Sunday, February 19, 2012

Get Noticed

A basic guide to self-promotion

Artists are an independent bunch. Many of us have our own way we use our chosen medium, style, way of promoting, and pricing. We are self employed and make money off of our unique perspective. Each artist will have a slightly different take on promotion and even what success is. With that in mind, here's a general guide to promoting one's art in order to attract those who will pay for it.
As an Illustrator I'm approaching the concept of self-promotion from that perspective, hopefully many of these ideas will be useful for starting this process in most creative fields.

The Website 
What to Include 

12-15 pieces for beginners (up to thirty pieces for those with industry experience). 
Maintain a cohesive style while showing a diverse subject matter. 
Make visual comparisons and keep a strong narrative flow. 
If possible make your best piece the first piece in your portfolio, another stunner as the last, and enough visual diversity throughout to keep interest. 
Grouping by subject matter together in a small portfolio can make it stagnant. Put pieces together that  stimulate the eye in differing ways, yet compliment each other.
Like looking through a magazine, your portfolio should tell a story of your artistic personality. 

Do not pad your portfolio with mediocre work. Flaws stick out, and in the end, are what's remembered. Be very picky about what makes the cut. Then cut out a few more pieces.
What you should be left with is a cohesive, interesting, and beautiful selection of your absolutely best creations. 

Ideas for Enhancing Online Portfolios:
Be sure to, whenever possible, tag and make searchable specific content.  For example, if a client wants to see your proficiency at painting cats and only cats, they can simply search for them instead of going through all of your work and wasting precious time trying to find them.  Many clients would rather look up another artist than wade through your entire portfolio looking for one thing in specific.

Register your sites with Google, it makes your page more credible and greatly improves its searchability.

Contact Information:
Use your professional e-mail address, not your school address which can often mark potential jobs as spam.
It is important to use your permanent address, not dorm address, so if a client mails you something over break, you can respond. They also may file this temporary address and thus lose contact once you move. 

When listing your updated phone number, make sure your answering machine is clear and professional.

Your Bio page or section on your website should be a concise guide to who you are and your interests. If possible, include any relevant awards or facts that might connect you to the viewer. Maybe they went to your college or lived in your home town. A Bio page is not essential, but its a nice touch.

Link to Store: 
It is best to make it as clear as possible when a visitor is about to leave your site, perhaps this was not their wish and they can't figure out what happened. If possible, make any links to external sites open in a new tab.

Art directors are busy people. 
Don't waste their time with lengthy intros or a complicated web design. 
An elegant design that allows for easy navigation, minimal clicks, and quick loading screens are optimal. 

Social Networking
Being completely honest, updating Twitter, Behance, Tumblr, Linkedin, Facebook, Creative Heads, and other art accounts isn't the highlight of my day, but social networking sites are highly important tools that link you to those who want to look at your work. Think of it as a platform you can use to reach possible employers.

Tips for Social Network Success:
Add art directors, creative directors, graphic designers, and the art departments of companies that share your aesthetic, values, interests etc. Get to know their work and do research on what they are looking for. Sometimes but not always, you can introduce yourself over these sites. Don't rush, adding a contact is like telling someone your name, its incredibly awkward to immediately expect something from someone who hardly knows you. So just say hello, properly introduce yourself and check in every once in awhile. Think of it in terms of an actual relationship, because that is exactly what it is. Don't use it as this account for personal content; if you want to tweet about how great your breakfast was, get a personal account.

1) Keep it Classy
Future employers have zero interest in your ability to duck face while wasted.

2) Keep it Current 
Is your profile picture from your teenage years?
Is your page loaded with outdated fan art?
Replace these immediately and plan on posting sketches and current projects as you complete them.

Think of your networking accounts as a conversation with an employer. It should be friendly, concise, professional, and give a clear view into your thought process, communication skills, and your artistic personality.

For a list of networking sites to join, check out our Checklist for Crazy People.

Generally, a mailer is a 4x6 postcard with an image of your creation on one side and contact info on the other. You can send them to people to introduce your work to them and hopefully inspire them to visit your website. Make it clean, beautiful, and informative of your style. Other that that, it's up to you.

Who should you send mailers to?
Who were you looking to interact with on networking sites? In reality, one can get lists of art directors to "mailer bomb" for fairly cheap. However, I still recommend searching for companies that hire illustrators in your field with a similar aesthetic.Think of what the client, art director, etc as a person might want instead of as a symbol in relation to you. You are in a much better position to make a connection if you actually share interests and personality.Make a relevant, creative, beautiful presentation, and follow up.

Love music, posters, and cover art?
Go to a record store and jot down the names of companies whose work you admire.
When you have a passion for the work or what the company does, it bleeds into your work.
Work with and for what you love.
This idea is, once again, expanded upon in our Checklist.

Business Cards
Buy fancy cards from Moo.
Buy cheaper cards from GotPrint.

You can look up galleries of business cards for inspiration, but remember to keep the style cohesive with your other promotional materials. Keep it simple, and leave some space for them to write notes. Make your cards relevant to your industry, don't have a watercolor artist/yoga instructor/life-coach style card. To much information can turn you into an oxymoron.

Get Noticed
Competitions and conventions are good marketing tactics, competitions being the cheaper option. If you do attend a networking event such as a convention, have a pitch planned before you leave. All this is is you describing who you are and what you do in a clean, professional, and quick way. No "uuhms" or furrowed brows.

Be confident, friendly, and helpful.

Sell Your Work
Make some money, it might not be much to start off with, but you have to begin somewhere. How well you sell depends on how well you can network and promote yourself. I personally have a Society6 account, which is easy and professional, but more expensive than other options.
Choose for yourself and comment on your favorites!







Art Fire


Cafe Press



Greeting Card Universe

Good luck all!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stealing from the Masters

Getting started and staying on task when approaching a creative project can be daunting.  Sometimes a lot of my ideas die before any work is even completed simply due to a lack of any idea of where to begin.

This is where having a good artistic process comes in.
The artistic process is a formula for success when creating a work of art.

An easy and effective way to come up with your own version of this process is to steal it from the artist you most want to emulate.  Keep in mind this is not about actually copying their style, but their process. See if you can contact them or see if they have written anything on the the steps they take to create a quality piece, which can serve as the basis for the way in which you create your own work. Over time your approach will evolve and various portions will be deleted, merged, or replaced.

For Example:
James Gurney paints fanciful, yet realistic, dinosaurs.
I want to be realistic and fantasy-oriented, like James Gurney.
I bought his book “Imaginative Realism” online and spent a great deal of time reading it and taking notes. I highly recommend this book to all artists but especially those working in traditional mediums who are looking to break into realistic fantasy of any kind.

Mr. Gurney has an entire section in his book about the artistic process. He describes the formation of his own process by copying the sixteenth-century painter Federico Barocci.
 Here is a streamlined rundown of Barocci’s process:

1) Decide upon an idea or concept.
2) Make two dozen loose sketches to establish the gestures and arrangements of figures.
3) Sculpt miniatures with wax or clay, draped with tiny cloth costumes to test various lighting arrangements.
4) Do a small compositional study in gouache or oil, taking light and shadow into consideration.
5) Do a full size tonal study in pastels or charcoal.
6) Transfer the study in Step 5 to a canvas.
7) Using the decided upon and transferred composition, do some small oil studies to define color relationships.
8) Paint that sucker.

Bridget's note: This process is still considered a standard today and is nearly identical to what I have learned over and over as an illustration major.

This way of working must have worked out pretty well for Mr. Barocci as it led him to produce work such as this:

However fantastic his results, Federico’s process might be a bit strenuous or redundant for many modern artists given technological advances, therefore I have devised my own take on it. I am primarily a digital artist, but I think the following list could apply to many art forms.

1) Decide upon an idea or a concept without using a computer. 
It is important to spend at least an hour producing concepts without any influence or reference.  This allows your imagination to play without external influence.

Bridget's note: On steps 1, 2, and 3 spend as long as you can afford finding a great concept, and making a perfect sketch to base your work on. A piece without a good concept or base sketch is like an essay without a thesis. It has no base to stand on.

2) Make a minimum of 12 sketches to further develop this idea. 
This stage is often modified or shortened per due date.  Once again, no Google-aided brainwaves in this stage...not even for reference.  You can fix anatomy later, right now just rely on your creativity and imagination.

3) Decide to develop one of the sketches. 
If you are producing professional work, the client often helps make this choice.

4) Use 3D software to check perspective and/or play with lighting possibilities. 
This step does not always apply, but when there is enough time it is very helpful and freeing.
CG software as an artist’s tool is often overlooked due to its possibility to be a bit complex. 
My next post will be a video overview on CG packages and the super-basics on how to use them as a digital artist!

Bridget's note: For traditional artists, gather reference material, whether wax sculpture, or photographs. It's really best to take your own images but as long as the images procured are being used legally, photos from others are fine. Check to see if everything has similar lighting and correct perspective, in your sketch once all aspects have been added to the piece. Be wary of the fish eye effect of photographed images, these can be corrected digitally, but its much easier to avoid them simply by having multiple photos to base a particular sketch on.

5) Compile CG and Sketch in Photoshop and on three separate layers, rough out three different light schemes. 
Use straight black and white with a large brush, this step should only take several min.  The basics of the next several steps are covered in my video tutorial, Digital Paint Workflow.

Bridget's note: In oil painting, this is referred to as painting lean over fat. It works pretty much the same as a digital painting. One first lays down the darkest darks, then the lightest lights, then works in and adjusts middle range values, all the rest is glazes of transparent layers and details!

6) Decide upon a color scheme and create a rough color layer.
Can't decide on colors schemes?   
Go here or find a photo/painting you love and use those colors!

7) Paint that sucker.

8) Perfect the color palette using non-destructive filters.

Happy Creating,
Josh Evans

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Freaking Expensive Art Supplies

Art supplies are insanely expensive.

Here is my compilation of ways to cut down costs.
Do you have a reliable and inexpensive website or place you go to for discounted or free supplies?
Please share any suggestions in the comments below!

 NOTE: Here is a link back to a previous post by Josh when referring to where to find free or cheap alternatives to expensive computer programs, (Lair of the Artist). All materials in this post refer to things that get under your nails.

Online Vendors 
In general, I check both Jerry's Artarama and Amazon to see if either has a good deal on whatever supplies I need. Jerry's has more of a selection and is usually about fifty percent off in-store price, while Amazon often offers significantly cheaper items but is always a gamble to see if they actually have the specific item you need. There are a ton of other sites that offer similar rates listed below, I happen to like Jerry's the best.

Craigslist Note: Did I mention always, always, always meet in a public place? Shopping on Craigslist can mean finding lots of free and incredibly cheap things but always proceed with caution. 

Hardware Stores 
An amazing array of things you would never have thought of looking for here. Linseed oil, odorless mineral spirits, shop towels, and soap that doesn't destroy your hands after the eighth time of washing off oil paint that day. Airbrush masks, frisket (aka contact paper or laminate), tape of all kinds, utility knives, interesting paint knives, varnishes, solvents, sponges, and all sorts of weird devices that could be used to create texture.
Really, I would just recommend going to a nearby hardware store and checking it out to see if it has anything you could use. Think creatively, be inspired, and support your local business whenever possible.

Trading/Sharing with Friends 
Especially within the same major or field, it really helps to have a friend who also needs to buy that thirty dollar bottle of varnish or fifteen dollar bottle of spray. As an added bonus, talking to friends is amazing for finding new techniques and tools to advance your art.

Flea Markets and Garage Sales 
These used-item sales usually only yield cheap canvases that only need a layer of gesso to cover all of the happy trees or loitering deer previously painted on them. Despite the lack of regularity, these venues are still worth a look or two.

Check them out and find your favorite.

Jerry's Artarama
Cheap Joe's
ASW Express
Dick Blick Clearance Section
Home Depot
Zazzle (print your stuff and sell it)
Moo (good place to print business cards)
Jet Pens (everything i've bought here has given absolutely stunning results..try the zebra dip pen nibs)
DaFont (ubiquitous source for free fonts, most require permissions for commercial use however)