Business of Illustration class is live!

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I announced this in another post, but I thought I would do it here too for it to be official. : )

    The video is just under 3 hours long and is parts 1-3 of a 7 part series. Hope you enjoy it!

    How to make money in illustration.jpg

  • SVS OG

    I just watched up through part 1 🙂 I am older and have not really committed myself to whether I want to be a business or not. I have a lot to learn and plenty of art projects to do but, I do get asked to do work sometimes after posting art on facebook (art, that in these forums, has not passed muster yet 🙂 ) In fact, today I was asked to do some greeting card illustrations for a friend. I had no idea what to ask for by way of money. She is a graphic designer and my style is very different from hers but she wants to combine our efforts. The point brought out in the course about being willing to change your product came to me..well reminded me of our conversation when I told her that what she saw on facebook was my usual style but that I could try to change things a bit if needed to fit her text better.
    I'm blathering but, what I want to say is that I hope that through this I will be able to decide how serious I am about making money as an illustrator or if I just want to do my projects for myself, friends and family. I'm looking forward to watching TV and learning about business 😉 Thanks, Lee White! BTW, I love your style :-).

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Lee-White Finished it last much awesome information. I am going to watch it again today and take more notes. The first time I just listened and didn't want to be distracted with too much writing.

    The time management thing was great and I love how you broke down the pros and cons of the different areas in illustration. I can honestly say...children's books are definitely the right direction for me! I never realized you could sell prints of your trade book illustrations!

    I would like to do some magazines and book covers too down the line.

    What size do you normally work at when you sell original paintings?

    PS your website set up is pure genius!! I plan on writing down the name and contacting them. Was that a big investment? Even if it was, it seems well worth it.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Lee-White I'm curious does your magazine and book cover work come through your literary agent or is that work you get on your own? If it is own your own, are you using postcards quarterly? Sorry, if I am being too nosy! Oh and I ordered the book should be here by tomorrow.

  • SVS OG

    I am enjoying my first 10 minute "break" using the Pomodoro technique. I spent the first hour of my morning creating my schedule for today and part of tomorrow (as I want to see if I need to fine tune the timing at the end of the day today once I know how this all went). I was also sure to put daily exercise into my schedule as I seem to "bump" that more than I should if I feel too busy, behind or overwhelmed in my work day. I am hoping that by taking these 50 minute focused intervals all day and creating a space for exercise, it will free me from feeling guilty for going and taking care of my health (and not just my illustration dreams). I am actually hoping this technique will help me release some guilt for having "off" time or days to do things with friends/family as well.

    I took all kinds of notes while watching the entire 3 hour class yesterday evening.

    I am currently working on a third book with one self published author I have been partnered with for a while now and a first book with another. I think it has been eye opening in recent weeks with threads on the forum and all of the info Lee shared in this video about why I am struggling to make ends meet - when these projects are so time consuming and I am not making anywhere near what I need to (or could be doing other work) so I am declaring here that once these current projects I have committed to are done I will not be taking on anymore with self publishers.

    When we are asked to be realistic about how good of an artist/illustrator we are - this one is really tough for me as I am very hard on myself and get myself down about this quite often. I have clearly fallen into the trap of looking at other work/portfolios and paralyzing myself after looking at them wondering if/how I will ever get that good. Which really gets me no where.

    I need to take a good hard look at my portfolio - rework some of it and see what happens at a professional critique I have coming up at the SCBWI Wild Midwest Conference. Let the voice of the "customer" speak on where I really stand and if I have what it takes artistically.

  • SVS OG

    Thank you so much!!! Learned so much from the first video. So many things I didn't know.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I'm so glad you guys are enjoying it! To answer some of your questions:

    • My originals are typically painted at 18x24 which fits in a 22x28 frame. This size is a good one for both traveling and keeping the art at a reasonable size. Small paintings aren't any easier to do and don't get near the price the bigger ones do.

    • I get the editorial work from the postcards I originally sent 10 yerars ago. They have been a loyal group and I like working with them. I don't currently send out anything because I'm overbooked right now and have been for the past 5 years and actually want less work. That sounds like bragging, but I assure you it's not. It's as real a problem as not having enough work and can lead to burn out or low quality work. Being overbooked can kill your business too strangely enough.

    • Glad you are enjoying the time management tips. They are great for gettting you back on track. Once I click that little timer I go into super focus mode and it just tells my brain to WORK ON THIS ONE THING right now. Don't be too hard if you don't hit all of them. THat's just the way it goes. I live by the 80/20 rule. If I hit 80% of what I write down, then I'm typically doing fine. There will always be unexpected interruptions, etc. and that needs to be accounted for as well.

    I was worried that the video might come across as "scary" or intimidating because I don't candy coat any of it. I scared the hell out of the college class I spoke to, but I still think honesty is what's needed. The way I see it is the industry does offer many opportunities if you know how the system works. I know many illustrators making a great living at this.

  • SVS OG

    I did have a question about the Photo Deck website you set up. It looks amazing. Was wondering if I'd need to know a lot of web design to set something like that up or if that's pretty easy to set up through their system.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Photodeck is made to be set up by people who don't know anything about website design. They have easy to use templates, etc. That said, I'd plan on spending a week or so to figure it out. I set mine up a few years ago, so maybe it's even easier now. I remember it being fairly intuitive but not totally easy. They have good instructions and you can see how each thing works on your site as you go.

    I have the pro plan which is sort of expensive. it's $29 a month I think. It includes some things you probably don't need right now. Also, you may just want to not use them just yet if you don't have a body of work that will generate licensing sales. You can always experiment and then cancel if you aren't getting the work from it.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Lee-White I think the fact that you don't candy coat things is hugely beneficial. I went from having an agent who loved everything and wanted to cast such a huge net by including so much including old work that is actually hurt my chances. It took you 5min to chop my portfolio down from 25 pieces to 9 and it was the best decision I could have made to agree with you and actually do it!!! PS I'm not going to say it didn't hurt a little bit. 😃

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Lee-White You really do have to train your brain not to run off on a minutes notice to draw a bear riding a unicorn. You know the one that must be drawn right now! That is totally me! lol

    I am off to buy a timer. I think splitting your day between two different projects as you showed us is great helps to keep things fresh, especially for big projects like a book.

    I'll take a look at Photodeck and you are right I may not need it just yet since I haven't even marketed to the licensing market or have pieces that are appropriate for it. In due time!! 😃


    "I need to take a good hard look at my portfolio - rework some of it and see what happens at a professional critique I have coming up at the SCBWI Wild Midwest Conference. Let the voice of the "customer" speak on where I really stand and if I have what it takes artistically."

    I think it is awesome that you are going to an SCBWI Conference. I think it will help if you focus your style and really gear things towards children's books if that is ultimately what you want. Right now your stuff is a bit too scattered which I think you are aware of anyway. You're exploring which is perfectly fine too, but when you present it make sure it has more focus. As Lee said, don't share everything on your portfolio. I would also think about really diving into watercolor....after looking at your portfolio ...the Chicago piece REALLY stands out. Now you would have to figure out how to make that work for childrens books too but you seem to have nice watercolor instincts so you may want to explore that more if you love doing it. Luckily, you have an ace watercolor instructor here in @Lee-White to help lead the way!

    You also seem to have a bunch of mini-portfolio's on your landing page and there is some really cute images there but I think if children's books are the way you want to go then you need to have your main landing page focus on that market. One or two styles that you love to work in and that compliment each other. Then maybe work the other images/work on to a secondary page where you explain what each project was. Someone else may have better advice here but those are my first thoughts.

    Also ultimately, only you can decide if you have what it takes to make it artistically...are you willing to put in the time and effort it takes to keep jumping to the next level. My stuff from 3 years ago is no where near what I am doing right now. I could have easily walked away and traveled a MUCH easier path but I loved it too much to listen to my own self-doubt or the negative opinions of people around me. Being stubborn helps too!

    You have to decide how much you are willing to do and sacrifice to get what you want....PS it is NEVER boring!! 😃
    I hope this helps and doesn't confuse you....keep going and keep creating!!

  • Pro SVS OG

    This is the kitchen timer I found for my studio #cuteness!! kitchen timer&qid=1457465585&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

    He'll go nicely with my Daryl Dixon Bobblehead from The Walking Dead.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I use a digital one on my mac. Here's a link:

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Lee-White Wow, it even tracks your progress...look at you all high tech! That is not surprising. Mine is cute, but it doesn't do any of that and you have to manually turn it! LOL it did come in assorted colors though 😛

    Do you keep your to do list on that too?

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I keep my list in ical which is easy and I can change it pretty quick. You want a system that is adjustable and can adapt to your changing schedule.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Rich-Green Here is an illustrator who uses watercolor and ink well with relatively loose lines and somewhat simple characters and watercolor washes. I'm not sure if he is working traditionally or digitally or both and I'm sure it is harder to accomplish than it looks but his work is really appealing in the children's book market. He doesn't over complicate it.

    His style reminds me a bit of Quentin Blake Loose line and watercolor washes but really interesting characters etc

    I'm a fan of watercolor and ink....can you tell? 😃

  • SVS OG

    @Charlie-Eve-Ryan - Funny you should bring up Matthew Cordell - he actually did my first ever portfolio review at a one day SCBWI Conference back in November. And I had met him prior to that when he came to speak at one of our monthly meetings. He is from the area and a tremendously nice guy - and quite successful in this industry as you might imagine.

    I did not have any of the watercolor stuff I had done in my printed portfolio so it was not anything he would have been aware of me working on to offer me advice/input. But he did pick up on the same thing that Lee had told me about my piece with the kids staring into the sea lion tank at the zoo - where the characters were too flat/outlined in comparison to the depth of the way I had painted the backgrounds. That is a piece I was considering revisiting for my portfolio update by changing out the characters to the newer way I render things without the outlines.

    My printed portfolio does vary some from what is currently online - as I can not publicly post much of the work I am currently doing for the client projects yet - until they share it online or the books come out. But that said it is all currently being done in the rendered style of the images with the kids in them more or less.

    I think you are right though - maybe I do over complicate the scenes with shading/texture/rendering technique details. But at the same time I find myself so drawn to work that has that sort of stuff in it. I just keep pushing to get better at it.

    Since being laid off from my former 17+ year career when they shut down our office a few years ago - I, like you, have spent all of my time and energy in the past 2 and a half years focusing on getting better and trying to build a name for myself in the world of illustration. I too have seen a tremendous amount of change and improvement in that time - and honestly even with in person courses at School of the Art Institute in Chicago - it is the SVS courses and watching all of the critiques and 3rd Thursday reviews that had the biggest impact.

    I realize now that I have given up way too much of my time on projects that provide little income and less ability for me to do my own thing. And that is definitely going to change as I mentioned. I may have to consider some sort of "day job" as my savings has lasted me far longer than I would have imagined since being let go - but it wont last forever. The only sacrifice I do not want to have to make is my house, I really want to keep it as I am down to 9 years left on the mortgage now. But otherwise I have cut out so many things to try and pursue this dream - and I am not giving up on it yet!!!

  • SVS OG

    @Lee-White Thanks very much for doing this class! It actually means a lot to me to hear people like you and @Will-Terry (in his videos) talk about running a business as an artist like it’s not a bad word or a sell-out thing to do, and that having a business mindset is a good thing…because I feel like I’m in the minority to be creating products myself, and sometimes I’ve wondered ‘should I be doing this? It’s not an ‘arty’ thing to do!’ is very commercial and I have to please my customers rather than myself… I’d like to carve out some more creative freedom by working in other areas too (e.g. books) ..because right now it all has to be cute or pretty…I’d love to do more quirky things for money too! Nevertheless, it’s given me the income to do art full-time.

    I’m only 45 mins into the class, but enjoying it a lot and definitely recognising what you are saying from our own experience of starting/running a business. For example, our first ever product, (eight years ago now) did not sell well - after so much effort! - and we had to go back, ask questions, refine the product, and try again. (and it worked better! ..and better, and better, the more we learned..)

    The other thing I really like so far is seeing how you organise your website, with the licensing options. Even before I watched this, it’s been on our to-do list to create a licensing website, which would be separate from our current (craft-focused) website…


    You see, I create paper packs like this…each one needs 12 separate designs and I spend a LOT of time doing original art to make them, but we don’t currently do anything else with the designs, apart from creating this one product (and some giftwrap), which is not maximising the possible income…and I have a huge library of other designs. So seeing how you do your website is really interesting. I’m sure the rest of the course will be just as interesting!

  • Great class, Lee! You really dont hear this stuff anywhere, I thought I have some good knowledge from watching Jakes, Wills and Oatleys videos/podcasts, but you went even deeper. Its funny that I originally subscribed to watch Jake draw robots...and then...hmmm new video by Lee, might watch it aswell 🙂

    I have lots of thoughts now, lots of doubts, but the goal is still the same, finish the goddamn portfolio 🙂

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Dulcie Love your paper craft licensing art! That sounds like a great way to go while you build your children's book work.

    I have people say you should do licensing, too and I say maybe someday, that could be fun...but it is a WHOLE different animal...entirely different market audience with a whole different portfolio and set of contacts lol. People have a tendency to think everything is easily interchangeable. I'd have to dedicate a boat load of time to make it fly.

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