Tag Archives: art

Darren & Jane

7 Nov

If you’re serious about pursuing a career in illustration, you’ve done your research. You know there are plenty of paid portfolio sites out there, and agencies, too.

Portfolio sites generate income for the people who run them. They are selective but are generally happy to take on new illustrators, because in so doing they make a profit. In exchange for an upfront or pay-as-you-go fee, they will display your work among many other portfolios, all under one roof. The result: one-stop shopping for art buyers. Most illustrators participate in at least one paid portfolio site. It’s a normal part of promotion.

Agencies are an entirely different matter. An agent represents the members of her group, handling contract negotiation and the bulk of promotion, for a percentage of any and all assignments that roll in as a result. Signing with an agent is the beginning of a business partnership. It’s almost like getting married.

Generally, it is far easier to participate on a paid portfolio site than it is to sign with an agent.

This is where Darren and Jane come in.

Class, meet Darren Di Lieto, creator of The Little Chimp Society and Hire an Illustrator!. Darren (who never sleeps, apparently) is also Anna Goodson‘s webmaster, which is where I met him. While repped by AGM for ten wonderful years, I sent desperate e-mail messages to Darren asking, for the bajillionth time, How do I log in again? and Why isn’t my image loading properly?

Despite this, somehow or other, Darren and I are friends—a fact of which I am very proud. Darren and wife Jane love illustration and illustrators, and have for the most part devoted their lives to furthering our cause.

The Little Chimp Society is a free illustration news portal. If you are not participating, you should! Creating a new piece of art for your website constitutes as news, so don’t be intimidated. Submit your story, and watch your site stats jump as a result.

Hire an Illustrator is sort of an anomaly in the realm of illustration portfolio websites. Like so many others— The Alternative PickDirectory of Illustration, IllustrationMundo and etc.—it is a paid portfolio site. HAI’s rates are manageable, even when you’re first starting out, which is great. But here’s the kicker: Darren and Jane offer the added benefit of sending out postcard packs to a list of clients—a perk usually provided by an agency, not a portfolio site. HAI will even handle the printing of the card for you. And, unlike an agency, HAI does not take a percentage of any work generated by direct mail.

In short, Class, we owe Darren and Jane a mighty, collective THANK YOU! Check out HAI and the LCS, and tell them Violet sent ya.

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Dear Jane: Thanks for your every edit to the posts I submit to the LCS, and for your patience and kindness over at HAI. As I have never seen your lovely face, I thought it best not to attempt a likeness in the above illustration. But oh, I know you are there. We all do.

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sidestepping obstacles

31 Oct

Build upon strengths, and weaknesses will gradually take care of themselves. ~ Joyce C. Lock

Illustration is a tough business. Super-duper. When I teach illustrators who are about to graduate and face the real world — students who have had years to explore, practice, and hone a style — I ask them to assess their portfolios, and list their personal strengths and weaknesses.

Everybody excels here and struggles there, but not everyone is equally self-aware. Self-awareness is a sign of maturity. In a tough marketplace, it is essential for survival.

When you are honest about your strengths and weaknesses as an artist, you can become your best self.

Life coaches and business experts often instruct us to identify our weaknesses so that we can strengthen them. I prefer to spend time strengthening my strengths. It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s just that I know who I am, and who I am not.

We are creative people, Class. Let’s find clever ways around our personal obstacles.

I’ve already confessed my lack of skill when it comes to color. The easy way around this obstacle is to use existing palettes created by people whose color sense is better than my own. When I use a proven palette, there is no struggle evident in my work. I learn as I go, and make fewer lackluster illustrations in the process.

Nathalie Dion told a similar story to my class via Skype several years ago; she has kindly given permission for me to retell it here.

When she was a student, Nathalie struggled with perspective drawing. As a result she all but eliminated perspective from her artwork, a decision that impacted her style in a profound way. Mme Dion found a path around her obstacle, a decision which went on to pay big dividends.

In both cases — my struggle with color and Nathalie’s, with perspective — we imposed style rules on our work. When I add color to a drawing, I force myself to stay within the palette I have chosen. This can be challenging, but the results are exciting, because the limitation forces me to make choices that wouldn’t even occur to me otherwise. The same is true for my sweet friend Nathalie, whose self-imposed challenge forces her to find interesting and clever ways to suggest depth, with limited use of perspective.

Know your weak areas and use them for good. Some obstacles are put in your way to make the path you travel more interesting.

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The Big Breakup (above), by Nathalie Dion. Nathalie is represented by Anna Goodson Management, Inc. See her entire portfolio on Anna’s site by clicking here.

{ l e g a l } THIEVING

23 Oct

“Of course, I subscribe to Graphis, Communication Arts and Print, and whenever I see something I like, I steal with both hands.” ~ David Lance Goines, 1992 (from a personal letter)

As visual people, we can’t help but be influenced by the art and design that we love. If you want to be a successful illustrator with a lasting career, you have to stay on top of color and style trends, and adapt as the culture’s taste changes. Artists are always learning, always growing, and are always influenced by their environment. Therefore, we had better monitor the environments in which we put ourselves!

Some of us have to be more careful about this than others, because we are like tofu.

Tofu  has no inherent flavor; rather, it takes on the flavors of the other ingredients in the recipe. Throw in some curry, and the tofu tastes like curry; saute tofu with bell pepper, and it tastes like bell pepper.

Many art students are like tofu simply because they haven’t had time to develop yet, artistically. If you suspect you may be the tofu-type, my advice is to stop looking at other illustrators for inspiration. Assailing your brain non-stop with illustration can be confusing, and can even cause unintentional plagiarism.

Instead, look at fine art and graphic design. Spend an afternoon at the botanical garden, or flipping through the latest issue of Elle Decor. Steal a color palette from a pair of designer high-tops, or a roll of wrapping paper. Be influenced by good design, without bombarding yourself with images made by your illustration heroes.

This will help your work improve as you become uniquely you.

I stole the color palette from the crazy shower curtain in our upstairs bathroom (see photo above) for this holiday image. Many artists struggle with color, and I am no different. I have learned not to trust myself when it comes to color. As a rule, I always “steal” an existing palette designed by a professional colorist. It’s a good trick, and falls under the heading of LEGAL THIEVING.

boost

12 Oct

The student is not an isolated force. He belongs to a great brotherhood, bears great kinship to his kind. He takes and he gives. He benefits by taking and he benefits by giving. ~ Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (pp. 18-19)

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When teaching self-promotion I cover all of the expected topics — advertising, social media, networking, etc. — most of which I will write about in subsequent posts on this blog. There is a secret spring that runs beneath the surface of Self-Promo Land, however; a spring that ties them all together, and feeds each and every promotional effort. The spring is called GENEROSITY.

Yes, you should give stuff away to potential clients: pens, magnets, all of that. But generosity at its best goes deeper, affecting not only your relationships with clients, but also with your fellow illustrators.

Give the gift of promo.

Don’t promote yourself exclusively. Promote other people, too. Maybe they will do the same for you in return, but if they don’t, that’s okay. By definition, a true gift is freely given.

Nobody likes the guy who walks around in the light of his own personal spotlight all of the time. That guy is intolerable, an annoying gnat. But, think about it: everybody likes the guy who offers light to others.

Now, Class. I know some of you are thrilled to hear me say this because you are quiet little mice who prefer the cool comfort of the holes in which you live, and the thought of promoting yourself makes your blood run cold. Most illustrators I know, including Yours Truly, are introverts. To you, my fellow mice, I say this: You still have to make some noise and tell the world that you exist. Squeak! Speak up! No one knows better than you, what you do, and the services you are willing to provide to your fellow man. Don’t expect other people to do this for you. I send out postcards and advertise on various websites and use social media to promote myself directly (future posts!), but I also use those tools — the free ones — to promote my friends. Because I want the best for them. I need to make a living, but I want them to succeed, too.

We are all competitive — a good thing — but let’s face it, visual artists rival writers when it comes to being neurotic. And we all know what a mess they are (she wrote, tongue in cheek). We are convinced that everyone else’s career is going better than ours. Each of us is on a separate path, but the terrain under everyone’s feet is hilly. Every artist spends time in the valley, as well as on top of the mountain. Yes, for the past eight years or so work has been more scarce than it used to be, but that’s all the more reason to celebrate when any of us lands a new assignment.

Be a generous promoter, and celebrate your friends’ successes. Your career and your life will be better for it.

It is really not important whether one’s vision is as great as that of another. It is a personal question as to whether one shall live in and deal with his greatest moments of happiness. ~ Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (p. 32)