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As You Wish…

Happy 2014, everyone!  It’s that time of year again.  That time when we all resolve with great intention to organize the house/lose the weight/run that marathon/kick that bad habit/save up for that thing we’ve been wanting……and a few months later lose motivation because we just don’t seem to be getting anywhere.  The same can be said for the business of children’s illustration. An artist can jump into the industry with the best of hopes, but become discouraged when those hopes don’t become reality.

So, how can we illustrators push our art and our careers to the next level in ways that yield results?  It comes down to setting the right goals.  Goals such as “I will get published this year” or “I will get that trade book” or “I will win that award” aren’t goals that we can actually do anything about.  We can’t make our favorite publishers hire us, and we can’t make that committee give us that award.  However, we can set realistic goals for ourselves that can make our art more competitive in the marketplace.  I recommend identifying 2-3 goals for your ARTWORK, and 2-3 goals for your BUSINESS.

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Your Artwork
We’ve all done it.  We’ve gone into libraries and book stores, browsed the shelves of new children’s books, and sighed, “I wish my art was as good as insert-name-of-fabulous-artist-here.”  In fact, most of us have several illustrators that we admire, usually for different reasons.  This is informative! We can look at the artists that inspire us, evaluate our own portfolios, and make a wish list.

  • I wish my art had more energy.
  • I wish my art had more texture.
  • I wish I knew how to use color to create mood more effectively.
  • I wish my artwork had such great form and lighting.
  • I wish my characters had more expression.
  • I wish my art captured movement.
  • I wish I was more intentional about selecting unique settings for my pieces.
  • I wish I was more effective at capturing culture in my art.
  • I wish my characters felt more memorable.

The list could go on and on.  Make a wish list, and then pick 2 or three things that to commit to working on this year.  Write them down!  Post them above your work space!  Then, every single time you create a piece of artwork, reference those goals.  If you look at your working illustration and aren’t seeing those goals being manifested, then hone in on those aspects of the piece and push them.  It may feel awkward and even frustrating at first, but soon, addressing those goals will become a natural part of your creating process, and month by month you will be able to see and be encouraged by results as your portfolio becomes stronger.

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A few identifiable goals can give us direction this year as we try to build portfolios that reflect the type of artwork that we want to be able to offer our potential clients.  What if we aren’t sure what about our artwork needs to evolve?  Getting honest critiques from fellow artists, agents, art directors and other industry professionals can help us identify what needs work….which brings us to our next set of goals…..

Your Business
This wish list will probably vary depending upon if you are just starting out in the children’s illustration market or if you have been in the industry for a while and looking to take your career to the next level, and will of course vary depending on what you personally envision for your illustration business.  Here are some business-related questions we can ask ourselves to help us identify attainable goals.  Do I need to become more familiar with the children’s illustration industry?  Do I  feel like my marketing efforts are paying off?  Am I published in the markets that I am interested in?  Am I able to execute my artwork on a predictable timeline?  Is my business’s expense budget sufficient to allow me to invest into the business?  Do I know enough about taxes to be able to make wise investments in your business?  Are there marketing strategies that I have not tapped into that could yield results for my business?  Do I have a network of artists and other industry professionals?  Depending on our answers, here are some examples of goals that we may want to consider setting for our business:

  • Join a society of professional illustrations and be active in that society.
  • Attend 2 professional conferences or classes this year.
  • Get my portfolio reviewed by active industry professionals.
  • Invest in equipment that will allow me to make the most of my time in the studio.
  • Seek out art representation to break into new markets.
  • Start a blog.
  • Send promotional postcards to a targeted group of potential clients every 4 months.
  • Start or join an online critique group using social media.

When we own our own businesses, we are responsible to take initiative for our own professional development.  By focusing on a few goals each year that we can personally achieve, we can evolve as artists and professionals, and can make ourselves more relevant in the industry and more attractive to new clients and markets.  Good luck to all, and happy 2014!

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