Of Eggs and Baskets

I want to be a fantasy illustrator, creating interesting and entertaining works for the public to enjoy while they play the games and read the books they love. That is what drives me and what gets me out of bed in the morning.

But there is something that causes a little bit of fear, too. Something that sends me back to bed some mornings when I feel defeated and unmotivated. It’s the acknowledgement that the freelance life can be unpredictable and extremely difficult to maintain if you don’t have a steady stream of clients coming in at all times. Chatting with other freelance artists has taught me that being a freelancer is like living on a roller coaster, with highs and lows and twists and dips and loops. And that’s great, I love that about freelancing.

However, it’s also bad in that if we’re to make freelance life our entire career, it can be extremely stressful and sometimes it can cause us to downright fail if we let it.

How do we avoid those times in which our clients have all but vanished at the same time (it happens) and our bank accounts reach that horribly ugly number – 0? How do we enjoy the freelance life if we’re constantly struggling to find the next client?

One way I’ve learned of from much more successful art entrepreneurs than I, and am currently implementing myself, is Multiple Revenue Streams. Also known as “putting your eggs in various baskets.”

What this means is that while Fantasy Character Illustration may be my main objective (as an example), I need to develop other ways for income to be generated that doesn’t rely on clients hiring me for specific assignments. There are a plethora of ways to do this, and I can’t begin to list all of them, but I’ll talk about my plans and maybe they’ll help you to find your way, if you need it.

Tawny’s Plans For Not Starving

I. First and foremost, I’ve built a portfolio that is beginning to strengthen. This is very important, especially when you’re just starting out. You have to have work you are comfortable showing to potential clients and art directors. One key tip is to make sure you are only showing work you want to be hired to do. What this means is if you want to paint characters but hate painting creatures (again, just an example), do not have creatures in your portfolio! You will invariably be hired for the things you don’t like if those things are in your portfolio. If you enjoy environments, and that’s what you want to paint, only show those off! This will save you a lot of frustration and heartache in the long run.

If you’re not sure WHAT you should have in your portfolio, because you’re not sure what you love to draw, I have  a quick exercise for you. I totally stole this idea from Char Reed, but I’m sure she won’t mind my sharing it with you:

  1. Get out a piece of paper and a pen.
  2. Write down 10 things you love to paint.
  3. Make sure the 10 things you write down are things you enjoy creating and won’t get sick of, at least for a while.
  4. Organize the work you already have that fits those categories.
  5. Create new works based on that list.
  6. Show the world your portfolio.
  7. ???
  8. Profit.

This is the method I’ve started to use, and guess what? I’ve started to get work based on what I put in that portfolio. Try it. The worst thing that can happen is you create new portfolio pieces you love. Not a bad fail, if you ask me.

II. Another path I’m taking that I’m hoping will generate some followers and potentially some income, is sketch cards and traditional portraits.

a. People love sketch cards of their favorite characters, and it can be a relatively quick way to produce new art that you can turn around and sell for a few bucks. Depending on your brand, the character, the client, and a few other factors, you could potentially sell a sketch card for upwards of $25. That’s not terrible for something that ideally took less than an hour to create.

b. Custom traditional portraits seem to get a lot of attention from collectors and the public. Sometimes, the general public doesn’t really understand digital art and how it’s produced, so they tend to put a little bit more value on traditional drawings. Again depending on various factors, some artists are able to sell portraits of characters, celebrities, and people for a couple of hundred dollars each. My plan is to create portraits on toned tan paper using black Prismacolor and white charcoal pencil. I just love the look of it, so I enjoy the process of creating them.

An added benefit of these types of art is that they offer me a creative outlet that gets me away from the computer for a while when I’m feeling burned out. I can also sit and work on these while spending time with family and friends. We will all sit down to watch some TV or hang out and I can sketch at the same time. I won’t feel the guilt of “wasting” time and it’ll cause me to be more productive! Win/win.

III. Passive Income. A while back, while “productively procrastinating”, I learned how to create neat looking documents in Adobe Illustrator. I love to-do lists and other organization type printables, so I made a few of my own. I listed them on Etsy and did a little marketing. Very minimal marketing, actually. I posted about them on Facebook and Twitter and then wandered back to working on my character illustrations.

Every couple of weeks, though… someone will buy one. They’re printables, so once they’re listed and the file is attached, the customer can immediately download the thing and enjoy their product. I don’t do anything on my end.

So, my plan is to create a few new printables every couple of months, keep my shop updated (Etsy items “expire” and you have to re-list them periodically), and market them a bit more as I have time.

In a crunch, I can ramp this up and push them more, which will create more of a customer base and bring in more income. I just haven’t done that yet. There are other ways of creating passive income, mine is just one example. I’ve seen a plethora of artists create tutorials and post them on gumroad. Once the thing is created and posted and available for download, it becomes a source of passive income.

Have you heard of any other ways to generate passive income? If so, share them in the comments! I may create a blog post in the future with a list of ways to do this.


Basically, these are some ideas I’ve had about how to take my career to the next level. If I’m distracted by the fear of not finding clients and not being able to pay my bills, I won’t be productive. I have to find ways that are creative, related to art, and interesting that will help to keep me on track. These things also serve as a way to give me a break from digital painting while also remaining productive and making progress.

I hope this post helps and I wish everyone the best of luck in finding multiple baskets for all of your colorful eggs!

Ink Sketch Giveaway!

Inktober-2014

Many of you are aware that the month of October has recently been dubbed “#inktober” by artists. It’s origins date all the way back to 2009 when Jake Parker decided to challenge himself to draw one ink drawing per day in the month of October. The world picked up on it in a big way in 2013, and this year has been even bigger. There is no theme, no rules, no guidance. Just draw at least one drawing per day in ink in the month of October.

Super fun right!? Right!

Many artists draw whatever pops into their head that day.

Click to follow CreatureBox on Facebook

Click to follow CreatureBox on Facebook

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Click to follow Kyle Baerlocher on Instagram

Some draw whatever is around them at the moment:

Click to follow Zachary on Instagram

Click to follow Zachary on Instagram

Some have themes they stick to during the 31 days:

Click to Follow Kayla Edgar on Facebook

Click to Follow Kayla Edgar on Facebook

And some have stories worked out beforehand:

Click to follow Jake Parker on Facebook

Click to follow Jake Parker on Facebook

Here are a couple of my own drawings:

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It’s been super exciting and challenging. I only missed one day so I’m proud that I have followed through so well. I have kept them all in one moleskine sketchbook and have used Micron pens sizes 1 and 2, a Fabre Castel brush pen, and most recently, an amazing Pentel brush pen that I can’t get enough of. Had it not been for my participation in Inktober, I may never have gotten that brush pen. I love that it forces me to draw a bit lighter, and that I can draw super duper thin lines as well as extremely thick black lines. It makes it easy to block in large sections of a picture. The below image shows some brush strokes I jotted down to play around.

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So now for the fun part! Inktober is almost over and I have lots of pretty sweet sketches. One of them AND a Pentel brush pen could be yours! All you have to do is Like my art page on Facebook and SHARE this blog post! On November 7th, I will pick a random name and that person will win an Inktober sketch and a brush pen. Hooray!

Get to sharing and good luck! 🙂

Always Be A Student

I just realized I never posted a blog entry last week. What in the, I say, what in the hell is up?!

Anyway. I’ve been pondering the concept of “always be a student” for a few days now. I was doing my morning “run” – and by run I mean shuffling down the street like C3PO on a sand dune – and it occurred to me that I was enjoying the training I was putting myself through.

See, I don’t like running. I’ve never liked running. But I love the concept of clearing your head while cruising down a back country road, fresh air, birds, etc. I also like the idea of jogging down a sidewalk in a cute little town or something. The concept of running has always appealed to me. So, I set out to learn how to run properly so I could actually enjoy it.

I realized while running the other day, concentrating on my breath count and rhythm, that I was enjoying the learning I was doing. I was thoroughly engrossed in the progress I was making. It was then that I noticed that I enjoy the process of learning in a whole lot of other areas of my life.

As I continued to breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 4 counts repeatedly, I thought of other things I’d decided I wanted to learn over the last couple of years. I very recently taught myself how to French braid my kid’s hair. Now that I can do that, I’ve learned how to do dutch braids and side braids and fishtail braids…

I taught myself how to cook. That one took years. I failed so often it’s not even funny. But now I feel like I am a pretty decent cook and I love finding new recipes.

In relation to art, I’ve enjoyed learning from others how to paint digitally. Composition, color theory, perspective, anatomy, etc., are all things I’ve had to learn on my own through watching and learning from other artists. The thrill I get from realizing I understand a concept I didn’t previously grasp is exhilarating. It’s a moment in which I can almost physically feel that I’ve learned.

I made a decision at IlluxCon that I wanted to start oil painting. I didn’t know the first thing about oil painting and was actually quite intimidated by all the paints and mediums (wth is a medium?!) and thinners and chemicals. So I started asking around for tips and techniques. I bought Patrick Jones’s book about oil painting techniques. I bought paints and brushes and boards and canvas paper. I just jumped in. I decided to do what I do best which is to fail until I succeed.

I don’t view failure as a negative. I love failure. I live to fail. Every failure is an opportunity to learn. An opportunity to strengthen myself in whatever endeavor I’m attempting to take on.

I’ve been failing like a champ at oil painting!

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But then I succeeded a little bit.

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That gave me the confidence I needed to fail on a larger scale/project:

Underpainting for a personal project

Underpainting for a personal project

Laying down paint

Laying down paint

I’ve got a long way to go, but in the meantime, I’m still learning. If we master something, what’s the point of continuing? To remain good at it? Why not keep pushing ourselves to see what else we can do with the thing we’ve mastered? For me, that seems to be what it’s all about. To always be a student, and to love every minute, every failure, every success, everything.

Do I have days where I want to quit and throw things? I certainly do. I get extremely frustrated and discouraged. When that happens, I go back to something that I know I enjoy and that I know how to do, for a little bit of a “win”.

When all else fails, draw Batman. Or Darth Maul. Or Maleficent.

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Draw what you love, draw what brings you back to your love of the thing that has you frustrated, and it will all be alright. I promise!

IlluxCon 7 Post-Con Blog Post

I really don’t have any idea where to start with this one, but I know I need to get the post out there.

If you aren’t aware of what IlluxCon is, here is a quick description:

IX is the first, ground-breaking art show, symposium, and celebration dedicated solely to imaginative realism—bringing artists, students, collectors, and art fans together for an annual gathering intended to inspire and create further awareness and zeal for imaginative realism and all that’s encompassed in the realm of the fantastic.

Why I Attended

The biggest reason I attended was because most of my favorite artists were going to be there. I assumed at the very least, I would get a couple of portfolio reviews and be able to hang out with friends I’ve made in the industry so far. I had no idea what I was in for and how extremely amazing this con would be for both my career potential and myself as a person. I learned a ton about the industry, the artists, and myself. I’ll get into all of that in this post. Hopefully.

What I Learned About Art

The biggest thing, I think, is about oil painting, and how accessible it actually is. I was extremely intimidated by it, what with the chemicals and brush cleaning and canvases and and and and. But what I learned is that you can lower your exposure to toxic chemicals with things like walnut oil and linseed oil, as well as using mineral spirits and turpenoid in tiny, measured, rare doses.

I also learned that you can paint on illustration board! The suggestion was to gesso both sides first, so it doesn’t warp, and I’m eager to try that method out.

I also learned that there IS a big market for traditional paintings, which I did not realize. I thought collectors had gone the way of the buffalo, but it turns out, they are out there and they are excited about us. I met one collector, Ray, who told me is ready and willing to buy my oil paintings in a couple of years when I’m in the main show. I earned a collector based on my potential.

What I Learned About Myself

It’s actually impressive all the things I learned about me in the 4 short days I was at IlluxCon. I learned that while I’m extremely introverted, it turns out that it doesn’t really affect how I am in large groups of my own types of people. I didn’t need nearly as much time to recharge after hours as I do when I’m surrounded by non-art folks, also known as Muggles. bahaha. I was shocked to find myself reluctant to go to bed, at 4:30 am after a long day of talking and socializing and attending talks. I wanted to stay up all night with the people I had met. I wanted to keep laughing at Petey Pablo impressions. I wanted to talk until all hours about the passions of the other artists and what drives them to create art. It was intense, it was fun, it was refreshing.

I also learned that I seem to have broken free of my longtime initial shyness. I used to be extremely intimidated by professional artists and art directors, and I would talk myself out of approaching them. After attending Spectrum Fantastic Art Live and now IlluxCon, I seem to have grown out of this and am much more comfortable striking up a conversation. I’m no longer lurking along the walls. Now, when I see an artist I’m excited to meet and talk to, I am more apt to walk right up to them.

Pardon me, I see Donato over there, I must make contact.

 

The most important thing, I think, that I learned at IlluxCon is this: This is where I am meant to be. It is literally the greatest feeling on the planet to come to the realization that the thing you love, loves you back. I get to paint elves and dragons and Westerosi characters and you’ll pay me for it?  I can pick up oil paints and paint Conan and someone will pay thousands of dollars to take it home and hang it on their wall? I can join this community and be welcomed with open arms by the people I admire most in the world? I learned that without a doubt, I will work my ass off and do what it takes to find my place in the ranks. I already feel like I belong, and I don’t even have paintings hanging on the gallery wall yet. I can’t wait for that day, and I’ll lose sleep if it means making it happen.

Who I Talked To

Um. Everybody. I can’t begin to name everyone but the most prominent and memorable encounters were as follows:

Sam Flegal, to whom I’d like to again apologize for excitedly talking at your face, throwing words out at lightning speed. Awkward.

Thank you for your patience and understanding! Thank you also for encouraging me and my cohort, Char Reed, to pursue our plans for a webcast of our own and sharing your knowledge on how to go about doing that.

Dan Dos Santos, who I learned is a Firefly fan.

Patrick Jones, who is HILARIOUS and, much like Donato Giancola, makes oil painting seem like something I can actually do. Something I actually WILL do. I bought his Oil Painting Techniques book and read it on the plane, trying to shield the cute little old lady next to me from the boobehs. Also, Patrick helped me to realize that everyone has people they consider idols, even the industry titans. His story about meeting Boris Vallejo will always make me laugh.

Lauren Panepinto, Marc Scheff, and Zoë Robinson, who give AH-MAZING portfolio reviews. The things I learn when these super busy rock stars take minutes out of their day to help me improve are more important than anything else that happens. I could rave on for days, but I’ll just leave you with this:

Linda Adair, Michael C. Hayes, Annie Stegg, and Allen Douglas, who were kind enough to share with me their process and tips and techniques, and make me feel SUPER comfortable about starting my journey into oil painting. They were like my own personal oil painting Yodas.

(Allen, I’m sorry we got cut off and I didn’t properly thank you!)

I won’t even try to list all of the new friends I made because I would be heartbroken to leave any of you out, but you know who you are and I love your faces and I can’t wait to squish you in hugs again. We shared drinks and sushi and laughs, and you mean the world to me. If I could, I’d give you…

I had a blast this year, I’m excited for Spectrum and I’m already stalking the IlluxCon page for updates on next year’s plans. I’ll book that hotel room the second they go on sale.

Thank you to everyone who truly made every day of IlluxCon my:

Lastly, I want to yet again thank my mentor, Jon Schindehette (SHIN-de-HET-ee for those who keep asking ;)), for being the one to boost my confidence enough for me to step out into this world. Without your amazing personality and your encouraging words, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I’m just getting started!

Jae Seakahh Take Two

I really enjoyed painting the elf pirate… queen… chick… woman… and I wanted to paint her again. So I chose a really simple, static pose that I feel conveys a lot of her personality. Strong, powerful, confrontational, but also beautiful and intriguing. I hope that is coming across successfully. I’ll walk you through my process step by step and at the end you can see an animated GIF of the progress so far. This illustration is FAR from done, however, but I wanted to have something to show you and thought this would be an interesting way to do so.

ETA: This seems really dark, but one of the final steps I do to an illustration is adjust the values and levels, so that it’s brighter and more easy to “read”. So keep that in mind as you view these previews! 🙂

Step 1: Sketch phase! I love this part. It’s one of my favorite steps. I try a few different poses and settle on one I like. I’ll often find pose reference and have a few open to be able to quickly check proportions and such. This is actually a decently refined sketch, and I’ll try to remember to save the rougher, sketchier part when I do another illustration.

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Step 2: Values! Here is where I determine the basic value composition. I try to stick to about 4 values to determine how everything flows. This could change over the course of the illustration, but I try to keep it basically the same.

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Step 3: Lay in the background! Pretty self explanatory. Again, I’ll try to save more of the steps next time so you can see how I get from A to B while wading through the weeds of blobs and colors.

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Step 4: Start in on the character! I generally start with the face, and in this instance, I later changed my mind regarding the lighting situation, but you can see here that I started to refine her features.

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More refining as well as blocking in clothing and accessories.

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That face was NOT working. Above is where I called it a night and below is where I took her face first thing in the morning. If you’re feeling frustrated with something and it’s late at night… STOP and come back another time. Rest. Relax. Step away for a bit. In this case, I feel like it worked out very well.

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Much pretty. I’ll probably refine more and will add skin texture and such later, but I moved on so I could again come back fresh to the face later. Remember, face and hands on a human are THE most important parts. Get those right, everything else will usually work out ok. Get ’em wrong? Newp. All fail.

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She’s coming along nicely and I’m continuing to work on her. Check back next week and maybe I’ll have her all finished! She’s a personal piece between NDA client work though, so if not, be patient 😉

Here is the animated GIF!

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Speaking of client work, I’m happy to say that I’ve had a couple of exciting commissions come my way and I can’t WAIT to show them off! I had the opportunity to work on one of my most favorite properties of all time, one of my most favorite nerd worlds, and it was super fun.

Convention Conversations Pt 2

In Part 1, I talked about the various types of convention-goers I’ve noticed so far. It’s by no means conclusive, but it can be a small guide to how to open up a line of communication with someone who is approaching or passing your booth/table. Also keep in mind that this is simply how I felt comfortable chatting with people, and your level of comfort will vary.

I’ve never been the type who felt at ease trying to start a conversation with every living soul who passed by. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, it just didn’t feel like me. I spent the first hour or so of Spectrum watching the various types of convention-goers and deciding how best to bring them over. It didn’t take very long to notice some trends, and to come up with some opening “lines” that didn’t sound too “used care salesman.” I was pretty nervous at this point, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to easily talk to mass amounts of people without getting all bijiggity.

I made sure to smile at anyone who looked over my way, as an opening welcoming gesture. From there, I noted their reaction. If they moved on quickly or gave a small smile and looked away, I basically left them alone. Now, I’m not sure if that is the right thing to do, but I put myself in their place and felt I wouldn’t want to be harassed if I showed no interest in a table or booth. Everyone is different, though, so that could obviously vary.

If they gave a good smile or nodded my way, and were close enough that I wasn’t yelling at them, I would ask how they were doing. You generally get “good”, “fine”, “ok” as replies. Again, if they gave a short reply and moved on, I let them go. If they responded positively to my question, and veered toward me, it was a good sign that they were open to conversation and more open to looking at and possibly purchasing some of my prints.

I like to ask people questions about themselves, because it puts people at ease and because I’m curious about everybody! Generally, my questions started with asking if this was their first time at Spectrum. You’d be amazed at how many people have been to all of them so far! I joked with them that now they have to go to all of them so they can be that one guy who has all of his Spectrum badges in 20 years. You hear that, Spectrum?! KEEP IT GOING!

What it must be like organizing an event for fantasy/sci-fi artists

I also asked if they were an artist or a fan or both. I got a pretty even mix of all three, and with those who were artists, there was an automatic subject to talk about: our art.

My favorite convention-goers were the artists who were interested but unsure about whether they should ever have a table or show their work. I loved it if they had their sketchbook or a portfolio with them! I know not everyone is like me, so you may not be as interested in these types of guests as I was, but they were a lot of fun to talk to. Once they realized I wanted to talk to them, they had a million questions about the industry, what it’s like to have a table, how I got “so good”, etc. I put “so good” in quotes because, like any artist, I never judge myself as “good enough”. But it was fun talking to those who believed in me more than I believe in myself, if that makes sense! I spent lots and lots of time talking to the Dabblers. It was fun encouraging them to pursue their dream so that they could someday be sitting where I was. It feels good to build others up.

If the individual stated they weren’t an artist but a fan, I loved hearing who they were there to see, if they had specific favorite artists, or hearing what brought them in. Was it dragons? Knights? Magic the Gathering? Let me tell you, the M:tG autograph gatherers are extremely interesting and fun to talk to. They are like bounty hunters on a mission. They will hung you down if you’re a M:tG artist! A few of them said they look forward to hunting ME down for my autograph on Magic cards in the future, and that made me feel really good.

You think I’m good enough for MAGIC!?

You may think that engaging in conversations would be a waste of time, but there were a few people who didn’t show much interest in buying a print, but after talking for a bit, they chose one to take home. A couple of them came back later and purchased something. I also believe that chatting with people shows that you’re approachable, and others who may be shy or intimidated will see that they, too, could approach you when you’re available.

The challenge was when I was in conversation with one person, and others walked up appearing to be interested in chatting too. I tried to bring them into the conversation as well, and if not, the very least I could do was make eye contact and smile in a way that assured them I am eager to talk to them as well. Sometimes they didn’t get a chance and would walk away, sometimes they’d stick around, and sometimes they would return later when I wasn’t busy.

The bottom line is that as artists, and especially as introverts, it can be easy to lose ourselves in a sketchbook or to sit down and hope someone comes up to buy our prints. Unfortunately, this won’t work out well at all, in my experience as both a convention-goer and now as having had a table. I know I’m not an expert since I’ve only exhibited once so far, but this is also coming from talking to numerous other artists. If you hide behind your sketchbook, people won’t want to bother you and they’re more likely to pass you by. Think about what it’s like to be on that side of the table, are you going to interrupt an artist that looks like he or she is working? I know I’m not!

I hope this post has helped in some way, and if not, well… here is a sketch I did that I may or may not take to finish! Yes, the bottom corner says ‘dead guy’.

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