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Blog Post to Audio File

Yesterday, I found something great using my Mac. I normally find many great articles online about how to improve my art – Everything from how to better market myself to a new trick in Photoshop. The problem is I never find the time to actually read these articles. I always open the post in a new tab in Safari with the best of intentions of going back and reading the article, but I never seem to find the time. So yesterday I had about 15 of these tabs open and was just about ready to close them all because I knew I was never going to read them when I had a thought. What if there was a way to convert these articles into an audio file that I could just listen to. I love listening to audiobooks while I work so this seem like a great idea, but how to do it. It turns out it’s easy, if you’re on a Mac.
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On a Mac all you need to do is select the text you want read, using speech to text, and then click on the text holding the Control button. The normal control options show up and if you’re using OSX lion or higher in the dialog box will be a option called “Services” and under services will be another option that says “add to iTunes as a spoken track”. Click the option and another dialog box will pop-up asking you what you would like to save the file as, which voice you would like to use, and where you would like to save the file to. Click save and after a few seconds the text you had selected turns into a audio file inside iTunes for you to listen to at your leisure. I know the voices in OSX aren’t perfect to listen to, but it’s one way to get the information without having to sit down and find the time to read all these articles.

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A few things to keep in mind when trying this. It needs to be an Apple application. I’ve got this trick to work in Safari, Preview using a PDF and TextEdit. I’m sure there are many more ways to do this but these are the Applications I use in my own personal workflow. I haven’t been able to try it in all applications, but I did try in Google Chrome and this option was not available when I selected the text. There’s probably a PC way to do this as well but since I’m on a Mac I haven’t done the research. If anybody knows of a way please let me know in the comments or write you’re own post, it’s fun.

I personally will use this for all the art articles I want to read, but when I told my wife about it she was super excited about using the same trick for all of the sites she frequents as well. I guess the Internet is full of loads of other information besides artist blog articles, who knew.

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.

Illustration Biz Best Practices: Dealing With Difficult Clients

While all freelance creatives have the unique benefit of being paid to do what we would do for free anyway, along with that benefit comes the responsibility to run our businesses wisely. There are several posts on Once Upon A Sketch about dealing with spec work, managing studio expenses and getting work. But what if you’ve done your homework; gotten what looks like a good, non-amateur client that’s paying a decent commission and the project still goes south? There is an old proverb that says “a learning experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” For the last few weeks I’ve been getting a learning experience dealing with quite possibly the most challenging client of my career. We’re not at a finished point yet but I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned so far:

 1) Don’t ignore orange flags. I take vetting a client very seriously. I don’t show my work in places where wannabe, McClient types would seek to get work for cheap or free. I understand my rights and make sure I understand the scope of the project and the contract. But let’s just say something innocuous, like the trim size, doesn’t seem right. In my example, I questioned the dimensions presented as they didn’t include a bleed and the single and spread sizes didn’t match. I was assured the dimensions were correct. When I started finals, I double checked the contract, surely they wouldn’t make a mistake there. Yep, the contract had the same strange sizes I was given. So I proceeded… but decided to add my own bleed area just to listen to my intuition. Three weeks later after a series of stops and starts from the designer’s side I was given the “actual” dimensions and they were quite a bit different. Fortunately my self added bleed helped some but not enough. The strange size wasn’t a big red flag, it wasn’t a terrible manuscript or teeny tiny budget. It wasn’t being asked to work in someone else’s style. In my opinion these are all reasons to bolt from a project. But looking back, that one wrinkle set up the entire trajectory of the project. Next time I will press and question, even to the point of saying “I want to confirm this doesn’t change after sketch approval”…. and if the answer’s not good enough, I might consider that a reason to bolt.

2) Once you see an orange flag, get explicit approval for EVERYTHING. I’d finished sketches, finished revisions for those sketches, the designer had said “everything looks great!” At that point the deadline was a comfortable three week margin away. Everything was rosy. I did what every responsible illustrator would do – I started the finals. Because when the client says “everything looks great” that’s what you should do right? Maybe not, looking back I wish I’d pressed them again and point blank asked “Can I start finals?” Because 10 days later, after half the project was complete, I hear there’s a new approval process… and my sketches “may not really be approved.” When I pointed out the earlier communication of everything being great, the client questioned whether they had ever approved anything. Fortunately I was able to lay out email correspondence showing the timeline of sketches, requested revisions, and how everything looked great before they ever mentioned a new approval process.

3) Communicate entirely in writing. It was tempting to pick up the phone and sort everything out with a single half-hour chat. That’s what I would have done with any of my long time clients. But as their changes, approvals, and deadlines got more and more tangled I realized that the person I was working with was only caught in the middle. Talking would leave me with no proof of what we decided and possibly start a “he said/she said” scenario. By communicating exclusively over email I was able to lay out my understanding of the project and have a record of it. Be as professional and enthusiastic as possible, but be ready to defend your side reasonably in writing.

4) Know when to say when. Once the process has started to tilt toward endless revisions beyond the deadline and beyond the budget it’s time for the illustrator to consider whether or not they will continue the project. At that point you can say “this is my last series of changes unless you increase the budget” or “unless this is approved without changes I can’t do any more on this project.” You can fight about a kill fee or just walk away. But the main thing is you have to know at what point you should move from helping the client to protecting your business. In the long run, a difficult client will drag your business down no matter how much money the contract says they will pay you. Finishing this project is on my to-do list but I grind my teeth when I think about it. I have other really exciting books to work on at the moment plus, my own projects which are close to my heart. This difficult client is sucking out my inspiration for those. Just like any relationship, once you reach this tipping point, spend time with the “good projects” and get the difficult ones out of your studio as quickly as you can.

As the process got more out of whack with this client I began researching them online to see if any other illustrators had had problems. I recommend doing this at the start of a new client project anyway. I didn’t find anything substantial but I did find a few other interesting tips for freelancers in this same position. I hope my fellow illustrators never have reason to need it, but in case they do I add this advice to mine:

Dealing With Difficult Clients

Three Questions To Ask Your Illustration Clients

The Bad Client Diet

 

How FREE can help you and your illustration business

Free: The Future of a Radical Price is a book written by Chris Anderson that examines the pricing models of free and how companies can make money by giving things away. We see it all the time from Google giving away services like email, Google Docs, and music groups giving away their music in hopes that you will buy a ticket to their concert. Often the strategy is to attract users and up-sell some to a premium level. This model has become widely referred to as “freemium”. Anderson makes the case that some businesses can make money by giving products and services away rather then charging a premium price. Chris explains how this radical pricing model can be used for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.

How does this apply to running an illustration business? Well there is a chance you’re doing it already. Maybe you’re writing a blog, giving away coloring sheets on your website, or just putting your work on the web for all to see. Things that cost you very little to produce, but can possibly give you a big return if seen by the right people.

Of course this model is not for everyone and not everyone will agree with what Chris has to say but he has made the barrier to entry very small because Chris walks the walk by giving away his book in  digital form. Of course the printed version costs, but if this book sounds interesting to you its free to try. I personally see this model as a way we illustrators can use to promote our selves. No matter what you think about Free hopefully you’ll find an idea in this book that will be helpful to your career. Oh and did I mention it’s free.

The Book is available for free at:
Chris Anderson’s blog
iTunes
Audible.com

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.

Reminder- 2014 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market Pre-Order

If you are serious about breaking into the Children’s Book Industry there’s a book that comes out yearly that you definitely need to add to your library. The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.

The new 2014 Edition will be released in September so be sure to pre-purchase it.

2104CWIM

So, why should you pick this book up? Why is it “Essential”?

Every year this series of books does a fantastic job of listing and categorizing multiple publishers, magazines and agents that have some level of involvement in the Children’s Market.

They go through contact information, the markets that the publisher specializes in, their submission requirements, the number of projects, writer and illustrators that they work with on a yearly basis as well as their payment terms.

Also included are a number of articles from other professionals that give tips, tricks and experiences within the industry.

This book is a great and inexpensive starting place for anyone looking to break into the industry. This book is essential to creating your first mailing list and determining the proper way to approach each publisher you are considering. If you have a mailing list established, this book is a great way to update your mailing lists with new publishers and update contact info for older ones.

So don’t forget to hop onto Amazon and reserve your copy now! Or drop by your local library to check out older issues that may be available to get an idea of the series before purchasing!

This book will also be included in the prize offerings of our fan contest! Check here for info about the contest and to make sure you qualify for consideration!

Icons and Legends-Andrew Loomis

Andrew Loomis. Since Norm mentioned him, I thought it would be a good idea to feature him and give some info on his background.

Andrew Loomis was born in 1892 in Syracuse, New York. He studied in New York at the Art Students League under George Bridgman and F.V. du Mond when he was 19. He moved to Chicago and continued his education at the Chicago Art Institute. In the 1930s, he taught at the American Academy of Art. At this time he catalogued and compiled his instructional technique for his first book, Fun With a Pencil, in 1939.

The popularity of this book would lead Loomis to go on and release several more books in the coming decades, including one of his most popular, Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, in 1943.

Andrew Loomis created a number of instructional books on figure, the founding arts of drawing, and painting. Many of his books have long been out of print but have found a resurged popularity online in .pdf and jpeg formats free for download due to the expiration of copyright. (If this has changed please let us know.) You will find links to those books at the end of this post.

These books are a wonderful resource of drawing fundamentals and design basics. I urge that you download them, fill your printer with paper and ink and get to printing to create some handy and precious reference sources for your future illustrations.

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Reminder- 2013 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is ready!!

If you are serious about breaking into the Children’s Book Industry there’s a book that comes out yearly that you definitely need to add to your library. The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.

The new 2013 Edition has been released to folks who pre-purchased it.  I got a notice yesterday, since I pre-ordered, it saying that my book would actually get to me earlier than expected! Woo Hoo!  I will be checking my mail!

So, why should you pick this book up? Why is it “Essential”?

Every year this series of books does a fantastic job of listing and categorizing multiple publishers, magazines and agents that have some level of involvement in the Children’s Market.

They go through contact information, the markets that the publisher specializes in, their submission requirements, the number of projects, writer and illustrators that they work with on a yearly basis as well as their payment terms.

Also included are a number of articles from other professionals that give tips, tricks and experiences within the industry.

This book is a great and inexpensive starting place for anyone looking to break into the industry. This book is essential to creating your first mailing list and determining the proper way to approach each publisher you are considering. If you have a mailing list established, this book is a great way to update your mailing lists with new publishers and update contact info for older ones.

So don’t forget to hop onto Amazon and reserve your copy now! Or drop by your local library to check out older issues that may be available to get an idea of the series before purchasing!

Essential Reads-Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines

In this Essential Reads post we’ll cover the next book we feel is integral to your library.

One of the questions asked most often by newcomers is how much should they charge for certain types of jobs? What should I look out for before I sign a contract? What do all these legal terms mean? Well, we have the perfect starting point to answer all of these questions, the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.

The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (TGAGHPE), is a comprehensive source of information for any freelance Artist starting their own business or looking to become more informed about the legal standards and practices. The book addresses the following items:

  • Copyright Law and how it affects your business and work
  • Standard Contracts for Multiple Art related transactions
  • Simplified explanations of legal jargon used in contracts
  • A range of prices for art jobs depending on the size of the client, industry and job level
  • Tips on how to properly negotiate deals

And that is just the beginning.

The book is published by the Graphic Artist Guild and is updated and republished in additional editions as the industry changes. The issue shown above is the 13th Edition. The Graphic Artist Guild is an organization that provides a wealth of information for professional freelance Designers and Artists. We’ll cover the organization in full in a later post. But please be aware that the Handbook is included in the purchase of a membership to the Guild should you be interested in joining. Please visit their website for more information.

Essential Reads-Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books-Harold Underdown

Essential Reads will cover the books or periodicals we feel are integral to begin your education about the Children’s Market and the varied skills needed to prosper within it. So without further adieu!

Book #1-The Complete  Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown

I have checked this book out so many times from the local library that they should have just given it to me. Instead I got tired of extending my check out time and broke down and bought my own copy. This book is essential for beginners and intermediate Illustrators and Writer’s wanting to break into the Children’s Book Market.

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