Artist Traits

When Did You Know You Would Make It?

Art by  Kerisa Greene

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


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo 

Alex Sugg:

Kerisa Greene: Instagram: @kerisaillustrates

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

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

How to Change

Art by  Cory Shaw

Art by Cory Shaw

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

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

Life Advice: Never move. 

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

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

Batman for Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot define Antonio Blanco.

Will’s Change

Most successful illustrators have a distinct and consistent style. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tin man.jpg

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

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

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

Jake’s Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be True to Yourself and Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create Your Own Persona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When People Need to Change But They Won’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegetables and Flowers

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

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

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

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

2 Personalities in Relation to Change

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

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

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

  1. The Super Charged Changer

  2. The More Reluctant Changer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

JP Moneybags, Lee’s Business name.

Craftsman vs. Creator.

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

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

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

What do you want to do? Then do it.

11 Steps to Change:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Skills Every Illustrator Must Have

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

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:

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.

Why You Should Do an Art Challenge

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

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.

A Day In The Life of an Illustrator

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

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 10: Critiques

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

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.


Episode 08: Your Creative Bank Account

Download the episode via Simplecast. Need help?

What is The Creative Bank Account? We have mentioned it a lot in past episodes and it’s about time we talked about the source of all good ideas: what it is, how does it work and what are the best strategies for filling your personal creative bank account.

A creative bank account is something that everyone harbors in their own minds. It is creative capital and you spend this creative capital every time you make something. Creative capital fuels all creative work: poems, drawings, artwork, writing, etc.

We are unable to create in a vacuum or closed system. We need inspiration and stimulus from outside sources to fuel our creativity. That’s where the need for a creative bank account comes in.

Steve Jobs said that creativity is about connecting the dots.

Begin by drawing two dots. Connect the dots.
Then draw another dot. Connect them again.
Draw ten dots. Connect them in any way.
What is the outcome? This illustrates how as ideas come together it helps to create something new. The more dots you have, the more creative options and combinations you can create!

Innovation and ideas occur at an exponential rate.
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

What are the best ways  to fill a creative bank account?

Expose yourself and put yourself in the position to be around inspiration and creativity. Lee has just joined a collective studio that has bakers, architects, artists, and graphic designers under the same roof. It allows him to be around more creative energy than he would be at home or in an isolated studio space.

Become productive and creative anywhere [15:16]
It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you are “collecting your dots” and filling your bank account. The internet allows you to fill your creative bank account anywhere.

Indirect and direct experience, why you need both [16:19]
There are two sources of inspiration for your creative bank account:

  • Indirect Experience - Experiencing something through the filter of someone else i.e. film, music, movies, libraries and Pinterest. You are seeing and experiencing someone else's perspective. This allows you to be up to date and aware of what’s going on in the world around you.
  • Direct Experience - Personal experience i.e. travel & exploring.

Why you should visit the a real library [18:11]
Go to the library.
It physically gets you out of your space.
Libraries allow you to be exposed to material that you would not normally read or see.  

Going out into the real world [19:21]
Interact with the world around you. Venture to new parts of the city and new places you’ve never been. Undoubtedly, there will be something for your creative bank account.

Lee was having a really tough time feeling creative after several months of getting his house ready to put on the market, then he had this cool experience with with his son by randomly deciding to check out a comic book shop called Cosmic Money. He hasn’t really ever liked comics, but after going into the shop they found an amazing graphic novel that re-sparked his creativity.

Cosmic Monkey

The Lost Path

Get out into the world and experience life!

The benefits and opportunities of living in a boring place [23:46]
It really doesn't matter where you live. There are experiences in rural areas and experiences in cities that fill creative bank accounts. However, being able to interact with other people more can give you a lot more opportunities to fill your creative bank account. It’s all about being proactive.

Tips for increasing direct and indirect experiences [24:47]

Jake’s artist friend, Jake Wyatt, says to always be reading three books at one time:

  • Culturally required (classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, etc.)
  • Culturally relevant (current books you hear about on NPR, top selling books, etc.)
  • Personally relevant to you (what are you interested in? Fantasy, history, etc.)

By reading three different books at the same time you will see different dots and find connections that you might not have seen if you were to read them one at a time.

Jake Wyatt

Artist dates [27:39]
Regularly set a date and set time aside to take yourself out on an artist date! Get out of your own space and normal habits to go to an art gallery, a museum, a bookstore, or out into nature. Go by yourself so you don’t have to filter your experience through someone else.

Direct experience to pursue [29:44]
To have direct experiences travel, explore, do community service, go to museums, etc. Community service allows you to change your outlook and puts you in contact with people or situations that are outside of your normal routine.

Visit Family [30:36]
Visiting family pushes you to be in contact with people that have different opinions and perspectives than you. You don’t know what will inspire you! Who knows, maybe your crazy Uncle Joe will inspire a new character.

Get out of your comfort zone [32:31]
Change the way you do things, like travel from place to place or where you create. Take a different route home. Surrender control by getting rides with family on vacation instead of renting a car. Change your mode of transportation.

Will says that changing your daily routine is a boost for your creative bank account. You don’t always see all the benefits of these experience all at once, but, if you are deliberate, over time you will notice the effects.

Three steps to take after the direct and indirect experiences [37:24]

  1. Share what you experienced. Talk to someone, write a blog post or journal about it, condense the experience to a phrase/ tweet.
  2. Take time to think. Will goes on bike rides or hikes almost daily. Jake and Lee like to run. Take time to listen to your thoughts. We spend so much time consuming that sometimes we don’t allow time to think and process.
  3. Keep a sketchbook or idea book. Jake started keeping one in the early years of his career and would write down any ideas he had. Looking back on it now, there are lots of dumb ideas but also lots of nuggets that help spark creativity in his art now.

The book, “Choose Yourself” says to write down 10 new ideas a day. Jake has tried it and it’s hard. It really stretches you. Try it out! Creativity is a muscle - the more you use it, the better you get at it. Some ideas will be really dumb and silly, but still write them down, the good ideas will come. You can write down ideas for art, for new places to walk your dog, for a business opportunity you think Amazon could take advantage of, etc. etc. You will become more creative!

Choose Yourself!

People with tons of ideas get published [44:31]
The more ideas you have the more you push yourself. Will relates this to children’s books. He has seen that people with lots of ideas rather than just one get published. You have to generate tons of material and then refine.

Be comfortable with changing course [47:00]
Changing courses is part of the creative process. You will see what things work and what things don’t work and change gears accordingly.

Sketchbooks [51:08]
Don’t allow your sketchbook to limit you. Students sometimes feel as as if a sketchbook needs to be perfect but Lee recommends calling it an idea book instead. Then you don’t have to feel pressure that each page has to look amazing, you can have lists and stick figures if you want!

Rapid Viz: A New Method for the Rapid Visualization of Ideas

IlLISTtration: Improvisational Lists and Drawing Assists to Spark Creativity


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 02: Am I Too Old to Get Started?

Download the episode via Simplecast. Get help.


Many people wonder, is it too late? Or, am I too old to start?

Will, Lee, and Jake talk about this age old question and discuss how it isn’t too late. There are many successful creatives that didn’t start until they were older. Lee shares his story and how he didn’t start art until later on in life.

We talk about ways you can amp up and make the most of your early years if you are starting for the first time, or looking to accelerate your growth later in life. We discuss some of the benefits of age and the need for sacrifice and prioritizing to create a thriving career in art.


Podcast production and editing by Aaron Dowd.

Show notes by Tanner Garlick

Am I Too Old to Get Started?

Am I too old to shift careers? Am I too old to start as an artist? Am I too old to start this big project I’ve always wanted to start working on?

What’s the average age to start working? If you grew up with an interest in art, drew all the time, and went to art school then most people start their art career maybe in their mid-twenties. Often people who get to art a little later in the game wonder, “Am I too old to do this?” Young people think, “When am I going to get that job?”

Regardless of your age, you are probably comparing yourself to people older and younger than you, and wishing you had done something different when you were younger or feeling like you are so far behind.

Examples of Successful Late Starters

Sang Jun.

Didn’t start drawing until he was well into his twenties. Realized he loved drawing, and started practicing, went to art school, ended up getting a job at Lucas Film doing character design for Episode 3, and then became a lead character designer at Blue Sky. You don’t have to start in your late teens to make it.

Lee White.

Didn’t draw in twenties, or teens. Wasn’t interested until he was in his thirties and started drawing. Applied to Art Center of Design and got accepted with a scholarship, moved to LA, and graduated when he was 33. Then started getting his first books when he was in his mid-thirties, and that’s not the end, it’s just an on going thing.

Miyazaki, the Walt Disney of Japan, in animation all throughout career until 40. That’s when he decided to start his own animation studio. He did a graphic novel at age 40 for Nausica that he wanted to make into a feature film, all of his great movies were done in his post 40’s.

At age 40, you still have 25 years till most people retire, that’s a long time!

You really don’t ever have to retire.

Art isn’t like playing football, it’s not hard on your bones.

Zombies video

As You Mature, Your Art Matures

Greg Manchess was winning awards and competitions for years, and he came out to do a lecture, he had just done the cover for “Above the Timberline.“ Speaking of that painting he said, “10 years ago I could not have painted this” even though 10 years ago he was winning awards for the Society of Illustrators, etc.

If you really are serious about being an artist and creating the best art you are capable of creating, you have to make it a lifelong goal. It’s not a sprint.

You need a schedule for yourself. You need to have an actual goal, something to look forward to. Without it, nothing happens.

Don’t judge results by if you are right on target.

Say, you’re 35. 5 years will pass whether you like it or not. You’re gonna be 40 at some point. Wouldn’t you rather have done something interesting with those 5 years between 35 and 40, or and tried to do this thing? If time passes anyways, you might as well do it.

If you are starting later, you won’t be creating the same work that you would if you had started younger. You have had so many life experiences: losing jobs, family, work, etc.

Beauty of age, experience, which leads to more informed art.

If you’re older, you’ve figured out how to work and developed a good work ethic. You don’t quit until the job is done. Broader perspective, more interested in learning than instant gratification.

Gina Jane- was a student going back to school. She turned in some of the best projects in the class, she had done a lot of graphic design stuff but hadn’t been drawing for a while. However, she had the work ethic, and she worked so hard at applying what she was being taught. She easily turned in some of the best pieces in the class.

You can accelerate your learning with your experiences. Older students are more okay learning something without instant gratification.

i.e. learning perspective, having a more broad perspective and being more willing to learn.

Battle Plan

For someone starting at, let’s say, 35-36..

Phase 1 or Year 1:

  • Draw for 2 hours a day.
  • Enroll in an online school, SVSlearn, schoolism, CGMA.
  • Learn the Fundamentals: Perspective,  Light and Shadow, Figure Drawing, Composition, Color, how to use Line/shape/tone
  • Fill 6-7 100 page sketchbooks, during your 2 hours a day.
    Work on hands, head, the figure, landscape, perspective, shading, this is your your sandbox for practicing and applying what you are learning.
  • Pick 5 of your favorite artist, do 20 copies from each of these 5 artists. Each copy, you will learn so much from trying to deconstruct what these artists have done. You want to learn how that artist did it.
  • You’re gonna fail with some of them, but you try and learn from the masters by copying their work.
    Depending on what your goal is, it might change your approach.
    Jon Klassen. Does a lot more simple graphic design type work.
    Craig Mullins. Studied industrial design. He didn’t like the industrial design look. Then he went back to school and did illustration.
  • Seek advice from a professional: "these are my goals, what should I do?"
    Sometimes students want to become a children’s book illustrator but don’t really know any illustrators.
  • During this first year, you need to educate yourself on this field.
    If it’s children’s books, every week maybe read 5 a week.
    If it’s comics, know what’s in comics, not just 20 years ago, but what is happening now.
    Fill your creative bank account with what people in the industry are doing.
  • State your goal publicly: and then share your progress on the social media platform.

    That’s your Phase 1/ Year 1, it might take 2-3 years.

Phase 2: Build Your Portfolio

  • Draw 4 hours a day

  • Intermediate classes, these online schools, and svs have more advanced classes. More one on one with teachers.

  • 4 sketchbooks this year, not studies, concept art for portfolio.

Illustrator: ideas for illustrations or childrens books
Comic artist: ideas for characters, your take on Wolverine, etc.

  • Complete the Draw 100 Somethings Challenge: boats, trees, flowers, gummy robots, dinosaurs, robots, etc. Teaches you to not be satisfied with first 2-3, or 20 designs. Teaches you that true creativity comes after you have drained all the low hanging fruit. Jake did 200. Just to prove that there is no end to the ideas you can do.

100 Somethings, Youtube:

  • Continue Studying. If you’re aspiring to do childrens books- keep studying children’s books. concept artist or animator-reading every word in the “Art Of” books. Comics, keep studying comic books.

  • Social Media- post your 100 somethings. Post your sketchbook studies. Can start growing a following, cause you aren’t just practicing but sharing your own unique ideas and what you are bringing to this field you are entering.

  • Choose your heroes. Educate yourself on what you want to do. i.e. children’s books, comics, animation.

  • Post regularly, share your work, journal chart progress, share what you’re learning.

  • Keep Studying
  • Start to pay attention to stories. At the end of the day this is what will separate you. See what the story is about, not just the details, separate that.
    Eventually everyone will be able to draw and paint, and story is what will separate you.

Ultimately, Star Wars is all about a family. It’s a family drama, that’s what it is about. Be able to see the broader view, what’s the story about, and how did they tell that story. You can really get some great insights to storytelling, story building, and how to tell your own stories.

You don’t want to just be a vapid artist who isn’t saying anything.

Key: Ultimately, it is your stories that you tell that will separate you from the others.  Be observant of stories in your life and all around you. What the story is all about, what is the broader view? How did they tell the story. Look at it separate from the details.

They’re not saying anything, or they’re saying the same thing that has always been said.

  • Be conscious of the style that you are developing.

See "Uncovering your Style",

Phase 3: Make a Product.

  • Kickstart and Create your comic, illustrate your book, concept out your idea. Create something that works for you.


  1. Teaches you to Start and Finish a project.An actual product, suggests a finality to the project. Not just a project. Finished not perfect.

  2. Learn Marketing

  3. Learn Production

  4. Learn Salesmanship.

  5. Learn who prints things, and how to get things printed.

  6. Learn about how when things get screwed up how to fix it?

You’ll be more educated and understand what’s happening behind the scenes.

Year 3 is all about taking everything you are learning and create something with it.

  • Enter contests, put yourself out there, step up to the plate, try it, and get work out there. This is the best that I have got, this is what I have to share. Helps propel you to a new step. Do your best, and then move forward.

You need moments of finality and stair stepping, then you can ask, “Where to go next?”

  • Keep finishing things, then you go on to the next thing, and keep doing your best, then you can decide where to go next.

Don’t just keep a bunch of unfinished things in the drawer.

Ultimately, we want you to teach yourself how to finish and present something.

  • This will also help you flesh out a network. If you want to be successful, you need to build a network. People above, next to, and below you.You’d be surprised at what jobs and opportunities will come.

Someone above may like your work and throw you a bone.

Someone next to you may recommend you for a job. 

Someone below you has opportunities too.

Start building that network by building things and putting them out into the world.

Get into the network/world that you hope to enter.

Project creates a connection with people in that world, starts a network.


  • Study a film a week, a graphic novel a week, etc.

Will used to have though that “If I look at other people’s work I would be copying.” Originality comes from taking and combining, and studying. Will wishes someone would have grabbed him and told him that. Keep feeding yourself.

All creativity is, is connecting dots. Connecting dots that other people wouldn’t haven’t thought to connect. In order to connect dots, you have to have dots in the first place if you’re not filling your brain, then you have no creative capital to work with, you have no thoughts.


How Can I do This?

You have 4 hours in a day. You work for 9-10 hours. You have 14 hours. Maybe you shave off an hour of sleep, maybe you stop watching a TV series.

It really comes down to what you want to sacrifice. You shouldn’t sacrifice family, or your job. But there are some things you need to sacrifice to go down this path.

Need to discuss this with your spouse or significant other.  I.e. “This is something I feel really passionate about, let’s work out a plan, maybe Thursday Friday nights are spent doing this, and you get me Saturday and Sunday.”

Maybe it’s not 4 hours a day, and it’s 2. You can get a lot done in 2 hours. If you don’t prioritize it, it will never happen.

Come up with a schedule. Maybe it is Thursday or Saturday.

Early to Rise.

Jake gets up at 4am to work on Skyheart.

Lee wakes up at 5, works from 5:30-9:30 or 10AM.

During that grouping of hours, stuff happens.

You can get a ton of work done in that group of time.

Pursuit of Happiness. The main character would drink less water, so that he didn’t have to use the restroom as often and could therefore make more calls.

You’ve got to ask yourself, how bad do you want something? It comes down to that.

I really want to play the guitar, but I didn’t sacrifice for it, I didn’t prioritize it. I said that I really wanted to play the guitar, but if you don’t sacrifice and prioritize it, then you don’t really want it.

You can’t have good things without some sort of sacrifice or some sort of skin in the game.

Yuko Shimizu,

She had a full time corporate job, and kept her job until eventually she hit the tipping point and she quit her corporate job, and now is an incredible illustrator.



Jake: Skyheart, 60 Pages left to color, it’s coming along well!

Lee: Working on illustrating some different subject matter.

Do rough sketches, then Find 3 key beats or difficult passages, and does an illustration of those passages, cause that will set tone for the rest of the book. Not just page 1, 2, etc. and does those pages and then it influences all the rest of the pages.

Will: Wrapping up Texture Painting class, Finished up the Alice in Wonderland series for Comic Con, and just finished a children’s book.



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.