Skills I should brush up on in preparation for future freelance/commission work?

  • Hello,

    I eventually would like to make money off my artwork part-time while I'm in school and afterwords. But, I'm not really at a point where my artwork can standout professionally or even skillfully maybe. It's been a while since I had some art education so I'm often stuck on where to start. Any advice?

  • I guess it depends on where you are now. Do you have any of your work you could put up? I could name a million things but you might already be nailing half of them lol.



    Here's some of my recent sketches.

    and some older work.

    thanks for your input.

  • SVS OG

    Looking good Ragtag - i think the most solid piece of advice anyone will ever hear is to take figure drawing classes - anywhere - community college - art museum - art school - artist group - or maybe using a figure drawing app - doing timed poses - best to have instruction though - ..thats my 2 cents.

  • I'll definitely do that. Thank you.

  • @Ragtag-Graphite keep drawing, and then, keep drawing, every day and look for artists that inspire you or those you would like to emulate and copy their work in a sketch book and then throw it away. Then try to develop a personal project from start to finish. It can be a picture book or a book cover etc... this helps a lot and you learn a whole lot from this experience.

    I recommend learning Human & Animal anatomy and perspective, plus color theory. These things are fundamental to drawing well and be prepared for disappointment and a whole lot of mistakes along the way. But you will get there eventually... and get feed back on this forum, a lot of people here are ultra talented and have really good advice. Good luck!!!

  • Thank you for your informative and encouraging advice.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    This is a tough question, but there are some things I would definitely recommend.

    The first is figure out what you are drawin to (ha! pun intended). There are so many areas of professional illustration that require such different skill sets. Using an analogy, your basic question of "what should I learn?" is like saying "I want to take a trip, where should I go?" You need to ask the right questions to get the right answers. Specific areas of illustration are:

    Editorial: magazine work. Typically very concept driven
    Publishing: book work. Graphic Novels and picture books are subsets of this area. Typcially narrative and sequential
    Portraiture: typically oil painting based. Very lucrative, but difficult
    Concept art: entertainment design. Very hard to get into, but pays well
    Storyboarding: easy way to break into the industry. Very demanding
    Fine Art: fun, but very hard to break into and make a living from

    So, first you need to figure out where you want to go, then figure out the best way to get there. I wouldn't say a stock answer is best here. Figure drawing is great, as is sketching in general. BUT, the dominant amount of time should be spent learning the specific area you are going in to.

    BTW, I never tell people to sketch daily. There is too much mediocre work being done in the name of continually sketching. Now, sketching with focus and direction is an entirely different thing. That is how you get good, not just mindlessly drawing random things every day. Think of it this way, if you wanted to play golf, would you get good just randomly hitting a bunch of balls everyday with no criteria of success? of course not. Now if you have ever seen a pro golfer practice, they don't just hit the ball, they have a goal. "try to get the ball to land within 15 feet of the hole". That is a goal and success is much easier to measure then. Same with art. "I'm going to nail my proportions", "I want to work on getting better gestures" are examples of specific drawing goals. You can come up with ones that make sense to you.

    Once you do figure that out, then do the copies and try out assignments on your own. Join groups in your area and nationally that cater to that. Go the conferences and meet people and then you are on your way.

    Hope that helps some.

  • SVS OG

    @Lee-White said:

    BTW, I never tell people to sketch daily. There is too much mediocre work being done in the name of continually sketching. Now, sketching with focus and direction is an entirely different thing. That is how you get good, not just mindlessly drawing random things every day.

    I'm so glad you said this! I have had so many people tell me to get better i need to" draw daily, it doesn't have to be good, just draw." My response has been "what's the point?" why draw daily if you are just going to scribble something? it makes more sense to work on a single piece over several days to get better, than just random stuff every day

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @Lynn-Larson, yep, I totally agree. The most boring drawings in the world are the ones where someone is sketching because they think they are supposed to be sketching. I can always tell when artists do this because they draw their work area or their shoes. I'm not sure why. I've seen that adjustable art table and lamp in hundreds of drawings. Surely there is something more interesting than that to draw! haha!

  • @Lee-White You're saying that, but Pixar made a short and a mascot from that lamp haha.


  • SVS OG

    @Ace-Connell Maybe because the lead artist was barefoot that day 😛 Maybe It was supposed to be a shoe lol

  • @Lynn-Larson Haha... I like your style!


  • SVS OG

    @Ace-Connell lol...thanks! run on 4 hours of sleep and it can be yours too!

  • @Lynn-Larson My daughter was throwing up all last night, so I'm right there with ya! Haha


  • SVS OG

    @Ace-Connell Eek! hope she's doing better! now that we have completely hijacked the thread lol

  • @Lynn-Larson She's asleep next to me. I think she's fine now, bless her 🙂

    Oh, yeah... we totally have. Err... work on perspective. Perspective is important haha.


  • @Lee-White

    Thanks for your informative advice, I would like to get into scientific illustration but I know it will take time and a lot of study. What I mean though was what should an artist have under their belt in general? For example, I usually get asked to draw logos,tattoos,etc. But, because of my lack of skill, the time it will take for me to complete a project is pretty long due to research,preliminaries,school,work. So, I wanted to focus my free time on brushing up on general skills so I can dish out good artwork in a reasonable amount of time.

  • @Lee-White

    Also, I always thought portraiture was apart of fine art category, it looks like a pretty cool gig.

  • I totally agree, I have never done sketches just for sake of sketching. I always ask myself why I have to do this sketch, and what am I trying to get out of it? Lately I have been doing some traditional watercolor sketches to help me with better color decision making and maybe I can improve my digital watercolor from doing traditional.

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