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