Creating a Great Concept For Your Illustration

It’s all about the concept! In our latest episode, we talk about things to consider when thinking up your next bright idea 💡

John Singer Sargent

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

Summer Vacation Gone Wrong Art Contest

Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo 

Alex Sugg:

Gary Wilkinson: Instagram: @gwillustration

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

The Style Episode

Art by  Marek Halko

How do you find your style? For some it seems to come naturally and for others it can be a source of great stress. Hopefully this episode helps give you some ideas for how you accelerate as you develop your own style. In this episode we evaluate each others styles, share our influences, discuss ways to foster and grow your own style, and the importance of style as it relates to your career goals.

Lee’s Influences

Arthur Rackham

Lisbeth Zwerger

Mark English

Gary Kelly

Laura Carlin

Will’s Influences

Lane Smith

Steve Johnson “The Frog Prince Continued”

Mary GrandPre

Jake’s Influences

Bill Watterson

Yukito Kishiro

Masamune Shirow


Dr. Suess

Also discussed:

Jon Klassen

Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo 

Mark Halko: @marekhalko 

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

Transitioning to an Art Career

Transitioning to a career in art can seem daunting and risky. It takes time and persistence, but it is possible and so rewarding. In this episode we discuss some important things to consider when breaking into the field, such as multiple streams of revenue, easing into things, work life balance, finances, and honing your craft.

Lee’s YouTube Channel

Jannie Ho

Yuko Shimizu

Matthew Inman

Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo 

Alex Sugg:

Braden Hallett: @bradenhallett

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

When Did You Know You Would Make It?

Art by  Kerisa Greene

We all have to start somewhere! In this episode, Will, Jake and Lee share stories about when the idea of becoming a pro illustrator went from kinda crazy idea to real possibility. Plus, hear all about some of the “weird art jobs” they had when they were just starting out (spoiler alert: Will used to hand-letter the Judas Priest logo for metalheads in high school!).


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo 

Alex Sugg:

Kerisa Greene: Instagram: @kerisaillustrates

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

How to Social Media

Art by  Pamela Fraley

Most creatives feel a pressure to be active on social media and to be building a following around their work. In this episode we talk about how to determine which social media platforms are best for you, how to use hashtags wisely, and how to best leverage the strengths of Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, and E-mail.

Jake’s New Picture Book: Goldilocks for Dinner

Some big Instagram artists:




Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo 

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

How to Change

Art by  Cory Shaw

Art by Cory Shaw

Everyone wants to improve and try new things, but why is change so hard? Sometimes we box ourselves into a certain identity or style and feel like we can't deviate, or we get comfortable and fear failure. In this episode we discuss why consistent improvement and change is so vital to creatives, and go over practical things you can do to create lasting changes in your life.

Good news, our sound quality should be better because Jake moved and now he and Will are no longer sharing a studio, so we don’t have to worry about there being an echo anymore. Yay!

Life Advice: Never move. 

Jake just moved to Arizona from Utah, which involved slowly driving two moving trucks and unloading things into a storage unit in the Arizona heat. 

Today we are talking about “Cha-cha-cha-cha-changes!...”

Batman for Change

Jake challenged Lee to draw Batman a few episodes back; Lee’s not someone who normally draws super heroes. It really freed him up, he felt like he could do anything that he wanted to. So he thought of a new color pallette to use. He didn’t approach it as: how can I put this in my style? He felt freed to try anything that he wanted to. 

Lee came up with an alter ego: Antonio Blanco Paints The Landscape!

He approached the background from more of a fine art point of view. He leaned in on that identity when painting Batman. He just wanted to paint, and so Antonio Blanco showed up, he even made some pallet changes, and a lot of people really responded to the background.

Then he did another image and it really freed him up, the next piece was a city scape.

So the next image Lee made, he embraced this style, and really started to lean into it. 

So he started to change up his palette and his approach and made a bunch of new images, he was all of the sudden freed up to make changes and try new things.The shackles were off, and it was off to the races for Antonio Blanco!

All the sudden he started getting commission requests, his agent liked his new work and wanted to try and use them for book covers, and a gallery was interested in his new work.

If it weren’t for the Batman challenge, Lee may have never been freed to create this new style of his.



“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why don’t people change? Why do we struggle to change?

We have this idea that people think about us in a certain way and that’s who we are. We feel like we don’t have permission to try new things because it goes against that identity.

NO one cares, no one cares except for you. No one said to Lee when he experimented with this new style, “Hey man, you can’t do that!”  Nobody got mad at him, the only thing holding him back was himself.

If you asked Lee who he was as an artist before he would say, “I’m a children’s book illustrator, I make whimsical images in watercolor.”

Get the power of the Antonio Blanco. He had to give himself permission. Give yourself permission to branch out and try new things.

You cannot define Antonio Blanco.

Will’s Change

Most successful illustrators have a distinct and consistent style. 

Will would sometimes look at other successful artists and get jealous of their style and feel that if he had time he could come up with a new style for himself too. 

What helped him change, was looking at a different market. He didn’t have a track record with comic conventions and so he went to a convention and started looking around and noticed those booths that were successful and those that were less successful.

Illustrators aren’t the best designers, not the best at designing a retail space. He noticed that a lot of the booths looked really hodge podgy and didn’t have a consistent look to them. 

He realized he needed to create a boutique look that was totally different.

That’s when he started doing his “Little” prints in a simple black and white pencil style which was in contrast to all of his painted color work. It worked, and that style got him his Bonaparte children’s book series because he tried that transformation.

Did you feel like it changed who you were? Did you feel separate from yourself? How does it relate to how you feel about yourself?

His approach to the drawing is the same, initially it does feel weird to display both styles on his website but now he’s really embraced it. 

He realized he can do other things, so now he’s writing a book.

Change is uncomfortable. As an artist if you’re really creating art you need to take risks. You need to go down paths that aren’t conventional, things that are not prescribed. If you look over all of the artists that you know and those that have the most success and have had the longest lasting careers are the ones who have made changes. In art history those artists have periods named after the changes they have made.

tin man.jpg

Will slowly started to add spot color in and there were people who liked his color stuff more and some who liked his black and white work more. 

Some people said that they liked his old color stuff more but still enjoyed his black and white stuff as well.

To be true to yourself as an artist, you need to do what you feel is best and not always be chasing the crowd.

Jake’s Changes

Little Bot, had more of an illustrative softer atmospheric feeling to it. While his Skyheart comic is a lot more graphical.

Jake has a handful of styles that he dips into. He decides which to use depending on the project.

If the style calls for something more rendered and painterly, he’ll do that. If it calls for something more linear based with pops of color, he’ll do that. That’s what keeps him fresh. Each project he can be working in a different style. 

There are some styles and mediums that he really enjoys working in.

He always goes into a proposed project at first asking, “You’re hiring me for this, what style are you thinking? What do you like of my work?Send me a few samples of my work that you like the best.

He decides to do projects based more on the subject matter than the style.

During his mid twenties to mid thirties, he tried a bunch of things, watercolor, watercolor and ink, colored pencil with photoshop, photoshop with ink. Those years were a time where he experimented a lot and figured out what mediums he likes.

Lee did some landscapes and shared them with Will and Jake. Jake tried out painting a landscape too.

Watching Lee has got Jake wanting to do something completely different, wants to create something less illustrative and more Gallery focused.

Be True to Yourself and Change

2 Personality Types: Super quick to change and want to adapt. Then there are those who are resistant to change and are more hesitant. Will is less on the adaptive side than Lee and Jake. 

Most of Jake’s favorite artists are those who have a set style that they’ve locked onto. He wants to see what type of subject matter they will attack with that style.

Alphonse Mucha: from art history. You should study art history and illustration history.

Muca was really famous for this decorative flat art deco style. He had a very distinct style. However, he wanted to be like John Singer Sargeant and he wanted to be a portrait oil painter, but the community didn’t want him to do that. 

He fought it his whole life, he made these huge 100 feet long paintings. “The Slovak Exodus.”

He couldn’t escape that category people placed him in though.

We’re talking about how you define yourself and how others define you.

Steve Houston painted boxers and wanted to paint other things, but people said, no you’re the boxer guy.

Lee had a friend who gets a lot of attention on Instagram but they wanted to try a new style and when they did they saw their “likes” take a big hit.

You have to be willing to take the risk to do what you want to do.

Will has a goal to paint landscapes from nature. If for some reason they turned out and people want to buy them then great, but that’s not the reason he wants to pursue that later on.

Be authentic to yourself, if you just chase the style because it’s popular, it feels inauthentic.

You always run the risk of being called out or people not liking your work as much.

About the likes going down- You need to be honest with yourself. Why do you create? Do you create because of some inner need, or is it for some sort of external acceptance? If those are in conflict and clashing with each other then you won’t be comfortable changing styles if you’re always worried about the likes.

Create Your Own Persona

Create your persona, if this is how you work. Maybe you need to make a new persona.

“Antonio Blanco is just starting out, and isn’t getting as many likes, but hey he is just starting out…”

This isn’t just for art. Try this in other areas of your life. This can work for health, eating, how you work out, etc.

Disk Golf, this is a sport where you are by yourself and perform on your own just like ball golf. When you putt, throw it into the hoop, you can get freaked out because there’s all of these people watching you and all of this pressure.

Lee used to always get freaked out when he had to putt, so he came up with another persona for himself: Jonny Chains.

Jonny Chains, when he walks up, Jonny Chains is not nervous, he walks up and throws it

Lee would be nervous, and then he would say to himself, “Jonny Chains don’t miss.”

It empowered him. After nailing a few putts using that mantra, someone came up to him and told him that they knew as soon as Lee stepped up that he was going to make it, and after that, Lee had no more anxiety about putting.

As artists, we chose art; we rebelled against becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant. If you are in school and are an art major, then people either think that you aren’t serious about making a living or that you are super good and know what you want to do.

We chose not to go the standard route. Are we afraid to make changes now? We already made the big decision, so why not continue with that and give yourself the latitude to move on.

We get into this safe mode and want to make everything safe. Those same artists that are playing it safe, aren’t working as artists anymore, they “safed their way right on out.”

Brad Holland, in the late eighties, early nineties, he had a style that was easy to mimic so he had a lot of people who copied him and his style because he was doing so well.

Then the styles changed and they couldn’t keep up. But he kept up, Brad Holland is still doing work. He was the original.

Jon Klassen and Carson Ellis, there’s like 20 people who, to us, look like they are mimicking them.

When you see a children’s book from the 80’s you know it’s from that time period, same with the 90’s etc. And the Jon Klassen/Carson Ellis aesthetic is the style that is popular today.

The Jon Klassen style is the style of the time. If you want to get work this decade, that’s what art directors are looking for. But if you want work next decade, you need to be able to change.
The clock is ticking on that style.

Jon Klassen, did an anthology together with Jake, in the Flight Anthology. He had a different style and Jake noticed he was on to something, then Jon transitioned to children’s books.

Jon started out being outside of the box. He had a unique style that has won awards and he been extremely successful.

It’s like a gravitational force once you have enough force then people are pulled towards that style because it’s what everyone wants.

Jon Klassen and Brad Holland are visionaries, they will be okay.

Will became friends with Brad Holland and he asked Brad why people are getting into magazines and Society of illustrators with his style? And Brad said it was because the jury thinks that it is him. And the jury will come and apologize to him later and tell him they thought the work was his.

When People Need to Change But They Won’t

What about when people need to change but they won’t. They aren’t getting work. Should they change?  Should they stay authentic to what they’re doing? Should they stick it out?

You need to ask yourself, do you need to get work from a particular industry? Are you willing to change your style to fit that industry?

If you are content with not getting freelance jobs but you want to develop a fan base with a certain style, then you will find an audience. It will take time.

If you want to get work from a major publisher, animation studio, or video game studio then you need to make sure that your style fits in their range.

You can remain true to your style as long as you aren’t trying to sell it.

But if you want to work professionally then you need to fit within the style range of the market you are pursuing.

Vegetables and Flowers

Jake realized that he needed to get established and become known in AZ. 

He thought of his ancestors that came here. Did they plant flowers first or vegetables? First, it was vegetables to sustain them, and then when they became established they could then plant flowers, and maybe even start selling their flowers at the market. 

It’s hard to plant flowers when someone is hungry. People want to buy apples when they are hungry not a bouquet of flowers. Establish how you will make money first then you can start to experiment with what type of flowers you want to plant.

If you want to stay in the game for as long as you can, then you need to find a way to make money.

2 Personalities in Relation to Change

You are not one thing. Whether you consider yourself a stay at home mom, a jock, or a skater, or an illustrator, etc. You are not a one dimensional person, we are all complex and beautiful.

Typically you are the one who boxes yourself into that one thing.

You aren’t a gun, you can be Superman (Iron Giant).

  1. The Super Charged Changer

  2. The More Reluctant Changer.

It’s a continuum. Jake and Lee have worked for major studios, and working for a studio  demands being more adaptive to change.

Make an alter ego of who you want to be. But don’t be too extreme. Lee has a couple of friends who periodically will go on a health kick and go from staying up late drinking and eating whatever they want to going to the gym at 4am and eating only lettuce. It’s too drastic, and they go back to their old bad habits.

Danger of the Super Charger, from today to tomorrow I’m a completely different person.

Lee’s goal this year, wants to be the guy who is in the gym. When people show up during his morning hours, they will just say, “there’s that guy again.”

That’s huge, for quitting smoking, you don’t say, I’m trying to quit smoking. Say, I’m a non smoker. It’s all about how you frame yourself.

Jake’s trying to do that, he used to think that he was no good at business, and he used to think that he wasn’t good at business or finances. But now he tells himself that he’s a business person. It helps to get you in the zone and do things you wouldn’t normally do.

JP Moneybags, Lee’s Business name.

Craftsman vs. Creator.

Sometimes we group ourselves based on our career or major. And we feel like we can’t do other things because we aren’t that thing.

Frame yourself instead as an artist or a creator, you can branch out from the thing you have pigeonholed yourself into. Master that field and then don’t feel like you can’t do other things too.

Chris Spollen: he did these crazy sculptures that are so cool, its super different from what he wanted to do early in his career, He totally changed and started working for movie studios making props. 

What do you want to do? Then do it.

11 Steps to Change:

This is a list we found online and we’re giving our thoughts on it and expanding it.

  1. Understand the change, see if it’s what you want and then go for it.

  2. Figure out if it’s possible. Lee disagrees with this one. There are somethings like if Lee wanted to try and play in the NBA, not gonna happen. Sometimes you have to do it to see if it’s even possible. Maybe if you run into too many walls you can see that it’s not the right time but you can experiment with things to see if they’re possible or not.

  3. Be honest with yourself. Lee doesn’t like this one either, this really boxes yourself in. You’re trying to expand your definition of yourself.

  4. Write down your outcome. Know where you’re going.

  5. Find some role models, and learn from the best. Look to the past as well, study from dead people. Find some role models, it doesn’t have to be people from right now. SVSLearn is full of good mentors.

  6. Immerse yourself in that community, you need to see what is apart of that lifestyle. Who is making that lifestyle work? How are they going about that lifestyle, what are they doing? Make friends who are doing the things that you want to do.

  7. Find an accountability partner, find someone else who is wanting to do the same thing as you. Someone you can share successes with and someone who you can share the difficulties with and support each other.

  8. Write down tangible goals for weekly and monthly progress. Jake has a book that’s on his reading list: Atomic Habits, by James Clear.In the book James talks about, instead of focusing on outcomes, focus on systems. I.e. 8am-12pm, 4 hours a day of working on a children’s book, show up everyday, you’ll get there. Will’s book he is writing has 80 sections (chapter headings and topics going into the book) he has to work on 1 or 2 sections a day, then he will be able to finish by the end of the summer. These ideas and things percolate for years. Some of you may know that Will’s wife recently passed away, he had talked about writing a book with her and he needs something to focus on and work on when he has free time so that’s something he’s focusing on now. Will’s Youtube channel has over 200 videos, he didn’t set out wanting to make 200 videos. Establish a pattern a consistent system. For the slow adapter come up with a list of things to do and slowly adapt them, it’s all about consistent habits.

  9. Evaluate your changes and modify your goals as necessary. Don’t go blindly down the path. Ask yourself, “Did I achieve that goal?” Goals can change and meander, there’s comfort in that. Just because past me set this goal, past me isn’t me now, you might realize that with your new knowledge changing your goal is the best decision. If you’re changing your goals and giving up on them every week, then that’s maybe not the best. But if you try it and learn that it’s not the best goal for you then feel free to change directions. I.e. maybe you realize after going down the path that gallery painting isn’t the right fit for you.

  10. Accept and be happy with your successes. There’s this weird thing in our society where people feel that they can get down on themselves when they fail, but we are afraid to celebrate our successes because we don’t want to come across as egotistical. You can celebrate without bragging. I.e. if I achieve this thing then I will treat myself to a Cinnabon. There is a younger generation on Twitter who do a good job at being happy for their own successes. Jake saw a tweet from a girl that said something along the lines of, “for the first time in my life I have been able to make enough money to buy something that is not a necessity, so I’m going to go buy decorative pillows for my couch.” Essentially: I’m happy for this thing that I was able to do, it’s not “I killed it this year, I made x amount of dollars.” Share happiness from your successes.

  11. After experiencing success, keep setting new goals. Change and learning things is processed in a different part of your brain. Sometimes it’s painful. When you are learning something it’s hard, it’s a struggle, once you master something it’s more relaxing. Learning something in the beginning always involves some discomfort, but it won’t always be that way. If you are really learning there should be some discomfort. You can grow. I.e. Will couldn’t paint for more than 4 hours but now he’s worked on a painting for over 100 hours. 

Pricing Your Work

"How much should I charge?" This is a common question that every professional artist needs to confront and understand, yet it is often talked about so vaguely which leads to a lot of confusion and mystery. In this episode we hope to shed some much needed light on the subject. We go over day rates, how much beginning children's book illustrators typically make, things to consider when pricing your work, negotiation tips, whether or not you should do work for exposure, and the benefits to having an agent.

Pricing Your Work

Today we want to talk about how to price your illustration work.

How to price? You price it right. It’s that simple right? Actually this is a topic where knowledge is quite murky and there is a lot of confusion.

How Much Should I Charge?

Will often gets the question, I’ve just got this job, how much should I charge? Right now we’re talking about freelance work: editorial, children’s book, design work, etc.

It makes sense why so many people, especially beginners, have this question; you’re afraid to charge too little and afraid too ask for too much.

There is a lot of stress that comes along with figuring out how to price your work. Jake’s been doing this for 20 years and he still wonders if he should maintain his rates or if he should be asking for more.

Lee’s #1 Pet Peeve: nobody talks about this, nobody talks much about how much you should be charging for your work. It’s so abstract in school. Everyone talks about it vaguely. They never get very detailed when discussing this topic.

Because we do art we attach our value to the art. If we make too much, we don’t want to brag, if we don’t make a lot we don’t want to talk about it because we’re embarrassed.

Shed Some Light

Sometimes it’s good to talk about and share specific numbers.

Jake did a blog post sharing about how much he’s made at conventions, and shared some of his exact totals. He was talking about how he’s been making less and less at Comic Cons and was wondering if it was something he should continue to do or not or stop selling at conventions in general.

One Fantastic Week and Comic Lab brought him onto their podcasts and interviewed him because he listed specific numbers. None of that probably would have happened had he not been specific.

Power is in the hands of those paying for the work, if we as artists are so secretive and allow rates to be kept hidden in the shadows. If they can keep us in the dark, then they can set the floor for what the payments will be for artists.

There was a problem in the animation industry for 5-6 years, where animation studios were in a law suit because the animation studios were colluding together and fixing prices for what they would pay different types of employees. When this was uncovered they were sued and the workers won and Jake got a bunch of checks in the mail. Because he had worked at one of those studios for 5 years during that period of time he ended up getting $15,000 in checks.

Day Rates

Figure out what your day rate is: this applies mostly for concept design work. So for a 6-8 hour day how much do you charge? It gets messy because everyone is at different speeds, skill levels.

Jake will say, “this is my day rate and for my day I can charge you this much and you should expect this many drawings or designs from me.”

They may come back and say our budget can’t handle that and give a counter offer. If it’s still reasonable he knows that at least there isn’t money left on the table.

However, if he says, “Here’s my day rate…” and they say, “Oh okay, no problem!” Then you know you have left money on the table.

Jake’s day rate is based off of the industry that he is working for.

When he first started out at Blue Sky they payed him as a freelance artist before they took him on as a full time employee. Back then Blue Sky was paying him, $500 a day and $2500 a week.

Since then he has raised his day rate by about 20%.

Sometimes he will get a job and they will say that their budget is $400 a day. Then he will ask if they would be willing to pay, i.e. $2,000 for the project. Then it’s not a matter of how many days he spends and instead is based on how fast and well he can pull off the project.

Sometimes you can say “$2000” for the entire job. You also need to know the scope and talk about about revisions. I.e. Any revisions, $500 a day.

There’s back and forth, and that’s okay, don’t be afraid of negotiating.

Don’t be afraid to ask what you are worth.

The person on the other side, they might have a set budget for what they can pay, and sometimes they may have wiggle room, but sometimes they might say, this is all we can do, and then it’s easy: it’s take it or leave it.

This is often the case for children’s books, they have a set budget and you either accept it or decline it.

How much would you charge? You have to throw out the first number. That’s what we want to talk about.

What Jake is talking about, the day rate, is more for the entertainment industry. In that industry the day rate is more standard.

Lee and Will don’t like the day rate. The amount you make goes down the better you get. When you get faster and better you don’t make more for getting more done faster.

Some illustrators say, “take all of your bills and expenses for a month and then add that up to see how much you need to make and then divide that up by 31, and that’s your day rate.” This method is flawed because it’s totally subjective and based on your current financial situation.

Pricing Illustration Work

One big difference is that for entertainment, you don’t own the work. For illustration, on the other hand, we charge by usage.

How much to charge for a book cover? That depends. How many copies are being printed? Where’s this being sold? If they are printing 10,000 copies they might be making $500,000 gross versus printing only 2,000 copies, where they may only be making $100,000 gross.  

If they are making more money, we should make more money too.

We are renting our images out. So if they are using it more and renting your work for a lot more copies, then we should be compensated more for it. We charge by usage.

Lee likes to give an example to his classes: He shows two images, One is a generic smiley face and the other is a full Civil War battle scene painting, then he asks his class, “which would you charge more for?” They will always pick the Civil War battle scene painting. But that isn’t necessarily the right answer, it all comes down to: usage.

In the news this week, this exact issue came up. Toronto Raptor’s Kawhi Leonards used to have a deal with Nike before and he has his own signature signature that he made where he traced his hand and inside he had his jersey number and the year number and then they used his logo on their shoes. Then he left Nike and went to Adidas and he wants to use that same mark. That simple rudimentary mark right now is worth billions of dollars because of its usage. It’s clumsily drawn, but its usage is huge so its worth a lot of money.

Starting to price something, when you get a call or email from an agency ask:

How many copies? Where would the work be distributed? For how long?

Quantity, location and duration.

This can make a big difference.

I.e. You might say that if they want to use the work locally for 6 months you might charge them $500. But if they come back and say, “No, we need it nationally for 1 year.” Then you might say, well for that it would need to be $2,000. Then they understand more where you are coming from.

We are all in a very different position compared to a student who is just starting off and is afraid of losing the deal.

Pricing Work When You Are Getting Started

If you are in a position where you can’t say no, then you are in big trouble.

How to pitch the work so the work doesn’t get devalued?

If the client says they can only pay $500 and you feel you would normally need to charge $2000 and you want to work for them, then maybe on your invoice you write: “$500 (New Client Discount - $1500). Then the client knows how much you really value your work.

A perception that Will had when starting out and that many beginners have is, “I’d be afraid to ask for this because I’m afraid they will cancel the offer.”

Jake has never heard about anyone losing a job from having a hard time negotiating. If you ask for too much, they will usually tell you that they don’t have the budget for it, not that you no longer have the job offer. Unless you’re really hard to get along with you can work something out.

There are things you can negotiate besides the money. For example:

-For a book project, the lower advance they offer, the higher the royalties you can ask for. It becomes a win win situation, the more books they sell the more you both make.

-Full creative freedom.

-Put my work on the cover.

-I’d like 50 copies of the book to put in your shop to sell.

-Right to sell prints of the artwork.

The same is true and is great when renegotiating your compensation at a full time job. Oftentimes the company holds their checkbook tight and isn’t willing to give a lot more, but you can ask for more time off, more flexible schedule, etc.

5 Considerations When Pricing a Job

What is your going rate? How much should I charge for this? There are more things to think about when pricing a job. Thinking about it this way will help you come up with a price and decide if you want to take on the job or not.

  1. Compensation: Money.

  2. Recognition

  3. Service: Is it for a friend or family member? Or a foundation or charity you want to support?

  4. It’s a subject matter or story that you are really passionate about.

  5. Networking. Take the job for less money to have a relationship with the people or the company. To develop that relationship for the future. Jake considered a job recently even though it payed less because he wanted to work with an author. He probably would have taken it if he wasn’t in the middle of trying to move. Even though the pay wouldn’t be as good as normal, it would have elevated his status. He’s taken on freelance that didn’t pay as well as he would have liked, because he wanted to work with a certain team or company before too.

What’s Your Bottom Line?

We all have different bottom lines when it comes to our rates for children’s books.

It’s obscene how much Jake gets for his children’s book advances. The amount Will gets offered is enough for him, the royalty he is getting has a good potential to pay off, with Bonaparte, if they sell really well then Will is along for the ride.

Everyone has a bottom line.

You probably wouldn’t illustrate a book even if you were super passionate about the story if they were only going to pay you $1.

On the other hand even if you hated the story (as long as it was not against your morals) then you most likely would be willing to do it for a couple hundred thousand dollars, right?

For more information on pricing be sure to check out our past episode: “How Much Will I Make in Illustration.”

For a new illustrator just starting out you will probably get paid anywhere from: $5,000-12,000 for your first children’s book.

If you agree to do something for a price then most likely your bottom line is lower than that rate. Bottom lines fluctuate, there are times where you have lots of money, less money, more work, less work, etc. There are ebbs and flows to life.

Let’s say you made 30K on an advance last year, but now you don’t have any work and you are afraid you are going to lose your house and your car; if someone offers you half of what you got last year, then you will most likely say yes.

It can work against you too. Jake needed to figure out how he was going to make money for 6 months but wasn’t super desperate and he took a job for less than normal pay, but then after he had already accepted that work, another better paying job came in and he couldn’t take it because he had already accepted the other work.

Make the best decision you can, with the information you have at the time, and don’t feel bad with hindsight.

They might only have only $1000.

Would I be happy doing this work for ____?

Figure out what your bottom line is.

Bottom line changes based on a number of factors: your hunger, your current situation.

I used to work for that, and now I have tons of work, so your rate will go up a lot.

Contractors work the same way. Need work done on your home? Schedule your work during the fall, for most contractors their work is slower in the fall and early winter so you can get better deals.

Have you ever charged 3-4 times as much for work because you were already so busy and didn’t want the job?

Did you get the job? Lee: Yes, and rarely does getting the money make up for the pain of doing work you don’t want to do. I’d have to be REALLY desperate to take on work I didn’t want to do.

Will had this experience with a pharmaceutical company. Will donated his time to a soulless company for a few months.

He got paid 65K for a summer. Great money, but man it was rough, there was some emotional abuse that went with it too.

Play With Your Style

All of those things are like dials that you can adjust to get the perfect job. There is another thing that you can adjust to make sure the job is a good fit:

Play with your style and the amount of work that you will actually put into the project.

For example, do the job in a simpler style. Jake has different styles: one is render intensive, one is more graphic and linear, it’s an easier and faster style.


We’ve been talking all about how you can work it and negotiate it and get it all done yourself, but if you have a good agent or representative they can take care of that for you. They know the landscape and they have already negotiated 10 offers this week.

They also take 15-30% for doing the job. When you get into a long term relationship with an agent, it’s less about that first job, and it’s more about a career, they are looking at you as an investment. Maybe you only get 10,000 at first but after a while maybe you are getting 50,000 for your book deals and then they are making a lot more with you.

If it’s not working after a couple projects, you can end the relationship and look for a better agent. Just about everyone that’s doing really well in children’s publishing has a representative.

We’re trying to hit the sweet spot. Don’t leave money on the table while not losing the job. The further along you are in your career and the more work you have, the less money you will leave on the table. You have the confidence, track record, body of work, and other work coming in to better negotiate.

If you are starting out, then you have a greater need to be published.

There are different needs. Needs for the new person: they need published work, they need that more than money. Later on it’s more about: How creative is it, and how much does it pay?

Doing Work for Exposure?

Would you ever give the advice that an up and coming illustrator should work for free?

Pro Bono work. There is a grey area there, you cannot work for free.

“We’ll pay you in recognition, and exposure.”

An artist’s biggest problem isn’t money, but obscurity. You have to make a splash, you have to get on people’s radar, you have to do something. You have to do something for free, maybe its not for another client, maybe it’s for yourself.

Will opposes prominent illustrators telling students what they should never do. Instead it’s better to lay out the pros and cons of working for free.

Will did a job for The Delaware Lawyer, he did work for just $100, and he would have been willing to do it for free. Despite the poor pay, it paid off. The piece he did won the Art Directors Award, and the art director that saw that job helped him land a $40K job with M&M Mars.

There are some people who will prey on artists by offering them exposure.

In the beginning you need to claw scrape and scrap to get a published portfolio.

Your goal is to create a portfolio that doesn’t look like student work. Your goal is that when the art director sees your work, they wonder, “Who did they do this for? Oh, you’re already working. You’re already doing this so you aren’t going to be making all of the rookie mistakes.”

When you receive an opportunity to do work for exposure, look at what type of exposure they are offering. I.e. if they have big in roads with Industrial Light and Magic, and you want to make connections there, then it may be worth it. If they just say that they’ll share it with their 10K followers on Instagram, then maybe it’s better you just post it yourself. You can share it yourself and it’s not too hard to get 10,000 people to see something you posted.

Sometimes people say, “don’t do this contest, it’s a bad contest, they want to use your work for free.” Weigh the pros and cons. Make educated decisions.

You want to get on people’s radar and see if your work is up to snuff. If you want to do so here’s an idea: Take the 7 Harry Potter books and do your version of the covers, spend 40, 60, 80 hours on each. Take 7 months and do one cover a month. If you have a cool unique style, then you will definitely get on the radar of art directors.

The headline writes itself, “Check Out This Artist’s Crazy New Take on Harry Potter.”

A lot of people work for free, there are internships where people work for free, musicians, actors, and writers work for free.

If you’re a writer then you’re working for free until you find someone to sell your manuscript or book to. They are creating a product and wanting to sell it, they’re being entrepreneurial as well.

Should you join a contest even if there is no pay?

As long as the people who are putting on the contest don’t own the art you are submitting.

Contests are a great way to build up your portfolio, but make sure they don’t own the work.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

Post Graduate Advice

This is the season of people embarking on the next step of their life journeys, graduating from high school, college, etc. In today’s episode we discuss ways you can move forward in your creative journey, discuss the need to be focused, the importance of craft, life experiences, personal projects, and sharing your work. Great advice for any recent grads or really anyone who wants to improve as an artist or person.

In the last few weeks Jake has been visited by a handful of high school kids and college underclassmen asking for advice on what they should do to prepare to get a job in the art world. In response to that, he asked a bunch of his artist friends at Emerald City Comic Con what was once piece of advice they had for someone graduating high school who wants to be an artist for a living. To watch that video click here.

Lacking from that video was our advice. He has some things to say to people who have chosen to walk the creative path. If that’s you, then settle in. If it’s not you, please share this with a person you know who’s going to art school, or recently graduated. You can read it too, of course. This advice is universal and it just might help you no matter what stage in life you’re at.

To read Jake’s blog post: click here. Or keep reading since this show is a mix of Jake’s thoughts with Will’s and Lee’s, that’s why we call it 3 Point Perspective, of course.

A Career In Art Is Possible.

By now you’ve probably figured out that it is possible to have a career in art. Some art careers make more money than others. Some are more stable than others. But for anyone who has the skill, the drive to improve,  a healthy work ethic, and isn’t afraid of the unknown it’s possible to get to the point where you can support yourself and even a family with a career in art.

In school there are grades and personal opinion that plays into things, but in the professional world it seems to sort things out. It puts everyone where they are supposed to be, the good people get work, the average people struggle to get work, and those that aren’t so good don’t get much work. It really rewards talent and drive and is pretty fair, there aren’t too many people who are super talented that aren’t getting work.

It also depends on what you classify as success. A lot of people land in art related jobs that weren’t exactly what they were aiming for but for those people they end up loving them. There are some who have book deals and who struggle to make ends meet between book deals, and there are others who struggle to get book deals but are really good at business and are making even more than those with book deals because they are good at freelance and are business minded.

There is a combination of being business minded and finding ways to generate passive income and those who are really good at the craft and struggle with the business side of things.

There are two sides to the coin if you want to really be successful as an independent artist.

This is mostly for independent artists. There are some people who have day jobs who work at studios. This is good for people who aren’t as business minded, you show up and provide a service to the company and they pay you for that service, and then you go home, and repeat.

If someone had sat us down and told us these things as a high school kid it would’ve saved us years of spinning our wheels.

1 - Focus on one path.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose. “ -Dolly Parton

You need to be a heat seeking missile focused one thing. A heat seeking missile works by finding a heat target and then ignoring any heat signal that doesn’t come from that target. That’s why heat seeking missiles don’t just fly straight towards the sun when they’re launched.

Picking one thing to do does not mean that’s the thing you’re going to do forever. In fact, it’s very rare to be ONE THING you’re whole life. Steven Pressfield tells us of this truth in his book The War of Art:

“As artists we serve the Muse, and the Muse may have more than one job for us over our lifetime”

That said, you have to start somewhere, knowing how to do something.  So pick something and learn what you need to master in order to get a job in that discipline. Learn how other artists got their job. Study the art of people who work where you want to work. That’s the bar that you need to reach. Visit the studios, meet up with the artists, acquaint yourself with recruiters. Do internships. Insert yourself into that ecosystem. Make it so that when you finally apply for that job, it’s a no brainer for whoever is hiring, to hire YOU.

As you go throughout your career you’ll probably do a variety of things. You won’t find success until you nail one thing and get good at that one thing and then can branch out from there.

We’re not saying, become the master of drawing eyeballs. There was a discussion on the forum about this, whether you should discover your personal voice and then decide which market you want to go for or to pick the market and match your personal voice to the desires of that market.

Becoming a jack of all trades comes from going down one path and focusing on one thing and then branching out. Jack of All Trades: they can design, paint, model, animate, storyboard, etc.

Pick a style, pick a market, pick an aspect of that market.

Jake’s example: he was taking art classes at a community college, and then he got a job opportunity and decided to leave and learned how to animate for 2 years.

When you pick one specific path, there are side benefits: he had to learn to draw the figure, understand dimension, shape, form, proportion, and style, because he was focusing on one thing.

On the other hand he could have said, “I want to focus on animation, and work on a comic, and do a children’s book, and try to come out with an animated short this year..” That would have lead to a lot of wheel spinning. Rather than going shallow in a bunch of directions, choose one path and really become great at it.

The side benefit to doing this is that whether you want to go into animation, illustration, video games, film, comics, or children’s books the skills you learn to do one of these jobs has applications for other jobs. If you get into it and realize it’s not quite for you, transitioning to another job isn’t going to be an impossible feat. Go deep in one direction, then you can be more prepared to transition to another thing later on. You can find work in that one thing and then you are better able to make any necessary transitions.

Lee had this experience, he was working on children’s books and then realized that his work could work for art fairs as well, he didn’t set out trying to do children’s books and art fairs.

You want to try and overlap your personal interest and what the market wants, this will give you a greater chance of success. You don’t want to be chasing a market you aren’t interested in, or be creating your own personal work in a vacuum oblivious to what the market desires.

The more you focus on one thing, the easier you are to hire. As soon as you get a job in art, that leads to so many things, because then you are working with people for 40, 50 hours a week who are just as good as you and better, and then you get to learn from them and with them. The sooner you can start getting work at something, the sooner you can insert yourself into that world.

A market is a semi-broad field: i.e. children’s book illustration.

2 - Learn your craft.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”  -Archilochus

It’ll take you about 4 years to learn the fundamentals of art and then a full  lifetime to master it.

Learn the fundamentals, and most importantly learn how to learn.  It’s going to take a lifetime, therefore, it’s so important to learn how to learn, because the most successful artists we know are continually pushing the limits of their abilities. They understand that the levels that can unfold in art are inexhaustible. They aren’t content with the art style they learned in their twenties.

Draw things you’re not comfortable drawing. If you’re bad at drawing people, draw people. If you’re bad at drawing environments, draw environments. If you are good at drawing hands but not good at drawing heads, draw heads.

Learn everything you need to learn about your one focused path.

Read books on the subject. There’s an amazing amount of information stored in these relics.

Find a good school that can teach you these fundamentals. You’ll know it’s good if the work coming out of the school is good. If not the school, then find a teacher who knows her stuff. Your focus at school isn’t grades or a degree, it’s skill, portfolio, and friends. Those are the three things that matter and are going to stay with you as you leave the school.

Learn from your peers. It’s not who you know, it’s who you help, so look for ways you can help others succeed, and in return you’ll be made better for it as well.

[Find a mentor]( A mentor doesn’t have to be someone older than you, just someone more experienced than you. Again, see how you can help them, become a linchpin in their system, so that they need you as much as you need them.

When you get into that training mode, you need to treat it like something that is actually interesting. Some people go through it like it’s eating their vegetables and it seems like they don’t really want to be there. Sometimes they put numbers on it (i.e.draw 100 heads), whereas if you really are interested in something, you’ll naturally want to learn more about it.

Train your weakness. But you don’t want to only train your weakness. Be interested in it and find a way to love it, don’t just do it because you are supposed to. It makes a big difference in the result. Someone who is really interested in drawing the head will have much different results than the person who just draws 100 heads to try and check it off. Don’t just draw things to check things off.

When you get really interested in things it takes you on great paths. Lee feels really comfortable in value and it’s a strength of his, and he’s experimenting to see if you can create interesting images that when the color is all gone it’s just a grey square meaning, trying to push the boundaries and deliberately not lean on value.

Avoid contentment. Of all of the artists that Will knows that gave it a go and then gave up and became a realtor, the main thing in common is that they became content with their craft. Will knows this because he was guilty of that and felt like he had already achieved his style years ago. Art is about taking risks, if you aren’t taking risks and challenging yourself, then you will be stagnant or worse, experience art atrophy.

You need to be very forward thinking. Every drawing you do, every project that you finish should be better than the last one.

Carve out R&D Time.  Jake would try and carve out R&D time each week to draw something new, a new character, vehicle, etc.

Recently Jake had been doing a lot of contract work and hadn’t really taken time to push himself creatively and he got out of shape from character design because and he sat down and it took him over twice as long to come up with a character in an interesting pose compared to how long it would normally take him. He had become rusty.

No matter what is going on in your day and week, you need to carve out some time each day to keep your skills and your creative muscles sharp.

He came up with a character and wanted to put them in a cool pose, it’s not that he couldn’t draw, it was that his instincts were rusty.

Even when you’re a pro, you still have to carve time out to train yourself. Sometimes there is a relief that comes when you can sit down and draw because you spend so much time taking care of contracts, emails, and administrative stuff.

The Batman Bruce Wayne principle, we went over this last episode, but to review: There’s no Batman without Bruce Wayne. There has to be a head in the real world and someone managing finances to support his night time crime fighting. The same is true here, you need to train and learn so that you can have fun creating.

3 - Get a life.

“It’s more important that you go off and learn what to make movies about, than how to make movies.” - Advice given to JJ Abrams from his father

You’re going to be learning your craft, and you will never “arrive”, maybe something that’s even more important is what you are going to use your craft to do.

Sometimes as illustrators we become so focused on beautifying things and making things beautiful but can make the story and the content take second priority. Some people fall in love with rendering. We can be in love with the craft and not with telling stories.

What to tell stories about? That’s why you need to have a life! You need to have experiences and live life to help inform and fuel your drawings. Don’t be shallow and vapid. You want to have some tooth and some depth to your work, when people leave they are changed and they are engaged by it.


Jake just drew his take on Darth Vader. If he just copied exactly how Vader looks in the film, it would be contributing nothing to Vader’s story, people could go online and look up a picture of Vader if they wanted to.

Instead, Jake thought, “Who is Darth Vader? He is mostly machine, he is mostly heartless, he is very intimidating and foreboding.” So Jake did a version of Darth Vader and really pushed those qualities and made a more exaggerated more comic book like version of him.

If the goal of mastering your craft is to be able to show the world your vision, then the goal of every artist is to have a vision that’s worth showing. In order to do that you need to live life and have experiences worth building off of and sharing.

Cut the fat, and live deliberately. Live less online, and more in life. Make friends. Date people. Get married. Go places. Whether it’s exploring the south side of town or the southern hemisphere, there’s something to be gained from every excursion outside of your home.

For more on this, be sure to check out our “Work / Life Balance” Episode.

The purpose of this is to fill your creative bank account with enough creative capital that you can barely contain it.

4 - Do one personal project a year.

“You make your place in the world by making part of it.” - Art & Fear

Just by creating something and putting it out into the world, you become a creator who creates. You can’t be the noun without the verb.

Every year, try and create a physical something and put it out into the world: i.e. a comic, a book, a new website, a print, etc.) Something tangible or something that someone can experience in the world.

The great thing about a personal project is that it encapsulates focusing on one thing, mastering your craft, and sharing from your own life experiences.

The way to get work is by creating work, by creating personal projects.

We often get asked, “My work is great, why won’t anyone hire me?” (which is also the topic we covered in our very first episode. If you aren’t being hired, you need to start creating that thing that you want to do and fill your portfolio with that type of work or even create a project or product that you can sell of the work you want to do.

Job offers from books that you’ve done on your own.

Take all your pent up creativity and use it by putting out a finished product at least once a year. Something tangible. Something you can point to and say, look, I made this thing.

Pump all your experiences, the craft you’ve attained so far, and your passion into this project.

You only become known for your projects you make, not for the craft you’re privately learning. No one will know the experiences your privately having unless you share them through your projects.

Oftentimes if you are a professional artist you will have people critiquing your work, asking you to make revisions, and everyone has their 10 cents to add. Personal projects can come to your rescue. Personal projects can help you hold onto your sanity.

A group in Singapore saw Will’s personal fan art, then they looked for him online and found his Youtube channel, then looked him up that he is a children’s book illustrator, and they are having a conference for children’s books and they are having master classes and they are having talks about maybe flying him out to Singapore.

Your personal project is going to give you a benchmark for yourself. This year I made this, and this is the best thing that I can make. This will give you something to aspire to beat with your next project. This will also be a calling card and something that other people can point to and say “look, this person made THIS.”

Some ideas for someone, maybe just out of high school. If you want to do comics or a children’s book, you don’t need to do a full 32 page story. Maybe just do a short story, with just 5 pages that tells a simple story.

Back in high school, Jake didn’t have energy and had a 20 page comic and so he just made it into a 5 page comic and at the end it said, “to be continued…” He printed it and gave it to friends.

Start out small.

5 - Share your work.

“An artists job is not to be perfect, but to be creating.” - Jeff Goins

The students we’ve talked to are a little afraid to share their amateur work. If that’s how you feel, quit thinking of social media as an art gallery with wall space reserved for your best work. Instead, think of social media as a peek into your studio. Invite them in, give them a glass of water and a comfy chair, and show them what you’ve been working on. No pressure there. Use twitter, facebook, or instagram as a way to document your progress online. Think of it as a public journal of your development as an artist.

Don’t make your social media a monster that you have to feed with only your best most perfect work.

Don’t be shy, share your work.

Put out work, even if it’s a struggle.

Create daily, then use social media to document that. It will help turn some people into fans as they see you work, learn, grow, and struggle. Be honest, tell people who you are and what you’re about. Tell them what you’re going to be someday, and invite them to watch your journey.

What will happen is your audience will grow as you grow. They will be your online cheerleaders sharing your work with others, and first in line to buy whatever you make.

The SVSLearn Forum are such a supportive place, and you will find a community that is generous and always trying to help lift and encourage each other.

Be sure to check out, it’s the place to go if you are interested in learning to illustrate children’s books or to learn art fundamentals.

In review:

  1. Focus on one path.

  2. Improve your craft.

  3. Get a life.

  4. Do one personal project a year.

  5. Share your Work

Lastly, I just want to share this quote from Bob Dylan:

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between does what he wants to do.”

Remember, life is too short to be stuck doing something you don’t want to do, and it’s also too short to waste time doing something that isn’t working for you. I hope these five things give you a head start down that path of doing what you want to do in life. As the [good doctor]( once said, “Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!”

Lee’s favorite quote, from a fortune cookie, “A good beginning is half done.”

Spend time being interested in the early part of an image and doing studies and sketches and stuff. Don’t rush to the finish. Start slow, build it up, and the nice finish and the portfolio piece will be a byproduct of that.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

Building A Strong Portfolio

Portfolios. Everyone talks about them, works on theirs, and knows that they are important. In this episode we go over how to add focus to your portfolio, the importance of a business plan, and offer advice on how you can beef up your portfolio, and become a more focused, well rounded creator.

New class that launches this month!

Gina Lee’s Art Licensing Class: Part 2. She has artwork that she is still making money from, thousands of dollars, that she made in college, that is getting printed on bags, shower curtains, etc. If you want to learn how to do that, check that out at!

Because Will has his Youtube Channel, does this podcast, and teaches for SVS Learn, he often gets asked a lot to give people portfolio reviews.

Handout: A list of 100+ things to include in your children’s book portfolio, at the bottom of the show notes.

Portfolio Reviews

The main thing that Will will ask people when giving them a portfolio review is: “What type of work do you want to get?”

And he will normally get one of two responses:

  1. I don’t know, I just want to work as an artist in some illustration market.

  2. More specific: I want to do [comics, children’s books, graphic novels, or animation.]

Advice for people who don’t know: if you don’t know what market you want to go into, then there is no way you can make a portfolio that will please an art director and make them want to hire you. Art directors are pretty literal.

If you think that you are good at rendering, then you may think that you could draw anything well, and that the art director will recognize that because you showed your rendering prowess. That is not the case, you have to show it!

It really is so specific. Whatever you show, literally, that’s the thing you will be asked to do.

If you have a couple of illustrations with chickens in them, then you may become known as the chicken guy!

You as an artist know that if you can draw a human figure well, then you can draw just about anything. But that’s not how art directors see it. Art director’s have to protect their reputation. This is their career and they want to be well known and respected, and someday become creative directors. They don’t want a curve ball. They will usually go for the sure bet.

You Need a Business Plan

Lee often asks the same question as Will: “What type of work do you want to get?”

That question says: How are you going to be in business? It drives the image and everything else: who the market is? how the market pays? how you get paid? how many illustrations you have to do in a month? how images are licensed? how the pay structure works? do you know how the business works and which direction you want to go in this business? Etc. This is important stuff to research and know ahead of time.

So essentially, when asking, “What type of work do you want to get?” We are asking, “What’s your business plan?”

This is a business and you need to have a business plan.

If you are at the point where you are trying to get work, it is vital that you understand this.

For example: You need to be able to say, “I’m going to work in editorial illustration, focused on these markets..., I want to work with these magazines…., and this is the type of work that they are doing.. Here’s my work and how it fits in there...” And then as a critiquer, we could tell you, “I would recommend, you take these 4 images and make them into post card mailers and send them out, and then alternate them monthly with this email marketing plan…”

The more focused and specific you are, the better advice and critique you will be able to receive.

A business plan is an evaluation of the current market and your particular direction.

Who’s getting work right now? Where is the majority of the work being hired? Are the rates going up or down? Who are your main competitors? What do you have that they don’t have? What’s your competitive advantage? What will help you get hired instead of them?

You need to be able to answer those questions. This is a very smart, logical way to approach your work.

To the person who says,“I don’t know what I want to do, I just want to work somewhere.”: You can always change it, but you will be treading water if you don’t have a plan. You need to have a definite plan.

So let’s get rid of the art side of this for a minute. Let’s say you have a $100,000 and your friend has a business plan that they want to pitch you. So you go and meet them at a cafe and say, “Okay, pitch me your idea.” They say, “I want to open a pizza place.” You say, “I’ve got $100,000 that I could invest in your place. Okay, where’s it going to be? How are you going to compete? What’s your secret?” “Oh, I don’t know.” “How much is it going to cost?” “Oh, I don’t know.” “What materials are you going to need? What’s your advertising plan?”?  “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t have an advertising plan.” Would you give that person $100,000?

With what we are talking about it’s even worse: “I want to open a restaurant.” “Okay, what kind?” “I don’t know.” We have got to be smarter than that.

Artists do that, here is most artist’s 3 Step Business Plan: 1. Make an image, 2. Post image, 3. Sit back and pray that something happens and that they get hired. We’re only half joking.

Any other business would die with that model. They have to know their product and their customer.

We do have a product. With art, sometimes we get too attached to it, and it is really personal. People can get so personally attached to their work. However, ultimately if you want to make an income from it, it is a product and you have to look at it as such, as a product. That’s what it is and you need to think about, “how much it’s worth, where it’s bought and sold, etc.”

There’s nothing wrong with making art but you aren’t going to make a living at it.

If you just want to make art for the sake of making art, or just for fun, that’s totally fine and good, but you aren’t going to make a living with it.

To The Person Who Wants to Do Everything

Sometimes Will still gets the comment, “You keep telling me I need to pick a market to work in, but I just want to work in all of them. I’m just excited, I love comics, I love illustration, I love licensing, I love animation, I just want to get hired anywhere, I don’t care.”

Pick one as your main, and then dabble in the other ones. Then if you see success in one of those other areas then maybe you can start to lean there more.

Pick the one that you know you can actually make some money at and can support yourself in. Nothing else will exist if you can’t support yourself. You need to have some sort of financial engine to support yourself.

It’s like a Venn Diagram, one circle: the thing I’m good at, and the other circle, where there are opportunities. You want those to overlap as much as possible.

For example with concept art, The technical side of it is so difficult, but interest is high, but usually a person’s ability to do it is low, and it is also very, very competitive.

How many musicians are good at all types of music, how many restaurants are good at serving all types of food, how many karate studios teach all types of martial arts?

If you don’t know where you want to go, and you’d be happy anywhere, and art directors won’t hire you based off of your work, then do a focused project to help build your portfolio.

For example, let’s say your subject matter is all over the place, you don’t have any sequential art in your portfolio. However, comics, children’s books, and graphic novels are all based off of sequential art. So you create a project, i.e. write and illustrate a graphic novel, it could be a section or part of a graphic novel or a children’s book. It could be as few as 3-5 pieces of sequential art. Do that 3-4 times with a particular market. And then you have a portfolio that could attract an art director. You can focus on classics like your spin on Little Red Riding Hood, something that’s in the public domain, that the art director will recognize and have an emotional connection previously established with that story.

Make new images for portfolios, no matter where you are in your career.

Do research: i.e. List 5 people or companies that buy this type of work, look at how much these jobs pay, who are the art directors that work at these companies that do this type of job?

I.e. Concept board book, go to Chronicle in San Francisco, would start to look at what they had done in the past and art directors that worked on those projects.

You are in a sense, preempting what you want to do. You are doing research beforehand to tailor what you want to do.

A lot of people do scary stuff but it doesn’t really work for children’s books.

Editor, wants to see if you can carry a character from one page to the next, can you draw kids that are cute and appealing, can you draw different ethnicities and genders, can you demonstrate that you can use a variety of compositions, etc?

So if you show up with a Friday the 13th Portfolio, it won’t be a good fit for children’s books.

Phases of Your Art Career

It takes a long time to develop a portfolio.

Phases of Your Art Career:

Phase 1, “Wow, I can make something look realistic!” Being able to make something look like it is jumping off the page.

Phase 2, “Wow, I’m better than my friends and family, I might be able to do this as a career”

Phase 3, “Wow, I’m even better than some of my art friends.”

Phase 4, “I’m not getting work yet, I need to get some critique.” That’s the stage  where a lot of students that come to Will are at.

Phase 5, “Man, I have so much work to do to develop a great portfolio” Start to become humbled because they realize where they are weak and where they need to improve.

Phase 6, “I need to start publishing my own work, to get seen.” At this stage, a lot of people are really good and have great portfolio’s but aren’t getting noticed yet.

In publishing in the last 12-15 years there has been a pretty dramatic change, this has allowed people to skip the line. Before there were basically 2 lines, the authors, and the illustrators.

But now a 3rd line has emerged: the author/illustrators. It seems that the other two lines have slowed. While the 3rd line has sped up. It’s cheaper to work with a writer/illustrator.

When Lee graduated he had a hodgepodge portfolio.

Lee did a set of paintings his senior year of 10 people who set weird world records. But no one really asked him, what market they were for. Lee went to New York with some stuff that was children’s books, his world records paintings”, some landscape paintings, also a series of the Grimm Fairy Tales (darker stuff) that were all done in a children’s style. Basically it was hodgepodge of images that he liked.

He is glad that the people he showed work to could see potential in him, and he got some work and found his agent there.

Batman Syndrome

Batman Syndrome: some people want to be all Batman and no Bruce Wayne. They want to spend all their time having fun, fighting crime, and driving a cool car. But Batman doesn’t exist without Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne, spends time in the real world, he foots the bills, and does research, networking, protects Wayne enterprises. All of that needs to happen for Batman to be able to go out and have fun fighting crime.

That’s how Jake was at the beginning of his career, he just wanted to have fun doing illustrations, graphic novels, working in animation, dabbling with 3D. But in order to really succeed you need to learn to embrace both the fun art side (Batman) and  the less fun business side (Bruce Wayne). That’s what we are asking of you. The fully actualized version of you is the person who can kick butt at art, and also kick butt at business.

There is only one Batman, there is only one version of you as a fully developed “Batman”. You may not be there yet, there is no one who can compete with you because you have your own unique style, once you’ve arrived there.

To go with the Pizza thing, if you are trying to compete with all of the restaurants in the world, then that is hard to compete. There is this Pizza chain in the South called, Mellow Mushroom, it’s got this giant mushroom everywhere, it’s a very psychedelic feel, the servers wear tie dye, it’s still pizza, but they stand out with their presentation and branding, they attract a younger more hip crowd.

As an artist you have a better chance of separating yourself because you have your own unique voice.

It takes a while to come up with your business plan, and it takes a while to build your style and the quality of your work up to where you can beat someone out. If you put your head down and work then it’s only a matter of time. It takes a lifetime commitment to being an artist and if you work hard you can do it.

Some people come out of school and a few years later they have already bumped people out of line. For others it can take a decade or 2.

Recommendation: stop drawing for a little while, not a month or anything like that. Sometimes artists are constantly moving the pencil, and feel a need to keep creating images and posting to Instagram. That’s great to always draw. But back up and ask, why am I drawing? Back up, look at the whole picture, why am I creating art. Do research and try to step back and be a little more informed.

Trap with social media, “You need to feed the beast”, ultimately at the end of the day. Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about social media that we miss out on other things.

Jake used to struggle with this, and we probably all do in one way or another. What have I created or not created because I spent so much time focused on my Instagram account?

Take a step back, take a break from social media, do a dive on business and seeing how business works in illustration Go and see how business works, how it works with illustration.

You’re art is going to grow but this business stuff is just as important.

Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10 years?

Be Deliberate

A good example of pencil mileage and working smart is, Piper Thibodeau. She has worked for Dreamworks, Scholastic, and other publishers, it is all because of her daily paintings.

But it wasn’t random. It was apart of her business plan and she was very deliberate and did her research. She has been doing this for years now. Pencil mileage is a real thing but being business-oriented is also vital.

Sometimes people just create so much and don’t take time to think about and pilot their career.

Take Work That Aligns With You and The Work You Want to Do

Eventually you will be hired. But sometimes it’s not what you want. How do you decide what work you will take?

Will turned down a dream job yesterday, for a board game, they wanted 10 character designs, and they had a small budget, but the deadline was just too tight. He told them if they gave him more of a heads up he would love to work with them another time.

Lee has turned down more work than he has accepted.

Will has a specific direction right now, SVS. This job would have pulled him away from that.

We’re redesigning and re-shooting our children’s book class, and expanding the sections, it will have better design, better filming ,better audio, better lessons, Jake and Lee will be teaching a lot more of it. We are going to be rolling this out starting in September dropping one course a month for a year. We will really parse what goes into it.

We would like to think of it as the most comprehensive children’s book class in the world for illustrators.

Anna Daviscourt, who Lee is working with as her mentor, she’s starting to get work and offers and Lee is helping her parse through everything and it’s easy to decide if it’s worth doing or not by seeing if it fits her artistic goals and style.

Making Your Children’s Book Portfolio

“Your work is a little too commercial for the children’s book market.”

If you get that comment it’s probably because they don’t feel like your work will fit in with the styles that fit with the market. It’s probably a little too slick or cartoony compared to what you might see in children’s books.

Want to do children’s books? Spend a lot of time at the library. What are your favorite 10 children’s books? Consume children’s books. Can you imagine a college basketball player who wants to play in the NBA but can’t name any of their favorite players?

Go to the library or the book store, make lists of what the best books have in common? What do they not have? You really need to be familiar with the different styles. Will’s best advice, create an amalgam of your top 5 children’s book styles.

Animation has a very specific look to it that isn’t a very great crossover, it wouldn’t work as well.

There are people who are in this no man’s land, between animation and illustration, they are not really desirable by either industry.

Not enough structure for animation, and not enough playfulness or approachableness for children’s books.

Mixture of not understanding illustration vs. animation.

Usually a student sketchbook, 95% of the sketchbook: faces and heads or  bodies.

Need character in an environment. And Characters interacting in an environment.

Action and emotion that’s probably at the top of Will’s list for all pieces. Especially if you are wanting to focus on narrative illustration.

Recently, Will had a portfolio where it was obvious that the first piece was the best piece and there were a lot of awesome things about it that were missing in the rest of the work, it’s time to bring the rest of the work up to par.

Will knew a guy, Carry Henry, who redid his whole portfolio in 2 weeks. He went to New York, and the art director, told him that his work looked student and showed him what they were looking for. Carry spent 2 weeks in New York working on a portfolio, in a crappy Motel. He didn’t sleep for 2 weeks and was really serious about getting a job.

Have you ever had a time when art was the only thing that you care about for a certain period of time, and you put aside everything for your art career. Have you ever tried that?

Go to children’s book publishers websites, they show you what a successful children’s book illustrator portfolio looks like.

When you are new, your whole portfolio should cycle every 6 months.

Portfolio Perfection

100+ Things you need to include in your children’s book portfolio.

Formats and sizes: spot illustrations, vignettes, full page, spreads, room for text, covers

Color schemes: full color, black and white, monochrome

Ages: adults, teens, children, baby

Gender: girls, boys, men, women Race: asian, Indian, Hispanic, Caucasian, African

Groups Activities: families, friends, classmates, co-workers

Character Consistency: animals, humans, creatures

Animals: anthropomorphised: amphibians, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects, birds

Creatures: robots, dragons, monsters, aliens, ghosts

Vehicles: cars, trucks, busses, boats, planes, construction equipment, submarines, space ships Props: household items, garage, kitchen, farm, office, food, bathroom, attic, school, games, toys

Environments: interiors, exteriors, modern, vintage, ancient, houses, apartments, land, sea, earth, outer space, dessert, forest, tropical, arctic

Seasons and weather: winter, spring, summer, fall, rain, lightning, wind, snow, fog, cold, hot Lighting: morning, noon, evening, night, spotlight, fire, ambient, on camera, on camera hidden, off camera

Surfaces: shiny, matte, textured, furry, translucent, rough

Action: falling, breaking, sliding, moving fast, running, jumping, flying, rolling, skidding

Emotion: anger, excitement, happiness, sadness, fear, confidence, curiosity, love, sleeping, pain

Scale: huge objects, tiny objects

Camera Angles: establishing, close ups, medium, distant, high angle, low angle, profile, dynamic, POV.

Complex Images: multiple figures, multiple objects


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

How to Convey a Message or Story With Your Art

What if you could make money off of artwork you did years ago?

That’s what Gina Lee does. She has a class on SVS where you can learn about how you can take artwork that you have already done or how to create new artwork that can be used for licensing (i.e. paper plates, decorations, etc.) You can check out that class here.

This next week we will be releasing a Part 2, which will cover: Trend forecasting, developing your personal style so it’s more desirable to licensers, and how to create vision boards to help direct your work for what you want to do for licensing.

Jake is reading, Keep Going by Austin Kleon. One section is all about “Create For the Sake of Creating” and Austin talks about how you can sometimes just create something and then toss it, shred it or burn it. Create just for the sake of creating. It makes the creation all focused on the joy that comes from creating, not the end product. Sometimes we get so focused on the end product, whether or not we can scan it, share it, etc, that we lose sight of the joy of creation. Oftentimes kids only care about the experience of creating, they aren’t so focused on making something perfect. Sometimes it’s nice to not be so focused on the end product.

Our topic today is: How to Convey a Message or Story With Your Art

The Kick in the Creatives podcast covered this topic and they are tagging other podcasts to cover the same topic; we were tagged by them to go over this topic and they are wanting us to tag another podcast to then talk about this. Out tag is: One Fantastic Week.


As illustrators here, we are going to focus on how to convey a story with your art.

Jake overheard this experience, when Will was teaching a class with Brian  Ahjar about creating great backgrounds. Brian is really good at telling good stories with his art. Will and Brian were critiquing students work in their interactive class and the problem many of the students were having was that they were telling story fragments. Brian’s critique on a lot of the pieces was: “I don’t know what the story is.” Oft times the illustration can confuse the viewer more than it communicates something clearly.

Just because you’re drawing a picture doesn’t mean that you are saying anything. That’s a problem you see a lot of times with amateur illustration work they just draw a character or an environment with no story in mind and oftentimes people don’t know what’s going on or have any deeper questions that they want to know more about after seeing the illustration.

That’s what we want to go over: how to tell a story and why that’s so important as illustrators.

Longevity, if something is going to be interesting for a long period of time, then it needs a story. On the other hand, sometimes people run into the problem where they tell too much story and it doesn’t give the viewer any work to do or allow the viewer to participate at all; there is a good middle ground where people can come back to it again and again, and depending on where  they are in life, they can maybe read the image in a different way.

Sometimes people paint a barn that has really no story to it, and unless it’s just amazing if it’s not telling a story then it’s not going to be as interesting.

If you aren’t telling a specific story, often what you draw asks questions rather than answers questions. Sometimes you are asking more questions and making things more confusing than you are answering. I.e. Will saw this student’s illustration where there was this happy woman in the foreground looking over her shoulder and a happy dog trailing behind her, and then in the background there is a girl that is upset, but there are not cues as to why the child is upset. You might imply that this woman is the child’s mom and that she was happy from just disciplining her daughter. It seems that she almost has glee that her kid is upset, which probably wasn’t the illustrator’s intent. That’s an example of asking more questions than you are answering.

You are asking more questions than you are answering, that is starting to move away from illustration and more towards fine art. Which can oftentimes be a lot more abstract and wanting the viewer to ask questions and think more.

David Dibble does these amazing barn paintings, with terrific color, light and shadow, but when doing that these are more of a gallery piece, a decoration for someone with a lot of money to hang on their wall. They are a decoration. The piece’s purpose isn’t so much to communicate a specific story.

Your job as an illustrator is to tell a story.

1. Every image spurs a question in your viewer.

2. Every image should elicit some sort of emotional response from the viewer

It should make them laugh, or make them interested in the story or in the character, make them want to turn the page to see what is going to happen next, make them angry, inspire them, give them awe, etc. Really cool concept art: creates a feeling of really wanting to see the movie and make the viewer want to see those characters in the movie.

Sometimes it is an action that is not resolved until the next page and it makes you want to flip the page to see what happens next.

For illustrators, generally the response you want to evoke should be the same for a broad audience. I.e. a scary illustration for a scary book, you want everyone to feel the same way, there is some intent behind it. While for fine art they desired response may be more open and it may be a lot more open to interpretation.

3. Always include a character or some sort of evidence of a character.

Don’t make your images merely decorative. Will was giving a portfolio review and the very first image was really nice but it wasn’t telling a story. Sometimes as an artist you will make these “pinnacle pieces” that are better than anything else you’ve done. If you are trying to build a portfolio to do children’s book work, you don’t want to lead with a piece that isn’t telling a story. What are you saying to a potential client?

Why the need for a character? Even if it’s a landscape it could be a castle in the distance, or a rusty car in the corner. It is almost like we are programmed to look for people and stories. If there is no character or evidence of a character it is hard to connect with the image, it just seems like a travel photograph. When there is a “character” like a rusty car it gets us to be involved in the story and it helps the viewer start to become involved with the story.

An image of a snowscape is one type of scene vs. a snowscape with footprints in the snow.

4. Use small details to add more depth to your images.

Use small details to add more storytelling depth to your images. If Jake is drawing a character he will try and give a character a quirky addition to their outfit, or they are riding something interesting, or if they are riding a horse they are carrying something behind them, etc.

Why do little details help to tell a story?

They add character depth. Those little details tell a lot about the character and become very character building. All details are an extension of the character.

If you look at a brand new neighborhood most of the houses look about the same and have very little character. They look like Monopoly pieces. However, if you look at that same neighborhood 50 years later you will have a very different experience. Fast forward 50 years, the houses will have all sorts of details that tell a story about the people who live there, the houses and all of their details have become extensions of the characters that live there. All of the details point to the character and tell a lot about them.

Beginners often are resistant to using reference. It is an acquired skill to spend more time preparing for an illustration. Doing research before diving in and cranking out an illustration. Will used to have that disease and would just sit down and bust out an illustration in a couple of hours.

I.e. Will saw a student’s illustration where there was this street corner, with a more contemporary car by a bus stop but it had a bench that was totally made up out of the student’s head. It didn’t look like any bench Will had seen before. It totally took Will out of the image and became a distraction.

If you are draw a bench in a park, you could look at different periods of time or places and draw a bench that would feel accurate with the story that you want to tell.

Lack of details can distract from the story.

You don’t have to be a slave to your reference and copy it exactly. But let it inform your work. If you are trying to develop your own style, then make sure that all of the parts of your image match and feel like they are in the same world. You don’t want everything to feel informed and then have this wonky bench that doesn’t seem to fit in.

You can’t make up an entire universe that has no reference point for the viewer.

Lee illustrated this book called, Arctic White and the whole book is in a more rural setting with animal pelts, dogs, and bobsleds etc. and it’s about this girl who gets sick of the greys of her world and wants to see more color. Lee feels like when he introduced the new colors in the story he used the wrong color pallette and it felt like it was from WalMart and the colors were too bright and saturated, he wishes he had used colors that felt a little more natural, like ground up pigments, and that would fit in that world better.

Look at the details in your piece and see if any of the details are detracting from the image or enhancing the image.

5. Avoid the climax.

You never want to show the actual climax. Your illustration should be something happening right before the climax or something that is happening right afterwards.

I.e. a kid running down the sidewalk and he falls and trips on a stick. Do you show the kid tripping and his knee scraping on the ground? Or the kid running about to hit the stick and you can imply what will happen? Or show a broken stick and the kid on the ground crying? Which has the most storytelling power?

Our April Art Contest is focused on that: “The Moment Before.”

The sequel to a book Will illustrated, Bonaparte Falls Apart, is Bonaparte Plays Ball, and in this story there is a part where he hits a homerun. Do you want to show the ball hitting the bat or the ball having already been hit?

It’s actually boring to see the ball hitting the bat.

You want to show the before or after, “Is he going to hit a homerun?” Or “Oh! He hit a homerun!”

In terms of playing with the moment, Lee likes to think of the different sounds or level of activity that come with it. Whether something is quiet or loud. When you are thinking of pacing or if you are leading up to an action you can think of the different levels of “sound” that your images have. You can think about if you want your image to be loud or more quiet.

Right before an action there is a heightened sense of potential energy, but it is still more quiet. i.e. someone lighting a fuse of dynamite.

The actual explosion of the dynamite, is a loud moment.

The aftermath, it’s more quiet again.

You can think of the story and it’s pacing and what each moment need.

You want to have moments of quiet balanced with the louder moments.

You want to have the reader fill in the gaps.

What to leave out is just as important as what you leave in. i.e. The Road Runner cartoons: a lot of action is just implied and not shown. So much of animation is anticipation.

So much of what the Coyote does is just planning and scheming and building up the anticipation.

You can build up anticipation and make the viewer start to wonder what is going to happening? You want to leave some things to imagination.

6. Use composition and point of view.

Think about worm’s eye view or bird’s eye view, they both have different emphasis, one makes things look large, the other makes things look small.

The worst point of view to use is the mushy middle. Not at eye level, not at birds eye view, etc. When we are floating 12 feet above the ground looking down on something and it doesn’t feel intentional.

You are the director, you get to decide where the camera is facing.

David Hohn and Lee give a teacup and teapot assignment where students have to create 50 different images all playing with the camera and point of view. After the first 20 the students have to start becoming creative and that’s when the best stuff comes out.

POV: Point of View.

Compositionally, you can create an image where there is a visual hierarchy. Maybe there is an image with an initial focal point but then after seeing that there is a second or third layer of the composition that you then can notice.

I.e. An illustration of a deserted island with volcano erupting (that’s the first read), and then after further looking at the image you see villagers escaping to boats, and all of these other details like how they are building a wall to help slow down lava, etc.

7. Give your viewer something to explore.

Add details that your viewer will find the more they look at and explore the illustration. Add details or sometimes hidden things, where as they look at the image they want to explore it more.

In Bonaparte Falls Apart, the main character is a skeleton, and there are lots of other scary characters like Blacky Widow.

When they introduce Blacky Widow (she’s a black widow) Will tried to add spiderweb motifs to the furniture. And it gives the viewer something to look like other than the action.

Where’s Waldo: it’s completely designed for exploration. Don’t be afraid to add those types of details to your illustration.

Lee read this book, based off of A Christmas Carol but it’s all mice and everything is made out of things that mice would use, he read this to his son a few times, and it wasn’t until he had read it a few times that he noticed that the human version of the story was taking place in the background at the same time.

Sometimes the detail is just fun stuff, sometimes it’s essential stuff. One time details weren’t clear in the text so Lee had to try and add details in the illustration to help make the story more clear.

Little Critters books: there’s like a spider or some sort of bug in every illustration. Richard Scarry does it too, it’s the gold bug.

8. Use Lighting to tell the story.

How can you use lighting to tell the story? Just by changing the time of day that totally changes the illustration. If someone is running through the forest during the middle of the day, it’s one thing but if you change it to them running through the forest during the middle of the night, it’s completely different.

Lee does a lot with time of day and seasonal cues but not so much with lighting or distinct light and shadow now.

Will did this illustration of an attic. But then he lit it as if there was a little beam of light coming through the window and just by adding a beam of light it hit 5 different objects and it told a different story because of the objects it was emphasizing.

The place with the highest contrast usually becomes the focal point, unless you have a spot of super saturated color that might stand out more.

The highest contrast point becomes the focal point.

9. Show something impossible that couldn’t happen becoming a reality.

MC Escher’s crazy drawings.

Lee likes to do illogical solutions for logical problems.

Guy Billout: does something unexpected in each piece.

Always ask self, Why am I drawing this piece? How can I make this interesting? If it’s not interesting draw more thumbnails until it is. There needs to be interest to it or some sort of storytelling.

Lee tries to do something that is unexpected in each piece. There has to be some sort of hook to it, whether it is in the environment, etc.

In Summary

How to tell a story with your art:

  1. Every image spurs a question in your viewer.

  2. Every image should elicit an emotional response in the viewer.

  3. Always include a character or some evidence of a character.

  4. Use small details to add more depth to your images.

  5. Don’t show the climax, focus on the before or the after.

  6. Use composition and point of view

  7. Give the viewer something to explore

  8. Tell the story using lighting.

  9. Show something impossible becoming a reality.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.


Work / Life Balance

How do you balance family, work, personal growth, exercise, hobbies, etc? Work / Life balance is one of those things that is universal and something that we all deal with every day. We get a lot of people asking us about this and in this episode we share about how to work more intensely, about the need to get your finances in order, our schedules and tips for scheduling, and why you need to have side interests and live a life full of meaningful experiences.

Just a reminder this podcast is sponsored entirely by

This is the place to be if you want to become a children’s book illustrator. We have 80+ courses apart of our subscription, we also have a few 5-10 week long interactive courses that will be starting up in May. We are running a 7 day free trial right now and you can try it out and see if you like it.

We are starting to record our podcast as a video and will be uploading it to Youtube.

Work/Life Balance

Our topic today is Work/ Life Balance. We have gotten a lot of people asking us about this and we’ve talked about this before on our old webinar, which was the precursor to this podcast, hopefully we will be able to address it from a few different angles today.

This is something that everyone is concerned with and it affects all of us each day.

The Basics of Establishing a Work/Life Balance

We were thinking about going over what to do with your time once you have established a work/life balance, but we wanted to start with the basics of establishing a work/life balance and share some experiences from different phases of our lives. We thought that starting with the basics would be beneficial.

Is it possible to always have work/life balance?

No. There are some phases that aren’t going to have as great of a work/life balance. When Lee was at Art Center, it was like boot camp, he was doing art from the second he woke up to the second he went to sleep, and he didn’t have good working methods back then which may have helped alleviate some of that.

There were other phases where the balance was skewed, i.e. having a baby.

Balance is not the norm but there are ups and downs and ebbs and flows and rhythms to our work/life balance.

There are times for more work/life balance.

Life is everything besides work: Spending time with family, with your spouse or significant other, exercise, recreation, playing games, etc.

Learn to Do Hard Things

Will has noticed that for a lot of young people, including one of his children, that they struggle to do really hard things. When Will was young he participated in Boy Scouts, and for that he was in an axe competition that took all day chopping down trees till his hands were bleeding. Probably one of the hardest experiences he had was when he hiked a mountain in the winter time starting at 5am and they didn’t set up camp till 5pm. Experiences like that, where you push yourself and your body to the limit, it makes other things pale in comparison and seem less difficult.

Some people don’t have hard experiences like that to build on. Things that might seem easy to some seem impossible to them.

However, compared to others throughout the history of the world, Will has never done a full days work in his life. There are kids today, who have really never worked a day in their lives.

Lee was teaching a painting class and students were commenting on how they had spent 6 or 8 hours on their master copy painting, but when he was in school that was just the start most of his would take around approximately 12 hours long. That was the norm. Nowadays we lean towards that instant gratification mindset and 5 hours can seem like forever. If we change our mindset on how long we think something should take it can change our whole attitude towards the project.

Work/life Balance is not a balance so much as it is more like an ebb and flow. There are times where you need to put everything into work, there are times of life and times of the year, or the project, during those times your life becomes the work. There are other times in life where you need to focus more on family and on friendships and it’s okay to hold back on work some to focus on those most important things, maybe you just had a baby, or got married, or had a death in the family, etc.

There is a way to have that ebb and flow day to day as well.

The main rule is: be present wherever you are at and in whatever you are doing. When you are at work, be 100 percent at work. When you are with your family, don’t be on your phone, be 100 percent present.

Jake’s mom just passed away and that is one of those personal experiences that we will all experience in our lives. Jake went and visited her before she passed and had a really special time taking care of her, talking with her, and holding her hand. He came back to Utah and her condition was worsening. He had some rough days, and had been planning on going to Emerald City Comic Con and he was debating if he should go or stay in case he needed to go back to Arizona for his mom. Jake’s mom wasn’t the type of person who wanted to cause too many waves and wouldn’t want to get in the way of family or work. She was really cool about stepping back. Jake’s sister told Jake to go and that if there was an emergency they would fly him out. He went to the event and did his best despite the undercurrent of sadness and thoughts about his mom. He tries to be present and do his best wherever he is.

1) Work With Intensity and Focus in All Categories of Your Life

It’s a conscious choice, I’m here and I’m working. It’s a very important thing to think about and to apply to every part of your life.

Learning art can be overwhelming. There is this undercurrent to art, that you should be working all the time.

While in his early 20’s Lee’s Dad got Cancer at a young age: 54 years old. Lee was living in California and his dad was in Nashville. Lee had a lot of friends in Nashville and he was trying to schedule a time to go out there to visit his father but also be able to see his friends and get the most bang for his buck from the trip. Sadly, his dad passed away when Lee was en route to see him, and that is Lee’s one regret. Time is so precious. Lee and his wife, Lisa, took his 8 year old son out of school for a few days just to go on a trip with him, and he really just wants to treasure his time with him.

Nikola Tesla, and Steve Jobs they would wear the same outfit everyday so they didn’t have to waste any time thinking of what they were going to wear.

Will has always wanted to get to the point where he realizes that time is short and that time is really so precious. We have that luxury some with being an artist where we are passionate about what we are doing. Some other jobs where you just clock in and out feel like you are just selling 8 hours of your life to that company. When you are creating your own art and you are getting better, and you are inventing yourself as an artist etc. That should become your “video game.”

So many people get so addicted to games that they schedule it to where nothing else in the world will interrupt their game time. There are times as an artist where it needs to interrupt your pleasure time.

The better you get the more fun it becomes, then you are able to start realizing the dreams you have. The work you put down on paper starts to mimic the vision you had. It becomes more fun when you are able to visualize something and then create it. It becomes a lot more fun when you are able to get past worrying so much about your technique. That’s an important part of work life balance, when you don’t struggle with the technique anymore and it becomes just the vision of what you are trying to say. Struggling with technique doubles your time on any individual piece. Once that goes away, then you are off to the races really quick!

Jake’s Phases of Work/Life Balance.

Teens: All about have experiences and drawing.

Twenties: Got married and had kids, worked to master his craft. It was all: Family, work, family, work. Not much time for friends, health, or hobbies. That’s where he got really good at his style, finding tools he liked, exploring a lot of different things, etc. He experimented a lot: messed around with modeling, animation, comics, storyboarding.

Thirties: Refining. He had mastered a lot of these things now it was time to pick one path, and zero in on getting better with his health and family. Also to put into practice those things so you can go on your own path.  Children's books, and comics, and freelance. Getting into a position to where you can do your own thing. Started SVS.

Forties: simplifying even more. Had a little more time for health and family. Now it’s Planning his trajectory to where he can do things like Will: stop working in the afternoon, and do something for his health/ a hobby for a couple of hours, and then spend the evenings with family.

There are different phases that you go through.

There will be some ebb and flow. Try and plan for it. Do things that will help give you that life balance. Don’t think you can maintain a constant. Be present and lean into your free time and lean into your work when you need to.

Different things that help give us work/life balance.

2. Lower Your Monthly Expenses

Lowering your expenses is so much easier than making more money.

If you have a full time job and you do that for 8-10 hours a day, and then you want to work on illustration at night and want to also spend quality time with your family. It can be difficult. There are only so many hours in the day.

For example, if you can cut your expenses to where you don’t have to work full time but can work part time, then you can spend those hours you gained back working on your craft.

Getting your financial life in order is a worthy pursuit. Start investigating it.

A couple of things to check out: Dave Ramsey has a great podcast. This really got Lee started on wanting to be debt free.

In the US you can have so much credit. Too much, credit, be wise and get out of debt.

Lee and his wife were really interested in the the idea of being debt free.

Lee’s wife came across a website called, Mr. Money Mustache which is all about penny pinchers to the extreme. For most of us, ultimately, we don’t like to work. Over at Mr. Money Mustache, those guys focus on early retirement, how to get off the treadmill.

This got Lee and his wife thinking, is it possible to do this?

So they started looking at where they spent their money. Some of it was ridiculous and easy to cut out immediately. Fast forward 8 or 9 years later from that point, they’re debt free. Which has made a massive difference. Now Lee can do what he wants to now. He still needs some money but it’s just so much different with how he feels about work. It’s just not as intense.

They now fully owns their house, 100%. They have a renter and now they are making a profit. The difference between now and before is about $3000. Before he was having to spend $2200 now he doesn’t spend anything and he gets a rent income of $1400 a month.

Lee’s our inspiration.

When you are in a financial bind it’s really difficult.

Will and his wife went through a time when they were not the best with their money and had a financial meltdown. He got to the point where he was waiting on some checks and he had to break into a coin jar he had collected to get money for gas and groceries, Will also had a big jar of pennies and they had to break into that jar to get some groceries: a bag of potatoes, bread, and a gallon of milk, etc. You shop differently when you’re in a situation like that; all while waiting for that check.

Lee’s in a really good financial situation. Lee doesn’t come from money. He had no help, loans, gifts, no big inheritance.

Their first home was 1 bedroom, 1 bath. He had a stated income loan. He is a success story from the time of the Great Recession. They were responsible with money. They didn’t buy a home that they couldn’t afford but just barely got in under the wire.

Jake was working at Blue Sky, working full time in the animation industry, making a healthy 6 figure a year income. He liked it but what he really wanted to do was to be independent, to work out of his home office, doing the projects he wanted to do. But he knew that if he did that he would take a drastic pay cut for years until he could build it up and get enough work and things going to match that. His wife said, we can’t live here in Connecticut where you have to have 6-figure income to afford the houses here.

So they decided to move to Provo, UT, which, at the time, all of the housing prices there were just dropping. They found this foreclosed home, the yard was trashed, the inside was trashed and they got it for a great price.Their house has never been a financial burden to them. It has made a huge difference in the amount of work that they had to take on, and it’s been a big blessing to them in the work life balance that Jake’s been able to find, for the past 8 years that they’ve been living in that house.

Be sure to buy a house that you can comfortably afford. Don’t spread yourself and your finances too thin.

Back to Lee: He and his wife started thinking about becoming debt free during a time when the idea seemed extremely outrageous. They had bought that first home (1 bedroom, 1 bath) with no down payment and now they had just taken on a $225,000 loan. Lee had barely any income. They bought this home in an area that was transitioning from being a dangerous place to becoming more gentrified.

Lee didn’t know how to do any home repair, so he went to Home Depot and got that orange book that teaches you how to do all home repairs. He redid all of the electrical, flooring, tiling, plumbing, they even tore out a plaster ceiling, etc. He was illustrating books by day and renovating his home by night. Lee noticed his neighbors were moving and he offered to buy their house, with no money.  So they sold their 1 bedroom house and made a profit. Then they bought that other house and had a higher mortgage but still wanted to become debt free. He was a broken record back then about wanting to be debt free and all of his friends told him it was impossible.

Lisa’s grandparents had passed away and left an old beat up home. Lee and Lisa went and lived there for free in exchange for fixing it up. They rented their new home out to pay the mortgage on that home.  They lived in their grandparents old home for free while his renters paid for their mortgage.

This gave them a taste for renting your house out. They started to make these huge sacrifices and huge strides to living debt free. They started renting their house out on Airbnb whenever they went on vacation.

The other thing is you need to get debt free is to live somewhere affordable. You will have a hard time if you live in Portland or somewhere extremely expensive as an artist and expect to get debt free. They moved out of Portland to Nashville which isn’t super cheap but much more affordable than Portland.

They spent 5 years getting ready to do that. They ended up buying a third home and spent 5 years fixing that home up getting ready to sell it. Lee spent 12 years, in total, fixing up houses. It took them those last 5 years to prepare to make the move to Nashville.

Lowering your expenses takes effort. You may have to move, you may have to shift things around, you may have to lower your standard of living, you may have to get roommates. But if you lower how much you have to make, your time will expand.

How do you feel today about having to take a job vs. the beginning of your career?

At the beginning of Will’s career he took everything that came in, he took all jobs. There were a lot of jobs he took in that he hated and didn’t want to do.

Now Lee takes jobs now that move him emotionally and creatively. He doesn’t take jobs for the money now. It’s vastly different.

You go through different stages in your career.

In the beginning Lee also would take everything, not just for the money, but for the exposure, “I need to be published.” You’ve got to have some credibility of working as a pro and meeting with art directors etc. You have to go through that grind.

As you get better technically, the jobs become more rewarding. As you go further along in your career and don’t have to take those jobs that don’t match up with what you want to do, as well. So this is a career that just becomes more and more rewarding as you go through it.

If you are in a position to provide for your family or for yourself as well, it doesn’t really matter where you make your money; it doesn’t have to be from art. If you have to side hustle and make money from Airbnb on the side that is just as respectable as taking on 3 extra illustration jobs.

All through his 20’s-30’s Jake’s mindset was: it has to be art, that’s all I’m good at.

But now his mindset has shifted, it could be helping his wife to start a business, or they get a rental property, or Airbnb, or flip a car, etc. There are many respectable sources of income apart from art. At some point, you need to do what you need to do to make ends meet.

Leave some portion of making art for yourself so that you can enjoy it and get something out of it, rather than just paying for the bills.

3. Be a Scheduler

This complements our step 1) Work With Intensity. If you don’t know what you need to do it’s hard to work with intensity.

From 8-12 I’m going to be doing this thing, from 12-4 I’m going to be doing this thing, etc.

Some of our scheduling strategies:

Lee works for around 8 hours a day. He will work for 50 minute chunks and then take 10 minutes off. During those 10 minute breaks he will stand up and walk around and move. As illustrators we can work for hours and hours being stationary and it’s not good for our health.

As illustrators sometimes our posture can get really bad because we are always leaning over to draw and may not have the best chair situation. Jake switched to a stool and has been sitting on a stool for the past 6-7 years and that has helped him sit up straight and has helped him not have back pain. Lee has this climbing harness type thing that helps pull his shoulders back, the natural position for drawing is rolling your shoulders forward. If you do that enough, the chest muscles become contracted and the arm muscles on the back of the arm become elongated and your body can get used to being in that state. It can become hard to get out of that state because your body has adjusted to it.

It’s important to think about your health. All of the stuff we are talking about today are long term strategies because if we are going to be doing this for life we want to figure this stuff out.

You need to take time to look at your calendar and figure out what you are doing.

When Jake got started working for himself, he would look back at his day and realize he had nothing to show for the day despite having been in the studio for 8-9 hours, he didn’t even know what he had done. So he started doing a time audit where every minute of the day was accounted for. I.e. The last half hour, I confess I surfed Twitter, but then the next half hour I buckled down and got that illustration done, and then for these 3 hours I did this, then I spent 2 hours clearing out my inbox, etc. He did this for months, recording how he was spending his time, and making to do lists and checking things off.

Once he had done that time audit and could see where his time was being spent, then he could widdle out stuff that was unproductive. He used to think that he could get so much done at night after the kids went to bed, and that used to be the case because he was younger and had more energy, but now as he’s aged he’s noticed that for 3 hours spent at night could get that same amount of work done in the morning in just 1.5 hours. So he’s 50% less productive at night.

So he decided to take the times where he’s most productive and put the most creative work into those hours, and to take the time where he’s least productive and that’s when he’ll surf Twitter, watch Youtube videos, read a book, watch a movie, etc.That way he’s not doing unproductive stuff during unproductive time. This has made a huge difference with how he sets up his schedule. The other thing with this is that he doesn’t want to stay up late watching Youtube videos so he goes to bed earlier, and wakes up earlier, and gets more work done before his kids get up in the morning. It’s an overall refining of his schedule and how he works.

Will doesn’t write things down but he knows what he needs to get things done and he thinks about it a lot. What Lee has learned about being a scheduler is that once you write it down you don’t have to worry about it and think about it but it’s just done. Will does use a to do list but he doesn’t put a timestamp down trying to figure out how long everything will take.

Jake’s perspective on Will: Will does have a to do list, he comes into work focused on his MIT (Most Important Task) and he is focused on getting that done. If anything else gets accomplished then that’s just gravy. Then he goes home. Sometimes he gets the thing done that he wanted to get done and he can leave. It’s pretty awesome and takes a lot of discipline.

Part of it is that Will doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day. He likes to break up his workday. Because his kids are grown he does a lot of drawing at home later on. He breaks his day into thirds: 1) morning/afternoon: work. 2) afternoon: exercise, shopping for the family, doing things with them. 3) nights) draw and get work done at home, especially the drawing aspect, he can do that anywhere with the iPad. Will has found a schedule that really works for him. Everyone should put a priority on that. Some people work better and are more creative at night. Some people, like Lee work better in the morning, etc.

Jake’s daily schedule:

4:30-5:00AM: Wake up, get an hour of work in.

6:00-9:00AM: Make breakfast, take kids to school, work out/go on a run, shower and head to the studio.

9:30/10AM-12:30/1PM: Straight creative time, do the most cognitively demanding work, same with his early morning work time.

1PM-5:30PM: Afternoon is focused on administrative stuff, recording podcasts, meetings, checking email (Inbox zero method), phone calls, meetings, etc.

6-7:30/8PM: Family Time. Dinner, spending time with kids, helping them with school projects, etc.

8-9PM: Decompressing, reading taking notes, maybe write a little for a comic project, then go to bed. Tries to get 7 hours of sleep a night.

Good schedules are something that are thought about. Not just random.

That was Jake’s weekdays. The weekdays are super focused but the weekends are not. Friday nights he will stay up late watching a movie with one of his kids. Saturdays he sleeps in and will go on a nice long run in the morning, does chores, house stuff, etc. Sundays are completely a day of rest, he goes to church, spends time with his family, plays board games, maybe they make a dessert, watches a Miyazaki film, completely unplugs, tries not to even look at his phone. Then after a weekend like that he is itching to get back to work and it’s no problem waking up at 4:30 in the morning to start another work week.

Lee’s Workday Schedule:

Lee is naturally an early riser, he tried to be like Jake and wake up early and go straight to work but was feeling some resistance there. Feel things out, if you are feeling some internal resistance, then try and change it up. He would wake up and try to work and would feel antsy, he couldn’t just stumble from his bedroom to his office and start working.

He wakes up at 5-5:30 and will do an intense workout, always something athletic, he will go on a run or lift weights, and will spend 1-1.5 hours doing that. Once he got on that schedule it was perfect for him and he would come back home or to the office, wherever he is working that day, feeling balanced, having burned through some of that weird energy and he’s ready to sit down and work because he’s already got some exercise.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: he has designated those days to be an illustrator, that’s when he does his book work. He has a separate studio away from his home and that’s where he does his illustration work. He will work there for 8-10 hours with his 50 minute blocks. He is focused, just does illustration, doesn’t answer the phone, it’s a very focused time frame for him.

Tuesday, Thursday: are for teaching, for doing SVS, for recording podcasts.

Lee can never do anything halfway, he gets intensely interested in things.

Avoiding a trip up with being a scheduler: Before when Lee would get out his calendar and start scheduling he would schedule out the perfect day and with no space for error, he was going to be the epitome of productivity, and then he’d get a revision or something unexpected would pop up and throw everything out of whack. Finally, after a number of frustrating years trying to deal with that he realized something: it’s so easy, don’t be idealistic, leave open space in between the projects. All of the sudden things started working out a lot more smoothly. Obviously, you have to account for things you don’t expect, but by not trying to schedule a perfect day enabled him to have perfect days, if that makes sense.

Don’t get frustrated if your schedule gets thrown out of whack. It’s still good to know what the the schedule should be so that if things start going off track and it’s your fault, you can get back on track. A good schedule is your armature to hang everything on. Be willing to dodge and weave as needed.

The calendar is a guide/ armature. You will never stick to it, some things take longer, some things are shorter. That’s an important concept, before Lee would derail himself and go from having a crazy scheduled day to no schedule and nothing else would get done. On the weekends Lee has nothing scheduled.

5. Live Life

In order to be a good illustrator, it’s not about your craft, it’s not about your technique, it’s about your experiences that you are trying to share with people. It’s, what are you creating art about?  What are you trying to share about? You can’t do that if you are vapid, if you don’t have anything inside of you. So you’ve got to have experiences, you’ve got to have a life outside of the studio, you’ve got to have hobbies or something like that.  Once you get through that stage of life where there’s that intensity to master your craft and you get there, once you’re sort of on this track where you set your schedule and you’ve got some room in there for balance, it informs your art. Maybe even before then, you find a way that you can do stuff, you can travel (not traveling to Europe, but maybe just across town, or to that museum you’ve been meaning to go to).

You need to fill your creative bank account, you need to fill it with creative capital and use it to know what to create art about.

Jake’s family will always go on a summer vacation for 2 weeks to a month, depends on the schedule. They’ll do a road trip and go to New York to visit family. It’s a time to have experiences, to spend time with family, and just to have fun. The kids all sleep in a cramped beach house, and they get to play actual games like Cornhole that don’t involve buttons.

Jake also raises chickens, which is sometimes fun.

A lot people listening to this might be in school and not have the finances that we have. Back then Will would find time to exercise, and it was always running and that’s about it. Now he flies model airplanes, plays the bass, goes hiking, goes mountain biking, plays racquetball 3 days a week, sometimes he snowboards.

Really work hard in the beginning, you have more bandwidth and capacity to work hard then.  You don’t see many 80 year olds starting at 9 in the morning and going until they drop at night.

You can do that when your are in your 20s, 30s, and even 40s.

What you do is as important as taking time to work on other things. Will can see a lot of his childhood experiences in his newest Bonaparte book. He’s putting things in there from his childhood.

It’s all about those raw experiences, you need to make time to have those meaningful and special experiences.

If Will could do it all over again, he’d have spent money differently in the beginning, and became more financially independent earlier on. He would have cut out half of the work that he did early on, because he did so much horrible work: jobs that were so heavily art directed that he wasn’t happy with the work afterwards, and the client probably didn’t care too much about it either, after the fact.

All 3 of us are later in our careers, where we’ve all been doing this for 20 years or more. Don’t get frustrated, if you’re like: “I’m never going to get there.” Jake never thought he’d get to where he is right now. There was a time in his life where he wondered if this was even possible. Will also questioned if he could do it early on too.

We work smart not hard. We don’t spend as much time spinning our wheels. The execution is quicker. We’ve spent all of that time making those mistakes before.

It’s like the guy who, when Will would help him move a couch, had already prepped the whole house, he had already put things away so they wouldn’t trip, and had tied the hide-a-bed down so it wouldn’t spring out and put a ding in the wall. He had done all that prep work so that when we would go to move, we would move it and it would be done, there weren’t a lot of mistakes made. Art is much the same way. When you’ve figured out your process, you just sit down and crank something out and it works out. It’s all about the mistakes you’re avoiding.

I.e. Jake did 2 character designs the other day in 3 hours, 10 years ago, it would have been a 10 hour job, but now he’s got a system down, he knows how he’s working, and his intuition is finely attuned, he knows whether or not he is on the right track or not pretty quick. So the sad news for a student is that when you’ve worked 10 hours on a project, don’t pat yourself on the back, because you’ve only worked 3 good hours.

Illustration is about experiences.

How do those experiences affect illustration?

Late teens to early twenties, Lee was really into competitive skateboarding. How he sees the world was changed. Even now when he goes down the stairs and sees a handrail, he sees it first as an obstacle, and second as a handrail. The whole world is like that.

He has noticed that others don’t see the world the same way as he does.

Skating was all about finding lines in these urban environments and it’s become a tool he uses now in his compositions. The way that he composes a picture has to do with the lines that he saw as a skateboarder. Each thing that you do complements other things that you do in life. And vice versa, how does illustration affect the way you see the world and other things in your life?

The same goes for intensity, when Lee works out he tries to work out with intensity. Each of these things plays off of each other and make each other better. Try and see links between things.

In Summary:

  1. Work With Intensity and Focus in All Categories of Your Life

  2. Lower Your Monthly Expenses

  3. Be A Scheduler

  4. Live Life

Quote: “Make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that you can connect with yourself.” -Austin Kleon

That’s what this work/life balance is all about: to disconnect from your world so that you can connect with yourself, so that when you are back to connecting with your work, with the world you know what to work on, what to talk about, and what your work is to be about.




Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

How to Become a Better Children's Book Artist

How to Become A Better Children’s Book Artist

We want to go over some questions that Will has been emailed about that all revolve around the general topic of: How to become a better children’s book artist.

As a Children’s Book Artist Do You Really Have to Speak and If So to What Capacity?

Will got this email from a student who got a literary agent last summer and who was wondering if publishers require illustrators to do school visits and publishing conferences. Essentially they are afraid of speaking and were wondering: As an illustrator, do you have to speak?

Will used to be petrified of speaking, it probably doesn’t seem like that now because he has a Youtube channel, and speaks at conferences, and now it’s no big deal to him. However, before his heart would pound like crazy just thinking of an upcoming speaking engagement, if he had to speak or teach at church or in school. Maybe some of you also feel that way.

Do you really have to speak and if so to what capacity? Jake has done 15 or so books through publishers and he has done school visits for 1 book in particular and it was completely optional. They asked if he would be willing to do it. He went to 6 different schools and didn’t know how much it actually helped his book sales? Ultimately, he doesn’t know how effective it is. You shouldn’t worry about it or let it hinder you from pursuing a career in children’s books.

Maybe if it’s apart of your business plan and you are visiting 50 schools a year and you have a line of books to offer for sale, then it might be much more effective. There are some people who do this and they make a lot of money from it. If you go out of state and visit 5 or 6 schools and line them all up and coordinate it so it works out then you can stack a bunch of schools next to each other. Some people will finish a book and then spend the whole next year doing school visits.

Once they were trying to get an illustrator to come and do a video with SVS, and he said no and the reason he said no was really really smart, and Lee thinks about this all of the time now. The reason he said no was “because he would come film a 2 to 3 hour video, but it would take a month or two to get ready for it, with rehearsing it, practicing it, writing the course, it takes so much time to prep it and he has learned that he doesn’t have the capacity to do that sort of stuff. Now Lee tends to fall along that line now when he is asked to speak at a SCBWI Conference etc. it’s exhausting and it zaps all of his creative energy out of him. So for Lee, it’s a mixed bag for him.

If you take 2 months to prepare a presentation and you can give that same presentation 50 or 100 times then it really pays off and is worth it. But if it’s for a one time or two time presentation it may not be worth it.

David Biedrzycki and Jerry Palada do school visits all of the time.

So maybe we’re not directly answering the question but these are all different ways to consider speaking and the benefits of it.

Average payment for a day is about $1500 and so if you do a few days in a row it can really add up pretty quickly.

For David, his wife does all of his booking, hotels, and airfare. And he is now going back to some schools that he went to a few years ago. Publishers like it and want to work with someone like that. It takes away almost all of the risk because if they are doing so many trips, the publisher should be able to at least sell the amount to break even. These guys make a lot of money.

How about speaking at bookstores?

You have to decide who you are. Some people love to travel and know how to work while they are out and they can keep their routine. It seems like a really lopsided investment and you don’t get much out of it.

Lee, works on a book and then it comes out six months later and he is already on to the next thing and he doesn’t want to stop all of that.  The thing is book stores typically don’t pay, but schools do. So you’re paying to go and sign books and it’s not very profitable.

It’s really hard to make them worth the time. You might sell 10 books in 2 hours and with your royalty of 50 or 75 cents a book, you might make $7. Book signings work for the famous but not so much for the up and coming person.

Why You Should Learn To Speak Publicly

If you do this job and you start to get work, at some point you will be asked to speak publicly. So should you? Yes you should, at least learn to be comfortable speaking. Take classes or do a workshop to learn to speak publicly. You will be asked to speak publicly, or you’ll be asked to teach, or you’ll be asked to present, we get those offers all the time.

How to get good at it? Start saying yes to every opportunity where you can. Will used to be that guy that hated it. Will could barely speak when he was chosen as illustrator of the year for the California Teachers Association, and he had to go around giving speeches and he gave a speech in front of 1000 people in a ballroom and that was 10 years ago and he was so nervous beforehand but now today he has spoken so much since then that it doesn’t even phase him anymore.

One nice thing about this profession is you can use visuals and you don’t have to worry so much about people staring at you while you are talking.

The best advice is the advice that makes you a better person in the end, it’s what makes you more experienced and more capable.

So if public speaking is not your strong point, then do whatever you need to do to learn how to feel comfortable with it.

Believe in your work and take jobs that there is a passion there for. You see these people who are terrified of speaking but they are passionate about the work they do and so they push themselves to share that with others.

Maybe you aren’t passionate about puppy dogs and you did a book about puppy dogs, but maybe you are passionate about creativity and how a kid could grow up to become a creative artist. A lot of kids have roadblocks of parents or teachers saying that art isn’t a real job, and you speaking to them can become a driving force to help you overcome those fears.

Being a creative person, being someone who can draw for a living is such a rare privilege and is unlike any other job.

You Create and You Share

Part of that is to promote yourself and promote your work, your style, and your stories.

Somebody needs to hear your message.

Nobody is gonna hear it if you don’t start sharing yourself.

There is a person in you who is good at public speaking. You need to have faith in yourself.

Really good book:

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making Work That Lasts

1st half of the book: How to make a book that stands the test of time, that isn’t dated in 10 years, how to create something that is interesting now and in 30 years.

2nd half is about how to market the book and get it into the hands of the people who want to read it.

Jake read the book last year and marked it all up, and flipping through it right now there are a lot of great things.The book applies to anyone who creates work, it’s not focused on children’s books but there is so much that still applies.

If you get invited to speak, have some sort of takeaway that you want the audience to leave with.

Lee had a graduate school program and they had tons of artists come and speak but it doesn’t mean it was all effective.Some would just show art and have pretty meaningless commentary to go with it.

Have a specific topic or point you want to make and then have a series of images to show that topic and teach about it.

Tell stories about yourself, as humans we are interested in learning more about each other and we love hearing personal stories.

Will’s best talk he ever gave was speaking to almost 300 librarians, and he was told 9 months in advance about the presentation, and he kept a Google doc and he didn’t panic or anything but instead anytime an idea came to his head he would jump on his phone and jot it down on the Google doc. This helped him get all of his ideas down leading up to the speaking engagement.

His speech was all about “I was that kid”, he showed how he wasn’t the best student and how we shouldn’t write off these kids that are problems, because some of them are really creative and some of them are being forced into the school system. He spoke for an hour. Will sold a ton of books.

Don’t be afraid of speaking, if you do it a lot, you’ll get good at it. Anything you do a lot you can get good at it.

How to Draw Women Respectfully

Another email Will got was in response to a “3rd Thursday” a while back which was the precursor to this podcast. In it, Shannon shared how she was thinking about the issue that you they brought up that men struggle to draw females because they don’t want to sexualize them and they don’t want to over emphasize typical female features.

There is a big problem with the way that women are depicted. There are so many people doing “sexy” versions of classic characters. And the thing is those people get famous from it.

There was this artist who draws really sexualized characters and got chewed out online for it.

There is this endless appetite for it from consumers and artists and we can’t stand it.  

Jake’s approach: he has a mom, sisters, a wife, and daughters, He doesn’t want to ever disrespect them. His test is, if I would be okay with any of these people wearing the outfit that I’m drawing then I’m okay to draw it.

Don’t shy away from the female figure, there isn’t just one female figure there are 100 different female figures. He will approach it from, “Who is this character?” What does she need to accomplish? What about her image will backup and support her personality and her role in the story? He will start with the personality and then will work from the inside out.

How do you draw a female character and make her look feminine without making her look sexualized?

For drawing children it’s super easy, he just beefs up the eyelashes a little more and then he draws her wearing clothes that look female, when he drops off his children at school he looks at what kids are wearing and thinks of what outfits look feminine and more masculine and then he will dress his characters accordingly.

If it’s an older women she will have hips, and a chest, not as broad of shoulders, any genetic thing that shows that this is a female and not a male he will try and put that into his designs.

Lee had a great figure drawing class where they would have both a male and a female model take the same pose and instead of focusing on the obvious differences in anatomy, they focused on the more nuanced differences in their gestures. The more subtle things.

I.e. A man in a neutral pose, arms will typically round to the outside. A women standing in that same position, typically her elbows will go in and her lower arms will go out. It is a distinctly different silhouette just based on what their arms were doing. In every pose there was always a subtle difference or separation in how males or females carry weight and balance and all of that stuff. So if you can lean on those other things then it helps it become a lot more believable.

Before puberty we all have pretty similar body types. There are some tricks that you can use to add to either the femininity or masculinity of your children characters. Will adds thicker lashes when drawing his female characters. He also sometimes uses a little bit more round or soft shapes for his female characters and uses some more boxy or square shapes for his male characters.

This is a political topic. As illustrators we are faced with drawing all sorts of characters. Male characters, female characters, young and old characters, animals etc. When you are going down the street you notice what makes someone look more feminine or masculine.

If it’s a female character then you need to make her look like a female character. If you’re drawing a male character you need to make him look like a male character.

There is a lot of crossover, there are some female characters that have some features that would traditionally be considered more masculine, and vise versa.

You really need to be really respectful of that particular character and portraying that character the very best you can.

Jake did this ABC book about apples and there was a lot of grey area in the story. He wanted to avoid the whole issue of making sure that there was enough girls and boys, and that there was the right level of diversity among characters and he just made all of the characters animals. It took away a lot of stress and helped him develop the story and push his designs more and he was able to get some great portfolio pieces from it.

One of the through lines was that the pig got to eat whatever he wanted and the bear was on a diet. It was a lot more fun, interesting, playful, and kid friendly.

It is a proven technique, drawing animals can help you not have to worry so much about some of those other sensitive topics.

How to Create Emotional Images

The third question we’d like to address came from another message Will got which was about, “What makes an image emotional?” Sometimes we over focus on rendering and miss the emotion.

Will just finished a class with Brian Aijar, and one of the things that struck him was that the students did great work but one of the things that they were weak on was coming up with a strong story for their piece. Instead sometimes it was a story fragment. They might say,” The idea for this one is that the person is looking off to the side… that’s the story.” But, why?

Another issue was that sometimes they would have things in the illustration that were confusing or distracted from the story. We would be giving critiques but didn’t know what the illustrator was trying to say.

Have a Complete Story Idea

The way to start to convey emotion in your piece is to have a complete story idea. Sometimes you can still overdo that and try to tell too much story with your image.

It needs to be a clear illustration. Here’s an example of a good story: Someone’s walking down the stairs and they are holding a huge birthday cake and you see at the bottom of the stairs child’s blocks, roller skates, or a ball, something they are about to step on. That is a complete story idea. You could show that story at beginning or middle or end. You could show them about to step on the ball, you could show them slipping and the cake going up in the air, or you could show the aftermath with the skate next to them  and looking at it you could completely figure out what the illustration is is all about.

So in order to convey a  human emotion or make your piece feel emotional and have someone to relate to it, you have to tell a story that everyone has experienced. But we have a hard time relating to a story fragment, like someone looking over their shoulder. With a story fragment you are asking more questions than you are answering.


David Hohn and Lee are teaching an illustration class right now. One of the big things they push is that students include keywords with their sketches. They want to know the intent of the piece. Too often, if students haven’t trained this way or just draw without thinking then there is no intent.

We frame it all on if they are hitting those keywords/their intent, or not.

I.e. You say you want this to be scary, but it doesn’t look scary and now let’s go over why, and we will go over the design of the piece, the gestures, the characters, etc. But without knowing that intent then there is no driving force.

Learn How to Tell a Joke

Learn how to tell a joke. Not just creating jokes out of thin air, but go find jokes and learn how to tell them. Learn the setup, learn the meat of the joke, learn the payoff. So much is going on there, jokes are just mini stories. The more you do that the more it translates over into your work and you aren’t satisfied drawing a character just looking to the left, but you want to know what drives that character.

The main thing is, a joke teaches you to establish a character, establish a problem, establish a situation, establish an environment that that character is in, and then how that problem is solved in a clever or funny way. All of the elements are there in a short joke that apply to illustrating, comic books, even public speaking, all of that applies.

The reason for illustration, what separates it from just art or just drawings: illustration tells stories, everything you draw should be one of these parts of the story: it should be the setup, the meat, or the payoff. You want to leave the person looking at it asking, “What next?” or “What just happened?”

Will also has his students write a sentence or two to describe their intent for their illustrations.

Here’s an example that he had from one of his classes: “Two girls gossiping about another girl.” This is a great start! And the story was working well in the drawing. It’s hard to put a definition on how far you need to take something.

However we wanted to know why they were gossiping about the other girl and as soon as we added a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of the girl’s shoe, it became a much clearer idea and story.

Basically, we just helped Will answer his emails.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

How to Make an Impact With Your Art

"How to do illustration, how to make a living at it, and how to make an impact in the world with your art." If you listen to our podcast frequently that probably sounds very familiar to you. We have focused a lot on the first two points in most of our episodes but today we want to talk more about the third part of our podcast introduction that we don’t talk about as much, which is: How to make an impact in the world with your art. We go over ways in which we have seen our art impact the world and individuals, how it's impacted us, how you can make an impact with your art, and something you shouldn't do if you really want to make an impact. We also will go over some super practical tips for getting started!

What work have you done, that has had the most impact in the world?

Meaningful Lessons

Will doesn’t write the children’s books that he has illustrated but he feels like he really is able to bring a lot to the table with his art and is able to make the stories more clear. One of those books is Bonaparte Falls Apart, and he is working on the sequel right now and it has an anti bullying theme that is not overt, in that the story holds up on its own. He loves and enjoys working on them and because the Bonaparte books have sold really well, even though the second hasn’t come out yet, the publisher has hinted that there may be a third book.

Pretty much every kid experiences bullying and even the kids who are bullies probably get bullied at home. It’s really an important message to help kids become empowered and overcome and deal with those emotions in a positive way and overcome. The Frances books have a kid who is a bully in them.

Will had an epiphany reading those books because he used to tease his sisters and sometimes he was a bully; in one of the Frances books he remembers that the sister goes off and is crying because of her brother’s bullying and it really tugged at his heartstrings and must have been pretty impactful because he can still remember that experience now over 50 years later. He realized that he was the bad guy in the story and it really changed him. It was a children’s book that taught him that lesson. I don’t think that you can quantify the impact of your art.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember where we have shared things and if we have shared stories before, so we apologize if we keep sharing some of the same things.

Gentle Reminders

Lee feels that where he has made the most difference, it was probably not with his books, instead he feels like it is the connection that he has been able to make with his one off images. Sometimes it’s a momentary thing and he strikes some inspiration and creates a fun print, and then he goes to art fairs to sell them.

One time, Lee was getting ready to close at an art fair when there was this woman who came to his booth and one of Lee’s prints caught her eye and she was holding it up looking at it. Lee was waiting for her to leave so that he could tear down his booth but he noticed that she had tears running down her face, she was crying, he wondered what he had done or what he should do. She was looking at this picture of this girl swinging really high on a swing hanging down from a tree. She shared that her sister had died when she was young and that she liked to swing just like that. Lee gave her a hug and she was just bawling and he gave her a print. It was just such a personal connection and one of the most powerful moments of his career. That’s just one experience.

On a more consistent basis, when doing art fairs, older people will come to his booth and they will stop and look around, and have this starry look in their eyes. One time this lady said, “I remember this”, not speaking of one piece in particular, they were talking about the feeling of being young. It wasn’t just one image or just one book, but the overall impression of Lee’s work.

Lee gets these ideas and likes to make images and are fun, whimsical, and capture a moment. He has seen that happen a lot, with older people coming to his booth and it gives them this shot of something they may have forgot and they leave smiling.

Unanticipated Impact

One of the things that Jake did that inadvertently had an impact on the world was start an art challenge called Inktober.

He didn’t set out trying to make an impact on the world but he gave himself this challenge to try and get better at his craft. He easily could have said, “I’m just going to do this challenge in ink and you guys can follow along.” However, instead he decided to make it a challenge and he invited other people to participate if they wanted to and he made some parameters or rules for the challenge: you draw an ink drawing every day for the month of October and share it online. What started out as a single person doing a self improvement art challenge turned into thousands and thousands of people.

He gets so many emails every year from people sharing how it has helped their creativity; it gets people drawing for themselves again, a lot of professionals share that they draw so much for work and Inktober helped them draw for themselves and remember the fun in drawing; people show how they  improved so much from doing this and got better as an artist; others share how they got all of these new followers because they showed up and posted consistently on Instagram.

Jake had no idea what he was starting. He is trying to actively promote it more and participate more and try to make it more accessible for others.

He’s done childrens books, graphic novels, worked on animated films, but everyone views him as the Inktober guy. At first, he thought, “No, i’m so much more.” But now he accepts it and if that is his legacy or how he is known, then that’s great.

What work have you done that has had the most impact on one other person, not the world, but one other person?


Success leads to Success

Will: We have all been very fortunate. You have one success, and it leads to more success. A small amount of people setting out to do the thing that they set out to do and they experience success. It’s not from talent, its from getting little successes along the way and building off of those.

Will got started with editorial but now that market has dried up a lot. He would tell his students, “You can’t follow the path I was on, the water washed away the path.”

We’ve probably had a lot of situations where we have helped someone and had someone come up and share a testimonial of how we have helped him.

The one that has been especially meaningful to him is that a handful of times he has been at a comic convention and had someone come up and say, “I have a booth over there.” They would continue to share how the reason they have a booth is because they watched Will’s youtube series on doing comic conventions. Will’s Youtube Channel. Will shared his experience with his first comic convention along with all of the failures, finances, disappointments, and successes he experienced when breaking into the con scene. He really documented his experience, both his failures and successes.

It is so rewarding to hear, “You changed my life, I’m here because of you.” It’s so rewarding, and the internet magnifies our ability to have a positive impact in the lives of others.

Doing what we do as teachers, we get a lot of emails sharing successes. Fairly frequently we get emails saying, “I got an agent”, “I got my first book deal”, it is so nice to hear of these successes and please keep sending us those emails and keeping us updated. We also get an email once a week or every other week talking about this podcast.

Success begets success. It makes it easier to be successful when you have successes along the way. What separates us from other artists just beginning their career is just the time that we’ve been doing this. I really do feel like anyone that sets their mind to anything, almost anything, can accomplish that thing. I mean you can’t grow and become an NBA player if you’re short. (however, that didn’t stop Spud Webb But there are so many things that you do have control over. I think that the thing people are battling today more than anything, if you are listening and wondering if you really can make an impact in the world with your art, the answer is that you can and you will, but you have to be willing to make sacrifices. Especially early those sacrifices are painful but later on they aren’t as bad and you are able to have more of a work life balance.

Keep Working At It

For Lee and his books, he likes the books that he has done, but he hasn’t had the impact that he wants to on his audience yet. He feels he hasn’t done the book he was born to do yet, that is what drives him to write, and he is turning down a lot of offers, and he feels guilty doing so but he hasn’t done the book that he really wants to offer to the world yet.

That’s his “First world problem” Why you don’t want to do the thing that you have set up your life to do.

Over time your career becomes more and more specific. Early on in your career: someone could ask you to paint a window, work on editorial, or on books, but now, for Lee, it has become so much more specific. You might not set out to be that specific but it’s where your career takes you.

What work have you done that has had the most impact on you, personally?

For Will working on fanart has been a game changer. It changed the style that he does even in his children’s books, the book series he is doing right now is based off of the style he developed from working on fan art.  

Will before fan art: Over illustrated. This has been an evolution/maturing process, before his priorities were misplaced. Lee could add a lot more detail and rendering but he chooses not to. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Will would have editors tell him his color stuff was cool but did he have anything else, they were basically telling him that he was putting too many colors in, and was emphasizing things that didn’t need to be emphasized. It made him really reevaluate. He went to comic con and realized that that’s what every artist does they try to really hit you over the head with a lot of color, and he didn’t want to fit in. He wanted to stand out, and so he thought of a style that would stand out, and it gave him a style he could use for children’s books.

Lee was really frustrated in school and right out of school. He had some successes, but he hadn’t found his medium: he tried acrylics, pastel, oil color, and then one day he tried watercolor. Then it was off to the races, and it really started to happen and he didn’t feel like he had to force it. It didn’t happen in one piece but it was a process. It was about discovering the right medium that fit his sensibilities. It was night and day from that point on.

Adding Good to the World

Jake’s answer to the most impact on one person question:

Jake came up with Missile Mouse, the graphic novel, and he put it out into the world. He was hoping it would be a great success, maybe become a New York Times Best Seller, Pixar love it and it would be made into movies and... It sold fine, but it didn’t have the impact he had wanted it to.

One day about a year later he got an email from a woman whose son was really sick and was hospitalized with some illness that you never want a kid to have to go through, she said that the one thing that gave her son pleasure and made him happy was reading the Missile Mouse comic and just wanted to thank Jake for making it and putting it out into the world.

That really stopped Jake in his tracks and he realized he was so dumb. It doesn’t matter how worldly successful Missile Mouse or any project you put out there is, so long as it makes someone happy or improves someone’s life to some degree, just one person, that right there can make it successful and worth it. That is one of his stories.

Another thing is his Youtube channel. He’ll get emails sharing how they have really helped people.

One of the things that Jake created that had the most impact on him?

The first real perspective drawing that he did in 7th grade. That was him learning a new technique or principle of art and then sitting down and trying to make this thing the best that he could make it. When he finished the piece he really felt like it was quite stellar, he was amazed that he could create something like that and his art teacher really appreciated it and gave him good marks. He saw that piece going through an old box a few years ago and thought, “Oh my gosh, I was proud of this?” There was nothing special to it.

But what it taught him was, he could learn to do art. Art wasn’t just a hobby, this is something you can learn to do and get good at and devote your life to. That piece had a huge impact on Jake.

Create Something

The reason we have gone over these three questions:

1.What work have you done, that has had the most impact in the world?

2.What work have you done that has had the most impact on one other person, not the world, but one other person?

3. What work have you done that has had the most impact on you, personally?

And the reason we shared them in that order is because there is a common thread between them. The main thing is, and the way that you will ever make an impact is you have to actually make something. You have to create something. It doesn’t have to be awesome, it doesn’t have to be good. Jake’s perspective drawing wasn’t awesome or good, it was okay.

It wouldn’t have gotten any likes on Instagram, (maybe a support like from his sister.)

The impact can only happen if you create something, if you make something and put it out into the world. Nowadays we have so many resources and ways to share things with the world.

The key is:

  1. Learn your craft, and share it.

  2. Create something, do something, or make something, and share it.

  3. Teach people how to do the thing that you’ve learned.

  4. Always be engaging with people, asking questions, answering questions, and be apart of the community that you want to be apart of.

What you create doesn’t have to be a full graphic novel, It can be a flat piece of artwork like the prints that Will and Lee would sell at art fairs and comic conventions.

You can create something that shares a message that you believe in. It can be a story that you want to pass on to people, it can be any sort of medium that you love and want to be apart of.

Lee’s Pet Peeve

The discount share: “here’s something I made, it’s not that good...”

The self deprecating share, where you are putting it down before others have the chance to put it down. It’s not putting your work on the line.

It’s the social media disease. So many Youtube videos start with: “This is how I would do it, but you don’t have to do it this way, you might think the way I do it is dumb, it’s just the way that I do it..” It’s all about acting like it doesn’t matter or you just flipped it out and so it doesn’t matter.

Instead, say, “here’s the sketch, here’s why I am putting it out there.” The sketch or the painting doesn’t have to be great. You just want to be authentic. We want it to feel authentic, and that you care about what you are sharing, how you feel about what you are sharing and your intent behind sharing it is a lot more important than if it’s awesome.

How do you avoid the terrible feeling that comes when someone comments and says it’s bad or not good. The one in a thousand voice. There is a sea of encouragement and that one negative voice can really hurt and stand out from the crowd.

Set a goal to be rejected. Lee set a goal to be rejected 50 times by publishers when he was getting started, and it made it not a big deal. “Alright, that’s number 7, on to the next one:)” Maybe set a goal to get 100 negative comments.

When starting SVS, we were introduced to Chatbooks which wasn’t an overnight success. Their original concept was you take the best pictures from your phone and you would get scrapbooks made of your best photos sent to you monthly or semi monthly. Basically people take pictures but they only see them online, and the owner was was trying to solve that problem. This guy developed the first generation of chatbooks and people said that it was a great idea and then no one showed up and it flopped, generation 2 came and he got the feedback that it there was too much work involved then generation 3 was him trying to make it as easy as possible. So they automatically print your pictures from your instagram. You have already curated the best photos and periodically they can send you a photo album of your best and favorite photos. It failed twice before they were able to get it right.

We have all done things that have failed and it’s the person who keeps going, they are the people who are going to succeed.

People criticize everything. It can be the most perfect thing ever, and someone would still say something. For evidence of this, find something you love and read the Amazon reviews for that thing.

Even our perfect podcast got a one star review a little bit ago. “For people who talk about being so organized, these guys aren’t organized at all.” It’s actually so true.

We all like the media and we consume different things. Some people may look at a show you like and say they hate it but for you and for others it’s perfect. That’s the same for our podcast. If we tried to make it so that everyone liked it it would fail, because we’d be trying to cover too many bases.

Our podcast is for people who want to listen in on a conversation between 3 people who love to draw and paint.

Failure: Jake was doing Inktober for 3 or 4 years before it actually took off. It was just Jake showing up year after year trying to stick with it and keep going and because of that, along with the timing and the rise of social media and artists starting to use Instagram, it helped Inktober become pretty big.

Do you make images to change the world?

The best way to not change the world is to make an image to change the world.

Lee was apprehensive about this topic, because he doesn’t think about how the rest of the world will be changed by the art, he is just thinking about the art!

Will’s author friend, the late Rick Walton, said something along the lines of: “If you set out to teach a moral in your story, you’ll almost always fail. You should set out to tell a really fun or interesting story, and if it teaches a moral then thats a benefit and you can use that moral to market it, but if you set out to teach a moral, almost always your story structure will fail.”

It makes it too didactic and predictable. It will feel like you

If you start out with a question, or statement, or proposition to get your story started then that’s fine. I.e. I just want to talk about money is the root of all evil, then that can inform your story but that doesn’t mean that it is your story.

Some Practical Tips for Getting Started

What do you need to do as a creator to make impact?

Don’t set out to make an impact. Just by creating, by sharing who you are, your stories, your experience you will make an impact.

Here’s a list of things that you can do:

  1. Work towards being able to do an art fair or a comic con. You learn so much from doing this. So much work is shared online, and there is this digital wall separating you from your viewers. But when you are face to face with people you get a lot more genuine response to your work, and you will really learn how people respond to your work.

  2. Start your own personal art challenge. Not with the idea of it taking over the world, but just to improve and learn yourself. You could even invite another friend to also take on the challenge and then you’ve already benefited another person. Maybe you try and do a drawing a day for a month, or a drawing every week/52 drawings for the year, or maybe you try and do a painting every day for 30 days, it could be a portrait challenge, etc. Start some sort of personal art challenge and share that with other people.

  3. If you learn something about art, actually set up an appointment or get together. You could invite friends to come and you’ll teach them how to draw perspective.

  4. Art Drop Day, one day out of the year, the first Tuesday in September. You create something and leave it somewhere with a note telling the finder that they have found your art and it’s theirs to keep. It’s a fun way to engage anonymously with the community around you. If you want to make some sort of impact, then do a little Art Drop, and leave it in your favorite book at the library or tape it onto the window of your favorite restaurant. And share some goodness with your community. It’s going to brighten someone’s day.

Final Note

If you reverse engineer someone who is super successful and is changing the world. Keep in mind that they had to start by learning their craft and doing the mundane stuff that wasn’t changing the world. Think about doing the the basics and fundamentals as your preparation for doing something that will change the world.

Now go and start creating and make an impact in the world with your art.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.


Roadblocks to Success

3PP_24 Roadblocks.jpg

Have you ever felt stagnant in your life or your career? We all encounter roadblocks and in this episode we go over some very common roadblocks that are encountered by everyone from the most beginning student to the most seasoned pro. We talk about how to get those roadblocks out of your way and how to be great and reach your full potential.

Roadblocks to Success

We give a lot of critiques to students and also to pros. It’s interesting how many times the same things come up in a critique. That is what we want to talk about today, “Roadblocks to Success.” Lee has seen a lot of the same things happening, not necessarily in an art piece, b in different artist’s growth.

What gets in the way? Why don’t people logically improve consistently over time? If you look at an artist’s growth and career it looks like a stock chart with ups and downs. You see some of the same things happen from the most beginning student to the most seasoned pro. We want to talk about those things and how to get those roadblocks out of your way, how to be great and how to reach your potential.

Roadblock #1, No clearly defined goals or understanding of where they are going; they are trying to do everything all at once.

There are a lot of students who are working really hard but might not be as focused as they could be. They are going to life drawing, doing Inktober, and taking 3 classes in school, they are trying to do everything, or there is the early professional with everything in their portfolio.

Art schools are often patterned after the 4 year university curriculum, and they have all of these different skills and classes they require students to take and sometimes it just isn’t set up in the best way possible.

You need a target to be shooting for. Sometimes in school we have to do a character design, then a book cover, then a concept piece. You can’t do all things.

Lee would have students bring their business cards in and work on branding at the beginning of one of his classes, and students would bring cards up and they would say, “John Smith: Illustration, Concept Design, Storyboarding, Graphic Design, 3D Modeling.” you may have done each of those things but that doesn’t mean that you are able to produce at a professional level in each of those fields.

Sometimes that thinking continues after people graduate and they can flounder with their portfolio. They haven’t picked their market yet. Art is very business related.  

Lee was judging January’s SVS Monthly Art Contest just recently and got a great question. There was an honorable mention, for the topic, “Big”, and in the illustration the artist (Aleksey Nisenboym) drew these leprechauns or gnomes around this giant glass of beer and they were all knocked out from drinking so much; the illustration was done in a children’s book style and the great question came: “Is this okay for a children’s book portfolio?”

This was such a good question because this artist knew the market and target that they wanted to hit. Look at how you can fit in a field.

There are two things here: There is focus and there is goals.

We sympathize with the young 20 something year old artist who is kind of good at everything, when you are kind of good at everything you could go in any direction that you want.

So you tend to try it all out. You try everything, you try some modeling, you do some illustration,  some comics, etc.

Jake’s advice is: Have fun, try as much as you can, but see where there’s opportunity, and follow that opportunity if it aligns with your goals. If you don’t have a clear goal for where you want to see yourself at age 30 or where you want to see yourself at age 40, then you aren’t going to focus in on the right things.

Go out and experience those things and see what you are good at and see what you like, you may not be as good at that thing but if you enjoy it then that could mean a better level of success for you, in the long run. Then lean in on the thing that you like the most, the thing that you’re good at, the thing that you like and the thing that has those opportunities there for you.

Jake’s Venn Diagram: What You’re Good At, What You Like to Do, Where the Opportunities Are.

How do you figure out what you’re good at?

First, do it. Then see how people respond to it. Show it to a mentor, post it online, see how people respond to it.

Being good at something you don’t really care for. Lee did a bunch of architectural design to make money, even though he didn’t love it, but then was totally focused on children’s books and was always doing that on the side.

Short term goal: pay your rent this month. Long term goal: where do I want to be as an artist in 10 years?


Some businesses in Japan have like 100 year business plans (that’s just a ballpark number, it’s some big number like that). We need to do more of that. A lot of artists are kind of just doing their next piece and go from piece to piece not thinking about the underlying reason and how it fits with their portfolio. Sometimes we just go with the flow and draw whatever is most convenient and what we feel like rather than really being deliberate and focused on what we need to do for our portfolio.


Jake has this assistant (Tanner Garlick) and he was going to school and had classwork and part of that is making a portfolio to get a job and part of that is to get a degree. There were these different goals laid out in front of him: graduate and create a portfolio. Tanner worked with me and saw the projects I was doing and he came in one day after we had talked about the Draw 100 Somethings Project...

The Draw 100 Somethings project is great at helping younger artists discover their style, and it is a great project for really tapping into your creativity and really flexing your creative muscles. Pick an object where there is room to find variations in it. You don’t want to be too broad though, you want to be specific. You wouldn’t say draw 100 space ships, but maybe it’s 100 single seat fighter jets.

It’s not a TIE fighter one day and a star destroyer the next day, but maybe you do 100 different TIE fighters. How many variations of TIE fighters could you design if you did 100 of them?

Jake did this project with these little robots, who all had the same face, but they had different bodies and were all meant to do different jobs or tasks.

They pushed him creatively and he learned so much from this project. You do the first 20 and you really feel like you are all out of ideas, so you put it on the backburner for a month and then you’ll have another idea that will spark another 10 drawings, and by the time you reach 100 you will have really grown a lot and learned so much about creativity. (Sidenote: Jake ended up doing 200 of those guys.)

So Tanner saw this and said that he wanted to do 100 Pirate animals, Jake thought the idea was cool and gave him his stamp of approval. And then as he started working on it and was planning out his year and seeing how he could fit this in, Jake said, “hold on, let’s take a step back for a minute, you have some important goals in front of you. You need to graduate, and you need to get a portfolio that is good enough to get a job. Is this project applicable to those things? Will it help you accomplish those goals?” And his assistant realized that Jake was right, and that working on this project would actually put off him getting his portfolio ready to get a job and would put off him being able to finish assignments in order to graduate. So he took a step back and realized that this wasn’t the time for him to do this and that he could do it later when he had more time to focus on it. So now he has zeroed in on his portfolio and schoolwork, and actually had an interview and accepted a job offer to work at a cool startup studio here in Utah.

So it comes down to what is your focus?

Just because it is something that you are good at, or interested in, or is fun, doesn’t mean that is the thing you should focus on to achieve your goals.

We gravitate towards easy. Some of the things we ask you in this project are not easy. Like what is your focus or what do you need to do for your portfolio, those things are harder and take a lot more thought. While on the other hand doing a Mer May drawing is easy, it is a concrete thing, the subject matter is already spelled out for you, it’s not abstract, you don’t have to worry about it. I’m going to go and do the easy thing, it’s not necessary easy but it is a more concrete and more spelled out and you can veer off of what the path should have been. Sometimes you have to choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.

Lifestyle and Focus

You can get sidetracked with a different project. There are many sidetrack distractions. I.e. Video games. Downtime is good in moderation.

Will has had students who were focused and students who were not focused, and he likes to make analogies to non art people, because they are relatable but maybe not hitting too close to home.

Recently Will watched the documentary Free Solo, and in it, Alex Hammel, this incredible rock climber, has spent his whole life climbing and is living in a van (probably down by a river) and that is so he can travel and be closer to the rock faces that he climbs. His dedication to his craft, that pure dedication and what you have to sacrifice is one of the most inspiring things.

The documentary is all about his climb of El Capitan, that he climbed without ropes in Yosemite. People in that community are calling it, “the moon landing of rock climbing.”

When he started rock climbing, there was no contract saying that if he did this he would get paid. Sometimes as artists we say that we won’t do anything unless we have contracts. Although it is good to set up contracts to protect ourselves.

If you are an artist you do need to unwind sometimes. But for most successful artists, they have a period of their lives where their lives were maybe not quite balanced. There are usually a couple of years where you really have to lean into it, it’s not just a 9-5 in the beginning. You have to really sacrifice and “bleed” for your art.

This guy, Alex Hammel literally bleeds for his work. Endorsements, and the money all came secondary to the sacrifice. He had the goal and was already doing it before all of that.

Prior to doing the Solo climb, he completely removed himself from social media and decided he could not do anything that could become a distraction.

Maybe you need to zero in and finish your project and maybe for the next 6 months, it’s only once a week I am going to go out with friends, or once a week watch a movie, or play a video game. And the rest of the time it’s eat, sleep, and draw.

If you go to a skate park you see these kids doing amazing things on a skateboard. They were not born that way but they love it and they skate all the time and make plenty of mistakes in the process, and that’s where the real learning happens.

When you go into a college art class that should be our skate park. Sometimes it seems like people are avoiding it, when that is their time to experiment, have fun, and really learn.

Those kids in these skate parks, more often than not they fall, they fail. These guys pay for it, for us as artists we just throw a bad drawing away.

Lee had a critique with Anna Daviscourt, one of the Adobe resident he mentors. They were talking about getting some quicker work because the children’s book industry can be so slow moving. They decided to focus on adding some book covers to her portfolio. They wanted to choose something that art directors would recognize, and she said she wanted to do Harry Potter covers. Probably the hardest thing possible, it’s been done twice recently and both times has been done really well, so it will take a lot to stand out. She did a bunch of thumbnails and showed them to Lee and he told her that they looked like Harry Potter covers, they weren’t great yet, she was imitating the look that was already there. He told her, “Here’s the story, but who are you in relationship to Harry Potter, what are you going to do to really stand out?” They had to really fight for it, she did some pretty good ones, but they weren’t as aligned with the nuance of the story. They kept working at it and eventually she ended up with something fantastic. It was great because they knew where they were going and they knew where this thing was going to live.

It was so interesting as they talked and got into what works and what doesn’t, the work was good but it needed to be better.

In school they want to keep you in the generalist category, they don’t want you to follow a specific style or artist too much.

Will had this student he taught in a workshop, who had worked at Disney and left California because he didn’t have enough to support his family. He was totally supporting his family but they really wanted to be able to get a house with a yard and stuff. He wanted to “undisneyfy” himself. Everything he did looked like Disney. He had been there for 15 years, and he really struggled with that.

The school are afraid of creating clones of another artist or of a teacher.

That’s why in school we say to not do anime and want to help you see objects and shapes in a new way and see how to interpret them.

It’s okay, early on to have some floundering. There is a certain amount of time for finding. If you are in that mode, then enjoy it and soak it up. The problem is when you are considering quitting your job but don’t know what you are going to do yet.

Experiment, try things out, find that thing that you are good at but also where there is opportunity.

Roadblock #2, Too much downloading, not enough uploading. Over conferencing, too many tutorials, looking too much, and not doing enough actual work.

Everyone deals with this. You spend an hour on Instagram or Pinterest, you find and save things that you like. You are triggering some of the same neurons that you do when you actually create art but at the end of the day you haven't created anything. You are spinning your wheels.

Where you actually learn and improve is from doing the work; creating work and sharing it, putting it out there for people to see, that’s where the actual learning and growth happens.

Lee’s Red Light System

This is a system that Lee has developed to help him make sure he is maximizing productivity while minimizing distractions.

Green light, you are good to go, you have pen to paper.

Red light, you are reading the news, looking at Facebook, being distracted, or playing games. You shouldn't go there. If you catch yourself wasting time or being distracted, then head back to the green.

Yellow light, that is tricky. Often, you do need to find reference and gather images. The yellow light is flashing, and you don’t want to spend too much time in this zone; you need to speed up or stop and go back to what you were doing.

Avoid Over Conferencing

How do you avoid overdoing it with that stuff? Critique groups and conferences, etc.

“Terry’s Law”: The more you talk about doing work the less work you have actually done.

Will sees some groups of people who go to SCBWI who go more for the social aspect than for the work aspect. They go year after year but don’t really progress much.

Likewise, Will plays his bass for fun, but is honest with himself about it, he isn’t planning or hoping on going super pro because of it.

Lee’s wisdom for conferences:

Nothing worse than seeing the same person at conferences for 2-3 years in a row and they have the same manuscript or the same work. If you aren’t a professional tied up with lots of work, but if you are a student, you should have a new portfolio every 6 months. If you have a new portfolio every 6 months go to the conference and show that work off, you’re showing off an updated version of yourself. If you are bringing the same tired work year after year, then you need to work on creating new work, then when you are going to the conference you are really able to show off new work.

What about the person who is taking care of their family and doesn’t have the time to generate that portfolio every 6 months? Like we mentioned before if you are that family guy and don’t have as much time, just be honest with yourself, realize that it will take longer and chip away at it.

Long story short: Don’t replace real work with conferencing and tutorials.

Regardless if it’s your portfolio or if you are also professional or semi professional, don’t let a year go by without you doing some sort of actual project, whether it you paid for, or if it is a personal project or some research and development and see how people and the market like it, how did they respond to it. If it’s a year or every 6 or 3 months. A year should be enough time to finish some sort of project and put your stamp of approval on it. If gives you something that will ensure you are actually spending time working on it and making sure it gets done, you’re creating something you can point towards, you can put it on your portfolio or your resume, it shows your latest work, or it can be a calling card.


Be Student B

Please be student B, not student A. Will would have these classes where he would set up a still life and it was a class for beginners.

Student A, would get set up, and they might be painting an apple or a lime or something. Will would ask them to spend the whole 2.5 hours working on the painting. Usually student A would only paint for half an hour and spent the rest of the time talking and visiting with others. Will would have explained and showed the students things to look out for and things to focus on during the class. They were more concerned with being done. They wanted him to tell them what to do.

If you are going to play it smart, try to understand more of what is being asked of you. That is student B.Don’t just go through the motions and focus on just getting done, be willing to experiment, Be a tinkerer, be an inventor. Challenge yourself and always do your best work.

If you have teachers who don’t do demos, you need to go find another school. There is nothing worse than a teacher who isn’t willing to step up to the plate and swing.

Some teachers are either scared of their inadequacies, or they are just lazy. You should have teachers who are willing to demonstrate and show you what you need to do or possible solutions or ways of approaching a problem. Lee always did demos and all of his favorite classes included teacher demonstrations.

Shout out to Perry Stewart! Whenever Will had a class after him, Perry would still be in the room helping students and sometimes would still be helping students even after Will had started his class. He was not getting paid extra, he was dedicated.


Don’t Only Practice

Another addendum to the over conferencing roadblock: students get into the practice mindset. Practice is good. But it’s not the best when you never really put it on the line and create something of consequence or something that is meaningful to you.

If you never put something out there, you never risk failing. Sometimes you need to say, “This is the best that I could do, I hope you guys like it.”


Getting Around Cliches

Lee sees cliches all the time, even at big conferences like CTN. Stuff like, “Monster Under the Bed”. Sometimes portfolios and things are just way to generic. You see this with style too, there is this LA animation style that is a modernized version of Marie Blair.

When 100 people are doing the same thing, how can you set yourself apart?

A good example of standing out is Cory Loftis. He is in this scene but he doesn’t do that flat painted style like a lot of other artists are doing.

He’s got this classic Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes, Chuck Jones style, mixed with the stuff that Disney does, mixed with this edgy modern style that comes from his time working on video games.

He played a big part in Wreck it Ralph and Zootopia. He is really respected and looked up to. He is putting together dots.

We all have these dots that we collect whenever you talk with someone, have an experience, or learn something new you have a new dot that you can connect to other dots.

Whenever you create anything you are connecting dots.

You can see the same pattern that someone else has created with their dots, and you take those 10 dots and add or switch out a couple of dots. But sometimes it can still feel derivative.

A way to separate yourself is to find dots that others are not using.

Anytime Loftis does personal work it is always super out there and different from what everyone else is doing.

When Lee sketches out a concept in his sketchbook or on his iPad before painting it, there always this gap and he’ll spend a couple of days doing other stuff and then come back to it. He has this little list and he runs his concepts by this list before deciding to paint something.  Lee always asks himself these questions:

What about this is interesting?

Has this been done before, and if so, am I adding any new information to this?

If I answer yes to both of those, nothing is interesting and it’s been done before. Then the only place to go is, “Am I trying some really experimental painting technique that will add something different to it?”

Monster under the bed? Yes, kids can relate to it. Has it been done before, yeah, a million times!

Jake’s friend calls this the Pixar Pass, when something has been done a hundred times but you can do it and make it cool and refreshing, then people will give you a pass for it. So, Monsters Under the Bed? They did Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University. If you really knock it out of the park and do it in a really creative and interesting way, people will give you a pass.

The Incredibles is like the Watchman meets the Fantastic 4 with a fun modern art style.

If you do it right, you can make cliches feel really fresh.

The Power of Irony

Cliche topics, look and see what is out there and then add some kind of twist to it. In one of Lee’s character design classes they looked at different portfolios and realized that all of the monsters looked angry. So Lee gave them an assignment to make the scariest monster that you can and make it embarrassed or nice.

Another was a prop assignment where they were to take some benign innocent looking object that would turn into some dangerous mechanism. Irony is really powerful to create fantastic stuff.

Sometimes people just have poor tastes. Will saw how people drew faces, but wanted to do something original, and give people more geometric faces. Some sort of cubism.

Upon sharing his idea with his professor, his professor told him, “I’ve seen people try to pull this off before (Lesson 1, You are not original) and it never works (Lesson 2, because it is not appealing).”

Will was just trying to be different. Yes, it’s unique in a way, but it also has to be appealing.

Appeal is an “X-Factor.” It’s very important but can be hard to teach.

“Don’t be basic.”

In Review,

Roadblocks to Success:

  1. You don't have focus, and you don’t have specific goals.

  2. You are spending too much time going to conferences and watching tutorials, spinning your wheels and not enough time making actual work and progress on those goals.

  3. You aren’t digging deep enough to be original. You’re taking too much of a surface level approach to your work.

Today’s episode is sponsored by SVS We’ve got a 7 day free trial, try it out and see if it’s the right thing for you and if you like the teachers and the teaching style.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

How to Be the Best Art Student

Whether you have been drawing professionally for years, are a college student, or are coming back to art after a long hiatus, we are all students. Have you ever wondered what it takes to be the best student you can be? In this episode we go over some negative mindsets that students sometimes have, share tips on improving your learning and ability to be taught, and share how you can best utilize SVSLearn and online learning resources.

Will got a letter from a listener who shared that her favorite episode was the first episode, “My Art is Great, Why Won’t Anyone Hire Me?” She requested an episode where we focus again on that and expand more on that topic. She also said that “and by the way that is the best episode you guys have ever done thanks to Will Terry.” Will may have embellished the letter some:)

She continued by saying something along the lines of, "The idea of self audits is great and I am taking to heart the idea of really honing my craft over the next year. I would like to know as an artist taking your classes the best method to take and absorb those classes since I only have a few hours in a day after work to learn and get better." So that’s what we want to talk about today.

We will split this episode into 2 parts:

Part 1: How to Be the Best Art Student

Part 2: How to Get the Most Out of Our Classes at

We did these things called 3rd Thursday’s and they were Webinars that we did live and then we would put the recording of it on Youtube. We put all of those webinars on So we are taking some content from one of our Third Thursdays from a while back and presenting it in a more creative way.

Part 1: How to Be the Best Art Student, 5:35

Addressing Poor Mindsets:

“I’m going to art school to get a degree.”

First off, in all the years that Jake worked for studios and being apart of the process of looking at portfolios for people that they wanted to hire, never once did they ask if the applicant went to school. The portfolio always was first. They always would look at their portfolio to see if they could do the work and then they would ask what school they went to but wouldn’t check if they graduated or anything.

The degree, as far as the real world is concerned in concept art, in children’s books, etc. does not matter, what matters is that you can do the work.

It’s a meritocracy. It’s all based on ability. How well can you perform the task?

Would you say that people who have gotten far enough in a degree program should quit?

If it is your last semester and there isn't a job offer yet, then finish it out.

If there is a job opportunity that is available and it is what you are going for, it might not make sense to turn that job offer down just to finish out that last semester, and then if you are ever in a position to you can go back and finish that last semester.  But we're pretty sure that once you are working in that field that you are wanting to work in and you are good, and already getting job offers as a student then you will keep progressing and odds are you’ll keep getting better and never look back. Unless you want to teach for a University at some point, if there still are Universities in 10 or 20 years.

Some job postings do require a degree. But really it all comes down to if you can do the work. If you have a great portfolio, and show you can do the work and especially if you already have some experience under your belt. There will be some companies that want you to get a degree. It's all about your portfolio and skill set.

You could have two people who graduate from school and they both graduate and get a degree, however one of them may have worked 2, even 4, even 10 times harder. That person will be so much more prepared for the job field.

If the prize was the degree then they will get killed in the job market. Maybe mom and dad will be happy about the degree, but it’s all about the learning. The mindset you should be trying to develop as a student is don’t have your eye set on the degree. The degree should be the byproduct of you trying to get the experience to get a job.

Looking at the college kids that Jake works with as assistants, everything they are doing to get that degree is totally going to help them get a job. But it is not about the degree, it is about the experiences they are getting as they work towards that degree. Your senior project or your final art show, that should be the thing that gets the employer’s eyes on your work and interested in you not the degree.

Will would give himself assignments or choose to do different assignments that he felt would get him closer to his goals in terms of portfolio. His classmates would sometimes get freaked out and ask him what he was doing and he would say that he was wanting to do freelance after graduating and that he was focused on preparing his portfolio.

There is a middle ground with ignoring what your teachers are asking you to do. Lee would ask for permission to adapt assignments and would shoehorn what the teacher said to what he wanted to do. He would do what worked best for him and his portfolio.

Jake had an assignment to draw himself as an animal and instead of doing a portrait, he did a landscape with animals in the background, because he wanted to do a piece that could become a part of his portfolio, and he ended up using the piece in his portfolio to get a concept art job.

What Animal?

We got into a random sidenote. What animal would we all be? Jake would be a horse, because that’s what he drew himself as in that animal self portrait assignment, plodding along in the distance. Lee would be a squirrel, like Scrat from Ice Age, he’s just scrappy like that and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Will would be a walrus, chill with cool facial hair.

Bonus, if you want to draw animal versions of them then share it with us, we’d love to see them.

“This homework should not take me more than 12 hours based on university guidelines for out of class, in class ratios.”

Some students are not willing to go beyond what the thing calls for. Some students are used to immediate rewards. Lee would have students come in saying, “I spent all night working on this!” And it turns out they had spent 3 or 4 hours, which is nothing. Lee’s average amount of time spent on a piece was 12 hours. Sometimes 9, sometimes 10 or 15 but the average was 12 hours from start to finish.

How long do you need? The answer is, as long as it takes.

Let’s say you spent 9 hours on a dud, and you budgeted 12, you have 3 hours to keep polishing that dud or you can start a new piece and sacrifice something else to have the time to finish it.

Another thing to be wary of is the ‘speed class taker’. They are trying to take as many classes as they can to try and graduate a bit earlier.

You should take fewer classes and allow yourself time to do the work, be able to mess it up and make mistakes and learn from them and do it again.

Jake did this drawing of animals flying and his friend, [Scotty Young]( told him that it was good but nothing special. So Jake redid it and pushed it a lot further. He spent 2 or 3 times as long on the second iteration.

Jake’s first graphic novel was about 170 pages long and he timed it out the amount of time spent on each page was around 10-14 hour and that was around a year, while working a full time job. If you really want something you have to learn to get that thing done. Perhaps college is the best place to learn that, where you go from amateur to professional by one by one doing these assignments and after each one evaluate what you did well on it and what you can do better. How could you have spent more time on it, and better yet focused time. Until eventually you don’t even bat an eye if you have to redo something.

In a year: what is your percentage of illustrations that you feel are your best work and better than the rest, that you really love a lot more than your other stuff you did.

As a pro mostly everything you do should be at least okay, usually pretty acceptable. Then there are those ones that people really respond to and have that special quality to them, for Lee, he is stoked if he can get a couple really awesome pieces in a year.

Every year Jake does 1, 2, or 3 pieces where he feels he really leveled up and they act as a benchmark for the following years.

Even as professionals, the work created is still professional, but only a few pieces a year are seen as extraordinary compared to previous work. So if you are a student even if you are working very hard, not everything is going to be absolutely amazing.

So it becomes a game of numbers, if you want to get a some stellar pieces done you need to do a bunch of pieces and work.

Lee would review senior portfolios and he noticed that everything would look nice and cohesive but would usually come across one that was really over rendered. He learned that they came from the students rendering classes and they couldn’t give them up because they had spent so much time on them.

“This is how I make my art, it’s unique, the teachers need to help me with my vision.”

You can say that after you’ve learned the fundamentals; after you’ve learned composition, light and shadow, some color theory, some anatomy, perspective, proportion, and line quality.

Once you have figured those things out, then you have the freedom to say, “Now I want to do my style this way and this is how I draw.” Up until then that’s a crutch and you can use it as something to lean on.

Jake likes to compare art to music. You can’t just step up to a piano and pluck the keys with awful timing and make up your own stuff and expect it to be good.

You have to master the fundamentals. Once you can play the basics then you can start to mess around more.

“Don’t let your style be the byproduct of weakness.”

That is an out, it makes you feel good, but really it is a lie.

Mary Grandpre, you look at those and they are really well done, but perspective is not really all there. Some objects have dimension and there are objects that are more designy. She can draw that way if she wants to, but could draw them all “more correctly.” She does this deliberately and she can because she has earned it.

Student’s want the teacher to support their vision. How many students would enter a college level writing class, and argue that the teacher shouldn’t critique their work but support their vision. The teacher will surely point out bad sentence structure, bad grammar, too many main ideas in a paragraph, etc.

All art is the same, they all have a lot of similar principles.

You can’t get around it, you never will get mad because you have good draftsmanship and you learned to draw something well.

Even Jake is still learning. He has been working on relearning anatomy, he has leveled up a lot just since he started studying it more since a few months ago. He has already seen his drawings level up since he’s been studying this stuff.

If you think you’re done learning, you’re not. This is a lifelong pursuit, and you need to be committed to lifelong learning.

You need to have an open mind and be open to receiving feedback.

Will identified all of these problems that his students had.

Every year it’s the same: there are 3 or 5 that really get it and are doing really good, and then on the other hand there are a few who don’t get it at all and are not present, the rest are in between.

In 9 years teaching over there, he has only seen like 3 or 4 students who went from the lower or middle section to the high section.

He had one student who after school Will was really impressed with how her work had leveled up a lot, he asked her why she had gotten so good and she shared that, she looked around and she realized that her work wasn’t at the level as everyone else’s. So she decided to make a change.

Still doesn’t know why she was able to do that, while others really struggle.

Lee had a friend in school and they all shared their portfolios with each other that they used to get accepted to their program. His portfolio was not that great and it matched his classwork. He was pretty clumsy and not much of a stand out for those first couple of terms. And then around the 4th term he really started to stand out some more and started to have some pretty good pieces from time to time.

By the time that they left he was smoking, he was so good. He really did his very best with everything, every assignment, starting with the basics. And he just did it right, he really transformed as an artist.

It was not through talent, but due to sheer hard work and listening to feedback.

Will loves to see that transformation. Will went through that transformation himself and now he loves to see that transformation in his own students. The cool thing about teaching is that you can find teachers that really resonate with your learning style.

How to Know if You’re Good

5 Common Denominators that show you are getting good enough to start making a living at this:

  1. People naturally gather around your work, without you having to point it out.

  2. You’ll start to win things: contests, awards, etc.

  3. You start getting unsolicited recommendations, “I want to introduce you to, so and so”, “You should consider applying to such and such.”

  4. You start getting scholarships.

  5. You start getting paid, you have people that start asking you to do things for money.

It’s the people who put their head down and just work. They don’t keep their head down and work in a vacuum but they learn from other people too.

Do Not’s

Will’s list of things you should avoid as a student (and as a professional).

  • Chronically late

  • Chronically unfinished work

  • Always talking and having side conversations during lectures

  • Always giving excuses and shifting the blame

  • Asking the teacher to change the assignment (if this is a norm, rather than an exception)

  • The last person set up to paint

  • Feel guilty because they haven’t made progress since the last time you were given a critique

  • Wearing headphones during class, half of your learning is going to happen from the people sitting around you. If you are not hearing side conversations or building friendships, you are missing out on a lot of learning.

  • Overly critical during critiques, but their work was unfinished or sloppy.

  • Packing up 15 minutes early.

  • Leaving class early.

  • Turning in scribble sketchbooks, if you don’t want to do it, just don’t do it.

The art director from Sony was giving a lecture on, “How to Make Me Hire You” and there was a student clickety clacking typing on their keyboard really loud and they weren’t taking notes.

Lee was furious and really got after his students after the lecture for being so disrespectful.

Pencil Mileage

Jake had this student that was just heads and shoulders above the rest of the class. Jake asked her why she was so good, and what her process was. She said that since the 7th grade she filled a sketchbook every month until now she was 22. So a lot of growth comes from pencil mileage.

Kim Jung Gi: he is the guy who can draw for hours creating a mural without any reference and draws with straight ink. We were talking about this and why he is so good and we decided that it probably came down to:

He just loves drawing, even more than those of us who really love it. He probably draws from morning till night everyday. He loves drawing to the point that his life is maybe not quite balanced.

Group projects are especially important. Don’t drop the ball when people are counting on you. People who get hired are people who are fellow working student’s friends and people who did good on group assignments.

Don’t be a person who bombs it at a group assignment.

Part 2: How to Get the Most Out of Our Classes at SVS

Don’t treat it like Netflix and just have it playing in the background, instead watch the videos, do the assignments, get a sketchbook for notes, and take notes. Look at it as your school, and really take it seriously and treat it as your school. Look at your schedule and see what you can do daily and then try and have a day in the week where you can give 3 or 4 hours to apply what you are learning.

Really evaluate your goals. What do you really want to get out of it. A lot of people say that they want to work professionally. But do you really want to work professionally full time?

Maybe you just want to do some freelance on the side, maybe you are trying to get better to do a personal project, maybe it’s just a hobby. It’s important to take inventory on your goals so you can approach your education more wisely and strategically.

Attack classes appropriately.

Post and participate on the forum. Give and take. Take the classes that attack those different weaknesses that come up in critiques.

It’s not Netflix, there’s this weird phenomenon where when you are watching someone do something it seems so easy that you feel like you could do it too.

Lee would watch these tutorials, of Feng Zhu a concept artist on Star Wars, and feel that “Yeah i can do that!” Then when he would try and replicate it he would totally flounder.

You need to put the pen to paper and put some marks down to learn, you can’t learn just from watching it. Until your hand has done it, you haven’t learned it.

If you only have a couple hours a day, you shouldn’t put the pressure on yourself that someone who is in art school full time (9 hours a day of class). You should take one class at a time and really go through that class thoroughly.  Sometimes people run through the classes and it doesn’t really show fully in their work.

We have talked about having illustration tests and that hopefully we would have enough staff at that time that we can give you a critique on your illustrations, like we do in our interactive classes.

Take it slow, when starting to post on the forum, and make sure you are looking at other people’s work and sharing comments and feedback. The atmosphere on the forum is extremely supportive. It’s a nice community

Sometimes it is hard to get an honest critique out of people, they might say, “Well, I’m not an instructor, but this is my opinion…” You don’t have to be an instructor to give valuable critique and feedback, your opinion is valuable.

You should go in there and read and engage and then people will be more willing and happy to give you a critique on your work.

Be specific about what you are looking for in a critique.

There are a lot of things that can be learned from this episode. If you are already a professional, you can look at it as how can I be the best professional that I can be?

Best of luck with being the best student and lifelong learner that you can be! We are all learning.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

Tools of the Trade

Sometimes the question, “What tools do you use?”, gets a bad rap. However it actually is a great question. If you walk into an art store there are a plethora of different types of pens, brushes, paints, etc. Today we would like to give some clarity as to what materials we feel are essential, which are nice to have, and those we feel are not necessary. We’ll geek out over the tools we love and share advice as to what you should get, what you may want to steer clear of, and why.

Today we are going to answer these questions:

What are the tools, the programs, and the apps that we use to create the art that we do?

What is not essential, what is nice to have, and what is essential?

Traditional Tools:

Jake: The last book he did was ALL digital. However, that is not the norm, usually he uses traditional at some point in the process. The sketchbook is where a lot of the traditional work happens for him but, a lot of times in the process he will go back and forth from digital to traditional at some point.

Jake’s Traditional Toolset:
Sketchbook, pencil, and a pen.

The reason these tools are so important is that they don’t have to be charged or plugged in. You can carry them wherever you go. You can use them to jot down ideas, to work on a character design or a composition that you are trying to figure out. A sketchbook is absolutely essential. If you don’t have one, this is something you should reconsider.

Jake used to work on loose sheets of paper, and that’s fine and all, however, sometimes he would lose an illustration or a drawing, or it was always hard to organize them by date. But now all of his sketchbooks are dated and kept in a drawer and are organized in order. Keeping a sketchbook makes it easy to organize your drawings.

The Moleskines Cahier Sketchbook

What type of sketchbook should you use? It all comes down to what type of paper you like to use. Jake has used a lot of different sketchbooks but his favorite is the Moleskine Cahier extra large plain journal, they are flimsy, and the paper is just good enough to keep his pencil, ink, and marker markings in place, they don’t smudge too much. It’s nice because with this particular sketchbook it doesn’t feel too precious, it feels like a good workbook where it doesn’t feel like every drawing has to be pretty but you can do nicer drawings in there if you want to.

PrismaColor Col-Erase Pencils

For a sketching pencil Jake wants something that works well with ink and doesn’t smudge with his hand, and the Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils are perfect. He takes an exacto knife with him in his tool bag for sharpening them, or a pencil sharpener in the studio. He likes the orange or vermillions, or the reds, they are nice because the ink stands out in contrast to the pencil while you can highlight things with the red or you can draw lightly and the ink will really stand out.


Some sort of technical pen is essential. They are great for taking notes, a 0.3-0.8, maybe a 0.5 is good for jotting things down or doing quick loose sketches. Copic Multiliner 0.5 Pen.

Brush pens are great for going from thin to thick in one stroke, they are a tool that you can use to bust out a really nice drawing or illustration very fast. Jake’s favorite right now is the Copic Gasenfude.

Will’s Traditional Toolset: nothing is essential. Only the traditional aesthetic is.

Lee’s Traditional Toolset:

Sketchbook/portable workbook.

Mechanical pencil. There is nothing worse than trying to draw with a dull pencil. It’s a visceral experience, almost like scraping nails on a chalkboard.

Loves drawing on cold pressed watercolor paper. If you don’t sharpen your pencil it hurts your nice line quality. The mechanical pencil gets rid of that. Lee likes to use the .05 basic size.

Moleskine Cover Sketch Album, Plain

It’s a new experience when you have a horizontal sketchbook rather than a more narrow workspace. The wide one is awesome too.

There is another watercolor sketchbook that Lee likes.

Nice to Have: Lee likes to make a sketchbook with the paper he will use in the studio. Then when you work on your final piece it is just a one to one translation and you know already how i the paper feels because you’re using the same paper. In watercolor the paper is everything, you can use cheap brushes or paint but the paper dictates everything.

M Graham Watercolor Paints Great for use in the sketchbook and in the studio. The reason is because it is really easy to reuse the paint, if he just sprays some water on it with a spritzer it comes back like he just poured it out. This is great for when you are traveling.

Winsor and Newton are great but they don’t rewet very well. This is the brand typically everyone buys when getting started and then when they try and make a portable sketchbook it doesn’t really work because the paint doesn’t rewet or come back

Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils are great, and Lee uses them a lot mixed with the watercolor. The difference between that and a regular pencil is that once the surface is wet a lot of color is released, you can even draw on wet paper. He’ll paint and draw right into the wet and it’s great.

Lee’s Favorite Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils: Tuskan Red or Indigo. Feels that other colors are too saturated.

Beat up Dip Pen

Reason for beat up is there is some oil on the nib from the factory., wash them with vinegar and water, or dish soap. Don’t use a lighter, it will ruin your pen. Dip pens are like guitars, there is something special about them when they are older.

Chip Brush

The worst, low quality bristle brush from Michaels, or at Home Depot.

Lee buys them for 59 cents, 79 cents, then he runs them over with his car or scrapes them on the sidewalk, you can get strokes with them that you can’t get any other way. They can make beautiful strokes like Chinese calligraphy or smooth washes. You don’t need a $100, $200 brush, people buy these expensive brushes for watercolor but they are unnecessary.

Lee uses the same things for studio painting but then has a couple more essential things:

The Incredible Art Board. That plasticy board that you can staple into. Lee has no patience for prep work, he wants to be painting, not sanding something. With watercolor, you have to tape it down to the board and wet it. He just puts the paper down on the board and then just staples it, the board can take staples over and over again. He has had the same board for 7 years. He’ll put the drawing down, wet it, and then staple it, and then just start painting it right there. From the time he had the idea to the time he can be painting is only 5 minutes, so very fast.

Liquitex White Acrylic Ink In combination with the dip pen. It’s great because it’s fully opaque and it’s great to get that full opaque white. If you’re a purist you’re probably cringing but Lee’s not a purist and mixes everything in there. You can get things back to white and you can paint watercolors on top of it because it’s an acrylic base.

Gouache Paints: Lee doesn’t love gouache, but uses it to add little opaque details back on top of the watercolor.

Gesso, also uses this to paint on top of the painting to get it back to white and then paints on top of it.

Paper Canson Montval: Cheap student grade paper, has a medium to a lot of sizing which means the water color doesn’t go into the paper too much, so you can do some cool effects with it. But it can be hard to work with, it depends on your style.

Yeah, and that’s it! Haha, it sounds like a lot, but it is really only 10-11 things. Lee uses all of these in his studio and he has a more condensed list for travel. He can create almost any painting using these materials.

A Word About Quality

Will doesn’t work traditionally right now. But when he was teaching at the university, he had students who were using materials that could barely be called a brush or paper.

There are times where you can cut corners and there are times that you can’t.

With oil and acrylics paint there is Winsor and Newton: The Galleria Brand which like a lot of other paints is “student grade.” It’s watered down and doesn’t have as much pigment in it, so if you want to create thick impasto textures you just can’t do it. The same goes with brushes, if you want to make a graceful line, some brushes just can’t do it because they just are not the right brush.

Higher end synthetic brushes are what Will would use a lot.

In terms of paper there were students who would use low weight paper instead of heavy weight paper because it was cheaper. If the cheaper paper gives you the results you are looking for that is great. But if spending a little bit more on the nicer paper would make a difference in the quality of your work, in those cases it’s worth it to do that.

Sometimes students would tell Will, “I just can’t do what you are doing.” Will would reply, “I couldn’t do it either if I was using your equipment, so you have to forego a latte or something..”

A really good teacher can help you know what supplies you actually need. With traditional mediums you are dealing with physical properties. Going into an art store can be overwhelming because there are so many options. A good teacher can simplify that and help you know what you should get.

For example quinacridone magenta and alizarin crimson look the same. When you mix them with white or any other color they don’t mix the same. The quinacridone becomes really vibrant, and the alizarin, on the other hand, becomes quite dull.

Jake had a friend at Blue Sky who said that as an artist you have to budget as if you are poor, except with art supplies you need to switch mindsets and act like you’re a millionaire to get good tools. Maybe you need to make sacrifices to get the tools that you need.

Traditional Non-Essentials:

Millions of paints: all designed to separate you from your money. You only need a few and you can mix them to get the colors you need. Here are some of our color pallets that we use:

Will’s Color Pallette List: It’s on the intro page for his Smooth Blends with Acrylics- Dry Brush Technique Class.

Lee’s mom was taking a watercolor class and he was 3,000 miles away and couldn’t help, but she came home after the first day with a list of 21 different paints the teacher wanted her to get. Lee doesn’t know what he would do with 21 paints, let alone a beginner.

With just a dash of a color you can make almost any of those colors.

Using a small number of paints is great because when you make a body of work, and you used the same 5-7 pigments for all of them it will give all of your work a harmony because they are all made of the same pigments.

Electronic drawing desk: a sweet addition to Lee’s studio. Can raise or lower it to meet his needs. If he is using a big canvas he can lower it to be at hand level instead of having to flip it upside down like he used to. He got his for $350-$375 on Craig’s list, but it’s a couple thousand dollar  table at retail.

Pencil Sharpener: Jake uses the Panasonic Autostop KP77N. It looks like it’s from an 80’s office, because it was. It sharpens pencils at such an angle that it is sharper than anything more modern. The engine is industrial strength.

Full Set of Copic Markers. Anything from 50-150, usually there are colors you can’t get with watercolors, really nice bright sharp colors, you can lay them in quick and you don’t have to let them dry.

Compact Watercolor Set with a Watercolor Pen.

When traveling and want to get a full range of color.

It’s the equivalent of 50 markers in the size of a large wallet. It has these watercolor biscuits. The pen has water in the handle so you can flush color out when you want a new one and you can mix colors in the tray.

Pair this with a brush pen or pen that is waterproof.

6 pack carrier of your favorite soft drink, use that to carry around your markers, has a handle and everything!

Digital Tools

What’s the most essential tool?

A Computer, with a cintiq monitor hooked up to it, iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, Photoshop, and Procreate.

Will loves the iPad Pro. It changed everything. You can work anywhere on this thing. But he feels that it works as well for taking things all the way to finish like a Cintiq can. He likes the Wacom Cintiq, but doesn’t like drawing on a tablet where your image and where you are drawing are different places. The hand eye coordination is tricky.

However there are some artists, like Jed Henry and Jim Madsen who prefer the tablets.

But if he had to pick one between the Cintiq or the iPad, he would choose the Cintiq and Photoshop. There are other ones but that’s what Will likes to use. With the Cintiq you are tethered to the office. The reason Will loves the iPad is because you can be at home and Procreate has new tools like Liquify.

However, If you are a student don’t go to digital right away. If you are a beginner, or an up and coming artist. Then start with traditional and learn from your mistakes more. Digital, with all of the editing tools, can make it hard to develop your process. Unless you go into it purposefully choose to limit your tools.The problem that most students have is that when they start a drawing or painting digitally they might come out with something that they like but they can’t reproduce because the amount of tools and steps that went into it was so vast. Then when they try and do anything traditionally they flounder.

Procreate is great and made for the iPad.

Will does all of his initial thumbnails, sketches, and finished sketches in Procreate. He starts the process for getting them ready to paint. If he is going to do his color style then he will export it and paint it with Photoshop and the Cintiq. If he does his pencil crosshatch style then he will export it and do some quick color in Photoshop.

Will has the luxury of having both.

Lee uses the same things as will, but uses Astopad which turns his iPad into another monitor when hooked to his computer, and he can use photoshop on his iPad.

Jake finally got an iPad as his end of the year gift to himself. Now he has done more drawing at home than he has in a couple years, it’s so nice to be able to sit on the couch and do a nice finished piece. Was up until midnight drawing without even knowing it.

Can’t recommend this new version of the iPad enough.

Essentials for Jake: Photoshop on some sort of computer. He prefers Mac’s. He spent a lot of time for a couple of years on the phone trying to fix his old Windows computer. Now with his Mac he hasn’t had to worry about that.

A Cintiq paired with a computer is so essential.

There is this designer that Jake follows, and he had to save up enough money to get a computer. And so he went up to Alaska and worked at a resort scrubbing dishes and saved all he could to get the computer setup that he needed and that is what got him started.

Nice to Have: the iPad.

Essential: Epson Scanner. If you want to work traditionally and bring things into Photoshop.

Nice to Have: Good studio printer. The printer is something both Lee and Jake use quite a bit for professional work, making prints, and Lee uses it for taking sketches from his sketchbook and then he lowers the opacity and then blows it up and prints it on watercolor paper. It is so important to take the magic of the sketch into the final.

You can buy things used! People usually take good care of these things. Lee’s laptop was used, Will’s Wacom was used and he’s had it for 9 years with no problems. Wacom is having this problem where they made their products so good that they aren’t breaking fast enough.

Jake: iPad pro or Cintiq computer combo? The latter, the Cintiq computer combo. That’s where all of his professional work happens. It needs to be able to save and store all of those files.

An iPad is designed to last 3-4 years and the computer Cintiq combo should last a long time.

The Cintiq, Photoshop, computer combo is the standard. This is the grouping that will serve the most people the best. Will did a review on a cheaper non Wacom drawing pad and it felt like a first car vs a sports car when compared to the quality of a Cintiq.

With all of that said, you should be able to draw and create with anything. For a costume design class Lee brought in his son’s 64 pack of Crayola’s and did demos using those. You don’t want to be tied down to your magic pen. These essential things are nice to have but the important part is the art.

We use all of this technology but it is all about the image and the art. It’s what’s in your head.

It’s not the tools but then again it is the tools. There are nuances that you can only achieve with certain tools.  


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

Successful Failures

Today we want to talk about failure. As we talk about our successes, inextricably linked to that is our failures. What does it mean to fail? How do you deal with failure? And how do you move on from it? We hope that you can come away from this episode feeling empowered to keep trying, failing, learning, and growing. Let’s learn to successfully fail.


There are a few different types of failure:

  1. Low-level; these are the daily upsets and letdowns.

  2. Mid-level; they sting for like a week or a month.

  3. High-level; getting fired, getting divorced, these are life changing and really can be cause for a lot of introspection.

Let’s start with a good quote, that’s how all good podcasts start, right?

“People who succeed are people who failed but they keep going anyway.”


Mohammad Ali. He lost his first fight and then, after the fight, was claiming that he would be the heavyweight champion of the world.

Michael Jordan, didn’t make his 10th grade basketball team. This failure is the impetus of his success. This is what lit his inner fire.

Babe Ruth, he had the home run record and the strike out record at the same time. He went for it every time, it was all or nothing. Babe Ruth was so confident that he would point over the fence to say he was about to hit a homerun before going to bat.


Low-Level Failures

When Lee started art school he came to it really without any experience drawing or painting. The first 3 or 4 terms were kind of rough. Every day Lee would sulk into class and he would have done his best on his paintings and then would look at what everyone else had done and he knew that he wasn’t at their level yet. It was a daily failure, for the first couple of terms. It was tough and he really struggled with it; it was quite disheartening. He came up with a way to get through it:

He was going to do 100 paintings and the wouldn’t start being judgmental of his work until he hit 100 paintings. He would keep tick marks on a sheet until he got to 100 and by the time he got there he was way better and more confident. By 100 paintings Lee was starting to find his stride and get pretty good, at that point at least it wasn’t daily failure.

One problem we have is that we look at failures as failures. We have also been conditioned to not look at trying and failing as a learning and forward moving experience. Everything in school is all about moving up, what grades did you get? Were you right or wrong? We’ve been conditioned to not use trial and error for learning. In school we don’t get a good grade for trying and failing. All the results we see with report cards are all about moving up. That conditions us in a bad way for being artists. That model is good for math, it’s either right or wrong, but with a painting there is not just a right or wrong way, sometimes you have to wipe the paint off and redo the painting but that failure was apart of the successful journey.

Will once had a student and they wouldn’t try anything with paint and were so afraid to make a bad mark, they were paralyzed. Will thinks that this was because they weren’t ever rewarded for trying and failing.


Be 100 Percent Responsible

Participation awards, now in youth sports there are always participation rewards, but kids know it is a game and there are actually winners. They know who won and who lost.

There is another way to categorize failures:

  1. Caused by you, and your choices

  2. Caused by others, and their choices

  3. Caused by external forces.

You can’t always control the outcome of the failure however, your reaction to failure is up to you.

Typically Jake’s goal, regardless of what caused the failure, he tries to take as much responsibility as possible for what happened, or for fixing the situation moving forward. Hopefully that’s the lesson from any sort of failure, you’ve learned something, if it didn’t work you can check it off your list, okay this didn’t work, and then you can keep moving forward.

No matter what happened you can check it off your box, whether or not you caused the failure. You don’t have to be a victim, you can choose learn, and then move forward.


Test Your Hypotheses

Art and life really is a lifelong learning process both on the micro and macro level. You’re always testing your hypotheses. You can always be learning. “I tested those theories and they didn’t work and so I am going to change the process, or change…”

That’s how Lee learned watercolors. Initially in almost every painting he would fail. Watercolors  are really difficult to master. Lee would constantly fail in every painting and would get frustrated because he had to buy these big sheets of expensive paper. He decided that he would start painting with the mindset that each painting was a test. And then that shift in thinking really helped him, instead of “I wrecked that painting and wasted that piece of paper”, it was, “okay, next time I need to put more water down.” he moved from frustration to a growth mindset.

Rocket scientists almost celebrate when a rocket explodes. If the launch is successful sometimes they don’t know if they just got lucky. However, when it fails they get all of this data to learn from to solve the problem and then when the next launch is successful, they know that they were able to solve the problem.

Jake feels the same way and if something takes off he is a little uneasy wondering if he just got lucky or if it was really good.

Will was an early adopter of E books on Amazon and they his did really well and so he assumed that if he made interactive E books for the iPad they would see similar success and basically they totally failed, because people don’t buy iPad apps.


Failing Forward

Failing Forward

The subtitle of the book is: turning stepping stones into success.

If you want to be a boxer you have to take hits.

Your failures can motivate you and give you energy to persevere.

Will would get upset when, in college, he’d show work to his wife and she wouldn’t like it, and he’d get frustrated that he couldn’t even impress his wife let alone others. So he would analyze his work and then used that frustration to keep working and get better.

David Hohn, his wife was a graphic designer for Nike so he had a high bar to hit when he went home and showed her his work.

Lee’s wife, Lisa, always has critique on his characters.

Jake’s wife, Alison, always is straight up honest with Jake. Jake has to recognize that his target audience often isn’t his wife. But when it is something she likes she loves it and asks him why he doesn’t do more work like that.

Jake’s mom would always give him a good ego boost, but not really any helpful critique.

Sometimes your closest family will be your biggest fans or your biggest critics.

Lee’s mom on the other hand would give him brutally honest critique. He never really drew, but it was raining outside and he decided to draw a picture of his great dane, he showed it to his mom and she said, “He looks deranged!”

Will would always get critiqued that his drawings of children always looked too old.

He was frustrated because he didn’t know how to fix it.

He was putting the eyes in the adult places, and then he would add extra lines that are visible but unnecessary that would age his characters.

Hard lines for the collarbone or the sternocleidomastoid (neck) muscle really make characters look older.

One day he did a drawing that looked like a kid and his wife told him, “Now that looks like a kid!” But he lacked the skill to analyze it and figure out how he did it, so he used that drawing for reference and it took him a while to figure it out.

People can really do a number on artists feelings pretty easily.



For more depth be sure to listen to: Critiques

What do you do when you don’t like it but other people do?

Skyheart cover story, Jake redid his Skyheart cover and asked for feedback from Will that he liked it better, and then most people online and Jake’s kids told him to go back to the original. Jake told Will, what everyone was saying and Will, said, “Yeah, I didn’t want to tell you…”

Now Jake makes sure that Will gives him his honest opinion.

It’s hard to have people around that can really give you an honest critique. We know how much of a letdown it is to get help and then have to change a bunch of things. But that critique is so important!

Usually for Will, his best work is the work that he got lots of feedback on.

Sometimes we just want to go into our secret lair and come out with a masterpiece, but often times it fails because we didn’t get help from other people.

Receiving other people’s critique and feedback really accelerates our growth and the the quality of our work.

Anna Daviscourt

She has a one year creative residency at Adobe working on a book for them right now. Lee is her mentor, and they have an open dialogue and critique which has made her book really good.

One of the reasons the Star Wars prequels turned out the way they did is because George Lucas was surrounded by “yes men.”

You don’t want to surround yourself with “yes men.”

Ironically, you need to surround your people who are willing to tell you “no”.

Put yourself in a position to receive critique and then listen to those critiques.

That’s a way to circumvent failures and then you can use those failures as stepping stones. It. Better to have a little failure than to wait and have a bigger failure.


Will’s Failures:

Beginning of Will’s career: we have this project and are looking for illustrators, are you available? He would only get 1/10 of those.

Puff the Magic Dragon

A Marvelous Toy

Will was really close to getting to illustrate the Marvelous toy book, which was a sequal to puff the magic dragon (which is still selling really well) Steve Cox got to illustrate the book.

This is so true, there are all of these jobs that get talked about, there are so many books that you hear about or that get talked about. Especially for the first 5 years but even later.

Lee would get all of these proposals and even some animation studios that were maybe interested in using his work to make a short, and then radio silence. It is quite disheartening.

How to Catch a Bogle: Lee did a sample illustration and a couple of sketches for the cover and he thought it was a no brainer that he would get to illustrate it, but then he didn’t get it. So these hopeful opportunities that don’t pan out are plentiful.

Mid Level Failure

Lee did a children’s book, did a whole dummy, it goes to acquisition and then you assume that

It’s a long letdown, it can cover 6 months of your life. It’s not like one painting

It’s out of your control, maybe marketing got these sales reports and they feel like another book would be better. Or maybe something really similar comes out.

If they had just rejected it right out of the gate, it would be easier


Jake’s Failure

He was working at Blue Sky and there is this unspoken hierarchy that character designers are at the top, and he was on a lower level. He got thrown a bone by the director, they needed some background characters.

Jake dropped the ball, he fumbled it. He did his best but basically they just yawned at his result.

He realized that maybe his character designs aren’t the best for this animation studios or for animation in general, but he realized that he wanted to move into a place where his designs could be appreciated.

Find the audience that appreciates it.

When people think of Jake Parker they don’t think of him as a character designer but see him now as a comic book artist and children’s book illustrator.

Maybe now he is more experienced and would have done a better job on it.

Jake has put his effort, emotion and interest into projects that he gets satisfaction out of and if the audience gets satisfaction from it all the better.


High Level Failures

Will’s High Level Failure:

Will was getting a lot of work but not as much as before, he and his wife were doing really well before while she taught school and he did illustration, but then she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and couldn’t keep working.  He was still getting good assignments and money you could live on but because they had been living outside their means, and they didn’t have her extra income so they got into financial trouble.

Will saw these people around him making good money and he felt sorry for himself and felt like a failure, and that he was letting his family down.

So… he almost quit to become a prison guard.

All of the guys around Will were correctional officers, they were making 6 figures, and their wives worked and the central valley of CA is affordable. Will saw that these guys didn’t go to college and they have these really comfortable financial situations. Illustrators are more like dentists have to study and perfect their craft and he felt he should be making more.

He felt really sorry for himself, he wasn’t honest enough with himself to say, “We got ourselves into this situation.”

He went and took the PCA32 class and got unofficially hired but then he was talking to the CO’s in his neighborhood and heard all of these horror stories, they were telling him not to do it.

He felt like a failure he had a 15 year long career in illustration, it was a cop out. No one that did that job was having a meaningful career.

It felt like giving up.

How did you get yourself out?

He talked to his wife, his bishop from church, his neighbor who was a nurse at the prison, everyone was telling him not to do it.

His bishop told him that he saw what Will was capable of doing, had seen his children books, and that the gifts that he had should not be squandered this way, and that he had developed these gifts that would be taking away from people and he wouldn’t know what good he had done. Jake has really seen the positive influence on others through Will’s Youtube channel, art, and on him personally.

Will and his wife were in a sticky financial situation and it really took learning to live within their means to help get them out of that. Just because someone else has something you shouldn’t get it just because they have one. Live below your means so you can save every month, you will experience lean times.

Carrie Henry, “I hope you are putting money away because this isn’t going to last.”

There are so many benefits to living within your means. Including happiness by not being tied to needing to have everything.

Jake had a great job at an animation studio, but wanted to develop an independent career. He had an opportunity to teach at BYU in Utah, where he could have benefits and health insurance along with a couple days a week to work on his publishing work. But that job at BYU disappeared because after a couple of years they told him they wanted him to have a degree. He didn’t have So he found a full time job and gave himself a year to get 6 months of work lined up. The year came and went and he didn’t have 6 months of work lined up, he was really stressed and he was really down on himself, he doubled down on himself and he started to post on social media and posted daily and tried to post daily. He then landed a really good job from Google that would last them a couple of months, and he knew if he did a Kickstarter, and he got another childrens book. He added it all up and realized he had his 6 months of work he was looking for. That was 5 years ago, and he’s been doing it ever since, but it hasn’t been smooth but it’s been a steady trajectory upwards.

It would have been easy to quit and just stay at that new job for 10 years, but he had a vision or a goal and he stuck with that.

You never know what the future holds in store. There are always curves and things you didn’t see coming. No matter how good you are you will still experience failures. This is true for life and especially for a career in art. Once you hit a certain point it doesn’t mean that those things will go away. Typically all failures have a silver lining. Use every failure to look at what went wrong, what you can do differently, and how you can learn from it and be better.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto our Forum, there is a thread for this episode you can comment on.

A Year's Worth of Lessons

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

"New year, new me!" A new year provides plenty of excitement as everyone makes goals and sets resolutions for improvement, it is also a great time for reflection on things learned from the year prior. In this episode, we share some of the lessons we learned from 2018, and hopefully some of these lessons can be helpful for you this year. Happy New Year!


We’re still working on a lot of the same things, and so from now on we’ll probably just give updates once a month instead of every episode.

A Year’s Worth of Takeaways

We want to each share a couple of lessons that we had from this past year.

Concept is King, Will

At the beginning of his career, like most people, Will focused a lot on craft. And as he has matured he has learned that craft is what gets you through the door but what moves you forward is artistry, or the concept behind your piece. That is the most important thing. Craft validates you, but your concepts is what moves you forward.

It is all about the subtle things, the things that add to the story, the things that are left out of the illustration., check out Will’s comic con drawings, a lot of time goes into making sure the concept is solid.

You don’t really get to see anyone’s real initial reaction when they see your children’s book that you illustrated. However, at the comic conventions strangers don’t know that you are the artist, so Will gets to see their natural reaction to his work and his fan art concepts. He has been able to really see, by watching it in real time, that people are not drawn to the craft but they are really drawn to the concepts of his drawings. The drawings with stronger concepts attract more attention from customers.

Will is trying to go through his Bonneparte book and make sure the expressions and everything add to the story. That those little details are adding to the story and concept behind each illustration.

Technique, perspective, etc: it all serves the story. Not the other way around. You don’t make the story about the perspective or about the technique.

Lee really likes his work to look raw, and has really gravitated to that look over time. He noticed that when he tried to make things look really rendered and realistic people talked a lot at how realistic his work looked rather than the concept behind it. But when he changed his approach and focused a lot more on concept and developed more of a raw style then people also began to focus more on the emotion and the concept.

Jake used to be very tight with his drawings using a technical pen, but has grown to not focus so much on that and instead uses a brush pen and it has given his drawings a more organic, hand drawn feeling. It’s more about bringing the drawing to life than making sure every part and mechanical piece makes perfect sense.

Ask yourself: What is the concept, and what is the emotional response that I want to illicit in the person viewing it?

With all of that it is hard to get noticed if you have bad craft. Having bad craft, is often from laziness. Will struggled with drawing and resisted getting better at it, and his excuse was that he didn’t want to hurt his style, but it was really just an excuse for laziness. Putting some effort at building your craft will help you better pull off any concept you want to tackle.

You need to still learn craft so that you are able to take on whatever artistic challenge comes your way. You want to be malleable, and adaptable. You need to be able to adapt to the times and not be stuck doing just one style.

In short, good craft will get you through the door, but good concepts and ideas will help you move forward.


It’s All About Lifestyle, Lee

This has been a big year for Lee and his family! They moved from Oregon to Tennessee and have been able to really lower some of their expenses which has taken a lot of stress from Lee to have to make as much money and helped give him more time.

They have been working at this plan to reduce costs for 3-5 years and it has really payed off, no pun intended.

Now Lee has a lot more time, and a lot less stress that allows him to be more creativity. Essentially, control your costs to enhance creativity.

There is a big relationship between what you want to do and the stress of making money. The more pressed you are for money the more likely you will accept work that you would prefer to avoid. The more financial freedom you have the more you can say no to those projects and work on the work that you want to.

Will was alive way back when not everyone had personal computers. He didn’t want to spend the money on one and kept putting it off but once he got a personal computer, that was a game changer for him.

If you need a particular tool to do the work that you need to do, that you want to do. Then get a job and work to save money for that tool.

If you are more wise with your eating expenses and your other flexible expenses, soon you could save enough money to afford an iPad or those tools that will help move you forward.

There are some practical things that you can do to help move you forward financially:

  1. Don’t Live in San Francisco or another place with high cost of living; it will be difficult to move forward, starting off your career paying $2300 a month for an apartment.

  2. Go through and try and take 20% off of your major bills: groceries, rent, etc.

Back in the 70’s you had to live in one of those big cities, but nowadays with the internet you can stay connected.


The Inbox Zero Method, Jake

Back in 2017, Jake had over 500 emails in his inbox, and he declared Email Bankruptcy, he took all of those emails and stuck them in a “Bankruptcy” folder.

This is his new Inbox Zero Method that he used in 2018:

  1. Make a folder in your inbox called the “action folder”

  2. Create different folders for different projects/categories.

  3. Set aside time each day or every couple days to go through your action folder. I.e. send someone that file, or write that thank you response.

  4. Any email that takes less than 2 minutes to respond to, just do that right away, if it takes longer then put it in your action folder.

Previously Jake would sometimes check his email 5 times an hour and then it fragmented his time and he wasn’t able to accomplish as much. The best work happened when he had 2 or 3 hours to get in the zone and focus on deep work.

Don’t live in a state of constant distraction. Don’t let the email control you, you control your email.

Lee has this program called Self Control and it allows you to choose the sites that are distractions for you: i.e. News sites, email, etc, and you can plug those sites into the app and create limits for accessing those sites. I.e. You can’t access any of those sites for the next 4 hours.

Lee’s Distraction Websites:




Some news source

Craig’s List

When he clicks the button on Self Control it removes those distractions.

Be Careful, Will

Story: One of his best friends runs the comic con side of his business and does all the scheduling, taxes, going to shows, etc. And then pays Will his portion.

Will and his business partner sent this person to run a booth for them in different parts of the country and this person had helped them $700 dollars. They sent him to another show and Will had a Facebook friend that tabling next to the man, and that friend emailed Will telling him that the person working for him was always showing up late to the show, and would leave the booth for hours at a time.

So when the guy running those shows came back Will and his business partner, Wane, talked to him about that email they received and he admitted that it was all true.

You really need to know the person that you are taking a chance on, and when necessary make sure there are checks and balances in place.

Storytelling differences:

Lee tells the point he wants to make and then gives the supporting details.

Will tells the story and and supporting details and then he gives the lesson or takeaway.

Jake likes to create orderly lists and bullet points.

Truly be a Content Creator, Lee

Being a content creator is where all of the fun and all of the income truly happens.

Lee is in the process of making patterns, and books to pitch and he is having so much fun.

He is making so much content that isn’t even being asked for, and then is going to see where it will go.

He’s having a great time and he hasn’t ever had this much freedom before.

Your ideas and your ability to come up with things will be rewarded.

Those who not only illustrate but also write their books have a better chance of being picked up by a publisher. Those who take the bull by the horns and go above and beyond just being an illustrator can do really well.

You feel like you are more in control of your future when you go the extra mile.

The best thing that Lee likes about having being a content creator nowadays, is that there is now a Plan B. Before you would have to just shop your work around to different companies and publishers, but now there is Kickstarter.

Worst case scenario: nobody wants it, then you can Kickstarter it and make it yourself.

Jake disagrees that being a content creator over executing someone else’s vision this is the only way to be successful. More and more today people want visuals and good images to go with their company, and there is work for people who have craft. With that said though, don’t let your side projects die.

We aren’t saying that there is no more work for people who don’t create their own content and write their own children’s books, instead, we are saying that there are more opportunities for those that do.

You can become entrepreneurial. Will was not entrepreneurial, and now he is.

To do any personal project and have it be successful takes a lot more than just art. Each project is almost like it’s own business. A Kickstarter project involves logistics, marketing, etc.

You should learn some business skills to help out with the other side of things.

Be a content creator, it’s not entirely about getting work and being successful, it’s about reaching your full potential. Don’t just be a hired gun all the time, take time to do your own work too. There is something special about creating for your own project.

Not everyone has that itch to do personal projects and be entrepreneurial, some people love working at a studio or just having a real job. And for them that is all of the creative fulfillment that they need.

Making your own things, finishing things, and doing those personal projects gives you confidence that you can take with you into other endeavors.

Take Time to Just Draw For Fun, Jake

We all can get so caught up with deadlines, and drawing for specific projects that we forget to draw just for fun.

There is value in drawing for fun and you never know what may come from it.

Just take time to scribble and draw just for fun. Just like a kid, draw not for anything, just draw for fun. You never know what is going to happen.

Jake drew this robot and colored it and because of the colors he chose it ended up looking like an avocado robot. So he drew a bunch of other “food bots”, and they were all just for fun. Someone took his Hamburger Bot and made a 3D sculpt from it, and then with his permission made some real 3D printed statues from his design, and they have even been made into stickers for Art Drop Club. All of that just from Jake choosing to draw for fun.

2018 Remorses:

Jake wishes he had drawn all of Skyheart before the Kickstarter, instead of after. Jake feels like he could have been using all of that creation time of Skyheart as a build up to the Kickstarter. It would have been a better final product, and it would have saved him from a lot of stress. The great thing is that we can learn from our mistakes!

In the past, Kickstarter may have been more about helping to fund something that never would have been done. Now it feels like it has shifted to becoming more of a pre-order and the money is just needed to fund the production of it.

That’s it for today, we hope that some of the things we learned last year will be helpful to you with achieving your personal and artistic goals this year. Happy New Year, everybody!


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.


The Stories We Tell

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

3 Point Perspective EP 19: The Stories That We Tell.

We talk about the different kinds of stories you might illustrate as a kidlit artist in the latest episode of our podcast 😀

Current Projects:

Lee, Is continuing on his book cover series; he also worked on creating 50 patterns to give to his agent to take to a convention in New York for licensing.

Will, Still working on the sequel to Bonaparte, and is working on a new Kickstarter, to be released in February or March. Stay tuned for details! Sidenote: in case you didn’t know, Kickstarters are exhausting!

Jake: Is all finished with his Skyheart Kickstarter and is still just rounding up any stragglers, so if you are a backer and haven’t filled out your survey yet, log onto Kickstarter and fill it out so we can get your reward to you!, sponsor of this podcast! Free for 7 days. Click here if you  are interested in learning more!

What stories do you want to tell? That is the question that we want to dive into with today’s topic.

The Stories That We Tell

In illustration there are some recurring stories and themes that come up with similar plots and basic story details. Lee did a deep dive on the internet to learn more about what stories keep coming up in the world of children’s books and here are the results from the first website he found.

Basic Themes, Plots, and Actions

10 Basic Themes in Children’s Books:

  1. Courage

  2. Friendship

  3. Belonging /Identity

  4. Family

  5. Loss/ Grief

  6. Growing Up

  7. Anger

  8. Suffering

  9. Jealousy

  10. Love

Lee did a little more research by clicking on the next Google result, and found this:

The 7 Basic Plots, Christoffer Booker

  1. Overcoming the Monster, or overcoming some big thing

  2. Rags to Riches: follows a rise to happiness.

  3. Voyage and Return

  4. The Quest

  5. Comedy

  6. Tragedy: riches to rags, follows a fall.

  7. Rebirth

Jake’s 4 Different Plot Categories:

  1. Winning

  2. Escaping

  3. Stopping

  4. Retreating

These are the modes of action of the main characters.

I.e. Where the Wild Things Are, Max is escaping.

Little Bot and Sparrow, It’s all about a robot that becomes friends with a sparrow and they grow in their friendship together, until one day the sparrow has to leave for the winter. The story is all about: Friendship, Belonging, and Dealing with Loss and Grief.

A subtle version of rags to riches.

Plot applies more to bigger, longer stories, stories with a 3 act structure. Children’s books can have a 3 act structure but often times they don’t.

Most stories: a problem that needs to be solved and then they find a creative solution.

The late Rick Walton: Come up with an interesting problem with a creative solution.

Are there things that you like to create?

Are there things that you like to create? What are you naturally drawn to creating?

If you are a student in school you should be creative enough when you get an assignment, you should be able to fit what the assignment is with what you want to paint or create.

Some themes that come up in Lee’s work and entertainment interests:

Kids that find something magical, and then that drives the story. Normal real life with a hint of magic, or one thing out of place. Like The Goonies, Iron Giant, and E.T.

With Harry Potter, he liked the details, more than the overall story.

3 Different Types of Creators:

  1. World Building: get really caught up in the details, sometimes overlook the story and characters and can get caught up with plot points, etc.

  2. Character Building: very focused on the characters and their development.

  3. Plot Building: very focused on the overall story, but maybe doesn’t have specifics figured out with characters, the world, etc.

Jake loves Worldbuilding. What are the mechanics of the world?

It’s super interesting to have characters with conflict. I.e. A bad character who is forced to do something good.

The reluctant heroes, the anti-hero are very interesting and fun stories to follow.

What are you going to paint and create if you are left on your own?

Will’s goal is to become an Authorstrator.

Will and his wife were losing their home because of poor financial choices, and this was a direct influence on the story he helped write: Gary’s Place. What if this gopher decided to dig a hole and then added a whole bunch of rooms, and then the house got flooded because the Gopher dug too far.

What do I like to do in the winter time? etc, then you can start thinking about situations and character ideas.

Essentially the stories that you tell will come from your life experiences, your interests, and from who you are.

How to come up with a good story

Why a story starts and why a story ends is so difficult, the resolution is the hardest part, it is difficult to come up with a story that ends in a satisfying and meaningful way.

You can say, I know that I want the story to be about this..., but instead of thinking about how it starts, think about how it ends. Then you can work backwards and reverse engineer it.

Some stories are serious, and others are just fun jokes.

Like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

The story is along the lines of a really good joke. It is simplified, toned down, and has a great punch line. Think about the jokes that you are drawn to. Funny picture books are just illustrated jokes. Every element is essential to help tell the joke.

I Want My Hat Back

No David! It is very loosely a story, but there is this interaction and story, and then it ends with the resolution of his mom hugging him.

Writing a simple short book that is also satisfying is very difficult.

Dr. Suess was amazing at creating stories that were deep. He started off as a political cartoonist and a lot of that carries over into his children’s books.

There is a lot more to it than what you see on paper.

Horton Hears a Who, he is making a commentary about the U.S. and Japan after WW2.

The Cat in the Hat, his message and commentary on authoritarianism.

The Lorax, it is about environmental stuff.

He is so good at making a story that is interesting on two levels.

But with these stories the story isn’t overwhelmed by the message beneath it. The surface story is also interesting.

Too didactic, is a warning zone. Don’t make it too preachy!

You want it to be fun and not focused on preaching.

Jake has got this note, editors don’t want it to be too strong a message. It has to be more underneath the story.

You can’t be hit over the head with a message.

“Don’t Run into the Road!” It’s not a story. There was this big name author that tried to create a story about that, but it never really sold anywhere.

Preachy stories are really off-putting. Beating reader over the head never works. We don’t read children’s books to be preached at.

Early Influences

What are your top 3 books as a kid? Why? Why do you remember them now?

Will: The Francis books, Will was fighting with his sister, and in the book the brother was being mean to his sister. The book showed the perspective of the little sister and how she was really hurt when he was being mean to her. It really hit him and helped him see that he was being the bad guy. It made him self reflect, and had an impact on his life.

Rick Walton: if you set out to teach a lesson, that’s fine. But if you have to make the right decisions to make the story good, and those decisions take you away from that lesson, then follow the story.

Jake: Richard Scarry books, Where’s Waldo? books, stories with the faintest of stories but lots of amazing visuals.

Early influences play a huge role on who you are as a creator. Those early influences stay with you for your whole life.

Lee’s dream: to listen to the radio in 30 years and hear that a book he wrote had an impact on someone.

Lee: The Pink Elephant with Golden Spots. These kids are in an empty house and they find these keys that open a magic wardrobe, and they discover a pink elephant with golden spots, that ends up being taken to the zoo where all the  other elephants make fun of it, but all of the visitors want to see the pink elephant, and all of the other elephants paint themselves to look fun and crazy like the pink elephant. Lee still cherishes that book.

These things stick with you for the rest of your life.

Will: I Wish That I Had Duck Feet

We want to be unique. We want to stick out. This book is an influence on him and his work.

Jake, what inspired you to draw robots?

Yukito Kishero’s Battle Angel Alida was a big influence.

Appleseed was full of robots, and in the back the artist, Sherow, would show robot designs with cut aways showing the insides of the robots and how they worked.

Jake likes to offset the high technical, really detailed robots with cute little animals. Richard Scarry liked cute animals driving cars and Jake likes cute animals with robots.

Jake likes the engineering aspect, the form and function of drawing robots. Star Wars is amazing, and they have all of these books showing cross sections of ships and how things work.

How do you avoid being cliche?

You need to connect dots that haven’t been connected before.

Just write a great story, that is totally original. It’s that easy!

Anything that is unique and original, there is an element of the familiar and there is something that is unexpected. This is why it is vital to fill your creative bank account.

Where are some unlikely connections? What are the interesting things that you notice?

Notice the things around you. Look for things in your life that are unique to you. Look for problems in your life and find ways to solve them.

Lee’s real life question: “What if it didn’t stop raining?” Led to him creating a story about a girl who encounters that problem, it doesn’t stop raining. Find the problems that you are going through personally and then solve them in interesting ways.

If you are stuck on doing the monster under the bed something then you need to do something unexpected.

Seinfeld, comes from real life. There is a level of richness and charm that has to come from real life.

Have fun telling and coming up with your own stories!


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.


The Life Cycle of a Children's Book

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

The Illustration Podcast: Episode 18

Current Projects:

Will: Still working on the Painting Color and Light class. I’m gonna be working on it for a while. Loves working on classes, and loves having them. Loves it. It takes a long time but is very satisfying.

Lee: Going into the last week of his basic painting class, and it’s amazing the progress people have made between weeks 1 and 10.

Started a bunch of projects, and is working on a big series of book covers for his agent, he is trying to move into that genre, because children’s books take a long time, so he is trying to find things to do to supplement his children’s books.

Working on classic novels right now, and just did Lord of the Flies. His goal is to do 1 cover a week. Be willing to move without the ball. No one is paying Lee to work on this book cover project, but he is doing it because he feels that it will be good for him. Good things happen to those who take initiative.

Jake: Working on coloring his Inktober drawing. It’s a challenge, but it’s satisfying. Also is working on his Inktober book.

Life Cycle of a Children’s Book

Today we talk about where a book starts, what it does in its lifetime, how it ends, and all the hands that touch it.

There are two different branches to children’s books, and they are:

Author, illustrator combo.

Or an Author who is also the illustrator.

We’re going to focus on the first, and talk about how a book is made and published going through a publisher. Not self publishing.

The Manuscript

After a writer has gone through all of their ideas, and has a manuscript nailed down, they then submit that manuscript to their agent. The agent reads through the manuscript and decides if it’s something they think they can sell. Then the agent usually will give notes back to the author. If the agent is good, then they should know the market and what’s selling right now.

Once that stage is over, then the agent will take it to publishers and start shopping it around.

Should you chase what’s hot?

If you really believe in the story, then you can tell your agent to try and shop it around.

But maybe you aren’t super attached, and you don’t mind making the suggested changes.

Pick your battles. Usually Jake defers to people with more knowledge and experience than him. Often an agent’s suggestions are very valuable because that is their job and normally they have so much experience with this than you do.

The Agent Takes it to the Publishers

She takes it to publishers and gauges their interest. more often than not they will have a list of go to editors that they will show it to first. The publisher level might want to get on board too if it’s a really good idea. The editor takes it to the publisher and they bounce it around and see if it’s a book that this publisher wants to publish. They will talk to all sorts of people about schedule, etc. And if it all works out and is a good fit then they will come back with an offer.

There is a lot of work that goes into this and it’s something you may not see.

Victoria Jamieson, Roller Girl

She’s an author illustrator now, and she used to work in publishing. She had a wonderful slideshow that walked people through the process of how a book is made. There are like 100 people working on deciding if a book should be done or not. There are a lot of people that have to give their stamp of approval. It’s good to not know about all of the near misses because then you will be beating yourself up over them and spend way too much time worrying.

The money you are offered is a fraction of the money that will be spent making the book. There is printing, marketing, sales, etc. all involved. They all need to have a say to make sure it will work across all departments.

Would you trade this for a less free but more stable job?

Jake loved animation, but he is happier with the independence that his lifestyle offers now.

Will would get into lively discussions with his wife, because she was wanting him to have a “real” job. She was tired of gaps between checks and the uncertainty. But now she is grateful and is glad that Will stuck with being an independent artist.

Will has lived long enough to see people with regular jobs experience plenty of layoffs.

If there was a house style for picture books, it would take a lot of creativity out of the market.

The Publisher Strikes a Deal With the Illustrator.

Once the light is green. Once you get the green light, an offer is made, and you are in a good position if you are getting offers from multiple publishers. Then once the offer is made they will start looking for an illustrator. If you are an author then they will have a short list of

Then if you are an illustrator then you will get to look at the manuscript and decide if you want to take this project on.

Is this something I want to spend months on, will it align with my style and my brand. Is it enough money? Then if you choose to accept the book offer then they will give you a real offer.

They will give you a loose schedule and an offer.

You need to know your process inside and out. You really need to understand how long things take, comps, scanning ,etc.

At this point you should be thinking about your schedule. If everything feels good to you and looks good to you then you accept the offer.

Then your agent and the publisher will go back and forth about the money, royalties, do you have rights to the artwork, etc. Usually you want to retain rights to use it in your portfolio, and on your website. You want the rights in case the book takes off and they decide to make other products, like pajamas, mugs, posters, etc, so that  you can get royalties.

Receiving Your Advance, and Getting to Work

Once all of this is squared away then you sign the contract and at that point you get an “advance”, this is upfront money.  This protects you as an artist because you get money upfront to see you through the creative process.

This is how an advance works:

Let’s say you have a $20,000 advance.

There are two options:

  1. ⅓ signing, ⅓ delivering final files, ⅓ book is printed.

  2. ½ siginign, ½ delivering finals (more common).

The advance is against the royalties, so you would start making royalties after making the $20,000.

Then you get a check and it feels really good depositing it.

We like to be real in this podcast. And you don’t get the check immediately upon signing the contract. When you sign it, it still usually takes 1-2 months for you to actually receive the advance. Publishing is weird, horses still bring you your checks. This speaks to the idea that you need to be good with your money and learn to budget and plan ahead.

Also in the contract, it should outline the game plan for the actual production of the book. It is usually around a year or 2 years later. The reason is that once you have started creating some art, then they can use that artwork to start selling the book to bookstores, libraries, etc. This all happens well in advance. Stores and libraries all are projecting and trying to predict what will sell or what will not sell in the future.All of this starts to happen as you start sending them files.

Usually your production time is 6 months to a year.

It takes forever.

If you just sat down and just worked on the book and nothing else, you could get it done in maybe two months, but there is all sorts of back and forth, getting feedback, receiving notes, and making changes. Marketing people usually give lots of their feedback on the cover, they judge books by their cover.

Production Process

Process in a Nutshell

Send in initial rough sketches, get feedback.

Then do a final illustration and get that approved for the finished look of the book.

Receive approval.

Then once that is approved, final sketches.

Then do the rest of the final artwork.

Then turn it all in.

Then there are notes on the finished artwork.

Then make any necessary changes.

Then they get all of the work and they have a lot they need to do on their end with it.

It’s so simple, right?

It sounds complicated but they are directing it, and so all you need to do is meet your deadlines and respond to their emails.

You are working intensely with other people and so there are people skills. You work back and forth with a lot of different departments and people. You are apart of a team, and it’s not like you are just creating an image for a class.

Final Check on the Proofs

After all the art is in their hands, then they will go through and format it, they will format the type. They will prep everything for print.

At the same time, you will start bugging them and telling them that it is time for that second check.

You aren’t quite done yet. A few months later you will get proof back, usually you will get prints of the book, physically. And you will see what the book will look like in print. They are larger and are not cropped at all. You look through it and make sure that the color that they are printing is matching your screen. If it all looks good then you let them know or you can ask them

Lee will try and send in a couple of finished images and also color swatches of where the color should be. Lee sends a hard copy proof, and then they can match it as best they can. He sends them his intention for how it should be printed. Because if everyone is looking at screens, then they might all be getting something a little different, they are trying to hit a moving target.

After the proofs then you get the FNG’s, short for Folded and Gathered. These are the folded sheets, and it is what the book is really going to look like. This is where you can go through and double check everything. It’s probably too late to fix minor things but if there are major things then you can try and catch it before the book is printed.

True Story:

First time Will went to ALA, his publisher was sending him out there. His editor told him that he will see those “FNG’s”, and he couldn’t tell what was going on and if she was mad about something.

FNG’s. There is this lingo, and little terms that get thrown at you that you never learned in school.

Book Reviews

After the FNG’s are approved then you will receive some advanced copies. The finished book. Not just you but other people like librarians with a book review audience, book reviewers, other publishers and agents, all people who are connected to this book somehow will get the books so that they can start reviewing them and telling people what they should think of the book.

What you are looking for at this stage is for good reviews.

A starred review on Kirkus is usually a good sign. The reviews are usually heavily focused on the writing and is not as focused on the illustrations.

If you do not get a “starred review” not a 5 starred review, but a starred review, then people will look at the book as a miss, and it most likely won’t be a commercial success.

Reviews. A lot of reviews are kind of arbitrary because the people reviewing them aren’t artists and the reviews are being given by individuals.

Lee did a book and the review was saying that the book was quite poignant, and full of emotion, great. However, he drew a girl without a helmet, and got a bad review because on one page

Release Day

Book comes out, you are tweeting, and posting on Instagram about the book deal. There is some marketing that you need to do as author or illustrator and it all leads up to the launch of the book.

If they want to and if you can, then you may be sent on a book tour. This is quite rare though. Book tours are more reasonable when you are both the author and illustrator.

Publishers are hoping that at least one of the books they published will get an award. Every eighth or twelth book they publish is paying for all the others.

You go on a book tour, and then you go home, or your book goes onto a best-seller list. You usually find this out, a week or two after the book is published. These accolades are not essential but feel good.

Getting onto the The Best Seller Lists, sometimes it’s really easy to gain your way or you can sneak your way onto their lists.

Even more important than the Best Seller Lists for how your book is selling is the Amazon seller rank. If you are anywhere under 10,000 for best selling books on Amazon, then you are

Bonaparte Falls Apart is seasonal but it was in the 700’s.

David Hone’s book, “God Gave Us Christmas” gets into the teens on Amazon’s seller ranking. Basically he is receiving off the charts royalties.

Periodically you will receive a royalty statement.

Gives you a break down of how many books sold in different areas.

It tells you how much you still need to pay off of your advance.

And if you have paid off your book’s advance, then you get a royalty check.

Death or Eternal Life of A Children’s Book

Then your book will either die and go out of print. Or it will continue to get royalties.

If it goes out of print, then you retain all of the rights and you can self publish it or you can find another publisher.

If it never goes out of print then you continue to receive royalty checks for it. You never know what’s gonna happen.

The publisher does a lot of work. They do a lot of heavy lifting. So you can look at it this way, you are getting paid to create and you are also receiving free advertising.

Big advance or big royalty?

Your sales record follows you around, if you have a big flop then it can hurt your future deals.

There is a balance between advances and royalties. If they can’t get a bigger advance, then you could ask for a bigger royalty.

School visits, Jerry Polada does a lot of school visits, the fact that he does school visits every week and that volume of visits and work he does can help him with getting books sold to publishers.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

Tanner Garlick: Instagram: @tannergarlick

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.