Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

© Holly DeWolf- Christmas Card 2011-Let Your Heart Be Light!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

8 Things I Like About Illustration Right Now!

1. Illustrative Typography- I love hand done lettering either on its own or mingled with an illustration.

2. Clean, well designed illustration websites with no flash or distracting backgrounds.

3. Cool illustration apps like Anna Goodson Management's app for the iPad.

4. Illustrators selling great things on Etsy, and on their own websites! 

5. Having access to great community sites such as Sugar Frosted Goodness & The Little Chimp Society!

6. Keri Smith's free Artist's Survival Kit- Makes a great gift!

7. Cute little animated gems like this: Sketchy Ice Creams!

8. Using youtube as a promo tool for a great children's book- I Want My Hat Back!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My No-Fail Marketing Strategy for Freelancers!

© Holly DeWolf

Recently I was asked by copywriter, editor and Certified Professional Resume Writer, Kirsten Fischer to contribute to an article for . She needed my input on her 5 No-Fail Marketing Strategies for Freelancers. I was all to happy to oblige since I contributed to her first book, Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers And  Artists Deal With Career Ups and Downs. Along with my input, the very knowledgeable marketing mentor, Ilise Benum added her thoughts as well. 

When it comes to marketing, I believe you need to be clear, concise and interject realism into your strategy. I discussed it simply here: 

"Be clear about your intentions and simply ask for what you want."

Ask for what you want.
No matter what techniques you use to market yourself and your business, it’s important to be 
clear about what you want. When Holly DeWolf, an illustrator and author of Breaking Into 
Freelance Illustration: The Guide for Artists, Designers and Illustrators, wanted to secure a 
publisher for a book, she asked a friend for advice. "I came up with an idea, wrote the proposal, wrote a sample chapter, and then I asked them to have a look at my work through my query letter. I had a book deal three weeks later," she notes.

Although publishing a book may not be that simple, DeWolf's point rings true: Be clear about 
your intentions and simply ask for what you want. If that's a new client, connect with them and then ask the prospect to review your portfolio or to set up a meeting. If you want to network with other creative professionals, ask questions about the group before you sign up. It's all about putting your intentions out there and being direct, whether through promotional mailers, email lists, or your website. You need that kind of initiative as a freelancer, because no one else is going to toot your horn for you!

"Promotion is basically your own form of show and tell with a permission-marketing twist," 
DeWolf says. "In a nutshell, you create your own opportunities by asking for them."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Boy, Your Industry Sure Is Confusing!

Ever have someone who is not in the illustration industry get confused about what you do?

Recently I heard this:

"I'm confused about the illustration industry... everyone works alone, everyone spends a lot of time online, no one seems to have a full University Degree in it and it's hard to get paid. Is freelance always seen as free? Don't you get lonely working at home? And why is it so hard to find work as an illustrator?"

After hearing that and having a lengthy discussion, I then had to jot it down for a post. Not only did this make me chuckle a bit but this made me ask questions as well. Looking at your industry from someone else's point of view was odd but very enlightening. 

I can see how it would be confusing. 

From an outsiders point of view, it seems like a very different and often times insecure industry. Finding work is hard. Getting paid is harder. On top of that, there is a lot work we do daily that we do not get paid for at all. We network all day. We problem solve. We generate ideas 24/7. We work typically alone. There seems to be a lot obstacles to get past in order to get work. Our schools don't exactly prepare all of us for business. We create images for clients in hopes of getting paid and paid fairly. The competition is huge. Many illustrators seem ill prepared for the work world. Clients often seem difficult. It is a constant learning curve. 

Come to think of it,  we spend a huge amount of time and energy as illustrators. It's more than a job, it's like a well loved creative relationship that needs nurturing, time, effort and lots of attention. I applaud those as well as myself who work in it. 

It's not for the weak. It's not for the impatient. And it is certainly not for those not dedicated to it. 

That is one way of looking at it but there are great things about it too. 

I was asked why I do this every day. My simple answer? Because it's so damn interesting. I need to make stuff. I want to make stuff. As an illustrator, everything is incredibly fascinating wouldn't you agree? Another is the need to create... and to create something either for a client or for myself. The need to creatively grow. The need to do it myself and be my own boss. There is also a huge need to learn daily. Participating in a an endless process is a huge illustration turn on. Basically, it's my creative habit that I grew up with that I want to continue doing for a long, long time to come. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts On Creativity!


Moby was interviewed about his thoughts on creativity, his journey and what makes him smile. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Now I need to go make something! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Here's To The Crazy Ones!

It seems there is a lot of negativity going around. It's not a virus but it sure spreads like one on tv and online. It's even in the illustration industry too. Then something happens that catches my attention... something sad like a great man who did great things who passed away too soon. Steve Jobs reminded me that even though the world seems off kilter there is still a lot of greatness out there. You just have to look pass the media that tries to distract us, taunt us by pushing the limits of our patience, crossing the lines while trying to discourage us.

Steve Jobs described it best:
"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."- Steve Jobs

When it comes to illustration, I am only one voice of many so when something I've created gets criticized, I think to myself, "Well, if you can't join 'em just keep doing your own thing and eventually someone may like it."

I think what Steve Jobs did in the technological world is prove that having tenacity and beating to your own creative drum is what some of us must do. 

Not everyone likes my work. Not everyone likes my book. Not everyone is going to read this post. I am one voice of many who write about this industry, who support it and continually works at it every single day. 

I was asked why I do this... why I push forward with writing, illustrating & creating even though the illustration market seems to be over saturated. It's simple: it comes natural. It's what I want to do. And here's the big one--everything is so damn interesting to me. I didn't come equipped with an off-switch. I'm not here to be the best or to be the centre of attention. I contribute to the industry and I create as a way to support my children in this chosen career that I am so lovingly devoted to.

I was also asked why I am not phased by negative comments from anonymous commenters regarding my book- It's simple, their comments have nothing to do with me.  They simply did not find what they were looking for. Hopefully they will find what they need somewhere else,  through a teacher, a mentor or through the perspective of another book. 

I am only one voice in this industry but hey, it's still a voice! It's a pretty hardworking, passionate, dedicated and a determined voice too. And you know what they say about determined people? George Bernard Shaw said that the people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them!

I may not have a group, or employees, or a big website for that matter. I may not scream the loudest. I may not have the most followers. I may not have an agent nor have I been on the best seller list. I may not have myself linked everywhere on every illustration site. However, I have been copied, quoted, imitated and even been admired by some. I am known in some creative circles and not in others. I maybe known more in the United States than in my own country but that doesn't stop the ideas, the moments of brilliance and it certainly does not stop that inner drive. 

When I wrote my book I told myself that if I helped 5 people it was a success to me. Well, after countless testimonials, letters, emails and requests to do a follow up I think I surpassed my small but be it modest approach to success. 

When it all comes down to it, I'm just one of the "crazy ones" crazy enough to think that I can change my world by one illustration, one idea, one word, one day at a time. 

So here's to the crazy ones... and here's to Steve Jobs who reminds us that, if you can't dazzle, wear 'em down! It's a big crazy world and you're only here for a little while so create it in your own crazy style! 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Defence Of Doing Enough

“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of 

the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher

We all have days when we see a lot of great work around us. Other creatives often appear to be doing more while getting exciting projects and getting agents plus having their work spotlighted everywhere you turn. The typical reaction many feel is that heavy feeling of comparison which leads to questions... many many questions. These questions typically revolve around our work and our time and the feeling of "Is my work good enough?" and "Am I doing enough?"

Doing enough is relative. We all have a certain amount of time in a typical work day and not all creative days are created equal. Not every illustrator has the same amount of time to work in their studios. I will use myself as an example; I have two young children so this breaks up my time in a different way. I have house hold needs that must be done in order to get through the day. Needless to say I juggle. I have been doing the work at home juggle for quite some time. One thing that I have noticed the older I get the less time I have. This forces me to reevaluate my time with many schedule changes. To be honest, my house is jungle gym mixed with music, cartoons, toys, books and crazy forts. Somewhere in that whimsy chaos is my studio. I do the best I can.

For some of us the challenge might be another job working outside of the studio. Some illustrators are weekend creatives, some work at night and I know some do not sleep at all. They are creative machines.

Sometimes we have to just stop and say "Good enough!" It sounds pretty short, simple and sweet. Give yourself a much needed pat on the back for effort well done even when you feel you are not making much headway at all.

Sometimes I laugh at myself when I make unrealistic time goals knowing full well that it wont happen as planned. I always tack on 2 to 3 days for many projects professional and personal because I know the creative jungle dictates most things when it comes to my life. I had to let go and accept it.

There is too much comparison sometimes in this illustration career of ours. My philosophy is look at their work, research their style, see what works for them, read up on their business approach and their experience. Success leaves clues which means we all leave clues for someone to pick up on. I always suggest to learn from what others are doing but leave out the comparison. That does not need to be in the equation. 

The way I see it is this: we will always have lists, ideas and more things that we want to create. We'll never be done because we're creative. We're not supposed to be finished. That's the beauty of working in a career that breaks the rules!

So in the defence of doing enough, I am going to make a coffee and spend the day doing something fun.  Life is too short to worry about measuring up all the time. Goals are good and goals are necessary but there is nothing wrong with balancing a little diversionary fun into the mix too. So, I say that will do until Monday. Till then...enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Spotlight On Sea & Be Scene!

Nothing boosts a creative girls spirit on a really hard week than a spotlight on Sea & Be Scene. What was nice about this interview? It focussed on where I live. The usual spotlights have been about illustration and my book. This was a nice refreshing change of pace. 

Its been 6 months since I have relocated back to this area of New Brunswick and 
I must confess it has been an adjustment. I believe this little spotlight gave me new found hope that this wasn't such a bad choice after all. I think moving a lot has worn me down a bit. I think I would be happy to stay in one place for a while. What's even better-the snow is gone, the winter boots have been put away and I wore sandals for the first time the other day. Things are looking up! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sugar & Spice In Defence Of Nice!

In Defence Of Nice!
Remember when you were a kid and your Mum always told you to play nice? When you didn't you got busted and ended up in the dog house. Ever noticed how challenging that concept is as an adult? 

I've been asked how to balance being nice and being a freelancer. I often wonder that myself. Being 'nice' isn't as easy as it seems. To be nice and honest, there are some days that challenge my natural pleasant ways. On a side note: this was not an easy thing to write. I had to choose my words wisely.

If I want to get specific here, I'd say I'm cautiously nice with a side of optimism. When networking online or around the corner I always keep an open mind. My philosophy goes like this: If you say 'hi' and I say "hi' back then we are off to a good start. After that initial first impression it is quite up in the air. It could go either way. 

Typically I am contacted for mentoring advice and given high kudos for my book. I always respond. I was told on twitter that "it's hard to keep them hanging." According to illustrator Tad Carpenter, "It's kinda like walking past a high a five." Even when I don't get a thanks or a response I still feel compelled to answer questions. Call it curiosity. Call it being nice. But that's how I roll. 

So What's Wrong With Being Nice? 
It seems being nice has gained a bad reputation. The calm, easy-going and laid back approach is suddenly not where it's at. Everywhere I turn I am seeing commercials, Facebook-isms, t-shirts and bumper stickers that promote smart alecky combative vibes. Initially it may be funny but I have no desire to convert my whole personality that way. 

Now I'm not saying I'm not a member of the sarcastics society but to me there is a time and a place. Then there is thing called 'staying professional.' It's a hard thing to balance. We all want to be honest, we want to be creative and have the freedom to express ourselves. Many of us just want to be pleasant. It's a juggle. But all this 'nicey nicey' stuff comes with myths. 

Myth #1- Being nice means you're a door mat.
Myth #2- Being nice means you are weak. 
Myth #3- Being nice means you are an easy target. 
Myth #4- Being nice means you're always compliant.
Myth #5- Being nice means you are boring! 

Being nice may have many negative connotations but so does being aggressive. My approach: I try not to worry about it. Being open minded, having a sense of kindness and caring should never come under fire. It goes without saying that to be interesting you must be interested. To understand the industry that you are involved in and create for means staying in touch. Networking effectively means connecting. Abrasive qualities, attitude and temper tantrums online wont work for everyone. Airing out your personal gripes publicly wont work either. Need to rant every once an while? Sure! But just make sure it gets raves not negative reviews. 

I don't know about you but I am the type that deletes most statuses before I post them. If I get that feeling I've said too much or that it could be misunderstood then I delete it. No sense in having something out there that I have to be concerned about. And why the concern? That's because I care. That is because I believe in quality. I pop open my laptop to network, write, promote and to gain information through research. I have very clear defined reasons why I surf. 

Hard Not To Be Cynical
When I am told I'm very nice it often makes me want to duck and cover! Then I relax and take the 'nice' idea with and open mind. We have all encountered someone who has taken advantage of our kindness. When that happens it can alter that concept. Sadly, being online should come with a warning label. 

Being nice can open you up to the wrong attention or the wrong people. In my book, I mention that being online needs to be taken with a grain of cautious salt. A good code to live by: You will find whatever you are looking for online. Whatever you don't want to find will find you! Not everyone is honest. Not everyone is who they seem to be. Not everyone is out for your best interest. And sadly, not everyone wants to pay you for your work or your time! 

To be polite, I'll call them 'undesirables.' I too have encountered my fair share. However, it wont deter me from what I do. I'm just smarter now so I'll chalk it up as another learning experience. 

Many 'undesirables' are anonymous. They choose to kick up a disturbance while hiding. To me, if they choose to hide then they can stay there. Basically, their anonymity cancels out their words. They are not worth my time. 

No Mixing Words
As freelancers we want to be seen as professional. We want to maintain a good reputation. BUT you have to admit there are times when you wish you could just speak your mind. Those moments when clients, people online to someone who butted in front of you at the bank makes you want to speak up! If your not careful you could end up in an argument. Definitely not the best way to exert your creative energies. 

"Diplomacy:  The business of handling a porcupine without disturbing the quills.  ~Author Unknown

Negative feedback is the biggest professional tester of them all. Natural instinct says bite back but that inner professional voice says "Don't Do It!" I say follow that inner voice and go the diplomatic way. It's not easy. It's not easy to go with the 'kill 'em with kindness approach.' In the end you will have the confidence in knowing that you kept your cool. Maybe this quote will break it down however harsh it may seem: Diplomat: A person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip. ~Caskie Stinett

Do you want to right or do you want to be happy?
You can be pleasant but speak your mind. There are no rules saying you can't. It all comes down to your approach. There are negative Nellies everywhere online rearing their ugly words but that does not mean you have to respond. Many are looking for that epic argument. Shut them down with your own clever 'no thanks approach' or let the chirping crickets do their work. Either way, do what works for you and what will help you stay focused on the important stuff. In other words, it's mind over matter. If there was no 'mind' in it in the first place then it doesn't matter. 

There's Safety In Sandwiches
My philosophy is add humour to the recipe when needed. Humour has a way of levelling things out. Humour has a way to keeping everything copacetic. Humour is neutral. I'm not saying use humour to avoid situations or to be passive. However, having a good sense of wit and whimsy is often the creamy filling in most interaction. 

Quietly Confident
I like the idea of being quietly confident. There is nothing wrong with that approach. Nice folks do not need to constantly rave about their niceness- it goes without saying. To me, its a state of mind. Typically when your nice your pretty humble about it. Most of us are quite content to go about our online business without rocking the online boat. Again, it all comes down to why you are online and how you handle it. 

And I'm Cool Calm to Confident Just Like that!
I realize that the nice code may not be the popular one these day but perhaps we need to redefine that concept and pass it on. To me most stereotypes and myths need to be kicked to the curb. Or perhaps, we just need to do what we do best and stick to those who support us and our amiable ways. Either way, I'm sticking with the swell simpatico approach. I'm happy with that. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Yes Girl!

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.” ~Michael Landon

Did I mention I have another blog? My 'No More Putting It Off ' blog is where I keep myself motivated. In this post I talk about personal permissions, not settling, and saying yes more.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Year Of The Rabbit 2011

Happy Chinese New Year. I decided this year needed a Creative Fire Bunny. Here is hoping it brings lots of luck, fortune, good energy, creativity and much success this year. 

© Holly DeWolf

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Steps To Illustration: What is an illustration rough?

I'm going to get old school here! This is getting back to basics that involves a pencil, tracing paper, loose leaf, notes and plenty of inspiration. I'm big on roughs because it helps me work out ideas to present to a client. It keeps the client involved and gives them a sense of what you are doing and what the final work will look like. Also, I believe any project is a process and has different steps that will lead to great things.

What is an illustration rough? It is a visual idea for your client. It is an outline usually done in pencil or pen. Often it is for placement, theme and an overall idea of the final image. Once a initial rough has been created you can show it to the the client for feedback. From here you can discuss what needs to be altered, added, deleted, the size, colour, frame, no frame etc. Roughs are made to be changed. The client may not always like the first ideas you may have. Flexibility is key here especially when worse comes to worse and you have to scrap the idea and come up with a whole new one.

Next, after you have a full idea what your client wants you then create a final rough. This image will be clearer, laid out closer to the size or actual size and presented in a more concise layout. From here you will know if anymore changes are to be done after running it by your client. Then you work on the final image.

Things to help your ideas along:
- Lot of notes from your emails, phone calls or from your meeting. I keep a client reference sheet where I make notes on what they discuss. These notes often create more notes and visuals.
- A photo file of images to refer to. Setting up a binder with images of basic pictures to more complicated pictures helps to get ideas quickly. These images can be from magazines to flyers. It is best not to put another illustrators work into this binder but just pictures. For example: I have a separate file of just images of hands and animals cut from magazines.
- Tracing paper is an easy way to manage your images. You can trace over a previous image you drew for placement so it helps you move along quicker.
- A light table for tracing. Again, your ideas can move along when you re-trace certain items for placement instead of redrawing it over and over and a light table will help you see these ideas clearer.
- A good eraser. There will ideas edited and often scrapped altogether.
- Narrative helps. I like to get ideas from magazine buzz words, tag lines, musical lyrics, books and my thesaurus. I love words.
- Presenting more than one image. I often like to give my client the option of more than one layout. I often do this for size, placement, negative space and overall feel of the image. From there it gives the client more to work with.

Remember that this is to help you get ideas and helps move the client/illustrator relationship along. When a client feels you are hearing what they want by creating images in an understandable way while including them in the process you cannot go wrong.

Above image: Visual for a video © Holly DeWolf

Above image: Promotional © Holly DeWolf

Above image: Halloween card © Holly DeWolf

Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Spotlight From Artist Rep Anna Goodson

Anna Goodson spotlighted my book on her blog today. Anna Goodson is quite a tour de force in the illustration business. She has been promoting illustrators and the business for many many years. She is one of my favourite agents. Thank you Anna! It's an honour truly!