Tag Archives: illustration

voice

15 Oct

 

… and the truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. If it is wrapped in someone else’s voice, we readers will feel suspicious, as if you are dressed up in someone else’s clothes. ~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, p. 199

Writers talk a lot about finding their voice; we illustrators use the term STYLE, but it’s all the same, really.

Each of us has a unique speaking voice. We can’t help it; it’s in our DNA. The problem is, while other people love and appreciate our voices, we often do not. For me, this could not be more true. My voice may be the sweetest sound on earth to my son, but when I hear the outgoing message on my phone, my blood runs cold.

The same principle applies to the art we make, doesn’t it? Many of us — dare I say, most — are hard on ourselves. We pine over the work of our peers, and by contrast we feel our work is lacking. Why should I even bother? Look at her awesome portfolio! I may as well go dig a hole in the backyard and jump in. Sound familiar? Trust me. Even those of us who have achieved a certain level of success suffer bouts of self-doubt.

Quite regularly.

We really do.

Now, Class. While it is true that there is always room for improvement, we need to remember that each of us has a unique voice. And that’s a good thing. So… shout, sing, chat it up! Earth is big enough to accommodate every voice, every portfolio, every style. Appreciate the art that other people make, rather than using it as a measuring stick with which to whack yourself over the head. (Age helps with this, by the way. Take it from old Auntie Violet, whose skull is scarred from decades of self-inflicted lumps.)

Learn from other voices, but meanwhile, get comfortable being you.

Style is what happens when you stop trying. ~ James McMullan

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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)

sketchbook

9 Oct

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The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests. He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few small panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad… He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it. It’s found anywhere, everywhere. Those who are not hunters do not see these things. The hunter is learning to see and to understand—to enjoy.

~ Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (p. 17)

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Do you keep a sketch book?

True confession: I don’t. I never have. (And the earth shook ever-so-slightly as Robert Henri* rolled over in his grave.)

It’s not for lack of Sketch Respect, or for a lack of trying. I have bought dozens of sketch books over the years: little ones to carry, and big ones as an organized source of paper. The big ones are filled from cover to cover with process work for illustration projects, which doesn’t count. (I stopped buying them decades ago anyway, in deference to good old printer paper, which I recycle.) And the little ones? Sadly, a tiny army of them has been taking up space on my bookshelf for almost twenty years. If my son hadn’t doodled in them when he was four and five, they’d be all but empty.

Now wait just a ding dong minute. Artists are supposed to carry handy little sketchbooks, right? Robert Henri said so. Every art prof I ever had, said so. We’re supposed to be armed with pencil and pad, ready to record inspiration the moment it hits. We are not allowed to pack a suitcase without including a tiny watercolor kit and a baggie full of charcoal, because we are visual ninjas, and as such, we must be prepared.

Now that I am an old lady, Class, I have something to tell you about sketchbooks: There are obvious benefits to carrying them, if you use them. And. You can succeed in life, if you don’t. So let go of the guilt. (Guilt is even heavier than that empty sketchbook you’ve been toting in your bag.) Non-Sketchbook Artitsts do exist, and we are a happy and well-adjusted people.

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My scant collection of inspirations captured on napkins, receipts, and hotel stationery fits unobtrusively in a slender file folder.

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* American painter Robert Henri (1865 – 1929) taught at the Art Students League in the early 1900s. He wrote The Art Spirit—a must read—at the insistence of his students. My first year teaching, I began every class with a Robert Henry “quote of the day.” Now, I tweet him. Class, meet Robert. You’re welcome.

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How about you? What are your sketch habits?