- Listening to: The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey Soundtrack
- Reading: Red Seas Under Red Skies
- Drinking: water
Hi DA friends! Well, it's been a super exciting year for freelance illustration. I've been booked solid with projects (sometimes juggling 2-4 books at a time) since August 2012, and am booked up through this coming February! While this has been great for my professional portfolio, I haven't had much time to devote to personal projects. Normally by August, I already have my Christmas card sketched out and ready to paint, so that I have time to print and distribute to my clients and family in time for the holidays. However, this year, I have a artist's block! I have no idea what to do for my card, so I need your help! Give me some ideas or themes for my holiday card this year! However, there are a few rules. I can't repeat themes (like "snowmen", "penguins", "cookies", etc) that I have done in the past. So, here are my past Christmas cards. Take a look, and let me know what exciting new holiday piece you would like to see this year. Thanks for your help!
- Listening to: The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey Soundtrack
- Reading: Red Seas Under Red Skies
- Drinking: water
It's been over a year since I have written, and just wanted to change the post. It's been another busy and exciting year. My daughter is now 2 years old, and she keeps me busy! I'm also pleased to be keeping busy with my freelance illustration projects. I haven't posted much on DA this year, since I cannot post my client-work here. So, while I am sorry not to have be able to post more personal art on this site over the past year, I am pleased that my freelance business is still going strong! I have been able to take my art to a new level this year, focusing on color, lighting, details and movement, all in hopes of being ablt to compete in the trade market. I am hoping that 2013 will be the year for me to branch out from educational and mass market, and be able to join the ranks of trade picturebook artists! I am very grateful for my agent, who has pushed me to grow in my artwork, my husband who has been so good about helping me balance work and parenting, and my daughter who has brought new inspiration to my life and my artwork, and who tests my creativity. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all, and best wishes to everyone in the new year!
- Listening to: Haley Westenra Christmas
- Reading: Crimson Crown
- Drinking: tea
Thank you to everyone for the faves and comments! I will try to respond to all of your comments personally, but it may take me some time! So, I just want to thank you all for your kind words and appreciation of my art.
Thanks for the love, everyone!
- Listening to: Chime (Audio book)
- Reading: Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
- Drinking: tea
With traditional publishing, your manuscript is published by a publishing house, such as Randomhouse or Harpercollins. The publisher buys your manuscript (the money varies depending on the rights they buy). You do not hire an illustrator if you go this route. You simply submit your manuscript. The publisher takes care of finding/hiring an illustrator, graphic designer, marketing team, and takes care of getting the text copyrighted in your name.
The Pros: This does not cost you any money. In fact, you get paid for your manuscript.
The Cons: You will not have any say in who the illustrator is or how your manuscript is illustrated. Also, you will have to go through the work of submitting to publishing houses. Also, there is no guarantee that your manuscript will be selected for publishing.
How to do it:
The best way to start submitting your manuscript to traditional publishers is to buy a copy of the current Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Market book. This yearly publication contains the contact information for pretty much all of the publishers in the US, their submission guidelines, and information about what they publish. Some publishers are small and some are large, and by reading the information, you can get an idea as to which publishers might be a good fit for your book. Then, you mail off your manuscript according to the submission guidelines, and wait for a response.
With self publishing, you basically assume all of the costs and responsibilities of a publisher. You pay to get your manuscript printed and put into book form.
The Pros: You retain complete control over your book. You get to decide who illustrates it and what the pictures look like. You have a hands-on experience through the publishing process.
The Cons: This can be expensive and time consuming, due to the amount of research and hiring involved. You must hire the services of an illustrator and a graphic designer, as well as a printing service. You would need to select a printing house and understand the print guidelines so that your illustrator and designer can work within those specifications.
How to do it:
NOTE: Before anything - RESEARCH YOUR COSTS and TIMELINES. Before you start making commitments to print houses and contacting illustrators and designers, find out how much it is going to cost to hire these people. Many first-time authors are dismayed to find out that it's going to cost more than $300 and longer than 30 days to turn your manuscript into a hardback picturebook.
Ok, moving on....
1) Decide on what your goals are for your book. Are you just wanting to print about 50 copies to give away as gifts to family for Christmas, or do you want to try and get your book into stores? My Dad wanted copies to give away to friends and family, so he decided to just get it printed at Pip Printing. This did not require him to have to get a copyright or anything official, but it was an inexpensive way to meet his goals for his book. If you are thinking about a wider or more official distribution, you will want to look at a self publishing house.
2) After you decide on a printer, you should find an illustrator and a graphic designer. There are lots of ways to find an illustrator. One of the easiest things to do is to browse the latest PictureBook annual. Download the recent PDF. Each page features a different illustrator (I'm in there as well!) If you see an illustrator that you like, you can contact them (their contact info is on the same page) for their availability and pricing). You can also contact an agency. You can pick out an illustrator that you like, and the agent connects you with them, and tells you the pricing, etc. Another source of talent is Children's Illustrators. You can browse the galleries, select an illustrator that you like, and contact them for pricing. After the illustrator finishes the art, the art will be provided to you, and you can give it to a graphic designer, who may be independent or affiliated with the print house you chose.
3) After the illustrator finishes his/her work, the graphic designer puts the book together into a format that the printer can use. This file is delivered to you.
4) You send the final book to the printer for print, if the designer was independent and not affiliated with the print house you chose.
Some self publishing houses help you with marketing. Others do not. With self publishing, you will want to talk to local stores, etc about taking on copies of your book to sell.
Whether you are publishing traditionally or going the self-publishing route, I highly recommend becoming a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Members have access to documents about publishing and lists of editors, agencies and other industry contacts. Member can also access the forums, where you will fins answers to questions you didn't even know to ask! You can post you manuscript for critiques before you submit it to a publisher, and also get tips on writing query letters. If you are new to publishing, this organization is a great place to get acquainted with and get perspective on the children's publishing industry before you start making commitments.
Good luck to all!
- Drinking: water
So, dear aspiring authors, here are a few "Dos and Don'ts" before you start looking into partnering with an illustrator.
DO finish and edit your manuscript. Your number one job in this business is to write a fabulous manuscript, and re-write the fabulous manuscript, and re-write the fabulous manuscript until it could not possibly be more fabulous if it tried. Get your manuscript looked at and edited by qualified readers and editors. This does not mean your spouse, your grandmother, or the five year old across the street. I mean, get your manuscript torn to shreds by other authors who will tell you point blank if you have plot holes, if your characters are flat, and if your book not engaging. Find people who know how to use first/second/third person, verb tenses and commas, and have them (plural, as in more than one person) proofread your manuscript for grammar errors.
DON'T shove a first draft of a manuscript under the illustrator's nose, explaining that it is "still rough," but expecting the illustrator to light up with glee over your piece of inspiration, which is having an obvious point-of-view crisis and is sprinkled liberally with commas. This only tells the illustrator "This person is nowhere near ready to have their book illustrated .why am I wasting my time in a meeting for a project that isn't even ready to go forward?"
YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
DO spend copious amounts of time in your library's "New Books" shelves seeing what is being published for your book's age group. Be familiar with the subject matter, length of the books, themes, etc. Ask the librarians what are the most popular books for the age group that you are interested in. They would be more than happy to show you what is being checked out (so presumably that is also what is selling). If you want your book to sell, it will have to compete well in the market. Know your market.
DON'T tell the illustrator that your manuscript is "a 1500 word picture book written for 12-year-olds about a family of mice that learns about the importance of friendship." I could go on and on about how many red flags are in that one sentence. However, to sum up, unless your name is Kate DiCamillo, a phrase like this pretty much tells the illustrator "Ah a book that will never sell."
DO research industry practices. Know whether you intend to publish with a traditional publisher (which means that you should not even be looking for an illustrator in the first place) or self publish. If you intend to self publish, learn about the different print houses. Learn how much publishing and marketing will cost you. Find out what the going rate is to hire an illustrator. Find out what book stores would be willing to sell your book if you decide to self-publish. If you intend to find a traditional publisher, find out what different houses are publishing, and identify ones that might be interested in your work. Find their submission guidelines and follow them. There are numerous books and resources out there to help you find this information.
DON'T expect the illustrator to explain the difference between publishing venues for you, recommend publishing houses for you, or otherwise do your legwork. Do not be mad at the illustrator for pointing out that if you go through a traditional publisher, you will probably not have any say in the illustrator selection or illustration process. Unless you are insanely famous/powerful, this is industry standard practice, which you would know if you researched the industry, and is not the illustrator's fault. Also, do not be mad at the illustrator for pointing out that in the world of self-publishing, printing, marketing, design and illustration cost money. It is not the illustrator's fault that you didn't research the costs involved with the project you are trying to undertake.
DO come to your meeting with a potential illustrator prepared to discuss the project and the illustrator's potential role in it. We live in the Google age. It is very easy to research an illustrator. Find out before hand if the artist's style is what you envision for your book. See what other books the illustrator has worked on. Are they in your target market group? Be prepared to ask the illustrator project related questions, such as "explain to me how you typically move through a project, and at which points I would be able to review the artwork and make revisions". "What types of projects do you typically like to work on?" "Let's get on the same page for our expectations for how involved I (the author/client) will be in determining what each page will look like". Be prepared to answer questions that the artist may have for you as well.
DON'T insult the illustrator by making it blatantly clear that you didn't even bother to find out anything about him/her before selecting him/her for your project. If you were interviewing for a job, you would expect the interviewer to ask you "Why do you want to work here?" You would look pretty stupid if you said "Well, actually, I have no idea what your company even does." I have actually been to "meetings" where the author actually told me that "no, he had not had a chance to visit my website which I had directed him to over a week ago to see samples of my work" and "had no idea that I was a published, full time freelance illustrator." So, it is understandable that I would be thinking to myself "then what makes you think you want to work with me?" When you hire an illustrator, you are presumably doing to because you like their work, not because you "heard they can draw" and want someone to make you a Beatrix Potter look-alike book. Also, do not tell the illustrator your life story. You would not go to an interview an tell the human resources director all about your dreams in high school, your failed marriages, the jobs that you got fired from because the bosses were jerks, the multiple states you have lived in due to your inability to feel settled for more than a few years, or your financial woes. The human-resource director would not need to hear about these things, and unless your book is an autobiography, neither does the illustrator.
In short, if you are looking for an illustrator, you are looking for someone with whom you can have a smooth professional relationship. The illustrator wants the same.
Now, before the world gets the impression that I intend to hide away in my studio forever and glare menacingly at anyone who asks me a publishing question, let me just say one last thing. When I was just out of college, there were some really nice illustrators who sat down with me at my request to point me in the right direction, and I am happy to "pay it forward" and do the same. If someone calls me up and says "I would like to get into publishing, and don't know where to start. I know you've been published before. Would you be willing to take an hour and meet me for coffee to answer my questions?", I would happily do so! That is a person who recognizes that they have a goal, and is doing the research to figure out how to get where they want to go. Good for them! Let me know how I can help! What I have vowed to avoid from now on are those awkward, hours long, painful meetings that start out as "I have a project for you" and quickly deteriorate into "actually, I have no idea who you are or what I am doing, and really just want someone to get excited about what I wrote and make me feel good about my hopes and dreams." To those people, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to just say "no" from now on.
OK, so if you are one of those people that I have vowed not to meet with, here are some helpful places where you can start learning about the world of publishing.
The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
This is fabulous. There are resources for members, special publications that can educate you on the industry, and forums that you can browse in order to find answers to questions that you didn't even know to ask! There are even places to post your manuscript (or illustration) to get a critique from other professionals. I have used this critique forum often for my own pieces, and have found it very helpful, and the resources section helped me to find my agent.
A snarky, fabulously sarcastic literary agent's assistant blogs about common frustrations, mistakes, and pet peeves regarding manuscripts, queries and publishing in general.
An editor at a publishing house discusses everything from manuscripts to query letters to industry practices, with her own bit of personal humor and to-the-point honesty.
You may also be interested in checking out/buying this year's "Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market" by Alice Pope. This book has contacts and submission guidelines for publishers, with descriptions of what each house publishes.
Best of luck to us all as we carve out places for ourselves!
- Drinking: water
1) "Why do I want an agent?" - For most people, the answer to this question is simply "because I believe that having an agent will get me more projects." The reasons for deciding that being represented is right for you is a bit more complex than simply wanting more work. For me, there were several answers to this question that led me to believe that representation was right for me: "I live in the Midwest, and many of the publishers I want to work with are out east. I want to have someone who can personally represent me and my work to the clients that I wish to do business with." "Marketing myself effectively has become a full time job. I need someone with good connections who can focus on promoting me so that I can focus on projects and portfolio development." "I do not know all of the industry standards for pricing and practices across a variety of markets, and need someone knowledgeable and experienced to negotiate my contracts provide advice and perspective about new opportunities." And of course...."I want more work."
2) "What kind of relationship do I want with my agent?" - It's like dating. Most people have certain expectations of people they are considering dating, to narrow the pool. For some, potential dates must share his/her religion, or have a certain level of education, or share certain interests. It is the same with agents. Do you want someone who will take an interest in developing your portfolio, or do you want to be left to your own creative devices? Do you want your agent to be located in a certain region? How much experience do you want your agent to have? Do you want an agent who represents a large portfolio of artists, or do you want to be a part of a smaller more exclusive group? Do you want an agent who will only get you work from one particular market? Do you want an exclusive or a non-exclusive contract with your agent? Do you want to communicate directly with clients, or do you want your rep to handle all client interaction? These are all questions you need to be able to answer before you even begin to look for representation so that you identify agencies that may be a good fit for you.
3) "Why would an agent want to represent me?" - Remember, the dating analogy? You are not hiring an agent. Just as you are looking for an agent who would be a good fit for you, the rep you are talking to is also trying to decide if you would be a good fit for his/her portfolio of artists. Is your work professional enough to actually market? Do you have enough experience under your belt that the agent can feel confident that you can handle a project professionally? Are you easy to work with? Are you committed to working in this industry, or are you just trying illustration out to "see if it works?" Can you create on a deadline? Do you understand your work method enough to be able to give accurate art completion dates? Art reps don't want to waste their time marketing someone who is ultimately going to reflect poorly on them and their business.
4) "Do I know what agents do?" Do you know enough about representation to know if you are talking to an unethical agent? Do you know what the responsibilities of an art rep are...and what they are not?
OK, so you have decided that it is time for you to seek out representation. So, now back to the original question: "How do I get an agent?" There are a lot of ways that artists connect with their agents. Here is how I got connected with my agent:
First I went through the SCBWI publication about reps and agents. I circled reps that I thought sounded worth investigating. (I really wanted someone out in NY, for instance). Then I visited said reps websites to see how many people they were repping, and what the portfolio looked like. I crossed off some reps from my list. Then I began checking out their advertising. I went through ISpot, Picturebook, Directory of Illustration and other marketing venues to see where they were advertising and how consistent they were about doing so over the years. This also gave me a sense of their business brand as well, and how much exposure each artist got (For instance, did they consistently cram about 100 artists on 1 page of a printed annual, or did each artist get a full page to show off their best work?). I also looked their artists up on Amazon, to see is any of them were getting consistent work (hmm....that artist has not had a picturebook since 1985.....I wonder why their agent isn't getting them more?).
Once I had my list down to 4 reps, I queried them, and dialogue began. I had various phone conferences with them, talking about contracts, and the details of the relationship and the business. I also asked to interview several of their artists (my choice) to see how satisfied they were with the relationship. Finally, I entered into a contract with the agent that I felt was right for me. I've been represented since 2008, and love my relationship with my agent. For me, representation by the right agent was the right move for my illustration career.
But what if you don't love your agent? Representation is not a marriage. You do as much research as you can; you think about what you want, and when you find a rep that you think you can work with, you ultimately hope for the best. If the relationship works, wonderful! If it does not, the contracts have a termination clause, explaining the terms for ending the relationship. So, if it doesn't work out, you can always decided to stay un-repped, or find a new rep, learning from your experience. Agencies that are a good fit for one artist may not be a good fit for another.
Good luck, everyone, and happy illustrating!
- Drinking: water
The House: We moved into our new home and immediately began knocking down walls! While we were excited to finally be in our house, we were still a long way from thinking of it as "home." The stove didn't work. We had 1 functioning bathroom. The previous owners trashed the grounds. The master bedroom needed construction, so we used on of the other rooms as a make-shift bedroom. I spent my time alternating between unpacking, managing crews (painters, drywallers, carpet cleaners, electricians .) and working on freelance. The master bedroom was painted sage; the guest room was painted green and the guest bathroom (nonfunctional) was painted blue. Very pretty. Also, a garage door opener was installed.
The Art: January was a very busy time for freelance, made even more crazy by the move! However, I was thrilled to finally be able to have my very own art studio! I had various projects going on at this time. I was wrapping up the "Pass the Ball" mini-book abut a boy who plays soccer, and began what would be my biggest project of the year, "Reuben Rides the Rails", a picturebook about a train.
The House: We had our very first family dinner at the house! (I cooked chicken cacciatore on our semi-functional stove.) There were weekly trips to the hardware store to continue with various projects. We discovered that while the house was supposedly "completely wired for internet", the previous owner had cut all of those wires, which really meant that there was NO wiring for internet. So, we ran some cables to get our TV and computers up and consistently running. Our refrigerator broke, so we got a new one and a new stove to replace the semi-functional one. We also got a new door put into the master bedroom. There was a crisis day involving rain water pouring in through the old door. Rome and my father also ran wiring to my studio, replaced floorboards in the master bedroom, and new carpet was put in. This also began the "Great Cleanup." Since the previous owners trashed the grounds, we ordered a dumpster and my gracious parents helped me and my husband begin cleaning. I can't even begin to describe to you the mess.
The Art: Worked on the sketches for the "Reuben" picturebook, and also had to finish my "Carnival of the Animals" piece for my 2010 Picturebook ad.
The House: We finally moved our furniture into the master bedroom, and have 2 working baths! The "Great Cleanup" continues.
The Art: Worked on sample art for a company out in Korea for a potential new project. Completed the sketches for "Reuben".
The Couple: My husband and I also saw an amazing "Cirque de la Symphonie" show, which was amazing!
The House: Began looking for plumbers to fix bath #3.
The Art: Began painting "Reuben" pages. Also began working on some illustrations for Hightlights Magazine for Children, for their "Lizard Problems" story.
The Couple: I visited my sister at her college. Also, remember those health problems I was having in 2008? When they finally started clearing up!
The House: The Landscaping project began, starting with ordering mulch. Also, my father, brother and husband built a shed in the backyard. We began getting a corner of the yard ready to plant a garden.
The Art: I participated in the CCPL Children's Book Festival at my local library, and met Jeff Stone (my 15 seconds brush with fame). Finished the "Lizard Problems" art. Continued to paint "Reuben" pages. Also various line art projects.
The Couple: My sister graduates with her MBA from Indiana University and moves to Wisconsin. Also, I turn 28!
The House: We open the pool and purchased (among various toys) a solar cover. Rome learns the finer points of pool maintenance. We planted our vegetable garden. Bathroom #3 is fixed! (Also, sometime prior to this we got a new waterheater, but I have no idea what month this actually happened in, and I'm not going to go look it up.) Also got new lighting put in the studio. New kitchen sink was installed.
The Art: Finished my "Rainforest Poster" project for an educational publishing client. Final art for the "Reuben" project was completed and delivered! Completed a line art for an educational publisher.
The House: Misc small projects and enjoyment of pool and bonfires!
The Art: Revisions to "Reuben" final art. Completed 16 sketches in 5 days and 16 paintings in 7 days for a project for an educational publisher in Korea. Began concept art for the "Katie Kate Explains Cancer" picturebook.
The Couple: Spent a weekend in Chicago. My brother gets engaged.
The House: Misc small projects
The Art: Delivered the project for the Korean client. Delivered concept art for the "Katie Kate Cancer" project, and began sketches for that book later in the month. Received a second project from the Korean client, and completed that as well.
The Couple: Celebrated 4 years of marriage in Disney World! Began harvesting our vegetables from the garden!
The House: Ducts and AC unit got cleaned. My husband and father installed glass doors on the front and back doors. We also got new hardware for the cabinets in the kitchen.
The Art: Still revising "Rebuen" final art. Delivered more art for my client in Korea. Completed sketches for the "Katie Kate Cancer" book.
The Couple: Participated as a guest illustrator at "Read Out and Read Indiana" at the State Children's Museum.
The House: Closed the pool. Got 5 trees cut down. Aerated the lawn. Got a giant propane tank removed from the property. After sleeping on the floor for officially a year, we finally put together a bedframe and get our bed mattress off of the floor!
The Art: Completed the final art for "Katie Kate Cancer".
The Couple: Attended my 10 year high school reunion.
The House: This was the month of painting. For weeks our house was ground zero for a crew of painters. Every ceiling in the whole house got painted. The "someday baby's room" got painted yellow. My studio was painted lavender. The exercise room was painted gold and cinnamon, and the upstairs hallway and central hallway was painted beige (after a paint-color crisis, my mom saved the day by finding the perfect beige!). My husband installed new entryway lighting.
The Art: Began seeing galleys for the "Reuben" book. Revisions to final art for "Katie Kate Cancer", and also began work on the cover for that book. Began sketches and then final paintings for the mini-book "My Snorkeling Adventure".
The Couple: Went to a fabulous Murder Mystery party! Began wedding dress shopping for my sister.
The House: Gets some new lighting in the kitchen.
The Art: Completed all art for "Katie Kate Cancer". Began sketches for "Katie Kate Explains Diabetes." Still painting final art for "My Snorkeling Adventure". Began and finished a project for NGSP about fire safety.
The Couple: Went to Chicago for a weekend to celebrate early holidays with my inlaws. Had the most amazing Christmas with my family! Most importantly, celebrated our first Christmas in our home together.
Now, this overview of course doesn't cover everything, or course, but certainly covers the biggest. Most importantly, this past year, 2009, our house became our home.
2010 is off to a great start: We celebrated New Year's Day with a ham dinner at my house with my wonderful parents (without whom our house would not be nearly in the great shape it is now in). Freelance is still going strong. Our marriage is great. We have been so blessed in 2009, and are grateful for all of the many ways that this has been manifested. Now, we are looking forward to beginning another chapter of our lives .
- Listening to: Nickel Creek
- Watching: Full Metal Panic Second Raid
- Eating: Pasta with tomato vodka sauce
- Drinking: water
I was thinking about what to write, and decided to talk about critiques. It's rears its head periodically as a hot subject here on DA, sometimes literally. People get all hot and bothered on every side of the issue. There are the people who "want feedback", but what they really mean is "tell me how great I am, because I had a fight with my lover last night and need to feel like a special snowflake. Also, buy me ice cream." There are also the people who say "Hey, if you're an artist, you need to hear what I think of your art". To these people, they might consider writing an essay on the personal application of the phrase "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
The truth about critiques.
Yes. They are part of the art world. If you expect to improve, you need to submit yourself to two harsh realities. 1) You need to practice. 2) You need peers and better artists (yes, I DID just say that) to give you a critique. If you don't care if you improve or not, well....that's another story.
How to give a worthwhile critique. Remember that "If you can't say something nice..." phrase. Artists need to know what IS working as much as they need to know what IS NOT working. If an artist can't see what's wrong (presumably if they did they would fix it), then it is an equally likely assumption that perhaps they can't recognize what is right (since it might be hiding amidst all of the wrong stuff). So, before you expunge your righteous indignation about how the artwork in question looks like it was drawn by a toddler, point out some positives. Here are some starters: "Your composition is very balanced." "I can see that you are trying to experiment with different perspectives! Kudos for pushing yourself!" "I like the diversity of your characters". Then, point out a few things that you feel the artist might have missed: "Using textures everywhere makes the piece confusing. You might want to tone those down a bit." "The eyes look like they aren't focusing on anything. Try moving the irises up or down, or adjusting the upper eyelids." "The fabric does not look like it is draping naturally. You might want to revise those folds, or make them less straight." Then, end with a friendly word of encouragement. It could be a smiley face. It could be a phrase like "I used to struggle with that too, so don't give up!" Manners, people. Manners should not be underestimated.
Now, let's get hard core. Let's take critiquing out of DA. I am a professional children's book illustrator. This means (for those who think I am trying to sound all elitist), that it is a fact that I own a business and make my living by creating illustrations for the children's publishing industry. Now, in professional art world, we are not afforded the luxury of having self esteem. We are expected to constantly improve, seek out intense criticism, and then internalize all of it with every subsequent piece we make.
Here is something I like to tell people when it comes to critiques. I have an agent. Not everyone gets an agent. Agents are not service providers - they are partners with whom you hope to have a long term business relationship. You have to submit a portfolio to them. They have to like you. Some don't want to sign you unless you are already published. Well, I had 8 books via a big name publisher by the time I was 26. I thought I was hot sh**. I wanted to further my career and began to seek out representation. My Great Agent signed me on. Happy story. Then came the PORTFOLIO REVIEW. After Great Agent said "I like you. I like your stuff. I'll work with you. Let's sign a contract", I then received a 8 page document which I like to call the "Why Jenn Sucks" files. It is a lengthy document wherein my portfolio and every piece in it was picked apart to identify EVERYTHING that could stand to improve. Everything from "Why do you only have 2 shades of brown that you like to use" to "Your perspective does not vary enough from piece to piece" to "Do about 4 more pieces this month and make sure they are contemporary scenes, not fantasy or historical" to "Eyes...what's the deal with your eyes..." was in there (Those are not exact quotes, btw).
Aside from my contract with her, this is the most valuable packet of paper that Great Agent has ever given me. Was it hard to read? Yes. Did my pride get bruised a bit? Yes. Did my artwork improve more in that last year than in the past 3 years combined? Absolutely! Great Agent has a life. Great Agent is busy. Great Agent does not write portfolio reviews as long as research papers for giggles. Great Agent does this because she believes that with this information, Good Artist Jenn honestly has the potential to become Fabulously Awesome Artist Jenn (still a work in process....), and make her more money. I think about this document every single time I draw a piece. I value it so much that once or twice a year I schedule 1-2 hour long phone conferences with her so that I can receive more dissection. I love you, Great Agent!
Moral of the story? Think you are a serious artist? Then learn to give and receive critiques, and when your pride aches a bit from a healthy dose of honesty, you need to find the inner strength to eat a box of chocolates (or your guilty pleasure of choice) and get back to the drawing board. The world will become a more beautiful and compositionally balanced place.
- Listening to: Avatar Soundtrack
- Reading: Liar
- Watching: Lost season 5
- Eating: Pasta with tomato vodka sauce
- Drinking: water
For those who have not read the article, you may read it here:
Below, I will detail how DA's policies do not line up with my views. All quotes have been taken from DA"s article "Break it down easy - tracing edition" unless otherwise noted.
"At deviantART we believe that tracing has a place in our community. We consider it to be a valid learning tool and a technique which has been used long before we had any such applications such as Illustrator or Photoshop. Tracing is how Michelangelos assistants transferred his cartoons onto the ceiling of the Sistine Chappell."
"While all of this is true to a certain extent it is also true that the various forms of copying are a completely valid learning tool which is practiced primarily by beginning artists and, quite frankly, those artists who lack the experience and training to compose completely original scenes and themes from scratch."
The above paragraphi is taken from DA's article news.deviantart.com/article/69…
1) Michelangelo drew the sketches, and had helpers transfer HIS sketches onto the ceiling. Michelangelo then proceeded to paint and finish his work. The assistants NEVER took credit for the master's sketches, or signed their name to the Sistine Chapel. None of the assistants said "Well, I traced Michelangelo's sketches, so therefore the pencil marks on the ceiling are my original work." By contrast, when you post any deviation in your gallery here on DA, underneath it is a comment that says "copyright DATE YOUR NAME". And so you are claiming exclusive copyright to that creative work, even if you just traced it.
2) Yes, I agree that tracing can be a learning tool for some. I believe that when you trace or otherwise take another artist's work for your own learning process, that is fine. But keep it OUT of your portfolio. It isn't your work. It isn't your image. That image should not be affiliated with your name. It belongs to someone else.
3) Regarding DA's comment on inexperienced artists using tracings because they lack skills of their own - I could never create blueprints to build a bridge. I am not an engineer. I could TRACE blueprints done by a professional engineer who worked hard in college to become a professional engineer, and put that tracing in my portfolio, but that still would not make me capable of building a bridge or creating functional blueprints on my own. Those tracings would not be representative of my work or ability, and should therefore not be put in my portfolio as representative of my work. Just because you can't draw does not give you the right to trace other people's work and misrepresent it as an example of your own skill. (If you are an aspiring artist, I highly encourage years of practice in place of passing off tracings as your own work. It is more honest, and in the end, you will have greater pride in your work and accomplishments.)
"Fair use can apply when there is a reason to copy in order to make a new artistic statement. The analysis of whether a given use is a fair use is the most complex and nuanced in copyright law. Among the factors it considers is whether the use is commercial or non-commercial. Many uses of works on deviantART are entirely non-commercial. We do not permit the sale of FanArt within our Print Store because we want to avoid involvement in a commercial exploitation of a copyrighted character."
1) "Copy" is not the same as "Trace". "Copy" implies that you were looking at something, and using your own eye and hand, tried to create a replica. Your own skill as an artist will determine how alike you will be able to make your replica to the original. "Trace" means that you went over the exact lines of another person's art.
2) DA IS making a profit off of FanArt. Go to the Prints section of DA and type in "Naruto", "Sailor Moon", or any other obviously copyrighted material. You will find a large selection of prints that you can buy with these copyrighted characters. You will see that DA is not committed to enforcing the non-commercial nature of fair use of copyrighted material.
"If you chose to trace a stock image, either from our extensive deviantART resource gallery or from a legitimate external stock source such as sxc.hu or i-stock.com, this can be submitted into the vector or vexel gallery (depending on the method which you use) and we encourage you to supply the appropriate references."
If you take/trace/use artwork that was created by someone else, giving credit should be REQUIRED, not just "encouraged."
MY VIEW IN A NUTSHELL:
Some artists find it helpful to use tracing as a learning tool. I have never met an art student or college professor that condoned this, but I know that there are some who do find the occasional tracing of an image to be helpful in learning. However, I am firmly against the following:
1) Putting a traced image into your portfolio as a representative sample of your artwork. Your images in your portfolio are accompanied by a comment which copyrights the image to you, hence, the images in your portfolio should be representative of YOUR skill and YOUR talent. Traced images created as part of a personal-learning initiative should NOT represent your work, and should not be copyrighted to you.
2) I am against artists posting tracings, copies or other appropriations of another artist's work without being required to give credit. If you were to write a research paper, you would be required to cite your sources in a bibliography. The same should apply to art.
3) I am against the idea that an artist could post a tracing/copy or other appropriation of another artist's work without written permission from that original artist.
4) I am against people using tracing as a shortcut to creating skillful art. I know that everyone starts somewhere. When I was a kid, I loved tracing pictures from Disney books. But let's face it. I don't own Disney's "Snow White". I have no right to trace "Snow White" and put it in my gallery and in my print store and pretend that this is my "Original interpretation of Snow White." Everyone who wants to be a serious artist needs to come to terms with their need to improve. Everyone should practice, and YES, this might mean that your original pieces do not look as good as your pretty tracings. However, practice WILL make you into an artist with original concepts and skills which YOU will take pride in, and YOU will want to protect. Original artists took a long time to get so good at art that you would want to trace or replicate their art. Those original artists take pride in their work. You should respect that.
5) I am against artists posting artwork that uses tracings or copies of copyrighted material in their prints gallery. You don't have the right to make money off of someone else's copyrighted material. Even if you are not caught, even if the original artist never finds out, it is still against the law. Just because you don't get caught does not mean it isn't wrong.
So now what.....?
I am trying to decide how I want to deal with these inconsistencies in values. Should I leave DA? Should I remove client work from my gallery? (After all, I have signed legal contracts with companies who have paid for my art, and I can't allow others to trace those images and claim them as their own art, or worse, post such art in their Prints gallery.) I haven't decided yet. However, since I make my living as an artist, it is important for me not to support artist communities or affiliate myself with such communities which do not align with my views as a professional artist.
- Watching: Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Eating: Chicken Caciatore
- Drinking: tea
Just a short not to let you know that the final book in the Pirate School series has been released. If you wish to purchase, it is available through my online store here www.jzartworks.com/shop.cfm
I have been very busy with freelance lately, which is great, and I am also getting ready to move into my new house this weekend. So, sorry that I have not had time to post any of my new pieces. I hope to be able to put some new pieces up in the next few weeks, once I have time to upload them. Until then, I'll be creating my artwork in my BRAND NEW STUDIO in my new house, which I am really looking forward to.
- Watching: The Office
- Eating: Meatball Sandwiches
- Drinking: tea
January 2008 - I made the decision to make this the year that I would pursue my freelance career with unbridled passion, dedication and vigor. I was having trouble balancing a full time job (creative director for a multimedia marketing firm), freelance projects, marketing myself and marriage/social life. I decided it was time for me to search for an agent to help me take my illustration career to the next level and to take the marketing responsibilities off of my plate.
February 2008 - Big Risk #1: I signed with MB Artists, an agency in New York for illustrators in the children's publishing market. I also made the very hard and nerve-wrecking decision to leave my full time job so that I could devote more time to my illustration portfolio, and to refocus my career. I had always told my husband that it was a goal of mine to work as a full time illustrator, and to have a part time job in the Young Adult Department of my local library. Since my library is a popular place to work, it is very difficult to get a job there. However, just as I made the decision to leave my position as a creative director, the EXACT position I wanted at the library opened up. I took the job, which provided exactly the amount of money I needed to make each month for my share of the bills! It was a true God-send.
March 2008 - My first month in my new career. My husband and I were anticipating a relaxing summer of learning to settle into our new financial situation and our new "normal".....
April 2008 - I got hit with a wave of health problems that stretched our finances. Freelance was not coming in as heavy as I had hoped. For some reason, my husband and I began looking at houses - "In preparation for next year when we REALLY start looking". However, by the end of the month, we took Big Risk #2 and decided to put our condo up on the market and began looking for a new home.
May 2008 - Our condo went up on the market!
June 2008 - I got the news that Pirate School (my most steady freelance project) was ending. At this point, we had very little interest in our condo, I had NO new freelance projects, and began to worry that I had made a very bad decision. Spiritually, I was at a dramatic low, and was loosing faith in God's plan for my life (if He was actaully planning anything at all). I had a lot of confusion and anger, and was still suffering from my health issues. However, my husband and I chose this month to execute Big Risk #3. My father knew a guy who was selling his house, and suggested we take a drive by to look at it. I fell in love with the house at first sight (I actually had a dream earlier in the year in which I had seen this house, and recognized it as the house from my dream immediately). After touring the house only once, we decided to buy it immediately. (Side note: This was another huge God-send. We should NOT have been able to afford this house. However, miraculously, the owner gave it to us for a price we COULD afford. It was amazing).
July 2008 - My best friend since 2nd grade got married! Then, at the end of the month, we closed on the new house. In other words, we bought a new house before we sold the condo. We decided to rent the house back to the original owners for the rest of the year while they built their new home, and while we continued to try to sell ours, knowing that if we did not sell by the end of the year, we would now have to deal with a double mortgage.....
August 2008 - We dropped the price on the condo in attempt to get more interest. Still no freelance projects.
September 2008 - A good-paying freelance project comes in! This boosted my spirits. Then, Big Risk #4. My husband changed jobs in this rather volatile economic time. We crossed out fingers that we were making the right decision. Later that month, we accepted an offer on the condo! Since our new house was still being leased, we needed to look for a new place to live temporarily. Luckily, our realtor knew a couple who was going to be vacationing in Florida for the winter. They let us live in their house for very low rent! Such a blessing! Then, we took a business trip to NY to meet illustration clients and my agent. This went very well, and was a very great professional experience. Also, another blessing - my sister's cancer went into remission!
October 2008 - We move into our temporary housing and closed on the condo. More freelance work comes in!
November 2008 - My husband's company goes through a down-sizing. Luckily my husband's position was kept. We were SO lucky. More freelance work continued to come in.
December 2008 - Swamped, swamped, swamped with freelance work! It is great! My art has grown so much, and I am loving my new career! My husband loves his new job as well!
Today - we are preparing to move into our new house at the end of the week! We took so many risks this year, and any one of them could have turned out very very badly. However, we were so blessed, and all of them turned out well. Today, I feel renewed emotionally and spiritually, and look forward to starting the next chapter in our life! Happy 2009, everyone!
- Watching: The Office
- Eating: Chicken Caciatore
- Drinking: tea
If you like the image and would like to get a head start on your holiday mail as well, my holiday greeting cards are available through my store with DeviantArt. The cards are blank inside, so you can write whatever message you want, for whichever holiday you celebrate this season! The image is also available as a postcard. Good luck with your holiday shopping, everyone! (As for me....I am not brave enough to face the crowds at the stores.....I'm ordering my family's gifts online.)
- Reading: SASS series
- Watching: DeathNote
- Eating: Pasta
- Drinking: tea
On Wednesday night, we had cocktail party #1 at Moore Brothers wine shop. This was a meet and greet for the artists. I was amazed at how diverse the represented talent was! I met artists who had flow in from England, Mexico, and Argentina, as well as people from all over the United States!
The next day, I met with Mela to talk shop and go over my portfolio. We had talked a lot over email the phone, but it was great to meet her and the rest of the MB Artists crew in person. Also, her apartment is in an amazing location overlooking downtown Manhattan, so before our meeting, Jon (her assistant) took Rome, Eric and me up to the roof to enjoy the amazing view! Later, we ran through Central Park, had a few minutes in the Met (we'll have to come back to enjoy it properly), ate NY hot dogs for lunch, and then I went to my group appointment with HarperCollins. Over the course of the next 24 hours, the MB Artists group had appointments with several other large publishers as well! It was kind of surreal to present my portfolio to so many people from these houses, and obviously a wonderful opportunity. I was really proud and humbled (if that makes sense), to be able to show my work next to the other talented artists in the agency, many of whom are very well published and experienced. Thursday night we had cocktail party #2 at the Spice Market. Wow! All I can say is Wow! Lots of clients and publishers came for drinks, hors d'oeuvres and little desserts. You had to be there. It was an incredible event, but a little intimidating. Fellow artist Tammie Lyon was kind enough to let me hang out with her, meet her clients and eat pineapple wontons with her most of the evening.
Friday was packed with appointments (I was really glad I had postcard give-aways and business cards printed!). After all of the appointments were over (it was a great but intense day), Rome, Eric and I went to Bubba Gump Shrimp for dinner in Times Square, and then went to see The Lion King on Broadway. What an amazing show! I had not seen it before, and was very very impressed by the music and the costumes especially. It was a great way to end the trip!
- Listening to: Lion King on Broadway Soundtrack
- Reading: Brisingr
- Watching: HG TV
- Eating: Tunafish
- Drinking: cocoa
Also, good news! After a very dry summer, I have a new freelance project! Yay! Due at the end of the month, I will be doing illustrations for an educational piece about fire safety. I will not be posting the images, as the client has purchased all rights. Still, I am very excited to have a new project to work on this month. For that reason, I might be a bit delayed in finishing my new Locker Room piece. Paid work comes first!
Well, I am off to enjoy an air fair today. Happy weekend!
- Reading: The Midnighters Book 3
- Watching: Blue Man Group
- Eating: cereal
- Drinking: water
I had a whole lot of fun concepting for this cover. When I was little, I used to be afraid of the dark, and especially the strange shadows that you tend to see at night. For this artwork, I thought of those shadows coming to life on Halloween, dressing up in masks, and collecting dreams from sleeping children. Suddenly, those nighttime shadows don't seems so scary anymore....
Hope you enjoy!
- Reading: The Midnighters Book 2
- Watching: Noein
- Eating: pasta
- Drinking: water
- Watching: Blue Man Group
- Eating: steroids
- Drinking: water
ARHAHGH! I am so frustrated! I am so frustrated on an artistic level! I must be about ready to wina Caldecot or something, because I am just so not pleased with my art! (personal humor reference: One of my favorite illustrators, Trina Schwart Hyman was most frustrated with her artwork when she won the Caldecot for "Little Red Riding Hood.")
Anyway, I really feel like I have hit a wall and just can't break through. I feel like something is missing from my artwork. It just doesn't feel......me, if that makes any sense. It's like my artwork and I were walking side by side, totally jiving with each other, and then all of a sudden, "self" went off some where and "art" got left behind. Now "art" is feeling stale and souless, and "self" is feeling frustrated by lack of harmonizing with "art."
I've been trying to surround myself with inspiration. but it is only making me feel more frustrated. Like, instead of saying "oh, this aspect of this person's work resonates with me; I should try to incorportate that", I find my self just plain wishing I made art like that person. This is non productive, because I am inspired by so many artists that are NOTHING like each other, and so I can't be just like ALL of them (examples....Trina Schwart Hyman does/did not create work like David Catrow, whose work looks nothing like Mary Grand Pre's, whose work does not even vaguely resemble Leo & Diane Dillon's....you get the idea).
I don't know what to focus on to push my art. Do I work on the stylization of characters? Do I emphasize line work, or downplay linework and give more attention to color and and form? Do I go for a softer look, or try to get things more sketchy and energized?
*bangs head against the wall or nearest equivalent hard object*
This isn't about "poor me, I suck at everything." Yes, I know I have talent. Yes, I know I am a good artist. This isn't about that. It is about my current inability to seem to GROW as an artist - to move in a direction. I want to badly to find that portion of "self" that is not in my art and put it back onto the paper where it belongs. I want my art to have a certain maturity to it, a confidence, and a "something" that says "yeah, this is me."
End of ranting.
Plea for advanced critique.
What do you like about my art? Where can you see it going? Suggestions for media experiments (I like watercolor, colored pencil....I hate tedious stuff. People who spend hours inking a painting first with tiny tiny crosshatches are admirable people, but I think that to get that kind of patience, I would need medication). Are there artists you feel I should take a look at? What do you feel is lacking in my art?
- Reading: children's books and watercolor art books
- Playing: Final Fantasy VIII
- Eating: craving Chinese food and hashbrowns
- Drinking: water
Just a short note to say that "Pirate School book 6" has been released today! If you wish to purchase a copy, you can do so through my website at www.JZArtworks.com. Just visit the "Purchase" section. Or, you can encourage your local library to get a copy!
I got my preview copies of Pirate School 6 yesterday, and am really happy with the print job. For books 5 and 6, I really tried to punch up the contrast on my black & white drawings to make them pop more on the pages after the printing process. This has made a big difference in the final product, I feel. I was very excited to see the energy that was in the original art come through in the printed book, and am very glad to have this book for my portfolio.
Speaking of my portfolio, I am working on a few new portfolio pieces. I have a lot of fantasy scenes in my portfolio, but not a lot of contemporary scenes, so I am doing a Slumber Party illustration, and am preparing a Train Theme piece. This one is still in the concept stage, but I hope to paint the Slumber Party image over the coming week.
I say "hope" because life has gotten very busy again. Rome and I decided that we did not have enough stress in our lives, so we decided to sell our condo and move into a house. Puppies and/or kids might fit in their somewhere too - who knows? So this means that our messy (I like to call it "artistically lived in") house now needs to look like a perpetual model home showroom, and we need to spend time looking for that perfect house with a white picket fence and red tulips in a charming suburban community. All this while keeping up with projects. It's going to be a fun ride!
Wish us luck!
- Listening to: "Into the West" (Lotr - RotK)
- Reading: Realtor contracts and mortgage paperwork
- Playing: Final Fantasy VIII
- Eating: Pasta with a spicy creamy tomato vodka sauce
- Drinking: green tea
This decision has been about 6 months coming. I realized several things. One is that if I am going to take any entrepreneurial risks,
now is the time to do it, before kids show up. The other is that between freelance and my full time job, I am stretched too thin to do either job to the best of my ability. So it was time to make a career decision.
Also over the past several months, I began investigating getting an agent. An agent is a person who represents you to publishers, negotiates contracts, promotes you, gets you jobs, and helps you build your portfolio so that you are more marketable. They then take 25% comission from any project they get to you. Agencies are not easy to get into. Many illustrators feel that it is just as hard to get an
agent as it is to get a publisher. However, I felt that I needed a well-connected agent to be out in New York introducing my work to publishers if my business was ever to grow. I sent samples to 4 agencies that I liked, and was regjected by 2 of them. One never got back to me. However, I was contacted by MB Artists(www.MBArtists.com), and the agent was interested in seeing if we were a good fit for each other. After having several phone conferences, going over the contract and talking to some of the represented artists, I decided that this agency was a good fit for me.
So 2 weeks ago, we signed a contract together. Now, Mela (the agent) has been showing my work to publishers, and has been giving me homework illustrations to do in order to make my portfolio more marketable in today's industry.
Penguin offered me book 8, and I am in the process of wrapping up the work for book 7.
So I suddenly found myself very very busy.
So I contacted my previous supervisior at the library and sent her a letter of inquiry, resume and application. As it turns out, they DID have a part time position available which they were almost ready to fill. If I had waited just a few more days, the position would have been gone. So they brought me in for an interview, and offered me the job the same day. I accepted. It will obviously not be as much money as I am making at my full time job, but it will be enough to pay my bills every month.
So I just now put in my 2 week notice at my day job. The company was very supportive, and asserted that I was an asset to the company, and
leaving in good standing. The president said that if freelance did
not work out, I was welcome back. However, they also offered to renew the freelance relationship that the company had with JZ Artworks prior to my date of hire. So I talked with the head of studio, and she has agreed to send applicable overflow work to me on an as-needed basis. So that whole conversation went very well, and people have been trickling in to wish me well and express support.
Rome and I are now in process of putting me on an independent health insurance plan, since it will be too expensive to put me on Rome's insurance with his company. We have loose ends like this to tie up, but we are excited to make this transition and to see where it will lead us. I am looking forward to being able to devote more time to illustration projects as they come in - and even having free time again!
So that's the news! Hope you are all well! Wish me luck!
- Listening to: Josh Groban
- Reading: IRS tax deduction regulations
- Watching: HG TV
- Eating: Bub's Burgers!
- Drinking: need some wine