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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.

HowtoWPTheme001

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/.

AffinityDesigner001

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.

cintiq

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.

To Database or Not to Database – Organizing Your Contacts

For illustrators, building and maintaining a contact list for your marketing efforts is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Putting in the time and effort to build a highly targeted database of contacts is vital. To get your work seen, and for you to get hired – reaching out regularly to a targeted list of companies with whom you want to work is something you simply must do.

The software you choose for your database depends on personal preference. There are many contact relationship management (CRM) software choices out there – some free, some paid, many that are over complicated, and many with features you would never need to use. For myself, after looking at many of the options I settled on the simplest and most customizable choice – a spreadsheet. It’s simple, sortable, searchable, and exporting the data for labels or emailing is very straightforward.

The great thing about using a spreadsheet is you can customize the fields exactly the way you want. It’s easy to color highlight certain fields so you can get creative with color coding to help you track or remember certain details. You can set up drop down menus to select from pre-determined data. You can also set up additional spreadsheets in the same workbook – one for a list of publishers, and others for submission lists for picture book dummies, or lists for other contacts.

In my workbook, I have separate sheets for Publishers, Agents, and Picture Book submission lists (so I can track who I’ve sent to, who has responded, etc.)

For my main publisher list, here are the fields that I track:

  • Date of last contact (last time you emailed or sent a mailer, letter, etc.)
  • Status (Client, On file, Lead) – for this I built in a drop down menu with these choices built in so I don’t have to retype them when entering a contact
  • Newsletter (here I indicate if I have them on my email newsletter mailing list)
  • Category (Trade, Educational, Magazine) – again I use a drop down menu with these choices – I like to use these categories so I can group and sort contacts into sub lists to target mailings
  • Xmas Card (the last time I sent them a card and if they are on my card list or not)
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Title
  • Company
  • Address
  • City
  • State/Province
  • Zip/Postal Code
  • Country
  • Email
  • Website
  • Last Contact (here I keep notes on the last contact I had with this person)
  • Additional notes (here I note and submission guidelines, special considerations, etc.)

 

The key to maintaining your database is to regularly go through and make sure the information is still current (your database is only as good as the data that is in it). I like to break it into small chunks and try to check 10 or so records each week until I reach the end of the list, then I just start again, repeating the process.

Another really useful thing to do is to save your spreadsheet into an online file sharing service, such as Dropbox – this way you can have access to your contacts from any device are using. Even your phone if you need to check some information while on the go. Or, another option would be to build your spreadsheet in Google Drive – and again you could have it available to you on any device

DOWNLOAD:

I built my spreadsheet using Excel, and I am making my template available here for anyone who would like to use it as a starting point for their own list, or for reference. The template includes my main publisher list template, as well as a second sheet template for a picture book submission list.

–> Download my Excel template

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.

Modbook Pro X on Kickstarter

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On July 30th, 2014 Axiotron, the company that will convert your Apple MacBook into a pen-based Mac Drawing tablet launched a KickStarter campaign to fund their new Apple tablet conversion project called the Modbook X. The Modbook X KickStarter is exactly what you might think Axiotron would be offering with their campaign. They are taking the latest retina display MacBooks and converting them into a pen-based tablet. Helping to fund this campaign will allow you to send in your own MacBook machines to Modbook for conversion at the starting price of $1999 or just buy a brand-new one from Modbook for $3999. Of course there are tons of other ways you can customize your Modbook using this campaign but that’s just two base prices. For this campaign to be funded Axiotron is looking for $150,000 to get this campaign off the ground. On the KickStarter page they say “Unleash your creativity with the most innovative and powerful pen tablet ever, the Mac-based 15.4-inch Retina display Modbook Pro X.” These new ModBooks will use the latest retina MacBook Pros released just a day before this KickStarter campaign. It’s almost like Axiotron knew that new retina MacBooks would be launching, Which they probably did. Axiotron has been granted permission by Apple to offer their parts & services since 2007.

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Other additions to the new Modbook model are; integrated Keybars on the rear of the device which gives you easy access to keyboard shortcuts. They’ve also added  2,048 pressure levels, pen tilt and rotate to their screens with the digitizer pen. A Keyboard Stand that acts as an easel and also acts as a cover for the tablet. So if you’ve been looking for a portable larger digital drawing solution you might want to give this KickStarter campaign look. But if you’re not entirely sure about converting your old MacBook or buying a $4000 drawing tablet you might want to give a look to the Wacom Cintiq companion. Read my review on this product 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.

Getting a Critique: When to Listen, When to Move On

Since it’s back to school time for many of us, I thought I’d focus on an old-school aspect of the illustrator’s journey: the critique. We all get them (if we’re smart) but how do we know what to listen to? I know seasoned illustrators who still ask this question. Over the years I’ve queried various illustrators about when they know how to listen and I’ve gotten many of the same answers.

Here’s when you tune in with all ears… and more than a grain of salt:

• When it’s someone in the position to move your career up a notch and you respect their opinion. That seems like a no brainer but notice I said AND. We often listen to one or the other. If it’s someone you respect but they don’t understand the particular industry you are approaching, then they may not be in the best position to offer advice. Likewise for someone who buys art… you may change your piece to fit their expectations but what if your long term goal is illustrating in a different field?

• When more than one person has mentioned the exact same problem, especially if it’s someone you trust, then it’s worth listening to.

• When the critique mentions a problem you already suspected was there in your heart of hearts….. you should listen, you were probably correct when you worried about it the first time.

• When it points out a way to get more story into the illustration, and it’s the story  - the intent of the piece – you are trying to tell, then listen.

Here’s when you consider smiling and saying, “thanks, I’ll think about it.”

• When the advice seems in conflict with the story you are trying to tell. Like my last bullet, this is also a toughie and demands that you be completely objective about your own work. Are you sure of the story?

• When the critique seems more like a commentary on someone else’s taste. Just because a very respected and highly competent art buyer likes blue doesn’t mean you have to add it to the image IF it goes against the story you were trying to tell.

• When the critique comes from someone outside your particular illustration industry, even if you respect them. This is also a toughie because it’s possible they have sound advice. But before you listen make sure you are educated about the standards in your field. It’s possible that you can bend their advice to work for you.  If, like myself, you are both an illustrator and a writer then that goes double. Some of the best critiques I’ve heard actually came from writers who were adept at thinking visually.

To paraphrase a comment from agent Michael Bourret about writers and editors: “sometimes the worst mistake is to do exactly what the editor asked for… instead of looking for the real problem.” And when it comes to critiques from buyers you are trying to impress but who have rejected the work,  Jane Yolen said it very well in her interview on 12 x 12 earlier this year: “Just because someone offers you a free critique on work they ultimately don’t want, they aren’t taking it! Sometimes it’s just better to forget those.” While it can be hard to get good constructive critiques and equally hard to listen to the criticism, the only way to become good at it is to seek them out regularly. Similar to learning perspective or how to draw the figure, practice is what develops the artists’ ability to receive – and to give – great critiques.

About the author

  • Mary Reaves UhlesMARY REAVES UHLESContributor

    Mary Reaves Uhles has created award winning illustrations in books and magazines for clients such as Cricket Magazine Group, McGraw Hill, Magic Wagon, and Thomas Nelson. Before beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. A PAL member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mary calls Nashville home and spends her free time behind the wheel of the family mini van.

More Life with Subsurface Scattering

Subsurface scattering (SSS) is the phenomenon when light enters a translucent material and upon entering it the light scatters inside the material before either being absorbed or leaving the material at a different location. I know this sounds like a hard idea to grasp but it’s a good concept to keep in the back of your mind when painting skin or other translucent materials.

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Subsurface scattering is mostly used in 3D applications, but I apply it when illustrating organic characters such as people. Adding a red tint to parts of the character such as the fingertips, nostrils, and ears really brings a character to life. SSS occurs most often when three conditions are met: translucent flesh, thin forms, and backlighting. Any organic surface where the light doesn’t have to travel very far to emerge out the other side is where this phenomenon occurs. Why do you add this additional color to these areas? Because of SSS many organic and inorganic materials are not totally opaque at the surface, so light does not just bounce off the top of there surfaces like it would in say a material like metal. Opaque materials allow light to enter the surface and once inside the light scatters around. As the light scatters around it takes on the color of whatever is inside the material. Finally, the light emerges out at a different location, but it projects a hint of the color of what is on the inside. For example, human skin is opaque. Blood is trapped within the skin. The light enters the skin. Then the light enters the blood and emerges out the other side with a reddish tint. A great example of SSS, hold up your hand in a dark room and using a flashlight shine the light back through your hand and watch how the light travels through your skin and gets scattered, taking on a reddish color.

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Subsurface scattering not only occurs with skin but other surfaces like the skin of fruits, leafs, marble, milk and gels. Without knowledge of SSS photo-realism really cannot be achieved so next time you’re drawing keep in mind the principles of subsurface scattering and watch how your characters are brought to life.

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.