"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.
WillTerry.com, 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:
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.
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:
Make a folder in your inbox called the “action folder”
Create different folders for different projects/categories.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Alex Sugg: alexsugg.com
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