Monday, May 23, 2016

The American Dream

Recently I was invited to participate in a group show at the Pony Club Gallery in Portland. The show is curated by my friend Johnny Acurso and the theme is "Food Fight." Opening night is NEXT THURSDAY (6/2) at 6 PM at the Pony Club PDX! You are invited!

I figured it was high time I painted a tribute to one of the great loves of my life: ice cream. I've always loved ice cream, but since moving to Portland and discovering the ice cream shop Salt & Straw, my love for ice cream has escalated to the level of sheer madness.

How could I convey the true greatness of ice cream in a single painting? I spent many minutes pondering this important question. For me, the idea of perfect ice cream is now forever linked to Oregon, so I thought I would start with that. Eventually the idea of a giant ice cream in the Oregon wilderness formed in my mind.

In order to make the ice cream as glorious as possible, I decided to add a splash of sunlight hitting the top, as though the ice cream is breaking through the clouds.

From there on the piece went very smoothly, as I piled more and more sweets onto the sundae while humming "How Great Thou Art" to myself.

Let me know if you're going to stop by the Food Fight show!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Honest in All Things

Last year I was approached by a new client: The Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They asked me to create an illustration for their magazine New Era.

The story was called "Honest in All Things," and it was about a girl who was considering taking more than one bag of free school supplies. No big deal, right? No one would know. But then she found someone's smart phone in the restroom, and realized that taking an extra bag of school supplies was stealing, just like taking the smart phone would be stealing.

The client asked me to depict the girl, holding the smart phone and a bag of school supplies on her school campus. They also asked to see the line where school supplies were being given out to kids.

Luckily this was an easy pose to take reference for. I grabbed a backpack, paper bag and my smartphone and voila.

Here's the rough I sent them:

"Looks great!" They said.

" revisions?" I said.

"Nope! Go to final!" They said.

I stared dumbfounded at my computer screen. No revisions? None at all? They're not going to ask me to put a sweater on one of the kids in the back, or rearrange the formation of birds in the sky, or anything? I don't understand. *lapses into Shatner impression* I..........don't understand.

The illustration was in the April 2016 edition of New Era. I tried to get a copy, even went down to the local Mormon church, but I couldn't find one. I had to ask around to friends, and finally Miranda found a copy and took a photo for me. Thanks!

If you'd like to read the story, you can read it online.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Types of Illustration Careers

Recently an artist asked me to take a look at her portfolio. I asked her what I always ask people who request portfolio reviews: "What do you want to do with your art?" She responded, as many do, "I don't know."

I don't blame her, of course. Growing up, we don't tend to learn much about artistic careers, because society tends to view art as "not a real job." It's no wonder that people who want to become artists have only vague ideas of possible career paths. They just know they want to do art.

The reality is that, if you want a job, you can't simply "be an artist" and "do art," any more than you can just "be a scientist" and "do science." There are many, many different types of art careers along a broad spectrum of possibilities, and if you want a job, you need to build skills relevant to that job.

I wrote this blog post to give you some ideas of the possible illustration careers out there. Of course, there's no way I could list every possibility, so I tried to cover the major categories. There are also many careers which are tangential to illustration, for example: art directing, graphic design, agenting, teaching, etc. For the sake of time I limited this list to jobs that are directly creating illustrations.

These jobs can be divided into three basic types: employment, freelance and direct sales.

  • Employment - working full-time at a company. This means a "traditional" job at an office, with a boss, co-workers, a regular paycheck, and all that jazz. Art-related employment can include:
    • Concept art for video games/animation/tv/movies (this encompasses MANY different positions)
    • Asset creation for video games/mobile games
    • Marketing illustration for video games
    • 2D/3D animation (this encompasses MANY different positions)
    • Advertising at a design/ad agency
    • Medical illustration and animation
    • Architectural visualization
    • Technical illustration
    • Surface design for textiles, apparel, and home goods
    • Greeting cards
    • Storyboarding
    • Theme park design
    • Fashion illustration
    • Tattoos, when employed at a parlor
  • Freelance - doing commissions for clients. This means being paid by various clients to work on specific projects for them. Freelancers usually work from home.  Freelance illustration can include:
    • Books
    • Editorial/magazines
    • Religious illustrations
    • Advertising
    • Tarot decks and New Age art
    • Educational/textbook illustrations for children
    • Medical illustration and animation
    • Architectural visualization
    • Packaging illustration
    • Postage stamp illustration
    • Political cartoons
    • Illustrated logos
    • Courtroom sketch artist
    • Surface design for textiles, apparel, and home goods
    • Greeting cards
    • Comics
    • Storyboarding
    • Tabletop/card games
    • Murals
  • Direct sales - selling art directly to the public. This means creating a product from start to finish and selling it directly to consumers, either from a physical store/gallery/convention or an online store. You are working purely for yourself, not for clients.
    • Fine art* (i.e., original paintings and sculptures, or limited edition prints)
    • Custom portraits
    • Greeting cards and stationary
    • Self-published books and comics
    • Web comics
    • Kickstarters
    • Practically anything, really

*Arguably, fine art is it's own thing and not a subset of illustration. However since many illustrators also create fine art, I listed it here.

Note that not all of the freelance categories constitute full-time career paths by themselves. Most illustrators, especially freelancers, work in multiple categories. For example, I currently do book, magazine, educational and religious illustrations, and I do direct sales through my Etsy shop.

You may notice that some types of illustration - for example, greeting cards - appear in multiple categories. This is because some companies prefer to hire in-house illustrators, some prefer to commission freelancers, and some companies do both.


So that's quite a list. Where do you start figuring out what you want to do?

Step 1: Focus on one of the three job categories. Do you prefer to work in an office environment or does self-employment sound more appealing to you? You don't necessarily need to make a definite, forever decision on this, but give it some thought. We all know what employment is, but if you don't know much about freelancing, do some research and talk to freelancers.

Step 2: If any of the jobs on the list sound fun to you, research them. Don't go around asking people questions that a basic Google search could answer. Google is your friend. Search for "career in ____ illustration" and you will find things. Also look for books at the library.

Step 3: Look at the illustrations being used in that field, and compare them to your current artwork. How can you make your portfolio look like it belongs in that field?

Step 4: After you've done some basic research and analyzed your portfolio, talk to artists who are currently working in the field you're interested in. If you can, get a portfolio review at a convention. Otherwise, send an email with specific questions or a request for a portfolio review. Artists are generally very helpful, as long as you're polite and aren't asking questions a basic Google search could answer. If they take the time to respond, be sure to thank them.


So blog readers, did you find this helpful? Do you have any suggestions for jobs I can add to the list? If so, leave a comment!


EDIT: Scott Bakal has informed me that there is an ebook called 50 Markets of Illustration, which examines fifty different possible illustration careers in detail. If you're looking for direction in your career, this sounds like a great resource!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Original Sin

"Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid themselves...among the trees of the garden." - Genesis 3:8

It's not often that my assignments for Lifeway's Explore the Bible series give me a chance to draw naked people. In fact, my first rough sketch of this scene, according to the client, was too revealing!


They asked for more foliage to cover them up.

Whenever I start an illustration, I try to identify the main emotion I want to convey. In this case, that emotion was guilt. So, I used some composition and color tools to reinforce this emotion.

Zooming in on the couple helped focus on their facial expressions. The shadow cast over Adam and Eve is not only symbolic, but also helps make them look like they're hiding. Having Eve looking over her shoulder was not only convenient for modesty reasons, but also made her look furtive and evasive, like she can't even look Adam in the face.

But my favorite detail is the snake in the top corner. Did you catch it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Options for Online Art Classes

If you're looking to bring your illustration skills up to a professional level, but don't have access to an IRL art school, check out these cool art classes below. I've collected a range of classes at different price points.

Most of these online schools offer both self-taught courses and guided courses.
  • Self-taught means a bundle of downloadable videos, PDFs or other materials that you use to teach yourself in your own time. No instructor interaction.
  • Guided means that there may be scheduled live chats, assignment deadlines, an active forum or other ways for you to receive feedback from instructors and/or classmates.
(Disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it an endorsement of any particular course. I have not participated in any of these websites except for Skillshare and The Lamp Post Guild. If a school sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to investigate it on your own. Also, the prices listed were accurate as of the time this blog post was published, but you should double-check the prices on the school websites.)

In order, from lowest to highest price:
  • Skillshare - This website offers online classes on a wide range of topics, not just art. Offers hundreds of free self-taught classes as well as a "premium" $8/month option, which gives you access to an unlimited amount of classes - including cool stuff like Character Design with Charlie Bowater. Classes contain videos, assignments, and forums where you can post your work.
  • The Lamp Post Guild - currently offers four self-taught classes at $99 each, from illustrious artists Justin Gerard, Cory Godbey and Chris Koelle. 
  • The Oatley Academy offers both self-taught and guided classes on the basics of composition, storytelling, digital painting and more. Self-taught classes are currently $17 per month. Guided courses are price-on-demand, and require an "audition."
  • Art Business Bootcamp - The only class on this list that focuses purely on the business side of art. Self-taught with access to an exclusive Facebook group for $197.
  • The Illustration Department - various options for one-on-one mentorship from senior art director Giuseppe Castellano, focusing on children's books. $100-$300.
  • Tutormill - guided classes on book and editorial illustration, taught by professional illustrators such as Yuko Shimizu. At $300 per class, this seems like quite a steal!
  • School of Visual Storytelling - classes range from $450 for a live twice-weekly class, to $20 for instructional videos. Topics are oriented towards children's books and animation.
  • Art Camp - run by Noah Bradley, a self-taught course with access to a student forum. Topics include basics of painting, landscapes, and concept design. Prices range from $250-$495.
  • Schoolism - boasts some pretty big names for instructors, including Dice Tsutsumi, Stephen Silver and Sam Nielson. Self-taught courses are $144 and guided courses are about $1000.
  • SmArt School - an online school run by fantasy artists and art directors. The quality of work that comes from the students is impressive, and the instructor lineup is top-notch. Plans range $595 for an "auditing" option, to $2500 for the "full intensive mentorship" option.
Have you taken any of these online classes? I'd love to hear about your experience!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Etsy shop re-opening!

It's been a while since I last opened my Etsy shop! Now you can buy prints, postcards, notecards and books directly from me. These are the same goods I sell at conventions.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Helpful Links for Illustrators

Every few weeks I post a bunch of links related to drawing, freelancing, self-employment and personal motivation. I collect these from all over the web and hope that you find them as helpful and inspirational as I did.

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