7 Tips on Getting Your First Illustration Project

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Illustration by Catherine LePage

I have a lot of students who are graduating sidle up and ask me – very sheepishly – about how they could get their first freelance clients. They were told to create a snazzy portfolio, and to create works that would fill said portfolio up, but they didn’t know what to do beyond compiling their best work and sending them off to prospective clients and employers. What happened was a lot of waiting, rejection and a fear of hopelessness that followed. 

In my experience, a lot of first-time commissions come from word of mouth. When I first got started, I made sure to put the word out there that I was freelancing, and that if anyone needed a hand they can give me a call (or contact me via email.) But besides that, I find that being proactive about finding freelance work goes a long way – especially when you realize that those connections might take 2-3 years to fully materialize. It’s what has happened in my situation, and for many others too.

So here are few things that you can do right now:

1. Tell as many people as you can about what you do.

Spread the word that you’re freelancing around, to family, friends, even the neighbours. You may find at first that this will land you some pretty weird jobs and questions – stuff like “can you teach my kid how to draw?” It’s totally up to you to take it on, or not. I always say that it’s no harm at all, especially when you have nothing better to do – so why not flex your creative muscles and do your best – even if it’s something that you whipped up for the neighbourhood kindergarten?

2. Get your portfolio on different websites

The thing with illustration and art is that it’s hard to be found visually. And what that means is that people don’t go to Google, type in a few strings of words that describe what you do, and then be able to see your artwork among other artists (well the famous ones do, but only because they’ve built up a really big following!) So the next best thing is to put your work up in front of people who are already looking. And that means in places where they go to look. Places like Behance and Dribble. On Instagram (with the appropriate hashtags – not one made up by you!)

The caveat is that it might take some time for others to notice you, especially with all the great work out there; but it pays to be persistent. There might be a few art directors and clients who might be checking you out on those websites, but the timing is not right just yet.

3. Don’t just hang out with your illustration buddies from college or uni – make an effort!

Spread your wings out a little and go to where you’ve never been before! There is more to you than just your ability to draw – what other stuff do you like doing? What’s your other hobbies? Do you love reading? Join a book club! Do you love cooking? Join a community cook-out! The more people you reach out to that’s outside of your normal comfort zones, the better your chances of making new connections, which will ultimately help spread your name far and wide.

4. Constantly add new work to your portfolio

Slapping on a couple of pictures from your school days or previous college assignment does not mean that your portfolio is complete! Unless your work back then was really good, or it showcased what you are capable of right now, I’d suggest to leave it out. First impressions mean a lot, and if what you’re putting out there can only illicit a “meh”, it’s time for you to think of self-initiated projects that you can add to your portfolio. That’s right – there is no client involved (unless it’s imaginary, in which case it’s totally fine), no cheque waiting for you at the other end, and no assurance that it will amount to anything – not just yet. Do your best, take pride in your work and pick up that pencil because you want to better yourself, not just because there’s someone on the other end counting on you to do so.

5. Send an email to your favorite blogger

Back in the day, I get a lot of emails from graduating students and illustrators who were just starting out. And if their work catches my eye, I post it up on the Pikaland blog (though I rarely do this anymore because better platforms exist for that these days – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) What I found out was that other blogs were checking out my blog to get news on the latest talent, and they picked up these artists too and featured them in their blog and magazines, which then helped these emerging artists gain a lot more buzz. So it couldn’t help to try – especially if you can identify with the audience of the blogger, and it’s a place where your work wouldn’t look out of place. Here’s a tip: don’t just aim for the big blogs – go for smaller, niche blogs too!

6. Be super nice to everyone and anyone

You’d think that being nice to people was a natural instinct – but sadly it isn’t! I’ve met my fair share of nasty and rude folks, but they’re thankfully far and few in-between. What I’m talking about is going above minding your P’s (please) and Q’s (thank you). Be genuinely interested in other people – listening to them, asking them helpful questions, thanking them for their time, etc – if you think that these gestures are unnecessary in the days of 140 character tweets, think again. If anything, it only serves to show how attentive you are, especially when others aren’t doing it.

7. Do your research

Look at artists who are in the same stylistic vein as yourself- see if they have a client list and see what companies or publications they have worked with. If their client list if full of, say, family and children’s magazines, you may get the hint that those markets would appreciate your work, too. Or you may be surprised to find that they are doing well in a market you never considered, and that can lead you to discover a bunch of potential clients that were previously off your radar. (This great advice is from Lauren Lowen!)

And there you have it! These are the things that I’ve personally done to get my name out there – and they’re virtually painless. All it takes is a bit of effort in the beginning, but when you’ve got your ball rolling, you’ll be able to see results very soon.

Good luck folks!

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

Posted by Amy Ng on 10/13/15 under artists,business,illustration
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Joy Laforme

Raspberry+PickinJoy Laforme is a textile artist and illustrator based out of New Jersey. Her work is heavily influenced by spending time in the garden with her mother, as well as her mother’s love for American folk art. This sentiment certainly shines through in her whimsical body of work. Each piece in her portfolio is warm with nostalgia and feels like walking through a lush wonderland of botanicals, fruits and birdsongs. Joy uses a combination of media including gouache, acrylics and digital illustration. She has worked for many clients including Macy’s, Galison, Artfully Walls, Oopsy Daisy and Target. 
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You can connect with Joy via Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.

Posted by Bryna Shields on 10/13/15 under artists
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How to Make the Most of the Online Art Community

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In today’s world, artists have incredible opportunities to connect with the outside world.

Because of social networking, creative professionals have access to a whole host of platforms to interact with their peers, promote their work, and find resources and inspiration to help their businesses grow. No matter what your entry point is to the online art community, the multitude of networks connect to form a larger web of artists who help and inspire each other on a daily basis.

If you’ve spent any amount of time networking with your fellow artists, then you may have already discovered something that every artist should know if they want to make the most of the online art community:

You get as much out of it as you put into it.

This one simple statement applies to so many things in life, and social networking is no exception. The amount that you participate in any social group dictates how much you interact with everyone else, and how much they interact with you. Commenting on blogs, connecting with artists through social networking, and creating your own content, makes you a part of the community, rather than just an observer. If you’ve ever wanted to cross that bridge, all you need to do is start.

However, quantity is just one part of the equation.

The quality of your participation plays an even more important role in your ability to benefit from the community. No amount of social networking will do much good if you only interact on a superficial level or relentlessly promote yourself to unwilling bystanders. Many people still make this mistake, and it only serves to add noise to the community.

What’s the best way to participate?

There are 3 simple things that everyone can, and should, do to make the most of the online art community.

1. Share

Take the time to help those in need, or simply pass on useful links or information so that others may benefit from it as well. The more we all do this, the more we will add to the amount of resources and answers to be found online.

2. Listen

Pay attention to what your fellow artists have to say, and help them to spread the word. This is how relationships are truly created online, and how great things are found by more people.

3. Invite

If you find a group or network that inspires you to join the conversation, don’t keep it a secret. Tell every person that you think would benefit from it, and thereby add to the size and quality of the community.

These simple steps will help you to make connections and enhance your life, but don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself, and see if it helps you to have a more rewarding interaction with your fellow artists. I know that many of you have come to this conclusion already.

If you believe in the power of community and want to help to make it even stronger, then please pass this post along to your friends.

 

Posted by Thomas James on 10/12/15 under business,resources,tutorial / how-to
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Pick of the Week for INK and This Week’s Topic

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Happy Illustration Friday!

Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Mickael “Patiño” Brana, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of PRIZE. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!

You can see a gallery of ALL the entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:

STAR

Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the public Gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!

HAPPY ILLUSTRATING!

Posted by Thomas James on 10/09/15 under artists,weekly topics
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Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Steve Skroce

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I remember being really impressed by the shots in the original Matrix film back in 1999, but I had no idea, back then, that a little known Spider-Man artist first helped bring that movie to life with pencil & paper. Steve Skroce previously worked with Lana and Andy Wachowski on an obscure horror comic book called Clive Barker’s Ectokid, which was his first major work as a comic-book artist. Before his time as Matrix storyboard artist, Skroce worked on a number of high profile superhero comics, including Cable, Gambit, X-Man, and Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood with comics legend Alan Moore. 

Today, Steve Skroce is putting out some of his best artwork yet on the creator-owned series We Stand On Guard with superstar writer Brian K. Vaughan. The story takes place a 100 years in the future and follows a group of Canadian citizens(Skroce is Canadian) defending their country from an invasion by The United States of America. The 4th issue just hit the stands and it appears that the first volume will wrap up with issue 6.

Skroce has drawn many storyboards for movies, including many more with the Wachowski’s. Some of those films include The Matrix Trilogy, V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, and Cloud Atlas. He also found time to make more comics, with a memorable 4 issue stint on Wolverine(2000) for Marvel and the independent series Doc Frankenstein(2004-present), which he co-created with artist Geof Darrow, for Burlyman.

Steve Skroce apparently doesn’t have much of a social media presence(he’s probably just too busy drawing!), so here’s a link to his wiki-page, if you want more information.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com – Andy Yates

Posted by Andy Yates on 10/08/15 under artists,black and white,comic,design,illustration,weekly topics
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Illustrator Submission :: Sarah McMenemy

Post by Chloe

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Sarah McMenemy is an illustrator based in London who began by illustrating many of the beautiful houses in the city. Her portfolio now contains an abundance of painterly work depicting stunning architectural works around the world. Sarah McMenemy’s work has appeared in a range of magazines which have covered finance, beauty, architecture and home decor. If you would like to see more of Sarah McMenemy’s sophisticated colour palettes and characterful illustrations, please visit her portfolio.

Posted by Chloe Baldwin on 10/05/15 under artists
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Email Marketing vs. Print Promotion for Artists

silenced If you’re like most Illustrators, then you probably ask the following question from time to time:

 

“Which is more effective? Email or print promotion?”

 

Obviously, you want to spend your time and efforts on the marketing strategies that will yield the most amount of work for the lowest cost and the least amount of effort. The thing is, all Art Directors are different in the ways that they like to receive submissions from artists, so there’s never going to be one universal answer to the question above. This means that it’s a good idea to promote yourself in a variety of ways while paying close attention to what works best for each particular client. In addition, it can be helpful to tailor your marketing strategy to fit your particular business.

To help you consider how much time and energy you’d like to devote to email vs. print promotion, here is a look at the pros and cons of each approach:

– EMAIL –

Pros

Low Cost – While crafting effective email promos and sending them to your contact list does take some time to do properly, this will always be the low-cost option, as opposed to the money you’ll need to spend on postcards and other print promotions.

Direct Link – One of the best parts about email marketing is that you can include a direct hyperlink to your portfolio website, where an Art Director can browse your work, learn more about you, and find the contact info that you’ve hopefully made easy to find.

Simplicity – Sending emails has likely become one of the most intuitive activities in your daily life, so sending more shouldn’t be a problem. You won’t need to agonize over which image from your portfolio to include in the email since you can instead send an Art Director to your entire portfolio.

Cons

Spam Filters – There will always be a chance that your email will get caught up in your recipient’s spam filter, which means they’ll never see it. Your chances of making it past the spam police are greater if you include less links and attachments in your email and don’t use punctuation such as exclamation points in the headline or body of text.

Risk of Annoyance – Even if you make it past the built in spam blocker, everyone has there own personal spam filter in their brains. It’s a well-known fact that some Art Directors simply don’t like seeing their email folder filled with submissions from artists, and therefore perceive it as spam and delete it without ever opening it.

AD Effort – Assuming an Art Director is open to email promotions, you are still requiring them to take the action of reading it and clicking on a link to your site before they ever get to see your work. This might seem like a minor thing, but keep in mind that Art Directors are busy people, and you’re not the only Illustrator sending them an email.

– PRINT-

Pros Instant Visual – Probably the best part about sending a postcard or other form of print promotion is that when an Art Director receives it, they see your artwork right away, without having to take action or visit your website. As with any approach to marketing, you only have a brief moment to grab the attention of your audience, so why not use that time to put your work in front of their eyes?

Keepsake – If you impress an Art Director with your work, there’s always a chance that they will keep your print promo, and even put it up in their office if they really like it. If you’re lucky enough to inspire an AD in this way, they’re more likely to remember you when that next project comes around.

Cons

Cost – Obviously, there is some element of expense when it comes to printing and sending your physical mailers, so you’ll need to consider the effect that this will have on your bottom line, while weighing its potential for bringing in new work.

Time – Unlike email promotions, there is more time involved in designing, addressing, and mailing your print promotions.

Slush Pile – Art Directors usually receive print promos just about every day, which means that yours will be somewhere in a stack of those sent by many of your fellow Illustrators. While this is also true with email marketing, it’s important to remember this when designing your postcards.

No Direct Link – Even though you are showing the Art Director a sample(s) of your work, and hopefully your contact info, they’ll still need to take action to visit your online portfolio or learn more about you. Without the direct link that is included in an email, they’ll have to like your print promo enough to take further action. … After looking over the list of pros and cons above you may be feeling even more confused about which approach to take, but hopefully I’ve helped to outline some things that you’ll need to consider when creating your promotional strategy. As I stated earlier, every Art Director and every artist works differently, so I highly recommend trying a combination of print and email marketing, while paying attention to what works best for you. Also, some publications and other businesses list Submission Guidelines on their websites, so it’s always a good idea to try and figure out the best way to contact them.

Posted by Thomas James on 10/05/15 under business
1 Comment

Illustrator Submission :: Lea Taloc

Post by Chloe

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Lea Taloc has combined her passion for the kitchen and illustration to create beautiful works which often appear in food blogs and magazines. Through her art and graphic design techniques she is able to convey emotions and add visual embellishments to every day life. Lea Taloc’s work has a bright and airy feel to it which is refreshing and cheerful. 

If you would like to see more of Lea’s work, please visit her portfolio.

Posted by Chloe Baldwin on 10/03/15 under artists
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Pick of the Week for PRIZE and This Week’s New Topic

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Happy Illustration Friday!

Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Kylie Millward , our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of PRIZE. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!

You can see a gallery of ALL the entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic, which participants of InkTober are going to love:

INK

Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the public Gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!

HAPPY ILLUSTRATING!

Posted by Thomas James on 10/02/15 under artists,call for entries,weekly topics
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