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.
I would like to burst the bubble a little - or at least throw darts at it. There is a lot of studies on the way content garners following (it is THE most interesting topic for marketeers today), and simply posting good content is not enough. Of course one can play the follow-unfollow game, but that, as has been pointed out, is not a worthwhile or sustainable way of getting following. What really works has been described by Derek Thomson in this book:
Basically, it introduces the concept of multipliers - accounts that due to the fame of the person who runs them and/or their intrinsic large following have the power to expose your work/content to a very large audience. If you gain the attention of a multiplier, you can have huge bursts in following. I read the theory, but it remained abstract until one of my posts was picked up and reposted by Childrenwritersguild - an IG account with 100K followers. That piece garnered some 3000 likes and gave me 500 new followers in the space of one night. That remained a unique experience so far. My accounts continues to attract followers organically (twitter more rapidly than IG - Twitter is also more interesting for children´s illustrators, because most Children literature professionals are on Twitter rather than Instagram), but the rate is more in the range of 5-10 per week - nothing close to the burst I experienced that night.
So the way seems to be to post great content consistently AND attract the attention of multipliers. How to do that is not so simple - tagging seems somewhat rude, though some encourage it. A clever use of hashtags is probably the best bet.
As to whether followers bring work - that is a different story and depends greatly from what type of work you look for. If it is selling prints or doing private commissions, I am sure it helps. If it is gaining the attention of Art Directors, it may help in the long run...exposure fosters serendipity and you never know which eyes land on your work in which moment. As an art director myself (my day job...), I prefer curated platforms - Behance and agency´s websites are my biggest source of illustrators. But I know a few ADs who regularly look on Instagram, and for sure half of the children publishing world seems to be on Twitter....
I think being relaxed about it all and just keep doing and sharing good work is the winning strategy in the end....
I would love to do a graphic novel - it’s definitely on my bucket list. I’ve been fascinated by sequential art my whole life, and while the classical super-hero comics were not around in my time and place, the whole Italy-France-Belgium area has always had a big tradition in graphic novels. My favorite artist by far is Sergio Toppi, though I’m a big Moebius fan too. At the moment, the comic artist I’m most inspired by is probably Skottie Young but I collect books by a lot of other artists, mostly Italian and French artists.
Here’s some information and thoughts for career consideration (keeping in mind that I’m only following kidlit):
Graphic novels for midgrade are a huge thing at the moment. They are sales leaders, very high on the bestseller lists, with many large publishers starting imprints dedicated to midgrade and YA graphic novel exclusively. My agent started clamoring for GN samples months ago, and I obliged, making a few pages for her. Midgrade does not demand the same style and subject matter as adult comics, but I personally like it a lot and it’s worth taking a look whether it’s something you would want to dab into. It’s not just “Dogman” (which I detest, though it dominates the Bestsellers since months), but books by Raina Telgemeier, Nathan Hale (who has a course here at SVS), Molly Ostertag, James Burks and many many others. Samples in that vein have a chance to capture publishers’ attention, because they’ve all got books like these in their lists for the next years. Same goes for story ideas from authors/illustrators for GN for midgrade and YA.
Standard midgrade books (books for 8-12 year olds) are often more or less heavily illustrated in a style that is very close to comics. Though they don’t generally use panels (an exception would be the “Tank and Fizz” series or the books by Lincoln Peirce, which mix panel sections with text), if you like inking and a more comic-like style, this could be a good market for it. I’ve done two so far, with more contracted in 2020 and 2021, and it’s always been the more comic-like samples in my portfolio that attracted the AD attention.
This assuming you’re interested in going the traditional route - nothing speaks against a self-published project, of course. I just wanted to make the point that there is no gap between children’s illustration and comics: a huge sector of children’s illustration nowadays is graphic novel. I also believe it’s the largest sales driver in GN at the moment.
It‘s very normal for professional Illustrators to have another job - I think there are more who have a part-time or full-time job on the side than ones who are full-time illustrators. Accordingly, agents are rather expecting you to have another job than to be a full-time illustrator. As @NessIllustration said, you can and have to say „no“ to projects for a variety of reasons anyhow.
The same is even more true for writers BTW - full-time writers are a rarity, even among those who have published multiple books.
The elephant behind this, of course, is that it‘s really hard to earn a living with just illustration or just writing, especially if you have to keep a family with your income. But that‘s a different topic...
Why choose? They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but you can happily move the same illustration from one to the other and take advantage of both. More than 80% of my illustrations start and end in Photoshop, but I do occasionally have a project that lends itself to a mixed approach. I use AI exclusively for certain type of illustration or start in AI and then move to Photoshop for the final touches and brushwork so that I can get rid of Illustrator's "polished" look.
It is honestly not worth the effort to try and do a painterly look in Illustrator when Photoshop can do that so much more flexibly and efficiently, and it's a pain to do clean vector-like work in Photoshop when Illustrator can do it so much better. I think the best approach is to use both depending on what type of effect you want to achieve.
As @KC said, I highly recommend Astute Graphics plugins for Illustrator, as they give you a lot of extra power and efficiency. I don't use all of them, but it's convenient to buy the bundle if you like more than a couple.
I attach two examples of illustrations from closed and published projects: the first is done exclusively in Illustrator, the second started off in Illustrator and was finished in Photoshop.
Incidentally, this is not my main style, but I have a small section with work like this on my website and I do get regular requests to work in this style, especially for products and books for younger audiences.
@carolinedrawing I’m not an expert by all means, but I read an article or forum entry a while ago that said the issues regarding printing profiles are native to the iPad operating system. So the question may be more, whether Apple would want the iPad to become like a laptop or not.
@sigross That’s cool...but what about the different CYMK profiles printers use?
The ProCreate’s team response to avoid the issue was to “print directly from ProCreate”...I’ll try telling that the pre-press team and the printer that they simply have to change their whole process to use my files
@carolinedrawing I still work extensively in ProCreate -whenever I know I will be doing part of a project while not in my studio. You can transfer to Photoshop at the very end (with RGB files) without issues. This project was just unfortunate because I set up the files in CYMK on ProCreate, believing that would work out.
I have a workaround to the current issue and, while time-consuming, it’s going to be ok in the end.
@sigross No, this has nothing to do with color calibration. You also cannot install ICC profiles on the iPad. ProCreate launched CYMK profiles on the new update, but it turns out they’re just “simulations” - they don’t compare 1:1 with the “proper” CYMK profiles used by Photoshop and by printing presses.
Simply put: don’t work in CYMK on ProCreate: it’s pointless. If you need to deliver CYMK profiles you need still to do the conversion on a computer in Photoshop (or equivalent).
Working in RGB is fine - and also transfers perfectly well to Photoshop.
@demotlj Yes. ProCreate, as I mentioned, is an exceptionally good and powerful digital painting tool, and perfectly good for anything that remains in the digital world. The issues concern exclusively projects that are intended for print and need to be transferred to a pre-press team. For that, you’d still need Photoshop, though it can be a part of the process only: it does not mean that the images have to be done in Photoshop from start to finish.
I’d also say it’s not an issue if you’re doing digital prints, for example for an Etsy shop. It becomes limiting only if you need to create CYMK files for a publisher.
I wanted to update this thread with some information I had recently. I was experiencing serious issues with a book project I’ve been doing in ProCreate - the psd files exported from ProCreate just did not look even remotely the same on my computer as they did on the iPad (strong loss of contrast).
I wrote to the ProCreate team and shared one of the files with them.
It turns out, the CYMK profiles used by ProCreate do not compare with the CYMK profiles installed on a computer (the ones that drive the printers) and my files were set up in one of ProCreate’s new and shiny CYMK profiles. There’s also no way to change the color profile of an image in ProCreate once you’ve decided it at the onset, so I cannot convert those images to a RGB profile to export the PSD files without damage.
I have a very lengthy workaround that allows me to preserve the image quality, although it will take me at least 10 hours to export, re-convert and color balance the images of that project. Obviously, there’s no way I can share them directly from ProCreate with the art director: he will end up with the same issue on her end: not pretty.
This confirms the point I mentioned above: ProCreate is not really a professional tool, and if you’re dealing with a team including an art director, book designer, pre-press expert in printer on the other side, you’ll need to anchor to Photoshop at some point or other.
It remains a great digital painting tool, and as long as you’re not dealing with transferring your files for print, it’s great to work with. If you need to create files to spec, you can still work in ProCreate, but you need Photoshop at the end to finalize.