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How to decide on events that are worth your time and money

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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Illustration by Matteo Berton

I recently went to Amsterdam and Berlin. The trip was mainly to attend Pictoplasma 2016 in Berlin, which I have heard so many good things about for the past few years. It was my first time in Europe. It was also the first time I sat in an airplane for 14 hours. It was exciting.

It was also scary.

Prior to my decision to attend Pictoplasma, I thought of attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore – AFCC (an event that I’ve been attending for the past 3 years, invited both as a moderator and speaker). But when I realised that I didn’t have to go this time round, I asked myself – where should I go instead? Maybe it’s time for a change, I thought. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe to see what it’s like. Pictoplasma is two months away, and by a stroke of pure luck, there was an ongoing promotion of cheap flights to Europe at the time. Fifty percent off the normal ticket price was a pretty good deal, I thought!

Once I started thinking, I then asked myself – what’s stopping me from considering other events? So I turned my focus on another event – the ICON 9 Conference in Austin, Texas. Both were within mere months from each other. I had to decide: Europe or the US. I could only pick just one.

I calculated the cost of accommodation, flight and meals for both to see if I would be able to afford the trip – and it turns the Europe trip was the one that I could afford. Tickets to the US were expensive (50% more), and to cut a long story short, I was able to take advantage of more cost savings that Europe had to offer – including a standing invitation from a lovely friend to stay at her apartment throughout the duration of my trip.

So Europe it was.

To be honest, I never thought that I’d be able to set foot in Europe so soon. For those who traveled often, it might not seem like a big deal but it was always something that I had dreamed of doing, but was something that I waved away as pure indulgence and was out of reach for me. Because it was so far away (14 hours by flight!) Maybe when I had more money. Maybe it’s a trip I should go with my husband. Maybe I should stick to Asian countries first – there’s quite a few that I haven’t been to. I’ve set up so many imagined roadblocks for myself that I hadn’t realised that I was holding myself back.

But you know what? Screw it. There’s only so much time I could waffle on about this, so I booked a flight, and bought a ticket to Pictoplasma two months before the event. I was really lucky because the stars all aligned for me in terms of budgeting. If you’re wondering how I did it – there’s no magic here. I’m as boring as can be:I took on more projects to defray costs. I saved up.  I’m a very frugal person, plus I don’t have other responsibilities beyond my mortgage and miscellaneous living expenses, so I am lucky to have been able to save up a fair bit for stuff like this. And if you’re a scrooge like me, you’ll know that it’s hard to let go, especially when things like this are right in front of you – even though you saved up just for it. It’s a complex, I know.

What if you’re thinking of going to an event? How would you decide if it was worth your time and money? I’ve been to my share of events – both in and out of the country to further my skills and open up my horizons. I’ve also learnt when to say no to opportunities that I felt were not the best use of my time. But like the above, I’ve also learnt to take risks and to just say a big huge yes. I used to get big pangs of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out when I was first starting out. Having to say no would make me hyperventilate with fear at the thought of losing out on experiences, contacts and networking opportunities. These days however, I’m weighing the pros and cons of every invitations I get carefully before deciding if I should go. My heart doesn’t give off a weird, awkward twang anymore when I have to write an email to decline an invitation. Instead it’s more of a relief, I’d say.

So if you’re curious on how I’ve managed to stave off the ugly FOMO monster, here’s my personal checklist of considerations that I run in my head before I say yes to an engagement or event:

1. Return on Investment (ROI)
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to think about ROIs for when you’re attending events. In a perfect world, I’d love to say yes to everything and every event I’m invited to. But I have only one body, one mind (which I’d like to keep sane) and a pair of hands and legs that can only be at one place at any given time. You know how people make a list of pros and cons and then weigh it against each other? This is no different. What would you get out of the event? Are there other events that would be able to provide you with the same opportunities? Who would you like to meet? Could you email or phone them instead? Could you watch the rerun online later? Factoring the practical side of the equation will help you make a more informed decision.

2. Can I afford it?
Budgeting is a real concern when it comes to traveling; particularly when the event takes you out of the country. Would I have enough funds to get there and back? What about food, living and traveling expenses? What if I run into problems over there? Money, however, is an issue that can be settled if you have enough time. Most of the time, planning well ahead will afford you cheaper tickets (much like accommodations, where you can find better rates and locations to cut down on the need for commuting). Not enough funds? If you plan ahead, you can factor in your planning to get some extra money. Take on extra freelance work, or set up a stall or online shop. Hustle, hustle and hustle some more. Get a sponsor. Talk to people who might be able to benefit from your opportunity. Get creative – there’s only so much you can save, but your earning potential is limitless, especially if you do it thoughtfully and purposefully. Stay local – I usually opt to stay at an Airbnb or a local bed and breakfast whenever I traveled so that I had someone to consult when I was there – this time I picked Airbnb as it was on a short notice and having hosts who could give you tips on transportation and general tips is tremendously helpful especially when you need to orientate yourself quickly. When you’re there, pack your own lunch too to save money and time. Discover the local markets/grocery store – this makes me giddy with joy because I enjoy learning how to live and eat like a local.

3. Am I going for someone, or for myself?
I’ve been invited to events where I’d turn up as a favour to the host or invitee. And while some of these events have been great and I’ve come away from it inspired and energised; there have been a few that has made me regret wasting my time because I was trying to be polite. If you’re a freelancer or if you’re self-employed, you might get this guilt more often than not: should I go, or should I not? If I don’t go, maybe my client won’t give me more jobs. If I do go, there’s also the possibility that I might enjoy myself and learn something new. It was mostly the latter for me, luckily, when I was first starting out. I approached a lot of these events with an open mind and was ale to learn lots of cool things, form friendships as well as collaborations that has lasted until today. Remembering this point can sometimes bring up the FOMO monster again, but I’ve since learned to make better decisions.

5. Can you get your things in order before you go away?
Can your business still run while you are away? Can you get time off from work? Can you relax for a bit and not have to think about work while you’re somewhere else? Could you work while traveling? Do you want to? Or would you prefer to line things up so that you can clear your desk and pile ahead of time before you disappear for a few days (or weeks – it’s up to you!)

6. Can I also explore other things and places, and meet other people within the vicinity?
I love to kill two birds with one stone. For me to travel to Europe, I’d really like to max out my time there since it takes about 14 hours (not including layovers) to get there. Being the sort of person who likes to soak in a particular place for a few days (to get better acquainted, and fall in love with it) instead of being the harried traveler, the maximum number of big cities/countries I’d like to cover is no more than 2-3 at one time. I took 17 days to cover 2 countries, which has been a really nice pace – your mileage will vary though! In between, I made sure I had time to meet up and visit lovely friends who I’ve only spoken to via emails, which is a real treat! I also was fortunate to have a roof over my head to call home, hence I was able to stay longer without denting my budget. Recently, I time and plan my travels to also coincide with flea markets happening in the area – I love finding gems that won’t break the bank, while buying directly from local residents.

7. How much do you need/want it?
Sometimes things don’t make sense. You might not get everything you want from that just one event. Maybe it’s just a small chunk of knowledge that you’re itching to get. Maybe you’d really like to say hello to that hero of yours that flew in all the way from someplace far that would be see hell freezing over before you could get there (talk about meeting halfway, eh?) Life can be irrational sometimes. People can be irrational sometimes. And it’s okay. If you think that going to this event would or could change the course of your career or even life (hey, it happens!) then by all means, you don’t need people telling you what you should or should not do.

I won’t be the first to admit that when I want to travel, it’s not just because of work. Like the above considerations, there’s lots of things that go into a decision to get on an airplane, but one of the biggest deciding factor for me is also one that’s very subjective, and sometimes a little selfish. Very often, when I decide to go away by myself, it’s for me to clear my head or for when something bad has happened and I would need some time to process things through. I liken it to having new memories to replace the not-so-good ones!

Whether it’s to get away after watching my first dog die of cancer, or because I felt stuck; traveling – going away and then coming back – keeps me sane. The line “I need to go away” is one that I’ve used a few times when life knocks the wind out of me, and I’m very lucky that my husband and family understands my need to do so. Experiencing different sensory inputs and being in a new place, meeting new people and trying out things I don’t normally get to do – it refreshes and rejuvenates the way I can’t describe it. Yes, I do come back to the same situation at the end of it. My dog is still dead. My teeth issues are still there, waiting for me. I have work that’s piled up sky high. But I come back a different person, with new eyes. I’m itching to get back to work, sleeves rolled up and ready to go. And this alone makes going away worthwhile (in addition to all of the above reasons that I’ve mentioned).

And so I’m back from Europe. And you know what? I’ve built up the idea of visiting Europe so much that when I was in Amsterdam I kept touching the many bridges there while I was crossing the canals to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I thought to myself: hey, it wasn’t that difficult to get here. It was doable. Yes, it took many years to save up for it, but it also took me the same amount of time to get over my money issues – let’s just say that I am so thrifty that Asian parents everywhere would be proud of me.

As for Pictoplasma? While it was a fun event, I doubt that I would go again in the future as an attendee. First, the good stuff: I learned a lot of new things, met some fantastic artists and made new friends. The bad? I thought the organizers could do better with the opening party and hosting better programmes in the evenings after the conference, so that everyone could maximise their time there, as there were quite a few people who flew in from around the world just to attend (eg. the ability to procure drinks at a bar does not make it a programme for me, really). I say this after having been to a few conferences that was managed a whole lot better in terms of giving attendees value for their money. But because I managed to cover most of the items on my checklist above in addition to the conference, I had a brilliant trip that’s worth so much more than attending that just one event.

So if you’re ever wondering about whether going to an event would be worth it, I hope the above checklist is helpful! For me, this trip isn’t just about Pictoplasma, or about going to Europe for the first time in my life; it’s also learning that nothing is out of reach. Yes, I consider myself very fortunate to be able to travel as it’s never lost on me that not many have the opportunity as I did. It might take you months, or even years (like me), but with the right planning, budget and timing, traveling outside your comfort zone is highly recommended to expand your horizons – physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Just don’t do it because you have FOMO.

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 06/06/16 under artists,business,tutorial / how-to
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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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VIDEO: My Process for Generating Ideas

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 Friday Editor and Creative Director Thomas James shares his process for generating ideas for illustration projects. Send us your own process here.

Posted by Thomas James on 08/14/15 under business,community,freelance,idea generation,IF community,IF news update,illustration,resources,technique,tutorial / how-to
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Online Character Illustration Class with Matt Kaufenberg

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 our continuing effort to keep you inspired we’d like to tell you about this really fun online course that will walk you through the steps necessary to take your character illustrations to the next level.

In this class Matt Kaufenberg will take you through his process of illustrating a character, starting with the concept, then moving into Illustrator to create the shapes, and finally, rendering it in Photoshop.

What You’ll Learn

  • Finding Inspiration
  • Character Concepts
  • Building the Foundation in Illustrator
  • Rendering in Photoshop
  • Color Adjustment and Texture

Click here to learn more about this class >>

Find even more online classes for illustrators here >>

Posted by Thomas James on 08/11/15 under children's art,classes,Events,illustration,resources,technique,Tools,tutorial / how-to,workshops / conferences
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How to Get More Children’s Book Illustration Commissions

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


72653 Illustration by Jennie Bradley

[The following is a guest post by Edward Burns, CEO of Advocate Art illustration agency.]

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 10.23.32Advocate Art, a leading children’s illustration agency is celebrating 20 years this year, Edward Burns CEO of Advocate Art gives some folio tips to illustrators wanting to win more children’s book commissions.
Look To The Movies For Guidance
It’s a fundamental fact that stories contain characters – just like a movie contains stars, supporting cast and extras. If you think of the story like a movie and the characters in your folio like a casting director would their roster of actors, it will help you develop them for… well, that next blockbuster!
So no big film is devoid of characters.  There are no films with just scenes and narrative – that would be pretty boring.  The same goes for children’s books. Ok, there may be a religious title with inspirational scenes and verse, but that is pretty much it. If you don’t have characters in your folio, there is nothing for an editor to pick –simple! Now be honest, can you imagine your characters working as stars in storybooks? Or are they really only going to make it as an extra? Unlike a casting director, you have power to create this cast, rather than rely on the acting skills of your clientele – lets do that!
In short you have to create a selection of characters that can be chosen for a variety of stories.  Main actors, sidekicks, the mum & dad and animals (both anthropomorphic and stylized).  The more genres you cover, the bigger your rostra of potential actors, the more films (stories) your folio will work for.  You may have seen that classic 80’s film called the Goonies? For me, that sets the benchmark for characters covered in most children stories. You have the computer geek; the hero; the overweight funny guy; the older sister; her friend; the sensible older boy plus good guys and bad guys mixed as all ethnicities. You see all the same stereotypes in kids films and cartoons from Madagascar to Power Rangers and repeated in animations of cats, dogs, zoo animals – you name it! The same goes for children’s books, let’s see that bad guy lion or the geeky koala for example or hey, draw them as people!

Cover the bases
Remember, you have to supply the whole cast.  A publisher won’t just pick you for the lead character. Your cast needs to encompass all the main characters. A quick trick is to do sheets of doodles, some finished, some just pencil outlines – say a page of monkeys. Another tip is to do a character line up – like a police identity parade.
If you want to do a book about “xyz” have it in your folio
Your cast can be stereotypes for sure, just like actors end up playing the same rolls or get typecast.  So if your dream is to do a fairy story, have some fairies on your cast, play to your drawing strengths. Build a cast for roles you want to illustrate or are good at.
We have illustrators who get work because they are simply good at illustrating Hispanic-looking kids, for example. Don’t forget though that each actor needs to be right on the money, there is a lot of competition! And please don’t kid yourself that having a princess in your folio will mean you get a fairy book, it has to be spot on. As an agent, I wait for the Art Director to say, “that’s the girl in my book” as he/she points at maybe the smallest doodle in the corner of a page of your folio.
I recently had an artist comment that it was odd that she was always being selected for period work like fables.  I said “Your joking right? Every person in your folio is wearing pantaloons!” I had a similar situation with an artist saying she was fed up with illustrating bible stories, we had to remove all biblical work from her folio and replace them with characters she wanted to do next.
Understand the other side
By understanding what an Art Director is going through to get an artist selected, you will understand why maybe your folio is not working for them. The typical selection process goes like this:-
The Art Director has a publishing meeting where sales marketing and the author are present; they want to see the suggestions for their new cute bear book, for example.
The editor will go in with maybe 6 illustrator suggestions.  Examples of their bears (not giraffes or pigs or fairies) – BEARS! And the right bear for the story.  It may sound a bit narrow minded creatively that they have to show a bear, perhaps sales don’t have the creative vision to imagine what your bear will look like from looking at a giraffe?!  Maybe there are too many bear samples out there for the Art Editor not to need to compromise. Most likely, they really want to nail it at the meeting.  The point of the meeting will be to definitively select the artist, that won’t be possible until the author says “That’s my bear in the story!”
“I’m very versatile, just ask me to do what you need”
It’s a classic line I hear from illustrators who don’t have the goods in their folio.  Ok it’s not their fault, often they don’t know what the “goods” are. When an Art Director is browsing your work on the web a) you are not there to say the line and b) why should they go to the effort and ask you? C) If you were perfect for the story, or liked bears, you would have drawn one by now!
Please don’t kid yourself that they will call you and ask you for a sample before the meeting of your bear, based on the strength of your giraffe.  They won’t have the budget for this so it will be a free sample and they don’t want you to terrorize them for weeks phoning them asking how you got on.  Only if they have prior experience with you will they ask you to sample. Folios have become a bit like menus in a restaurant, that’s your choice – the chief won’t do specials.

Characterization. Oscar winners
Ok, the characters have to be good at their craft, good actors, expressive facially and physically animated. They carry narrative from page to page even with dots for eyes and a half moon mouth, for example. It’s all the about the subtleties e.g. the tilt of the head, the turning in of a foot. I’ve seen the best illustrators work with films on in the background, even in the corner of their mac to guide them- Nicholas Cage transferred to a bubbly-headed boy. Show you can do it in your folio by setting yourself a narrative. For example, draw:
-girl is happy walking her puppy,
-girl looses puppy,
-girl thinks she knows where it is
-girl is happy she finds it.
Candid – natural well observed poses
Great illustrators are great actors; they understand human movement and poses. You may have a great eye for colour, a great technique and be quick but if your characters are all wooden, like they have been jig-sawed from thick plywood and the arms are moved using pins, they won’t be able to carry the narrative. It’s like the difference between wedding photos when all the relatives are lined up and the candid shots taken by an 8 year old on her iPod.
A tip is to click away on your phone at your family and friends maybe one Sunday. Draw a giraffe as your grandmother looking surprised or laughing; or your young sister as she concentrates on a magazine, or your mum when she is thoughtful
This is a huge subject so I will bullet point the basics that are relevant for children’s publishing:-
    •    Production printing processes wash out colours.  Softness and subtleties are often lost. Bright colours are best, especially when pitching younger.
    •    Spend some time understanding colour theory.  Warm colours to cold colours evoke moods that will help bring out the narrative.
    •    Co-ordinate and complement colours. Again use the colour wheel to make sure they are in the same pallet.  Keep continuity between colours throughout a page to demonstrate that, but don’t have your whole folio using the same green – vary it.
    •    Limit your pallet on a folio page of samples to show you have a supreme grasp of colours. Muted colours can add a mood, especially in limited light, or if a scene is set with limited colour choices, like a green frog in a green pond in a green jungle, or a brown rabbit in a dessert etc. Besides, it can be very trendy to limit colours!
    •    Use fashion magazines to understand what colours are in.  Check out popular online fashion/shopping websites and even drop the pallet into your own pallet.  Art directors and then the Mums who buy the books for their kids, understand fashion and will make purchases based on what looks right or modern.
    •    Mix it up.  Why can’t a night sky be purple or grass be yellow?  By introducing different lighting into your work – vary the obvious.
My favorite website for colour us is check it out, it will help you through this theoretical science!
Continuity of Character
It basically means- can the same characters be re-drawn? You have to prove you can do it with samples in your folio.  It’s one of the most basic and yet often the toughest skills of an illustrator, especially if you have a very naive style. If this is the case, then often there are only subtle differences between the characters. You don’t want the same character pulling the same expression but you also don’t want all the characters to either start looking the same or start drifting into each other.
My best advice is doodle with your character and then set in stone how your character performs, use this as the benchmark before you even start. Sometimes a publisher will want to do this with you – it’s called character development. And don’t be tempted to make changes as you work through the project – you are asking for a re-do!

Child friendly
Are your characters suitable for kids? There is a big difference between Disney or CBBC characters and actors in 18 plus movies. The same goes for Children’s books, don’t have them dressed in sexy clothes, or well developed physically, or too violent, or too scary. In short, no guns, thongs, big breasts, cigarettes or spurting blood. It sounds obvious but it’s so common for illustrators to have in-appropriate characters in a children’s folio. Sure, have them for other markets but not in this folio.
Some illustrators have a different site all together for adult illustration or think of a sure fire way of separating them on your site. There is nothing wrong with having young characters with attitude, hey kids hate “lame” stuff e.g. how the Brats are to Barbie. Having it in your main folio demonstrates that you are not right for this role, it is a big home goal.
How old should your characters be?
There is a rule that generally pretty much everyone is interested in themes that are aspirational to them, but not too aspirational – just the next step. This means you can put yourself into the main role ‘with a little bit of imagination.’  You could be the hero in Die Hard or James Bond or the girls in Sex in the City.  Now consider the target age for these stories, they are always just below the age of the characters.
When you are growing up, ‘aspiration’ can be simplified to just a few years older than the target reader, their big sister or brother (because they get to do more).  So a 3 year old likes to read about 5 year olds, 5 year olds to 7, 7 year olds to early teens and so on. Don’t go too far, being much older is scary and often un-cool. There are exceptions of course but on the whole it works, so bear in mind this when designing your characters, even animal ones.
The Children’s Book market is broken into board books (think pages that little fingers can turn), picture books for mums to read to children at bedtime, early reading, reluctant reading and chapter books with simple illustrations, plus graphic novels and reference books. In general, illustrated books occupy the much younger market.  So as a rule, keep your characters young, say 3-8 and you will be in the range.
Cute.  Are they are appealing?
Thinking like a casting agent again, your characters need to be attractive on the whole. Let’s see your Brad Pitt’s and Julia Roberts. The supporting characters can have more interesting faces and the bad guys…well, need to look bad!  Stupid guys stupid, clever guys clever and so on. But the most important thing is that the lead guys are attractive/appealing, even if they’re not human characters.  Sorry, I don’t make the rules!
Cool- up-to-date
If you are not an ‘A-lister’ you at least need to know who is and why. Stories are being re-illustrated all the time, just like films are re-made, so you have to have a style which was illustrated this year or why would you be chosen to refresh a book? It is a trend led-world and no one is more on top of trends than the target buyer of kid’s stories – young Mums!
You need to know what type of eyes are in, what type of outline (key line) textures, of register colours etc. Check out the new releases in your local bookshop – absorb but don’t copy.
Your style is what makes you, you.  But it can be adapted and nudged to a degree, can’t it?  It has to have empathy with the reader’s age.  But also be on trend and decorative – maybe even have some sophistication for the Mum!  You need to get down to the child’s level at least and create work that they will enjoy.  Too trendy or arty and you can patronize the buyer and the kids won’t get it. (Sure some art directors will love it but I doubt it will sell so there won’t be a second!).  Naive characters work best when they are artistically aspirational to kids i.e. you could imagine that the most artistic child in the school could draw this way – i.e. within their reach aspirationally.
Compositions.  Set the scene
It’s the location or the scene that will literally form the backdrop for your characters.  Don’t have them all on white and avoid too many cliff-edge compositions (i.e. a foreground but no background to the scene, like they are on a cliff-edge.) Include scenes that can help carry a narrative, as in the girl in the park example above. Do take on popular themes e.g. fairies, trucks even classic tales. This is your chance to be the director of the film so adopt their techniques-
Interesting camera angles can really help set the scene.  Say the story asks for 3 rabbits cowering from a tractor; have the angle perhaps as if you are in the ditch looking up at the rabbits, with the huge tractor filling the page behind them. It will help the reader empathize with the rabbits, as if they are going to be crushed under the wheels. A bird’s-eye view can also emphasize when characters are all together in a circle or one character is on its own.
Silhouettes.  Use these for supporting characters when you want to emphasize a conversation in a busy scene.  The main conversation does not need to be in the centre – just sketching the other characters can work as well.
Split scene.  Use these if you have over-lapping narrative.  It may be too complicated for young children, but really exciting if the text (and Art Director) calls for it.
And finally
Look in bookshops regularly, don’t rely on just looking at other artists or agents web sites.  They can throw you a curve ball because you may be looking at a folio of an unsuccessful artist! Check out what is out there on the High Street, especially really classic evergreen work. But hey, it’s all in the movies as well – go for the Oscar!
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Posted by Thomas James on 08/05/15 under books,business,children's art,freelance,IF Kids,illustration,resources,tutorial / how-to
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Illustrator Magoz Shares His Photoshop Workflow

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 12.04.50 PM

In a very useful post on his blog, Illustrator Magoz shares his step-by-step process of creating an illustration using Photoshop. It’s always helpful to see how a fellow artist approaches their craft, even when you already have your own methods in place, because you never know what little tricks you might pick up.

Read the post here.

Posted by Thomas James on 07/22/15 under technique,Tools,tutorial / how-to
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Build a Freelance Illustration Business with This 3-Day Workshop

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 2015-06-30 at 3.31.50 PM

Are you a designer, illustrator or creative doodler? Have you ever wondered how you could turn your talents into a business? This three-day workshop will help you create a plan for leveraging your creativity into a successful freelance business.

Run by Sally S. Swindell and Nate Padavick (illustrators and co-founders of They Draw and Cook) this course will give you an inside look at how two artists have built a successful design & illustration studio by fostering a community of artists that empower each other to grow their businesses.

Join Salli and Nate for (3) hour-long sessions to learn how you can leverage community & online content to build a successful freelance business around your creative skills.

Click here for more info >>


Posted by Thomas James on 07/01/15 under artists,business,classes,Events,news,resources,technique,Tools,tutorial / how-to,workshops / conferences
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Create Your Own Inspiration Mood Board


There’s nothing better to get a new creative project started than by making  your own inspirational mood board.  Creating your own mood board of idea’s and inspiration will help you to build a collection of concept base ideas to build a new art piece from whether a series of illustrations, photographs or painting. It’s not all that hard to do and once you get started creating a mood board can actually be a really enjoyable part of project building,  although if you’ve not made one before here are afew easy tips to help you get started on making your own.

What do I put in a mood board?

A mood board can contain anything from doodles, words, photographs, textures , colour swatches, fabrics and much more based around a chosen theme for your project. So for example a theme maybe “ocean” to which you’d include images of its inhabitants , sea blue colour tones and meaningful words tied to the theme etc.

What do I need to make one ? 

Its really down to personal preference but you can make a mood board easily in anything from the pages in your sketchbook, sticking them to a piece of artboard or a cork board with pins. There’s really no right or wrong way because your mood board is personal, there to give you idea’s and pull together concepts for your project that will help it grow.

Putting a mood board together.

  1. To begin putting your creative mood board together collect a series of images and inspirational materials linked to your chosen theme.
  2. On an a3 blank sketchbook page ( or any page size of your preference but bigger is less limiting to your mood board ideas) begin to add your mood board research to your page.
  3. Stick bits down with patterned washi tape or masking tape to make it more visual and allow you to change things around.
  4. Make it personal and have fun.
  5. Keep your creative mood board  in sight throughout your project to stay visually inspired and consistant to your project theme to prevent getting creatively lost along the way.

Image by  illustrator Katt Frank  you can find out more about their work here .

Posted by Kate Leonard on 10/05/14 under technique,tutorial / how-to
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The Australian Graphic Supply Collective: Tuts and Type

Rachel Frankel

Rachel Frankel

Rachel is an Oakland-based illustrator and graphic designer with a penchant for hand-lettering and writing. She also plays guitar and sings for the band Phosphene. You can view her work at
Rachel Frankel

Latest posts by Rachel Frankel (see all)

In my journey towards becoming somewhat of a graphic designer, I’ve gone through many bouts of chocolate-fueled rage, cursing when I can’t figure out how to line up my beziers correctly, or how exactly to create a seamless repeat pattern. Although there are loads of tutorials online, the Australia Graphic Supply Company is set to become the “square one” learning source for budding designers and typographers of all types (pun not intended).

Self-described “pixel-wranglers,” Dave and Laura Coleman are a husband-and-wife team working out of Sydney, Australia, focusing on a wide range of visual services from photography and branding to illustration and tattoo design. While Laura mostly manages operations & finances, Dave handles the creative side of their shared business–and both of them share a serious passion for design, photography and lettering.

They host a selection of their own client work on their website, but the primary focus is on their community and growing tutorial section. What’s neat to see is that their tutorial aesthetic matches up perfectly with that of their professional projects–the aim is clearly to give the viewer proper insight into the process of creating high-quality design and typography while simplifying the process down to layman’s terms.

One of my favorite tutorials was Creating a Hand-Lettered Logotype from Beginning to End–I’ve included some screenshots and a video below.

Dave and Laura were briefly living and working abroad in Oviedo, Spain, but are now in the process of returning to their home base in Sydney. To follow along with their adventures, check out their travel blog.

I’ve also included a couple links to my other favorite tutorials below:

No Pain, No Grain (How to Create a Seamless Vector Wood Grain Pattern)

So What’s the Big Deal with Horizontal & Vertical Bezier Handles Anyway?

I can’t wait for more exciting tutorials and developments from the AGSC. Thanks so much to Dave and Laura for sharing their knowledge with us! Follow along with them on theirwebsiteTwitter, and Pinterest.

Posted by Rachel Frankel on 07/29/14 under resources,tutorial / how-to,typography
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Tutorial – Using the Color Wheel

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

color wheel

This week we are getting back to some basic color theory with a video from Sessions Online College of Art and Design, that has some good suggestions on how to use the color wheel more creatively and effectively.

I’m the first to admit that the video is a bit bland and not too exciting, but there is a ton of good info in it and I like the examples she gives at the end.

So, If you’ve ever got stuck, or needed some inspiration when choosing colors, check out this tutorial. It’s fun to throw a shape into the middle of the color wheel and give it a spin like you’re playing Twister and see what you come up with.

Click to see the video tutorial >>

Posted by Thomas James on 01/22/14 under tutorial / how-to


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