Monthly Archives: February 2014

Launch Report – PACT


Last year I supported a Indiegogo campaign for a project called Art PACT. PACT stands for professional artist client toolkit. PACT is a tool to help freelance fantasy, sci-fi, and comic book illustrators negotiate a better living wage for themselves. On Thursday the site when live and I thought I would give a quick update on what the site offers at launch. You will hear me say this several times, but I’m sure the content on this site is going to continue to grow. At the beginning of every site content is limited because they are still continuing to produce it. So please keep that in mind as you read this that I’m writing this on day four of the sites launch.
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Make it Work

I recently finished this new promo piece. This illustration will be included in the next promotional catalog put out by MBArtists.

The illustration was inspired by my son, who happens to be obsessed with trains at the moment. I wanted to share my process with everyone, so please follow along as I go from the initial sketch to the final illustration;


With any illustration, I started with the sketch.  This was done in Photoshop. At this point, I was still not completely satisfied with the background or the foreground elements. Typically, if this was for a client, I would make sure to resolve everything before moving on…however, since I was essentially doing this for my own indulgence, I decided to plow ahead and see where things would take me. One of the luxuries to being your own art director is that you get to explore and react to a piece as you are developing it. 

But before I moved onto colors, I duplicated my sketch layer. One layer, I left at the very top of my layer stack, this will be left invisible and set to multiply. This layer would only be turned on if I needed to refer to my sketch later on as I rendered. My second layer was put at the very bottom of my stack.With any illustration, I started off with the sketch. This was done in Photoshop. At this point, I was still not completely satisfied with the background or the foreground elements. Continue reading

Guest Post – How To Find Freelance Illustration Work – Part One

Unless you’re already a well-known illustrator it can be tough to find work that allows you to earn a living, even with a solid portfolio and professional attitude – in this article I’m going to assume you already have those basics covered. Promoting ourselves is something we need to learn the same way we learn to draw: with a lot of trial and error attempts because no single way works for everyone. There is no clear path to become established. There are, however, a few basic approaches that everyone can rely on.

There are two ways to get illustration jobs: Those that find and contact you (passive) and those that you find and contact (active).

In this first part I’ll talk about how potential clients can discover you. Later, I’ll publish Part Two which will be about the reverse: how you can actively seek out and contact potential clients.

How to make potential clients find and contact you

Pave the way
It goes without saying that your work should be present both online in your own professional looking website or blog, as well as printed in good quality for portfolio reviews at conventions or meetings with clients.


Since internet users have the shortest attention span of any species, it is especially important that they’re able to contact you instantly. Have your e-mail address, a link to your e-mail form, or a contact form on every page of your online portfolio. Make sure that visitors can get straight to viewing your work, ideally with less than one click, and that your online gallery is easy to leaf through, without any brain effort. Your website design should be simple, too. Look at it on different devices: old and new Windows and Mac systems, smartphones and tablets, to make sure it looks good on them all.

To make your website easier to find for the search engines, make sure it’s HTML-based (no Flash!) thus easy to read for search engine crawlers. If you’re new to this, look up SEO basics on how to optimize your site for Google and others. Ideally your template comes with a preinstalled SEO gadget that makes things even simpler.

If you’re using a predesigned theme or template, make sure the code is clean (some free WordPress templates have been discovered to have malicious code!)

Offline, get into the habit of carrying your business card with you at all times – you never know whom you’re going to meet. I keep them in my handbag in a small, lightweight business card case.

In my physical portfolio, a leatherbound A4 sized book with clear bags, I put A4 prints of my work that I order from an online photo service since they offer the best quality A4 prints at the lowest prices.

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Streamline your Workflow with Manga Studio Story Editor

I think it’s fair to say we’re all looking for ways to be more productive. We want to make our workflow as streamlined as possible so we can get more done in a day. Well, if you do any comic or graphic novel work and have yet to try out the Story Editor in Manga Studio, you may want to read this mini review – it could help improve your workflow and increase your productivity.

While working on my current graphic novel, I decided to try the Story Editor in Manga Studio EX 4 to see if it could help me save time and make the whole process easier.

One of the main benefits I’ve found in using the Story Editor is that it’s helped me focus more on working out the flow and pacing of the story and less time managing different files. I can quickly lay out my rough sketch pages, add in dialogue, and move pages or scenes around to fine tune the flow and pacing of the story – all from one application.

The Story Editor – Overview

When creating a new file in Manga Studio, you have the option of creating either a page or a story. Basically, a story is a file that groups all of your individual pages together in one place (think Adobe Bridge but with a lot more functionality). With the Story Editor you can easily write or import all your dialogue, view and edit all your pages, make global changes to dialogue or font styles, and export your pages to individual files or as a PDF (great for creating a book dummy).

Creating a new story

When creating a new story file you are presented with a window where you can set the dimensions of all the pages (you can set your own or choose from a number of templates), margin guides, output resolution, and indicate the number of pages you would like to set up for your story. You are also given the option to add some footer information to all of your pages (title, copyright info, and position of page numbering). All of these settings can easily be changed later if you need to adjust things.

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Free, User friendly, 3D Software, and it’s Great for Artists

Do you know about SketchUp? It can be a really handy tool for artists. SketchUp is a free 3-D modeling program simplified so that almost anyone can use it.


Most 3-D software is very complex to use where as SketchUp was designed to be accessible by anyone. This software is available in both free and professional versions. As well as being very easy to use, SketchUp also offers a 3-D warehouse where users have uploaded 3D objects like windows, cars, trees, buildings, and a plethora of other objects.


Example from comic artist Leinil Francis Yu, using Google Sketch Up to create the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange and then integrate it into his drawing.

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Manage Your Business Better With Financial Foreplay

Here’s what my work to-do list looks like for this week:
Aaah look at all that creativity, sketches due, finals to work on, a picture book idea to re-write… wait whats that at the bottom? Work on taxes?? (sound of needle screeching on record)

TAX stuff?? bluugh


Taxes are something that most people, but especially creative people, shudder about. When I polled several artist friends most admitted to just shoving a bag full of receipts at their accountant. Fellow Once Upon A Sketch contributor Kevin Cross put it bluntly “not everything in this job is butterflies and rainbows.” As a small studio owner you have to do it all, from creating the work to cleaning the coffee maker. Watching income and expenses is just another part of that job. Just like you wouldn’t clean the coffee maker once a year (well you shouldn’t do that,) you also shouldn’t wait til the end of the year to get a clear snapshot of your studio’s financial picture. But many creatives, especially those starting out, are not sure where to start or where to get answers. So I sat down with Laurel Green, principal at Greenbooks, a bookkeeping agency that works exclusively with visionary and creative small businesses, to ask a few questions about tax basics for creatives. She shared her answers below… and even made it sound fun with Financial Foreplay:
OUaS: What are the three absolute must-haves or must-dos that any creative should keep in mind when it comes to preparing for tax time? 

LG: First, find a knowledgeable and reliable CPA or Certified Tax Preparer who works with clients in your creative field. Do not use a preparer who is not registered with the IRS or received a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Ask friends and colleagues for referrals.

Second, maintain separate accounts. According to IRS Small Business officials, the tax agency is turning its attention to “flow-through entities,” which includes S corporations and sole proprietorships. This means they’ll be on the lookout for business owners who try to deduct the same expenses on different filings. If you haven’t done so already, get a business checking account to match your personal accounts and separate all transactions. It can reduce the chance of an audit.

Third, save every tax form that arrives in your mailbox. Being organized will reduce stress, save time and money, and ensure that you get all entitled deductions. 

OUaS: What is the biggest mistake you have seen or know of creative people making when preparing for taxes? How can it be rectified?

LG: Don’t wait until the last minute. Nothing is more frustrating than searching for everything you need when the tax return is due in a couple of days.

The biggest mistake a creative person (any person) can make is bringing a shoe box or manila envelope crammed with receipts to a CPA or Tax Preparer and paying them to organize it for you. 

Motivate yourself to sort through your receipts with what I call Financial Foreplay. Pour a glass of wine, light a candle, and dump those receipts on a bed. Organize your records by month, separating them into two categories: income and expenses. Then sort them by type. For example, under the expense category you might have advertising, office supplies, utilities, labor, and taxes to name a few. The more detailed your information is the less time your tax preparer will spend decoding information.  Continue reading

Which Free Online Portfolio Websites is right for you?

Having an online portfolio is a necessity these days to be an artist. An online presence is as important as the artwork you display on it. Artists must promote their work in as many places as possible to gain exposure and attract as many clients as possible. If you don’t have a portfolio up on the internet yet here are several free options to choose from so you can get your artwork up and getting viewers.


Launched in 2006, the Behance network is not only a portfolio site but also a social network where you can follow and connect with other creatives. It’s like LinkedIn with a portfolio element and strictly for creatives. The site is now owned by Adobe, so if you use any of their tools they are integrated into the Behance site. To me it seems like Adobe has put in a lot of work into the site because it is beautifully designed and easy to use. They have made It easy to keep up with other artists and the projects they’re working on. It’s as simple as finding an artist you like, clicking the follow button, and now you’re seeing other artists work. Likewise they can follow you. Continue reading