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Personal Projects: Why They Are so Important

As artists and illustrators you’ve probably heard it before –  working on your own projects outside of client work is really important for your development.

Let’s face it, working in the field of illustration can be difficult and discouraging at times. Finding client work, submitting to publishers, trying to find an agent – it’s a constant grind for most of us, so it’s important to set aside time to work on personal projects. This can be anything – a single illustration, a series of illustrations on a theme, a comic, a picture book, the possibilities are endless. A personal project will be something that excites or inspires you – something you are passionate about. Working on a project that means something to you will give you the fulfillment and satisfaction you can’t get from client work alone. And this is vital over the long term in maintaining your creative energy levels and personal artistic happiness that will spread out into all other areas of your work and life.

I think the importance of personal projects can be summed up into three main points:

Skill Building

Personal projects are a great way to build your skills and discover new techniques. When working on something for yourself you’ll push yourself harder, and often find you produce your best work. Creating something that has personal meaning almost always gives you better results than something you create for a client.

Gain Confidence

Building skills with personal projects will also help grow your confidence. It’s a good idea to start out with smaller projects at first, so you can see them through to completion. Completing your projects is key, because that gives you the confidence that you can see them through, and will give you a sense of accomplishment. This will in turn motivate you to start another project – perhaps bigger or more ambitious that the last.

Personal Fulfillment

Have a picture book or comic idea that you are excited about? Instead of submitting it to agents or publishers and playing the waiting game, you may want to consider working on it for yourself. There are many options for self publishing these days, even if you just decide to simply publish your project on the internet. There is a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in seeing your project complete, and you may even find you can build yourself an audience along the way. I myself have published quite a few projects this way, and I have found it very fulfilling and motivating.

A Final Word

With the openness of the internet and social media right now, there are minimal barriers to getting your work out there. Of course the challenge is in getting your work noticed, but that’s part of the fun in building an audience. There’s never been a better time to be an independent creator. There are so many creative ways to get your work in front of people, and many artists are already doing just that – side stepping the traditional publishing routes and building audiences for themselves. I think we will see this trend continue to grow in the future.

About the author

  • Chris JonesCHRIS JONESContributor

    Chris Jones is a Canadian based children's illustrator. He has always been interested in telling stories visually, and his colorful style focuses on humor and expressiveness. A graduate of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), he has illustrated for several magazines and educational publishers. Chris is inspired by good music, good books, long walks, and generous amounts of coffee. Chris is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Wacom’s new Fine tipped Stylus’

The holiday season is quickly approaching which means it’s time for our favorite product manufacturers to start releasing updates to their products just in time for the holiday shopping season. Last year Wacom released the Intuos Creative Stylus and it was their first pressure-sensitive iPad stylus. I personally found this first stylus to not be the best solution. It didn’t really mimic the real feeling of drawing on paper or drawing on my other Wacom products. Last year’s model from Wacom, the Intous Creative Stylus, had a large rubber nib on the end which made it hard for me to do precise drawings. I never understood why stylists were designed this way. I am assuming it was to mimic using a finger when writing on a tablet, but I thought a stylus should be more precise than using any of your five digits.

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Well, this fall Wacom will be offering two new products to try to fix this issue. The first is the new Bamboo Stylus Fineline. It’s a smart stylus with a new thinner tip. This new tip is made of a 1.9mm solid plastic tip and can register 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. The Fineline is available in an assortment of colors including silver, blue, grey, orange and pink.

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The iPad screen doesn’t support pressure sensitivity so Wacom makes up for this by having the pen register the pressure you are applying and sending it to the tablet using Bluetooth technology. For this to work the application you are running needs to also register the pressure you’re applying so the software and the Stylus need to be able to communicate. The Fineline has some great 1st and 3rd party app support including Wacom’s own Bamboo Paper app, Noteshelf, Notes Plus, INKredible and GoodReader. But the best feature of all is that the Fineline lasts up to 26 hours on a single battery charge.

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If the Bamboo Stylus Finetip is not your style and you would like to step up Wacom has also updated there Intous Creative Stylus. This new offering simply called the Intous Creative Stylus 2 has 2,048 pressure levels of sensitivity, that’s the same level as their professional desktop offerings with their’s Cintiq. I’m not saying the two are comparable but the specs are the same.

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It has a 2.9mm solid plastic tip and works with a wide range of apps including Bamboo Paper, SketchBook Pro for iPad, ArtRage and ProCreate. It can also connect to Wacom’s own Cloud services. Both of these new stylists are compatible with iPad 3, iPad Mini, iPad Air or greater. If you’re interested in these new stylists you can pick one up for $79.95 for the Creative Stylus 2 or the Bamboo Stylus fineline for $59.95 from the Wacom online store or from one of their registered retailers like BestBuy or Amazon.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Amazon’s introduces the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator

On Sep 3, 2014 Amazon introduced Kindle Kids’ Book Creator. Amazon has offered tools for authors to publish their own books for a while but kids books are a completely different product. In the past making ebooks has been fairly simple because it’s just been flowing text into a e-book program (this is an over simplifyication), but tons of bright and colorful images as well as type that is a bit more playfully laid out, makes picture books completely different than a textbook. This is where Amazon’s new tool, the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator comes into play. It’s a free tool for authors and publishers to turn their children’s picture books into a digital version for use on the Amazon Kindle line of products. Which sounds great if you’re happy with only publishing on the Kindle store. “Kindle Kids’ Book Creator makes it easy for authors and publishers to import artwork, add text to pages, and preview how their book will look on Kindle devices.” says Amazons page for this product. Amazon’s new piece of software is available to download from their site and supports both Mac and PC. Chapter books can be imported using the following formats: Word’s doc/docx, HTML, Mobi, and of course ePub. Import formats available for Illustrated books are: PDF, PNG, JPG, TIFF, and PPM.

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“Authors want to focus on telling great stories and we want to help them do that. No one should have to be a computer programmer to create a beautiful, illustrated Kindle book for kids,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Kindle.

Alongside this new piece of software Amazon also opened a new section in their Digital self publishing platform called Kindle Direct Publishing Kids. This new section was created to help authors prepare, publish and promote both illustrated and chapter books in Kindle Stores worldwide. KDP Kids also offers authors better age and grade recommendations so their customers can more easily choose the best books for their kids. You can read the full press release here.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Helpful WordPress Plug-ins for your Portfolio Site

Now that you’ve got WordPress up and running on your site… you don’t? Well, this post assumes that you’ve read over our first post “Building a Portfolio Site using WordPress”. Now that you have read through that, let’s take a look at a few plug-ins that will help your site stay up and running. There’s a ton of WordPress plug-ins out there so I wanted to share the plug-ins that I use or have used on my own site to keep it running smoothly. It’s not good to use too many plugins for your blog and with there being so many plug-ins out there it can be hard to find the right one for you. There’s an amazing number of ways to add to your original WordPress installation so let’s take a look at them now.

If you’re not sure how to install a WordPress plug-in I found this helpful YouTube video to get you started.

Google Analytics – http://www.google.com/analytics/
While it’s not really a plug-in Google Analytics shows you the full customer picture across ads and videos, websites and social tools, tablets and smartphones. It lets you keep track of how many visitors are coming to your site and where they are coming from. This makes it easier to serve your current customers and win new ones. Once you’ve signed up for a Google analytics account there are many plug-ins that you can install to WordPress to give you a picture of the people who visit your site. One of these plug-ins that comes highly reviewed from other WordPress users is called Google Analytics by Yoast and you can find it here.

All in One SEO Packhttp://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/
All in One SEO Pack is a WordPress SEO plugin to automatically optimize your WordPress blog for Search Engines such as Google. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s natural or un-paid search results.

Shareaholichttp://wordpress.org/plugins/shareaholic/
Shareaholic adds an attractive social bookmarking menu and related content widget to your posts, pages, index, or any combination of the three. Shareaholic is a extremely useful and successful tool in getting your readers to actually discover and submit your articles to numerous social bookmarking sites. Full support for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, and a shocking number of others.

Thank Me Laterhttp://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/thank-me-later/

Print Friendly and PDF Buttonhttps://wordpress.org/plugins/printfriendly/
The Print Friendly & PDF button automatically creates printer friendly and PDF versions of your pages without the hassle of having to create a print CSS file. No coding, hacking or programming required. Simply install the Print Friendly & PDF plugin, activate, and choose settings for full customization. It also gives your user the ability to remove images and paragraphs of text, so they really only have to print exactly what they want.

nRelate Related Contentwordpress.org/extend/plugins/nrelate-related-content/
The best way to display related content from your site, and/or your blogroll. This ultimately leads to higher page-views for your site, and a better user experience for your visitors.

BackUpWordPresshttps://wordpress.org/plugins/backupwordpress/
BackUpWordPress will back up your entire site including your database and all your files on a schedule that suits you.

MailChimp for WordPresshttps://wordpress.org/plugins/mailchimp-for-wp/
MailChimp for WordPress lets you create a highly customizable sign-up form which you can display wherever you want it to display using a simple shortcode, widget or template function. You can also add sign-up checkboxes to various forms on your site, like your comment or contact forms.

These are just a handful of the many plug-ins out there for WordPress. There’s a ton more to choose from and if you’d like to see some of WordPress’ is more popular’s plug-ins check out this link and if you use any other plug-ins that could be helpful to your fellow illustrators, leave them in the comments.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Building a Portfolio Site using WordPress

When I first started my career I was working hard to manage extravagent websites to showcase my work. These sites were hard to maintain if you’re not a programmer, which I’m not. Luckily my brother is a web developer and is always happy to lend a hand but as his career has grown he has had less and less time to help out. I needed to find a new solution. So a few years ago I switched my portfolio site to a WordPress powered portfolio site. Now the WordPress content management system manages all my portfolio images, blog posts and my contact page saving me (and him) a lot of time and money.

For the most part WordPress (WP) is often thought of as just a blogging platform, but it can be used as a content management system. A content management system or CMS is a application that allows publishing, editing and modifying content, organizing, deleting as well as maintenance from a central interface. For me the WordPress CMS is easy to use, keep up to date and customize through themes.

Before we get to the WordPress side of things theres a few things we should go over to get your site up and running. First you’re going to need to get your self a domain name or URL. I recommend getting your own URL versus having a hosted site by say Blogspot. It looks a lot more professional and people notice if you don’t. For example my domain name is NormGrock.com. Having a domain name helps your customers remember where to find you on the Internet and gives your site a bit more credibility. You can grab yourself a custom URL at registrars like GoDaddy.com or Namecheap.com. There are many others but these are the ones I have used. Before purchasing you should hunt around for promo codes to save a few bucks. These companies always seem to be running promotions.

Once you have your URL you will need a place for your files to live on the internet so you will need a host. Basically, a host is a company that has servers dedicated to sending your web files when someone visits your site. This is something you could do yourself, but it requires much more time and effort. I’ve used GoDaddy.com for hosting but as with registrars there are many to choose from. You will need to sign up for an account with a web host so that your website files have a home. If you choose to host your site and register your domain at the same company your domain should be linked to your host otherwise you will need to update your settings to make sure they are properly linked. Doing this varies depending on your host and registrar though they usually have directions somewhere on their site. To keep things simple I suggest buying both with the same company.

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Now that all of that is taken care of, you should install WordPress on to your site. Many web hosts now offer tools to automatically install WordPress for you. However, if you wish to install WordPress yourself, this guide will help. Once WP is on your site its now time to log in and choose a theme. To log in to the admin area of your new WordPress website place “wp-admin” after your domain name, for example http://example.com/wp-admin. Once you’re logged into the admin panel you can upload a theme you’ve downloaded or install a theme directly from WordPress to your blog by using the Add New Themes option in the Appearance sub-menu. In this menu you can manage your themes, new installs, preview your changes, delete themes, activate, and update themes. The current active theme always appears first in the upper left corner. When you first install WordPress the WordPress Twenty Fourteen theme is displayed as the active theme. If you roll over the image with your cursor, a “Theme Details” button appears. Click it to see, along with the name of the Theme, the Theme version, and the Theme author, there is a short description of the Theme. There are many themes out there to choose from. Some are free and others are for purchase. I personally decided to buy a pre made theme to save myself some time and programming heartaches. It may have cost a little bit more but it was worth it. The site I used to purchase my portfolio theme is called ThemeForest.com. Again, there are many sites out there where you can purchase themes from. A quick Internet search will reveal most of them to you and the same goes for free WordPress themes. Be sure to use the keywords “Portfolio” and “WordPress” in your search. This is a very important step so you’ll want to take the time and find a theme that fits your needs the best. This will be the foundation for your portfolio site.

Once you’ve selected the theme for your site this tutorial becomes a bit more difficult to continue because their are so many themes out there and all of them are different. The best way for this section to continue is for you to read the instructions that came with your chosen theme and follow them to a tee. Most themes will allow you to customize them like uploading a logo, changing the background color, and add additional pages. Be sure to include an about page, Portfolio page, Contact page and a blog if you so choose. Keep your information simple and only share your best pieces and you’re on your way to building a great portfolio site.
Now that you’re up and running with your WordPress Portfolio Site, what should you put in your portfolio? Well we have a post that’s ready to answer this question for you. Check out What to put in your Children’s Book Portfolio by Donald Wu.

If all of this sounds like too much work for you There are some other options you can choose from which are free. I personally enjoy the flexibility that WordPress gives you to customize your site but here are some additional options if you’re interested. Read Which Free Online Portfolio Websites is right for you? here.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Could Adobe have a new Challenger?

For years Adobe hasn’t had much competition in the photo editing, vector drawing and desktop publishing application space. Adobe software has been the pinnacle of desktop publishing software for as long as I can remember. A few years ago they switched their software model to subscription-based which upset a lot of their core customers. Now a company named Serif has come out with a new product called Affinity Designer to try to change all that. Serif Ltd. is an independent developer founded in 1990 and a publisher of design software. Serif was founded with the aim to develop low-cost alternatives to high-end desktop publishing and graphic design packages for the PC. Despite developing exclusively for PC and Windows for over 25 years, their new product, Affinity Designer, is turning that all on its head. Built for the Mac, Affinity Designer is the first of a new line of products by Serif aimed at anyone who’s not a fan of Adobe subscription model. Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher will be coming out over the next 12 months to complete the new suite of design applications. Affinity Designer is available now in beta and you can grab your copy for Mac at https://affinity.serif.com/.

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Affinity Designer’s site says that “Affinity Designer is the fastest, smoothest, most precise vector graphic design software available.” Whether you’re working on graphics for marketing materials, websites, icons, UI design or just like creating cool concept art, Affinity Designer will revolutionize how you work.” and “Working in Affinity Designer is always live – pan and zoom at 60fps, transform objects in correct z-order, make adjustments or apply effects in realtime and always see live previews of brushes or tools. Whether it’s a 100 megapixel image or the most complex vector drawing with thousands of curves, it’s still the same and never runs out of memory.” When Affinity Designer is out of beta it will be available exclusively on the Mac App store for $49.99.

We are still a long ways from seeing if Serif can knock off Adobe’s crown but it’s nice to see that some alternatives are starting to pop up. If you’ve tried Serif’s new vector drawing application, please let us know what you think about it in the comments. I will be trying it out soon myself and giving a report on OUaS.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Business 101

One thing I noticed when I started out as an illustrator is that there are lots of resources for the “fun” parts of the business – how to put together a portfolio, how to make promotional postcards, how to market to clients.  However, being an illustrator isn’t just about drawing pictures.  To be a successful freelancer, you must have a basic understanding of how to set up and run a business.  This means book keeping, invoicing, paying taxes, keeping track of expenses, etc.  I am sure that every artist has different tools and techniques for keeping their business in order.  I’m going to share a basic business roadmap for beginners who are ready to jump into this industry.  So, before you ever send your first promotional postcard to prospective clients….

Setting Up Shop

  • Name Your Business – Even if it is just “Your Name Illustration”, have a name.
  • Get a Website – This website should be “Name of Your Business.com”
  • Get an EIN – An Employer Identification Number is a number issued by they IRS which basically acts as a Social Security Number for your business.  Every time you work with a client, you will be required to provide that client with either your SSN or your EIN for tax purposes.  Having an EIN does several important things for you.  1)  It keeps you from having to give out your SSN to every client you work for.  2)  It helps keep your business and personal monies separate. 3) You will use it when you do the business income/expenses portion of your taxes.  You can apply online for an EIN through the IRS’s website.
  • Incorporate your business – Many artists operate as Sole Proprietorships, which do not require incorporation or an EIN (Although you can still have an EIN if you are a Sole Proprietorship).  However, you also have the option of incorporating as a single member LLC or an S Corp.  You should investigate the tax laws for your state for these options.  An accountant who specializes in small businesses can help with this decisions.  You can incorporate your business by visiting your state’s Secretary of State webpage.
  • Set up a business checking account – In my experience, it is important to keep your personal and business finances separate.  Many banks offer a free or low-fee basic business checking option for small businesses.

 

Setting Up Records

OK, so now you have a business set up, and it probably cost you a little bit of money.  As a business owner, you must have a method for keeping track of your costs as well as your invoices.  There are programs such as Quickbooks  which can help you do this.  However, I just use Microsoft Excel.  I have 2 spreadsheets per year.  One is called “20XX Expenses” and the other is called “20XX Invoices”.  On the “Expenses” spreadsheet I have columns for Date, Item, Vendor, Purpose, Cost and Payment Method.  On the “Invoices” sheet, I have columns for Invoice Date, Invoice Number, Client, Project Description, Completion Date, Invoice Amount, Invoice Paid Date, and Estimated Taxes.  So, every time I spend money for the business (gas to go to a conference, books of stamps, paint supplies, etc), I enter the date from the receipt into a row of my “Expenses” spreadsheet.  Every time a project is completed, I enter the data into the “Invoices” spreadsheet.  This is a basic, inexpensive way to keep track of the money going into and out of your business.  There are also programs you can purchase that can do this more efficiently, some of which can sync with your tax preparation software to make life easier during tax season.

Setting Up Invoices

When a project is competed or a billing benchmark is reached, you should send your client an invoice.  This can be mailed, or sent as a PDF to the client’s email.  It is a good idea to create a template document that you can use over and over again to send to your clients.  Your invoice document should include:

  • The name and address of your business.  This will be what you want the client to make the check out to.  So, since you want to deposit this into your business checking, whatever name/entity you are using on your business checking account should be what you use on your invoice.
  • Name and address of the client
  • Description of the project (Example – 16 full color illustrations for Name Of Book)
  • Invoice Number – So that you can easily keep track of which invoice is which
  • Invoice Date
  • Invoice Due Date – Usually 30 days after the invoice date
  • Amount of Money Due to be Paid

Your invoice template can be set up using programs such as Microsoft Publisher or Microsoft Word.

OK, now that you have your basic business set up, it’s time to start looking for clients and managing projects…..

Financial Flow of a Project

  • Marketing:  It’s time to send out postcards, buy ad space in an annual directory, hire some guy to fly over New York with a banner promoting your artwork….however you decide to market your services.  Pay for these marketing avenues with funds from your business account, and be sure to log those costs in your Expenses spreadsheet.
  • Contract:  Yay!  The marketing worked!  A client has sent you a contract, which will include the fee for the project, billing benchmarks, and may also include a place for you to list your SSN or EIN for tax purposes.  Give the client your EIN on the contract and any applicable tax forms they may need for you to fill out.  Make sure you retain a signed copy of the contract for your own records.
  • Invoice the Client:  You’ve reached a billing benchmark!  This may vary from project to project.  Some small projects may be billed once for the full fee after final art is delivered.  For many projects, 50% of the fee is due to the artist upon approval of sketches and the remainder due upon completion of final art.  For large budget projects that span many months, there may be 3 billing benchmarks: signing of the contract, delivery of the sketches, and delivery of final art.  These will be detailed in your contract.  When you reach a benchmark, send your client an invoice, and note the amount due, the date and other applicable information in you Invoices spreadsheet.
  • Receive your Money:  When you receive your payment for the client, update your records in your Invoices spreadsheet to show the invoice as paid.  Then deposit the check in your business checking.
  • Taxes:  It’s exciting to open the mailbox and find a check for that project that you worked so hard on, but remember, not all of that money is yours.  You will have to keep a certain amount aside for Uncle Sam’s taxes as well as money to keep in your business to fund your business expenses (that guy in the airplane wants to be paid, too).  To know how much money to set aside, you must know what income tax bracket you fall into.   You must know what your yearly household income is, and can look up your tax bracket online.  Whatever bracket you fall into, there is a corresponding percentage that must be put aside from every paycheck for taxes.  So, if you fall into the 25% tax bracket, and your project earned you $100.00, you must keep $25.00 of that paycheck aside for taxes, plus a little extra for your future business expenses.  So you may decide to keep $30.00 (30%) in your business checking for these purposes.  Your business taxes can be paid quarterly by using that year’s 1040-ES forms, which can be downloaded from the IRS.  If you pay estimated taxes quarterly, be sure to log this information in your Expenses spreadsheet so that you can reference this when you file your taxes for the year.
  • Pay Yourself:  After you have figured out how much money have to remain in your business checking for taxes and expenses, you can pay yourself.  Have your business write you a check (or transfer the funds, or whatever) for what is leftover after taxes and expenses.  This is your personal money, and can go into your personal financial accounts to pay for a big ice cream sundae to celebrate a successfully completed project.

 

There is a lot more to running a business than what is listed here.  Self employed business owners must know what appropriate fees to charge to clients, be familiar with what day-to-day costs can be logged as home office expenses when filing taxes, and in general be excellent record-keepers.  However, I hope that this walk-through helps those who are ready to set up shop in this industry do so a little more easily and with a few less bumps in the road to business ownership.  Thanks for reading!

About the author

  • Jennifer ZivoinJENNIFER ZIVOINContributor

    Jennifer Zivoin has always loved art and storytelling, so becoming a children's book illustrator was a natural career path. Most of her illustrations are painted digitally, though she draws inspiration from traditional media. In addition to artwork, Jennifer enjoys reading, cooking, and ballroom dancing - especially tango! She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter.

3 YouTube Drawing Channels You Should Check Out

The Internet has changed education so much since I was in school. It provides so many great resources for people to learn from.  Anything from home improvement to learning how to play the guitar can be learned. Almost anything is on the web. It can also help you become a better artist. One of the best places I have found to help me better my art skills is YouTube. There are so many channels out there dedicated to art it’s hard to find a good place to start. So here’s just a few of the YouTube channels I frequent to help better my art skills.

Proko TVhttps://www.youtube.com/user/ProkoTV
We have talked about Proko on the site before but this content bears mentioning again. The site offers high-quality production and the amazing insight given by Stan Prokopenko, not to mention he takes art subjects and makes them pretty entertaining. Proko TV has instructional How to Draw videos. The drawing lessons are approachable enough for beginners and detailed enough for advanced artists.

CGMasterAcademy CGMAhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJKxFIEmsfDEs-B5F6IGoIg
CG Master Academy (CGMA) is an online community dedicated to helping artists develop and cultivate their creative talents. Filled with some of the best tutorials on YouTube, their online demonstrations will help aspiring artists in their goals of becoming industry artists.

FZD School - https://www.youtube.com/user/FZDSCHOOL
And finally, I enjoy the FZD School channel.  This channel is made by the instructors at FZD School of Design which provides an education in entertainment design. Even though this is partially an advertisement for their school it is a great resource for learning tips and tricks for creating production artwork. They talk about how to be a professional, what to put in your portfolio and many many other topics in these almost hour long videos. It’s a good source of inspiration for me.

These are just a few of my favorite YouTube channels. If you have any that you think should be added to this list please leave them in the comments and we can continue to add to this Post.

Yet Another Cintiq Companion Review

By now, most digital artists have heard of the Wacom Cintiq Companion and what it does, so I’m not going to bore everyone reviewing the basic specs. In fact, Norm wrote a nice review awhile back covering just that- LINK. I wanted to give my personal take on the machine as an illustrator and as a user who has put the Companion through it’s paces for the last 8 months or so.

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The Good

  • Natural Drawing: Before I purchased the Cintiq Companion, my digital illustrations were created using Wacom tablets. The main reason I made the switch was because I wanted something that could mimic the more natural feel of drawing and painting traditional. As good as tablets are, you can’t recreate the same direct relationship between your hand and eyes while you are drawing. This is where the Companion has me sold; and even after years of working on tablets, it only took several hours for me to feel comfortable making marks on the Companion.
  • Portability: Another big reason I decided to go with the Companion and not one of the larger-screened Cintiqs out on the market was that this had a built in computer. This made working on the go a true possibility. In fact I’ve spent hours at a time working in my car, with a battery life of about 3 hours, I’ve found a real use for my Companion outside of my studio. The only caveat I have working outside when it’s bright outside can be a bit difficult.
  • Performance: I’m really impressed by the processing power of the Companion. In Photoshop, my files can be as big as 150mb yet there is no noticeable lag.
  • Customization: Wacom has really done a good job making this product user-friendly. Being a Photoshop-user who relies on a lot of keyboard shortcuts, I was concerned about compromising my workflow on the occasions where I didn’t have access to a keyboard. To my surprise however, with the abundance of customizable shortcut keys (express keys on the side of the Companion as well as the onscreen shortcuts), really once you have everything customized to your liking, I found I could work easily without the keyboard. Right now, I mainly decide whether to use a keyboard based more on screen space rather than efficiency.

 

screen

A screen shot of my Companion. Along with the express keys that are off screen (mainly for brush and erase tools), you can see that you have a lot of flexibility, plus I still have room for more if I need them.

The Bad

  • The Stand: Compared to the quality of the Companion itself, the stand almost feels like an afterthought. Though it does a reasonable job while the device is firmly resting on a hard, flat surface, such as a desk; if I decide to move it around, there’s a good chance it’ll slip off it’s notch and collapse down. This is especially true when I have it resting on the most vertical setting. To me, it makes a lot more sense for the stand to be permanently attached. Since it has the ability to fold flat anyway, I haven’t found a reason to not have it attached…and it’s not like it adding a lot of extra weight.
  • Scratches: Within a week or two after I started using my Companion, I noticed I had a scratch on the screen. The thought of my beautiful new machine covered with scratches put me in a panic, so I quickly ordered a screen protector. After about 4 months with the screen protector on I’m still noticing an increasing number of scratches. These are minute scratches mind you- that you only really notice when you have blank white areas on the screen. Personally, I don’t think I’m heavy-handed when I draw, and my nibs don’t really show signs of wear, so I’m left wondering if this is just a common thing for Cintiqs. All I know is that replacing screen protectors will be part of my routine.
  • The hiccups: When my Companion is running well, it’s a great tool to work on, however I have noticed more instability issues with Photoshop than normal.  These crashes were not caused by me overworking the processor, so my guess is that it may be Windows 8 related. Also there has been a tendency for my onscreen shortcuts to malfunction or my stylus or onscreen keyboard to not respond. This tends to happen if I accidentally hit too many shortcuts at the same time or too quickly. Other issues happen when I have my Companion coming out of sleep mode or screensaver. I tend to point my finger at Windows 8 and Wacom compatibility issues.

 

The Ugly

  • No Charge: About a couple months into using my Companion, the battery inexplicably decided not to recharge when it was plugged in. This became really frustrating because I would be working and my machine would just shut down on me without any warning and all the work that wasn’t saved would be lost. The first couple times this happened, my Companion was able to hold a charge partially if I played with the connections. But in a matter of a week or so, it recharged for the last time and was basically dead. Fortunately, by then I had prepared for this and backed up all my files, but it was of little comfort. After contacting Wacom, I was left with sending my Companion back for repairs. Three weeks later, I received a package from Wacom and to my surprise, rather than fixing my Companion, they ended up sending me a new one. And the new Companion is charging like it should…for now.

 

Seeing double...after returning my broken device back to Wacom, they decided to send me a new one rather than repair it. So now I have two nice boxes for my trouble.

Seeing double…after returning my broken device back to Wacom, they decided to send me a new one rather than repair it. So now I have two nice boxes for my trouble.

Despite having it’s fair share or glitches and imperfections, the Cintiq Companion is still a great tool and the best portable drawing device I’ve ever worked with. With it, I have been able to produce my illustrations without sacrificing any quality or efficiency… if anything, it has improved it. A lot of the issues I have with the Companion, I chalk up to Wacom venturing into new territory. I can only imagine if they do decide to come out with a second generation model, it would simply be great.

About the author

  • Donald WuDONALD WUContributor

    Born in Hong Kong, Donald grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area after moving there as a child. Years of drawing doodles in school along with a love of comic books led him to study illustration at the California College of the Arts. While at school, Donald was introduced to many different mediums ranging from watercolors to acrylics. Although Donald started his career using traditional mediums, Donald has since made the transition to digital medium. Donald continues to reside and "doodle" in the San Francisco Bay Area.

PSA – Facebook Messenger App has Scary Terms of Service

Okay I know this subject doesn’t really concern becoming or being an artist but nevertheless Facebook has become integral in to being an artist these days. From communicating with potential clients to just talking with other artists I find myself on it almost every day. It’s actually one of the ways our team at Once Upon a Sketch stays in contact. We have a Group discussion where we keep everyone up-to-date and when we are just communicating person-to-person we use Facebook messaging. Which brings me to why I’m writing this post. Like most of you I probably use Facebook mostly on my phone and just a little while ago the Facebook app required me to install a additional app called Facebook Messenger if I wanted to continue messaging. Some people might say well Facebook just spent $19 billion to buy a company called What’s App. Facebook must just want to get their moneys worth. This statement may be true but there seems to be a lot more going on if you dig into the terms of service accompanying this application. You may have already read about this somewhere else on the Internet but it needs to be reiterated since Facebook has now made this application required to use their messaging service. Here are a few of the permissions you will be giving up if you use the new Facebook messaging app. These are word for word from the Facebook messaging app terms of service.

FacebookMessenger001

“Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you’ve called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals.”
 
“Allows the app to access the phone features of the device. This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.”
 
“Allows the app to get a list of accounts known by the phone. This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed.”
 
“Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.”
 
“Allows the app to record audio with microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.”
 
“Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.”
 

The list continues but this is just a handful of the choice quotes from the terms of service floating around the Internet these days. It’s worth pointing out that while these terms sound awful a lot of the permissions wording is taken straight from Android’s terms. FaceBook maybe just following the Android wording, just a bit of speculation to give Facebook some credit. Also, Apple iOS only asks for these permissions when a user tries to access one of these functions such as microphone access only being requested when a video/voice call happens. It still sounds like pretty scary permissions to give any app or company in my opinion. Especially a company who makes their money by learning everything they can about their users.

I had a friend over for dinner just the other day and she had unknowingly downloaded this app when her regular Facebook app prompted her to. I’m sure she blindly agreed to the terms of service like everyone does and didn’t even think about what she had agreed to. It so easy to do. It feels like you can’t do anything on the Internet these days without agreeing to something. So if your one of the one billion people who have downloaded this app please be careful. It may be nice to use a free application that lets you stay in contact with your friends but please remember the things you’re giving up by using it.

Source – Huffington Post

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.