Knight Time Creations Steampunk Cat

Fantastic Customer Feedback

Feedback

I love doing what I do, I’d be mad not to. It’d be a waste of time if my illustrations didn’t make my customers happy though. I love getting good feedback, the “testimonials” page is all about some of the great comments I’ve had from customers over the years. It never ceases to thrill me, the satisfaction of a job well done.

One of my recent clients, the very charming Mark Keating from a company called Shadowcat Systems, has been writing about me on his blog on the company web page. His latest entry actually showcased an illustration that I sent over to him as a freebie Christmas present. I was really touched that he’d made a big thing out of it! Aww.

I think I should definitely put the link to that page up here, partly so I can go “Hurrah!” but also because it’s nice to share links with good people.

http://shadow.cat/news/archive/2012/december/cat-xmas/

Knight Time Creations Steampunk Cat

Steampunk Cat

Hints & Tips For Budding Fashion Illustrators

Advice and Tips

If you’ve got your mind set on becoming a fashion illustrator then you’re going to need a lot of confidence and perseverance because you’re not alone. Fashion illustration is a very, very popular area of illustration with people drawing pretty costumes on everything from exercise books to expensive velum paper. Your work will need to have an edge, it’ll need to stand out as a cut above the rest.

A good way to get started of course, like with any aspect of illustration, is to build up a portfolio of work. In this case, fashion illustration work. Have a look at the latest fashion collections of some of the big designers, Vogue is a good place to check – they seem to know what’s what. http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/autumn-winter-2012

There’s plenty of great photos of fashion for you to base your work on. Choose a stylish outfit and get to drawing. Now, you’re going to need the right kind of equipment obviously, you don’t want your work to stand out for all the wrong reasons, so invest in some good quality pens and pencils, (http://www.cultpens.com/index.html) paper and colours – acrylics, watercolour, pen and ink – that sort of thing. Sketch the figure of the model first, the basic area of space that he or she fills, where there arms and legs are. Make sure the proportions are correct before you add any clothing at all.

Typically, fashion illustration models are very skinny with small heads, long elongated arms, legs and body and oversized feet. This is because, rightly or wrongly, fashion is usually designed with a very skinny person in mind, and for the illustrations they also want to focus on the footwear (hence the oversized feet).

Once you’ve got the body drafted out, you can start adding the clothes on. Don’t forget the creases and folds in the fabric, that’s important for creating a realistic look. Ideally you’re going to want to be able to tell just by looking at the image what the clothing is made of, is it thick and rough, velvety soft or gossamer thin?

After the clothes are outlined you then need to colour and shade the artwork. The body is usually very plain, either black and white, left as pencil, loosely sketched in fineliner or kept to neutral skin tones. The focus with these pieces is always on the clothes, models are never supposed to be the centre of attention. (Maybe someone needs to tell them that sometime…?)

Eventually if you keep at it, you’ll have a decent portfolio of work in front of you. If you’re really aiming for the best of the best, then say you’ve made ten pieces for your portfolio right? Well, once you finish the tenth one, go back and redo the first one. Put them into a nice portfolio case, here, let me Google that for you: Artist Portfolio Cases In Ascending Order Of Price

I’ve put the search in order of price, low to high. Obviously you don’t want to spend too much money, but be careful of buying something that looks like you still go to high school.

I’ll go into detail about porfolios another day, it’s a big topic. Bottom line is, make it look nice. Once that’s done, do a little research potential employers. Have a look for fashion houses in big cities, model agencies, art galleries and budding fashion designers. The internet is packed with people looking for creative talent, you need to use your imagination, where are people going to need fashion illustrations? If you’ve looked and you’re struggling, try pitching to agencies instead. With any luck you’ll get picked up by one of them and they’ll do all the leg work for you. The Writer’s and Artist’s guide book comes out every year and is full of the contact details of publishers and agencies. You can get the latest copy from here at Amazon if you like the sound of it: The Writer’s And Artist’s Yearbook 2013

Why not post your portfolio online too, places like Deviant Art and Red Bubble are free. Or if you’re a person of independent means, you might fancy buying some space on Directory Of Illustration which gives you a twenty image portfolio for the jaw droppingly astonishing price of $2,695. Is it just me, or is that really expensive? I suppose they are well known and they produce a catalogue of portfolios which important movers and shakers will check in when they’re looking for new talent, but for nearly three thousand dollars, they’re a bit of an investment on your part.

Anyway, that’s the best I can do for you for now. I hope it’s not been a total waste of time, every little helps right? Drop me a line if I can assist further.

Illustrating For Children’s Books – A Quick How To Guide

Advice and Tips
Captain Clean

A cartoon teeth cleaning superhero.

Many people think that children don’t know much, or that a lot escapes their notice.  You’d be surprised though; children have eery powers sometimes when it comes to noticing things. This is very true when it comes to illustrations in children’s books. Artwork that captures their attention will really excite them and they’ll return to the book again and again. Parents will tell other parents that their little angel can’t get enough of, such and such, and then more mums and dads will be out buying that book. The story of course, is quite important, kids like to know the words and they love repeating things, but chances are when they’re quite young they won’t be able to read. All they can do is look at the pictures, and if the pictures are no good, it really doesn’t matter what the story is about.

Firstly, if you’re going to do the illustrations for a children’s book, you need to think about the target age range. How old are the kids that this book is aimed at going to be? If they’re about one years old or less I’d recommend big friendly pictures, fairly simple style with large heads because at that age, faces are very important to them. Plus, a few animals won’t go amiss either. Children at that age also love to interact with their books, not really something an illustrator is responsible for, but books with fold out flaps always go down well.

If the children are a little older, between one and three or so, then they can appreciate much more complex illustrations. They like little hidden things to look at in and around the main illustration, rabbits poking their heads out of holes, a sleepy moon peeking from behind a cloud, an assortment of mice. They’ll spot them soon enough and then they’ll be looking out for them, plus the parent can add extra elements to the story by getting their little ones to count how many mice there are, or find the rabbits.

By the time you’re illustrating for the eight to twelve crowd, the images will be smaller. When it was for the little kids the images were full page and double page spreads; now they’ll be mainly embedded in the text, or occasionally a full page spread at the start of a chapter. The images now need to be detailed but concise, depicting a key event in the story. They’re also unlikely to be in colour at this point, so black line drawings are the order of the day. The characters are more likely to be human children around the same age of the target audience; the illustrations, whilst black and white and somewhat detailed, can still vary in style between realistic (e.g. William Brown) or friendly cartoon (e.g. Tracy Beaker) or somewhere in between (e.g. Harry Potter).

It is possible to study children’s illustration as a course all of its own, and there’s even a distance learning course available from the London College of Art, so you can do it in your own home at your own time. I myself haven’t taken this course, so I couldn’t tell you if it’s any good or not and as it costs over £300, I’m not planning on giving it a whirl any time soon. However, if it’s something you’re interested in and you haven’t the time to give up work and go to college, it might be a good plan. Here’s their site: http://www.londonartcollege.co.uk/c4childrens/C4-childrens-illustration-course2.htm

There are plenty of books you can read on the subject of illustration in general, and children’s illustration in particular. I had a read of “Illustrating Children’s Books: Creating Pictures for Publication” by Martin Salisbury but to be honest I didn’t get into it. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes you get a book about art that’s really useful and interesting, and other times it just feels like a photo album of work that other people have done. This felt like the latter. Plus a lot of the other children’s illustration advice books tend to have been published ten, sometimes twenty years ago, and they’re so out of date.

If you’ve written and illustrated a children’s book yourself then you’ll be looking to get it published, I guess the same is also true if you’re solely a writer or an illustrator. Everyone wants to see their children’s book work hit the shelves don’t they? There’s a book called “The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook”. A new one is published every year, it’s chock full of publishers set out in order of who they are, what they publish etc. It’s really useful, you can find who does children’s books in there and then get in touch with them. Although, if it says “no unsolicited emails or letters” that means you’re going to need to phone them first and see if you can get the green light to send them your work.

Overall my advice would be, do your research online for advice and ideas of what books are useful to read, use your local library to get access to those books so you can check them out first and see if they are actually useful before deciding whether or not to buy them. After that, if you write and illustrate then start approaching publishers with your work, if you just illustrate then start browsing the internet some more for writers looking for an illustrator. They’re out there, just like you. Just make sure they’re not going to take you for a ride ok?

Being a writer or illustrator means one thing above everything else, be prepared to be rejected over, and over, and over again. Don’t let it get you down though, if you believe in your work then sooner or later someone else will too. After all, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories were rejected dozens of times.

Top Three Ridiculous Requests Of The Week

Rants

Greetings cuddle muffins! Alrighty then, so I’ve got a couple of offerings from the bin of hopeless adverts here for your delight, delectation or just general ambivalence. So, here are this issues top three unbelievably shocking artistic requests made towards the creative industry…

Third Place:

Looking for an illustrator / artist who can draw up 14 little cartoons (black/white) each pertaining to a description (e.g. chess, science, etc.)
To be used on a website.

It shouldn’t take long for the right person to produce what we need. Pay is $40 for the project, including any changes to be made after feedback.

Remember the translation guide I posted a few days ago? The eagle eyed amongst you will note the careful use of the phrase “shouldn’t take long for the right person”. Of course we all know what they really mean by that, not that they left you guessing there as they follow it swiftly up with “Pay is $40” (if you can’t be bothered getting out the calculator, he’s offering $2.86 per illustration) and just as you’re reeling from the sheer brass neckery of it all, they finish you off with the kicker “including any changes to be made after feedback”.
Ouch! Good luck with that…

Second Place:

I am writing a children book and would love to toss some ideas around as far as the illustrations go. Maybe see what you have to offer and go from there. At the moment NO PAY IS OFFERED. How ever if we continue and see a common vision, than I would love to make a select person the illustrator for the book and list you as such on the cover.

Again we can refer to our handy-dandy translation guide for this one boys and girls, see where she says “NO PAY IS OFFERED” that gives us some indication of what she has in mind here. However, even without this glaringly obvious factoid, we’ve also got the old ‘jam tomorrow’ tactic, the promise of future work and fame, fabulous fabulous fame as she promises to list your name on the cover no less! This of course is after you’ve trawled your creative talents giving her an unspecified number of ideas for HER book, which, if she likes them, she may decide you can then bring them to life for her – for free. If she doesn’t like them, you’re out on your ear anyway for the same amount of no money. Plus, she might just take your ideas and saunter off into the sunset with them. “Toss some ideas around” indeed!

The Winner:

I need an excellent illustrator to make a rendering of a battle scene with George Washington from the Revolutionary War. Piece should be stylized and resemble porcelain etchings and artwork with decorative elements.

Please email me for specifics, I need this ASAP. $150

This is, without a doubt, the clear winner of this post’s selection. How could anyone top this…well I suppose if they were asking for the same thing and offering less money. Yes, granted, they didn’t have the out and out bare faced cheek to not offer any pay at all, but $150 for a rendering of a BATTLE SCENE from the revolutionary war, starring George Washington resembling porcelain with decorative elements. I’m sorry, come again? You want what now? For how much?!
Then just to really take your breath away, they begin it by asking for an excellent illustrator (for $150?!) and end it by saying they need it “ASAP”. Oh right, yeah, last minute porcelain etched battle scenes, it’ll be with you by five.

Tune in next time for more shocking discoveries from the world of freelance illustrating…

And Another Thing…!

Rants

I’m keeping an eye out for work opportunities once again and once again I’m in awe of the lunacy of people out there. Why do people think it’s perfectly acceptable to be ridiculously demanding in their requirements – such as saying the excellence of work they require, what they want submitting artists to do, how they want them to do it etc. Whilst at the same time saying things like “there’s no upfront payment but if this book does well we’ll all make some money”.

Seriously, people, this is your book, not mine. If you want to see your work in print then work for free, it’s your prerogative, but don’t expect talented creatives to bend over backwards creating illustrations for you – for nothing! I mean come on, in this instance particularly, they’re writing a children’s book. D’you know what’s one of the most important parts of a children’s book? The pictures!! Wise up my friends, if you want a fantastic book and you don’t happen to be friends with or related to an illustrator who’s willing to do you a favour then face facts, you’re going to need to put a little of your own money into this venture. Yes, if your book bombs then you’re going to be out of pocket, but that’s the risk everyone takes when they’re trying to start their own business in this world, you can’t just go around with your hand out saying “pweeese can oo do this, and this, and this, and this, and this… for fweeeee!”

Then there’s the people with their projects and worthy causes, the project type of person is the guy (or girl – let’s not be sexist here) who says “Oh I love graphic novels and I’ve got an idea for one so how about someone illustrates it for me…just for fun.” or “I’m running a fund raiser for one legged orphaned chickens and I want some free illustrations.”

First off, illustrate an entire graphic novel…for fun? I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a little bit fun, drawing is fun, I wouldn’t do it otherwise. But to slog away, hour after hour, day after day – because make no mistake, illustrating an ENTIRE graphic novel isn’t going to take a couple of minutes here – to slog away at it in the sure and certain knowledge that you’re just doing it for schitz and giggles is going to impact on your work. Your first panel will be a Leonardo (and by that I mean the artist) but by the time you’re on the fourth or fifth panel it’ll start looking more like a Michaelangelo (and by that I mean the turtle).

Playing devil’s advocate here I can say all right, I s’pose what else are these guys (or girls) going to do? They’ve got a burning desire to see their script all fleshed out and they’re hoping there’s someone out there willing to work for free – and maybe there is, there’s no harm in asking.

Or is there?

Where does one draw the line between it being ok to get work for free if you’re a down on your luck student with a dream but not ok to get work for free if you’re a down on your luck small business with a dream, or a tight fisted corporation with a scheme. Where do you say hold on a minute, I’m working my tuchis off, for you, for free, for what?

THEN of course they sometimes come out with the whole, oh it’s an excellent addition to your portfolio, or, you’ll get your name out there and fame will rain down upon thee, or, there might be more work available in the future and next time we’ll pay you!

Ah yes, the old “jam tomorrow” argument. This isn’t Alice Through The Looking Glass, this is real life. So let’s sit down and work out what your budget is and what kind of art work you can reasonably get for the amount of investment you’re able to provide. I’m not heartless, I understand sometimes people are working on a shoe string budget and I’m always trying to do my best to help out the little guy, but I’m not a total schmuck who’s going to put my heart and soul into doing a ton of free work for someone, no matter how important their mission is to them.

And sod the one legged orphaned chickens!

Branching Out

Ponderings

Decided to try and broaden myself, do some painting for a while. Usually my work is hand drawn and then computer coloured but the last week or so I’ve been sketching and painting in acrylics. I don’t usually paint, it doesn’t have the lovely bonus of an “undo” button, you’ve got to go with the mistakes you make. So far though, seem to be going alright, no major mishaps and the finished results aren’t half bad. I’m posting them up onto my website and as and when they’re finished and dry, I’ve fallen a little behind actually, I’ve only posted up two out of the the four I’ve done so far.

I’m also working on the illustrations for a fantasy novel that’s in the works, it’s aimed at a twelve to fifteen age range and it’s about magic, adventure, that sort of thing. Lots of illustration opportunities, always fun. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I wasn’t drawing, I think it’s one of those addictions that you never have to feel oblidged to get rid of. Maybe as a new year’s resoloution I should endevour to draw even more than I do now…although that would really be quite hard as at the moment I tend to be doodling away for anywhere up to fourteen hours a day.

I know what I’d really like to happen this year, well, aside of course from surviving the hike in VAT which is really unsettling, and aside from not catching the dreaded flu which is actually sweeping round and causing people to die, and aside from the wish that I always have enough money to pay bills and buy some food…

As long as all those things are covered then what I’d like to happen this year is to really start to make some money doing what I love to do, art. I’d love to sell my art. Either as illustrations or framing on the wall type pieces. Of course I know you can’t just sit on your backside and wait for something good to happen, you have to go out there and make your own luck, I just need to figure out where “there” is and the best way of getting to it…

Hum…

The Goldilocks Zone – Is it out there?

Rants

Trawling from freelance site to freelance site looking for illustration commissions puts me in mind of the film “Tootsie” oddly enough, Dustin Hoffman’s character, Michael Dorsey, is schlepping from audition to audition trying to find work as an actor in New York. Every time they tell him he’s too old, he’s too young, too tall, too short…or just not right in some way. He quite rightly points out that he’s an actor, he can change himself to suit their needs but, they don’t care.

It’s a lot like that as an illustrator, but I guess it’s a creative industry standard. You’re doing way more legwork than you ever get back in terms of actual work, you’re swimming upstream with thousands of other equally talented artistic salmon and there’s a tiny handful of jobs out there. This of course leads to one of my personal bug bears, the dutch auction website.

For those of you who perhaps have been blissfully unaware of a dutch auction, or websites containing them, I shall briefly explain. Imagine if you will, an auction, although instead of the price rising in increments with the highest bidder succeeding, in a dutch auction, the price goes down and it’s usually the lowest bidder who wins. This is unbelievable douche baggery of the worst kind, instead of buying something, as you would do in a regular auction, all the creatives bidding on these sites are selling something – namely, themselves. And ridiculously cheaply. I have seen shocking bids, absolutely shocking. Say for example a client has gone on to one of these websites and posted up a job looking for an illustrator, say he wants 100 images and he says his budget maximum is going to be fifty bucks or pounds. Yeah, that’d be 0.50 cents or pence per image, doesn’t that just make you want to vomit? That’s how it makes me feel, and then to basically see the squiggling mass of desperate, desperate illustrators clawing over each other to debase themselves for this tight fisted nobodies amusement. I’ll do it for 25p, I’ll do it for nothing, I’ll pay you to let me do it!! Alright, the last two never happen, but that’s probably only because the websites don’t have that function.

It’s just not fair and it’s not right, and whilst I’m not guilty of ever doing it to that extent, I do more often than not, grossly undersell myself, and it kills me. I can’t stand seeing a piece of art with a mind bogglingly over blown price tag, particularly if it’s rubbish – (everyone’s a critic right?) But still, there’s got to be a line somewhere between underselling yourself, overselling yourself and just right. I need to find the Goldilocks band somewhere in all this madness. That sweet spot where dignity and self worth can sit in harmony with customer satisfaction and value for money.

I doubt I’m the only artist out there who’s plagued with feelings of angst over how much one should charge or accept in payment for your work. It’s art after all, it may have taken you hours or days, you may have put your heart and soul into it, how can you accurately put a price on that?

It’s tricky, very, very tricky. Client’s ought to know this, they ought to know that whilst they’re well within their rights to turn down massively over priced art where the artist has clearly priced it with their heart rather than their head, but at the same time, surely they’ve got to think “Here I am, offering someone ten dollars for a couple of days work, that seems fair…wait, maybe…just maybe it’s not fair…maybe it’s actually tantamount to slavery? Who can tell?!”

Meh, that’s just something that bugs me is all. There it is.