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

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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.

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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

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"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

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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

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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.

How to Work with Art Directors

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A topic often glossed over in school is, how to work with art directors. This is a huge part of the business side of Illustration and many beginning illustrators approach it with a bit of trepidation; in this episode  we help shed some light on the topic by offering advice, suggestions, and by sharing some of our successes and failures in working with art directors.

SVS, our show is sponsored by It’s like Netflix for art classes. We love the guys down there at SVS:) If you are interested, click here.

Current Projects:

Will: Working on redoing a class for SVS, and originally the class was done live and so now he is giving it a facelift and making it more organized and coherent.

Lee: While waiting for a book project to start, has started working on a basic Digital Painting class for SVS. He has done 90 videos done so far. Also, took a week to dial in his studio, his process and needs have changed over time, so now he has taken some time to customize his studio and built things to streamline it. Fancy customization.

Jake: Just finished, Inktober! Yay! Finished all the Inktober posts, has been doing a ton of work on the Inktober posts, which is a ton of work. Did all of his personal Inktober drawings, plus another 20 or so to promote sponsors.

Cleaned the whole studio with his trusty assistants, Aaron and Tanner.

Now is working on the Inktober book which is all about how to ink, how to do Inktober, and where do you fit in the world of Ink.

November Art Challenges:

Slowvember: taking time to slow down after the franticness of Inktober and just focus on making one thing beautiful.

Another popular art challenge is Huevember, combined with Sketchtember, and Inktober. People do sketches during the month of September, ink them during October, and then add color during Huevember.

Slowvember, all about creating an amazing

Last year Lee did 2 pieces during that month. 2 weeks a painting. In today’s world it seems like it is all about speed, so it’s so nice to slow down and work on a painting and give it 100% of what you’ve got.

It’s the last 20% that makes you a professional. Students can totally get to that 80% mark but they get stuck and don’t know what else to do. It’s that final 20% that is the hardest part and this challenge is a perfect way to work on getting past that.

We love this podcast! This is what are meetings used to dissolve to anyways, so we’re happy to share it now with you.

Today’s topic is: How to Working with Art Directors.

The nuts and bolts of working with an art director is usually learned on the job and is not covered as much in school. So hopefully this will be helpful.

We have some questions that were submitted to us by a former art director who thought these would be helpful questions to discuss and consider.

How much creative freedom can I expect to have when illustrating a book?

For most children’s books that Jake has done he has been hired based off of a specific illustration he has already done. Some artists have only one distinct style and so if that’s the case the client most likely wants something in that style.

Usually Jake will email them and ask what type of style they want for their illustration. The freedom lies in how you can use that style to tell the story. You have to stay in that box of the style and work inside that box and all of the storytelling and design you do should fit in that box.

Usually Lee will ask the publisher why and for what reason they chose him. Then they will send some images that they like of his and start to describe the look and feel of the project.

Your creativity doesn’t change as much as your confidence does.

Lee feels that he has the same amount of creativity and capacity to have good ideas now as when he started, the difference, however, is his confidence and ability to pitch those things and more creative solutions to the art director or publisher.

We all need to overcome self imposed limitations of what we think the art director wants. There is a freedom to pitch things out there and see if they are received.

It took some time but now Lee has confidence to think outside of the box and to propose new solutions.

Talk to the art director like a person, and give them more options. Don’t only focused on “will they like it?” Focus on coming up with creative solutions.

Overcome self-censoring to do what is fun and exciting.

Here’s an example, for a book Lee gave them three different options of approaches they could take on it and listed the pros and cons of each option. Talk openly about all of those things.

Jake likes to think about the current children’s book as the calling card for the next one. So he tries to really push things as far as he can and do his very best on at least a few spreads so he can show that stuff to other publishers.

If you give them boring stale work, and that’s what they want and that’s what you’ll be continued to ask do for them.

Lee gets shut down all the time, and that’s okay, he understand and has developed confidence.

“I love the limited color, but maybe we go full color..”

Anything you draw is never wasted. Anything can be reused, shown, and you get to become better as an artist because you went down that path and explored that option.

Have you been as satisfied with your professional work as your personal work?

Lee has done 24, 25 books and still feels like he hasn’t been able to hit the mark of his best work.

Of all of Will’s books, Bonnaparte Falls Apart is doing the best. It was published by Random House and it is the book where he had the most freedom.

As a rule of thumb, the smaller the publisher, the less freedom you’re going to have.

Lee: is working with imprints of Scholastic and Simon and Schuster.

Jake has worked with Chronicle and Harper Collins.

These publishers are at the top of their game, they allow you to do your best work with creative freedom and they will give directional nudges, and are not overly micromanaging. Smaller publishers may micromanage and have silly requests.

Will will approach art directors and show them really rough sketches and tell them that they are for their eyes only, don’t show these to the editor. This allows him to pitch concepts without having to do a lot of detailed sketching.

You need to prove yourself with a new client and give them some nice sketches before you start showing them really really rough concepts, so they can know what your sketches entail.

The caliber of client does change the answer to this question of how satisfied you may be with working with a publisher. Some smaller publishers will micromanage.

A good example of trust and a proactive solution mindset. Jake noticed when the book was nearing completion that they had left out a spread and they were a whole spread short, so he proposed an idea for a final spread and the author, editor, and everyone liked his idea and let him carry it out.

The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas

Throw good creative ideas out there, if you don’t really have a good idea, don’t throw ideas out there just to throw it out there!

What to do if you don’t agree with the art director?

You can definitely push back more the more confidence and experience you have.

Would you do that as a beginning illustrator?

Pick your battles, it can’t be a daily thing. Every project will have issues. you know there is going to be some push back to what you do. You are going to want one or two of your ideas, to be really gutsy and push back. But it can’t be a daily thing.

When considering pushing back against feedback given, always ask, “Is this worth it? Is this more important than the other things that I really care about?” Pick your battles.

Check out our monthly drawing challenges at!

Be solution-oriented.

If you need to make a change and it’s not your idea, then you need to love the change or revision.

Will has loved something about a book and then had that thing changed and then he was able to love that new thing even more than the thing before.

We are resistant to change because we have attached value to something and then when that is attacked we feel unsettled.

Skeleton at Dinner

Being a student, almost anything you pitch is accepted and your teacher just wants to see you create good work.

As a professional, that isn’t the case, many things you pitch won’t be accepted or agreed with, but you have to keep a positive and team player attitude.

When going into professional job, realize you are going to be apart of a team, it helps you have a better mindset.

In regard to illustration, Jake likes to have the mind of a mercenary. You are hired by the author and the editor and they have a vision, he will, 9/10, go along with their vision.

One good reason for this is that the editor has been through this process so many more times than you, and she works with a marketing department and has seen designs and books succeed and fail. Normally she or he knows what

they are talking about. Jake tends to go with their feedback, unless maybe it is something specific that he feels strongly about.

Push back on only a handful of little things. Trust their vision.

Have you ever refused to change something?

Jake, never done it.

Lee, did this once. Did icons for a magazine and they got caught in this ongoing never ending revision loop.

As artists we are all caught in this paradox where we are wanting to make money and also wanting to enjoy out art and this fun career path. Sometimes you need to know when to say yes and no.

Sometimes you say yes, because there is a really good paycheck.

Sometimes you say no, because it doesn’t fit with your brand or artistic vision.

Will lost his rep by saying no. The art director was really upset because everyone wanted Will, the illustrator to rewrite the book, and Will knew that wasn’t his job or responsibility, and refused to do so. He lost his rep but stood up for himself. Soon after that publisher actually went out of business.

Being an illustrator does not mean: “I will illustrate anything for anyone in any style.”

I.e. Lee doesn’t do likenesses in his illustration work.

Know what you’re good at and know what you’re not.

You don’t have to be a Jack of all trades.

But you also don’t have to limit your skill set but you can limit what you do.

Is there a way to feel out the publishing team before you do a book for them, to make sure you see, creatively, eye to eye?

Some questions to ask early on to help you feel out the your compatibility with the project and team. What images of mine did you see that made you think of me? Why did you pick me? How do you see this project happening? Am I primarily working with the editor or the art director. You want to know what you are getting into.

Will’s friend wanted him to do a logo, and Will agreed to do it but had his friend show him 3 of his favorite logos so that Will could get a feel for what his friend wanted.

Make them send you stuff that fits their vision, so that you have a better idea as to what it is that they want.

Sometimes you have to spend a lot of money on your furnace.

You have to stick with it having a consistent online presence, you need to build an audience a fanbase, when you are in need they will likely support you!

How long do you wait on getting feedback on thumbnail sketches?

It can take as long as 3-4 weeks.

Worst experience with an art director?

Everyone has nothing to share. Will already shared his.

How to become friends with your art director?

People like to work with friends and with people that they can relate to.
Will tries to make it personal, “have a good time… this weekend”, “I’m going to be doing this, this weekend” Be kind and be their friend.

Jake likes to follow them on twitter or to comment on their art if they are an artist to find connections and build friendships.

A lot of Wills art directors are return clients.

He has had 5, 10, 30 projects with the same art directors.

Think about it, if you do good for someone, then they will count on you and look to you as a go to person. Be fun, be interesting, be a good person, care about them, show interest in what they’re doing. They will want to keep working with you if you produce good work, and are easy to work with.

One more idea, send your art director or publisher a card or a print, and do something extra like that for them.

Lee sends his new publishing clients his Kickstarter book so they have a really strong taste of what his process and finished work is like.

We hope you liked this discussion, this is a good thing to talk about because working with art directors, it’s part of what we do!

10 Skills Every Illustrator Must Have

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Most people think that in order to be a great illustrator you need to just be a great artist and storyteller, and that's true. However, there is a lot more that goes into being a stellar illustrator and a more well-rounded person. In this episode we'll go over 10 important skills that we all need to be developing, and we'll go over some of the reasons why they are all so important, and share some techniques and tips for improving your skills. "Art directors only want illustrators with great skills!"

Just a reminder that this class is sponsored by with a library of over 80-90 classes.

Here are some recommendations:

Lee’s Favorite: Visual Storytelling Techniques, it gives a why for all of the marks that you are putting down.

Will’s Favorite: Draw 50 Things, it’s hard but once you learn to swing a golf club then you can go forward knowing how to create images.

Jake’s Favorite: How to Draw Everything, Really proud of this one, it’s an intro to drawing, and it’s also great for experienced artists. It’s always a great thing to make sure that you are doing it right. It corrects drawing problems, and you learn a process by which you can draw anything you want! is Netflix for art school. If you want to own a movie, you go buy it. If you want to have access to a library of movies you do Netflix. That’s how is set up, you can buy the class and own it indefinitely or you can subscribe to our growing library of great content.

Project Updates:

Will: Sequel to Bonnepart, still working on it and is on the second round of sketches.

Lee: Working on a new book with Simon and Schuster, it’s a doozy, because it’s based on a song and the song doesn’t have a strong narrative, and so he is trying to create a story through the images.

Great ideas come early in the morning. That’s when great ideas come. Working in the morning and then chilling at night, or some people like to work till late at night and that can be great too.

When you get into a focus mode, whether it is late at night or early in the morning, nobody is there to interrupt you.

Jake: Delivered all of the interior drawings for Littlest Snow Plow 2, and it ended up being 40 pages. Next up, is working on the Inktober Book with Chronicle: how to do Inktober, and how to ink, and Jake’s process.

The 10 Skills that Every Illustrator Must Have

1. Love Creating

You need to love creating art. Will has had students who he has determined don’t love art, people who would show up late, and talk to people, and take forever to get setup, and then they pack up and leave early. This is true for anything that you want to do. If you don’t love it then you won’t have the drive to push yourself and become great.

Art is great, it’s what kids get excited about in pre school, and we are so blessed to be able to “play” for our job.

Will had a friend who was admiring his iPad and asked about getting one, and then Will told his friend that he shouldn’t get one because he doesn’t love drawing. The friend hadn’t drawn really at all in the last decade, and was kind of offended at first, but then when Will explained why he said that, he understood that what Will said definitely had some truth to it. You’ve got to love it in order to excel.

Jake has 5 kids and all of them who like to draw. One of them loves drawing and is older, and has a younger brother who likes drawing but and is way more naturally gifted. Sometimes his older son gets jealous, however, the older one is way more passionate, and in the long run he will have the drive to grow and become an amazing artist.

You have to love it in order for it to be a career. It’s fine if it’s just a hobby and you only do it for a few hours a week, but if you are going to be creating for 40-50 hours a week, then you need to love it.

2. Unique Style

Too often people settle and just copy someone else’s work and they don’t develop their own unique style.

If you stick with it long enough, your style will emerge. You can be deliberate and coax your style out quicker with exercises such as collecting 5-10 illustrators that you really like, and then creating lists about the different things that make up their style.

If you want to get published you also need to develop a style that is relevant.

You need to be looking at what’s being published right now, and then you can push things, you need to be current. We’ll do an episode about this soon, because this is an episode in and of itself.

3. Communication

You have to talk good.

You have to be willing and bold enough to ask questions, and call your art director to clarify things. Back in the day everyone called people even when people didn’t see it coming. However, it makes sense that sometimes people are nervous and don’t want to look silly or incompetent to an art director, and therefore, are afraid to call and ask questions.

People are willing to help you. If they want to work with you then that means they value you and your art. You can be honest, “Honestly, this is my first time doing a job like this, and so what do you think would be a fair price?”, etc, people will find you and your humble honesty endearing and be there to help you.

4. Power of Persuasion/ People Skills

Sometimes we look at persuasion as a negative term, as manipulative. But it’s not, and those things are different. It’s kind of like you get more bees with honey. Let’s say you’re a beginning illustrator, and the client asks if you can take on a project, you say, “let me check my schedule and get back to you.” When maybe your schedule is wide open.

Sometimes it’s a little bit of a game, “What’s your rate?”, well, “What’s the budget?” That’s a vital question if you want to make illustration a career.

You need to make your client comfortable, they’re nervous working with you if you haven’t worked with them before, do all you can to clarify and show excitement and interest, so that they feel comfortable and good about hiring you.

Will wanted to get a Yorkie, and there were 100 people who were wanting it.

Will wanted to try and get the owner to let him buy it, so he tried to reverse engineer the person’s perspective.

Ask yourself, “What would I want to hear, if I were them? What would I not want to hear, if I were her?”

Assess the situation and look for how it can benefit you and the person you are working with. Think win-win!

Show that you are excited, be human. Don’t be afraid to be excited and to show it!

5. The 33% Rule

You have relationships that you need to maintain. There are executive relationships above you, peer relationships people who are next to you, and there are people who are “below you” (not in a condescending way) but they are maybe not as experienced at something.

Focusing on all of these relationships helps you see where you are at in your career and in your ability, acknowledge what you need to do to get better and enables you to help those who are further back on the path than you are.

As you help people who are further back, you learn and grow more. Your skills will increase as you have to teach people the process.

As you spend time with people ahead of you, they pull you up.

You’re the sum of the 5 people you spend most of your time with. That means you need to put people in your life who are better than you.

What to do if you are the best? If you are the rockstar of your group?

Jake was at an art studio, and eventually people above him had moved on and left, and one day he realized that he didn’t have anyone to look up to and to push him to be better, so immediately he started looking at higher up studios with artists light years ahead of him, and he ended up getting a job there and grew so much within just the first 6 months.

Healthy competition can help push you to be a better artist too.

6. Teach

You don’t have to. But if you can do it, it’s so rewarding. You give so much to your students, and they give you even more. Your students build a great circle around you, and it increases your quality of life.

Some people have different personality, and like being alone more.

Will’s case for why you should teach:

  1. When you have to break something down, and have to explain something, then you are creating different pathways in your brain and you have epiphanies as you are teaching.

  2. You are held to a higher standard: if you teach your students to do something then you are more accountable to try and apply what you teach in your own work.

  3. Most of the most successful illustrators that he knows of, all have done something to teach and share their knowledge and experience.

As a rule of thumb, you should be out of school for 5 years before going back to teach, and those years of experience will validate you. You’ll be a better teacher and have the students respect. Students smell blood in the water and they can tell if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Your art will get better if you teach. Jake took a teaching job and right away his work got so much better.

7. Personal Projects

Every successful illustrator that Jake knows of that has taken their career somewhere has done personal projects and more importantly finished them and put them out into the world.

Ship It. Check out our episode on this here: Ship Happens.

Not the continuous project on the side that never gets finished.

This is the only way to avoid burnout as a pro. Sometimes you just want to paint or draw something that’s just all entirely yours. Sometimes you do a personal project and it works its way into your professional work.

Personal projects and style are so interrelated. You can’t work on personal project without developing your style and artistic voice.

Sometimes they turn into bigger things.

Missile Mouse, a side project started in 9th grade, turned into graphic novel deals with Scholastic.

Little Bot and Sparrow, a 10 page story for a comic anthology became a children’s book.

Inktober was a personal improvement project, now it’s a world wide art challenge.

Will did Bonaparte Falls Apart, because Jake convinced him to do the fanart and his Little book style.

When you have a personal project you have to answer questions and solve problems that you don’t have to when working on a project for someone else.

From doing Kickstarters, having to work with printers, and having to prep files, it has helped Jake work better with clients.

8. Yearn to Constantly Improve

So many people get to a point where they wonder where else they need to go.

Simona Ceccarelli: a good example of continually learning. She made it a personal goal, that her portfolio would turn around and be a completely different portfolio by the next year.

“Eternal student.” She was a scientist for years, but she loved art and started studying it. Be an eternal student.

Will’s interview with her.

Will was impressed with one of his highly experienced teachers in school who would constantly take notes whenever a visiting artist came to campus. He was humble and always trying to learn. Take notes.

9. Have an Online Presence

You can have great art, but if no one can find it, then you won’t have any work.

Most illustrators that are doing really well have some sort of an online presence. You can find them easily, they have a website, they are present to one degree or another on social media.

Simona has gotten work from twitter and instagram. Not only can you find work but you can start to build your own personal fan base.

Personal projects can sustain you if you have an audience that wants to buy your work.

10. Think of Yourself as More Than an Illustrator.

When Will looks at some of the best illustrator many do more than just illustration.

Strive to combine an additional skill with your illustration: i.e. writing, programming for a game you’re making, maybe it’s a board game so you’re combining it with your creative ideas for making the game, etc.

Develop another skill that you combine with illustration. You combine things and can create something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Some artists transcend the idea of being a hired gun, or “just an illustrator.”

You’re never going to be paid as much as the creator rather than just the artist.

You have to stand out in some way, you have to be unique.

It’s important to create that mindset that you are a creator, even if it’s not illustration, even if it’s something completely different. Sometimes while working on other things you’ll receive insights and inspiration for your art.

It’s all about how you define yourself. “Illustration is one of the things that I do, but I’m able to do lots of things.” There is so much more to life than just illustration. Be more than just an illustrator.

Taking classes:

Jake reads books and learns from them, art and non art, Jake did a marketing class, and went to  a conference. Lee has this spark and wants to take some art classes, onsite.

John Love watercolor workshop Lee did it.

Will would like to get into Plein Air painting, has never done it, but wants to get into it.

Good luck, go work on getting sweet skills, ‘cause art directors only like artists with sweet skills! :)


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

Alex Sugg:

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Why You Should Do an Art Challenge

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Have you ever taken on a month long challenge? Maybe it was to become more fit, drink more water, or participate in Inktober. Challenges are powerful for all realms of life and the same is for art. We are going to share some of our favorite art challenges, share some of the backstory of Inktober, and tell you the benefits of an art challenge and why you should make challenges a part of your life!

Our Current Projects:

Lee: Working on some fun little promos for his agent, and he is getting feedback and having different publishers look at one of his books.

Will: Just submitted the second round of sketches for Bonaparte Falls Apart.

Jake: Super busy with Inktober! Inktober now has several sponsors, which takes a lot of administrative work, looking over contracts, and providing content for them.

Also, he shipped Skyheart, went to New York and talked with editors about working on future projects, and built friendships and connections.

Reminder:, is an online illustration school, and a sponsor of Inktober!

SVSLearn has inking classes, and right now we have a Free 7 Day Trial going on. Be sure to check it out!


Free Trial!

Click the button to get started : )

Drawing Challenges

Have you guys ever done an art challenge?

Will created the Draw 50 Things Challenge, it’s a design challenge where you try and create an illustration that has at least 50 different recognizable objects in it.

Lee once did a 14-week long art challenge, painting a digital landscape every single day, 7 days a week. Which is a TON of painting!

Drawing challenge: you do something daily or you have a project you try to finish in a certain amount of time.

Take something you want to get better at and do it every day, for 30, 50 days.

Jake created Inktober, which is where you create an ink drawing every single day during October.

He also created the Draw 100 Somethings challenge, which is where you draw something and then draw 99 more different somethings, all within narrow constraints, such as 100 different dragons, 100 different pirates, 100 different animals, etc. The key is to not be too broad, the constraints will push your creative muscles!

Why You Should Do an Art Challenge

There are 3 main reasons:

  1. Improve your life, and become more creative.

  2. Improve your habits and develop your craft.

  3. Get attention and exposure.

It is so important that you do it everyday, at first it’s really awkward and it takes time to get in the rhythm, but eventually it becomes second nature. When you first try something, it’s harder and then when you do it again it gets easier.

Repetitive attempts drill it into you. You will become a better and more creative artist by the end of the challenge if you really do it justice.

While in college, Will got let into the illustration program on probation. He had to prove himself during the next semester to stay. He kept asking professors what he needed to work on and ultimately it was design. That’s why he made the Draw 50 Things Challenge, to help push people to sharpen their design and creativity skills.

Lee created the Slowvember art challenge. You create something every day for Inktober and it is really fast paced, then during Slowvember you slow down and spend time every day working to create and polish one amazing piece.

Lee is an advocate for slowing down and doing things right.

So many people can get paintings to 70 or 80 percent of where they need to be but it’s that last 20 percent that really pushes the painting to the next level and its that last 20 percent that takes the longest. Slowvember gives you the opportunity to push something to 100 percent!

Challenging Yourself in Different Ways

Inktober: you should have a vision for it. Think of how you can do it, have a goal.

Don’t do Inktober just do do it, but make it specific and have a goal. Be deliberate.

Don’t just swing at 10,000 golf balls, but have a specific target or goal you are trying to create, then swing for that. That deliberateness will help you learn and improve so much faster!

Maybe you want to do quick 30 minute sketches for Inktober with a goal to get faster at doing quick sketches, then that’s great! Just make sure you have a focused goal and you will get even more out of it.

Fhe vast majority of people who participate in Inktober are hobbyists, people who love creating but aren’t doing it professionally for their career. They come from all walks of life, from middle school to adults, who all like drawing and being creative. Proportionally there aren’t as many professionals. If you fall into that category then for you it doesn’t have to be good it just has to exist. You’re building a habit of drawing and you’re trying to build the creative mindset. It gets you thinking. After 7 days you start to run out of ideas, and you have to push yourself creatively. There is value in just doing it, even if it’s not amazing...yet!

Are You Allowed to Do It Digitally?
Do you think that the guy with the turkey feather guy got mad when the guy with the metal nib pen came and drew next to him?

Will: Art is art, the tools don’t matter. It’s about what you make and how you make the viewer feel.

The problem with digital is when you don’t understand the traditional medium and the look that you are going for. When you know how to do it traditionally, then you can recreate that feeling and look digitally.

Lee’s Challenge to Digital: Do half digital, and half traditional. That way you will get pushed and those two halves will begin to complement one another.

Jake was blindsided last year by Inktober controversy over digital vs. traditional. Jake lives in both the traditional and digital world. He sees digital as valuable and the best thing that has happened to art; and that tradition is valuable and the best thing that has happened to art, there wouldn’t be any digital without it.

Inktober was created to focus on linework, without the extra pressure of worrying about color. You can still do that challenge with a stylus, you can still make it simple and beautiful digitally.

There are certain lines you can’t do digitally that are easier to do traditionally, learning to create those lines digitally is a skill in and of itself. There is value in doing the Inktober challenge digitally. It’s a different skill.

However, there still are things to learn from stepping away from digital and doing traditional.

Jake did a post encouraging digital artists to do traditional, that offended some people. People took it as him saying that they wouldn’t be getting the full experience. However, there is value to both digital and traditional, they both have their virtues. Jake didn’t mean to invalidate people.

Jake took Inktober on as a personal challenge.

Lately Jake has tried to ink digitally more with the iPad and Cintiq, and saw how there is something special to digital, both traditional and digital are so useful.

Still, the drawings should be simple with just line work and maybe a splash of color, not full color paintings.

If you normally work digitally, try it traditionally!

Inktober, all about doing it daily and improving as an artist.

Be Creative

Will: Don’t worry about what others say Inktober has to be. You can try to be different. There is no Inktober police.

When people are saying you’re doing something wrong then you are on to something.

After Picasso got others to start doing Cubism, a Cubism group quickly emerged and they kicked him out, however now he is the only one that is well recognized.

You don’t want to be an “if only” artist. You don’t want to be an artist who can draw “if only” they have the right gear with them. You want to be able to draw with anything. You don’t need all this stuff.

Inktober for writers: There was a writer who writes a little story to go with each daily prompt, and there is a group of writers that have gotten together to share their Inktober stories. That’s great!

Well if Inktober means that you can just do anything, then it doesn’t mean anything. There is a reason for it, but you can be creative and do what you need to do.


Zebra, Adobe, Pentel, Blick, and Kingart are all doing Inktober contests.

There are contests. It could be that they are looking for traditional instead of digital or a dash of color.

If you are going to enter contests, be careful that they don’t own your work.

Pentel did a contest, they said that they own your artwork. They said that you could use it for anything they want to use it for. People were upset with it. Their lawyer looked at it and Inktober’s lawyer looked at it, and it has specific wording to be able to use that work to post it and share it on their channels, not to use to advertise on their products. They went in and adjusted some wording. Really be aware of what the contest rules are, just be aware.

If the contest is worth it, then maybe do artwork specifically for the contest for exposure.

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter has similar wording to these contests. There are some risks and things that you just have to deal with, that’s just apart of being an online artist.

The Power of Inktober

Jake never would have imagined that Inktober would have turned into what it is today.

He started the challenge to have:

  • Constraints,

  • Accountability, he tries to be a person who does what he says he’s going to do.

  • Wanted a way to get more exposure as an artist, and a reason for people to come to his art blog.

Inktober is still all about getting better at art, and getting people to want to come look at your work.

Inktober has changed a lot of people's lives, got them in the habit of drawing, and boosted their followers.

Inktober is like New Year’s, it’s a time when people say, “I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna make it happen.” It’s a line in the sand. Happy drawing!

Thank so much for listening!


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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.

Comic Cons & Art Fairs

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Art by Tanner Garlick

Art by Tanner Garlick

Comic Cons & Art Fairs

 Comic conventions and art fairs take place all over the globe, with almost every major city in the United States hosting one. With the large audiences  that attend these shows it is a good place for illustrators to show their work and start selling.

 In this episode we will cover what the world of comic conventions and art fairs is like, ways to get into shows, and the differences between them. This is one of the easiest ways (depending on some conditions) to make money as an artist.

 Lee White has experience showing at art fairs, whereas Jake Parker and Will Terry have experience with the comic convention circuit.

 Money range [5:32]

The amount of money an artist can make at a show depends on a lot of variables such as location of the show and the types of products being sold.

 At Lee White’s best art fair show he made $24,000 USD over a three day art fair.

 On the comic convention side, at Jake Parker’s first convention he made enough to cover the cost of the show and for travel. At Jake’s best comic convention he broke $9,000 USD gross. His average is $5,000-$6,000 USD gross.

 At Will Terry’s best convention he made $19,000 USD gross. His average is between $7,000-$9,000 USD gross.

 How Lee, Will and Jake started showing [8:38]

 Lee got his start showing at art fairs with Crafty Wonderland. He was invited to show when a table opened up. Following that experience he started actively looking for art fairs to attend.

In his mid 20’s Jake was in the comic anthology, [Flight](  The editor of the book purchased a table at San Diego Comic Con, and invited the other artists to use the extra space. Jake went to sell prints and books. After getting a taste of what it was like to table at a show, he decided to do his own show. His first show outside of San Diego was [CTNX]( Following that success he knew it was possible to be successful at other shows. a

Will Terry’s first comic convention was a disaster even though he spent two years researching how to sell. Through that experience he learned how to be successful. He now has an assistant that takes Will’s art around the comic convention circuit. Will only personally attends 3-4 of the shows.

 Will has a series of YouTube videos where he goes into detail about his first experience tabling at a comic convention.

[Will Terry’s comic convention video series:](

 Lee White: “It’s worth it as an experience. You cannot anticipate how much energy these things take. They are really hard.” Having extra people to help you is really helpful because there are so many factors involved.

 Doing this full time as your only source of income can be really consuming. For Lee, Will and Jake they use art shows as supplemental income sources. Artists who do this full time can go to 30-40 shows a year.

 Differences between art fairs and comic conventions [21:05]

 Art fairs are typically during the summer. Usually outside in parks, but sometimes in convention centers. Artists purchase 10 foot by 10 foot booths. The average attendee at an art fair is older (50 years-old to 70 years old). There are not a lot of collectors, it is mostly people looking for artwork to put on their walls. They want to purchase originals.

 Prices for pieces at art fairs range from $50 USD to $20,000 USD (higher end of that scale are people buying originals).

 Lee White: “The more specific the story in my image the less likely it is to sell. The bigger the character in an image, the less likely it is to sell.“ Lee focuses more on environment elements and doesn’t get too specific with storytelling. In order to be successful at art fairs you have to strike a nice balance between illustration and fine art, and create images people want to hang in their homes.

Lee’s Secret Sauce for Art Fairs: “[Illustrate] a moment that people can interpret what’s happening versus showing them what’s happening.” Create images that two separate people can view and come up with different stories. Just give the audience a hint of the story.

James Jean is a good example of this principle. His work transcends illustration and taps into the art fair market.


 [James Jean Instagram](

 Comic conventions [30:40]

 Comic conventions are focused on popular culture. There is an artist ally section where artists can buy tables to show and sell their work. Attendees typically have $100 and spend that across maybe 5 different artists. What sells the best at comic conventions are things people already know such as characters from popular films, tv shows or cartoons.

 Comic conventions products typically sells from $4 to $70.

 There is also a commission market, where attendees will pay artists to draw their character or some other character doing something specific. Some artists open their commission list before the show, whereas others only do commissions during the show. Jake does commissions at show and works on them during down times or at the hotel. He can make an extra $2,000 to $3,000 USD depending on what he is charging. Commission from artists at comic conventions can range from $20 USD all the way to $600 USD.

 Jake uses fan art he sells at comic conventions to get people to come look at his table where he also has pieces from his original stories. He uses this as a way to expand the audience for his original content.

 How to start [47:23]

 When trying to get into art fairs or comic conventions it is really important to understand the market. Lee tried to sell at CTNX with Jake and Will and his art did not fit that market.

 Step 1: Go visit the shows not as a fan but as research. Take notes, take photos, be detailed and focused.

 Step 2: Make inventory. You can’t do a show if you don’t have things to sell. Start with prints, prints are cheaper and easier to sell. Make sure to use archival ink and paper so your work doesn’t fade. Jake Parker says “every sell is a person you touch.” When you sell a print you are building a relationships with that person. There is a lot of repeat customers, so if you use cheap stuff you lose that future business.

 Prints generally have low overhead cost with a high markup price. T-shirts per-unit cost are higher and they can be hard to sell and keep the proper sizes in inventory. Stickers are also harder (higher per-unit cost and lower markup price). People often just want the image so they will buy the smallest size just to get it. Don’t lose sales by selling products with higher per-unit cost.

 Jed Henry is a good example of this, at shows he only sells one size. [Ukiyo Heroes](

 Start small and work your way up. Both with what show you start with and with your inventory (not small products but a smaller product list/inventory). Check to see if there is a show within an hour of your home. This is a good way to start small because you have lower overhead costs.

 Lee white: “Stay local until you get your market figured out and then start branching out.”

 It is important to know there are different niche markets in each show. So know your work and who it appeals to.

 Comic conventions are generally easier to show at then art fairs. Art fairs are curated so. For example, Lee only gets into about half of the art  fairs he applies for.

 [List of every convention in the USA](

 Specifics on how to get into art fairs [01:06:29]

 For art fairs start with craft fairs, they are easier to get into. These shows are usually in the winter and indoors.

 [Art Fair Sourcebook]( Has art fairs sorted by region, how many people attend and how much they spend on average. This source is expensive, but it is good data to have when catering to an audience with a larger budget.

 [Zapplication]( is another good resource.

 Horror and success stories [01:07:55]

 Will Terry: For his first show he printed 1000 of each print, 23 different pints, so 23,000 prints total. He couldn’t even fit all his inventory in his car. Printing alone cost him $5,000 USD. He figured he would be showing at a lot of conventions so he was offsetting the cost. At his first show he only made $1,500 USD. After that he was pretty nervous. But luckily he was able to make it up over time, but it was scary after that first show.

 Lee White: At his first show he sold an original, but didn’t bring any bags. So had to give the customer his original art in a trash bag.  At a different show, Lee was busy setting up his booth, running to and from his car. When he was almost finished he realized the fanny pack he kept all his money in ($3,000 from his last art fair) had been open the whole time. Almost all his money flew into the wind before the art fair even started.

 Jake Parker: At a show in 2018, one of his tables was set up against and facing the wall. So he moved the table. Luckily no one told him to move it back even though it was obviously extending further out than anyone else’s. Also at that convention he had made a display structure out of foam core to hang prints. It kept falling over and he had to keep taping it. Overall it was just bad presentation.

Convention etiquette

 You have to learn convention etiquette. Watch out for ‘booth barnacles,’ they are attendees who stay for way too long and get in the way of making other sells. Jake has a polite way to remove booth barnacles. He waits for an opening in the conversation and sticks out his hand and says “It was so nice to meet you thanks for coming.” After that they usually leave.

 Also don’t just bring your portfolio to show and expect artists to review it. Always ask if there is a time to show them, don’t just assume. A good way to get a very quick and honest critique is to ask “what is the one main thing I should change in my portfolio?”

 For more information on critques listen to [Episode 10: Critiques] (


 Information forthcoming.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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 Caldecott

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The Caldecott is the most prestigious award a children’s book illustrator can receive, and it’s an award that, once received, changes each recipient’s life. We will discuss what the award is, how it is chosen, some patterns with books that have received this honor, and some tips on what you can do to try and become a more Caldecott-worthy illustrator.

What are you working on? [01:17]

Will Terry: Bonnaparte Falls Apart Part 2, and a new board game in his digital painting style. Not the best pay, but he has complete creative freedom and so it’s worth it.

Lee White: Just moved to Nashville, Tennessee from Portland Oregon. Still working on two books, one that he is writing and illustrating himself, and still working out the deal for illustrating someone else's story.

“Cain’t never could do nothing.”- Southern Saying

We might be doing a live workshop later on in Nashville, but don’t quote us on that, all 3 of us would be there.  Keep your ears peeled.

Jake Parker: Has been crazy busy and gone a lot. He did a Comic Con in Denver, a workshop up in Boise, and a workshop here in Provo, and did a bunch of work for Snowplow 2; and, Skyheart is at the printer in China! There has been some translation issues that have slowed the process down, so we’ll see if the books get here in color or black and white!

Today, we want to dive in and see if what sort of a role awards play in the life of an illustrator or comic book artist, and does it play a role in developing your art.

If you are an illustrator, new or old, we hope that we can shed light on some of the illustration awards and what impact receiving different awards can have on a creatives life..

What are the Awards? [11:00]

There are specific awards that we want to dive into on this podcast.

  • The Caldecott Award, conceived in 1937 by Robert Caldecott.

  • The Newbery Award, given to Young Adult Fiction, it’s an award for writers.

  • The Eisner, given for creative achievement in comic books.

Eisner Award: the Academy Awards of Comic. Given to different categories, i.e. Best Publication, Best Writing, Best Art, Best Short Story, etc. It’s an award and the publishers love it because they get to put the special award sticker, and whoever won the award has a prestigious bargaining chips for future projects.

It’s important to understand the audience for each of these awards and oddly enough the for the Caldecott, they are librarians.

Will hated school growing up and the last place he would imagine being is a library convention. But as fate would have it, he ended up going to one, and he has now been to three of them.

American Library Association (ALA) hosts a conference where illustrators and librarians collide.

Librarians matter because they are the ones who will be recommending your books!

The Caldecott [15:00]

The Caldecott is the biggest most prestigious award for children’s books. The Caldecott is determined by a committee of 15 people and 8 of those people are appointed by the ALA. These people are composed of librarians and school teachers.

They are supposed to primarily focus on the artwork, but there aren’t any poor stories that win the Caldecott. Art is a component but other components like story are a factor that enhance the children's book.

Look for patterns. Think about the patterns of the wards winners. Lee likes to look for systems and commonalities to help inform success. There is often strategy to most things we do. Even when playing Monopoly!

Since 2000, only 4 Caldecott winners have different writer and illustrator. It means that more Caldecott winners not only illustrate but also write their book. Is this a coincidence?

Committee members  like to promote and celebrate 1 person. If you win this award you are the “Miss America” of illustration for the next year.

Can winning one of these awards change your life? [22:06]

There are over 200 children’s books awards but they are not life changing like the Caldecott. Almost every state has one award and they are sometimes narrow and specific. Will won the North Carolina book award one year. In Utah there is an award for Best Mormon Illustrator. Any award is great to receive but are not on the level of receiving a Caldecott.

These awards are great but the Caldecott is different. You will be known and introduced as a Caldecott award winner, and the book will be in print for the rest of their life, which translates to a lot of money.

There are over 200,000 libraries across the US and stock Caldecott winners. Sometimes one library could buy 10 copies of 1 Caldecott winners book, and restock every year. There are also people that collect Caldecotts. It is a fail safe for the libraries and bookstores because these books have a stamp of approval and popularity built into them.

There are Caldecott honorable mentions that also reap the reward of this honor and Lee has a friend that recieve $75,000 in royalties.

Jon Klassen is an illustrator/writer that has been raking in the Caldecott.

Jon Klassen

This Is Not My Hat

If you were to win a Caldecott, publishers try to lock you into your next book deal. You become known for this award and it makes you a distinguished illustrator.

There are Caldecott terms to book deals that stipulate how payment changes if you were to win a Caldecott.

Should you change your art to win? [31:40]

Will feels as if you need to change your art style to win a Caldecott but Lee sees that Caldecott winners of the past have very different styles and are really all over the place. There are books that are Caldecott material and there are other books that aren’t but are still wildly successful.

Why is I Want My Hat Back distinguished and Fancy Nancy not? Fancy nancy is extremely commercial and sells well but not as literary.

Fancy Nancy

There are books that have a balance of the two like Olivia. Olivia won a Caldecott and also became very commercial.


There are many things that precede winning a Caldecott. There is networking and knowing someone that can get you in the right circles and in the right places. Being connected and known is very important.

Dan Santat is a great example of a person that has been around the block before winning the Caldecott. He spoke at conferences for years and was really well known along with producing great work.

The Adventures of Beekle

It’s true that winning a Caldecott seems as likely as being hit by lightning.

Step One: Write your own stuff

Step Two: Be Jon Klassen

Step Three: Speak at SCWI

Actionable item [41:29]

Here are some actionable things that might not get you a Caldecott but moves you in the right direction. Believe in your work and keep moving forward with it. Think about what is the type of creator you want to be and what best fits your personality. You don’t need to be award winning to be successful. If you are just trying to mimic other people you will always be a few years behind, of course you can learn from others but really do what you love and develop your own unique style and voice. Do the thing that you love to do and that you are good at and eventually the world will catch up.

Nuances of a Caldecott [50:04]

There are so many books that are great and when it comes down to choosing a winner the committee starts considering the nitty gritty. They start to think what doesn’t work about the books- does the book’s cover have room for the sticker,  what is the paper quality like, what is the font, what is in the end paper etc.

Things to consider [53: 56]

Be like Jon Klassen in the sense that he was trying to be himself. If you are trying to copy someone that has won you will be always be behind. Create the thing that only you can create.

Also consider that design matters and  having a good sense of graphic design is important for the whole package. Chris Van Allsburg is a great example of this. He combines his art with design to create a great book. His pieces are beautiful and leave room for type. Great artists have a great graphic design sense and some create their own fonts for their books, i.e. Jon Klassen.

The Caldecott can be a motivator, and can push yourself to create on a higher level. You can ask yourself,  “Is this Caldecott worthy?”

Chris Van Allsburg

Summary [01:07:00]

Consider writing

Be unique

Consider the details

Drive yourself to create something good and worthwhile!


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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.

A Day In The Life of an Illustrator

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Illustrated by Tanner Garlick

Illustrated by Tanner Garlick

3PP Episode 12

A Day in The Life of an Illustrator

Sorry! We just wanted to apologize for the audio quality of this episode. Lee was moving across the country and didn’t have the best set up when we did this episode, but we loved the content so much that we decided to release it anyways. Finished not perfect, right? And correction: when we mentioned Milton Glaser, we actually meant Philip Glass. Enjoy!

We want to talk about a day in the life of an illustrator because when you are choosing a career as an illustrator you are essentially choosing a certain life, and a lifestyle that goes along with it.

Lee and Will will be discussing the life of an illustrator from the book illustration side, while Jake will be commenting and focusing more on the entertainment side of things.

Lee always gets up really early each day and gets to work on a project. As an illustrator you don’t have hard deadlines, so you need to make up your own arbitrary deadlines. There is a final deadline but you need to break it up into smaller steps. So he spends the beginning of his day scheduling what to do. Then he goes right into working on one of the books he is working on.

Schedule: when you are able to schedule your time wisely, that is really going to pay big dividends in your career.

At a studio, Jake would get told what he would do and the schedule was laid out for him. It was a big adjustment when he became an independent artist and had to start managing his own schedule. He started with to do lists, to keep track of what went on during the day, then he started scheduling those tasks throughout the week, and now he has a full weekly and monthly plan and that really helps him with accomplishing his goals.

You need to learn to manage the small micro steps, and learn about your work flow and how long it takes you to perform certain tasks.

Jake divides his work into two categories: creative time and administrative time. Creative time is during the morning when he is fresh and alert, then administrative time comes in the afternoon when he is more tired and burnt out.

Deep Work

Lee is the same.

When Lee gets a project he typically gets an email from his agent that someone is interested in working with him; he writes back and tells them that he is interested; the agent will start to work on the budget and negotiate back and forth with the client; they go back and forth and agree on a schedule; then he gets started on the project by doing some research and development.

“A good beginning is half done.” Great advice from a fortune cookie. It is really profound, though!  If you can start goodt it will influence and pay dividends throughout the project.

At the beginning stages of a book try to stay open to a lot of different influences. It doesn’t have to be so linear. After reading the manuscript stay open to different ideas, styles, or influences, from anywhere and everywhere.

For entertainment, typically if you are on the development team doing the early early pre production work and working on ideas, then you might be doing that for weeks to months at a time, fleshing out ideas. A lot of times before Jake  would go to the studio he would stop by the library for a half hour before going to work and maybe checking it out to use at work that day. Usually there is a weekly meeting where you meet with the director and show it to the group.

As an illustrator you don’t want to attach too much value to your work early on. Nothing is sacred or precious, you can’t get too attached to your drawings and paintings. Otherwise it will become a hindrance to you.

If you are uncomfortable with showing people your rough sketches, then entertainment might be hard for you. You have to show everything, and you don’t know what the director is going to respond to. It might be a 5 minute sketch that you did, or it might be something you spent a few hours on.

You go through stages as an artist: you draw something realistic, then you start drawing characters and diving more into the story and narrative side of things.

You don’t just move forward with your first sketch. You need to do push it more.

Step 2 is where Lee will start thinking about storytelling, and this is his favorite part about being an illustrator: thinking about what the story is really about.

Everything needs to serve the story, including the style. The story should dictate the approach, not the other way around.

Entertainment: Usually the early development team is made up of an art team that is made out of artists with different styles that will help direct the story.

The Art of The Incredibles

There is a lot of overlap between movies and book images, probably because there is a lot of storytelling.

To recap Lee’s process of getting started on a project: Email and express interest, email about the budget, analyze the story, then do very loose sketches that thumbnail the book (2 weeks), then he tightens up the loose sketches, and start painting.

What is the process for you, Will? Once he did a book in 3 months but that was awful, usually a book takes 6-12 months.

A life as a children’s book illustrator: you need to be comfortable with these really long deadlines. You need to be comfortable working on a 9 month long project, if you are at a studio then you might be working on a project for 2 years plus.

This is one of the reasons that Jake wanted to leave the studio work life: the early blue sky stages are super fun, but other times you have to work on a single scene for months and constantly got revisions and sometimes it became unfulfilling.

Jake has been away for a while, and has thought about going back, but realizes that he has the lifestyle that he wants already.

One of the big pros of being a children’s book illustrator is that you are in control. You have control of the product. Ultimately, when you have the final product in your hands it is largely all yours. It is very satisfying.

Lee loves to use Adobe Indesign to layout his books, and it can seem daunting to learn to use a new program but it is definitely worth it; it can be really powerful for laying out a book, it is the way to go for multi page documents.

Will likes to work on the ipad, it is his mobile studio. He uses it to look at all of the different pages too. He chunks out time and give his focus to the design work, sometimes even working in his car to keep focused.

Biggest Pros and Cons of Being an Illustrator:

The pros of being an illustrator is the freedom to make your choice of how your schedule looks. The freedom can be a blessing or a curse.

You can go see a movie on a Tuesday morning, or go on a bike ride during the day if you want to! At a studio, that doesn’t fly.

If you like collaborating, and working in that environment, with different people, and all of the bustling that goes along with that, then maybe

Enough freedom is actually a bad thing.

Here is an important point: most people don’t make their full living as an illustrator. You might do a few things.

Maybe doing art all the time isn’t the best way to make your art. Maybe having a real job where you are interacting with people in real situations will spark your creativity and it goes into something that doesn’t have so many strings attached.

As an illustrator, everyday isn’t bliss. Sometimes you don’t feel like creating, or it may feel monotonous, but likely that’s how every job is from time to time.

What would you do if you couldn’t do art?

Teaching doesn’t count.

Jake: fantasizes about managing and operating a bookstore, or working in concessions at a movie theater.

Lee: physical therapist, or the guy that works in those little booths at a campsite. Delivering pizza was fun as a kid.

Will, has fantasized about running a restaurant.

The grass is romanticized on the other side.

What’s the biggest frustration of being an illustrator?

Will: sometimes when you read the manuscript from an author, even if you like it there are things that you would change. Another thing would be when you feel you really understand the story and the editor has differing views. A lot of the aggravation is based on our perception and attitude.

Biggest pro is the flexibility. Don’t take it for granted.

Jake: the biggest aggravation, or stressor is the lack of steady income. You might make 3 months income in one and then for the next 2 months, drip drip. The freedom in your schedule, is amazing.

Jake had the flexibility to go and help his wife with a project, and he could stay later or come in early. Another thing: Jake has 5 kids, and insuring all of the family, is really expensive. It is a huge burden. To them though, having a family is more important than having a nice car. Jake barely remembers what his older kids were like during

During the day, Jake could eat lunch with his kids and take breaks to play with them. The family life was a lot better. Biggest pro of entertainment job: consistent money, consistent job, and being surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world.

TV has more layoffs. Usually at an animation studio you have a lot more stability. There is enough work that if you are talented and good with people, they will keep you on.

There are a lot of people vying for animation jobs, although there are lots of different studio jobs there.

There is no career path to being a book illustrator. There are so many gray areas.

Lee: Early aggravation, of not knowing how to navigate the terrain.

There are a lot of online resources, youtube, and huge sources of revelation. The art of books are so valuable.

It is really rewarding to come in and get to work, and your whole day is spent trying to tell a story.


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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.

Episode 11: Networking for Artists

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Art by Tanner Garlick

Art by Tanner Garlick

If you think that networking is manipulative, selfish, or all about getting ahead you are doing it wrong. In this episode, we talk about how networking is all about friendship, giving, and the people that you choose to spend time with. We talk about how to network and connect with people above, next to, and below you.


The What and Why of a Network?

Your network is your connection to a broader world, to opportunities, and to new ideas. Your network consists of your friends in the field that you work in. Your network is so important and who you surround yourself with will influence the type of person that you are and the person that you will become. This applies to your creative life as well as with every other aspect of who you are.

Every jump in Jake’s career came from his network: animation, comics, publishing. Your network is your gate to so many

Jake and Will started to get connected over lunch. Lee was deliberate and tried to connect with Will and Jake.

Networking is like cycling, there is strength in staying in a group. Bikers encourage and support each other, and they draft off of each other. It is hard to break away and do it on your own. Choose friends and to spend time with people that push you to be better.

A true network is not your “job hotline” it consists of your real friends, your buds.

Put yourself in the right place and good things can happen [13:40]

It is true that there are some places that are creative hubs where its easier to find people to connect with but ultimately your network is a result of how much time and effort you put into it.

How much time do you spend getting to know other creatives that are like-minded, how do you make the first contact, and how do you deepen a creative relationship that you have? Consider these things as you learn more about creating your personal network and how to grow it.

Question: Do you need to live in a creative hot spot to be successful [14:54]

Many people have the false impression that it’s all about the location of an artist. Although each area has its own creative hub you can find creatives that are like minded just like you anywhere.

You create your network and you can reach out to people in the area through web searches and hashtagging your area to find people that have the same goals and values as you. Instagram is a great platform to do research and learn about the people in the area and there will be people.

How to build a network of friends in your area [18:00]

  1. Search online, check hashtags, follow & Like

  2. SVS Forum or general online forums

  3. Facebook groups

Through these interactions online you begin to develop relationships, give feedback and receive feedback, and engage with others. You can make the effort to not only find creatives online but create the friendships and start conversations to grow your circles.

SVS Forum

Online interaction is good, but you’ll need to meet people in real life [22:54]

Online interaction has its pros and has reach but there needs to be face to face interaction to solidify the relationships and contacts. This face to face interaction develops the real friendship aspect of networking. Go to networking events, Comicon, conferences, and presentations allow you the environment to meet people face to face with similar goals, values, and ideals. Often time if you have a clear vision of where you want to go you find people in the same boat as you.

How to get over being nerves [24:06]

Starting a conversation with a stranger is not easy but in the industry of illustration and artist, there are comfort zones that need to be broken.

Talking face to face can be hard but there are many things you can do to overcome the fear of talking to someone you have never met. Put yourself in situations to interact with others. Sit next to people or stand next to them in line and create a beginning point of conversation like drawing next to them or talk about why they are there.

Introduction and exit strategies [27:48]

The more and more you stick your neck out to meet other people the more and more you will learn how to ignite conversations and end a conversation. You can begin by pointing out something on their shirt, comment about something that they have or ask about what they are doing here, or what awesome things they seen at the conference etc.

Jake’s foolproof exit is “It was so good to meet you!” hint I gotta go.

Form: Family, occupation, recreation, motivation(or message) [29:44]

You can follow these guidelines to create conversation

  1. Family: Are you here alone, where are you from, are you the only artist in your family?

  2. Occupation: What do you do for a living, is it a hobby?

  3. Recreation: What do you like to do for fun?

This then warms people up for this question:

  1. Motivation: What motivates you, why are you here, why did you decide to draw ….?

Don’t forget the best questions: what is your worthless superpower?

More ideas to meet people [33:11]

  1. Attend a lunch or dinner, or host your own

  2. Create a critique group

    1. In critique groups, you find artists that are motivated and like-minded. This group can meet once a month or once a week and help challenge you personally and grow with each other.

  3. Draw Lunch

    1. Go to the mall and get something to eat and draw. It’s as simple as that. This is a great opportunity to get face to face action.

  4. Set up one-on-one meetings [35:44]

    1. This is a very deep level of interaction and creating your network.

What does your network look like [37:03]

Your network is composed of mentors, friends, and followers. Mentors are people that are farther along and have more experience than you. Friends are the people at the same stage of life you are in and have similar experience level. Followers are people that look up to you.

Keep in mind this quote: It’s not who you know, it’s who you help - Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don’t starve [38:27]

Real Artist Don't Starve

Give and you will grow your network.

Research before reaching out [41:00]

You need to put the work into researching before reaching out to mentors and peers. Before contacting a someone that you admire purchase their material, watch their YouTube videos, read their blog, follow their social media. However, beyond that make sure you have put the time and effort into learning about the field you are interested in or researching about the questions you have. For example, if you are wanting to be a children's book illustration do your research before asking a professional for help and looking like a deer in the headlights.

How to ask questions [41:56]

Before asking a question to a mentor think it through. Ask the question AND provide three solutions to your question. This demonstrates that you have thought things out and have done your research.

How to get a great mentor [43:26]

Jake’s experience with Rachel Everette-  First, Rachel went to a workshop Jake was hosting. Then they met again at ComicCon and she asked Jake to create one of her characters as a commission. This was great because it allowed Jake to be immersed in her art and get to know her. At their next Comicon, she created fanart art of Jake’s character. She also reached out to help Jake with Skyheart because she had time during school.  All these connections allowed Jake to become invested in her. Jake had a contact at Marvel and reached out to them on behalf of Rachel and she is now at the beginning of her career working with Marvel.

Rachel Everett

How to make friends in the industry [48:06]

It feels like common sense but find common interests- be a friend. Interact in thoughtful ways and then dig deeper. When you find people with the same artistic values and ideals stick with them and make time to connect with them.

Being a friend also means being invested in other others success, find the situations and environments that help you all grow, interact with people, and plug into groups and communities.

Finding followers [56:15]

Don’t neglect your follower network. Take time to create your follower network by creating work and allowing your “tribe” to naturally manifest. Build and maintain and network. Connect and be authentic when interacting with your followers. Some things that help people feel connected is Sharing your process, ah- ha moments, and screw-ups. Allow people to be involved in your world. Promote projects and do shoutouts.

Have a shared purpose of collective power i.e. Inkober- drawing in ink!

Building a universe one drawing at a time- Jake Parker. Build your brand around your shared purpose.

When building your network consider these things:

Share Freely [1:00:38]

People with good networks share freely. They don’t hide their secrets. This shows kindness, love, and authenticity.

Create a mantra [01:01:56]

Jake’s is Finished Not Perfect - independent creators that are finished

I.e. Draw every day

Learn and Listen [01:03:43]

Pay attention to feedback. Shift accordingly.

Host meetups [01:04:31]

You build a network by giving more than you take [01:05:14]

This is essential, give and share. This way is the right way to develop real lasting connections. 

This is the key to networking- give. Be a giver more than a taker.

Connecting other people together. Elevates the scene that you are a part of.

If your group is not challenging you to find different friends and

NETWORKING Challenge [01:07:46]

At least one time this next week invited someone to do something related to illustration. Be the inviter.

Post on the forum about the outcome of this challenge!


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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.



Episode 10: Critiques

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Critiques can be the wind beneath your wings that help you grow in incredible ways; or they can be the source of many tears, and hurt feelings. In this episode we will cover why you need critiques and critique groups, where to get them, how to prepare for a critique and what to avoid.


[00:00:49] What have you been working on?


We used to do this but got out of the habit and wanted to bring it back!

What projects are each of us working on?

Lee: Currently working on writing two books, and is trying to create a dummy book for both books, and trying to sell a two book deal, or at least have two options for publishers to choose from.

Will: Working with four other teachers to create classes for SVS, working on character designs for a board games and a sequel to Bonaparte Falls Apart.

Jake: Working on a figure drawing class for SVS that will be pulling the best from all of the figure drawing books to make the best class possible, on a sequel to “The Little Snow Plow”, Jake and an author he worked with earlier wanted to do a sequel together and their agents were able to create a deal (stay tuned, we’re not able to announce it yet!). and sent the files for Skyheart to the printer in China. Wahoo!

[00:06:10] Why art might not be right for your job?

We wanted to briefly touch on this subject because of a letter that we received from an artist named, Mike, in response to Episode 03: Ship Happens. Mike brought up the fact that maybe for a lot of artists out there, art is better as a hobby than a career. Mike went through all the steps and got his first art job… and he hated it. After he finished a couple of art jobs he was wondering why he didn’t want to apply for any other art jobs and didn’t know why he had such little drive and motivation. He realized that for him, and he imagines a lot of other artists making art their job isn’t the best option for them. He is does a weekly webcomic, does art for a board game company, and engages with his audience and is super happy with his art. He thought it would be nice to share with the followers of this podcast that to kill yourself to flounder in the shallow end of the professional artist career isn’t always going to pay off and doesn’t equate to success or happiness. Mike realized that he needed to have his own personal goals and  stick to them. Also, that he wouldn’t be happy working on other people’s stuff. He realized that his dream was to have a stable income outside of the art industry and then have the freedom to do whatever he wanted to do with his art.

Mike brings up some good points, and essentially hit on the plight on an illustrator; that is, we spend a lot of time working for other people and helping them accomplish their dreams, while sometimes letting our own dreams stagnate.

Super successful illustrators do one or both of these things well:

  1. Stop advertising for, stop looking for, or stop accepting work from clients that take them in the wrong direction.

  2. Or they start doing their own projects, or a combination of the two.

To help see the perspective you can compare this to becoming a professional tennis player.

With each level of progression there are nuances and changes that need to be made, and it sometimes becomes less about the fun, sometimes you just have to practice because you need to improve.

You need to find art jobs that match who you are. Think about your skill level and what makes you happy.

That’s a side note that we wanted to hit, now time to jump into today’s episode!

[00:15:15] What are the benefits to a critique?

You need to see things from the perspective of another and that’s what critiques help us do.

Critiques are for students and professionals, alike. We all need feedback and critique. That’s how we grow. Jake was working on Skyheart and decided to redo the cover and when he posted it online he got a lot of feedback telling him that the original was better.

[00:17:17] Why you might not get an honest critique?

Sometimes we don’t get honest critiques because we don’t create the right atmosphere for the critiquer to feel comfortable giving us feedback. If they think that you want validation and not a real critique then often they’ll just tell you what you want to hear.

[00:18:29] How to find a good critique?

There are many people you can reach out to for good critiques such as previous teachers, professional artists, critique groups, small social media groups or pods, and artists at art conventional or art shows.

Art students have their previous teachers as a resource but this relationship needs to be set up when they were in school. Have you created a positive relationship for them to want to critique you later? Be a good student and be involved, it will pay dividends.

Like it or not, we live in a transactional society. It helps if there is an exchange of time i.e. buying a print, helping to update their website, handle their social media posts, etc. Time is precious, see if there is something you can do for them.

Maybe you only have a critique group of your peers: be the person that gives critiques and set the foundation of a give and take relationship with your peers. On the SVS forum it is great to ask for a critique but people will be a lot more willing to give you a critique if you are also spending time to give others critiques.

You can also ask artists at conventions and art shows for feedback. Be courteous, and respectful of their time. It always helps to buy a print or something to compensate them for their time.

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

[00:28:22] Are you personally ready for a good critique?

How can you prepare for a good critique? You can approach critiques with a vision and a direction. Think about what your purpose for the piece is, and that will help your critiquer point you in the  right direction. Provide a frame a references.

[00:30:31] Know what you need

Understand what you are asking for. Maybe you just want to be validated or maybe you really need to level up the piece you are working on. Know what you need and ask for it.

[00:31:15] Mel Milton's critique method

Mel Milton has a critique method where he only praises people when they ask for a critique, unless they really push him to give a critique and really ask for it. If they really want a critique then the flowery praise won’t be enough and they’ll push for more feedback. Showing that you really want feedback allows the critiquer to take you seriously and tell you what they really think.

Mel Milton

[00:32:30] You never know how people will react to your critique

People sometimes cry, get angry or defensive and this is a sign that they are not ready for a critique.

[00:34:08] What not to do during a critique

Critique Repellent:

  1. Talking too much: cutting off their comments or not letting the critiquer actually critique.  

  2. Getting upset

  3. Being distracted and unplugged from the critiques

  4. Arguing

[00:36:00] What to do before and during a critique

  1. Know what you want the piece to accomplish- set a vision for where you want your piece to go

  2. Be specific- you can ask them, “what did I nail?”, “what did I get wrong?”, etc.

  3. Have more than one option open for critique- this helps provide a point of reference for critique and is extremely helpful

  4. Set limitations: "What are three things I could do to improve this?" This really helps the critiquer feel open to give you three things you can improve.

  5. Open the door for a total critique by saying “I’m willing to start this piece over”

In contrast to the “repellant” above, these things really create a positive atmosphere for receiving a critique.

[00:41:46] Break your critique into components

Lee liked to use a rubric to help provide specific critique to his students. Maybe they nailed it with the rendering and perspective but the concept was weak, or maybe they had a great concept but the values could use some work, etc.

Some fundamental things Jake looks at when giving a critique:






Understand your objective.

[00:46:11] How to prepare for a hard critique

When Jake worked at Blue Sky, his entire job was critiques. You would constantly draw and receive critiques. Sometimes character designs would have to go through 50 iterations before they ever settled on a final.

Come into the critique being malleable and bendable. It will free you from feeling too attached to your work.

Recognize that if you are making this a career there will be good drawings and bad drawings. Sometimes we are too invested in the time that we spent creating a single piece. Realize that one peace is a drop in the bucket of your lifetime of work. They say everyone has 10,000 bad drawings in them and so if you do a bad one, you’re like, “Sweet, I got one of those out of the way.” Then you can move onto another drawing.

Don’t spend so much time worrying about the one brick rather than the entire wall. Go into it knowing that this isn’t the last thing you are going to create.

Don't rely on feedback from one single person, but if multiple people tell you the same thing, pay attention. You can start to understand the trends of your critique.

[00:53:23] How to participate in or find a critique group

Try to find in your area 3-5 people with the same goals as you do.  As a group you will help each other achieve your goals. They could be in person or online and be composed of different creatives. Within your critique group find people who are at your level or higher, (preferably, you’re the least skilled in the group). Be accountable to this group.

Warning: if the group gets too big they become more of a cheerleading group and people will feel less impelled or comfortable to give honest critique.

Professionals need critique groups to level up and receive the feedback necessary to make work on that higher level. Try to find a local group with people who have similar goals.

[01:00:08] 5 Things to Avoid Doing In a Critique Group

  1. Don’t show with work, but dish out critique

  2. Take without giving

  3. Being disrespectful

  4. Being late: it shows selfishness

  5. Not be overly negative

[01:03:47] Quick note about posting online

Your posts online can also be a source of critique. Based on what people commenting and also what is getting a lack of comments.

If your art doesn't get any responses that is a form of a critique. It means that you can keep at it and make something remarkable (worthy of remark).

[01:04:55] Giving a critique

Knowing your biases in your artistic tastes. For example, Lee doesn’t really love symmetrical work or anime, so he has to take that into account when he is giving a critique.

These things influence your critique and how objective it will be.

Also, reach out to certain people for different types of critique. Any critique from anyone is helpful, and a fellow artist can give you a good general critique. However, if you want a critique on your watercolor techniques then you should talk to someone else who does watercolors and they will be able to give you a more specific critique. You can get more general and more specific critiques, and both are valuable.

[01:08:17] Trust you gut.

    Sometimes, you will get critiques that don’t sit right, and ultimately you need to trust your gut. Don’t change your whole style based on someone’s critique if it doesn’t feel right. However, if you want work from someone and they are asking you to change something then you probably should if you want work from that person.

Knowing what you want out of the critique will influence what you take away from it, and also the number of people giving you similar critiques.

Get critiques and be wise, what can we say more?


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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.

Is that not enough for you? Okay, if you want, we even have a transcription below:


Hello everybody and welcome to 3 Point Perspective, the podcasts about illustration, how to do it, how to make a living at it and how to make an impact in the world with your art. I'm Jake Parker.

I'm Lee white.

I am Will Terry and all three of us are professional illustrators. We've been working for about the last 25 years, and we've worked with just about every major publisher and publication in the business. We've also together published around 50 books, and we've all taught illustration at universities.

Yep. Each week we're going to tackle a different subject relating to illustration from each of our three perspectives. Sometimes we're going to agree, sometimes we're going to argue but hopefully, you're going to learn something new. 

All right. How are you guys doing?


It's been a while, hasn't it?

Been a while.

Just talked yesterday. I wanted to point out something that we dropped off doing this the last few podcast, and that was what have you guys been working on. So can we just do a quick update on what's on your guy's plate. I'm curious to know what you guys are doing. Lee said you were working on a book today, so let's do that and then we'll go into the rest of the episode. Is that cool?


Yeah, let's do it. 

Okay. Lee, what are you doing?

I am working on a book like you just said. I'm writing two of them at the same time, and my agent just went to Bologna which is a huge children's book convention. Every year happens in the spring, so if you guys want a tax-deductible trip to Italy, anyone can book a trip and go to this book fair in Bologna.

I've been wanting to go to that for years. I just-

Me too.

It always sneaks up on me, I always forget about it until too late.

I think I'm going to do it next year but anyway, my agent took one of my manuscripts there. I had some sketches and some paintings and stuff, so I got a lot of interest from this one story that I'm doing. I'm now dummying up that one to a complete dummy with some revisions, and then working on another one. I'm going to try to sell a two-book deal because as we've said before on the podcast, there's nothing worse than somebody having just one idea. So even if they don't buy both of them, I want to have at least two on tap just in case.



Cool. What about you Will?

I am working with two or three, well three different, four different teachers at SVS to create classes. Some of them are really close, some of them are far off but very exciting. I'm working on a character design job for a board game company, and working on the children's book sequel to Bonaparte. 


A lot of stuff.

I am currently working on a new figure design class for SVS. I have like 10, I ordered all ... I have my archive of life drawing books or Anatomy books, but then I ordered all the best ones that Amazon has highest ratings on. I've been going through these books looking at why is this book so good, what's bad about this book and crafting an outline and curriculum for the class that I think uses the best stuff from all these different books. So that's been a lot of fun and then the next thing, I'm doing a sequel to Snowplow, the little Snowplow. I'm working on Snowplow two and I just got a book deal for another sequel, I don't ... Did I mention that earlier on this podcast? I can't ... It's been a while.

Another sequel for what?

A sequel for another children's book that I'd originally done years ago. So those are the-

Which one?

I can't, it's not announced yet.

It's big secret.

I can't say.

The first one is already made.

The first one came out several years ago, and the author contacted me. He's like, "Would you be up for a sequel?"

I know which one it is.

I was like, "Yeah, that'd be cool and so we both told I guess our agents and they went and worked something out, and now there's a book deal in the works so it should be fun.

What I love about that us that you guys didn't wait around for the publisher to say, "Hey, what about a second book?" You guys took the initiative and something we talked about a lot on this show is like hey I got this image or this story, who might want it and what can we do?

I forgot to mention, I guess I'm just so ready to move on to these next projects. Yesterday I sent all the last files for SkyHeart to the printer, so that book is out of my hands. It's in China, they're piecing it together doing whatever they do over there, and I should have books back here in a few months.


How many copies did you order?

About 3,000 yeah. We'll see, I still have to do a pre-order. I guess by the time people listen to this, the pre-order will have launched. So if more people want it than that, then I'll order extra.

Well just so you guys know listening at home, thinking of doing your own Kickstarter, a book, a hardcover book weighs a little over a pound typically. Obviously it changes depending on the actual dimensions, but around a pound so that's the reason I was asking Jake because that was a big shocker when I did my book is all of a sudden I did 2,000. Now €2,000 worth of books are coming my way, and that was the first time I just [inaudible 00:05:45] and were like, "Oh my gosh, where am I going to store all of these things?"

What did I do? Luckily we had a room in our basement that was empty and we just stacked, this was for my first Kickstarter book, The Antler Boy. We just stacked these books and made a giant couch out of them, and I mean a giant couch. A 30 foot long couch out of the books. All right, one more thing before we get into Will's topic. I got a letter this morning from someone who had something to say about back in episode three: Ship Happens. They had a really thoughtful commentary on that, that I wanted to share and I got permission from him to share this. His name is Mike, and I don't think he left any social media on this so here's Mike's letter.

There's something I kept thinking would come up in the Ship Happens episode, and maybe it's not a concept that resonates with you guys because you're all professionals, and have "made it" and are loving the work. I think for a lot of artists out there, myself included, I went through all the steps of making it. Had an art job and hated it. I went through a long period after my first couple of art jobs ended, not wanting to apply, not knowing why my drive was so low. It turns out that for me, and I imagine a lot of other artists that making our art our job might not be the best step for us. I'm getting far more productivity enjoyment out of creating now that art is officially my hobby. 

I do a weekly Webcomic, I do art for a board game company. I engage with my following of fans, my little following of fans and I have not been this happy with my art since college. So for a lot of your followers, it may be a good message to hear that killing yourself to flounder in the shallow end of the professional artist career isn't A, always going to pay off and B, making it doesn't equate to success or happiness. The Ship Happens episode seemed to really resonate with me because it highlighted that I needed to find my own personal goals and stick to them. I had to admit to myself, I'd never be happy working on other people's stuff and that was a dead end for a professional artist.

Following my dream would have meant a career I hated, and might not have realized until I was years and years into it. Turns out my dream was more like having a stable income outside of the art industry that let me do whatever I wanted artistically in my spare time. I don't know if that makes sense to you but it works for me. I'd love to hear what you think or something like that ever becomes one of your topics. Love your work, love your projects. Thanks so much for being approachable, blah, blah, blah. Mike. So what do you guys think of that?

Can I jump into that?

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

I think he's talking about basically the plight of an illustrator. The balance, right. I mean we work for other people and we work on their dreams, meanwhile we let our dreams stagnate sometimes. I think these super successful illustrators do one of two things or both, which is they stop advertising or stop looking for, or stop agreeing to work for the clients that are taking them in the wrong direction, and start accepting jobs which are in line with their visions. So the books that I take on now are pretty much all dream jobs. They're stories I wish I had written and I get to illustrate. The other side of it is they end up doing their own personal projects, and they could be a combination of the two. So I think over time ... I took so many jobs that I hated early on, and I describe it as working on an art job that you hate is actually worse than doing the worst manual labor job I could think of.

Right. You'd rather paint.

Yeah because it takes emotional labor, you cannot escape from it. When you're digging a ditch, you can think about you can be anywhere but when you're forced to work on art that you hate, you are there. You're present the whole time.

Well, there's another I mean that's totally true. I always use this analogy in school too to add to what Will said, it's my tennis analogy. I love using analogies for some reason when I teach, because it just makes it easier to see the perspective of it all. Just being, a lot of people think, "If I was just a pro I'd be happy, and if I was just making a living at this, it would be so much better." So I use this tennis analogy for the mentality of what it takes to be a pro at something. If you ... I enjoy playing tennis just as much as anybody does I guess recreationally, and when you play recreational tennis, it's pretty fun. You go out and you swat some balls and whatever, then you start to get a little bit better at it. Maybe I'll play some little neighborhood, little weekly round-robin tournament or something, and so yeah the level goes up a little bit.

Starts to become a little more serious, you start working on shots, still pretty fun though but you've changed it from that initial easy whatever kind of attitude, now you got a little bit of criteria that you're trying to do, and a little bit more seriousness. Then you start winning that, he's like, "Okay, I'm going to play maybe some regional tournaments and maybe get a coach." At that point, things shift quite a bit and now practice comes into play. All of a sudden what is always fun, is not the focus anymore. Now you have to go, "I got to work on this shot. I don't like doing this shot, but I got to work on it because I'm losing points to it." Then it's just more serious and then the next step is okay I'm going to be a pro tennis player, and now it's for real.

You got to start measuring your serve speed and all the stuff, and the fun is I don't want to say it's not fun, but it takes a different kind of person to go through all those steps and say, "I'm willing to do all this sacrifice for being a pro," and it comes with a lot of ups and downs in terms of your enjoyment, your relationship to that job. I feel like illustration is the exact same way, and I heard a writer talk about that with her relationship with writing before during this lecture. She said, "My relationship is just like a relationship with a husband or a family member. Sometimes we're good, sometimes I love my writing but sometimes I hate my writing. I don't want to even look at it, I don't want to talk to it. I don't want to even think about it." Other time ... It means it's bendable thing, so it just becomes different when you become a pro. So anyway-

Yeah. I think you have to find that job that matches your inclinations, your drive, and your ability level too. So it might be that like Mike says, you don't want to wallow in the shallow end of the professional world, and who knows what for whatever reason could cause that. It could be your ability level, it could be a drive or it could just be time constraints or maybe you don't want to move to a different place, and there's just not the jobs where you live. I have a friend who was trying to make the art career work, and what he ended up doing was teaching art to junior high students and loves it.

Absolutely loves it because it allows, it gives him so much creativity in the projects that he wants to do with the kids in his own projects, gives him time to do his own projects because he has summers off. So that was a great compromise for him that maybe he doesn't have to be working for a high-profile studio. Maybe it's something that he didn't initially think would be an option, but now is this thing that he loves to do. So yeah, that was like its own topic.

Yeah, let's go ahead and get it to the real topic.

Okay, next-

This is jampacked episode for everyone. All right Will, this is your day today. You're driving, so I'm handing the keys to you and take us wherever we're going to go.

Hopefully we don't wreck. So we get a lot of questions at SVS about, can I pay for a critique on my portfolio, or will you give me feedback on this, or are you going to offer a critique class? I wanted to address that first because a lot of our students listen to our podcast, and we don't often get a chance to talk to them in one place. We are trying to build SVS right now in the curriculum, and so we have taken a backseat on just doing critique classes. It's been frustrating for some of our students because they want it, they're just dying to get a good critique to just know how they're doing. We all do, right? I mean we all want to know where we fit in and so in general, I want to give in this podcast ideas, alternatives, on where to get a critique. 

How to get a good critique, and how you can prepare yourself to get a critique. What not to do, what to do. All of that, we're going to unpack that whole thing, because I don't think that you need to wait. I think there's some proactive things that students can do, or beginning artists can do to ensure that they're getting good feedback so they can move forward. So let's dive in. The first thing I wanted to talk about is why do you want or need a critique? Why do you guys, what would you guys say? Why should a student get a critique in their art? Maybe some people don't want one.

It's impossible to know where you stand without getting a critique, you have to see it from other people's point of view, and that goes all the way up into the pro level. I've showed my studio, I shared a studio with David Hone for years. I'd show him something and he'd spot something I did not even see, and it's as obvious as the nose on your face when somebody else sees it especially somebody who knows what they're doing.

Exactly. Yeah, I'm the same way. In fact, recently I self critiqued. I was doing the cover for SkyHeart and something just wasn't sitting right about it for me. I didn't like the character designs because I had evolved as an artist since, the style had evolved since I did the cover. I drew the cover first before I drew the comic, so I got to redraw this cover with the right character design. So I did it, I inked it, I colored it. I showed it to Will, and Will's like, "Yeah man, that's good. Ship it." I'm like, "Sweet." I posted online and you would not believe the feedback I got.

Most of the time I post something, people are like, "Yeah, this is good." I posted the old cover next to the new cover, and so many people were saying, "The old cover's so much better, the old cover's so much better." I showed it to my kids and they were brutal. They're like, "This one's garble, this one's a masterpiece." Pointing to the old one, and so then I realized okay A, don't ask Will Terry for critique.

It was funny when you came in. When I came in the next day and you're like, what did you say? You liked.

What did I say?

You said something like, "So did you give me an honest critique on the cover?"

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

That was busted and the reason that I didn't, and this is going to come up in ... We're going to address this is I was hedging for you, because you went ahead and did a completely finished piece. I could tell you're like, "I know how I feel when I do spend all that time, I want to use that time." You didn't really, I'm going to blame you when really I should just take the blame. I should just take it right? You didn't give me the permission I was looking forward to just hammer you on that cover.

Right. So I should have said, "I needed honest critique. Will, I need you to tell me is this good or not." Instead of just what do you think? Yeah, that's a good point.

Okay. So moving along, that was awkward wouldn't happen because I was busted. I did have to come clean and say, "I really liked the old one better and here's why," but at that point we ... We were in a safe space to be able to go there. Before we get going on preparing the critiquer to give you a good critique, I want to talk about places where people can actually get a good critique of their work. I think a lot of times students are afraid to ask their current teachers, or past teachers for a critique. They're out of college, they're out of art school, or they're out of high school. They've lost touch and I think in general, most of us are I don't know, somewhat introverted to where it's hard for us to reach out to someone.

I would say you probably already have, a lot of people probably have access to people who could actually give good feedback but maybe they're not as convenient to get a hold of, so I would start there. I have given quite a few professional critiques to strangers, who happen to catch me at the right time, or ask in the right way and I'm able to work that into my schedule via email or something. So if you can ask professional artists, a lot of times you're going to get ignored if you don't know them, but that's a good resource.

Can I add something to that, Will?

Yeah, go ahead.

One thing about that one asking prior instructors for feedback is your relationship with them during your class, when you're actually in the class is going to set up that relationship for them to want to critique you later.

That's good point.

Sometimes students, I haven't seen them for two or three years and they send me an image, and I couldn't be happier to look at the work. I'm excited to see what they're doing now compared to when they were in school, and I'm excited to be able to still help them out. Likewise, sometimes I get to hear from students couple years later. In class they were combative, they were late, they didn't turn in work. Then they ask me to critique something and I typically don't even respond to the email, I just can't.

Yeah, that makes sense. So basically be a good person.

Be involved, because it goes way farther than the class you're actually just sitting in right now. We just had just to speak to that point, we just had a student, I had a student who this is about five years ago. She was an awesome student, did a bunch of independent studies with her. We invited her to do a class here at the school that we run SVS, she did the painting class and just showed her process, and then she just won the Adobe internship. So it's just cool to watch this, I recommend her all day long because she was so good during my time with her. So I don't know, it just lasts. The relationships last a long time, longer than just one class.

I have a lot of former students that I would consider friends now. We hang out on a professional level now.

Like it or not, I just want to add too. Like it or not, we live in a transactional society and that means if you're asking for something like a critique to a current, or former teacher, especially a professional who doesn't even know you, it helps if you are giving them something in return. So for me, a lot of times people come up to me at comic book conventions. I'm at the table and they'll hand me their portfolio and say, "Would you mind taking a look at it?" I'm more than happy to give a critique but if that gets in the way of a sale, I'm there to make money. I'm taking time out of my weekend, away from my family, I've invested a lot of money and time into this show. If the portfolio reviewing is getting in the way of my reason for being there, the portfolio review isn't going to go as well.

Isn't going to be as thorough as if the person says, "Can I buy a print and can I have a little bit of your time to look at this portfolio?" So that always helps and I think also if it's a teacher, or some mentor, is there something I can do for you? Can I come in and update your website for you? Can I handle your social media posts for a month? Can I do something that saves you time so that you can use that time to give me a good review, a good critique? So I think if you come into it with that, you're going to get a better critique and you're going to understand a little bit more about the nature of what it's like working professionally, and trying to take out time to give back to others and being able to facilitate that for people.

So what if they buy five prints? Do they get like a full portfolio?

They get Jake for a weekend.

Yep. I come to their house, I make them breakfast. I sit down, we chat.

Okay. Some other suggestions would be art buyers at conventions, and the conventions I'm talking about like the SCBWI conventions which are in the children's book world, Society of children's book writers and illustrators.

Pause. Before you get into that, there's one more other thing I want to mention. Say you don't have access to a professional, say current teachers or former teachers isn't an option so you just have your peers, or a critique group or something like that. It helps so much to be the person that's always willing to give critiques, so that when the time comes that you ask for a critique, people are more and likely to share that with you. It's frustrating to see someone come up to maybe it's like an art form, like the SVS art forms. It's their first post, they're there with their portfolio or with an image and they're just like, "Please critique this, show me how I can make this better." People out of kindness will give critiques, but have that person showed up and for two weeks gave critiques to other people and then asked for a critique, I'm sure that critique would be much more thorough. Would be much more personal and probably get a lot better feedback than just having a give me, give me attitude.

Yeah. You never want to invite the revenge critique, right?


I haven't heard it called that, but that is hilarious.

All right, I'm sorry. I just wanted to get that in before you moved on to the next thing.

There's a lot of different professional conventions, I don't want to go into all of them but in the area that you are going to be working in, there will inevitably be a convention that you can go to, and there will be art buyers there who one of their jobs there is to review portfolios. Either to ... They're head hanging basically, and so they want to look at good portfolios. I don't want to spend a lot of time there. Another one would be like Jake mentioned, pro artist art conventions such as comic conventions or art shows. When you say it's an unwritten rule that artists know that up and coming artists are going to approach them with their portfolios, or sketch books and-

Yeah, I think that's a little bit part of it. It definitely was more a part of conventions before they became so popularized. So a lot of times you'd go to a comic book convention because you wanted to meet a comic book creator. That's still an element of them, but for a lot of people going to conventions these days it's to meet an actor, is to meet whether it's a voice actor or the cast of Star Trek, The Next Generation or something like that. I've seen artists [inaudible 00:26:23] dwindle as a lot of these shows they're happening now but yeah, it's still an element. 

It's something that I think you're completely in the right frame of mind if you're going to a convention to meet an artist creator, to get some of their input on your portfolio. Like I said, just make sure that you are aware of the things happening at their booth, and the time of others and their time, and see if there's a way you can compensate or give back for that.

Can we go back to the revenge crit idea for a second? Sorry to derail but it just brought up this fun, I haven't thought about it since I left school. There was this one crit I was in, it was right when we were senior level and getting ready to leave. I remember we're getting our portfolios ready for real work, and this girl put up this image and we're talking about it, and everybody's critiquing it and stuff. It's fine but I just noticed and this is where you should shut up sometimes when you're critiquing someone else's work, but I just noticed that she had done this painting and in between these characters and whatever was happening in this scene, the negative space of the painting she had accidentally drawn a perfectly rendered dog.

So it's just I mean there's no dog that's supposed to be there, it was just the shape of like one leg coming down, and another arm coming up but it was so perfect. I just couldn't believe it, and a curb in the background was making the paw Anatomy and stuff. So I pointed out this dog and for the rest of the critique, nobody could talk about anything but this accidental dog that was in the negative space of this painting. Man she was fuming.

So when it was her turn to critique you?

Man she unloaded, it was pretty awesome.

That's hilarious.

That's a good one. So a few other ideas I want to touch on are the critique group. If you've never heard of one of those, we're going to talk about that just a little bit later in this podcast on how to form a critique group, but that's a thing and it's a thing that people regularly form either if there are authors, or if they're illustrators or both. Then the last one that I have on my list here is social media groups, is I've seen quite a few Facebook groups that people will form that are a private group. You wouldn't want to just have an open critique of your work unless you have the toughest leather skin possible put out on the general Facebook, but in private groups you can get critiques.

The next thing I want to talk about is how to get a good critique of your work, and are you personally ready for a good critique? So by that I mean, let me ask you guys, what would a person who's ready for a critique act like? What would be signs? Obviously Jake wasn't ready the other day.

Well, I think they would ... I think you got to be ready to put out what you want to get out of the critique. I think it's one of the problems that a lot of students do when they submit their work, they just shove an image in front of your face and be like, "Here's an image, what do you think?" The problem with that is the critiquer doesn't know what to do with the image, they don't know what the concept is or where you're trying to go with it. So it's really, really hard to critique when we are just left with nothing. So coming to the table with saying, "Hey, I'm trying to make this layout, I'm trying to make it really scary. It's part of this story." One or two sentences about where you're going with that piece, and does this accomplish that.

Just changing how you go into it. A lot of people are just basically going into crit hoping that the instructor says, "This is a perfect image and there's nothing that needs to be added to it." But I like having a frame of reference for how to critique it, like what they're looking for.

Yeah, you need to ... You first need to know exactly what you're needing. I remember I'd finish something, and I knew it was good. I didn't need a critique, all I wanted was validation. I just wanted someone to say, "I recognize these, you spent a lot of time on this. It looks good, you did a good job." I knew that that's what I wanted, I could ask in a way that I could get that and that way was, "Hey friend ..." I was talking to a friend of mine. "I spent a lot of time on this, I just need you to acknowledge that I created this." 

It's funny that you bring that up because our good friend Mel Milton, who I think a lot of people listening to this would know who he is, but you should look him up. We'll put him in the show notes, Mel Milton. He was teaching at our local university at UVU, this last semester. He told me that whenever he gets people coming up to him saying, "Will you critique this?" He just gives them a glowing, he just gives them nothing but praise because he's had so many times where he's given an honest critique, and then the person is just broken down bawling. So he actually uses the good critique as a measure, so if the person goes, "Okay, yes you're saying good things about it but ..." and then invites him by saying but what's wrong with it? What what could I do to make it better?

Then he's like, "You actually want a critique?" He's actually had people before that are like, "You don't ever give me a critique, how come?" He goes and he'll tell them, "Because you've never really asked." They're like, "Sure, I do. I ask." Then like, "Not really." You have to invite me and make me feel safe, because haven't you guys have you guys ever given a critique and had someone just start crying in front of you.

Yeah. Every class.

That's awkward or I've had people get mad. I had somebody on Facebook one time who messaged me privately and said, and I just took them at their word. They just said, "I really want an honest critique of this blah, blah, blah, blah." I gave him an honest critique and my way of critiquing, on a scale of harsh and easy I'm definitely more on the easy side, and I gave him the level of four critique. The response I got back was, "Wow, who do you think you are?" Kind of a thing and just from then on, this person wrote me off and was mad. I think we're all as a person being asked to give a critique, and this is all of you listening because it doesn't matter what level you're at. We all give critiques and we all need critiques. One of the things and I think you guys are alluding to is that the person asking for the critique needs to prepare the critiquer, is that a word?

Critiquer, critiquee.

You need to make the person you're asking feel comfortable that they're not entering into something they didn't bargain for that day. Like when they woke up in the morning they were like, "I hope I get into a fight with somebody today." They want to avoid that so I have a few things what not to do, and a few things that you can do. One, behaviors not to do. Person asks for a critique and then they won't shut up, almost as if they're blocking any possible negative comments that could come. If you guys ever experienced that one.

Yeah. It's like hey can you look at this piece and you're like, "Sure." "Just let me know what you think. So as I was working on it, this is the thing that I was doing and then I did this but then I messed up. So I went back in and made," and you just can't get a word in.

Yeah. So you're going, "Oh." At that point I'm thinking, "Okay, you wanted to be acknowledged for the hard work that you did, and so I'm not going to give you a critique." Another one would be person asked for a critique, and then gets completely upset. We talked about that. Another one is the person is distracted during the comments. So you're giving nuggets of gold as the critiquer, and they're off in some other world. It's like okay-

They're on the phone.

Yeah, they're blocking the negative comments or the feedback by being unplugged, arguing with the feedback that you're getting. You could be getting bad feedback, we've all gotten critiques that are bad. My advice for that is get multiple critiques on the same piece. If you don't hear the same thing, the same sorts of comments more than once, it could be that the comments are wrong that you're getting. So those are behaviors that I would say are repellent for getting a good critique. What would be, Lee what would be some things that you would say a person wanting critique should do to prepare the critiquer?

Yeah. One of the main things, know what you want out of the piece. So know what you want to hit during the critique, it can't just be what do you think of this image. So being specific on things you want to work on in the piece, or things that you're wondering about in the piece but my favorite is going back to the story that Jake was talking about with his covers. If you have more than one option, life is going to be so much easier for you because even the people who are uncomfortable about giving a true critique, once there's two options an option A and a B, then all of a sudden they feel very free and say, "No, I like B because A doesn't really feel this way to me, or B feels perfect to me or whatever." 

It's hard to just show one thing to somebody and have them either A, know what to do with it but once you have something to compare it to, man the whole world opens up because they can say, "Wow, look what you did here. If you just do more of that." The critique just becomes so much more productive, so have more than one option to crit, and then know what you want to get out of the critique. If you do those two things, they'll be very, very productive I think.

Yeah. I would also say be specific. What did I nail in this piece, and what did I get wrong? Looking at this, what can improve?

Another thing you could say maybe you're like don't leave it as this monumental task. Say what are three things I could do to make this piece better? Instantly I hear I have to give this person three things, they want three things. They're not going to cry when I tell them three things.

Right. There's a bar, there's an exchange that you've set up for that. I love that.

Right, that's good.

You know what I used to do with the people that argue with me by the way during critiques?

What's that?

It always works so well. I don't want to be mean and keep arguing with somebody, because like you said maybe I'm wrong and that's what I say. When somebody starts arguing with me, I've got definite reasons about why I'm saying the things that I'm saying but maybe I've been wrong before for sure. So I said, "Let's test it." I make them give me three key words for what the piece is supposed to be about, and then we go out, I would go out in the hall. This is what I'm teaching at the university and I would just find the first four or five people that come up and I'd say, "Give me three words on how this makes you feel." 

If they didn't match the key words, the cinnamon are the key words typically the student would be like, "Okay, I see what you're saying. It didn't communicate effectively." Just do this random, unbiased. First the person doesn't know we were just arguing in class about what to do about it, and almost 95% always worked in my favor that way. Sometimes I was wrong though and they would say, "Yeah, it works perfect." I'll be like, "Yeah, I'm just not seeing it but ..."

I do a version of that that goes something like this, I asked the rest of the class, we would come up with basically the key words. What are you trying to say, the student would tell me and I would ask the class if we showed this to random people in the hallway, do you think they would come up with what this student just said? Everyone's shaking their head no. It's a reality check because I think you go through these phases as an artist. At first you're just tickled that you can make a piece of art, and then you're tickled that you can make a piece of art look like what you had in your mind. Those two first stages, all you really want is praise and it takes someone I think for me at least deciding that they want to do this professionally, to where they start coming to the reality of I may not, I may fail in this endeavor if I don't get good.

They have to get tired of their current level of production to the point where they surrender and just go, "Hit me, I can take it." Another question that I love that I've heard people say before is they've said, "I'm willing to start this piece over if you think that's what it needs." That I'm free to tell you exactly what I think now, and that's where you're going to learn so much quicker. A lot of pieces can't be reworked, they're designed in such a way poorly to where it's like a plane that's in a dive that it's not going to be able to get out of. It has to crash and you have to build a new plane and start over again.

Do you guys know what rubrics are?


Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Okay, so any professional teacher probably knows what a rubric is but for those of you guys listening, a rubric is a way of analyzing something and under multiple criteria. So that's the way, did you guys grade with rubrics in college?

Sort of, yeah.

So you'd have basically a call, it's not just like you get one grade. You turn in an illustration, it's just an A or it's a B. It would be your process would get a grade, and then your inking would get a grade, and your rendering would get a grade, and your story gets a grade. So it comes out there might be five to seven, five to 10 categories within a piece and you could see exactly what you did right, what you did wrong and that's a good way to do it too. If you come in and ask about each of those things specifically, because then it isolates where the plight it's not all just like this is a terrible piece. You can say the inking is great on this and the perspective is great, but the concept's not really working so well. So you find exactly where that category is that's not working as well.

Right and that's what anytime I critique, I go through four different things. It's all from fundamental stuff to the more superficial things, and I always start with well let's look at your gesture, or your under sketch. Maybe it's the composition or something like that, then let's look at your design work. Maybe gesture is great but the design is stale, and then I just move down those things to how are the volumes? How is it structured? Does it feel dimensional, if that's what they're going for? Then finally, how is it actually rendered? It could be that everything's good up to the rendering, and it's like if this was just rendered differently, it would be an amazing piece.

So it's going through those checklists for me and looking at those things, and deciding what ... It's like if they're willing to start it over, yes that's awesome because then you can go back to the beginning and say, "Here's how you do it." Sometimes it's just like what's the minimum thing you can do to change it for the better, and it might just be like well this eye is wonky, just fix that eye.

Yeah. I think that if you're going to be wanting a critique, you're also going to be needing to give a good critique. So thinking about for me anyway, the purpose of the art since we're not dealing ... We're not talking about gallery work here, we're not talking about personal work, we're talking about for most for the practical sense of this podcast, we're talking about commercial art. We're talking about illustration and so there's always going to be a purpose for that illustration. It's going to be to convey a story or an idea, a concept, and that is my number one question is does this say basically what you were saying Lee. Does it say what you're trying to say, and to me that's more important than the aesthetics. Even though to me the aesthetics comes really close second but I don't want to get into the color, and the rendering if the concept is not going to work. Even if the color and the rendering were fixed.

Right, and I guess there's a flip side to what we're saying here and that is from the students perspective, how do you recognize a bad critique when you're actually getting a critique that's not worth it. What I would say there, and that's happened a lot in my schooling both undergrad and graduate school. A specific example that my friend, won't mention names here but one of my friends was in his grad program and turn in an illustration, and it was a high key image. It was high key meaning that the values are at the high end of the scale, it's not a full contrast image and it was for a reason. Like that just hit what he was trying to say in the story by making the image high key. 

So he puts it up there and then the critique is, "Well you need to add more values." He's like, "Well I made it high key because at this point in the story ..." They're like, "Well, you don't have all your values here." It's just ridiculous where they start talking about these little things that don't matter, and they're not asking you the questions like, "What do you want me to think and how are you conveying these things?" It's amazing you can just, if they just have a certain go to like you have to use full value, it's got to be fully rendered, they don't ask you any questions that's how you know your critiquer is less than stellar, and maybe it's time to ask someone else.

Yeah. I think if you come into it and say, "This is my intention with this piece, this is what I was trying to accomplish. Let me know if this is doing it or not." Then you can tell if the person is just being subjective or if they're being objective like okay, subjectively I don't like purple and yellow together. I think that I'd prefer blue and orange right, but that is like a subjective thing. It doesn't matter if the colors are working, it doesn't matter but if they say, "This purple with this particular yellow flattens out your piece, and I think you said you're going for more contrast." Then you're getting something more objective and something you can actually respond to.

Right, it's good stuff. Okay, so what can you do to receive critique? How can you prepare yourself for that?

Yeah, how can you internalize what's been said to you?

Right because you're going to get hit in the gut. I mean you're like, "Hit me." That's basically what you're saying, "Hit me hard, I can take it." So for me-

I think, go ahead.

No, go ahead.

I was just going to say if you go in, this is how I started working in watercolor years ago, and it changed everything for how your critiques of my work and all this is that I go in when I'm going to do a finished watercolor. Hopefully a great painting but oftentimes not. I go in thinking, "This is just a study," and that way it calms me down. It loosens me up and if I happen to hit it, awesome I'm done and if I don't hit it, then I say, "That was just a study." There's that bendable mindset changed everything for everything I do, even almost to the finish I've turned it in I say here's almost like a clay version, and we can still sculpt it.

If you go in with that bendable attitude that this thing can morph and it can change, and I don't mind working and doing stuff over, then all of a sudden it's not that punch in the gut. It's just changing, you expect it to change anyway and you're welcome, you're open to it the whole time. It makes a huge difference in doing finished art by the way. If you have that problem where you go to do your finished art, sketch is good, color study is good and then you tighten up and you're doing the finish, this will solve that probLem because everything is just a work in progress until you're moving onto the next piece, and it just frees you up quite a bit.

Hey Jake, when you were working at Blue Sky, how often did you guys get critiques on the stuff that you were doing?

Oh my gosh, that was the entire job. The whole thing was receive an assignment, do a pass at it, get critiqued. Do a pass at it, get critiqued. Sometimes 50 times, I've seen a character design go through 50 iterations before finally being approved and so that's all it was. It's like I think what you need to do is recognize, you know the old saying everybody has 1,000 bad drawings in them, or 10,000 bad drawings or 500 bad paintings, I don't know exactly what it is. You want to get through those as fast as you can, so if someone says, "This one isn't that good." You're like, "Sweet, I got one of those out of the way, I can do the next one." I think the reason that I didn't feel slighted at all by people saying they didn't like cover number two, versus cover number one was because all in all I probably spent 16 hours on it.

16 hours is nothing, you could do another 16 hours and do something a little bit better the next two days, or the next three days. 16 hours is nothing when you're having this point of view, when you have the perspective that you're going to be doing this for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. I've been working now for 19 years, almost 20 years in October as a professional. I've done thousands and thousands and thousands of finished polished drawings, and so if one isn't working, it just gets thrown into the bad drawing pile and I know there will be another drawing the next day. So it's like just, I think you just go into knowing this isn't the end of the world, this isn't the last drawing you're ever going to create.

So it's a volume. You basically have developed scabs, you develop and then muscles and ...

It's like worrying about the one brick as opposed to the entire wall that you're building.

Yeah, so I think if you ... One way to prepare yourself for the critique is to really ask yourself what you want. Do you want, are you happy with your current level of art? Do you want to stay there? This is what I want to ask some of my students sometimes is you're upset that you're being told the truth, and that everybody is telling you the same thing yet your really upset. So if you unpack it even further, you're upset at the fact that you have to change to become better, and I think sometimes how you frame it in your mind can actually really help if you can just surrender the process and say, "I'm here to get better and all of this work that I'm doing this year in a year or two, I'm not even going to care about anymore, because I'm going to be so much better."

Yeah, and don't get feedback from just one person. Look at the overall sentiment of what people are saying, like Jake said. There's going to be a lot of people that are respond in a certain way and if, maybe Will said it but the majority of people start saying something, you got to listen to it.

Yeah. Those really good and insightful, I said it.

Okay, that means Will definitely said it. Well yeah, this dude at school who was a 3D modeler and I don't teach 3D modeling obviously, but he was in my senior portfolio class and I had to look at his work. He did this piece that he worked on the entire senior year, and he never deviated from this one piece. If you guys are familiar with 3D work, it had like 10 billion polygons in it but he wanted to be a game designer. That means it's just overly complex for being a game designer, this character coming up out of this portal, it was his only thing and his whole thing. So my feedback was this thing looks too complicated, I'm not sure if ... I'm not an expert in modeling so please go talk to somebody else but it looks like you just got one thing and that's it.

If somebody, if a client doesn't respond to this one thing, then you're not going to get a job but he was so focused like Jake said, on the one brick instead of the wall. He just wanted to keep polishing that one piece, so he goes to the modeling teacher. Modeling teacher says the same thing, this is great but you can't use it in a movie or even in a game. Even in a movie, you can't use how many, how complicated this thing was. So there was like four teachers are having lunch one day and we started talking, we always talk about students work and stuff. This was an example, we all said the same exact thing to him and he never changed it. He graduates and I didn't see him for about a year and a half and he came back, and he was in tears. He hadn't got a single interview, he hadn't gotten anywhere from when he was in school.

He hadn't done anything and he's finally saying, "I'm ready to listen to what you guys are saying," because he just couldn't hear it. He was so micro focusing instead of getting this general thing like man, there's like five teachers telling me the same thing. That's probably a pretty valid thing.

When the student arrives, the teacher will appear right?



I created that quote.

That's a crit.

Can we finish up with talking about critique groups real quick?

Yeah, I would love that.


Okay. So for those who have never even heard of a critique group, or who've never been a part of one, let's just talk about our experiences a little bit, and how they form and how to be a good member of a critique group, and maybe a few do's and don'ts. I'll go first. I've been in two different critique groups and they were both for writing. I was in one for illustrating but I was already working professionally and I didn't really feel like I needed the illustration one as much. Basically my suggestion would be to try to find in your area, I personally believe that it's better to meet in person if you can. You want to find three to five people who basically have the same goals that you do to become a published author, to become a published author illustrator, to become a published illustrator. Something as simple as that and that becomes your mission statement.

It's like one for all, all for one. You're going to help each other achieve this goal. Most critique groups that I've seen, they meet though sometimes they'll rotate and meet at different people's houses, and you plan on about an hour and you bring your work-in-progress. You basically share it with the group and the group gives you feedback. So that's basically in a nutshell the idea of a critique group. Have both of you guys been in critique groups before?

Yeah, I've done it before. I've been in a handful of critique groups, I'm currently I would say in a handful of critique groups though we don't call ourselves that. It's just I have different groups of friends that I can share stuff with, and they share stuff with me and it's a great experience because you do get that feedback. Though the hard part is finding that right chemistry because you want people to be honest, and you want people who you should feel like you're the least skilled person in the group. If they can't work that way, everybody has to be at the same level so it takes a little work and maybe you have to swap people in and out of your group or something, but I don't know how you do that without hurting feelings. Like you can't come anymore, your critiques are horrible.

We voted you out.

In person I've done online and they both work pretty well. One critique group didn't last very long because we just got busy, but one of them was we weren't all artists. We were all creative people but doing different things, so one guy was making T-shirts, I was making illustrated books. One guy was making a board game, and I just ... We organized that because we wanted to see if maybe mixing this group together could influence our own work in ways we weren't expecting. So you might want to try something like that.

How about you Lee?

I say the limit the number if you can, unless you're just posting images online. I'm part of a couple of Facebook groups where people just post images every now and again, and it's been so casual. It doesn't feel like a true critiquer group to me, and it almost feels like a cheerleading group a little bit more than a crit group.

That's what they evolve into sometimes if there's not, if they get too big. 

Yep, that's right.

Then it becomes unsafe to stick your neck out and say what you really think.

Exactly is that I would say limit it to, if you can three to four people would be tops. The reason I say that is because to do real critiques takes time, and if you're sitting there for four hours or something, you're not going to continue a critique group where you have that big of a bite out of your week or timeframe. So a couple of people, I think three is a perfect number for a critique group and then stay accountable to it. We had when I was in school, a weekly meeting that we would go to this cafe and it was I think probably five of us total in the group, but three of us met every time. It was such a great experience and we knew that Wednesday at 7:00, we're meeting at that cafe and you better have something to show, because you look lazy if you don't.

That accountability really worked out well, and I'm actually teaching it with one of those people that was in the group. Jaime Zollars was one of the people that I was with then, and she's a great pro in her own right now and we still have that relationship to be able to critique. So it's been a critique group now that's lasted 15 years for me.

I would say most I would venture to guess, because we've talked about this at conferences before that almost I would say probably greater than 80% of the published authors and illustrators are part of critique groups. So you could almost say it's a requirement for getting published. If you're not in one, it's like you're not part of the fire. You're off trying to light a flame on your own, and it's tough.

You know that just made me think of something. It's early in my career a group of us, young 20-something artists got together to make a comic book anthology, and what that required was us ... None of us were professional yet, as far as comics were concerned we were all either working in animation studio, or whatever it was. So we would all post our comics and give each other critique, because we wanted this anthology to be good. What I realize now is that it was never called a critique group but what it was, was this thing we're talking about where we gave each other time. We gave each other artists critiques, because we knew that the anthology was only as good as it's worse comic. 

So if we tried to elevate everybody in the book, then the book would be better and it was just super mutually beneficial. So maybe your critique group starts out something like that where it's like a group project, I don't know, you're going to have to be creative to figure out what works for you but maybe it's something like that where you all benefit from it. Then you could split it out and go off and do your personal things.

Was that called Zoo's book?

Yeah, it was the flight anthology.

Nice. So what are some bad behaviors? Obviously you've probably been in a group of people that do things that are irritants, what would be things not to do?

The people who speak up the most and then don't deliver on their own work drove me crazy.

So they don't show up with work?

They got something to say about everything. You have to earn the right to speak in my opinion.

I would just say taking too much without giving, and not showing respect to everyone. That could be a bad thing, it may be that one person in your critique group is a little bit of a star, maybe a little bit ahead of everybody and not giving the lesser people as much attention, or love, or appreciation is that person. So that might be something.

The lesser people?


Another one would be the person who's chronically late, there's nothing more annoying right? You want to start, it's not like you want to wait for these people but there ... Someone told me one time that being chronically late is the ultimate form of selfishness.

I think that was my wife, she said that about me. Though she actually one day she's like, "Okay Jake, I've made a decision and this is to just overall help our friendship and our marriage, and that is when I'm going somewhere, I'm just going to leave whether you're ready or not, and you can figure out your way to get there." I was like, "Wait, really?" The first few times she's like, "Bye, see you." I was like, "Just five more minutes, five more minutes," and she was gone. I got the hint and now I'm much more punctual.

You're chronically on time now?


What's the backstory?

If you can somehow hit yourself to a person who makes you better-

Do it, do that thing.

It's just the best thing. I would be such a mess if it wasn't for her.

Also, don't be ... Back to critique group, don't be overly negative. What was that Saturday Night Live Kids where with the woman that's like always, Debbie Downer. Wasn't it Debbie Downer? 

Something like that.

Something like that anyway, so yeah I've been in a critique group where someone is just always brings ... Everything they see is negative, they don't see any of the good in any of the work.

Especially in their own work too, like don't be negative about your own stuff too. Have some pride and confidence in your work.

Isn't that why you use the Oreo technique for critiquing? You guys use that where it's you come in-

Is that the layer of love?

Top layer of love, middle layer of crit, bottom layer of love. So you finish with something good, you start with something good, give them something meaningful in the middle.

Also described as people skills.

I called it the Sandwich skill.

Oreos are better than sandwiches.

Right. My last piece of advice is when you're fighting with your spouse, or your boyfriend, or girlfriend, that is the absolute best time to get a critique from them.

Because they're going to be brutally honest.

Do not get in critique. I have something to say about your art, let me have at your soul right now.

you should just stop. Hey one other thing though, and this is I guess a forum of a critique group or whatnot, but if you're posting your art online and you're not getting any feedback from people, first off posting your art online is a great way to get feedback. People will be honest, so I would do that. In the event that you're not getting any feedback from people, that in itself is a critique. It means that your artwork isn't worthy of a comment. So do what you need to do to get people to comment on your work, do what you need to do with your art in order to make it remarkable. Someone to make a remark on it, and I would look to that if you're having trouble finding a critique group, making a critique group. I have access to professionals, you don't have access to a teacher or anything like that. Still post it online, post in forums, post on social media, and you can definitely gauge how you're doing by the public's response.

Can I add something to how to be a good critiquer?

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

That is understand, try to find just like you have to self evaluate with your own work that you're doing and you're creating, you have to self evaluate your ability as someone who's giving a critique. What that means is knowing your biases, knowing your tendencies. I have a natural bias against symmetrical work, I know that. If somebody shows me a layout, I already know that if it's symmetrical, they better get me on board in some way because I'm already against it. I don't know why.

What do you think of Wes Anderson? 

Somehow he pulls it off, I don't know what it is about the look that he does but there's something quirky about the way that he does. I actually paused a whole movie just going through it going, "Why do I like this," but when other people ... I think it because it's so intentional when he does it, and so well-designed that it's not a mistake. I mean it's like I said, very intentional. Same thing with the Shining and the twins in the hallway scenes, I love them. I think they're done so well but just as a general rule, like I said you got to sell me on it and those two really sold me on that symmetrical. So I'm on board 100%. 

I don't love anime and I've developed the ability through conscious hard work to be able to critique it, and not just instant gut reaction. I like it but it would be a great thing if somebody was trying to get a critique from me and they're showing me a truly anime inspired character for me to say, "I'm not the best person here, maybe somebody else would be better."

That's a really good point.

Maybe before you ask for critique, what are your likes and dislikes biases and stuff like that. Actually you should probably do a little bit of homework on the person you're asking for critique from. Like you wouldn't ask someone who doesn't paint what they think of your painting, you wouldn't ask a person who works solely in pen and ink what they think of your watercolor.

It doesn't mean that they can't do that, I love realistic painting. I don't do realistic painting anymore but I love it, and if somebody comes to me with a realist painting, I'd love giving those critiques. So don't-

I guess it depends on the kind of critique you're wanting. So if you're wanting how do I make this watercolor really pop? How do I make these colors look less muddy? Ask a watercolor artist but in the same breath, it's always nice to get someone who maybe isn't an artist but just an honest person to give you their gut reaction to your piece. So you'll get a lot of good critiques that way as well, and they might not be able to nail it, specifically say here's what's wrong. They'll just be like, "You know what? It is not working for me."

You guys should email my seven-year-old son and ask for critique, because he'll tell you exactly what he thinks with no training. It's what I tell him. When he tells me he doesn't like painting I'm like, "You don't know perspective."

You argue with a critiquer, that's funny. One last, last thing that I wanted to say.

How many more last things are we getting here?

Yeah, we're getting a lot.

[crosstalk 01:08:15]. I think we touched on it a little bit already, but I just want to say if you do feel like you're ... If you're really unsure about the direction but you respect the person, just because the person's high up that you're getting critique from doesn't necessarily mean they understand your complete vision. I was told by a former rep who I really respected that I should change my whole color palette, because they were and he actually gave me colors that were popular that year. This was before, I mean I definitely have an opinion. I'm laughing now because I have a definite opinion on following trends, at the time I was only like five or six years into my career, and I strongly considered it. 

I started asking other people like, "The rep is saying I should change my whole palette, and the colors are giving me are really neutralized and it just doesn't feel like me. What do you think?" I wasn't really getting good advice from other people and I was really at a quandary for quite a while. Finally, after sleeping on a few days I think I finally just said to ... I talked to my wife about it and I just said, "I need to stay true to my vision," and I'm so glad that I did. It would've been such bad advice for me to chase, instead of trying to follow my intuitions.

How's that different from the student at leaves school with the model, and four different teachers told him you got to change the model, and he just stuck to his vision.

At the end his day, we're talking about art. There are no right and wrong answers, right?


We're finally going to disagree on something.

Here's the thing, if I'm going to disagree with that if you're getting okay, I guess here's what it is. If you wanted to get work that you're from that agent, a rep, and they're saying, "Listen, I can sell your work if it's these colors." Then that's a critique you want to listen to because you want to get work, but if your vision is you know what? I'm building a career, I'm not trying to make a paycheck this year. I'm not trying to ... I'm building an overall career and a body of work, then you can take or leave it. So I think definitely knowing what you're wanting out of the critique will depend on whether you take that critique or not, whether respond to it or not.

Also, is it a course of people saying the same thing? Again, that's just one person and one person doesn't matter, but if it was everybody saying that you'd probably pay attention.

Right which is like with again going back to my SkyHeart cover, two people are like, "I love it Jake, it's so good." 10 people are like, "You know what? I like the first one better Jake." It got to the point where at first I was like, "These people don't know what they're talking about. The new one's better." Then by the end of it I was like the people who liked the new one I was like, "These people don't know what they're talking about, I can't trust these people."

I have a sneaky suspicion that this is all one PR stunt for you, new Coke.

Explain new Coke.

For those who don't-

Some of us-

Yeah. So back in the 80s I believe-

Some of us weren't alive in the 80s.

Way back when they had-

Not on this podcast but-

We started having cars, the Coca-Cola came out with new coke. They were going to change the formula and everybody freaked out. So the speculation now is that it was all a PR stunt just to drive more.

To keep that, yeah. Then that's when they made coke classic and they just kept the same thing they were doing.

Exactly, and that's when they to endear the company to its customers of base. It was, we will give you what you want when the new Coke was never really going to happen anyway. That's the speculation.

My whole thing was make a new cover to get a conversation happening about my book.

Make a new crappy cover.

I wish I would have thought of that, I'm going to do that from now on.

I got to say, I don't know about you guys but the hardest critique for me to hear about my own work is that something I did a long time ago was better. Like this exact scenario you're talking about, because every time you do a new piece you want people to say, "Oh my gosh, you're getting so good. You're so much better." You want people to love the new piece, right?

Who likes taking a whole day or two, or a week of their time and just chucking it in the trash can?

Yeah, no one. No one. All right, let's wrap this up. Do you have one last thing Will?

Last, last thing is go, wrap it up Jake.

Okay, good. All right everybody, thank you for joining us. 3 Point Perspective is made possible by where becoming a great illustrator starts. Your hosts have been me, I'm Jake Parker and Will Terry, and Lee White. You can follow my work at, you can follow Will Terry at, right? Someone deleted this on my notes, so I'm just shooting from the hip here and is where you could find Lee White. If you liked this episode please share it around, subscribe to it on iTunes if you haven't subscribed to it yet, and leave a review. We love reading the reviews because they actually help us know how to make the podcast better. So when we see what you guys are responding to, we know what we need to do more of. When we see what people aren't responding to, maybe we understand what we shouldn't do as well.

You can critique us. 

Yes, give us a critique in the podcast. So yeah, we'd love to hear what you think. If you're wanting to join in on this particular discussion, log on to the forum where we've posted this episode in its own thread. Chime in over there and let us know your thoughts. As always, we'll have all of this in the show notes with links to the things we talked about. A lot of people are saying how much they loved the show notes, and that's just as much of or just they liked the show notes just as much as they like the podcast as well. So check out the show notes, those are either in the podcast app or podcast link on there and that's it. Thank you guys, we'll see you next time.

Nailed it, nailed it again.

That's good.