Tag Archives: Random Thoughts

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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Digital Comics

Mstf on the Ipad

A Call to Comic Creators!

My iPad is way too empty. :(

I love my iPad, and I’ve got to say, it is the PERFECT device for reading digital comics. However, I’m having trouble finding the kind of content that I want to read, and that’s frustrating.

I’ve been experimenting with selling digital comics in my store. I want to see more comic creators jumping on board to do the same thing because 1) most of favorite comics are independently made webcomics, and I want more stuff for my iPad and 2) there are some serious problems with how digital comics are created and sold, and I think this is the first step toward fixing them.

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Improving Your Online Presence

Thoughts from NESCBWI 2010

Last week at the New England SCBWI conference, I taught a workshop called 10 Ways Artists Can Improve Their Online Presence. During the class, I talked about various ways and methods that I have used to market myself on the internet. As some of you might know, I have a blog, a Twitter account, a Ustream show, and a smattering of other online profiles in various places across the web. They have all helped me network with industry people, improve my artwork, learn about the business, and sell stuff.

In my workshop, I did my best to share some of the lessons I have learned along the way. These are some of the more important points I brought up during the conference:

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Artists and the Web

I recently made a guest appearance on a podcast by fellow artist Chris Oatley. Chris’s work includes freelance illustration, comics, and visual development for the animation industry. His podcast is called Chris Oatley’s ArtCast, and can be found on the web at ChrisOatley.com or on iTunes. I highly recommend you take a listen.

Chris contacted me a while back and we have been having an on-again off-again conversation about artists and the web ever since. Both of us share a philosophy of teaching, learning, and sharing, and want to encourage the same throughout the artist community.

I admire Chris and the work he has done so far. He has a blog where he shares his work and art in-progress, he is open and honest while talking about art in his podcast, and he also creates video tutorials where he teaches digital painting tips. He is absolutely dedicated to creating and sharing, and I can’t help seeing a kindred spirit in him.

In the episode of his podcast, we are joined by animator and motion graphics designer Paul Caggegi of The Process Diary, and we discuss the ever-growing importance of the web in the lives of artists everywhere in the hope that we encourage other artists to get started with their own web presence and creations.

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How to Find an Illustrator for Your Picture Book


This article is for those of you who have a great picture book idea, and are now looking for the perfect artist to help complete your vision.

I receive illustration inquiries from writers every month or so. Many times, they have questions about the book submission process and illustrators in general, so I thought I would address many of the common issues here, for both the writers and also the artists who receive similar requests.

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Just Draw!


Do any of these statements apply to you?

  • I have trouble keeping my portfolio up-to-date.
  • I never have new artwork to show.
  • I’m behind in my postcard mailings.
  • I can’t paint/draw as well as I’d like.
  • I often get stuck in a rut and don’t know what to paint.
  • I haven’t created any good paintings lately.
  • Most of my sketchbooks are only half-full.
  • My blog hasn’t had a new post in weeks.
  • I am having trouble coming up with ideas and staying creative.
  • My work has stopped evolving/improving.

etc., etc…

Well, here is your solution…

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Question: What Are Your Favorite Artist Websites?

I just got done giving my portfolio website a major overhaul (you can check it out here: www.danijones.com). Whenever I go through a major design change like this, I’m always thinking about what I can do better and how I can improve upon my previous website design. Much of this pondering comes with a lot of visits to other artist’s sites; I look at what works, what doesn’t, and what kinds of things I would like to do on my own site.

So, the question I would like to ask you is:

Which portfolio websites do you like, and why?

Is there an especially outstanding site that you would like to share with your fellow readers? Perhaps you enjoy how the artist has arranged his portfolio. Or maybe the site has a spectacular design. Maybe the site just has unique features that you haven’t seen anywhere else. Whatever the reason, I want to know what’s catching your eye.

My Personal Favorite

I see a lot of great artist sites out there, but I always seem to go back to the website of LeUyen Pham (www.leuyenpham.com). She is a children’s illustrator and has had many picture books published. I normally don’t like flash sites, but I can put aside my bias for this one because of the fun concept and sheer volume of features and high-quality artwork.

If you have any suggestions…

…please leave the link in the comments section. If there is a particular reason you like the site, be sure to point it out. This post will always be open to additions. Perhaps the next time you sit down to redesign your website, you will be able to look here for some inspiration.

What Do You Hate to Draw?


I recently got an assignment to illustrate a small educational reader. One of the illustrations contained all of the following objects: a bicycle, a house, a car, and a horse.

I’m sure I let out an audible groan.

The thing is, I hate drawing every single one of those objects. Do I have something against them? No…but the thought of drawing them multiple times in various perspectives gives me a headache (and if you’re not a fan of perspective, a bicycle can be your worst nightmare, believe me!). I enjoy drawing little cuddly animals and cute kids. Most everything else, I can do without.

Every artist will come across this problem, and probably quite frequently. If you are a working illustrator, you can’t just push it aside.

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Why Every Artist Should Watch American Idol

Why Every Artist Should Watch American Idol

Every artist faces criticism. In art school, it’s from teachers and classmates. As a professional, it comes from art directors. We illustrators, artists, and designers all have to learn how to face a critique in a polite and professional manner. The success of our careers depends on it. So with this article, I would like you all to take a moment and consider what kind of person you are when your art is being judged.

So why watch American Idol? People face criticism on this show every week in the form of Randy, Paula, and Simon. The contestants react to their judgment in a variety of ways, and this greatly affects who wins the heart of the American people. What kind of contestant would you be? Would you make it the next round?

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