Sunday, December 9, 2012

Merry Creativemas- Top Gift Picks For Illustrators & Designers!

It's that time again- My annual top gifts for illustrators & designers! This year I came across gifts that are useful, creative, geeky and good for those moments when you need a creative break! I could have made this list a mile long so I narrowed it down-I'm sure once you start poking around on these link sites you'll find more! Merry Creativemas! 

Jot Pen for your IPad - Great for doodling or for quick notes!

How Conference - Definitely a must if you can make it to San Fran in 2013! 

• Top Picks 12 Days of Savings on How/Prints books. Mine is there too (insert book plug here) + Save 40% on all these editors' favorites! No coupons needed. 

2013 Children's Writer's and Illustrators Market - A must for your bookshelf! 

iTunes cards for useful apps - Some apps are great but not always free! 

• Minibru Coffee Mug - Great for coffee types and time pressed moments! 

• USB Toaster Hub and Thumbdrives - We can never have enough!

• Floppy Disk Drink Coaster - Useful, tidy, retro and plain geeky! 

• Drinklip Portable cupholder - Good for those moments when you could accidentally dip your paint brush into your coffee... which is forbidden! 

Stick- Up Weekly Calendar - Handy for those in-your-face reminders we need from time to time! 

Wing Stand For Your iPad & iPhone - Useful for coffee outings or client meetings! 

Fly Library Book Shelf - Perfect for the book lovers that need everything within reach! 

• Boogie Board LCD Tablet - Doodling is important and quick note making too! 

• Xtensor Gamer Hand Exerciser - Great for exercising tired hands! 

Photo Clip Mobile - Handy for those millions of sticky notes you cannot part with! 

Decision Maker - Simply for those unsure moments! 

• 9 ft. Cable for iPad & iPhone - Seriously, do they make those cords short enough? This will help when you need to stretch out a bit! 

The Web design Sketchbook - A helpful sketchbook to get those web ideas down! Great for showing clients too!

• 24 Pc Sharpie Marker Set with Zippered Storage Case - For the Doodlers out there extraordinaire! 

• Eco Jot Sketchbook - 9x12 - It's enviro friendly, its a great size and you can add your own creative touch for the cover! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What Does Being Self-Directed Mean To An Illustrator?

I have received many emails from illustrators asking me what 'self-directed' and 'self-direction' means. It is indeed a lexicon to add to the illustrator dialog. 

Self-Direction by definition means:
• To be directed or guided by oneself, especially as an independent agent.
• To be regulated or conducted by oneself.
• To be free from external control and constraint; "an independent mind"; "a series of independent judgments"; "fiercely independent individualism."

One of the appeals to being an illustrator is independence or to have that "fiercely independent individualism." I think many can relate to that concept and can hardly imagine working any other way. 

So how does it apply to us? Self-Direction when it come to illustration can mean many things:

1. Self-Directed Career-
“Skill to do comes of doing.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being your own boss means a lot of work, a lot problem solving and a lot of action. The rewards are both a personal and a professional asset. We have a large amount of control of when we work, where we work and how we work. This includes how we create our art- either traditional to digital techniques plus  promotion, and our earning potential. We motivate ourselves to do what it takes to get it all done with the help of our drive to succeed plus many, many cups of coffee. 

2. Self-Directed Projects-
“When freedom prevails, the ingenuity and inventiveness of people creates incredible wealth. This is the source of the natural improvement of the human condition.” –Brian S. Wesbury

Client work is definitely the driving force behind our earning potential. However, we will always have the natural drive to create things on our own on a whim so we can nurture our natural need for creative freedom. Self-directed projects are all about creating work outside of clients. This includes promotion illustrations, portfolio building and other creative projects that do not always add income but can help you make a bigger body of work which can increase future revenue. 

Labeling projects to promote online as 'self-directed' is a good way to promote self work in a very professional way. It is a clear title that says you are able to create great work and self-direct yourself. If you can self-direct a project for yourself then clients will see that as an asset for future projects with them. 

3. Self-Directed Learning- 
“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” ~ Arthur Koestler

Quite simply, our education never stops! Technology, new business ideas, social networking and new ways of working are a constant in our careers. We do it all from illustrating, marketing, web design, writing, promotion to accounting. 
This constant learning includes webinars, podcasts, books, ebooks, online study, articles and anything we can get our hands on. There is no end to the information which definitely makes this industry so damn interesting! Our only constraint is scheduling enough time to absorb it all! 

“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” - Bertrand Russell

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Commit To The Project

No matter how busy you are or how how challenging your time can be, if you are in a big project then you need to get it done. You need to commit to the project. 

We've all heard the expression-Focus on the main thing and you will get it done. Yes, sometimes other things have to wait. Things like social networking, updating your website, promotions and even other commitments may have to be put on hold. The idea is to not spread your time too thin. Some projects are very time demanding, so taking on more assignments may not work out. 

"The secret of happiness is to find a congenial monotony." -V. S. Pritchett 

I'm not talking about a couple of illustrations here and there-I'm talking about the REALLY big projects that come our way that can go on for months or even a year. It's easy to get distracted, or even feel the monotony of the same assignment day in day out. However, if you have a contract then you have a deadline then you've got to get it done. The great reward is a payment and the pride of finishing.

Why we get the big project blues: 
• It may not challenge you as an illustrator.
• It may not be something you love.
• It may be too art directed with no freedom. 
• You could be asked to illustrate in a way that does not always feel natural to your style. 

"The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind."- Albert Einstein 

How to combat the long project blues:
• Take frequent breaks.
• Work during peak times.
• Give yourself deadlines within the project to keep yourself on track. 
• Work when it's quiet.
• Get feedback from your clients or colleagues to make sure you are on top of the project. Too much work isolation can take you off track and away from the projects purpose.
• Create a side project to go along with your project as a diversion. This can break up the same-old-same old. This is not designed to take up more time- the idea is to promote much needed motivation. If you are illustrating cars and you have no love of doing that- illustrate something on the side that you do like. 

"When all is said and done, monotony may after all be the best condition for creation." -Margaret Sackville 

Also, you can embrace the sameness. This is what illustration is all about-long projects, short projects with all sorts of deadlines or no work at all. Monotony can be a good thing. It can challenge you to stay focussed, perfect what you are working on, and get you to focus on what is really important- creating in the now. Most of all, it can stretch your creativity because if you can make a long project work from start to finish along with everything else life hits you with-you will do just fine! 

Yes, it's important to have projects lined up after the big one is done. Use that as a motivator sitting on your shoulder cheering you on while this project is moving along nicely.  

Until next time, happy creating! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Illustration Tip- Creating A Colour Palette For Reference

I've been a little absent here on the Illustration Notes blog because I've been knee deep in deadlines. Currently I'm illustrating my very first children's book. All I can say is I am illustrating sea creatures so it's going to be a mix of colours. 

As part of the learning process and keeping it all together and organized, I created a colour palette. Why do this? Creating a colour reference card helps for many reasons:

1. Continuity
Having a reference sheet helps me create colour continuity. Since this is my first children's book and it requires 16 panels plus the cover, I need to make sure I keep everything visually flowing. 

2. Possible Revisions
Hopefully there wont be any changes needed (knocking on wood) but if there is, I'll have a reference. So, if you are a computer illustrator or a traditional illustrator these colour swatches can save you time and hassels.

3. Supplies Could Run Out
On large projects like this it's not unusual to run out of paint. This handy-dandy colour reference sheet will aid you in remixing new palettes. 

4. It's A Great Colour Guide For Clients
Your clients might want to know what common continual colours that will be repeated during the project. They could get a jump start on a layout and certain fonts by having an idea of the colour flavour of the book or illustration project. 

5. Future Projects
This colour guide can help you come up with ideas for those illustrations assignments down the road. 

The palette sheet does not need to be large as you can see from my pictures. I used 1" x 1" squares and that gives me plenty of space to throw down a good sample of colour. I also jotted down what I used certain colours for such as 'sand', 'water' and 'water detail'. I left blank squares for additional colours that maybe needed.

So, whether you are a hands-on illustrator or a computer illustrator, try creating one to see if it helps with your colour quandaries and to help keep your projects continuity on the right track. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Creative Codes To Live By Part 3!

  1. Work for a cause, not for applause. Live your life to express, not to impress.
  2. "Play is the highest form of research." -Einstein
  3. Take more chances. "It’s funny how sometimes things in life just happen. You make a left turn instead of a right, and you come in contact with something you didn’t anticipate. That’s what happened to me." -Artist Agent Anna Goodson 
  4. "Remember my friend to enjoy your planning as well as your accomplishment; for life is too short for negative energy." -Bruce Lee
  5. "Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it's in my basement, let me go upstairs and check." -M.C. Escher
  6. Carpe that (insert descriptive action word here) __________ diem! 
  7. Don't rent space to JUST anything in your head. 
  8. It's okay to take the bull by the horns, as long as you and the bull both agree on when you can let go.
  9. "There's only one way to create, as if your life depended on it, which it does." -Don DeLillo 
  10. "It's a big world baby and you're little for a little while.
    It's a big world baby, you can fiddle in your own style." -Renee & Jeremy
  11. "When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself." -Jacques Yves Cousteau 
  12. Illustration is a ticket to the greatest show on earth! (I say this often and I believe it 150% :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Diary Of An Illustrator

I have a another blog where I chat about the day to day things I do as a freelancer such as: job seeking, latest projects, tiny victories, the ups and downs and all the other things we illustrators do to stay alive. I try to keep it all down to earth. 

My latest post- Going It Alone

"In this blog I plan on being much more open and honest about my career ups and downs. These are just observations because even though I've accomplished a lot, I still have to work pretty hard to keep it all going. To many in the industry, some illustrators look like they have it pretty easy. What appears on the outside is only a glimpse of how hard illustrators work. Does luck play a part? Absolutely! However, working your creative ass off takes care of the rest. In a nutshell, I work my ass off and I probably work harder than some. But then again, its all relative right?"

Follow along & Read more here

Friday, August 3, 2012

Illopedia! An Illustration Lexicon Shortlist!

I've compiled a shortlist of some common illustration terms we hear or read often in the industry. I say shortlist because some are used frequently and many are more obscure. My approach to defining things- Sum it up and go for the basics! Let me know if there are any you want added to the list. 

Illo- This is short for illustration/illustration artwork. It's a popular term within the community especially when describing work quickly in social media like on Twitter. 

Thumbnail- This is a small quickly drawn idea for an illustration or a series of illustrations. The thumbnail idea basically means its small. Once an idea is chosen, the illustrator will move on to the rough stage.

Rough- This refers to the early idea stage for an illustration. This is similar to a sketch but depicts more details and the layout is closer to what the artwork will look like. This is typically done on paper or tracing paper then either presented in person or scanned then sent to a client for approval.  

Spot- This is a small illustration used on websites, books, banners or magazines that are quite small to accompany text and larger illustrations.

Kill-fee- This means the payment that is owed after a current project that is in progress has been cancelled. This fee needs to be included in your letter of agreement with your client. It essentially pays for the work/time that has already been put into a project. Some charge 50% to 100% of what they agreed project fee stated in the letter of agreement and the termination circumstances. 

Continuity- When creating a series of images especially for a children's books and for an animation, there needs to be continuity with the images to create a flow for the viewer.  

Vector art- This is a technique to make images in a vector-based program. This vector art consists of creating paths and points in design programs such as Illustrator. The scale of these vectors helps keep the proportions and quality when sized up and down without losing any image quality.

Art work- This refers to the final illustration that will be used for a project. 

Crop- This refers to a partial section of an image. Typical reasons to crop are for websites, promotional pieces, website banners, 

CMYK- This is short for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These are printer colours as opposed to RGB, which is known as process colour. CMYK is the format you want to use to post images online.

dpi- This is short for dots per inch. Depending on your image file needs, you may want lower dpi for images online and higher for printed work. The higher the dpi the better quality image. 

• Lo-Res- This is short for low resolution. It is measurement online to keep files small with low pixels. This is recommended for blogs, websites and other online sites for quick downloads. The lower the resolution means the lower the quality of image if someone tries to print it or use it without your permission.

Png File- This is short for portable network graphics. It is a bitmap image file. The purpose is to incorporate low-resolution images that load quickly but  look great too. 

Flattening- This refers to making your image have one layer in Photoshop and other imaging software instead of many which can be a rather large file. Once you flatten it you can save it as a jpg, tiff, eps file to name a few. It does mean you will have less flexibility when editing it. 

Encode- This means to convert information, images into code or a digital form. 

Storyboard- This is the preliminary idea process for a series of illustrations. Storyboards are typically thumbnails or rough drawings to create a sequence of work for such projects as animations, children's books, comics, to video games. The idea is create sequence and continuity to make the illustrated project flow.  

Spec work- This refers to speculative work or work on spec. This practice is typically frowned upon in the illustration industry. This term essentially means the client wants you to create art work on the idea that they may like it, may hire you and that they may pay you IF they like what you created and you might get free exposure. This process is typically a gamble for illustrators mainly due to many competing for the same project. It has gained a bad rep over the years a way to get free illustration without paying. Many times the illustration is used anyway without the illustrator receiving payment or given proper credit as the creator.

Leading- This refers to the proper space in-between type. The term originated from hand type-setting. This is a 'eye' technique in order to change the space in-between letters so it does not appear cramped or too loosely apart. Proper leading on your promotion pieces, websites and other written materials will help you look very professional. 

Pixels- These are tiny units of colour that display digital images. Pixels also measure digital resolution and file size. The greater the number of pixels per inch-the greater the image resolution. 

Pica- This a term for smaller measurement used in design.

Bleed- This is generally a printing term that refers to the image going beyond the edge of the sheet after trimming.  This is also a buffer that gives enough space for a printer to account for the movement of paper and layout changes from the computer.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Cover Letter Decoded

I was recently asked how an illustrator should write a cover letter. 

First of all, why would an illustrator need a cover letter to begin with?

We have many ways to social network and promote ourselves. Often we forget to touch base on a more personal down to earth level. A cover letter is a casual introduction written with a direct purpose. 

Reasons to write one includes: 

• A teaching position.
• A chance to do a talk or a seminar. 
• A book proposal. 
• A nice introduction to compliment a self promotion piece you sent in the mail
• A way to advertise your website.
• A Gallery show.
• A proposal to sell work in a art shop or gallery. 
• An introduction to an art agent because you are hoping to seek representation.

When it comes to cover letters you want to write from the perspective of what a client wants to read. You must also consider keeping it short, sweet and to the point. Our audience are often pressed for time. There many steps to consider in creating an effective letter. The typical cover layout generally goes like this:

• Introduction

• Who you are
• Purpose of writing
• What you do/experience/the benefits you can provide
• Summery
• How you can be contacted

• Thank them for their time and attention

This is where the cover letter gets more complicated...

It is always important to address it to someone. "To whom it may concern" is an automatic cover letter kiss of death. If you do not know who to contact look for it on their website or try calling the place of business to find out who to address it to. If that does not work address to the "art department," or just write "hello,". If you know the company name then use "To the  _____ team," 

The subject line of your email needs careful consideration. State it clearly-a short sentence is best. It's important to choose your words wisely so it does not come off as spam. If you are not sure do a subject spam check and look for trigger words.

Define why you are contacting them. State a purpose- "I'm contacting you because I'm looking to get involved in your company." or "I'd love to be considered for freelance illustration work because..." 

Throw in experience, education, self projects, spotlights and your website. Keep it friendly, check spelling and always follow up. 

The biggest thing to think about...

The biggest power that you have in a letter is to ask for what you want. If you can state this clearly, professionally in a down to earth manner then you have mastered the complicated process of writing a cover letter. 

To sum it all up- think of cover letters as a friendly introduction that is thoughtfully written by you. It promotes what you do on a casual level to help touch base with future clients. Most importantly, it's another way to advertise yourself in your own voice in a more direct way.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good Creative Codes To Live By Part 2

I think this can applied to all aspects of our lives & our careers:
1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
2. You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time.
3. If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else 

will probably end up deciding for you.
4. There is usually more than one way to accomplish something.

~ by Chris Guillebeau:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

If I Were An Illustration Teacher...

illustration class
© Holly DeWolf

What amazes me about illustrators is the time, energy and the full on creative drive that many of us carry forward daily. Here is some sobering dedication for you-The average time spent for an illustrator is 60+ hours a week. 

Fact- most illustrators are self taught at running their business!

Fact- there are more illustrators now than ever before. Interestingly enough, many institutions don't teach it nor do they focus on business.

To say it's challenging to be in this industry is an understatement! Certainly, the number one thing students and newcomers have in common-  a lot of questions!


Illustration is needed. It is utilized everyday by publishers, art buyers, art directors and agents. It's not a new thing or an unusual way to make a creative living. So, why all the secrecy when it comes to business? How come most creative institutions overlook teaching it or refuse to recognize that business side is just as important as the illustration side?

I am asked on a regular basis why I do not teach. Honestly, I'd love the opportunity to teach real world approach to illustration. Hopefully one day I will be lucky to have that opportunity but until then I'll just throw out ideas whenever I can and finish that book I'm working on.

If I were an illustration teacher, I would try to cover as many bases as I could. But there is another concept to education that is not focused on- teaching what students really want and need! Needless to say, it helps to take a real world down to earth approach.

When it comes to teaching there are some challenging realities: 
Reality #1-What we think we should teach students.
Reality #2-What they want us to teach them.
Reality #3- What we have time to teach them. 
Reality #4-What works while holding their attention.
Reality #5- Realizing that not all students want to be taught. 
Reality #6- Realizing that not all students are designed for the illustration industry.

Somewhere in that mix is a delicate balance of asking a lot questions, getting continual feedback, paying strict attention to the class while throwing in some trial and error for good measure. Experience counts for a lot too. Many institutions are looking for that Masters Degree or many years of teaching experience. Nothing helps an illustration student more than telling it like it is. A good teacher needs to have creatively walked the walk and creatively paid their dues. 

So if I was to be a hypothetical teacher in a creative institution of learning discussing the fundamentals of illustration, I would focus on 23 concepts...yes, this is wordy!

1. The concept of leaving school and joining the creative work force-
It should always be in the back of a students mind that they are only in a environment of learning for a short time. It is paramount that students start preparing for the future while they are still studying. Many are shocked and lost after graduating because school life and real life are very different. Universities and colleges have their own sub culture and once they leave they move on to another culture-the work world.

2. Defining what illustration is and why it is needed-
I cannot tell you how many times students I've mentored could not clearly define what illustration is or its purpose. You need to understand what you are creating images for, who your audience is and the possible clients you will be working with.

3. The importance of drawing-
Drawing is an important skill however old school it seems. Even if you plan on being a digital illustrator your ideas need to be fleshed out before hand. Another important concept is well developed roughs that many clients require. Illustration is a series of idea stages. Clients often want a process and a choice of concepts before a final illustration is done. 

4. The concept of working with a client-
This is what illustrators are in it for-clients! Clients will hire us and pay us. They are a huge component to our trade. They will help build our experience, our process and our skills. Professional creative relationships will be a life long aspect in this industry. 

5. The history of illustration-
It all started somewhere. Cave walls to children's books-illustration has helped shape the visual world around us. It's good to look back at the early trends, the history makers, the style makers and those who influence us still. 

6. The creative side of business-
Business might sound technical and boring but it's part of being a self employed illustrator. It is one of the biggest components of any illustrators work week. It is estimated that business takes up to 60% to 70% of our time. This business time centers around promotion, marketing, networking online, paperwork and taxes, websites and blogs. All this can be introduced while students are still in school.

7. Portfolio development-
Your online and hand held portfolio is your biggest promotion asset. Having a clear understanding of what a good portfolio can do for you is crucial. Catering it to the right markets will create the right visibility while spotlighting your best style. 

8. Speaking and writing-
It is important to know how to give your marketing efforts the right voice. It needs to be pointed out that writing about yourself and talking about yourself helps if you focus on what a client wants to hear and not the other way around. Teaching students to focus on what their audience wants to know about their work is like icing on the promotion cake!

9. How to work at home-
I would teach that working at home is not as easy as it sounds. Outside of school we become our own bosses. We have to stay motivated, disciplined, organised and avoid distraction. Focussing on strategies to stay motivated, creative, productive while avoiding the dreaded creative lonely bubble is very important and often overlooked. 

10. Pricing-
This is one of the biggest challenges any illustrator struggles with outside of trying to find constant work. It's important to develop different strategies for students to get them prepared. Quoting and pricing schemes is a skill so it's never too early to start getting students used to the idea.  

11. How to write contracts, proposals, emails, invoices and submissions-
Freelancing has a huge paper trail attached to it. Similar to pricing, it's important for students to get an early grasp of all the paperwork and writing that comes with the industry. 

12. How to brainstorm ideas-
It is important to focus on how to come up with ideas and the sources that work best for each student. There is no right or wrong way. Ideas are fleeting so its good get students into the habit of jotting down ideas fast. The process of ideas can be used for current class projects, recycled down the road for future projects or used for inspiration. 

13. The importance of ethics-
It is important to focus on professional guidelines that are promoted in the industry. Pointing this out early helps students be in the right mind set that helps keep the industry professional while protecting them once they leave school.

14. The downsides of spec work and contests-
It's easy for students to be enticed into bad work, shady projects and free work. It's important to point out the bad side of the industry up front. Spec work and bad contests are everywhere but teaching that they are providing quality work will hopefully help students steer away from being burned. 

15. How to be online-
Social networking is a huge component to being an illustrator. Pointing out to students that their current online presence says a lot about them professionally and creatively. My philosophy: don't do anything online that you would not want a potential client to see. The Internet can be a great place to mingle, promote yourself to and develop a community if done productively and safely. 

16. How to effectively promote yourself-
It is important to teach students that there is endless ways to promote yourself. Promotion is  an exercise of trial and error with the hopes of gaining exposure for their work. Students need to understand that promotion is a process that is done on a continual basis. It takes time, creativity, research, commitment, scheduling while targeting the right markets and clients. 

17. How to ask for what you want professionally-
Asking for what you want is one of the most powerful marketing strategies any student or recent grad has. Again, asking for what you want comes with a component of trial and error. However, if the student has a clear idea of what they want, what markets they want to work in with a 'take no for answer' approach then asking can become a whole lot easier. 

18. Negotiating- 
Almost as frustrating as pricing because it involves problem solving in hopes of finding an agreement and getting paid for your time. Students need an understanding that everything that is discussed and agreed upon goes into the contract. Negotiation can stop at the beginning or it can be a long drawn out process depending on the project and the type of client you have. When it comes to approaching negotiation, it is best to let the client have a voice while making sure the illustrators needs are focused on too. 

19. Warming up to cold calls-
The dreaded cold call is often avoided by many old or new in the industry. Cold calling never killed any illustrators although its made many stressed out. It has a bad reputation but it doest have to. Teaching students to think of cold calls as research, a friendly introduction or a subtle shout out is a step in the right direction. 

20. Defining what an illustration agent is why they may want one in the future- 
What an agent is and what they do for illustrators is very important to understand. An agent can advance the careers of illustrators. The focus of an agent involves the type of experience you have, the marketability of your work, your style, and how well you can take direction while maintaining a good working relationship.

21. Dealing with rejection-
It needs to pointed out that rejection happens! A good way to get students informed is to focus on why rejection happens and what it really means.  Students need to know that it's not personal because it's business. Rejection is not final and that your work may be needed down the road. Its good to promote to students that rejection can be a huge motivator to keep going!

22. How to talk to a printer- 
Talking to a printer can often feel like you landed on another planet sometimes. It's important to get some of the printing lexicon down in order to ensure your marketing and promotional materials get printed right without additional cost or frustration.

23. Lastly, how to create your own work!
In dry times and low income moments illustrators still need to have a back up plan. Creating your own work and projects is a concept if utilized well will keep you creative and also keep you afloat. This concept can be developed while in school to help students generate possible income while helping them develop a portfolio they are proud to present!  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Say No to Spec Work-Here's Why

This video sums it up nicely- A brief introduction to Spec Work by Topic Simple. It would seem like an odd request to make in any other profession. I'm pretty certain my dentist wouldn't go for this business approach that seems to permeate our industry. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

10 Thoughts For Illustrators

advice for illustrators, career tips, positive thoughts for illustrators

Here are some positive thoughts for illustrators for this fine Monday morning. Please share! Yes, you have my permission to re-post it, to pin it, Google+ it etc. Happy creating!

Get it here!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Question Of The Week- Can You Start Over As An Illustrator After A Long Absence?

Hey creatives,

I get questions.... lots and lots of questions. I thought I would start to share some of the questions I receive from in my inbox here. 

This week I received a note from an illustrator who has stepped away from illustration for awhile to work full time. 

"Is it possible to resurrect a dead illustration career after a long absence? I needed to take a full time job that was supposed to be work around my freelance work. Unfortunately, the hours clashed with my creativity. My intention was to work at another job for a short time- 3 years later I want to get back into illustration. Is it too late for me to begin again?"

My Answer

Hi A,

Sure! When it come to this career, anything is possible! Ever hear the expression It's never too late to be the person you want to be?

Seriously, this is a genuine concern especially when the creative drive to make illustrations is nagging at you. Quite simply, yes you can re-enter the field of illustration again. 

This career does not come with a rule book or a manual. A decoder ring would be nice. Continuing on... 

It's understandable to need to take another job. Many illustrators juggle two careers. Some work full time or part time. Some illustrators are weekend creatives or night owls. It is possible to do both. It will be a time juggle but once you begin, create a schedule that works for you. 

A good start is to see what you've been missing. Get reconnected to your career by researching online. Even though its been 3 years, things have changed. Great places to get reunited with the industry to see what is going on is Illustration Mundo, The Little Chimp Society, Illustration Friday, Anna Goodson Management and of course this blog too. 

1. Have a look at the work everyone is doing, latest news and trends. 
2. Create your own projects to get motivated, inspired and to create a new portfolio.
3. Need a portfolio? Create some ideas, projects or themes to create work. Post them to your blog, or join the Illustration Friday to get feedback.
4. Read everything you can get your hands on- books, blogs, forums and newsletters.
5. Sign up for free webinars. Listen while you work. 
6. Connect! Connect on twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.
7. Check online for calls for submissions online for books, projects, magazine articles that are looking for illustrations. Make sure these are legit. If you are not sure-ask other illustrator peeps.
8. Submit to magazine contests such as How Design
9. Attend conferences.
10. Build up a potential client contact list.
11. Create promotional materials. A great place that is inexpensive is
12. Work on a consistent style.
13. Work at it every single day.
14. Lastly, read the book Breaking Into Freelance Illustration

When Bad Assignments Happen To Good Illustrators

Hey illustrators! Ever get an assignment that pays but is not your idea of a great project?

We're not told as illustrators that some projects are not going to creatively rock our worlds. Sad reality but many projects are going to seem boring, tedious and often frustrating. 

We look around and see great work everywhere in magazines, coffee shops, online and at the mall. Many illustrators shine and showcase their style in many great assignments. It looks easy. It looks fun! Some assignments looks like our idea of  what a dream job is or what a dream client would be.

Sometimes we must do many projects that pay but do not spotlight our best abilities. Sadly, it's part of the process of being a freelancer. 

So what can go wrong-what often makes a project lose its lustre: 

  • too art directed.
  • too many demands.
  • not able to push our natural style.
  • no freedom to be creative at all.
  • too many revisions.
  • cannot please the client no matter what we try. 
  • it's a ridiculous theme or concept.
  • it's a ridiculous deadline to complete.

Here is the ultimate creative buzz kill -being asked to illustrate in a style that is not your own. Yes, that moment when your heart sinks after being asked to illustrate differently. What could make this epically worse? Being asked to imitate another illustrators style! 


We have two choices: we can do the project or we can decline. 

What makes many illustrators complete the tedious task? Money! We need to survive. There is no free is freelance as they say. We have bills like everyone else. Some of us live alone, some of us have student loans to pay back, and some of us have kids.  

Best advice, work on projects that you can actually complete. If they are asking you to imitate   another illustrators style-this is not ethically cool. Unless you can come to some agreement with your client that you cannot imitate, then this assignment is not going to work out.  

If you are taking the plunge then try this little trick I created for myself that works - work on more than one project at the same time. In other words, create a illustration distraction in order to get the tedious project done.

Here's how:
1. Accept that this project will get done. 
2. Rebel against the project! That's right, have fun while multi-tasking on other enjoyable things.
3. Create a self-project you have been putting off or something you would really enjoy working on along with the undesirable one.
4. Enjoy the process of this fun project- post pictures of the progress you are making on the happy project. Post it to your FB page or your blog. Great feedback will motivate you to work.
5. If the undesirable project is really studio hell,  try creating the version you wish to illustrate. One for the client and the other project you would actually put in your portfolio. A little good vs. bad illustration face-off!
6. Create the right atmosphere in your studio. Have the right tunes, a good cup of coffee,  good things to nibble on and always go for comfort. Get up often, go outside, take some breaks or go for a walk. 
7. Get it done-move on to something better! 

I think creative distractions if done well can help you get through many of the illustration ups and downs that can happen. We cannot all get to illustrate for Starbucks or The New Yorker. However, creating a secondary project allows you to do something you love along with work that gets you paid. The frustration can often be cancelled out once you've created something you are truly happy to promote. Before you know it, it's time to move on to another paid assignment hopefully that truly rocks your illustration world. 

Happy creating! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Working With Clients-The Challenging Concept Of Now!

clients, working with clients, illustration, freelance, illustrator
© Holly DeWolf

Now means:
1. At this present time. 
2. Without further delay; immediately; at once. 
3. Yesterday! 

Illustrators have a different concept of time than our clients. Our definition of now is determined by many things but with a more casual twist. A clients definition of now really means NOW or two days ago!

Most illustrators work independently in our very own studios. Our day consists of things like coffee, kids, walking the dog, projects, emails, promotion, social networking, looking for work, illustrating, sketches, phone calls, errands, laundry, eating, looking for more work and more coffee. It all depends on how your work day set is up. Some illustrators juggle another career or have the busy job of raising kids. Its going to be different for every illustrator. 

Then there is your clients day-this is completely different! 

Some clients are in different time zones with different work hours. Some clients have to answer to someone or work in a larger agency with many projects on the go.   

Along with all this time juggling are the many illustration misconceptions:
• Clients often assume you will always be home. 
• Some assume you work all hours of the day 24/7.
• Some clients assume that you can drop everything to address their concerns, requests or questions they may have.

Many of us work a lot-it's true but we do have to escape the office from time to time. When we do leave sometimes things can pop up! 

The scenario:
You check your email and your client wants you to revise an illustration that needs to be completed in the next 2 hours. Problem: You are at your child's recital. You wont be able to accomplish that task in the time frame requested.

Oh crap! 

What do you do?

First off, we need to be like Switzerland. We need to be in the neutral zone. This means we must be flexible within reason, diplomatic, willing to listen and help solve the problem. This can be very challenging especially on those days when the unexpected happens. 

Suddenly time can feel like the enemy! We cannot always stop what we are doing. 

First off, you must contact them immediately. You need to be straight up that you are out of your studio. You can tell them that when you get back, their project will be addressed immediately and that you will get it accomplished as fast as you can. Now if you're lucky, your client will be understanding. Most likely they wont act like Scrooge. If they do give you a hard time then the only solution is to do the best you can and get it done asap.

Unexpected moments can be emergencies, rescheduled doctors appointment, sickness, computers going on the fritz or unexpected guests arrive in town that pay you a unexpected visit. These things happen. If your at the emergency room, the needs of others will have to wait. 

How to prevent issues:
1. If you know that you will be out of the studio next week during peak times, let your client know. Send them an email in advance. 

2. If you only work on illustrations on the weekend or at night make them aware of your working schedule.

3. Tell your client the best times you can be reached. 

4. If you work part-time or full-time at another job-tell them. If your illustration workday begins 9 pm, let them know. In some cases this can be an asset if you work with international clients. You may be able to still carry on a flexible work relationship. 

5. You can always set your email to post an 'out of the office' reponse if you know you wont be around. This lets others who contact you know that you are out of the office right away. 

I believe the best thing you can do with a client is to let them know up front how you work, when you work, when you can be contacted and how you can be contacted. When it comes to projects and working with clients, never assume anything! Be direct, open minded and think of your client as part of the process. If things work out, a great working relationship can be established that could lead to more work and some great word of mouth publicity too.