Making Things Happen

I’m pretty excited to let you all in on what’s been happening over the last week.

First and foremost, I’m scheduled for an in-store appearance to sell and sign playmats of my own creation, as well as do sketch cards and playmat sketches! How fun is that!?

I am also stoked to announce that so far, I have nailed down 2 stores that are going to carry my playmats for sale or consignment, and am in talks with 3 more stores to do the same! Top Tier Board Games in Hattiesburg, MS, and Wyatt’s Comics and Cards in Hammond, LA, will both be retail shops at which you can purchase my playmats!

So, some of you may want to know how this happened, and I’m super happy to tell you so YOU can do the same!

How it all started is sort of interesting. As you may know by now, I was juried into the Art Show for GenCon 2015, and will have a 4 panel booth. When I applied, I guess I didn’t honestly believe I’d get in. I mean, the talent that I’ll be listed amongst is out of this world. At some point shortly after confirming and paying for my booth, I realized I needed more… something… to really fit in with the GenCon crowd.

I decided I really wanted to sell playmats. So, I designed and painted Nadezhda:

Nadezhda Polzin_WEB

I then contacted Drew Baker, whom I met at IlluxCon and corresponded with in the One Fantastic Week Facebook group, to have Nadezhda and the Succubus printed on playmats. His price is reasonable and though he may be a bit pricier than some of the ‘big name’ playmat printers, his personal service and concern for my work more than makes up for it. He’s amazing. As an artist, he has an eye for what may need attention to make your playmats the best they could be.

The playmats were beautiful! My counterpart then took them along when he went to Friday Night Magic and sold three of them. I didn’t even have three mats printed yet! So, I ordered more mats. Having seen how quickly people took interest in the mats, my counterpart then made a list of all the gaming stores in the area, up to about an hour and a half away, and we made the rounds. We spoke with about 6 stores the first day, and 2 were very interested. One of those was Top Tier, and as you can see, that has panned out well!

It was surprisingly easy, even for this introverted recluse, to talk to the stores about carrying my mats. I would walk in, introduce myself and my work, and ask if the store would be interested in carrying my mats for sale or consignment. In the future, I’ll first ask if a manager or the owner is in, as most retail employees won’t have any sort of say or power in whether the store can carry your merchandise, so that’s something to keep in mind.

It’s motivating to see the excitement and interest from people who sell stuff like this daily. They know what the customers like, and they like my stuff!

Moral of the story is… maybe don’t wait for things to happen to you, make things happen for yourself! Getting hired on by art directors and working freelance is AWESOME and I love it, but I’d like to have a hand in my own fate as well. Having things that own and have control over is a whole other level.

Do the thing, y’all!

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Link Round-up 11/14/14

Thought I’d start a new thing. Every Friday, I’ll post a blog entry with a whole slew of links to blog posts I’ve read that week that I find interesting. Enjoy!

Donato’s post about his love of painting details: http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2014/11/its-all-in-details.html

Anthony’s post about upcoming projects: http://artofanthonypismarov.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-taste-of-things-to-come.html

Isra’s recap of THU 2014: http://isracarrion.com/2014/10/01/trojan-workshop/

Tom’s post about masters of cross-hatching: http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/2014/11/wait-someone-out-there-hates-cross.html

Sam’s process of his Xavaes Split Tongue illustration: http://artistjourney.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/xavaes-split-tongue-process/

Lauren’s entire series on the 7 Deadly (Art) Sins: http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-7-deadly-art-sins-greed.html

I managed to listen to every last one of Jeff Lafferty’s artcasts, I’m all caught up!: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL80661E94BCF4A42D

 

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! 🙂

What Level Does Your Portfolio Reflect?

I totally neglected to prepare this blog post earlier because of a deadline and a huge move across the country, but I guess late is better than never?

I want to talk about something that relates directly to me lately. I’ve been commissioned by a well known company to do multiple illustrations. The company is infamous for its low paying commissions (they have amazing Art Directors though). I’ve caught a bit of crap for this from some, and I wanted to blather on about it for a little bit.

As you may already be aware by my name-dropping, sappy-love post-con blog post, I attended IlluxCon in September. During the Artist Bootcamp series put on my Lauren Panepinto and Marc Scheff, the topic of lower paying jobs came up. Putting the personal ethics of whether or not to even take these types of jobs aside (that’ll be another blog post), I want to discuss behavior after I’ve agreed to the job and signed the contract.

I have struggled with whether to do the job I’m being paid for, or whether to go above and beyond. I’ve been given advice by others to do what you’re getting paid, otherwise you’re doing harder work for less pay. I can see the logic in that advice, and generally, I would agree.

My main hangup with this is exactly what Lauren pointed out in the bootcamp… that whatever work I do is what will be in my portfolio. If I’m taking a job painting things I love to paint, and I want to show that I’ve done professional work, would I want to show potential clients and Art Directors work in which I only put just enough effort into?

If my portfolio is full of illustrations I painted just to the point of being “worth” $100, that’s what I have to show. So, if I want to be hired for $500 jobs, shouldn’t my portfolio reflect work that looks like it’s worth $500?

It can be extremely frustrating to put hours and hours into a painting for which I’m getting paid peanuts (wait, what? I love peanuts). However, if I’ve already taken the job and signed a contract, there’s no way I am going to basically waste my time wasting my time. Every piece I paint is supposed to push me to improve in some kind of way, regardless if it’s a paid job or a personal piece. So the pay might be low, yes, but if I’ll be painting during that time anyway, why not use that as an opportunity to have another stellar portfolio piece to show?? Also, depending on the company, I have the chance to show how professional I am and possibly build a great working relationship with the AD, who will then talk to the other ADs he or she knows. And yes, they all talk to each other. 

For myself, I will not complain about the pay and I will try my damnedest to make my work worth more than what I’m being paid for. Better paying clients will come, if your work shows your worth paying more for! Maybe my work isn’t there yet, but it will be.

Everybody got their start somewhere. Everybody started out taking extremely low paying jobs. I don’t know of one artist who can flip their hair and say they started out being paid $1500 by Wizards for their work. Every single industry has a ladder to climb, and every single industry has shamefully low paying jobs at the bottom of that ladder. The key is to make sure you’re pushing yourself with each new painting so that you climb that ladder and don’t get stuck dangling from the bottom rung forever. If you keep producing $100 work for that $100 pay, that’s where you’ll stay.

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To all my readers, thank you for returning and reading my blog posts. To you, I say this: