the book, which immediately caught our eye. We intend on having a review of the book published within the coming weeks here on the Wire as part of an as-yet-nonexistent ongoing series of book reviews. In the meantime, we thought we’d get the word on the book out there."

Friday, June 25, 2010

My alumni spotlight from NSCAD University

I am proud to say I made it to the alumni gallery page at NSCAD University. I attended NSCAD for five long, creative and expensive years. Much of that time was spent creating, doing assignments, drinking coffee, bursting my budget and growing up. Outside of all the creative learny stuff, I also l learned that:

• Coffee is the fifth food group and can be consumed at any hour of the day. If your lucky while in University, you can live by a 24 hour caffiene distributer like I did.
• Sleep is not on the curriculum. You just don't need it!
• Roommates should come with warning labels.
• Wearing black will keep you clean in drawing class, mixing photographic chemicals, paint spils.... coffee spills at 3 am!
• Going to a 24 hour school means you never have to leave or eat a well balanced diet!
• Having design teachers from Germany meant you end up learning how to swear in a whole new way. Yeah, we broke the code.
• I appreciate my Macbook everyday because I started on a Mac LC which had a monitor the size of a postage stamp. It's a wonder I'm not blind!
• Having an art history class at 8:45 am is cruel.
• Design markers leave vapor trails especially when everyone is using them at the same time! I think we saw through time! .
• Drawing class that involves nudes is not for the shy. My poor brain!
• X-acto knives are really sharp! They cut through illustration board, tables, clothing...fingers!
• And lastly, art supplies are unbelievably expensive. It really can cut into your coffee budget and that is not good!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Promotional Mailers- Snail mail can be fun again!

I was asked to do a write up for Zero 2 Illo: the blog for aspiring illustrators about promotional mailers.

As illustrators we know that promoting yourself is a daily event. If your anything like me you are always thinking of new ways to create promotions. Typically we gravitate to the technological side of things. Your website, email, banner ads, pdf portfolios, Linkedin, Twitter and the many other online sites are great options. Sometimes it nice to shut off and surf the real world. I am here to say that snail mail can be fun again.

Your self promotion is one area of your business where you can give yourself creative freedom. Not only is it the most effective form of creative promotion but it is the most personal and unique way to gain attention to you and your work. Utilizing the mail is is great for many reasons:
- It is tangible. You can hold it your hand.
- It's memorable. If your potential client loved it they most likely wont forget you.
- It shows off your creative problem solving skills
- It holds more value and meaning than an email or banner ad.
- It is a personal snippet of you and your style.
- You get to create your best work.
- It takes you away from your regular routine.
- It helps you exercise your creative muscle and lets you experiment.
- It lets you spotlight your best work and ideas.

Mailers can be everything from postcards, brochures, newsletters, mini portfolios, contact sheets or something really unique. The idea here is to think out of the norm and get their attention the best way you can. The other idea is to stay out of the recycling bin! If you can get past the mail room, the office manager and into the hands of the intended person it was addressed to, then you are in. After that, your piece has to impress them and hopefully end up on their desk, or filed or pinned on a cork board for display. Treat your work and your promotions with great design and it wont be seen as junk mail.

Your choices:

These are the most versatile format to work in. It's a two sided design so you can place an image on the front and all your vital information on the back. What to include: Paper is a consideration if you are going to pop it into the mail on it's own without an envelope. You want to make sure it can take the abuses of the mail route. The maximum legal size for a postcard is 6" x 4.25" but you can play with the size if you decide to put it in a envelope instead. When it comes to printing, you can send them out to be printed or you can print them at home. Get creative with imagery and text. Getting it printed at http://www.moo.com or http://www.modernpostcard.com

USB Pens
Instead of paper or board you can throw a bit of technology into the mix still by placing all your info on a USB pen. You can create a presentation, or put on a series of pdf's. What to include: Spotlight your best work. It does not need to be your whole portfolio but include what this particular potential client wants to see. Include a Bio and contact information. If you are feeling super creative you can even doll up your usb pen by painting it or putting a sticker on it that you created yourself.

Greeting cards
Absolutely utilize special occasions and holidays to send out one of kind cards. We all love well illustrated designed greetings. Dazzle them at Halloween or Christmas. What to include: A great illustration is required. Wit and humor works well for text. Keep it light and keep it creative. Include your contact information on the back. Try a great font that will work with your imagery. Lastly, a great place to get greeting cards printed is http://www.moo.com.

Mini Portfolio Packages
These nifty little packages can house loose prints of your work, a section for your business card, a bio, and something unique like a bookmark.
Digital prints work well for this format which can be fairly inexpensive. What to include: Have your contact information on each printed sample. Let your creativity take over on the folder itself. Experiment with size, color and paper. This is a great way to dabble into packaging and paper folding.

Contact Sheets
A contact sheet is typically a 8" x 11" sheet designed and printed with spotlights of your work all on one page. It is a simple yet effective way to showcase your many talents and it creates easy filing for your audience. These can be printed at home or sent out to your local printer. What to include: Make sure you place the right amount of images as to not crowd the page. Try to play up the arrangement with perhaps some bigger images and smaller ones. Utilize negative space to make sure the work can be seen well. Include your contact information, your name, and great a font a two to spice it up.

Handmade books
Little handmade gems like a personalized book will make your work look great. Again, you can get crafty with folding and possibly stitching the book together. Have fun with themes. Create a type of 'portfolio story' or create a mock book that could possibly lead to a real book in the future.
What to include: Put your contact information front and back. Include a bio and your best work. Play with text and fonts. Mix up the types of paper you use and color. Keep it a reasonable size and make sure the pages turn well.

These sound super conventional but they don't have to be. You can fold the paper in 3's or in half if that works. What to include: Throw in well suited text and at least 2 to 3 images depending on the format. Include your contact information and smaller illustrations. A bio works well for this format as well. Print it on great paper with a great font.

If there is something you like to write about or interests you in the illustration field then create a newsletter that can be sent out monthly or bi-monthly. It could focus on creativity to your latest news and career spotlights. What to include: Make sure the text is legible. Make sure the text is formatted in an easy follow along way. Play with placement and imagery. Remember, you are an illustrator so make it fun and not too stuffy looking. Include your contact information and possible a hint of the next brochures theme.

Unconventional Formats
If you are feeling super creative and inventive you can always stray away from the norm by creating something completely different. Your themes can be coffee coasters, hand made clocks to specialized post-its with your work on it. The budgets could be quite small to big depending on what you want to do. What to include: Being that these will be unconventional in size and materials, make sure that your information does not go lost. If your potential client cannot find the information he/she is looking for they will not be able to contact you. Also make sure you able to send it without it costing you a small fortune. Make it fun. Make it memorable.

Things to consider:

Your budget is one of the biggest determining factors in your mail campaign. Printing is not cheap for certain things such as greeting cards. If you are going to use unconventional materials or USB pens then you may want to see if you can get these items in bulk or cheaper online. Handmade is a great budget option. Not only can play with ideas, you can also push your savvy problem solving skills.

Your paper choices will have a huge impact on your promotions. Paper is very tactile. When paper is of good quality and weight it will show and it feel good to the touch. Make sure the paper weight is appropriate to what the promotion piece needs. If you are printing postcards you will need a sturdier paper to handle the busy mail system.

Dealing with printers is not always easy. One thing I have learned right off the hop is this: never assume. When you are about to send a file to a printer or drop off a usb pen to have something printed make sure you know in advance how they would like things formatted. An example I like to use is an illustration I did for a t-shirt. I thought I could just send an old EPS file. Turns out it needed to be vectorized. Ooops! Always ask and make sure you have an understanding of printing lingo. Always check for spelling errors because that is not their job. And lastly, always ask for a proof print before you ok the final printing.

Your printing and package sizes need to fit into standard mail sizes. If you are not always sure then check out your countries mailing standards and local courier formats. This will prevent any mail coming back or not reaching its destination at all.

Potential List

Before you mail anything you need a list of potentials. These can be found online, directories and in the information sections at the front of magazines. Rule of thumb: make sure you always know who to address the promotion to. Make sure your good stuff gets into the right hands. Lastly, make sure you spell their name right. Good places to look are the 2010 Artists & Designers Market, company websites, online directories ans specific sites specializing in the market you want to work in such as the Society of Children's Book Writers and illustrators.

Mail Schedule

After you send out your creative goodies you should make a list. This list will include the date you sent your mail, the addressee and what you sent out. From there you can set up a mailer schedule where you will send out the next batch either every 2 weeks or once a month. Once items have been sent you want to track how it goes and how well your efforts are being received. This will require a follow up either by phone, email or a nifty response card that you can design and send out after your promotion was mailed. This will lead to a response. This response could be a job, a thank you, your promotion maybe be filed for further consideration or there may not be a response at all. All this needs to be documented in order to see your progress and what works and what needs to change. Lastly, its a good idea to make a list of how much your mailing campaign cost that way you will be able to budget appropriately for the next mail blitz.

© Holly DeWolf 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

8 Reasons To Hire An Illustrator

1. An illustrator can help you solve your visual problems. Imagine illustration as thinking pictures. An illustration can jump start feeling and mood while enhancing text.
“A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved. -John Dewey

2. An illustrator can serve as a creative consultant. Our inspirations, curiosities and experiences can add a different spin to your projects.
“A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind. -Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

3. Our small size is a cost effective advantage to you. Many of us work from home, from basement offices to fully loaded studios. Our quick commutes and small expenses give us freedom to just create and run our business.
“Being free brings a lightness, a carefree surrender to all that is happening around you, and above all an acceptance of reality. -Deepak Chopra

4. Our clients are the most important part of our business. We offer imagination and unique talents to this creative industry. We want to develop strong creative relationships as a form of community online and around the corner.
“All art has this characteristic: it unites people.” -Leo Tolstoy

5. An illustrator can offer more than just great work. We see ourselves as entrepreneurs with independent spirits. Many of us write, teach, and sell products as well as promoting the industry to make it better. Our versatile approach keeps this industry moving forward.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. –Aristotle

6. An illustrator is as imaginative as you need them to be. You definitely have the choice of realism, whimsical to conceptual styles. You can find what will best enhance your creative projects.
“You have to be interested in culture to design for it. –Lorraine Wild

7. An illustrator’s flexibility can be your best asset. Deadlines can change, projects can be altered or sometimes canceled all together. Our resiliency keeps us in business and opens us up to new creative opportunities.
“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” -Anonymous

8. An illustrator helps you make a good impression because we live to create stuff. If it looks good in our portfolio, the finished piece will look good on you as well. A great illustration mixed with great design shows creative strength. This combination is an inspired match.
“Illustration, the act of making a narrative clear, is one of mankind’s great accomplishments. -Milton Glazer

© Holly DeWolf

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Illustrators Bill of Rights

1. Illustrators have the right to get paid.
2. Illustrators have the right to be treated as a business.
3. Illustrators have the right to be given enough time to complete assignments in a reasonable time frame.
4. Illustrators have the right to think a project over before they take on any assignment or commitments.
5. Illustrators have the right to have a signed written agreement before they start work.
6. Illustrators have the right to be able to make proper corrections and revisions.
7. Illustrators have the right to be treated with respect.
8. Illustrators have the right to be able to follow ethical guidelines and not be asked to plagiarize or copy another illustrators style or work.
9. Illustrators have the right to be asked first before someone wants to use their work.
10. Illustrators have the right to protect the copyright of their work from their web sites and blogs.
11. Illustrators have the right to take on as many clients as they want.
12. Illustrators have the right to know about “the fine print” and a web site’s posting guidelines and terms and conditions always.
13. Illustrators have the right to breaks, sick time, family time, holidays and vacations.
14. Illustrators have the right to turn down spec work or any assignment that feels unethical to their career.
15. Illustrators have the right to discontinue working with a difficult client if unrecognizable differences cannot be resolved.
16. Illustrators have the right to terminate a project if it compromises their career, ethics or beliefs.
17. And last but not least...Illustrators have the right to drink as much coffee as they wish...any time of the day to get the job done. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

But can you still stay creative?

"Lean into the sharp points and fully experience them. The essence of bravery is being without self-deception." - Pema Chodron

I was once told that creativity is only okay if you are okay. This might be true.

I've been asked how I handle down times, creative blocks and burn out. Creativity can be tested by tiny matters that trip you up or really big events. Little distractions can squeeze into the creative cracks and take you away from what is important. What could be worse than that? It could take you away from your creative habits, deadlines and the things that make you happy.

But what about those edges, sharp points and stumbles? Life can push us into places that we don't want to be in physically and internally. These moments can make us feel like we are falling apart.

But can you still stay creative?

'Stick-to-itiveness' is described as tenacity, having back-bone, daring, determination, and strength of spirit. This is the capacity to kick up the moxie from time to time even though certain life events can test your creative patience. So what works?

1. Think Simple
There is this wonderful Japanese concept I learned a long time ago called Wabi Sabi. It is the art of living with less to gain more. How it works is like this: there are 3 simple realities that are based on the idea that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Often control can be a huge stumbling block that stops us before we even begin. Trying to be in control while things go wrong can have its down sides. When we try to force things or make things as they once were, we can hit conflict. Lemons in life means you have to find a new solution to your creative recipes. Accepting pit falls but allowing flexibility is a huge liberator!

2. Clearing
Got mess? Junk on your desk and around your home can make one anxious and scatterbrained. Too much clutter and mayhem can clog the brain. Both can be energy depleting and bad for creativity. Start small by organizing your papers to your work space and go from there. It's amazing how good it feels when you know where things are. This not only saves you time but creates a more positive pleasant creative environment.

3. Diversions
I call these creative distractions. They are good for you. You can do something completely different from the norm but you gain an enormous amount of reward from it. Diversions can be anything from writing to collecting comic books to music. The great thing about distractions is they can seep their way into your work. They can regenerate you, reinvent you and most oftenly inspire you.

4. It's All Imperfectly Perfect
Ever notice how life is not perfect....ever? So why do we try to create perfection? It's an odd concept but common none the less. Predicaments can make us want to fix everything so it is just right so that way we can go on. Pit falls, stumbles and failure change our way of thinking about everything sometimes. It's funny when people succeed they party and when they fail they ponder and change! The expression I use around my house is "Practice makes great!" Perfect sounds done but imperfection sounds open to exploration. Life stuff goes on and chaos happens. How we deal with it makes all the difference.

"You know when you go into a department store and they have an irregular rack? Irregular. That's my staff." - from the tv series ED

5. Shelve It
Life can get in the way sometimes and distract us. Time can move fast and work against our work. I'm a huge believer in stopping and reevaluating what I am doing. Ideas do not happen when you want them to sometimes. Ideas need to breathe. Forcing the issue wont make your brain work any faster. When its time to tackle that idea again you will know. It will feel right and one idea will lead to another and another and another...

6. Spin It
Tired of your usual way of working? Change it up. Doing the opposite sometimes opens up creative doors and feels like a breath of fresh air. Remember there are no fast rules to creativity. Define what creative freedom means to you and use that.

7. Daydreaming
We were told as kids that drifting off and not paying attention was a bad habit. I am here to say it is creatively good for you to mindfully vacate. First off, it is unstructured thought. In a typical day we are thinking about all sorts of things to what is for dinner to solving work related issues. Letting your mind wander opens up ideas, random clues and also jogs memory. Why do you think sleep is so popular? Your mind goes where it wants to, you rest, you wake up and you start anew.

Creativity comes from some pretty odd places to irregular moments-- so why not use the energy that comes from it. Creativity means using what you have, living in the moment to allowing yourself to play. Simply stated, feel it if you are going to feel it and don't be hung up on structure or rules. If you are going to put energy into thinking about life stuff-then use it! Use it all and make something good out of the bad.

Sometimes you just need to trust that inner voice that says, "It's fine. Do it anyway. Do anything and see what happens. It might work."

© Holly DeWolf 2010
* The above chalking is from my 8 year old daughter who reminds me to play everyday. Wise girl!*

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cloud 8 has a better view!

Cloud nine gets all the publicity, but cloud eight actually is cheaper, less crowded, and has a better view!

My new website is still in the works and hopefully it will be done soon. The above illustration is a 'teaser' image from the new site. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Your Illustration Warning Label

A warning label is defined as a label attached to an item, or contained in an item's instruction manual, warning the user about risks associated with the use of the item as intended by the manufacturer, seller or owner. In some cases these labels warn against some very strange occurrences such as the 'do not put hairdryer in water' approach. Often these labels seem obvious and sometimes they sound down right ridiculous to others. My all time favourite warning label is one I saw on a bar of soap stating "use like regular soap." It's so easy to get that confused with the irregular kinds of soap. Ridiculous or not, they come with the package so to speak.

What is an illustration warning label? It's a label used as a deterrent on your blog or website to help keep your images safe. It is always advised to sign your work plus adding a © symbol on your pages. A little wordy reminder is also important to place on your online sites to let others know that stealing your work is not permitted and will not be tolerated. Unfortunately when it comes to art work and respect, common courtesy isn't always common.

Examples of warning labels can be:

- My work is protected under copyright law. My images are not produced, represented, sold, distributed, or licensed as stock photography. You may not use, print, distribute, reproduce, alter, edit, or manipulate my work in any way, either in it's entirety, or in portion, without express written consent and license from me.

- Please enjoy my illustration work. Always make sure you look but don't steal. Thank you!

- Creative suggestion: Enjoy. Send happy comments. Hire me for illustration projects. Please do not steal images. Thanks!

- Caution: Owner of artwork will become angry if any work is used without permission. © Bob 2010

- 100% pure illustration. Please don't steal the goods.

- Ingredients: digital art, text, thoughts and pictures. All © Stacy 2010

- © John Doe-All work is owned by me and shall not be used for any reason without consent. Thank you.

- © Jane Doe-If you steal my work it will bring bad karma onto you.

- Warning: artwork presented is all mine mine mine! Please ask first!

- Stealing art work is not cool.

- Theft of this art is a crime against my creative nature! Please ask first.

- Warning: Misuse of illustrations may cause bad luck, tornado's, black holes and other calamities!

- Artwork is for viewing purposes only. Please hire me but don't steal my work. Thanks!

You get the point and hopefully potential art work takers will too. It's important to have these things pointed out due to the ever increasing confusion of artists rights online. It wont guarantee that someone wont steal but it lets them know you are paying attention. Nowadays it is post and beware and be aware before you creatively share.

© Holly DeWolf

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My love affair with gouache paint!

When I first studied design I had to use gouache. At NSCAD University we started with 'old skool' techniques before we were unleashed onto technology. Back in those days we used pencils, t-squares, markers that required an open window and funny ink pens that leaked a lot.

One of the first things I noticed about gouache was the price! It is NOT a cheap paint nor is it easy to find. You need specific types of paper, illustration board and paint brushes to take on this paint. Also, it's challenging and requires a lot patience. To me it should have come with a warning label.

To sum it up nicely, I couldn't stand gouache!

How could a jar of paint make someone so frustrated? For starters, it dries quickly. It takes some mixing to get the right texture and colour that you want. It chips off if it is applied too thick. It even smudges.

So what was a creative girl to do? Get mad at it! And that is what I did. I made it my mission to master it. I chose hard things to paint. I made it thick and sometimes thin like water colour. I mixed all my colours myself instead of buying the colour pre-mixed in a convenient tube or jar. It had potential and I was determined.

Suddenly I was introduced to illustration at university and my trajectory changed. I took this wonderfully inspiring class called Making Visual & Verbal Narratives which I mention in my book. I was hooked lined and sunk into this idea of illustrating. I was then no longer a design student. I had turned to the creative illustration whimsical side of things.

Gouache is my weapon of choice and has been for over 16 years. I love how bright I can make colours. I love the way you can re-work the paint or touch up mistakes. If I change my mind, I can adjust it. It's more versatile than I initially thought. A little dab of gouache goes a long way. Once it dries on your palette you can just add water and start painting again.

What gouache taught me was patience. It taught me colour and how to mix colour. It taught me detail which is perfect for me. It often makes my work look digital. Many have mistaken my work for digital illustration which I find very interesting. This has opened up new markets for my work. So what started out as the worst medium in the world has turned out to be one of the best creative relationships I've ever had!

Ten Things I Have Learned by Milton Glaser

Somedays I cannot get on track. Somedays I feel all over the map or my creativity goes awry. Then I read. Sometimes it helps to read things from someone's else's perspective. I like this little blurb by Milton Glaser. It helps change my view a bit.

Ten Things I Have Learned
Part of AIGA Talk in London
November 22, 2001

This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realised that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.

One night I was sitting in my car outside Columbia University where my wife Shirley was studying Anthropology. While I was waiting I was listening to the radio and heard an interviewer ask ‘Now that you have reached 75 have you any advice for our audience about how to prepare for your old age?’ An irritated voice said ‘Why is everyone asking me about old age these days?’ I recognised the voice as John Cage. I am sure that many of you know who he was – the composer and philosopher who influenced people like Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham as well as the music world in general. I knew him slightly and admired his contribution to our times. ‘You know, I do know how to prepare for old age’ he said. ‘Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. For me, it has always been the same every since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceedingly well prepared for my old age’ he said.

This is a subtext of number one. There was in the sixties a man named Fritz Perls who was a gestalt therapist. Gestalt therapy derives from art history, it proposes you must understand the ‘whole’ before you can understand the details. What you have to look at is the entire culture, the entire family and community and so on. Perls proposed that in all relationships people could be either toxic or nourishing towards one another. It is not necessarily true that the same person will be toxic or nourishing in every relationship, but the combination of any two people in a relationship produces toxic or nourishing consequences. And the important thing that I can tell you is that there is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energised or less energised. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.

Early in my career I wanted to be professional, that was my complete aspiration in my early life because professionals seemed to know everything - not to mention they got paid for it. Later I discovered after working for a while that professionalism itself was a limitation. After all, what professionalism means in most cases is diminishing risks. So if you want to get your car fixed you go to a mechanic who knows how to deal with transmission problems in the same way each time. I suppose if you needed brain surgery you wouldn’t want the doctor to fool around and invent a new way of connecting your nerve endings. Please do it in the way that has worked in the past.
Unfortunately in our field, in the so-called creative – I hate that word because it is misused so often. I also hate the fact that it is used as a noun. Can you imagine calling someone a creative? Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.

Being a child of modernism I have heard this mantra all my life. Less is more. One morning upon awakening I realised that it was total nonsense, it is an absurd proposition and also fairly meaningless. But it sounds great because it contains within it a paradox that is resistant to understanding. But it simply does not obtain when you think about the visual of the history of the world. If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realise that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else. However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

I think this idea first occurred to me when I was looking at a marvellous etching of a bull by Picasso. It was an illustration for a story by Balzac called The Hidden Masterpiece. I am sure that you all know it. It is a bull that is expressed in 12 different styles going from very naturalistic version of a bull to an absolutely reductive single line abstraction and everything else along the way. What is clear just from looking at this single print is that style is irrelevant. In every one of these cases, from extreme abstraction to acute naturalism they are extraordinary regardless of the style. It’s absurd to be loyal to a style. It does not deserve your loyalty. I must say that for old design professionals it is a problem because the field is driven by economic consideration more than anything else. Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often. So every ten years or so there is a stylistic shift and things are made to look different. Typefaces go in and out of style and the visual system shifts a little bit. If you are around for a long time as a designer, you have an essential problem of what to do. I mean, after all, you have developed a vocabulary, a form that is your own. It is one of the ways that you distinguish yourself from your peers, and establish your identity in the field. How you maintain your own belief system and preferences becomes a real balancing act. The question of whether you pursue change or whether you maintain your own distinct form becomes difficult. We have all seen the work of illustrious practitioners that suddenly look old-fashioned or, more precisely, belonging to another moment in time. And there are sad stories such as the one about Cassandre, arguably the greatest graphic designer of the twentieth century, who couldn’t make a living at the end of his life and committed suicide.
But the point is that anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist. What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? And how to respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose.

The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body. I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. I was fascinated by a story in a newspaper a few years ago about the search for perfect pitch. A group of scientists decided that they were going to find out why certain people have perfect pitch. You know certain people hear a note precisely and are able to replicate it at exactly the right pitch. Some people have relevant pitch; perfect pitch is rare even among musicians. The scientists discovered – I don’t know how - that among people with perfect pitch the brain was different. Certain lobes of the brain had undergone some change or deformation that was always present with those who had perfect pitch. This was interesting enough in itself. But then they discovered something even more fascinating. If you took a bunch of kids and taught them to play the violin at the age of 4 or 5 after a couple of years some of them developed perfect pitch, and in all of those cases their brain structure had changed. Well what could that mean for the rest of us? We tend to believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, although we do not generally believe that everything we do affects the brain. I am convinced that if someone was to yell at me from across the street my brain could be affected and my life might changed. That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right. Thought changes our life and our behaviour. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.

Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. It makes me nervous when someone believes too deeply or too much. I think that being sceptical and questioning all deeply held beliefs is essential. Of course we must know the difference between scepticism and cynicism because cynicism is as much a restriction of one’s openness to the world as passionate belief is. They are sort of twins. And then in a very real way, solving any problem is more important than being right. There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture. The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point. One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.
Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you.
Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable. But self-righteousness is often the enemy. Self-righteousness and narcissism generally come out of some sort of childhood trauma, which we do not have to go into. It is a consistently difficult thing in human affairs. Some years ago I read a most remarkable thing about love, that also applies to the nature of co-existing with others. It was a quotation from Iris Murdoch in her obituary. It read ‘ Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.’ Isn’t that fantastic! The best insight on the subject of love that one can imagine.

Last year someone gave me a charming book by Roger Rosenblatt called ‘Ageing Gracefully’ I got it on my birthday. I did not appreciate the title at the time but it contains a series of rules for ageing gracefully. The first rule is the best. Rule number one is that ‘it doesn’t matter.’ ‘It doesn’t matter that what you think. Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.’ Wisdom at last. Then I heard a marvellous joke that seemed related to rule number 10. A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’

The rabbit joke is relevant because it occurred to me that looking for a cabbage in a butcher’s shop might be like looking for ethics in the design field. It may not be the most obvious place to find either. It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behaviour towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. We expect a butcher to sell us eatable meat and that he doesn’t misrepresent his wares. I remember reading that during the Stalin years in Russia that everything labelled veal was actually chicken. I can’t imagine what everything labelled chicken was. We can accept certain kinds of misrepresentation, such as fudging about the amount of fat in his hamburger but once a butcher knowingly sells us spoiled meat we go elsewhere. As a designer, do we have less responsibility to our public than a butcher? Everyone interested in licensing our field might note that the reason licensing has been invented is to protect the public not designers or clients. ‘Do no harm’ is an admonition to doctors concerning their relationship to their patients, not to their fellow practitioners or the drug companies. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Signing Event at Chapters-Indigo Moncton New Brunswick

Attention all Moncton creative freelancers! I will be at the Moncton Chapters-Indigo location for a book signing meet and greet event. Come out and chat, get advice and bring your work for this interactive book signing event.

When: Friday May 28th 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
Where: Chapters-Indigo, Dieppe, N.B

See you there.

Branding For Illustrators

I was asked to do a write up for Zero 2 Illo: the blog for aspiring illustrators.

Branding For Illustrators

Branding is all about you. It involves the way you write about yourself, the way you talk about yourself, and the way you promote yourself. Often it is hard to imagine illustrators as a brand, but they are. Your name, style, marketing method, and online presence say a lot about who you are in the creative corner of the world we call illustration. Your voice and persona help you stand out from the rest of the creative pack and makes you unique as illustrators. You need to approach things differently then say a company or corporation. Allow yourself to have creative freedom, it’s a must in this industry. You may all be freelancers and work for yourselves but you still need to make yourselves recognizable and promote yourselves the best way you can. Some of us work very simply, some have small budgets and others are quite content to stay in our studios all day while marketing online. It all depends on what works for you and what is important to you when it comes to your marketing efforts.

Simply put, it's your approach plus your creative package that makes you marketable. Your icon/logo, website, blog, style of work, networking, and the ability to talk and write about yourself is what sells it. Things to consider when approaching your branding and promotion are:

• Your Image
Make yourself memorable. Your promotion efforts are a good start when considering this. In order to be recognizable you need to make sure you are covering all your creative angles. Many illustrators have a unique distinctive style that sets them apart. This can be achieved by how you display your work online on a website portfolio and the type of work you do. If style is something that you worry about then start with a theme. Often this is the quickest way to create similar work to promote yourself. This theme can be determined on what market you would like to advertise. There is no sense in having images of animals in your portfolio if the market you wish to work in is fashion illustration. Remember your style helps folks remember how you want the creative world to see what it is you create.

• Your Target Audience
The best way to pin point this is to ask yourself these questions:
Who is your ideal client? Who is your dream client? Who would you be sending your work to? Who would be interested in what you do? Once you have determined the answers then compose a list of contacts. This information should include their contact name, their email, their mailing address and phone number. Add to it and update it often to keep on track.

• Your Online Presence
Having an online presence is one of the most important ways to get yourself out there. Despite the risks of having your work online, it's still important to make your portfolio accessible while making sure you keep it safe as much as you can. Your website can spotlight a portfolio, your biography, contact information and other important information that prospects want to see such as; a client list, education, spotlights and the markets you work in.

Your blog is a great way to illustrate in a journal style where you can highlight your latest projects, spotlights, works in progress and entries that involve your thoughts on what you do and the business of illustration. Community sites such as Illustration Friday, Escape From Illustration Island and Sugar Frosted Goodness helps you stay involved. These sites can motivate, keep you informed and lets you get involved.

Other networking sites such as LinkedIn, Jacketflap and Facebook can also be used to promote yourself. If you are on these sites as a way to promote yourself be as professional as possible. Remember to keep your brand memorable and make sure you are portraying yourself as your best creative self. Best not to post those pics from last weekend’s party just in case!

• Your Marketing Slogan
If you could sum up what you do in a quick sentence, what would it be? A good approach is to go online and look for like-minded creative’s who have great branding styles. Good examples of brands that are recognizable are:
Holly DeWolf illustration: a handmade experience
Claudine Hellmuth: Hip art for playful hearts.
Jeff Fisher Logomotives engineers innovative graphic identity solutions in helping businesses and organizations to get, and stay, on the right track.

• Your Title
Do you have a title other than 'Illustrator'? You can get creative and go beyond the obvious. One way to approach it is having a creative nickname, something that says you in a distinct way or add something that interests you. Some of my favourites are: Ilise Benum is the Marketing Mentor, Colby Nelson is also known as Colby Sunshine, Jannie Ho is also known as Chicken Girl.

• Your Logo
A logo or avatar online helps you stand out. Your logo can be placed on business cards, stationary, your website, postcards, and invoices. When online having a recognizable avatar of a professional photograph or illustrated image will be a great addition to help get you recognized on online groups, forums and blogs.

• Your Talking & Writing Approach
It's really important to be able to describe what you do especially in those 'on the spot' moments. Sometimes life throws you questions at the oddest times. You maybe in an elevator but questions have a way of filling in space when we are not always ready. Rise to the challenge. There are times when you will need short explanations of what you do. Other times you may need a longer approach. Look at it as educating someone on what you do. A little information can go a long way.

• Your Networking Approach
Often we need to escape the confines of our studio spaces to see the light of day. Its nice to surf online for business sake but it's also nice to surf the real world too. An escape to consider is networking with other creative like-minded souls. This is where you can practice your verbal skills and talk about yourself and what you do. The nice thing about doing this is the more you do it the better you get at it. Look at it as practice. They don't have to be strangers for long. It all comes down to changing your perception.

• Your Expertise
If you love illustration, then write about it, talk about it, talk about the good things, write about what interests you, and contribute. Many feel they have no voice or they have not been in the business long enough to contribute. If you are in it, studying it, working in it, love it then you have a voice. This not only helps give you a professional voice but also establishes you as expert while helping you make a name for yourself.

Lastly, it's up to you on how you add personality to your product plus the creative experience you bring with it. Over time, your brand or image will develop and change. Keep in mind, you are creative. So that means you are always going to be in a state of creative reinvention. Branding can be looked at as creative promotional play. Step out of the norm, step out of your creative shell and enjoy the process!

© Holly DeWolf 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book review from the Village Gamer

The web site the Village Gamer spotlighted my book. This is a very informative site about news and information about Canadian interactive studios and products. "On our pages you will find news exclusively about companies which, if not purely Canadian, have a strong and active Canadian presence, with a Canadian business location. We endeavour to become that global voice for our national interactive media industry which becomes heard around the world, striving to grow into a national resource for both those who reside within our borders and those who don’t."

"Late last year, I was a participant in a conversation with game design students regarding freelance work. I came across a book today in my morning email travels which, while I haven’t read it (but I probably will), was written by Canadian freelance illustrator and author Holly DeWolf. While many students are lucky and easily find work at established studios, it has been a topic of conversation about how schools don’t really prepare their graduates for the freelance world."

Thank you Village Gamer. Cheers!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My latest interview on Doodle Diner

So the latest interview was with Doodle Diner.

Here is a little snippet: "One last note: Sometimes it feels there comes a point in a creative persons life when we should rock the boat…more!! With that said, it does not mean when adopting this new philosophy that it comes smoothly without any bumps and trip ups. Having a sense of humor has really saved me especially on those days when I am pretty sure a mushroom cloud will suddenly appear above my house or when my computer just says No! I truly believe if you can successfully work at home and stay creative without blowing it up…. you can do anything!! Thanks for the interview! Cheers!"