Does It Matter Where I Live?
Art by Arlene Montoya
How can you tell if you’re progressing as an artist? Should you ever bundle your book royalties? And how can you make sure your work looks the same on paper as it does on your screen? This week, Jake Parker, Lee White, and Will Terry take listener questions and provide answers to your burning questions!
This podcast was so relevant! I'll mention just a couple of ways:
The location question: I actually started doing illustration in part because I moved overseas. I wanted to re-enter the traditional oil portrait market once my daughter grew up but realized I couldn't compete anymore from abroad (excessive costs, bureaucracy). Then one day I saw my first Intuos and thought, "Oh, now that would solve a lot of problems! You just click and send!" Of course, there were other challenges to overcome, but that was an "Aha!" moment, and besides, I was tired of being so tied to reference and had long wanted to try illustration.
A lot of overseas artists want to enter the American market, because advances are based on sales and the market is simply much bigger. Italian illustrators don't even get a tenth of what Americans get as an advance. Instead they hope to have their work translated into English and picked up in the US and British markets. And likewise, when you go into bookstores here, they are full of foreign books translated into Italian (mostly French, Spanish and American ones). I asked why once, and was told it was because it was cheaper to re-publish a book that had already been published elsewhere. This is all sad news for Italy, though, because there is a lot of talent here, and Italy has its own style (or at least I perceive one).
All of this leads to the second point that hit home with me: the age factor. I always laugh when you guys call people in their thirties late-starters. I have always drawn, so I hope the basic capacity is there. But I took Will's (I think it was Will's) words very seriously when he talked about possibly having a dated style. I tend to draw more realistically than most illustrators, and people sometimes tell me I have a nostalgic style, so I was already really wanting a portfolio review to get some feedback on that. The podcast just convinced me of it all the more.
Speaking of which, will SVS offer portfolio reviews again anytime soon? If I had known it would only be offered that one time (early last year, I think?), I would have jumped on it right then! Thanks!
xin li last edited by xin li
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on questions from listeners. I really enjoyed the new format of the podcast (I love the traditional 3pp podcasts as well :-).
I thought I will share my experience here regarding the location question:
For book illustration, my experience is it does not really matter where you live in most of cases. As for the cultural aspect, it can be challenging in some projects. I am currently working on a non-fiction book about North American farms. The research is challenging since it is not possible for me to visit North American farms, I would have to rely on 2nd hand information such as film, books, rather than the first-hand experience.
If you are an author/illustrator, it can be challenging to do school visits and events if you are doing a book for the English market and live somewhere else. Hopefully, now that the virtual school visit is a thing, it might change up things a little.
There are other challenges that come with living in small European countries such as Norway. For example, It is difficult to start a shop for art prints - the postal fee for international shipping is really high, and the domestic market is relatively small. I recently have been thinking about the idea of opening a shop. But I hesitated. I might need to think more about how to come up with interesting digital products instead of producing something physical.
There are advantages as well: Norway has a couple of cultural grants which support illustrators, especially book illustrators, in order to keep the Norwegian language book alive. It is a very good resource to keep an eye on. I believe other small European countries have similar systems. It is not a lot of money but definitely helps to pay some bills.
The bottom line is if you look at the task of making book illustrations, it does not matter where you live. But if you think about illustration as a full time career, it probably still matters a great deal. But it is not necessarily always negative to live somewhere else, it is just different.
SheerArt last edited by
What kind of knives y'all rocking? One looks like a spyderco. Thats a good fidget knife. Good ep. It was nice hearing the discussion about the Instagram accounts.
@Jake-Parker The whole reason I started freelancing is because when I moved from Montreal to Ottawa, I was unable to find a studio job in my new city haha ^^' I was like "welp, better employ myself cause I don't have a choice!"
JuliAnneMcEvers last edited by
Oh man, that podcast was right on point for me... all three points actually wordplay intended.
But seriously, I am 39, turning 40 this year. I’m also a work at home mom with a very lonely and attention hungry 4 year old at home. My heart has been aching to transition away from graphic design, my paying gig, to author/illustrator for several years now, but I never feel like I have enough time or energy to be mom, wife, housekeeper, an income earner ANNND build a new career from scratch doing the thing I actually love. Not to mention, the fact that I’m in Canada and while it’s not really overseas, it is out of country for the major publishers I would want to work with.
I decided, this year, the only way it’s ever going to happen is if I start working towards it every tiny little chance I get, even if that means 2 hours one week, 30 minutes the next... it’s still forward motion and progress.
My little human will be in kindergarten in September which will open up more time. By then, I should be able to create more art to bulk up a portfolio and have more consistent content for social media to help get my name out there. I’ve been hesitant to focus on creating art for two reasons. 1. Out of fear that without a stronger forward momentum I’ll get discouraged. Especially, if I’m not getting the positive feedback that regular posting and community engagement can help provide. 2. Because it is so hard to get into that creative zone and actually create skillfully when I don’t have bigger blocks of time to do that sort of deep work. So for now, I’m trying to be smart with what little time I have. Research & exploration, strategic skill building, classes and planning. Lol I have notebooks filled with ideas, everything from concept art and story ideas to business strategies and branding.
JuliAnneMcEvers last edited by
@LauraA I had to also laugh about the 30year old “late starters”... I wish I had started at 30, or anytime closer to that end of the decade. I turn 40 this year and am not in a position to actually start starting until then lol
@JuliAnneMcEvers I'm almost old enough to be a grandmother! Well, I suppose I am old enough, but I'm just not one yet .
djlambson last edited by
I am a grandmother x 4 @LauraA
I always enjoy the podcasts, but especially this one. I very easily slide into negative self-talk that involves..'why on earth are you even trying to get into this children's book industry, you are so far behind!' So it was really good to hear this discussion.
I recognized myself in the comment that you tend to lock into the art style of your day. I need to somehow contemporize..is that a word? my style. That's the goal for 2021!
carlianne last edited by
As a mom of two toddlers I can confirm the only way I get work done is A: when they are asleep or B: when my husband watches them and I can lock myself into a separate room
We try to take turns getting to work on personal projects so that neither of us get burnt out or jealous. For example we both get time each weekend “to work” and the rest is family time.
Also I feel like living elsewhere would be a benefit, I live in California and the average rent is $3000 a month, so it would be a lot easier to make a living elsewhere.
@JuliAnneMcEvers Spot on, me too - I turn 40 this year, have worked in graphic design for a lot of years now, and really want to make a go of this illustration dream I've had forever. I decided this year is the one, I'm pushing hard to get a portfolio together by June/July. I work full time and have a little human who just started her first year of school, so time is hopefully (I think) going to become more structured... we'll see.
I often sneak 15-20 minutes of lesson video with breakfast while everyone is asleep in the early hours. Chipping away at it.
Currently finding myself torn this way and that with all the different challenges, and various incarnations of inktober. I've got to sit down and decide which I can realistically complete, and which push me towards my goals. I also have notebooks of stories, google docs, domain names, all sorts of things brewing away in the background!
I do agree with the hitting your stride in your 30s and 40s. Especially coming from a design background; criticism is easier to take, and familiarity with composition and the digital technical side of things is invaluable. Practice practice practice, just didn't have the years of it earlier
I'm in Australia, so it's a very small publishing industry by US standards. I may be jumping ahead of myself, but honestly, I'm not planning on focusing my efforts locally. I will try local of course, but I have my eye on the UK market for children's book publishing.
@carlianne I feel you on the rent, we're in Melbourne, and it's crazy. We have moved a lot to chase the cheap rent... we dream of living out of the city, but not quite there yet.
@carlianne Ugh! I remember those high rents from when we lived in NYC. And usually that prized second bedroom was the size of a shoebox. (When looking for an apartment, we actually had an agent recommend turning a small walk-in closet into a bedroom for our daughter.) Any possibility of relocating?
lpetiti last edited by
I'm listening to this episode, and I have to say what Lee says about "there's nothing worse than the C student" definitely hits home. I wasn't that student in art school, but I was middle tier in my program (B average, although my program seemed to care less about grades than the quality of work, which makes sense), and I definitely worked hard to try to overcome that. The three times I applied for my program's portfolio review and all three times, in my professor's words, I was just "barely" not there (still dealing with the effects of being told that over and over again).
I think we can have the drive, want to draw, want to get better...but it just takes us longer to get there. I think that students who are middle tier (not the worst, but certainly not the best) can sometimes get left behind/ignored in our programs. I certainly felt that way in my college years and I think it definitely affected me, still does.
Just putting it out there. I kinda need a phone group or a group who wants to chat once a month. Mom of four, who’s an artist. I’m moving at a snails pace with my artwork. Maybe not my artwork, but the business side. Shooting for licensing but slowly adding more products in my online shop and doing wholesale in a few shops. Looking for people that know that it’s not time to go full speed ahead with this career. Who likes to learn the business side of things for the future. But also enjoys perfecting their craft and building their portfolio so when it’s time to hit send on those letters to companies (or publishers) you’re ready. So, anyone who wants to chat let me know. Let’s see if we can get a group of the limbo artist. Ha!
One more thing, I love you guys to death, so please know this comes from a place that I just want to give you a heads up. Please don’t call a woman who is working as many hours as a guy or has a career as successful as a man (or more, cause some of these women bring in a seven figure salary) a “stay at home mom” and she’s an artist too. Something like that. I love my husband who now works from home. But he is most certainly not a “stay at home dad.” People like Sarah Jane Wright, Natalie Malan (you can not get more freaking adorable than that woman, who is the face of pattern design for circuit), Tannie Smith, Bonnie Christine, Emily Jeffords and many many more aren’t stay at home moms. Howerver, I. Am. A. Losing my mind. Stay. At. Home. Mom. Who is an artist. Anyways, around the lady watercooler it’s just not super to hear time and time again. Just a friendly heads for you guys.
One more, “time and season” is the crappiest phrase for me at this time. I’ve heard “time and season” for 20 years. It’s a common phrase that’s used in a certain setting. Those who have heard it a lot know where. (It’s church, sorry, I won’t be vague). Now it stings. So, if you could be creative and find a cool way to say, you can’t fit it all in sometimes. If you can cut out some of the fat of your day, then awesome. Here are some ways to do that. If you can’t, it’s okay to move at a slower pace towards your goal. And as a few other people have said who I follow, “do it for the process.” If you enjoy making art, just improve for the sake that you love it. Enjoy the freedom of creating with no deadlines, creating work that you want without an art director or assignment. Make your stories and make them as good as you can. The first part of Will’s book that talks about having to make art in order to breathe! Yep. I loved it!
Anyways- looking to start a peer group that wants to talk art and some business because my husband is a good listener, but doesn’t give a tone of feedback. He’s got a nice smile and nods his head.
It would be fun to use the people on the forum as personal researchers if someone needs to write about a location far from them. For example, I live in a rural part of New York state (US) where there are a lot of farms and would be happy to drive around for @xin-li and take photos of something specific she needed to know, although right now everything is buried under several feet of snow. The internet is great for reference but sometimes when you aren't from an area, it's hard to tell if you are choosing the most appropriate photos. (For example, barns in one part of the US are stylistically different from barns in another part.) There is a lot of geographical representation in this forum and people could use one another's local knowledge to help make sure things are illustrated correctly.
carlianne last edited by carlianne
@LauraA actually we are looking at it now that my husband has a job where he can work remotely!
@demotlj you’re not kidding. That would be awesome. I love pooling resources!
That's a great idea, @demotlj! It sure helps to know the setting that you're illustrating, and I love those little details.
@carlianne Well, in the end, maybe COVID will have had a least a little silver lining, for some people!
xin li last edited by
@demotlj so sweet. I will ask for help once I dig deeper into the project. I am at the kickstarting phase. I asked for a meeting with the editor to figure out her and the author's vision. Normally with fiction, I would just go ahead and do a dummy. But this one is a little trickier. Would be really cool to get some help from fellow artists at this forum.
shereen said last edited by shereen said
I heard this and all the questions are typically me, I am a mom for three kids with barley no time in this circumstances of covid 19, I live In Egypt away from my work place, as I illustrate for different clients from all over the globe, USA , Hong Kong , England, Dubai and this is never an obstacle, also I started my career shift at 41 years old Lol when I had to resign from a 16 years interior auditor position for a petroleum company,and was doing my inktober for the first time and that was one of the reasons, I thought of illustration as a career, I started a self taught program but figured out I have no time for that and I need to hurry up the time lapse, so I started taking courses and fine art work shops till this moment beside me doing gigs to clients, mostly of my instagram account although I have a very few followers, and thanks God yes I made a living out of it.
Gustavo Woltmann last edited by
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