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Guest Post – How to Make Custom Magnets

Aja drops by today to let us know how she creates one of her more popular promotional items, a magnet that features her artwork. So dig in and learn her technique and find ways to incorporate it into your own marketing plans for the future. To see more of Aja’s work follow this link to her website.

When I prepared to attend my first SCBWI conference a few years back, I wanted to leave a take-away item that was more inspired than a postcard. While browsing my local craft store, I found some printable magnet paper. Excited, I bought a few pieces and made a print.

However, I quickly discovered that the actual paper quality was roughly equivalent to regular printer paper, and so the magnets looked dull and very home made. So, I returned to my local craft store and I found this:

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Adhesive backed magnet! For a 13 by 24 sheet of rolled adhesive magnet, the general cost is about 9 dollars, but can be found cheaper online. Now all you need to do, is lay out your design on a 13 by 19 inch (or a few 8 1/2 by 11 sheets) high quality paper. I prefer using luster paper, but for this project I used professional quality matte paper. Be sure to put your designs close together to maximize the amount of magnets you can produce. 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.

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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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Guest Post-Will Terry- How Many Sketches Should You Send In?

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Today we feature a great article from Will Terry in regards to how many sketches to send. No he isn’t going to give you a number if that’s what you are looking for. He stresses the importance of sending ideas that you would enjoy painting. I for one can tell you that if you send a sketch to a client that you really don’t like, nine times out of ten THAT will be the sketch they pick and now you’re miserable while executing it. Lesson learned!

Enjoy the article!

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Back in my editorial days I was always coached to send in multiple sketches and ideas for the art director to choose from. Now that I’m a children’s book illustrator I’ve come to realize that sending in multiple sketches for one page is not often the best policy. The reason: I always like one better than the other(s) and often the editor or art director will pick the one I like the least. Then it’s a let down having to paint an image I’m not as happy with.

I just created the image above for a new book I’m working on “There Once Was a Cowpoke who swallowed an ant” by Helen Ketteman (Albert Whitman). My working process is to send in rough sketches for the direction I’m thinking of. Then I get feedback from the art director and editor. My goal is to make myself happy and then see if the team likes it. If they do then I move to a final drawing refining details and making any alterations asked for by the team.

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Sometimes they don’t like the direction at all and ask for a new idea -offering their suggestions. I love working this way. I’ve taken the time to explore many thumbnail sketches and ideas and I don’t want to share my rejected ideas just to offer more choice. Sometimes more choice just offers more confusion. Ever tried to order at restaurant with 100 menu items? You feel overwhelmed and start to think you’re going to miss something really good – so you spend more time reading the menu rather than visiting with the people you went to have a meal with.

I’m a big believer in working hard to develop a sketch you can’t wait to paint and then working with it until you and your team come to a consensus. I’ve taken the time to do a lot of editing in my development process and I choose NOT to share that with the creative team at the publisher.

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Original post is here. Be sure to visit Will Terry’s blog for more wonderful posts and information!

Words of Wisdom-Will Terry-Advice for Illustrators

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Will Terry is a ridiculously huge attribute to the Children’s Illustration market. He continues to go out of his way to help others within our community and answer questions that up and coming illustrators have about our industry. In the following video he answers a number of questions he’s received from illustrators. So sit back, relax and enjoy. You are sure to learn something new!
Original post here.

To Art School or Not to Art School

I recently ran across an article by Noah Bradley, which makes the bold statement, “Don’t go to Art School!”  This seems to be a constant argument among young up and coming and established artists.  Citing issues like art school being more expensive than an Ivy league education and the lack of jobs available period after college. Let alone ones that could possibly pay back in a way that is worth that kind of financial investment. You aren’t getting a law degree or becoming a Doctor.

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So what do you folks think? Is Art School worth it for those who did attend?  For those who didn’t, are you glad of that? If you had to do it over what would you choose today?

Below is an excerpt from the article and a link to the original post.

Let us know your thoughts.

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Don’t go to art school

The traditional approach is failing us. It’s time for a change.

I’ve had it.

I will no longer encourage aspiring artists to attend art school. I just won’t do it. Unless you’re given a full ride scholarship (or have parents with money to burn), attending art school is a waste of your money.

I have a diploma from the best public art school in the nation. Prior to that I attended the best private art school in the nation. I’m not some flaky, disgruntled art graduate, either. I have a quite successful career, thankyouverymuch.

But I am saddened and ashamed at art schools and their blatant exploitation of students. Graduates are woefully ill-prepared for the realities of being professional artists and racked with obscene amounts of debt. By their own estimation, the cost of a four year education at RISD is $245,816. As way of comparison, the cost of a diploma from Harvard Law School is a mere $236,100.

This is embarrassing. It’s downright shameful. That any art school should deceive its students into believing that this is a smart decision is cruel and unusual.

Artists are neither doctors nor lawyers. We do not, on average, make huge six-figure salaries. We can make livable salaries, certainly. Even comfortable salaries. But we ain’t usually making a quarter mil a year. Hate to break it to you. An online debt repayment calculator recommended a salary exceeding $400,000 in order to pay off a RISD education within 10 years.

Don’t do it.

Don’t start your career with debilitating debt.

Please. I beg you. Think long and hard whether you’re willing to pay student loan companies $3000 every single month for the next 10 years.

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You’ve got other options.

You don’t have to go to college to be an artist. Not once have I needed my diploma to get a job. Nobody cares. The education is all that matters. The work that you produce should be your sole concern.

There are excellent atelier schools all over the world that offer superior education for a mere fraction of the price. Here are a few:

Click here for the remainder of the article.

Guest Post-Mary Reaves Uhles-How To Catch a Ladybug

This week we have a guest post from Children’s Illustrator Mary Reaves Uhles. Mary has been a Children’s Illustrator for well over a decade. She’s been featured in numerous periodicals, magazines and books around the world!

So join us this post as she goes over the process she went through in completing an illustration for Ladybug Magazine. Enjoy!

Find the original post here.

Ladybug Magazine, published by Carus Publications, is one of the most prestigious literary magazines for kids. This is the story of how I got my first illustration with them. Without a doubt, the first step was the hardest one: work very hard for a loooong time to be good enough to catch the attention of the editors and art directors. I mentioned in this post about how long that took for me.

Step Two was just like any other project. It starts with the assignment on my drawing table and a blank sketchbook.

The assignment was for a silly illustration involving a May Day picnic with all kinds of fairy tale characters. Some of the characters would be doing traditional fairy-tale-y things others would be doing zany, silly things for the kids to find and laugh at.

Right away I decided I would knock it out of the park on the silliness. My goal was to put no less than twenty silly things into this 10 x 18 spread.

Here’s what the first sketch I sent looked like:

“Whoa nelly” was the response from Ladybug.

Apparently twenty silly things is a little bit of overkill.

They explained, and this made all the sense in the world, that too much crazy stuff made it hard for young readers to figure out where the punch line is. So I de-sillyed.

Here’s the second sketch I sent:

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Guest Post – Derek Douglas – Working Digitally VS Painting Traditionally

Today we feature a post from Derek Douglas’s Blog. He gives his thoughts on working digitally versus traditionally. Read on to find out which he prefers.

Recently in art group forums I’ve read that some traditionalists claim that children’s books should be done using “real” materials, or at least that’s the way they prefer it. Some don’t care at all. And me? I confess that now I’ve changed over to the dark side of working digitally on a Cintiq drawing tablet and one worse, in Photoshop. Many work this way because there are numerous benefits, but which is better?

I don’t begrudge those traditionalists who say that you have to be really good at digital work to have it stand up against hand drawn artwork, because they’re right in a way. There is a lot of not so great digital artwork out there. And they may also be right when saying that traditional work is more personal because it’s made by human hands. But isn’t drawing on a tablet still drawing? It’s not the computer doing the work for you while you sit back and enjoy a chai latte. I understand the point but none the less, I have traded worry of spilled ink on the carpet for worry of spilled chai latte on the keyboard and ongoing art store trips and costs for just a few, thousand dollar purchases of heavy-duty hardware for initial set up and away I go.

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Guest Post-Will Terry-Children’s Book Publishing In A Nutshell

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Today we feature a post from Will Terry’s Blog that demistifies getting your book published.  The quicker you get to reality, the more realistic your approach will be to breaking in and the more solid your resolve should be.

Will Terry is an accomplished Illustrator and teacher whose work and contributions to the collective intelligence of the Children’s Book illustrator community is monstrous. Don’t believe me, take some time to peruse his blog and multiple videos that deal with multiple issues for up and coming Illustrators.

The original post is here.

I am often asked, “How can I get my story in front of an editor?” I’ve always tried to answer as best I can without spending too much time on any one email – but in order to tell the story I really needed to spend a little more time. Now I’ll be able to send this link!

Teeny tiny fantasy nutshell version:

You write a story – send it to a publisher – they like it – they hire an illustrator – your book is published – you earn enough money to buy a small island – the end.

Regular sized nutshell version:

An author writes a story instead of watching TV, reading a book, or hanging out with friends. He/she submits it to multiple publishers one at a time with a SASE. Rejection letters come one by one over X amount of time and they are kept in a binder by the author for score keeping. If the author is serious he/she is writing and submitting other stories while waiting for the rejection letter on the first story.

If the writer is un-agented the publisher probably won’t open the manuscript – or they will open it and send it right back with a form letter stating that they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. If the writer is agented or if the writer attended an SCBWI conference and received publisher submission stickers to put on the package the interns will open the package, read your story, and decide if they like it..

Interns you ask? What the? Yes – the sheer number of submissions is impractical for editors to go through. The interns are instructed to pass along anything they really like. If yours gets passed up to an editor they might read it…hopefully nobody walks into the editors office, phone doesn’t ring, or coffee isn’t spilled while your story is having it’s big moment with the editor.

If they like it they might do a little research to see if there is anything else out there like it. They don’t want to publish a book that’s just like someone else’s –  unless someone else’s book did really well and then your book is exactly what they’re looking for.  If the research goes well they might contact you via email or phone to ask if you’ve submitted it to any other house. If you answer yes they might pass on it right then and there. The reasons would take many paragraphs to explain but if they love it more than their mother they might still be interested.

They might also pass on it if they don’t have room to publish any more books that year- even if it’s the best manuscript they’ve ever read. They might pass on it if books in your genre aren’t “hot” right now. There are an additional 100 reasons why the editor might love your book but send you a rejection letter. You will probably never know the real reason your manuscript is rejected. Sometimes the editors heart is broken over this.

They might ask you to make changes. This means they REALLY like it. Some unpublished authors are resistant to making these changes. This attitude will help them remain unpublished. If the author makes the changes they might take it to an acquisitions meeting. This is the meeting where the other editors are supposed to figure out reasons why they should NOT publish it. This is a safeguard to prevent dumb stuff from being published – so much for safeguards. If the other editors can’t think of good reasons that your manuscript is bad they might decide to send it to the marketing team. The marketing team is supposed to find better reasons why your book is dumb and why it should not be published. If the sales team can’t come up with any good reasons why your book will sink the company they might invent some. This is where the editors and marketing people fight over your book. This is where you wish you could be a fly on the wall.

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Guest Post-Dani Jones-Advice for New Illustrators and Art School Graduates

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You just graduated from art school. Congratulations! Now what?

There is a lot of ambiguous advice out there like “get your name out there” and “create a portfolio” – but how exactly do you do it? Based on my experience, here are some essential and very specific things I think you should do.

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Draw

1. Create at least five new portfolio pieces.

2. Keep going.

Start making new portfolio pieces right off the bat. No matter how good you think you are coming out of school, chances are you still need to go a bit further to reach pro level. New illustrators suffer from lack of experience and confidence in their art. The only way to get over it is mileage.

For my own portfolio, I had replaced it with almost entirely new work within my first year after graduation. Another year after that, I had done it again.

I haven’t rotated my portfolio as quickly in recent years as I’ve grown in confidence and skill, but I still consider personal projects and portfolio development one of my top priorities. As an illustrator, you will find that creating new work will always be a challenge. It is how you keep your art fresh and aim your future work in the direction you want it to go. It is especially crucial and important in the early stages of your career. Establish this habit now.

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Make a website

1. Buy a domain name.

2. Buy hosting.

3. Design and launch your site.

Your website will be the cornerstone of all the marketing and networking you will do throughout the course of your career. It is the first thing a lot of art directors look for when they come across a piece of art that they like. It is the home of everything you make and do.

I recommend getting your own URL vs. having a blogspot/tumblr/wordpress/etc. address. You can use their services, but get your own name, at least for your main website. You are going to be using this domain throughout your career. Invest in something that is your own. Also, use your name, not some weird nickname or company name.

After you buy a name, you need a host. Think of the host as like the house your website resides, whereas the domain is just the address that directs you to it. You can either buy your own hosting space and upload your own site from scratch or use something like Blogspot or Tumblr that is already pre-made, and attach your domain to it.

Here’s some places you can buy domains and hosting:

(what I use)

Dreamhost

Squarespace

Carbonmade

(You could also use GoDaddy which is popular, but I dislike their commercials and service so much that I’m going to tell you not to.)

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Spreading Your Wings with Ward Jenkins

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Our Spreading Your Wings posts are about looking for other places in the industry that your children’s market style can find a home. Learning to not limit ourselves to thinking that the only place our style can find us work is strictly doing children’s books. That’s simply not true.

In this post award winning children’s book illustrator, Ward Jenkins drops in to shed some light adn show some sketches from his recent foray into co-directing an animated public service announcement for the NBA and NRDC  about going green and recycling. Ward storyboarded the commercial, did layouts, and illustrated some key frames while another studio used Flash to animate the commercial to completion.  I’ll let Ward explain it better.

Enjoy!

NRDC NBA Adds Up PSA – Ward Jenkins/Paul Golden from FFAKE Animation on Vimeo.

It’s been a while since I’d directed anything lately, so it was a welcome pleasure for Paul Golden of Ffake to contact me about co-directing this fun public service announcement for the NBA and NRDC. That’s National Basketball Association (of course) and the National Resources Defense Council – they’re all about going green and recycling, etc. The PSA was a simple walk through of all the ways that the NBA has been working with the NRDC to make sure the league is going green – mostly through the basketball arenas and facilities.

Paul wanted to emulate the look and feel of M. Sasek and his “This Is…” children’s book series, and I – of course, couldn’t say no to that. It was quite a fun adventure working on this spot. Below are some of the first sketches I did of the NBA player and the NRDC scientist guy: Sketches 1 Sketches 2 Sketches 3

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