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7 tips on getting your first freelance illustration project

Amy Ng
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Amy Ng

Amy is a teacher, writer and a self-taught illustrator. Her blog Pikaland, is popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce. Amy is also an adjunct lecturer at a local design college and has created online workshops for artists; teaching them how to use their unique strengths to create their very own opportunities. She believes that we each have a role to play and a story to tell –- and her personal mission is to help you discover what that is.
Amy Ng
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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.

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!

[Illustration by Catherine LePage]

Posted by Amy Ng on 10/13/15 under artists,business,illustration
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How to Make the Most of the Online Art Community

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James


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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Email Marketing vs. Print Promotion for Artists

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James

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:



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.


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.


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.


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
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Using Self-Assigned Projects to Build Your Illustration Portfolio

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James


Are you looking for an inspiring and effective way to build up your Illustration portfolio with the type of work that you’d like to be hired to create?

Illustration Friday founder Penelope Dullaghan often speaks about her success with using what she called Self-Assignments to boost creativity, have fun, and create new work. The basic idea was to commission herself to produce a new Illustration based on a certain topic, working method, or other set of criteria.

In fact, Penelope later used another creative technique that grew into the Illustration Friday you know and love!

I’ve often used a similar approach to build upon the body of work in my own portfolio. In short, I’ve been “hiring” myself for projects as a way of creating new work that both expresses my creative vision and shows potential clients what I might contribute to their next project. As a result, I’ve been producing work at a faster rate and targeting my portfolio to the types of clients I’d like to work for (as seen in the example above).

Focusing Your Efforts

Most artists already create personal work on a regular basis, but it is often done in a much more casual way than is being described here. By “assigning” specific projects to yourself, you can focus your energy on the type of artwork that is much more relevant to real-world applications. This will increase the likelihood that your latest piece will be strong enough to include in your portfolio, and make more of an impression on Art Directors and other potential clients.

Be Your Own Art Director

One of the major things that sets this way of working apart from more casual personal projects is that you are taking on the roles of both Art Director and Illustrator. By assigning projects to yourself with clear directions, limitations, and deadlines you can simulate the type of scenario that you would find yourself in if you were actually commissioned by a client. The benefit of this is that you will often end up with a higher quality of work than if you were simply left to your own devices.

Target Your Market

Another great reason to consider using self-assigned projects to build your portfolio is that it allows you to create the type of work that you would like to be hired for. For example, if your dream project is to work on book covers, assign yourself book covers. If you want to work in the editorial market, assign yourself editorial projects based on the latest news items. This method can be used for whatever your target market might be.

Define Yourself

Basically, anything you can do to make yourself more attractive to your target market, and show your potential clients how you would interpret a certain project, will help to set you apart from the growing crowd of Illustrators out there. Even if an Art Director generally likes your work, you will be even better off if you can help to show them what types of projects you should be commissioned for.

In addition, you’re likely to have much more fun and find endless inspiration by assigning projects to yourself based on the type of work that you’d like to create.

Posted by Thomas James on 09/28/15 under business
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How to Approach Art Directors Without Being Annoying

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James


Art Directors are busy people.

This should come as no surprise, because Illustrators are busy too.

Obviously, part of your job as a creative professional is to put your work in front of the right people and hopefully inspire them to hire you for their next project. As with anything, there are both right and wrong ways to do this.

If you’re not careful, you run the risk of annoying Art Directors and burning bridges forever.

Here’s a look at 5 things to consider when approaching Art Directors and other potential clients:

1. Target Your Audience

The absolute first step you should take is to narrow your contact list to the Art Directors who are actually looking for the type of work that you do. You’ll only be wasting their time, and yours, if you are soliciting clients who have no interest in hiring you.

Examine the work that they’ve done in the past and consider whether your work or approach fits within that scope.

Having some knowledge of an Art Director’s work is obviously a good practice anyways when building your mailing list, but it’s also the best way to make a good first impression.

2. Find Out How They Want to Be Contacted

Every Art Director is different in the ways that they prefer to be contacted and the ways that they prefer to seek out new Illustrators.

Some publications and other organizations post ‘Submission Guidelines’ on their websites, as well as in resources like the Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market.

If this information isn’t readily available, be sure to ask this question in your initial contact. If they are open to further contact, they’re likely to appreciate the gesture and let you know the best way to keep in touch.

3. Start a Dialogue

Remember that an often overlooked element of marketing is building relationships.

That’s why it’s so important to try and make a ‘human’ connection with Art Directors, Editors, and other potential clients. Social networking, online forums, and industry blogs are making this easier every day.

Participating in conversations will help you to build memorable bonds with your target audience.

4. Don’t Sell Too Hard

Rather than coming on too strong like an overbearing salesperson, keep things simple by telling the Art Director about yourself, showing some of your work or linking to your website, maybe asking a question or two, and leaving it there.

They may not respond on the first contact, but they’ll probably turn their back on you forever if they feel unwanted pressure.

5. Don’t Overdo It

As stated earlier, Art Directors are busy people, just like you are.

Imagine if you got an email every week from someone wanting to sell you something. It’s pretty annoying isn’t it? And, it probably makes you never want to do business with them, no matter how wonderful their products or services are.

Instead, send semi-regular (perhaps 60-90 days), relevant updates on your work to stay on their radar, while being very careful to not overstep the boundaries.

Posted by Thomas James on 09/21/15 under business
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Which of Your Illustrations Should You Remove from Your Portfolio?

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James


Illustration by Thomas James

Deciding which Illustrations to include in your portfolio, or more importantly which ones to remove, is probably one of the most difficult, emotionally-charged decisions you’ll need to make on a regular basis as a freelance Illustrator.

I mean, come on, they’re your babies. You worked so hard on them. You cared.

In a softer, gentler world perhaps you might be able to make this decision on purely sentimental grounds. However, the fact is that your portfolio should be a lean, mean, Art Director-inspiring machine. That’s why it’s essential to make the tough choices necessary to show off only your most impressive work, and the work that communicates the things that you do best.

Is there an Illustration that makes you wince?

Is there one that immediately stands out? And not in a good way?

I challenge you to remove it right now and see if that improves the overall quality of your portfolio.

It might be difficult, It might hurt, but you can always put it back later.

Remember that your portfolio is not there to give you comfort, or share all your past experiments. You can use your blog for that. Your portfolio is there to get you work, so make it do the heavy lifting.

Anything that doesn’t belong is only holding you back.

After you’ve read this, I encourage you to go to your website right now and pick one Illustration to remove for one day. Tomorrow, go back to your website and look at your portfolio with fresh eyes, and even imagine that you’re viewing your work for the first time as an Art Director.

Is it an improvement? Then do it again. Once you’ve reached the point where taking things away hurts rather than helps, then you’re one step closer to having a tightly-packaged gallery of the best that you have to offer.

I’ve just done this myself, and it’s something that I practice on a regular basis. In fact, I ended up removing 3 images, rather than just 1, because they all needed to be ejected for the same reasons.

Are you up to the challenge?

Posted by Thomas James on 09/14/15 under business
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What if you don’t like competing with others?

Amy Ng
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Amy Ng

Amy is a teacher, writer and a self-taught illustrator. Her blog Pikaland, is popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce. Amy is also an adjunct lecturer at a local design college and has created online workshops for artists; teaching them how to use their unique strengths to create their very own opportunities. She believes that we each have a role to play and a story to tell –- and her personal mission is to help you discover what that is.
Amy Ng
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In art and illustration, there’s always that thought that lingers at the back of everyone’s head: that artist is better than me. In what seems like a never-ending parallax scroll, there’s always something better, prettier, grittier, more amazing, more everything. And so we try our hardest to be that artist. And when we do, the cycle of torment repeats itself. This feeling of inadequacy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But too much of it, and you can buoyed so far along by forces unseen, but often felt. You feel as though you’re in a race, and your goal is to win. 

Personally, I hate competition.

When I was young, I was on the running team. I was also skinny and light on my feet – it seemed destined that my long limbs were pegged to win medals (or so many people thought). But it just wasn’t to be. As I saw Azda, my classmate – who also has these long, crazy limbs, overtake me on the field, that was it. I threw in the towel.

I was also took part in rhythmic gymnastics – and enjoyed it (except for the fact there were a few catty girls) and it was competition sport all right. You’d see who could jump faster, higher, twirl better, and handled their gear perfectly; all while looking nonchalantly perfect in their skin-tight leotards.

I also learned to play the piano, week after week, and successfully reaching seventh grade before I stopped for my high school exams, only to never resume it again. I was relieved though. While I love the piano, having to earn those certificates quickly dissolved any interest I had in pursuing it seriously. And not especially when you have a younger sister who could recognize a note just by hearing it by ear, and an affinity for singling out tempo like no other.

The problem with these scenarios was that I thought I was competing with other people, but as a matter of fact, it was an internal battle instead. I had gone into each sport and field, fully intent on wanting to have fun, but had turned it into a competition instead, and every other person was an opponent that I had to best. And once that thought seeped in, there was no turning back.

So yes, I don’t like competition.

Or if you drill it down, actually the fact is – I don’t like to lose.

So throughout my career, I made sure that I was the best at things, and I made a conscious decision to chose not to pursue things where I would come in second best, no matter how hard I tried. I knew that in my heart of hearts that everything was an experiment, and I wasn’t afraid to go out there and give things a go and see if it’s a fit. And if it’s not? Then I’ll try something else until I find something where there was no competition.

But I found out that this thinking wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For one, there isn’t such a field where there isn’t competition. Everything is a competition. And I had to accept that. But I made some internal changes in the way I perceived competition, because other than the fact that being overtaken by someone else is a natural part of life, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re on the losing end. Especially when you’re not measuring yourself to other people’s version of what makes one a winner.

So the only thing that came closest to not being in competition with others, was to not be compared to others. 

Does winning mean getting that dream car? Or that dream house?

Or does it mean getting married at a certain age, or having 2.5 kids?

Does winning mean ultimately being happy on your own terms, hands caked with paint and smudges of chalk on your face?

Or does winning mean the ability to work on what you love, with clients you enjoy working with, and the flexibility it brings?

For me, it all boils down to being happy with what I do. And that definition is different for everyone. Being happy isn’t just about money; it’s knowledge, experience and passion combined. Being able to do what I love and sharing it with others – now that’s something that can’t be measured against anyone else but myself. And when everyone wins, it’s not a competition. It’s a real fun party.

So here’s my take: not everything is competition sport – especially not life. And here’s how to deal if you hate competing with others:

  1. Make up your own sport.
  2. And then make up your own rules.
  3. Take whatever nasty (but well-meaning) stuff that bystanders say with a pinch of salt, and let your cheerleaders spur you on.

I guarantee that if you do, you and the people around you will emerge as winners every time.

[Illustration by Yuko Shimizu]

Posted by Amy Ng on 09/09/15 under artists,business
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Brilliant Online Promotion Idea for Creative Professionals

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 1.11.48 PM


In this video, Graeme Anthony walks you through a sincere, human introduction of who he is and what he has to offer. In fact, I’m tempted to go so far as to call it a ‘video website’ because of its highly interactive nature. The best part of the project is that it offers the potential client a voyeuristic look at Graeme’s personality and style, which is something that is increasingly valuable in today’s online world.

I wanted to share it with you today because it’s a valuable reminder of the importance of applying your creativity and ingenuity to every part of your business. That doesn’t mean that everyone should go out and copy the idea, but that everyone should take a moment to think about ways to highlight their strengths in order to stand out and do something different.

When clients are looking for someone with creative vision to bring excitement to their next project, you can bet they’ll be intrigued by those who are already doing so with their own business.

Posted by Thomas James on 09/07/15 under business
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The 5 Dirty Words of Freelance Illustration

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at
Thomas James


Illustration by Thomas James

In our daily lives as freelance Illustrators, we experience both the joys and terrors of our unique creative profession.

As you probably know, freelance Illustration isn’t always unicorns and rainbows. Those are just the facts of life.

One of the redeeming things about this, however, is that we can often recognize the more common dangers and take steps to avoid them because they are usually pretty clearly defined.

Here’s my list of the 5 dirty words you’re likely to encounter in your day-to-day life as a professional Illustrator:

1. Spec work

This one likely needs no introduction, because you won’t be an Illustrator for very long before somebody solicits you for free work.

The more desperate you are, the greater the danger in falling prey to this trap.

Just know that it potentially hurts your business, so proceed at your own risk.

2. Exposure

The frequent sidekick to ‘spec work’ is the word ‘exposure’, because clients who want you to work for free often promise that your art will be seen and adored by millions across the globe.

If for some reason you didn’t recognize that a project is actually a call for spec work, then this secondary term will likely tip you off.

3. Theft

Another inevitability is that your work will be used without your permission at some point. In fact, posting your work anywhere online pretty much guarantees that.

It’s a frustrating one, but there are steps you can take to combat this sort of thing, and the online community of artists often comes together to join the fight.

4. Burnout

Here’s one that’s usually brought on at least partly by yourself.

As with all the other dirty words in this list, it’s inevitable, but a healthy dose of time off, a well-rounded life, and personal projects can do a lot to ward it off.

5. Slushpile

This term defines the overwhelming pile (physical, virtual, or otherwise) where your promotional materials may be buried by Art Directors amongst countless others sent by your fellow artists.

The only antidote is to create work so compelling that it stands out from the crowd and makes a lasting impression.

So there you have it.

A brief look at 5 of the prime offenders in the daily life of a freelance Illustrator.

Get to know them, avoid them, and defeat them when you can, but know that they will be back.

Posted by Thomas James on 08/31/15 under business
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How to stretch yourself

Amy Ng
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Amy Ng

Amy is a teacher, writer and a self-taught illustrator. Her blog Pikaland, is popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce. Amy is also an adjunct lecturer at a local design college and has created online workshops for artists; teaching them how to use their unique strengths to create their very own opportunities. She believes that we each have a role to play and a story to tell –- and her personal mission is to help you discover what that is.
Amy Ng
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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.

Here’s a secret about me: I love to exercise. Having been exposed to different sports training while I was in high school only made me love my body more when it’s in movement.

I’ve been on various teams: rhythmic gymnastics, volleyball, hockey, running, mountain climbing, and taekwondo – all at the same time. And when I’m not at school picking up a ball, I’m at home skipping rope and doing mat pilates. Early morning swim runs with my childhood friends remain in my memory as one of the fondest activity we get together for. Being in the water makes me feel as though I’m fully immersed in the moment – as though my body is one with all that is around me. Drawing feels very much the same way.

But age catched up. I found that I could no longer run without feeling it in my knees afterwards. I took cautionary steps to alleviate the pain, but after many years of following Mr. T along with his run, I’ve decided that it wasn’t for me. So now I concentrate on doing yoga flows and pilates stretches instead because it helps me open up my shoulders – hunching over my keyboard or Wacom tablet for long periods on end makes me feel as though a curled up ball of wrangled nerves at the end of the day.

With any yoga pose (or anything at all, really), practice makes perfect. But one particular pose has eluded me for many years – the yoga push up (also known as the four-limbed staff pose). For those who don’t know what a yoga push up is, it’s basically a push up but instead of your arms being the same position as your shoulder when you bring your body down, it’s instead at a 90-degree angle, with your upper arms running parallel to your torso, so that your body weight rests on the middle of your body instead of the top of your body (and your wrists are holding your body weight up at the middle!) I just read that last sentence and oh man, here’s a case when a picture tells a better story.

So I have lousy upper body strength it seems, and no matter how much I try, I fall flat on my face every time – never mind that just getting to that bit was a torture in itself. Imagine this: You’re ready to do a push up. You square your hands, resting your hands firmly on the mat. You take a deep breath, and hope that this time will be it – it’s the time you won’t fall flat on your face because your arms betrayed you. So on to the beginning of the descent – a few inches down – and oh boy! It’s looking pretty good so far. A couple more inches, and your upper hand begins to quiver no matter how tightly they’re tucked away at your sides. Your thigh begins to feel nervous, trembling at intensity of keeping the body parallel to the floor. And during that last pivotal moment when you’ve almost hit that 90-degree angle, your body gives way, and everything – your hands, thighs, torso and all – come crashing down in a tangle of limbs.

I thought to myself there’s no way that I could do it. Some muscles obviously did not get the memo that this is the one thing that is still on my list.

My poor yoga mat almost has an imprint of my face from the many times I’ve landed face first into it. But I still kept at it. Lately, I mixed up my routine a little and instead of letting myself fall, I allowed myself to go as far as I could without diving head-first into the mat. And then, right before I felt that familiar jelly-like feeling creep up my hands, I come up for a cobra pose (here’s what that looks like).

It felt really good. I did a couple more each time.

And today, I tried the yoga push up again on its own, and I was surprised at not landing on my face. In fact, my face was an inch away from the mat as my body balanced itself parallel to the floor. I blinked in surprise. I held myself that way for a few seconds – in disbelief. It was surreal. I did it. And then I did it again. It wasn’t a fluke!

My shoulders were hurting afterwards – as though I had worked out muscles I never knew were there in the first place. It was throbbing with a dull ache, warm to the touch and tight. I felt proud.

I believe that we never stop growing or stretching ourselves. The biggest takeaway for me from this whole exercise (pun intended!) is that it takes time to practice anything at all. Whether it’s yoga, drawing, or doing your own business. You might think that you don’t have it in you, but it’s all there. Every bit of it. You just need to find your way, and maybe you’ll fall down like I did (and I don’t just mean on the mat!) but you’ll soon find the strength you never had.

When that happens, it’ll just take you completely by surprise.

And then you’ll be proud you stuck it out.

[Illustration: Surrender, by fellow yoga-loving illustrator (and IF founder!) Penelope Dullaghan]

Posted by Amy Ng on 08/26/15 under artists,business,idea generation
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