Monthly Archives: December 2012

Guest Post-Will Terry-How much do you charge for an Illustration?

How much should I charge is a constant question we hear from many.  It can be the worse part of getting a job offer.  Having to negotiate the price you place on a job in fear of charging too much or too little can be nerve wrecking.

We’ve put up a couple of posts about how to figure out what you should charge for work and even noted a free app that takes a number of factors into effect when coming up with an hourly rate for you individually. (We’ve even listed the book Will doesn’t like in his video as an Essential Read!)  Will has a great new video up where he discusses how he goes about pricing and the number of factors that go into him making the choices he does.

He passes on a lot of wonderful advice and I hope you all listen and pay close attention.  He is always passing on wisdom and great info to his peers!

I’ve been wanting to make this video for quite sometime. I get asked all the time by students, people at conferences, and visitors to my blog – how should I price my work? In this video I share my opinions about figuring out exactly how much to charge and how it can vary depending on many factors that are happening in your life. I realize it’s a bit lengthy but I didn’t want to leave stones unturned. I wanted to have a detailed answer that I can email out whenever I get asked this question in the future.

If you’ve even wondered how much to ask for on an art project I hope my ideas help you.

For more great posts and info from Will be sure to visit his website or blog!!

Happy Holidays from us to you!!


We wish the best to all of you at this time of the year when we celebrate and reflect on family, our hopes, dreams and emotions.

We wont be posting for the next week but will be back on December 31st.

Enjoy your holiday and remember to keep a sketchbook close by!! Who knows when the inspiration bug will strike.

Ezra Jack Keats Foundation New Illustrator Award-Deadline Approaching!!

Ezra Keats New Illustrator Award

This award, made possible through the generous support of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, will be given for distinguished artwork that creatively and skillfully embodies the essence of the story or text. The award will be given for illustration of a picture book that is rendered in the tradition of Ezra Jack Keats that:

  • Highlights the universal qualities of childhood and the strength of the family
  • Reflects the multicultural nature of our world
  • Unifies illustrations and text (if present)
  • Avoids stereotypes
  • Is respectful of the child’s intelligence, sensitivity, curiosity and love of learning

The illustrations:
Demonstrate excellent command of the chosen medium
Display freshness and originality in style and/or form of artistic expression

The intent of the New Illustrator Award is to identify and encourage early talent. To be eligible the illustrator will have no more than three children’s books previously published.
Books that have not already received awards will be given preference.
No books by committee members or their immediate families will be considered.

To be eligible books must have a 2012 copyright date. Entries may be sent at any time during the year prior to the deadline of December 31, 2012.

A cash award of $1,000 coupled with the esteemed Ezra Jack Keats medallion inscribed with the recipient’s name will be presented to the winning author at the Keats Awards Celebration. The celebration will be held at the University of Southern Mississippi, 118 College Dr., Hattiesburg, MS 39406. Further, a handsome gold seal with the image of Peter in a red snow suit from The Snowy Day is available to the publisher to affix to copies of the book. The Foundation expects that the winning book will carry the seal.

The publishers are asked to:

  • Be sure the books submitted meet the above criteria
  • Ensure and underwrite the appearance of the winning illustrator at the award presentation, along with the editor and publishing house representative
  • Agree to display the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award seal on the winning book
  • Send a copy of each entry to all of the members of the committee

Send a copy of each entry to all of the members of the committee(Please email either or Isaac.Hudgins@usm.edufor a list of the committee members and their addresses)Deadline for entries will be December 31, 2012. Selection will take place in February 2013. The award presentation will be in April 2013.

Guest Post-Donald Wu – What to put in your Children’s Book Portfolio


Our guest post today comes from established Children’s Book Artist Donald Wu.  Don is a San Francisco Bay resident with a huge portfolio of success under his arm that includes more than ten published books to date. If anyone can tell you what it takes to be successful and stay successful it’s him! So please join us as Donald helps to walk you through putting together the most important  tool you’ll need to establish yourself and start getting work, your portfolio!

Every now and again, I get asked the question, “What should I put in my portfolio?”.  So, I wanted to take a moment and share some tips and suggestions you might consider when putting together an illustration portfolio. Specifically, a portfolio of illustrations catering to children’s publishing; although websites and social media play an ever-increasing role in promoting your work, having a physical portfolio will still come in handy the next time you attend a nearby illustration conference or if you find yourself lucky enough to be given some face time with an art director. So let’s get started…

First off, let’s get the basics out of the way; a typical portfolio should contain anywhere from 12 to 15 images, bound in a nice, clean, and simple, 8″ x 11″ portfolio. The thing to remember is this: showcase work and talent, so the portfolio itself should NOT distract or compete with the artwork. So rule of thumb …keep it simple! Be sure to include pocket at the back of the portfolio with postcards and/or business card for someone to take.

Now for the most important parts of any portfolio, the ARTWORK! Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Order & Pacing: Typically, a portfolio should open with a sample of your best work! The point of this is pretty obvious, you want to WOW your viewer and grab their attention right from the start. Once you have it, it’s a matter of sustaining that interest throughout the entire portfolio. To achieve this, you want to space your artwork out evenly and build a rhythm between some of your good/solid pieces and some great/better pieces. And to end it on a high note, you’ll want to include another one of your best illustrations. Ideally, this will leave them with a lasting impression of your work, or even better still, leave them wanting more!Below is a quick diagram to better illustrate this. One thing you will notice is that depending on the quality and the number of pieces in your portfolio, as well as the fact that you will be constantly update your portfolio, we will have some variations, but the basic structure should still be followed.
  • Consistency of Quality: Your portfolio is only as good as it’s weakest piece. So if you have an illustration that you are not sure about, it’s best to leave it out. To a potential client, a weak piece will also have the potential of leaving a lasting impression, but for all the wrong reasons. Your portfolio should only contain your best work, so in some cases, less is more. So remember, even if it means a thinner portfolio, only include work that you are actually proud to show off.
  • Consistency of Style: Along with demonstrating a consistent quality of work, you also want to define a consistent style in your art as well. A big mistake you can make is filling your portfolio with work in several different styles and techniques. Below are several scenarios someone might decide to do this with their portfolio. In each case, first, I’ll give the rationale behind these choices followed by reasons why you shouldn’t.
    1. By showing a wide range of styles, there is a belief that you are showing the art directors that you are versatile and capable of handling multiple mediums and styles. Instead, what ends up happening is that you’ll leave them thinking, “What kind of art will I expect if I hire you?” And this is not what is desired.   
    2. By including a portfolio with different styles, you are hoping this will help you land more jobs because you are in essence casting a wider net. Unfortunately, the downside of this is that you are also diluting your portfolio in the process. So instead of having a full portfolio of 12 solid pieces highlighting your individual style, you are only able to show potential clients 4 or 5 pieces. This will make it more difficult for them to accurately assess your skills and make them reluctant to hire you.
    3. Let’s face it, sometimes you just need a filler. You might run into a case of simply not having the number of illustrations to fill up your portfolio. So you decide to round out the 12 pieces with an illustration that’s different just to bulk up your numbers. The thing to remember is that any capable art director will see right through this as well, which will lead to them to question your experience. And just as bad, this misplaced illustration will stick out like a sore thumb and disrupt the flow to the rest of your portfolio.

    At the end of the day, the person looking at your art needs to be able to associate your name with your work. So the clearer and simpler you make it for them and yourself, the better.

Continue reading

Digital Drawing Reference Faves

I am always looking for great tutorials that can help me in my quest to improve on my anatomy, facial expressions, body language, etc. So I thought I would pilfer through my reference sources to pass on a couple that I like!

Concept Cookie has a couple that I think are fairly well done for breaking down components of the face.

First is there nose tutorial which can be downloaded here.

Second is there eye tutorial which can be downloaded here.

Third is Tracy Butler, creator of  Lackadaisy Cats an online comic that is phenomenally well drawn and executed! She has a number of great tutorials but the one I’ll highlight today is the one on facial expressions. Great resource and very visually pleasing! You can download this in full size here!


No Coding Needed for That App, Adobe is Here to Help

For all those illustrators and designers out there that want to do publishing for the iPad but not write a line of code, Adobe is here to help, kind of. Earlier this year Adobe announced that it’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) is now part of the Creative Cloud software collection.

Using DPS, illustrators and designers can mock up their projects in Adobe InDesign CS6 and then build a .folio file that can then be taken into the DPS App Builder, where then the app will be compiled. For the PC user out there, sorry, this app is heavily Mac-oriented because iOS apps can only be created on Apple computers (I’m guessing). This diagram shows how Adobe InDesign CS6 works with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to provide an integrated workflow for publishing content to the iPad.

This updated version includes a streamlined workflow, quick testing between desktop and tablet with Adobe’s iPad app, easy optimization for both the standard and Retina iPad screens, and apps can be updated after being approved for the Apple App Store.

This is Adobe’s latest push to encourage users to migrate from software licenses to the subscription model. Adobe has built in a huge advantage for Creative Cloud subscribers by letting them build an unlimited number of apps for Apple’s App Store for the regular Creative Cloud subscription price of $50 per month. In contrast, InDesign users who are not subscribed to Creative Cloud must pay the usual $395 fee per iPad app. You read that right. Use Creative Cloud and its free to submit your app using DPS, but if you only have Adobe InDesign CS6 it will cost you $395 per app. Wow!

A quick side note. I feel like I’ve been beating on Adobe a lot lately and I feel like an Adobe hater, but thats not the case. I use their products everyday and I really enjoy them. We are just in a transitional phase where adobe is moving their products to the “Cloud” and I’m not sure if I’m happy about it. Ask me again in 3 years.

Read the full press release after the break. Continue reading

Shaun Tan’s Advice for New Illustrators

Shaun Tan is an acclaimed Children’s Book writer, Illustrator and ACADEMY AWARD winner for Best Animated Short for his film, The Lost Thing.  He has also been a concept artist for films like Horton Hears a Who and Wall-E.

With such an enormous talent and many prestigious awards under his belt I take great pleasure in presenting some of his words of wisdom for new Illustrators here on our site for your enjoyment and fuel for your creativity and drive to succeed in this industry.  Keep learning and getting better everyday!!

You can check out the full Animated Short of the Academy Award winning, The Lost Thing at the end of the post.

Original article found here

Advice for a New Illustrator

Illustration is a very diverse and scattered profession, a practice that takes many forms, sometimes even hard to define, and it’s very unlikely that the careers of any two illustrators are alike. It’s mostly freelance work where an illustrator moves from one opportunity to the next, often in an unpredictable way week to week and certainly unpredictable throughout a working lifetime. If nothing else, markets, technology, culture, personal skills and interests will change and develop all the time. That’s the first thing to be aware of, especially when either giving or receiving specific advice – every artist’s experience and circumstance is different. The most I can do it reflect on general principles gleaned from my own successes and failures over the years, tips that might be relatively universal, useful and, I hope, encouraging.

Challenge yourself

Perhaps the first and most important tip is one that applies to all work: enjoy what you do, to the extent that it is a pleasure to go beyond the call of duty. Creating work that is more than sufficient, that exceeds expectations and even the demands of the client, has always been something that I’ve not only tried to do but learned to enjoy doing. I rarely consider any job “run-of-the-mill” or just “bread-and-butter” if I can help it. Given time and energy (admittedly not always available!) I like to treat every creative task as a unique experiment, and don’t always go for the easiest solution, or the one most dependent on existing skills. Every piece of work should involve an element of innovation or novel difficulty. This is what I’ve come to understand as “doing your best”: it’s really about trying to do a little better than your best. I’ve always been surprised at the results, and that in turn has fed my self-confidence as an illustrator. And, it’s also fun of course to keep doing different things, for our reach to exceed our grasp, something we know from our earliest childhood scribbles.

It also explains my success as a creator of picture books. When I first entered the genre, I was very interested in challenging both myself and this the narrative form rather than executing good, safe and “appropriate” illustrations according to an agreed fee or royalty.

I was inspired by other artists and writers with similar intentions, creating artistic problems for themselves, and investing seemingly unnecessary hours for very little pay, sometimes reaching only a small audience, in a genre that’s often critically overlooked and sometimes disrespected (true also of SF illustration from a mainstream viewpoint). That didn’t matter: what most concerned me was the opportunity for some experimentation that may not have been possible at the bigger commercial end of the spectrum, where higher pay usually equals less creative freedom. For the same reason, I devoted most of my energy and passion early in my career to small-press science fiction, because it offered the best opportunity for artistic development, weird visual challenges, and ultimately came to be the place where could I fine-tuned my practical and conceptual skills as an illustrator in the absence of formal training. Making almost no money, mind you, although it’s paid off in the long run: I’ve learned to be patient and stick with it!

So it’s very important to pursue personally challenging work, and small jobs can be just as significant as high profile ones for that reason. Although people are often impressed by an association with high-profile projects (especially film) perhaps my most significant achievements are modest landscapes and portraits painted in my parents’ garage during my early twenties, work which remains unexhibited and unpublished. I still enjoy creating paintings that have no commercial concern or public dimension: I think it’s very important to have this stream of work alongside commercial practice, a separate stream – again, it’s all about strong personal development. A good artist is (I think) an eternal student, and even when most confident, never feels like a master. They are forever pottering in their backyard spaces, trying to explore their craft with modest integrity. That’s how unusual and original work emerges, not by chasing markets or fashionable movements, or wanting to be conventionally successful.

Continue reading

Gift suggestions for the illustrator in your life

From gadgets to gear we try to cover what the illustrator in your life is going to want this holiday season. From the practical to the impractical I’m sure you can find something on this list whether you’re buying for yourself or a loved one. Let’s start with the practical gifts first.

Pencil – $14.25
Every illustrator needs a great pencil and Alvin Draft Matic Mechanical Pencils is my favorite. The size I personally draw with is 0.5mm, but each artist has their own tastes.

Sketchbook – $12.00
You can never go wrong with a simple sketchbook with some nice high quality, acid-free paper in it. Every creative person loves to have a nice sketchbook that they can pull out whenever inspiration hits. Continue reading

Other Podcasts you should be listening to-Drawn Today

While we love that our readers listen to and enjoy our podcasts, in no way shape or form are we the only game in town. There are many other groups of Illustrators who make it a point to share their experiences and information with their peers.

One such podcast is DrawnToday. I want to initiate you into this podcast by tying it to another post of ours. I recently posted a brochure called “How to Commission an Illustration” by Randy Gallegos. The DrawnToday podcast that I highlight features Randy and other Illustrators at the Illuxcon convention as they brainstorm with audience members and industry professionals on ideas of how to improve our experience as artists within the industry. They brainstorm on ways to hold publishers accountable in their practices and prices that have changed very little in the past ten plus years.


This episode of the DrawnToday Podcast features Mike Sass and Aaron Miller along with illustrators such as Jim Pavelec and Todd Lockwood during a panel discussion at this year’s Illuxcon symposium.  In a discussion that has a direct bearing on each and every working illustrator and illustration student, the panel member’s discuss payment rates, online client review ideas and plan to create an online resource for uniting illustrators to help increase reasonable working rates and to create the best possible product for clients.

Listen to the podcast here!

Go to the Webpage here!

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