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.