An old one, and not suitable for this contest anyhow...but couldn't keep from posting it. Octopus are a recurrent thing in my illustrations (don't ask me why....).
It´s a long time since I´ve tried some sort of social media project. I’ve had this idea of making a mini-campaign around Halloween to feed the ever hungry portfolio. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, I’m calling the 13 days of Halloween - starting October 18. The idea is to design unusual creepy trick-or-treaters that may be skulking around your neighborhood on Halloween night.
Each should stand alone but also allow to be included in a group shot at the end...cannot say that I didn’t get the idea from Jake´s Inktober in the past two years. Maybe I´ll even use it as a final nudge to start my prints shop (in planning since six months...).
Anyhow, here is the first in the making....Crazy-Bot
I was approached for a Vis Dev job for a major IP developer (not the big boys, but big enough to make me grin). I have studied Vis Dev as my MFA major, so I cannot say I’m totally unprepared, but I`ve never done professional Vis Dev, so I’m freaking out nonetheless.
They pay by the hour (which is common in VisDev) and they cap the first stage at five hours. So basically I should just draw and deliver anything I have after five hours. They are exploring three character designs and they want „rough sketches“, no color, unless I prefer to work in color, and as many variations as I can conceive.
Obviously, I’m not going for five hours, I’m going as long as it takes to impress them - yet not look like I’m overdoing it...
So, to calm me down - has anyone here an idea of how rough is „rough“ at the blue-sky stage and how many variations a large studio would expect to see from a five-hour stint? @Jake-Parker @Lee-White @Will-Terry maybe one of you can put in a word of guidance? I’m not going to count research and warm-up into the hours. The pay is generous enough not to be stingy with time...
After completing the 100 kids project, I wanted a portfolio-building trigger that has a shorter time-frame (it took me about 20 months to do the 100 Kids challenge) and focuses on more complex illustrations in groups of 3-5 related pieces. After much thinking and hesitation, I decided to set myself what I called a 3x3 Illustration Challenge
I rolled three story dice and committed myself to doing three illustrations inspired by whatever the outcome was, where at least one of the illustrations should be a full-spread image. I'm not committing to a time-frame, because there is too much going on and my schedule is getting very unpredictable, but I plan to roll the dice every time I have a slump.
Here is the outcome of my first dice roll....
It took me a while to figure out what to do with that, but I finally sketched three illustrations I'm quite happy with.
And one of them gave me this wonderful opportunity to draw a triceratops on a tricycle - which needed to be done just for the sound of it....
So, I'm going to bug you with the progress on this because, hey, I need some accountability!
If anyone is interested in joining in, I'll be happy to start a hashtag. Of course you can roll your own dice!
I was a bit concerned about the amount of time needed for this challenge, but I am now enjoying it a lot and I am very happy to have tried it out. I have to say @Will-Terry 's approach works really well. This is probably too cluttered at this stage - hope to tame it during color.
As my freelance business is picking up some, I wanted to share some marketing decisions I have taken in the past weeks - following dedicated conversations with my agent, other illustrators and art directors and my experiences both as art director and as freelance illustrator.
So this leaves me some money, time and energy to do other things, but what?
It seems more and more that the number one marketing platform for art and design is Behance. I was introduced to Behance by my designer colleagues, then got a crash-course from a children illustrator who swears on Behance as number 1 source fo business and set up an account more than a year ago....As I was tasked with finding a pool of illustrators for the agency I work for, I turned to Behance - and made all my picks there. Behance is curated, so an art director´s feed only shows what the editorial team thinks worthwhile - the result is that you only see excellent work. It is not Upwork, so you do have to go through the actual work of setting up contracts with the artist or the artist´s agents at their fees. It´s like an always updated, highly curated illustration annual. While you do need an Adobe account, I do not think you need to pay anything to use Behance.
As an illustrator, after one lackluster year (which still brought me a couple of leads, though they did not turn into jobs) one of my entries got picked by the editorial team for the (daily changing) “illustration gallery” and then I participated in a highly visible collaboration project. My Behance account got a lot more prominent, and, lo and behold, I have just signed a book contract with a company that found me via Behance. So it most definitely works! Behance has its spoken and unspoken rules, and it requires quite some effort to use it at best (layout and presentation are very very important on Behance), but this is one of the platforms where I am going to invest my self-marketing energy.
“Traditional social media number 1: Instagram. Instagram is turning more and more into a mini-portfolio site for creatives. After going through a couple of blogs and videos discussing just this, I decided to treat it as such. So I purged it of all the content that is irrelevant, deleted all work I am not proud of, changed the publishing strategy to honor the 3-column layout, updated my profile and switched to a business account (awesome analytics, direct links to your website on your profile and the possibility to do paid promotions). So far, the impact has been to bump the followers up by about 300 (without spending any money yet) - that was already quite interesting to see. As a note, I did two educational books earlier this year for a publisher that found me via Instagram. So that seems to work too.
Traditional social media number 2: Twitter. While Twitter seems awkward to use for art, the reality is that the majority of literary agents, editors, publishers and art directors “live” here. My agent and I got in contact via Twitter. There are regular “picture book pitch” parties on Twitter where publishers and agents tune in. The publishing world lives here, so if you are into publishing it seems worthwhile to invest in a well-curated Twitter account with regular, relevant posts - both with and without art. The big 5 art director I was talking about before mentioned Twitter as her place-to-go to find illustrators (sounds odd, but it is what it is).
One common thing I can say. Social media for self-marketing is hard work and eats up a LOT of time. But it seems to be working for me and many others, while other more “traditional” tools don’t - so I am going to withdraw time and money from creating address lists and invest more of it here. One thing I still do is focusessed e-mails to publishers I would like to work with - especially local ones, who are maybe not likely to go online to find artists.
These are my considerations from the last weeks and I share them not as recommendations but to hear your thoughts, experiences, opinions. I learned so much about this from other artists, so sharing further what I think or learned.
First one down!
Acrylic gel prints, found trash objects and one of my favorite Kyle's brushes: Wamazing Fat Rough
What do you think? It certainly was a lot of fun and very liberating, but as usual, new experiment always leave me full of doubts...
@Lee-White I´d love to have your opinion - you´re the voice that pushes me to experiment
So, as I promised, here is what I brought home from the SCBWI winter conference. I also met @Naroth-Kean there - which was really nice! So please tune in if you want to add to this very subjective account!
What I got out of attending SCBWI NY:
Direct material outcome, i.e. A project, a contract a book deal - NO.
This expectation had been set right for me by other forums and blogs, including the excellent video by Will Terry, so I did not expect any of that to happen. When I booked the conference, I was looking for an agent. As I signed up with an agent in December, this was not a priority anymore: I would not exclude that it is possible that an agent shows a direct interest in you at an SCBWI conference: many are there just to look for new talent. However, the professionals coming to this conference where clearly there to discuss the art and business of children book publishing as a topic, and not to talk about work directly, so I very much doubt that any such conversations would happen there.
Contacts or conversations that may lead to a material outcome - QUITE POSSIBLE.
With two different occasions to display your portfolio (the showcase and the "art browse") and having distributed more than 250 postcards in three days, it is definitely not impossible that the right person with the right project had a chance to look at my work and may contact me weeks or months down the road. I have talked with a lot of random people, and some may have been art directors - who knows. What I found to be more difficult than I expected is talking with the faculty. They were all super kind and available, but were put under siege by lines of people after every seminar, so understandably tried to make themselves scarce in between talks.
Meaningful contacts with colleague illustrators and/or writers that may lead to further interaction. DEFINITELY! I was amazed by how easy it is to struck up conversations with other attendees. I am not the most comfortable person in approaching strangers, and I need my pauses of privacy to re-generate, but whenever I did mingle, I pretty soon ended up in an interesting exchange about anything from art direction woes to making a living as an illustrator of children books. I even met a person with nearly the same biography as me (she used to be a neuroscientist, I used to be a scientist in Pharma research), who is also thinking about doing scientific non-fiction for 4-8 years old. We exchanged contact information and I was very happy to find somebody with a similar background and aspirations to bounce ideas to when the time comes.
Actionable knowledge. PLENTY. With twelve parallel sessions, you always have the feeling you are missing out on something, and hearing less than what you need, but overall I learned quite a lot of very interesting stuff. The illustrator intensive was all about collaborations with art directors, so they showed a large number of case studies, which was incredibly enlightening. I attended three breakouts: one with Lucy Cummins (Art Director, Simon and Schuster BFYR) about the do´s and dont´s of contacting art directors - that was a witty talk with lots of new stuff; one by Kristen Nobles, who is currently building a new imprint for picture books at Page Street Publishing and is actively soliciting submissions ONLY from unpublished writer-illustrators. So if you are a new writer-illustrator, here is a publisher looking explicitly for you; The third one was on social media use, by Travis Jonkers. Lots of good stuff there too, and also pointers to a variety of bloggers and podcasts about picture books I did not know about.
Psychological impact. HUGE. I did not expect this, and was quite taken aback by how much these three days have changed my perception and attitude towards entering this business. First of all I realized how much passion is at work at all levels - not only the artists and writers, but anybody involved in publishing children and young adult books takes it as a mission and a responsibility towards the next generation. This is definitely energizing and contagious. Second, I finally got rid of the idea that there is a right and a wrong way to do children books. Or to do art, for that matter. I knew the diversity was huge, but to see it all grouped together in one place is quite a different experience. As a speaker put it: Picture books is not a genre, it is a form. So you can talk about pretty much anything, in any thinkable style and have a product that reaches the heart and soul of readers and is just perfect as is. That was a very important message for me, as I tend to obsess about "drawing it right" and "painting it right" and, I realize, would really profit from letting go of these technicalities and get to the heart of what I am doing rather than the surface. I am not seeing that it is not important to know how to draw and how to paint - the more you know the fundamentals, the freer you are to move in any possible direction your career takes you. But it is particularly important for me to stop thinking that somebody is judging every stroke and giving me a note at the end: art school is over, it is time to do art, not assignments.
Third and last and most important: nearly every speaker stressed the importance of being authentic. It´s not only about representation of minorities (though we had a lot of that), it is about conveying the message that only YOU can convey. As Dr Seuss put it, nobody is you-er than you. Or, as in the enormously inspiring keynote by Bryan Collier: "what makes you awkward is what makes you special". What an empowering message: don't hustle trying to understand what the market wants, or to fit your portfolio to some expected standard - strive instead to bring forward what makes you tick, what interests you, what you find important, your childhood experiences, and so forth. That message really cured me of the impostor syndrome that I sometimes (always!) feel as a career-hopper. The fact that I did not dedicate my whole life to art is, after all, not a weakness as I always thought, but a strength to leverage.
So, in essence, yes: I am happy to have attended and I think it was what I needed right now. I do not think it is possible to put a cost/benefit label to it (like whether it was worth the expense), but if it does not blow a hole in the budget, I would defnitely recommend atttending this or any other of the SCBWI events. Next year, the Tomie DePaola award will be substituted by another award format, and the prize will be attendance to the NY conference - so that may be a way to get the experience without the cost.
Continuing to experiment - and doing scary things.
I am doing mini-series of three illustrations for my Instagram channel. This week it will be socks monsters. The background came in by a lucky accident, and now I quite like it - but I am wondering if it is too much or just, scarily, the right thing for this piece.
Your intended setup is great to study, learn, put together a portfolio and get familiar with digital painting in all its facets. It is probably not enough if you're doing professional work for a client - specifically for publishers.
It would be enough if not for a couple of "small" things. One is that iOS does not support CYMK. According to forums, there are some workarounds, but I've never tried them and they seem pretty complicated or the setups do not translate reliably. As of today, when I work on the iPad I need to transfer everything to my computer and convert to CYMK in Photoshop (with all the headache that that causes) to be able to send files to spec.
Another very annoying thing is file management. I think I would go bonkers if I had to manage all the files that go into a book project from start to finish on an iPad. I also use heavily InDesign to package files for review and to do layout tests, and that would be quite difficult in systems other than Adobe.
Apart from that, ProCreate is a wonderful tool. Affinity Designer is very good too (if that is the type of illustration you do) and you honestly do not need more than the iPad to create great illustrations.
@Melanie-Ortins I‘ve been to four SCBWI conferences (two in NY, two in Europe) and three major book fairs (twice in Bologna, once in Frankfurt).
One thing I can say before any comment: it‘s important to „show up“ - in the publishing business as much or more as in any other business. Conference and fair expenses are part of the marketing budget that we - as a business - have to spend to be present on the turf.
That said, it depends very much what stage you’re at and what you’re hoping to achieve. Are you ready to showcase your work? Are you looking for a community, or maybe critique partners? Are there gaps in your industry knowledge? A SCBWI conference can be a good experience to build community and deepen your knowledge of the business. Some have showcase events, and if you participate and you’re lucky, you may get your work under interested eyes. But in my experience they’re more useful to learn about the business. Every SCBWI chapter and conference has a unique setup and programme, so it’s not possible to make general comments - you should look into the agenda of the one you’re aiming at and see if there’s enough in there to get you interested. In the very least, you will get to know other people who work in children’s publishing and learn from their experience.
Personally, I think SCBWI conferences are very useful at the beginning of a career, less so when one has oriented itself a bit better. At the moment, I invest more money and effort in book fairs, because that’s where I get most new business contacts. On the other hand, it is thanks to SCBWI that I found some great critique partners, including writers who have introduced me to their editors and brought about illustration contracts....you never know.
Lovely concept - and can be compositionally very strong with the dark area and light area shapes. I would suggest moving the second arm of the monster up and left, so that it stretches out like its other arm. The dark shape would gain clarity and look more aggressive and you would have the potential of keeping it a uniform dark shape (where we see the world within, withering) rather than having to solve the problem of defining that arm on top of everything else.
Neat idea! I quite like the bat flying out of the portal, though maybe not so big. It could also be an owl, as a bat is normally associated with a creepy mood. I think I would explore a couple more compositions: 1,2 and 3 crop the character weirdly (ankles, wrists and neck are places where you cannot crop a character or it looks like he has a severed limb: something that photographers also mention), while in 4 there‘s a tangent between the portal and the edge of the page, and the portal seems too small.
Do you know a Pixar short called „Day and Night“? Your piece reminded me of it - it‘s worth watching!
Cool prop design and it‘s great to see all the thought that went into this illustration! One thing you may want to change here is separating the lantern more from the character - like you have in your original thumbnails. It‘s generally stronger to have the silhouette read clearly and the overlap between the arm and the lantern would „hide“ all the shape design you made for this prop.
I would also check the perspective of the lantern - from this angle you would see it from a lower viewpoint. At the moment it‘s seen from above (we can see the top ellipse), which makes it look like it‘s angling in a strange way.
Your character is slightly out-of-balance (falling backwards), but that‘s an easy thing to fix.
Excellent tips by @lenwen and @chrisaakins on how to infuse more personality in the designs! If I may add one more point, what strikes me in your „old work“ examples is that the style of the final rendering is completely different from one spot to the other. Even though the characters look very similar (which is probably where the „generic“ comment is coming from), it does not look like the three images could, for example, sit in the same book. The first and third are „almost quite“ there, though the third has a more prominent presence of linework than the first, while the second is a different space in terms of color and rendering. That gives the feeling that there‘s no intention in the work and may have caused the critique of being generic.
One possible way to go about that is to design portfolio work in sets of threes (or more). Design one character and put her in three different scenes, paying attention to keep the character and rendering consistent. If you change „story“ for a new set, also change the character very clearly to a different one: different personality, gender, ethnicity and design.
Interesting question. For me it‘s related to the process and intention. A sketch is a preliminary version of a work for the purpose of sorting out content, composition, character and details and/or with the aim of showing it for early review before proceeding to the final piece. It does not matter if the final piece is only pencil or in full color - there will always be a step before the „final“ and that‘s what I would call a sketch.
When I sketch for myself, it‘s often just to record ideas, plan some personal work or see if an idea is interesting enough to evolve into a full illustration.
It‘s true that nice, loose dynamic sketches can be a pleasure in itself and sometimes more interesting than the final piece - keeping that energy while finishing is one of the great mystery skills that I‘m still running after.
@carlianne Lovely work and lovely choice of subjects: it‘s great to have a full bleed illustration and a vignette. It‘s a long time since I did a postcard campaign, but what I did is to print the addresses directly from Xcel to labels (Xcel has presets for all major label brands and formats) and then stick them on.
It depends, however, how many you‘re sending. If it‘s a big number, writing them by hand is not an option, but if it‘s only a few, it may be a nice touch.
I‘m not sure where you want to place the address of the recipient? Or are you sending them in envelopes? It‘s more expensive generally to send envelopes than the straight postcard, so you may want to check the option of making space for the delivery address directly on the postcard.
As for information, you don‘t really need to use your address: the e-mail and website are more than enough (telephone number if you want, but I‘m not using that anymore either). Nobody will respond by post and your location is irrelevant nowadays. I would also consider removing the „author/illustrator“ line. It‘s pretty obvious you‘re an illustrator as I‘m assuming you‘re sending these to ADs in children publishing. If you have an „about“ page on your website, they can find out additional information on your interests and activities there.
Some are out, some are coming out this year and next:
"If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon" (2019)
"The Little Rocket That Could" (2021)
For PI Kids International:
"This Book is Upside Down" (April 2020)
"Beasties Love Booties" (later in 2020)
For Scholastic Education:
"The Dinosaurs Dance"
"One by One"
"Goldilocks and the Three Bears"
"Dd - What Can Dinosaurs Do?"
"Qq - Quack"
(none of them on the trade market, as far as I know)
For Thienemann Esslinger:
"Ein Mädchen Namens Willow" (January 2020) (cover and interiors)
"Schwesterherzen Band III " (2020) (cover)
"Die Wunderbaren Kinder des Herrn Tatu" (2020) (cover)
For Amicus Publishing:
"My Room is a Zoo" (2020 or 2021 - not sure)
"Mila und die Geheime Schule" (2020, cover and interiors)
For Pragma Media:
"SOIC and SOT" (2018)
"TSSOP gets Zapped" (2019
"One Hot Day" (2019)
For Rizzoli/Mondadory: four school anthologies (for Italian Schools).