Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Ready Defense (Contracts 101)

Being able to afford food is nice.
This is a handy guide on how not to get screwed by contracts and how to actually bend them to your advantage!

The importance of having a signed and agreed upon contract before actually starting work on commissioned art cannot be understated. This document allows everyone involved to fully understand what they are getting into before, you know, getting into it. It also means that you are infinitely more likely to actually get recognition, (deleted repetition) payment in the amount expected, and at the time it was expected. Make sure that in your contract, it states any and all details concerning the job and therefore, any later additions to terms must be added to this contract and signed by both parties. This way, if the check arrives with additional obligations and claims to rights, there is a legal precedent that you can fall back on.

Here's a checklist by the Graphic Artist Guild for things to consider when forming a contract!

It may be handy to bring along a printed copy of industry standard prices for similar work. It not only establishes a basis for pricing, but it also establishes a high level of professionalism. Standards for current (similar) work can be found in the 13th edition of the Graphic Artist's Guilds' Hand Book: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. This book sets the standard for commercial artists, it will become your most valuable possession.

Explaining industry standards to clients.

When negotiating the terms of a contract, always discuss money last. This will give some time to get the details nailed out before coming up with a number. It also allows time to establish your professional credibility and knowledge within your given field. When money does comes up, you can (deleted more) easily point to where the costs are coming from and why they are justified, or what might be done to adjust them. Options for lowering a clients fee can include restricting usage rights or simplifying the design or colors used. One could even request a larger number of tear sheets (samples of one's work how it would appear in the final format) or an advertisement within the final publication.

The idea is to negotiate something that leaves both parties happy.
Returning clients are one's that have been treated fairly.

When given a contract, take it home and read it over. Makes notes (removed “next to”) and cross out parts that you don't agree with. Talk over all suggested changes with the client.

Always try to find a better option than work for hire. Often this is a line put in contracts by lawyers who want to avoid any and all legal complications. However, they do this by stripping a commercial artist of any and all rights. Many times, negotiations can give the clients the rights they want without resorting to such drastic measures.

More on The Graphic Artists Guild's handbook.
and where you can buy the book cheap.

Sample contracts (1, 2, and 3)

Further Resources on Contracts:

The Graphic Artist Guild will help you rework your terrible contract!

Get a free PDF on Copyright Myths from the Guild (by giving them your email address)

Escape from Illustration Island on contracts and pricing!

Good luck guys, in the future, look forward to Invoices 101 AKA. Getting Paid!
Also, Happy Holidays!

Hoping your Christmas was Merry and your New Year will be...Conscious! 
-Josh's Several Cents

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lair of the Artist

Regardless as to whether you will have a cubicle in an office or a freelance work-from-home sort of a job, setting up an efficient personal studio is of the utmost importance. As you will be spending quite a bit of time in this space, it will have to be pretty comfortable as well.

The sanctity of the studio is a very important aspect of its existence. It helps to have your studio in a room that has no other purpose, when you walk into your studio it will be for creation intentions only. Making the studio a sacred place helps with time management as you will be less distracted; humans are creatures of habit. The office is for work and the home is for play.

A Fine Art Studio 
Drafting Table:

It’s important to find a table with an adjustable angle in order to get that perfect drawing surface. Clipping large sheets of paper to the surface of this table will give you a scratch pad to test out paint dabs, colored pencil lines, etc.

Can’t afford an expensive drafting table?

Here are several tutorials on how to build your own table (1, 2, 3, and 4)!


The light in a studio can make or break a work of art as some bulbs have different color temperatures than others. The best solution I have found is to have both an incandescent bulb and a fluorescent bulb shining on my workspace in even amounts. Have just one or the other will change the look of your work as incandescent bulbs produce yellow-orange wavelengths and the standard fluorescent bulb overemphasizes the color green.

If you can get your hands on some color-corrected light bulbs I would recommend using those; check your work periodically with the incandescent and fluorescent as an added precaution. You will not always be able to control how your art is displayed, so having it look good under most lighting circumstances will only help you in the long run.

Natural light is also great to work by, just keep in mind that every source of light has a distinct color temperature.

Handy chart about color temperatures and light bulbs.
More information about how color correct light bulbs work.


As a drafting table is typically slanted, having a secondary table or shelving unit in reach can be a lifesaver when it comes to supplies. The organization portion of setting up a studio does not have to be expensive, I personally use a shelving unit made of milk crates and storage segments made from coffee tins and canning jars. Use your imagination when setting up. You must know where everything is located and be able to reach it from your chair in order to further streamline the process.

Bridget's notes: 
If working with multiple types of physical media, its best to separate each medium into its own compartment. I mark acrylics with a smear of the color inside across the top to easily see the internal color when reaching for a tube. Clean constantly as paint gets everywhere, its is infinitely healthier to have a clean studio and really sucks to work in to a room reeking of solvent.

Still get everything messy? I have painting clothes, paper towels, and cleaner in an easy to reach place at all times. Dish soap and a sponge clean most things. If they don't work, open the window and try some mildew remover.


If you work with organic solvents (turpentine, etc.) it is especially important to keep a fan and open window handy. A closed off room can be a very dangerous place to paint! I would absolutely recommend wearing rubber gloves with cross ventilation (a fan pointed towards an open window). Oil solvents over a long period of time and in very rare cases can cause anemia of the bone marrow which can be deadly. Turpentine and acetone are the most dangerous, odorless mineral spirits and Gamsol the safest. However, by limiting your exposure in this way, this possibility is all but removed. If this freaks you out, use linseed oil instead. However, this extends the drying process immensely, as in weeks to months.

When using sanding paint, spraying aerosol, and dealing with possibly noxious powders, if you can, go outside. In large amounts, use an airbrush mask or bandana. Some inks and pens have been known to cause extreme nausea and fainting. An easy way to tell if precautions should be taken with materials is on the back. If there is a logo that says "ACMI" which means that the health implications are listed or "AP" which means non-toxic.

Finally, don't drink, eat or smoke anywhere near your art. This is the most important thing one can do to stay healthy when working with physical mediums. Paints can contain lead cadmium and other goodies, soldering has lead gas, and most mediums either end up on one's hands or in the air. Ingesting anything near chemicals allows much greater absorption as well as the risk of ingesting the medium on accident.

(This section is also written by Bridget, if you have any questions or concerns about this topic, contact her. She's sort of a geek about it and will talk your ear off.)

What does an ACMI label mean?

Fine Art Studio Setup Walkthrough by Stanislav Prokopenko!

The Digital Studio
The Computer:

Mac or PC? Tablet or Cyntiq? There is a ton to choose from in this arena so be sure to fully research your options. I personally use a PC that dual boots Windows and Linux in order to better run and implement various CG programs. I recommend getting an additional hard drive to back-up the contents of your regular drive onto at least once a week.

Don’t want carpal tunnel or back problems for the rest of your life? Invest in an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, and chair. Be sure to get up every once and a while and stretch, go for a walk when you feel you have been staring at the screen for too long.

Spend less money for more power by building your own computer. You can order the various parts from web sites like NewEgg or Tiger Direct.

The Screen:

My setup consists of a 1080p color corrected widescreen monitor as well as a smaller, older, and un-corrected screen. The main screen I use is for the various views in 3D modeling programs or the canvas in painting programs. All of my sculpting tools or paint brushes are on the secondary screen, alongside my music or whatever television show/movie I have running as well. Having a secondary, uncalibrated screen is also nice for previewing your artwork as it will be seen by most viewers.

Computer Monitor Calibration Tool

60 Digital Art Studio Setups

In closing, I will now mention the most important part of any artist’s studio…I cannot overstate it’s importance. The CoffeeMaker.

Good luck setting up,
Josh Evans

Bonus Links:  
Free Art Software:

(Like Photoshop)

(Like Illustrator)

(Like Corel Painter)
(Free Image Editor)

(Like Indesign or Publisher)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Checklist for Crazy People

At the moment my hair is standing on end from all the work I have to accomplish before the end of winter break and before I graduate. But really, many of you I'm sure, are bored of hearing about this phenomenon because you are in the midst of a similar situation.

So I thought, maybe we could help each other out?

Below I have compiled links and advice on all of the things that I, and a possibly a few of you, have yet to accomplish. Do any of you have any tips for achieving meteoric success?
Please leave a comment below.

Not running around frantically trying to break into the professional art world by the end of the year?
Quite a few of these links are helpful for literally any artist looking to up their game.

 Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the "Checklist for Crazy People".

Design Professional Stationary and Business Cards

An entire youtube channel devoted to making you better at photoshop basics!
The videos are both hilarious and educational, highly recommend.
You Suck at Photoshop: The Tutorials

More Photoshop Tutorials

Turn your sketches into vector shapes in Illustrator

Update the Website

Improve your web design and typography with these beauties:

The basics of web design

Making your type look more interesting

I use wordpress for my personal site, so I will be checking this out as well.

Josh uses a combination of Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and GoDaddy (although he has personal issues with their "tasteless" advertisements).

Start Networking Online
It is not necessary (or even recommended) to throw yourself into every one of the networking sites mentioned below, click around and see where you would be a good fit. The idea is that you expand your level of exposure, feel free to mix and match!

Tumblr (great for a work-in-progress style picture blog)

Twitter (build a fanbase and barrage them with links of your latest and greatest!)

BeHance (good utility for display many parts of a complicated project)

LinkedIn (sort of like Facebook for professionals without all the spam)

Facebook Fanpage (article on why you as an artist need to have one)

DeviantArt (believe it or not, this is still used widely by many professional artists, just avoid the furries)

The ArtOrder (excellent community for professional artists made by the Art Director of D&D) (the original professional art networking site)

CGHub (not just for 3D but it is mostly used for digital painting as well) (do you want to draw girls for a living?) (they send you job openings for free in a monthly e-mail)

Josh's 3.14 Cents (Awesome Related Articles):
But I’m an artist, and marketing is lame!

How to Create (and destroy) your Reputation Online as an Artist!

Update Art Director/Design Firm list:
Keep a list of Art Directors that terrify you to contact.
The time has come to actually contact them, or just hang out in record stores thinking about it!

Book/Editorial Illustration:
Has anyone noticed that independent bookstores tend to have better and more illustrated books and magazines?  Find these resources near you!

Band posters, CD's, Shirts and things:
I tend to take pictures on my phone of covers or posters and then check to see if the band/organization/corporation used a design agency or has an in house Art Director that chose the illustrator. Also, you could (I am working on doing this) email the band or their agent your portfolio or a piece you think would work on their gear personally.

Graphic Design Annuals are especially helpful for finding art directors but Illustration Annuals can allow you to backtrack and see what similar artists are working on.
Look for:
and the Society of Illustrators annual

A word on contacting an Art Director:

Being that it is so easy to find and a way to contact an Art Director these days, it can seem like a great idea to send every art director whose contact information you find your bio, portfolio, and a message about how much you love them and need work immediately. But in general, it is better to ask them if they want to be contacted or what format they'd like your portfolio in before sending everything and waiting. They get hundreds of emails, not to mention postcards etc, everyday and a little courtesy might just be the thing that makes you stand out.  Including a link to your portfolio beneath your name in the e-mail is acceptable, but don't push anything without asking first.

Advice: Build a relationship before asking favors on social networking sites, and in the case of email, ask them what format they would like to view your portfolio (a link to your website, a pdf, printed, a link the gallery of your images you put together specifically for them?) and let them have a voice in it.

Expand Portfolio/Hone Skillset
Anything you ever wanted to know about Adobe products!
Tutorials covering nearly every design-related topic imaginable
A free internet education in Illustration.
Overview of Art Education Institutions as well as tons of Free Tutorials (tutorials sections is at the bottom)

Josh's 3.14 Cents:
9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist

Enter Illustration Competitions
Society of illustrators 2012 Student Competition

Get a Job/Commission.
An entire post about this subject in detail?
 We update every Wednesday!
Stay tuned.

Good Luck Everyone!
-Bridget Beorse

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Commission Survival Guide

The transition from Student to Professional Artist can often be a painful process, full of missteps and difficult lessons learned. I'm still deeply within the learning portion of this journey and continually growing with every falter, but here are some things that would have made the start considerably easier!

Get a Contract.
As a gullible Sophomore during my Winter Break, a friend of a friend offered me the opportunity to design an entire line of advertising for a spinoff company funded by a major corporation. The mix of wanting to please my friend, the prospect of possible connections, and the decent payment offered by my contact at this new business, all were exciting beyond belief. I felt very professional and creative, being offered such an important freelance job like that!

To shorten a lengthy tale of harsh deadlines and waves of critique, I have yet to see a single penny of the agreed upon payment. As soon as the job was complete my phone calls and e-mails were no longer returned. I worried that the company may have gone under but, upon further investigation, they were doing quite well and using the fliers I had made for them. To this day the company in question has continued to grow and excel, thus pounding home my message.

Don't be a chump. 

Get a contract. 
Until you have their signature, your pen does not touch the paper.


Become Psychic.  
I have had clients who know exactly what they want out of a project and clients who will give you complete freedom, both are dangerous in their own way. As an artist it is extremely important to get inside the head of the person or organization that commissions you. The best way to do this, for me, is a Skype conversation. This allows me to ask them on the spot questions about the material and receive their immediate reactions; sometimes their perspective on the project is slightly different from what they may write in an e-mail.

A client who knows exactly what they want can produce a difficult situation as what they see in their head may not be actually aesthetically pleasing. A commission is as much your work as it is theirs and your input and inspiration is essentially what they are paying you for. With clients like these it is important to inform them of issues you have with the design in the very early stages. Supplement the issues with fixes; bring many sketches to the table that offer solutions in your trademark style while still remaining true to their basic vision. What they want may not be any good and it is your job to use your psychic art powers to show them an alternative that strikes the same pleasing chords to them.

When dealing with a client who seems to not have an opinion, you may have to spend extra time with them. Present more sketches in a variety more diverse than you would usually. Once they settle on a sketch be sure they understand that backtracking will take time and money. Check in every once in a while with a progress report that details the project so far. Use your artistic intuition to determine how to proceed. Over time, your conceptual thinking will become more refined and you will be able to latch onto fresh concepts quickly, but until then I recommend a thorough Skype interrogation!

Know the Value of Your Time.

How long will it take you to do a professional level black and white sketch?

What about a full color illustration?

Does style and subject matter factor into the amount of time it will take?

Figuring these things out ahead of time will save you all-nighters of despair as you will be able to accurately give the customer an estimated time of arrival as well as an accurate bill. Does this mean the quicker you work, the less you'll have to charge? Not in my view of it. If anything your rates will raise as the continual work will drive your skill level'll just have more free time to attain more commissions!

What have you learned the hard way through your professional art pursuits?

Please feel free to leave a comment!

Links of the Week:


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Loris Interviews Tim Tomkinson

      This is Bridget, and I have a lot of things to fill you in on!
      For example, I just got a copy of The Graphic Artist's Guild's Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, which is like a sacred text for commercial artists. I will be taking notes for anyone who does not have this book or has any questions concerning business aspects of illustration that can be found in it. Josh is currently compiling a list of notes from Creative Inc. an excellent business guide for artists. Links to both books are listed at the bottom of the post, so be sure to check that out!
       There are a few important Illustration and Graphic Design competitions with deadlines coming up, so be sure to check those out at the bottom of the post.
       Finally, we have an exclusive interview with award-winning illustrator Tim Tomkinson about current trends in the illustration field!

      Tomkinson has been illustrating for ten years and has been featured in multiple issues of each American Illustration, 3x3, and Communication Arts. He has also been featured in Graphis, HOW Design, 200 Best Illustrators Vol 2, The Big Book of Illustration Ideas (Harper Design International 2004). He has also worked with The Rolling Stone, LA Times, Nike, and Starbucks among many others.

More information on Tim Tomkinson can be found at:

LA!: How did you put together your portfolio and did you select your work based on the markets, subject matter or style?

Tomkinson: My portfolio has been a work in progress for 10 years. I tend to take out older pieces, and work that I feel has gotten stale, or just plain bores me The type of work I select to include in portfolio sort of depends on the type of portfolio it is. I have printed portfolios that my agents take around to AD's, and those tend to show a good range of my more polished work since they get taken to Advertising and Design agencies, and Magazines. I have a separate portfolio that is solely sketchbook work that accompanies the commercial stuff, to show a bit more of my looser, edgier style. And my website and several other portfolio sites show a mix of all of my different stuff. I try not to limit myself too much in terms of the style and subject matter, since every job is different and I like using different ways to problem-solve

LA!: Describe your process from getting contracted by a client to finishing a project.

Tomkinson: Well, I usually get an email or a call from an art director, or from my agent if the AD when directly to them. My agent handles the negotiation (when applicable) and all required contracts and invoicing. Once the fees are decided on a job, I get working on sketches after I have a call with the Art Director. Like I said, every job is different, so I do anywhere from 1 to 3 (or more) sketches and then sometimes a round of revisions if it's not right. Once we get the sketch approved I go ahead with the final. Most of the time these days my finals consist of one or more b/w drawings that I usually do with a felt-tip pen or pencil, then I scan them in and piece together, tweak, colorize, and apply texture where needed. Once in a while I still complete a full final all by hand (including color), but I'd say about 90% of my work now is colorized and completed in photoshop after scanning the b/w drawing It saves me a huge amount of time (i can do more assignments!) and I just get so much more freedom that way.

LA!: what do you think are the best tools for promoting yourself as an illustrator? Are book portfolios still in demand?

Tomkinson: Like I mentioned, I do still have book portfolios. My agents are also bringing around iPads with the artists' digital portfolios on them. But they can't really leave those behind or send them out to companies, so they still have the traditional portfolios. The most important tools though, are the websites.. both mine and my agent's, as well as the other portfolio sites out there (Altpick, iSpot, DripBook, etc.). I'd say my own website is certainly the most important promotional tool. Illustrators have to have them these days, or they essentially don't exist. I also keep a blog as my news, update, and process outlet.. updating it as often as I can (but not as often as I'd like). Promotional mailers are still very important. If you have discipline, sending out a mailer 3-4 times per year is optimal, and doing something more interesting than a postcard is ideal.. though certainly more expensive. Also, submitting entries to the illustration annuals are a must. It can get a bit expensive and time consuming, but is so very worth it when you get into them.

LA!: What is the most difficult part of being an illustrator and what is most rewarding?
Tomkinson: Being an illustrator means being your own boss. I'd say that's probably the most difficult AND the most rewarding thing. You're still doing work for clients, but you don't have a boss keeping you focused and in line all the time. It really requires a good amount of discipline to stay inspired, on-schedule, and professional. Not having a 9-5 job means lots of freedom in your schedule, but also often leads to taking on much more work than a normal job requires. While that ultimately means making more money.. it also means less free time and the potential to get burned out. You need to remember to say NO once in a while to jobs, even if they sound great.

Another difficult thing is dealing with the clients that ultimately lead the job into an unfortunate place. I've done plenty of jobs that will never make it onto my website or any portfolio. But those are a low percentage of my work, thankfully. The other ones provide a huge amount of satisfaction, especially when you can pick up a magazine, or a t-shirt, or a book...and see the manifestation of your creativity on display for all to see.

LA!: What advice would you give an illustration student?

Tomkinson: Perhaps one thing that wasn't stressed enough in school was the importance of having another means of supplementing your income if you plan on becoming an illustrator. Some illustrators rarely have slow periods, and in fact often have to turn jobs away... but the harsh reality is that most will have periods when the work just isn't coming in as quickly as they would like it, or not much at all. When illustration assignments slow down for me, I pick up more design work and try to catch up on updating portfolios, websites, creating promotional pieces, etc.

Draw as often as you can! Keep sketchbooks and use them whenever you can. The more you draw the more you know what you like to draw, and your style will develop out of that visual language.

Enter work into illustration annuals!

Hang out with as many creative people as you can stand - they will inspire you to create. It helps if they are talented and driven. A healthy competition with a classmate is great! And don't get too jealous when you see people getting work around you while you aren't, even if you think their work isn't worthy. Use it to push your work further.

And above all, find a style that you love to work with.. don't torture yourself with anything less.
Loris Attacks! thanks Tim Tomkinson for the interview.

Here are some big competitions that would really be a good idea to submit to.

Communication Arts: 
Deadline: January 6th, 2012
“Any illustration first printed or produced from January 2011 through January 2012 is eligible. Selected by a nationally representative jury of distinguished designers, art directors and illustrators, the winning entries will be distributed worldwide in the Communication Arts Illustration Annual and on”-Commarts

How Design:
Deadline: December 1st, 2011
For Graphic Designers, enter five of your best works in the last two years, for a chance to have them published in How Design magazine's 2012 Creativity issue.

Links of the Week!
Resources and tips:

Free reference photos for artists at
Free Fonts at
Fifty tips for self promotion at
Blog, forum, tutorials, inspiration and resources for freelancers
Free textures for digital artists
Submit art to the Society of Children's book Writers and Illustrators


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reaching The Umbrella

Statement of Purpose and Links Galore.

       As several art students for whom graduation is looming, we are equal parts apprehensive and excited about the prospect of turning our passions into a career. There are many negative stereotypes involving the business end of the arts, most of them involving starvation, poverty, or waiting tables. This blog will be a weekly dose of encouragement for our readers as we plunge headfirst into our respective creative fields.

What can you expect from the Art Loris?
    1. Interviews from professional artists and art directors, blazing a trail of your own often requires a knowledge of how others have attempted such a feat.
    2. Professional and Student Artist spotlights. We'll showcase their work that has inspired us greatly as well as a brief bio of them as a person. If you have any artists that you would like to see featured, please comment on this blog with their name and website!
    3. Basic tutorials on everything from Digital Painting to CG Packages to Oil Painting, nothing is out of bounds as far as technique is concerned.
    4. Expect many links that expand upon each post. If we find a wonderful site that goes into more depth than we have time for or offers fantastic resources in an applicable area, be sure that we'll share the wealth.

             Art Loris is primarily about growth and creative maturation. Not many people can instantly phase into the career of their dreams but, with a little inspiration and a lot of slow, methodical work, we can all eventually have our dreams within grasp.

      Josh's Links:
             Probably the best free tutorials for Digital Painting (and some fine art here and there) that I have yet come across. Just going through these videos can severely increase your Photoshop paint-related expertise.

             The closest thing you can get to a daily shotgun-to-the-face of inspiration! Updated by the minute, these sites are an endless stream of professional awesome!! I use these sites daily to see what other artists in my field are up to, these are sort of the grown-up versions of DeviantArt.

             A free e-mail service that alerts you when jobs open up in your chosen field. Excellent quality and no spam whatsoever!

             Just in case all the Loris vs. Umbrella references are not making much sense.

      Bridget's Links:
      As it may soon be obvious, many of my links will be illustration oriented as this is my major and intended career field.

             The website for a graphic design magazine, helpful for not only updates on current trends used by possible clients, but spotlights on the best graphic designs and what they were created for. It also has fantastic resources on living and surviving as a freelancing creative. Food for hours of exploration.

             A mecca of resource articles, tutorials, and links for illustration, this website also provides podcasts where they interview famous illustrators. Be warned, this website will steal all of your free time.

             A great blog concerning the business side of illustration.

             Ideas to improve your freelancing and creative potential, including “Juicy Motivation” ideas of the moment.

             This website lies somewhere in between inspiration and resources. Its nice to see the materials used by great artists, and what materials render specific looks.