Tag Archives: Illustration Industry

Advice for New Illustrators and Art School Graduates

You just graduated from art school. Congratulations! Now what?

There is a lot of ambiguous advice out there like “get your name out there” and “create a portfolio” – but how exactly do you do it? Based on my experience, here are some essential and very specific things I think you should do.

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How to Make It As An Artist

I am extremely lucky to do what I do every day.

That being said, becoming an illustrator is not a big game of chance. I’m a firm believer that success as a working artist is just a splash of luck, a little bit of talent, and a lot of hard work and persistence.

“Making it” is a matter of PRACTICE and TIME. Lots of people say that the odds are slim you can make a living as an artist, but that’s only because most people are lacking one of those two elements. Do both, and your odds go up greatly. Granted, some people might have to practice harder, and others may need more time, but I believe most people can do it if they have enough drive.

Artists go through different stages. How you succeed depends on how you move from one stage to the next.

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Make Stuff (or What I’ve Learned By Creating Comics)

I was chatting with some fellow artists while painting on my Ustream show, and some interesting points came up. There was a lot of talk about self-publishing and strategies for independent creators. It’s got me thinking about my current work habits and what I’ve accomplished over the past year.

At the end of last 2009, I decided to make a comic. It’s not something I’ve done before and it’s still an industry that is very new to me. There are certain attitudes and strategies that are very different from my home in children’s illustration, and I have benefited greatly.

The most important lesson I’ve learned by creating comics:

Make stuff.

Comics are driven by independent creators. Artists in this field are constantly writing and drawing their own stories, printing them, taking them to conventions, and distributing them on the web. They don’t wait for publishers to acknowledge them or an agent to pick them up. They go out and create and make an audience for themselves. They make stuff in spite of day jobs and lack of money and hectic schedules. There’s a passion for creation that comics creators have that I don’t see very often in other circles.

I’ve never had such a rush of creativity and productivity than what I’ve had over the past year. I launched an ongoing webcomic (My Sister, the Freak) and made a short story (Frosty the Gourdman). I’ve come up with new picture book ideas and brushed off the old dummies that were collecting dust in my files. Making comics gave me the itch to make more stuff, and for that I have progressed farther than any other period in my career thus far.

My experience in the picture book industry was always an attitude of struggle. There’s constant talk of how to find an agent, what to put in a query letter, how to find the right publisher, wondering if the economy and technology is going to kill the industry altogether, etc. etc. I think children’s artists can take a page out of the comic artist’s book and concentrate more on the content.

No marketing trick is going to help you if you have nothing to show people. No publisher will pick you up if you don’t have a quality product. No amount of social networking saavy is worth anything unless you’re a creator that people want to network with. And the industry isn’t going to get any better if no one is making art and stories that the public can connect to and be willing to shell out hard-earned money for.

I’m definitely going to continue with the momentum I’ve got going, make more comics, and take what I’ve learned into my picture book goals as well. And for all you creators out there, I want to see more quality stuff being made. For that, you only need two rules:

1. Make stuff.

2. Show it to people.

The end.

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NESCBWI 2010 Conference Workshop

I’m happy to announce that I will be teaching a workshop at the 2010 New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference this coming May.


This year’s theme is “Moments of Change” and will concentrate on the ever-growing role of technology and social networking in the life of authors and illustrators. I have considered doing a workshop for the past couple years, and when I heard about the theme for this year, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. After all, the internet has played a huge role in my career thus far, via blogs, Twitter, Ustream, etc. If I was ever going to teach a workshop, this would be the year to do it.

My class is titled, “10 Ways Artists Can Improve Their Online Presence“. I am going to walk through some specific tips for illustrators who market themselves on the internet. I will cover basic website portfolio tips, social networking, and multimedia tools. If you are familiar with me and any of my online projects, you have a good idea of what I might talk about.

The workshop will be on Sunday May 16. Registration for the conference goes live on February 8 at NESCBWI.org.


On a sidenote, the 16th also happens to be the day of the Illustrator’s Intensive workshop. I attended this last year and highly recommend it. The class goes on all day (four hours total). As much as I would love to see you at my class, if you are an intermediate/advanced illustrator and have to choose between the two, I will not be offended if you go to the intensive instead. In fact, I’m kinda sad I can’t go myself. ;)

If you have never been to a SCBWI conference before, I highly recommend it. It is a great chance to learn some great stuff about the children’s book industry, network with fellow authors and artists, and meet with editors/agents/art directors. The annual New England conference is especially noted for being a good-quality, yet close-knit event. If you have any interest at all in the children’s book industry, attending this conference is a good place to start.

Send your questions!

As I spend the next several months preparing my presentation. I would love to hear any questions, comments, or feedback about web marketing or social networking that you may have, whether you will be attending the class or not. I will be sure to post some tips and info here on the blog as well. Leave a message in the comments!

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Spec Work and the Pixish Debate


Earlier this month, a site called Pixish popped up on the radar of illustrators everywhere and has ignited a lot of criticism and debate.

The problem? Spec work. When I first heard of this website, it was the first thing to come into my mind. But Pixish has denied the claims. I’ve waited to write anything about the subject so I could do the appropriate research and really gather my thoughts, but after all that, I’ve found that my original gut feeling was not too far off.

I know many of you readers are students and amateur illustrators. If you do not know about the issue of spec work, I would encourage you to take a moment and familiarize yourself. In this article, I’ll give you a little review, and also let you know why Pixish worries me so much.

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How to Find Names for Your Mailing List


When you start out as a freelance illustrator, the first thing you have to do is get your name out and make sure your work is getting in front of the right art directors, editors, and designers out there. But how do you find them and which ones do you send your samples, postcards, and proposals to? Here are various ways that I’ve used to gather names for my own mailing list…

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