Today we talk about one of the main things that separates the pros from the amateurs: Having the ability to not just come up with the idea of a project, but to carry that idea all the way through to the actual production and shipping of it.
In this episode we cover what it means to "ship" something. We share stories from our own careers, and discuss ways to go from an creator who isn't producing to one who is consistently putting out actual tangible things into the world. We talk about how to overcome the obstacles preventing you from shipping.
And Jake ends the podcast with his 10 item list on how to take a project from start to finish.
Podcast production and editing by Aaron Dowd.
Show notes by Tanner Garlick
Today it is all about shipping something and getting it out into the world.
Often we talk about what the difference is between a professional and an amateur, the art is one difference, but another difference is professionals "ship."
Link: Merlin Man Podcast
When people are successful, one big hallmark of that success is that they actually ship things, which means that they finish things. They don't just finish things and keep it in their house but they share it with others, they ship it.
Link: Seth Godin, Linchpin
Make sure you don’t just start a project and let it fizzle, don’t start one after another and let them fizzle.
Look at all of your artistic heroes under the lens of finishing things and shipping things, what you find is a constant project based mentality. Where their projects go further than they do, they have to figure out how to publish it, and look at who it is going to go to.
After school, Lee needed to try and get work, so he did the postcard thing. His idea was to create and send out 6 postcards a year, to 600 clients. He sent the first card out, and nothing happened, then he sent the second, and the third... and he was getting no responses.
However, his goal was just to get those cards sent out, they had to get out into the world. He decided that he was going to go on a trip to New York and he felt that he needed to have have something more substantial than a postcard to give to publishers so he made these really nice custom build books and custom mailers and sent them to 21 dream clients. 13 of them had him in for an interview.
Earlier he felt like he was just sending his postcards out into the void and was seeing no results, however, as he went around to meet with different publishers he noticed that a lot of the publishers had his postcard on their wall. Some of those publishers, he is just now starting to work with. There was lots of stuff happening behind the scenes that he didn't know about. All of it came from him shipping things out..
Lee finished college where I was drawing and painting all the time. Then felt that after he was now just creating stuff to ship out. The shipping paid off.
The Power of a physical object
Jake been to every publisher and to Chronicle, he's been to all their meetings, and he can attest that their walls are full of postcards.
One of the art directors told him, speaking of the postcards on the walls, “I don’t know if I’ll work with them, but I want to remember them, and I hope that our paths will cross.”
Sometimes we think we need a broad audience and that we need to get our work out there onto the inter web, but sometimes something tangible for a small audience can be just as powerful as something digital to a huge audience.
This was evidence to him of the power of physical objects.
There is no guarantee of anything. It almost always costs more than what you might have anticipated. It’s terrifying putting yourself out there, you might be scared of failure.
You might have thoughts or hear people say, “who do you think you are?”
Will's Story: after finishing school he was planning on doing the postcard thing. His dad was doubtful and said “What are you gonna do? Send postcards to people? Without a cover letter? How will they know what it is for?" Despite his Dad's skepticism, he sent out postcards. It worked! He came home one day and his Dad was excited because there was a fax from Psychology Today wanting him to do work for him.
It's very powerful when you ship something out into the world. If you haven't sent anything out, you might be wondering if it will pay off, and you don't know. But once it is out there it is moving and there is this serendipity that Lee has faith in now that good things will happen when you put your work out there.
While there is not guarantee that you'll get work or that it will pay off the way you want it to, there is a guarantee, that if you get your work shipped out, you will learn things from doing this! Sometimes the value you want isn't going to be the value you get. Sometimes the value is the failure. Value in learning.
Even putting your work out there digitally in a finished way i.e. creating a website, is valuable.
Jake- never sent out postcards. Was going into animation and had an agent pounding the pavement to get him comic and illustration work.
However, he had his first Missile Mouse Comic book. He made it at the copy center. And had to fold all of the 8.5 x 11 sheets, and get them all in the right order. It was a pain. He made a bunch of these "ashcan" booklets, and took a bunch of them to San Diego Comic Con in 2001 and started to hand them out to his art heroes. He gave one to Jeff Smith, the creator of Bone who was really excited and introduced Jake to Bob Shrek, the editor in chief at DC Comics. None of that panned out into anything but it gave him tons of confidence in his abilities, and led him to find other comic book artists at his same level, and they ended up making their own
Beginning of this Journey, and really the first step for me realizing my potential as a creator. It never would have happened if I didn’t finish that first book and have something tangible that I could hand to another person that they can handle and pass it along.
Link: Finished Not Perfect
Link: Jake's Traveler’s Print
Jake's Goal for each piece: give it 3 lives.
For example, you could create a process video, there's the finished piece, it could be scanned into book, made into a print, or into a postcard. All this artwork has mini lives, you can even sell the original. Don’t just let a piece of art live and die in one version, it should live on in many version.
Lee, has been entering into art fairs for about 5 years now. Then did his first one and all of his work sold really well, and he was doing prints, Lee then decided to find a way to sell the originals. Now when I make an image, I make it with a standardized frame size.
Another important thing he learned from comic and moving forward.
Jake, learned the value of letting something be finished, rather than trail off forever. Never being finished, always trying to find a perfection to it, rather have something tangible, that can be held, downloaded or a finished website, or in other words:
Whatever finished is you need to get it to that point. Another word for finished is shipped. You can't ship something if you haven't finished it.
You’ve got to get it to a finished state, what things to let go of, what things to hold on to to make it seem finished.
Lee always finishes things: has a way of working that applies well with his personality and is fairly fast.
Jake has a number of Projects not finished: i.e. Lord Balderben and the Infinicorn of Destiny. Started adding comic pages in between. So he put it on the back burner to work on another. It’s okay to not finish a project as long as you don’t make that what you do with all projects.
You learn from things, even things like typography, and shipping. You learn about practical concerns. Lee realized that his books that were printed in China were coming to him on a boat and weighed 3000 pounds and he realized he didn't have anywhere for them. You really learn a process outside of the illustration process.
Not having an end product in mind. Jake did the Draw 100 Somethings Challenge, which pushes you to do something you aren’t familiar with, and pushes your creativity. He ended up drawing 200 somethings and then... that was it. Jake Realized, since that project, what’s the point of doing a project, besides getting better, if you don't have anything for the project to do, it isn’t helping you or another.
Begin with some sort of physical object in mind, so you know you aren’t done until that thing exists.
Want to maximize time, and get the most use and benefit from art.
Fine Artist- The creator makes something and it doesn’t matter if anyone gets anything out of it.As long as you appreciate your work, that’s good enough.
Illustrator- need to express something to someone else, a story or an idea, not as satisfied if you don’t get to express it something for someone else.
You need to train yourself to “ship”, need to start small.
If you have an idea, try it out, don’t just talk, walk the walk.
You have to decide to do it and start.
One key element: get used to the idea of “clumsy beginnings.”
It all looks clear in hindsight.
When you start it out, it’s really clumsy, you don’t know what the details are.
It starts as a big clumsy mess, then you start figuring out problems, 1 by 1 by 1.
They start with grabbing this thing, and this thing, you just go through and answer quetions.
Will starts to do something and then realize what he should have done. The more you age, the more creating, the more shipping you do, the more thoughtful, careful, and methodical.
Be a doer, a starter, a finisher.
Little book, wasn’t anticipating such a
People get paralyzed, Didn’t start with the small stuff, caught up in the “I can’t” Thinking mindset.
Finished Project: Jake starts with the end in mind, starts on making the thing, and the little things.
2-3 days making the logo.
What makes me excited about the shop
Link: Shoe Dog- wants to make a really good shoe and make it as good as it can be, forgot to figure out name and logo.
People lose way by focusing on things that don’t matter too much and forget to focus on the meat, the important things.
Lee likes to do thumbnails, then a finished piece.
If lots of people are expecting to see it, then you will produce a lot more. Positive Pure Pressure. Good technique: have other people expecting it, develop Accountability.
Kickstarter is great- accountability, timeline, parameters.
One of the best things is Will’s Kickstarter failing. Hit self on the head with a new hammer, learn that way.
People will click “LIKE” all day, if you can’t get 1000 likes, then you won’t get 1000 people to give you a dollar.
Then on second try, really did homework, asked questions,
You’ve got to start small, and have failures, you learn the lessons along the way.
We have amazing projects within us, and we don’t even know what they are yet.
Do what you need to do to coax those projects out of you.
10 Item List: How to take a project from start to finish:
- Choose Wisely: you have got to have an interest in it, a motivition. Is it something that people want? Do research in it, is there interest in it? You and Others?
- Resource Planning: Figure out how much time it’s going to to take to make it? Figure out how much money you’ll have to put into it? Figure out supplies, physical resources? Plan out key tasks: creation, design, putting it together, figure out who you need to work with. Plan it out, how long it will take, how long you can spend each day, how long timeline will be. Then put schedule on calendar.
- Create a Progress Sheet or Schedule.
- Announce it! Tell friends, social media, etc. “This is the thing I’m working on”
- Finished Not Perfect: at every step, how do I get this to a finished thing, not too hung up on perfecting everything, you’ll learn more by getting it out of your system than perpetually perfecting.
- Share progress, how did you have idea, what you’re working on now, show work, what you did this week, what inspired you to do that? You’ll build an audience.
- Stay on Target: Always keep a vision of the finished product. Why you started? Keep in mind what that thing is, so you don’t waste time in the weeds.
- Unlock Achievements: reward self for accomplishments.
- Have Fun! If you aren’t finding fun in it, and it’s just drudgery you are doing something wrong, doesn’t
- You can hit eject at any time. Give yourself option to be able to pivot and do something else.
Lee wishes he had 10 things told to him, when he was in school.
Nobody will pay you more than yourself.
Own your own IP, Business, Something, is so valuable.
Jake: Skyheart Update: still working on the coloring. Learning to attack a scene all at the same time. Speeds up working time, 10 pages an afternoon. 36 pages left to color.
Will: Textbook project complete. Will is working with a Hero Illustrator on a class for SVS, it’s amazing to be able to work with somebody whose work he was looking up to for so long. Really excited to announce it.
Lee: Still working on Children’s Book, rough sketches are done, big aha moments are not as frequent for illustration, but they happen whenever someone tells him something about writing, he had a big aha moment with writing. Show not tell, make them feel it, not just tell.
“Nico was nervous.” Tell. “Nico got a knot in his stomach, and his breathing tensed.” Show.
Now trying to go through manuscript and make it.
You can also show things in pictures that aren’t even mentioned in words that complement text.
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