Business

Comic Cons & Art Fairs

 Art by Tanner Garlick

Art by Tanner Garlick

Comic Cons & Art Fairs

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

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

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

 Money range [5:32]

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

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

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

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

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

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

In his mid 20’s Jake was in the comic anthology, [Flight](https://amzn.to/2zNv0fY).  The editor of the book purchased a table at San Diego Comic Con, and invited the other artists to use the extra space. Jake went to sell prints and books. After getting a taste of what it was like to table at a show, he decided to do his own show. His first show outside of San Diego was [CTNX](https://www.ctnanimationexpo.com/). Following that success he knew it was possible to be successful at other shows. a

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

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

[Will Terry’s comic convention video series:](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nti31w0lZw0&list=PL7IC3Am6kUZPRoK9CjW9rhTLua3DQVL9I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 [Website](http://www.jamesjean.com/)

 [James Jean Instagram](https://www.instagram.com/jamesjeanart/)

 Comic conventions [30:40]

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

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

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

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

 How to start [47:23]

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

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

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

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

 Jed Henry is a good example of this, at shows he only sells one size. [Ukiyo Heroes](https://www.ukiyoeheroes.com)

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

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

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

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

 [List of every convention in the USA](http://www.conventionscene.com/)

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

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

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

 [Zapplication](https://www.zapplication.org/) is another good resource.

 Horror and success stories [01:07:55]

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

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

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

Convention etiquette

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

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

 For more information on critques listen to [Episode 10: Critiques] (https://www.svslearn.com/3pointperspectiveblog/2018/8/8/episode-10-critiques)

 Gear

 Information forthcoming.

 LINKS

Svslearn.com

Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. 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 forum.svslearn.com, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

The Caldecott

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

What are you working on? [01:17]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the Awards? [11:00]

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Caldecott [15:00]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Klassen

This Is Not My Hat

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

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

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

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

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

Fancy Nancy

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

Olivia

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

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

The Adventures of Beekle

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

Step One: Write your own stuff

Step Two: Be Jon Klassen

Step Three: Speak at SCWI

Actionable item [41:29]

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

Nuances of a Caldecott [50:04]

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

Things to consider [53: 56]

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

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

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

Chris Van Allsburg

Summary [01:07:00]

Consider writing

Be unique

Consider the details

Drive yourself to create something good and worthwhile!

LINKS

Svslearn.com

Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. 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 forum.svslearn.com, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.


Episode 11: Networking for Artists

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 Art by Tanner Garlick

Art by Tanner Garlick

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

Networking

The What and Why of a Network?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Search online, check hashtags, follow & Like

  2. SVS Forum or general online forums

  3. Facebook groups

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

SVS Forum

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

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

How to get over being nerves [24:06]

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

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

Introduction and exit strategies [27:48]

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

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

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

You can follow these guidelines to create conversation

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

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

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

This then warms people up for this question:

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

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

More ideas to meet people [33:11]

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

  2. Create a critique group

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

  3. Draw Lunch

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

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

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

What does your network look like [37:03]

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

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

Real Artist Don't Starve

Give and you will grow your network.

Research before reaching out [41:00]

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

How to ask questions [41:56]

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

How to get a great mentor [43:26]

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

Rachel Everett

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

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

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

Finding followers [56:15]

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

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

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

When building your network consider these things:

Share Freely [1:00:38]

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

Create a mantra [01:01:56]

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

I.e. Draw every day

Learn and Listen [01:03:43]

Pay attention to feedback. Shift accordingly.

Host meetups [01:04:31]

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

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

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

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

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

NETWORKING Challenge [01:07:46]

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

Post on the forum about the outcome of this challenge!

LINKS

Svslearn.com

Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. 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 forum.svslearn.com, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

 



 

Episode 09: How Much Will I Make In Illustration?

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Untitled_Artwork.jpg

Art by Tanner Garlick

How much will you make in illustration? [2:06]

This is a question every student has, and the frustrating part is that it is often not discussed openly, or is just glossed over in school. Which, honestly, is a bit crazy! Some reasons for this may be that those who are teaching are making too little and are embarrassed to share that, or it may be that they are making a lot of money and don’t want to share that, because they are afraid of coming across as bragging. In this episode, we hope to cut through the fog of uncertainty and shed some real light on what the market is like and how much you can expect to make in illustration, in different fields, and in different stages of your career.

Making a life in illustration [4:09]

When speaking of how much you make in illustration and of the various fields of illustration we are are ultimately talking about different lifestyles. A children’s book illustrator gets paid differently than a concept artist at an animation studio; the same can be said for a gallery painter or an editorial artist, etc. Each comes with its own unique type of payment system and accompanying lifestyle. There are many different career paths and combinations of career paths and it is wise to consider the environment and the financial situations that come with each.

Responsibility to talk about the business side too [6:44]

Schools are put into a tricky situation, because they need to recruit students and promise them a great career but the topic of money can be glossed over because the schools can’t guarantee jobs coming out of school. Will finds it necessary to have a talk with about finances with his students in each of his classes, and each time the students tell him: no one else has ever talked to us about this!

Comfortable to talk about how much you make [7:45]

Money is this weird thing that sometimes people hold so close to their chest. And sometimes people are super secretive about it. It can be frustrating

If you have artistic ability, the gamut of jobs available go from freelance out of your home to working full time at an animation studio and everything in between. Jake has taught at Brigham Young University (BYU), and feels as if the animation department there does a good job at helping students create connections with studios; they fly studios out to help conduct portfolio reviews and recruit. They try to get their students lined up with jobs and internships.

The hard thing about Illustration is that it doesn’t have a central source providing all illustration jobs, it’s everywhere! You school could fly and editor out to talk to talk about publishing work but they can’t offer 5 years of work like an animation studio can.

It can be a challenge to keep consistent work right out of school but there are things that you can do to prepare and gear yourself up to have consistent work; you can start trying to line up work, and start developing relationships to prepare.

It can be frustrating when you have no one to talk to about the financial side of illustration but it really only takes talking with a few people to start to get a pretty good idea of what it is like. Hopefully, this podcast will be a good start for you in answering your questions.

6 factors that affect your income as an illustrator [12:26]

It can be tricky to nail it all down, and don’t feel bad if you don’t fit into these categories. We are just going to ballpark some numbers and hopefully you can go from there!

We’ll divide it up into 2 different categories with 3 different sub categories.

Three different income bracket

Early pro

Mid level pro

Pro, seasoned veteran

Skill level

Exceptional skill

Average skill

Below average skill

It is important to know which you are talking about because if you use a seasoned pro like Chris Van Allsburg as a guide vs a student fresh out of school, you will get very different numbers.

People like Chris and David Wiesner have won multiple Caldecotts and are definitely anomalies.

You also need to distinguish your skill level with your career because there are students who are getting work in school and have an absolutely exceptional skill level, and these guys are super successful right out of the gate.

Chris Van Allsburg

David Wiesner

Dan Santat

We’ll try and focus a lot on average skill level, because people like those described above are outliers, and people with below average skill aren’t really going to be getting a lot of jobs.

What you can expect from book publishing [17:23]

Early pro $8,000-$10,000 for advances

Mid level pro $20,000- $24,000

Pro $28,000- and up

Educational publishers won’t be higher than $10,000

Small publishers offer less [19:27]

There are smaller publishers and they don’t offer as much. This means you should really think about whether or not it’s worth your time to work with them, consider these questions:

Questions to ask yourself before you accept work [20:13]

  1. Does it pay well? [20:28]

  2. Is it creative or challenging and taking you in the direction you want to go? [20:36]

  3. Will the final finished work provide extraordinary exposure? [20:48]

Lee considers these three questions when taking publishing offers. Ideally the project will fulfill all 3 questions but if it fulfilled two out of the three Lee would consider accepting the work.

Senior level in book publishing [22:16]

As you begin to build traction and notoriety the figures start to increase. Book illustration and publishing are a long term investment. You can build a long term career with passive income.

A published book doesn’t necessarily lead to royalties [23:33]

Most childrens books don’t earn out. Consider that most books go out of print. Royalties are great when they do come but, a general rule of thumb you could adopt is to just assume that you won’t get any and seek for the best advance possible.

Quick publishing advance explanation [25:11]

Publisher gives you advances on royalties. So you don’t get any money on royalties until the royalties due to you cross the amount of your advance. The advance is really there to protect the artist and create incentives.

Publishers can estimate how much a book might make in royalties and they give that money up front.

It takes a lot of time to make a children’s book and you can look at this as high income short term rates and long term investments you need to think about this as a business.

What you can expect to make within entertainment and concept art [27:00]

There are so many options, such as: storyboarding, background art, background painting, concept art, etc.

Entertainment industry [28:29]

Main Industries

  1. Animation

  2. Video Games

  3. TV

  4. Live Action

Feature animation, and feature live action pay more but TV might last longer like ten years. Video games can fluctuate but depending on the studio they can have pay rates similar to feature animation.

Feature anything is considering those with top tear skill sets and you can anticipate $70,000 starting off but also consider the cost of living in the area where feature animation is i.e. California. Cost of living in California is very high and your income may not be able to sustain a life there.

One of the reasons schools don’t talk about money [32:12]

You need to understand the life that you are choosing because there is a lifespan to each project that you have. Movies are made within 3-4 years and the studios have the option to keep or not keep you.

You should treat each job like it is freelance and think of your options. The are highs and lows in the industry.

Benefits of working in the entertainment industry [34:35]

In the entertainment industry there are great perks to think about like benefits, bonuses, and retirement. You can work around peers that help you and push you to level up your craft. The exposure of working in the industry also opens up other doors. Working in a company there is lateral movement like storyboarding or production assistance.

Day rate for feature animation concept art [35:42]

There are also opportunities to do freelance for animation, video games, TV, advertising, etc.

The day rate is set by the studio or you can negotiate for it.

For animation, the max is about $500/day.

Think about your social needs  [36:35]

Are you social? Do you need to, or do you prefer to work on a team with people or to work more solitary? This is a factor you should consider with different career paths, some are inherently more sociable and some are inherently more solitary.

Puppet Sanding to doing what you want to do [39:02]

Lee said there is this joke that when people started at Laika, they would have to “pay their dues” and started off just sanding puppets, because someone had to, and then, after paying their dues they would move onto doing more art and creative projects. Sometimes you will do something you didn’t anticipate, and you may have to spend some time “paying your dues.”

What you can expect to make at art fairs, Comic Cons, etc. [39:56]

The estimated rates in one Comic Con:

Early pro- $500-$1200

Mid pro $1200- $5000

Seasoned pro $6000-$30000

Will Terry Youtube, Comic Con

Will, Lee, and Jake say that they could make a living off of just comic cons and art fairs but it would be a lot of work, and stress, and isn’t the lifestyle they want.

By using different sources of income, you can create a sturdy “financial table”. Each leg is a different source of income that you have contributing to holding up the table of your finances; such as: art fairs, book publishing, freelance. If one leg “fall out” or is not producing income then you still have others to rely on. Whereas, if you only have one source of income, then if it falls, you will be in a lot more financial trouble. It’s great to have multiple legs to make sure your table is steady and strong.

Working in one area or multiple areas [45:03]

There are two types of artist.

One, the artist that has reached a pinnacle in his or her career and and focuses in on one thing

Or two,  an artist that has to piece together different forms of income but still can make a living.

Steps to take if you want to get into Comic Cons and Art fairs [50:47]

  • Go to Comic Cons or art fairs

  • Do research and development

  • Understand setup and prints

You can go and talk to people running successful booths and ask them a question or two but don’t sit there and take all of their time. Also, as a rule of etiquette: never get in the way of a sale. Be polite, and you and they will have a great experience talking.

The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines [52:40]

This book talks about how to quote but most artist don’t love the guidelines. This could be the starting book. Helps to have a ballpark of where the price range might be.

Find peers that you can go to chat about pricing.

Will’s YouTube on Pricing

What’s the best route for making a living as an illustrator? [58:31]

Have a day job that pays the bills first then you can transition into illustration. Think about the need in the industry and how applicable is your talent in the industry. Understand your target market, budget, and rights. Have a day job.

Make great art and also understand how things are sold.

Piper Thibodeau worked a corporate job and did art on the side before she was able to make the jump and be an artist full time.

Piper Thibodeau

What are some financial things freelancers forget to think about? [1:05:19]

Freelance artists need to understand that what you make is not what you get. Consider the amount amount your agent will take, taxes (30%), health insurance, investments, savings, etc.

Quicken Self Employed, is a great tool for freelancers!

Quick Overview: Dollar Cost Averaging [1:06:25]

If you make 1 dollar what happens to that one dollar? How much to you pay for your agent? Studio space? Taxes? Then you can start to calculate based off of how many costs eat into 1 dollar, how much you will need to make to be financially comfortable. 

LINKS

Svslearn.com

Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. 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 forum.svslearn.com, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

Episode 07: 10 Reasons I Won't Illustrate Your Children’s Book

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 Art by Tanner Garlick

Art by Tanner Garlick

Every time we get an offer to do a book we feel super grateful and flattered that someone would want one of us to illustrate a book for them, but for many reasons we can’t say yes.

In this episode we get into the details of book publishing, including the economic, social, and career building reasons we take on certain book projects, and why we say no to others.

Here are Will’s 10 Reasons for why “I can’t illustrate your children’s book.” Some of them deal more with submitting a book with an author to a publisher or self publishing; they are all things to consider and reasons for why you may want to second guess saying yes to that lady you know who wants you to illustrate her book.

1. Bad Protocol [5:40]
This question, about, how to deal with people asking you to do their children’s book, is talked about often at SCWI.
The Most Asked Question: how do I find an illustrator?
Editor will tell the writer, you don’t need to find the illustrator, that’s our job.
They take pride in this, one of the publisher’s major roles is to find the right illustrator and match them with the right manuscript. They have resources and lots of connections to find the best match.

Some people jump to conclusions and think that just because someone can draw and someone has a children’s book idea that they should be paired to work together, without doing research beforehand to see if they would be a good match. You wouldn’t go around prescribing medication to people before learning what their symptoms are and so is the same with writing and illustrating children’s books.

Publishers don’t want to be in an awkward situation where they love the manuscript but they hate the art, then they have to tell you and it can be something they just would rather avoid.

They have more art and manuscripts than they can publish.

They oft times will dismiss you, just because you are filing jointly, and the art is already done. As with everything, there are exceptions.

There are many other reasons as to why they want to personally pair their artists and illustrators. They have marketing purposes, often they like to pair a more veteran author or illustrator with a newer author or illustrator. A new author with a new illustrator, or vice versa, is too much of a financial gamble.

As you have more experience and  become more well known you may have more power and influence on who you are paired up with.

The Little Snowplow

2. Industry Perception [13:35]
Another reason Will would be hesitant to file jointly with an amateur is that it may look bad or affect publishers’ perception of him.

Even doing lots of things on Kickstarter can look amateur.
This is something that may be frowned upon merely because it’s a little more new.

Sometimes there are books that get picked up by publishers that started on Kickstarter.

Even your online followers on social media has an influence on how much of an advance you are allotted.

One book that may be an exception to this :

Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody


They filed their book jointly and then 3 different publishers got into a bidding war over it. However, this is different, because they were two pros working together. So it’s not really an exception. They can’t think of an example of two amateurs who got a book published together that did super well.


3. I Don’t Know You [19:10]
When an illustrator gets contacted to help with a book, the manuscript has gone through a lot of rewrites. This is hard work and takes a thick skin.

However, if you contact Will, he doesn’t know who you are and what you are like.
Manuscripts always have rewrites and iterations.

It often is a big task and can be tricky to figure out how to make edits and changes. And if they don’t know you, they don’t know if you are up to that task.


4. Award Submissions [22:32]
This is not super well known:
Publishers, at their own cost submit books for awards. I.e. the Caldecott, the Dr. Suess award, state awards, etc.

It is a lot of work, they have to fill out all of the paper work and ship a couple hundred books to the right person at the right time.

Getting these awards is what helps the book take off. It gets more publicity, and starts to get bought and recommended by librarians.
This is more for self publishing but is another reason that Will wouldn’t want to illustrate a book with an amateur.

Will has received 5-6 state awards. Jake has received a state reward. Lee received an ALA Award for a "I Lived On Butterfly Hill." And it made a huge difference.

I Lived On Butterfly Hill

5. Reviews [27:06]
Publishers have connections to get books reviewed. Which gets it on people’s radar.
This is why I wouldn’t want to illustrate someone’s self published book. This doesn’t mean that a self published book can’t

6. Opportunity Cost [28:13]
If you say yes to this children’s book is saying no to something else.
It takes months to finish a children’s book and in the end there might not be much
Average time to complete a children’s book: 6 Months. Jake, Lee, and Will can get a book done in less time but this is a good place to start.

If You’re Going to Partner or Work With Anyone, Be Clear About Who Owns the Rights to the Work. [33:16]

You need to go in with your eyes wide open.
Lee had an idea for a book that he brought an author on to help him write the story. He knew what the story was and was struggling with the words. So he brought this very very well known artist on. His assumption was that they would co-write the book and he would do the artwork. Her assumption, however, was that she was now the author and owned all the content, and that he was someone now illustrating her story. Long story short, It didn’t work out.

For any joint venture: have a clear expectation and maybe even a conference maybe even for a critique group. To protect yourself and them as well.

Ideas are not “copyright able.”

Be careful and go in with your eyes wide open.

7. Professional Production [38:24]
Honestly, if it’s the authors first time doing this, they don’t know what they are doing. And that can be another red flag as to why you shouldn’t do their children’s book.

Authors usually don’t know how to art direct and don’t have the skills to give art direction.

Lee’s Story:
Lee decided to help illustrate a self published book and he did some character sketches and showed them to the author. One of them was a anthropomorphic cow, and the lady said, “My mom would never wear that.” And then got into how the cow represented her mom and how it needed to look like her. Lee saw that there was all sorts of subtle things things like this and took it as a warning to get out of there and not do the book. Because it would be very hard to work with this author as an art director when they didn’t know what was important or how to art direct.

Then there are a whole bunch of things in the production side of things. Margins and type, etc.

Will will get these short emails from people telling him that they like his work and asking him if he will illustrate their book for them. And he wonders where their business proposal is.

8. Royalties [43:13]
In creating all the art for the book, the author and illustrator are creating intellectual property (IP.) And if the book takes off and becomes a big selling book, or a TV show, or a cartoon, or a movie, then the illustrator wants to go along for the ride and make money off of all of the things their IP is used for.

It’s hard to have a long career as an illustrator living off of just the advances received, you want to be getting royalties as well. You want to see books stick and generate royalties and income for the long term.

Lee was complaining about his small royalty check ($13), hoping to have company in misery. Then David Hohn told him how much his check was (4-5 figures) and Lee was blown away by how much he had made.

God Gave Us Christmas


Then there are the Brett Helquists who have funded their own retirement and their kids retirement off of all he royalties he’s made through the A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

With self publishing there is a trust issue as to, how are you going to track sales and royalties. The publishers now have an online portal where you can login and monitor your book’s sales.


9. Distribution [46:53]
This is a lot of work and for Will, Lee, and Jake something they have all dealt with doing their Kickstarters.
Thousands of books take up space. They have had their basements and garages filled with books. Lee’s shipment of books was 2500 pounds, he literally had a ton of books. Now Lee and Jake have storage units to keep all their books. And 2-3 thousand books isn’t even a huge amount.

Jeff Smith, while self publishing “Bone”, ended up buying the house next door to house all of his book inventory.

Distribution is a ton of work! (no pun intended.)

Self Publishing authors are not distributors. They don’t have relationships with distributors. And so that’s one more downside.

One other side note:
Foreign rights. Lee has had books go into Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. Publishers know how to distribute in those markets.

10. Money [49:50]
People may think, “oh it’s just $500,” and don’t realize how much an illustrator needs to make from illustrating a book.

Will asks Lee and Jake to name their price, to do a self published book with a terrible manuscript.

Lee often gets 30K+ advances, Will is a little under that, and Jake has gotten both under and higher than that.

An advance is money publishers pay you in advance against the royalties. So you get money when you sign the contract, and then when you turn in sketches, and then when you submit the final work (1/3, 1/3, 1/3; or 1/2, 1/2). Then you don’t get money on royalties until that amount is reached, on what you would have got?from royalties if there wasn’t an advance, then once you reach that point, you start to make money off of royalties.

And Lee said he would do a self published book for $50,000 (and that is if he liked he book). Lee would charge this much because of opportunity costs, where
If he didn’t like it, they would have to pay up in the 6-figures range.

This conversation could be misconstrued to be three ar

Part of the problem is perpetuated with the publisher. Because there are some books like “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” that are super successful with very simple drawings, and so people think that anyone could do something like that and it would be easy.

What about for a family friend?

Jake might help illustrate a book for a family friend, but it wouldn’t be as detailed or
Will and Lee are against illustrating for a family member or friend.
You should love the project, and really like it.
When you set up your agreement, because you will set up a contract of course, make sure you don’t
They probably won’t pay you a ton. Go ahead and set up a big royalty. Do

How to answer this question, “Can you recommend someone?” [1:00:06]

That’s a hard question because you might not know what they want, or what they

Lee has a new technique for saying no to these offers. And one of the things he has learned is that you don’t always have to respond to every email.
Maybe for a high school student it could work out.

Neil Gaiman graduation commencement

He sees his goals and aspirations as a mountain in the distance, and as long as your going there then you are doing something good.
Make great art.
It might be different if you are in college or based on your circumstances.

Honestly, it comes down to: does it fit your needs, or does it point you in the right direction. Another thing is if you really feel that this will be something that will help someone, you can.

The reason creating art you don’t want to make is because your mind can’t escape it.

LINKS

Svslearn.com

 Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

 Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

 Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. 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 forum.svslearn.com, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.

Episode 04: Our Most Embarrassing Stories in Illustration

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In this episode we swallow some pride and take a look at some of our less stellar moments. These are the times we wish we had a rewind button for life and could do things over.

We have take away points from each story so you don’t have to make our mistakes. Hopefully, none of you are as dumb as us!

 

 Artwork by  Tanner Garlick

Artwork by Tanner Garlick

Story 1: Will’s Phallic Tortoise [01:31]

Take away: When you’re learning how to draw it’s a lot like a golf swing. To do a golf swing right there’s 50 things you’ve got to know how to do and you can’t be thinking about them all at the same time. They have to flow naturally. And so you can concentrate on 5 of them at the same time.

As an illustrator there’s 50 things you’ve got to know how to do to make an illustration, and one of them is composition. Make sure you’re composition isn’t set up in a way that it compromises the entire piece.

Story 2: Lee’s Name Critique [7:45]

Take away: Do your homework on who you’re meeting with. Take some time to understand what they are about, what they do, and why they want to meet with you. Don’t advise them to change the name of their company!

Story 3: Jake’s Edgy Style vs All-Ages Style [11:43]

Take away: Take a long look at your work and see how it might influence others around you. If you’re not happy with what your work is doing for the world see how you can change it for the better.

Story 4: Will’s Feminine Hygiene Job [16:14]

Take away: Just...don’t be a Will. Be happy you don’t have to be tied to a phone any more to get work. Also, you don’t have to take every job that comes your way.

Story 5: Lee’s Alphabet Book Debacle [21:14]

Take away: If you’re hired to do a job specifically for your style, maybe don’t subcontract someone else to do it for you.

Before you commit to do a job, take a good look at how much work needs to be done and see if your schedule can handle the workload. You want to avoid opting out of the job after contracts have been signed and money’s been paid.

Ask questions up front about what exactly is needed for the job. Get all the facts and cross check them with other professionals to make sure you’re not getting into something that you won’t be able to finish on time.

Be willing to say no to a high paying job if you don’t think it benefit your career. There are more important things than a paycheck if the job you take doesn’t really further your career.

Story 6: Will’s Fax Machine [29:00]

Take away: Get all the information BEFORE the fax comes in :P

Make sure you get all the information on the job that you need in order to finish your job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and take good notes on your calls.

Story 7: Lee Unknowingly Rips on the Boss’s Daughter [36:15]

Take away: Remember names! Do your homework and know who you’re talking to.

Story 8: Jake’s Big Meeting [40:20]

Take away: Don’t waste an important meeting. If you’re in the position to meet with an important editor or client do whatever you need to to have a killer pitch, presentation, or idea to share with them. Be prepared!

Story 9: Will Zones Out [46:16]

Take away: Be present and paying attention when you’re talking to a client or editor

Story 10: Lee’s bike ride [49:00]

Take away: Plan your day. Make sure you have time to do everything you’ve set out to do. You don’t have to do everything. Look at ways that you’re making you job harder than it actually has to be.

LINKS

svslearn.com

Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. 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 forum.svslearn.com, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.


 

Episode 01: My Art is Great, Why Won't Anyone Hire Me?

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  Artwork by  Tanner Garlick

Artwork by Tanner Garlick

Many artists work hard and try to get there their work out there, hoping to break into the illustration world and then...nothing happens. No clients offering work. No e-mails. No phone calls. And they wonder why no one wants to hire them.

We offer our perspective on why you might not be getting hired (yet), and then go into great detail on strategies and give practical advice on overcoming that hurdle and really standing out.

We discuss:

-what might be missing in your work, and how to not miss the mark

-how to give yourself a self-audit and honestly judge your work, using Will’s 9-Square approach

-discovering specific principles to improve from looking at your heroes work

-why you should be copying and absorbing masters’ work

-getting feedback from a professional and creating a feedback loop

-the need for interest and storytelling in your work

-how to handle critique and the proper attitude to have

-how to be a more interesting person

All that and much more!

Links:

svslearn.com

Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. Instagram: @leewhiteillo

The SVS forums: forum.svslearn.com

Bart Forbes: http://bartforbes.com/

Chris Applehans: http://www.froghatstudios.com/portemp.html

Skottie Young: http://skottieyoung.com/

Podcast production and editing by Aaron Dowd.

Show notes by Tanner Garlick


My Work is Great, Why Won't Anyone Hire Me?

Will got a long letter from an artist who felt that they had done everything they were supposed to, they felt that their work was great, and they were frustrated that they still weren’t getting work.

Jake and Will looked over this artist’s work and felt that the work was pretty good but not great. It was missing the style that fit the market that the artist wanted to go into. The style didn’t match the genre. You can’t do characters that look like they belong in World of Warcraft for a children's book.

Often, it’s not that you can’t draw or paint, but that you are missing the mark of where you need to go. Your style isn’t hitting the mark with what you want to go into. Your style needs to match the intended audience.

Work on Your Craft

Sometimes we feel that when we can render something nice, we have arrived, and we feel really good about ourselves. While that’s a great start, and an important step, this is really “fool’s gold.” There is a lot more to good illustration than just drawing well, and making things look 3-dimensional.

You never “arrive.” There is always an area to further grow or to better master.

Never convince yourself that there is nowhere else to grow.

There is a difference between drawing well, and creating a very engaging product.

The first step in getting professional work is to work on your craft: develop good drawing skills, good perspective, shadows, and light and color.

After mastering your craft, the second step is discretion. To not over render things, to not add too many highlights. You need to learn what to leave out. You need to learn what to illustrate and add. The artistry is figuring out what to put down, and what to leave out.

Conduct a Self-Audit

You need a combination of a self audit, and a professional audit.

You need to conduct a Self-Audit, as outlined below:

*You need go through this honestly, it will take some time.

- Study the published things in the realm that you want to go in, and have the “right heroes”

- pick 8 top illustrators, who are getting their work published, by the big publishers, i.e. Harper Collins, Random House, Scholastic, etc.

- make a 9 Square grid. Put your best piece in the middle and surround it with a piece from those 8 illustrators that you admire

- Then identify what you like about it, Don’t just say, “I love this!”, you need to verbalize specific things that you love about their work, create a specific list, and write it down. These are the things that you need to work on incorporating into your work.

- Hang the list by your desk in order to remember these principles and to try to incorporate them, hang the list by your desk.

Bart Forbes, http://bartforbes.com/

When you have an image that you really like, really analyze it, and dissect it. Don’t just say, “I like this image,” And then move on. Really dissect it and look for specific things that are working well for you. What am I responding to?

Copy, Copy, Copy

Many people have the attitude of: “I don’t want to look at other people’s work because I want to be original, I don’t want to copy.” There is a false idea about originality; it says you shouldn’t look at others people’s work, or that you shouldn’t copy or take inspiration from them.

Jake still looks at others work for inspiration. All great artists do.

You really don’t need to make it as hard as you’re making it! You say it comes from within, but really it comes from without and you process it and make it your own thing. Find the right artists to look at and let them flow through you. There is no way you can perfectly copy all things all the time, at some point you’re gonna mix something with something else, and with a little bit of yourself and a little bit of this other person, and you’re going to find your own style that fits into this world that you want to get into.

When you are at the level that you want to be at, then find the right people for your work. I.e. Landscape painters will find the right gallery, not a children’s book publisher.

Do you know anyone who is going through med school? What is their total work hours per week? Basically, if you are in med school and are doing well, you pretty much have zero life, and have tons of focus, attention to detail, etc. And if you do well in school, you most likely have a good job waiting for you with a good salary.

Illustration is every bit as hard, to develop a unique style and a product to beat out other artists for jobs, and there is not a guaranteed job waiting for you. You should be treating it like you’re in med school.  

You won’t get paid to learn and do research. You need to find the motivation within. No one will tell you everything you need to do. You need to make a schedule yourself and be self motivated.

After you develop the skills it becomes more and more about making an interesting image, something that people grab onto. That extra element of storytelling creates interest, the idea behind it. Am I bringing something new to this subject matter, some new idea, some kind of unique viewpoint, or perspective?

Chris Applehans, http://www.froghatstudios.com/

Add Interest to Your Life

There is nothing interesting there? It may be because you aren’t an interesting person.

But you can become more interesting, you need to have a rich life outside of art. Art is just a way to express the interestingness that’s inherently inside of you.

If your work’s not interesting: go out and do something, talk to somebody, travel, go to the other side of town. You need to fill your creative bank account. You have gotta have creative capital. If you’re dry and empty, you are just going to have dry and empty work.

The lazy man doesn’t get too far, the perpetually busy man doesn’t get much farther.

Some people are just drawing, drawing, drawing, without much giving it much thought.

Stop, what kind of images am I making? Is there something better or more interesting that I should be creating. Don’t just draw and draw without any direction, you need to be more deliberate.

You can’t just exhale, you need to inhale.

Quick Summary:

  1. Audit yourself, audit your work, evaluate your work based on others.

  2. Work on craft, do master studies, copy

  3. Add interest to your life.

  4. Find an outside source who can give you some honest critique and create a feedback loop (get feedback, improve it, then get more feedback again.)

  5. You have to work towards getting your skin thick enough to beg for a really honest critique. A pat on the back is not a critique.

4 Step Process to Evaluate If You are Really Good?

  1. People naturally gravitate towards your work. When you put your work up, people naturally are drawn to it. Online, people naturally gather around it. Mom, or significant other don’t count.

  2. People start seeing your work and recommending you for something or to others.

  3. You’re going to start to win things: contests, scholarships, free classes, etc.

  4. People will start paying you.

Why Should I Copy?

Top art schools have there students create master copies. It’s a proven exercise.

Steps:

  1. Create a master copy, the more exact the better.

  2. Then do a new original piece as if you were that artist. When you get stuck, look back at their work and try to figure out how they might solve the problem. What would ______ do?

Keep a copy sketchbook, this is a sketchbook that you can just throw away when your done. That’s it, don’t need to show it to anyone.

The most valuable thing from doing these master copies is what happens in your brain and your muscle memory. The most valuable thing is inside you.

When kids start to learn to play piano, the teachers don’t say, “Alright, just make a piece of music, just write whatever you want!” The kids start by playing other peoples music and learning to sight read other people music first. In other words, they copy.

The same goes with martial arts, and with sports. They teach you moves. They teach you what the greats before you did.

Story Time

Jake was working on an illustration of Santa’s sleigh being pulled by a bunch of different animals. He got an honest critique from Skottie Young, and Skottie told him that it looked like the stock-image version of what Jake was trying to do.

Jake went to Pinterest and started looking up cartoon animals, made a Pinterest board with cartoon animals and saw, “oh this is how you would do a killer whale… oh this is how you would do a llama… I wouldn’t have thought to do that..” Then took a little bit of this guy, and then took a little bit of what they did in this drawing, etc, and mashed it together and made it his own. But really it was from absorbing from all of those different artists.

There are pinnacle and milestone pieces where you have breakthroughs. Eventually you get to where you can focus a lot more on the creative and imaginative side of things because you don’t have to worry so much about how to actually create it.

Eventually you’ll get to where you don’t have so much hurt from something not working out. You need to learn to not take it personally, or take an emotional hit; to be able to say: don’t mind looking at something and saying, “Ahh, that’s not working out” and then you go back without taking an emotional hit, and say, “you know I can make this better.”

Sometimes you will ask, “Why am I not impressed with what I just did? If you yourself aren’t kind of impressed, then no one else will be. You should be stoked, not trying to convince yourself, “uh, it’s good, it’s good..”

There are times where Jake has worked on a piece for a few hours and then had to scrap it because it just wasn’t up to par.

You need to get to the point where if your dog chewed up your piece, you don’t mind because you know you can create it again or maybe even do something better.

A Word to the Pros

If there is a professional illustrator out there, or close to professional who has great work and you are saying, “I’ve done this, guys.” Then maybe your problem isn’t your craft, but your network. If you don’t know people in the field you want to go in, then you need to find mentors, get your work out there online, and up your game.

Current Projects

Jake: Skyheart, finishing things up there.

Will: A reading book, about a bunny that out foxes a wolf, and is about to start the sequel to Bonnepart Falls Apart.

Lee: Writing a children’s book about natural disasters, and just came up with a dummy, and is learning a lot.

Links

svslearn.com

Jake Parker: mrjakeparker.com. Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: willterry.com. Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: leewhiteillustration.com. Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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