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Thread: Business of Illustration
May 22nd, 2008 #1
Business of Illustration
In an ongoing effort to improve my own business skills for illustration development, I've been doing some online research and found this particular site today...so I thought I'd share in case anyone else here on CA could also use the info.
Here is a snippet from a recent post:
Less is not always more, especially in illustration
I have noticed a serious decline with budgets in illustration lately and I firmly believe it’s not always the client’s fault. I mean it would be a whole lot easier to blame them but I have other ideas. Yes, we could always blame the economy or the Republicans for that matter. Personally I point my finger at the illustrators themselves.
Yes, even though this is not probably the most popular stance for me to take it is what I think. I believe that if we were really honest about it, the illustrators themselves would have to take most of the blame....Recently, I quoted on an illustration for an advertising campaign that was quite big. I was dealing with one of the largest advertising agencies in the USA and the usage for the illustration was unlimited usage, all media for one year, internationally. So of course I quoted accordingly. I found out that my quote was the highest. The other two illustrators in the bid quoted 50% less then me. I am a by the book kind of gal and often refer to the Graphic Artists Guild Pricing & Ethical Guidelines for “inspiration”. Obviously this was not the case for the other two illustrators involved....
In ending, I was approached by a very talented illustrator not to long ago that I was very enthusiastic about representing. She had told me that several years back she had sold many of her illustrations to a very small and un-intimidating stock agency when she was just starting out and needed some money. It turned out that several years later that very small stock house was bought up by a larger stock house that was later bought by one of the biggest stock houses in the world today. She told me she sold outright for a minimum fee at the time since the stock house was very small and she didn’t think it would be a problem. Well before taking her on, I Googled her name and found her work all over there web in stock and royalty free sites. It goes against AGM’s policy to take on anyone who has sold their images to these company and therefore, there was no way that I could take her on . She never imagine that by selling her illustrations to that small agency it could have snowballed like it did. When you sign over your rights to someone else, they own them and therefore can sell them over and over again.
In the meantime, if anyone else has run across some sites that you also found helpful specifically for the Business of Illustration would you also post your links here?
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June 4th, 2008 #2
Oh, good -- it looks like this thread might end up being useful after all...I've seen that it's been turned into a sticky, heh.
Here's another useful tidbit I found today focusing on what art director's like to see in portfolios geared to the children's book illustration market. The writer, Cheryl Klein, is an editor for Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic) and had recently attended a SCBWI portfolio viewing at the Society of Illustrators.
Here's a snippet, with more commentary and some additional sites to visit at the above link:
Squids 101: What I Like to See in an Artist's Portfolio
...When I look at a portfolio, what I'm really trying to see is the illustrative equivalent of a writer's voice: the kinds of things you like to draw; your skill at rendering real life (even if said life involves dragons or fairies); the qualities of your unique style; how that style transforms real life; its emotional range; how that style might be applied to the manuscripts I have on my desk or future manuscripts that might come my way. So it is important to note that the bullet points...are all suggestions and not prescriptions: If you don't like drawing animals and you're not good at them, then by golly don't include them in your portfolio. Show me who you are illustratively, what you're good at and what you have a passion for, and the best projects will come out of those things.
...All of the portfolios there were very organized and professional, but for the benefit of illustrators who may not have had much guidance in putting a portfolio together, here are some things I like to see in them:
- Your best work. Don't put substandard pieces in your portfolio just to fill out the book.
- All the styles and/or media you feel proficient in. If you're comfortable doing black-and-white line art as well as watercolor and acrylic, feel free to put all three in, though I then suggest organizing the portfolio by medium so I can look at your style and skill in each one. Some illustrators create a separate portfolio for each style/medium, which is good to see if we're having a one-on-one critique, but less practical for general portfolio viewings like today's.
- Illustrations involving human beings, particularly children, but also covering a decent range of ages, races, genders, settings, and especially expressions. I don't mean that you have to have twenty portraits in your portfolio where the first is an old black woman rejoicing, the next a two-year-old Asian boy crying, the third George Clooney beaming: Just be sure that your illustrations include more than smiling white people.
- N.B.I.: It's the smiling there that can really annoy me -- when I look at a picture of 10 kids on a school bus, say, and all of them have the exact same vacant beaming expression, then you're not creating individual characters so much as a group stare, which might feel warm but will also feel flat. I'm looking for the individuality that comes out of your characters -- a sense of how real and alive those people are, no matter what medium or style you use.
- N.B.II.: If you are at all inclined towards caricature or portraiture, it's nice and fun to include a portrait or illustration of some easily recognizable famous figure as rendered by you. (Andy Rash and Sean Qualls are experts at this.) This allows me to get a quick handle on your style by seeing how it compares to the real person. Moreover, the biographical picture book is alive and well, so it's good to know you can recreate real people with accuracy and verve.
- Illustrations involving animals, either anthropomorphized or real -- whatever your style is best suited for. I would suggest that you have at least two or three of the following common picture-book animals somewhere in your portfolio: a dog, a cat, a dinosaur, a cow, a pig, a chicken, a duck, a horse, a rabbit, a wolf, an elephant, a mouse, a tiger.
- While we're talking common subjects, it could be useful and fun to have pieces showing your unique take on any of the following: a ballet class; firefighters or fire trucks (or other cars and trucks); a farm; dinosaurs (again); a goodnight scene. These subjects may be familiar, but they never go away completely, and we'll always be looking for new takes on these old stories. (This is not a requirement by any means.)
- A few (3-4) pieces with the same subject, ideally a few consecutive spreads from the same story (extra points for having the text on the page). This could be an original story or a familiar text -- Mother Goose rhymes and fairy tales are good choices for their familiarity (though I must say that most first-time illustrators will probably not be able to get either a Mother Goose book or a fairy tale retelling published in an overcrowded market). This allows me to see how you handle the same characters in different perspectives, positions, and situations; what parts of the written narrative you choose to highlight in your picture; how you transition from one scene/emotional atmosphere to another; and how you choose to advance the story through your illustrations.
- Better still: A sketch dummy of your current project, with perhaps one piece of final art. It is probably not wise to make full final art of a book until it's sold, as the editor and art director will likely have some suggestions for you, but I love seeing sketch dummies, as they show how you sustain a story over 32 pages and how you handle your characters and their emotions.
June 6th, 2008 #3
Yet another illustration business resource with additional links as posted by Heather Castles, a Canadian illustrator and designer based in Adelaide,
Her Tips and Resources section includes the following topics with commentary and occasionally additional links to other resources with more detailed information for illustrators:
Quoting & Business tips for illustrators :
• How much to charge for illustrations
• Association of Illustrators 2007 Fees & Standard Pricing (new)
• Increase the revenue of your illustration business
• Researching before you create
• Set up an illustration business in 10 steps
• Time Tracking your illustration projects
Marketing Tips :
• Tips for creating a great promotional brochure
• Cold Calling tips for illustrators
• Greeting Card design & illustration tips
• Christmas holiday promotional ideas
• How to build an illustration portfolio
• How to find Children’s Book Publishers!
• How to promote yourself as an illustrator
• How to prepare samples to send to publishers
• Resume writing tips for Illustrators
Art Materials Tips & Techniques :
• Archiving artwork & artfiles
• How to Clean Oily Paint Brushes
• Tips for handling art supplies safely
• Understanding Artist Materials Toxicity labels
• How to safely recycle diluents
• Scanners : alternative uses
• Photoshop Tutorial : Colouring pencil drawings in PS2
• Using iPhoto to catalogue illustrations (new)
• Creating colour swatches with myPantone (new)
Tips for Children’s Book Illustrators :
• In The Picture | (resources on including the disabled in picturebooks) (new)
• Eco-Libris | Offset the carbon footprint of your picturebook (new)
• How to illustrate a children’s book
• How to promote your children’s book through a blog
• Writer’s Seminar Notes on writing for Picturebooks
June 7th, 2008 #4
Hey Tatiana, I wanted to say i really appreciate all the info you're posting here! I'm slowly entering the terrifying waters of freelance illustration and these sites all contain great insight
I also wanted to share this blog called Trade Secrets, run by illustrator Meg Hunt, she talks about her perspective or doubts in very varied topics and has a nice feedback with readers, has a bit of everything (talks about promotion, stock sites, art supplies...) and I think it's quite a good read too I found this post very interesting myself: http://tradesecrets.wordpress.com/20.../know-thyself/
June 10th, 2008 #5
An interview with Scholastic's Creative Director and VP, David Saylor. He recently gave a talk at Parsons and talked about what makes a good dummy book as well as what he looks for. He spent the afternoon talking about: his profession, his new imprint Graphix, the business of children’s books, answered questions and gave some quick on-the-spot reviews of book dummies.
He talked about the differences between creating a one-off, ornamental piece of art — to artwork created for a children’s book, that has to flow and sequentially tell a story.
“The work should feel narrative and that it gives you a ‘feeling,’” he added. “It should emit some emotion or you can tell (by looking at the picture) there’s more than meets the eye. You know it when you see it.”
“I happen to love pictures books,” David said. “It’s hard for me to see the market on the down trend. Too many picture books that were too mediochre were published. We’re (the industry) reaping the fallout of over-publishing.”
As he advised the students he emphasized the importance to focus on the execution of your drawing. “Draw, draw, draw!” and “Be a master of your medium.”
There is also an interview with him at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy) here:
What makes an artist's illustrations stand out for you?
DS: Illustrations always stand out for me if they make me feel something or provoke a response: laughter, sadness, joy, insight. I love artwork that expresses life in distilled moments.
Do you think a website is a useful tool for illustrators to showcase their work? How often do you look at a portfolio online?
DS: I think websites are great for artists, and I would encourage anyone who is starting out (and established artists, for that matter) to think about setting up a site. I look at websites every day and find them incredibly helpful.
What kinds of things can turn you off of a portfolio?
DS: Portfolios that are uneven are distressing, meaning that there's a mix of good work but too much that's not up to par. I'm not a fan of gimmicky portfolios either: let the work speak for itself.
June 10th, 2008 #6
Tatiana, thanks for finding these and putting them all in one easy to use thread. There's a wealth of good information out there, but it's not always easy to find it. The business end of illustration is especially important because not every artist has the same kind of feel for it as they do art, and many art schools do a poor job of preparing people for this end of things.
June 10th, 2008 #7
Here's another excellent link with resources for those interested in marketing their illustration art to the Children's and YA markets (also includes agent info and illustrator interviews):
Cynthia Leitich Smith's
Children's & Young Adult
This Web site is a portal into the world of literary trade books for children and young adults. It’s designed to serve young readers, teachers, librarians, child caregivers, undergraduate and graduate students, university professors, writers, and literature enthusiasts of all stripes.
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June 30th, 2008 #8
"The Drawing Board for Illustrators"
Created and maintained by artist, Theresa Brandon
"Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of illustration. Prepare to be fascinated and frustrated by a field that offers great personal satisfaction and creativity offset by unreliable income and unpredictable employment. Illustrators are an independent and interesting breed of artists, generous with sharing knowledge and information. On this site you will find information and advice on careers, marketing, portfolios, organizations and networking."
Includes information and sources for some of the following points:
- What kind of work is available for Illustrators?
- What do I include in a portfolio?
- How do I market my illustration work?
- Do I need a website? Do I need a blog?
- Organizations and Associations for Illustrators
- How much money do illustrators make?
- A friend wants me to illustrate a book she has written - what do I do?
- Do I need to work digitally?
- Do I need an agent?
- How do I network with other illustrators?
- What qualities and skills do I need to be an illustrator?
- Do I need a resume?
- Do I need a college degree?
- What advice do you have for a young artist?
December 17th, 2008 #9
Thank you so much for posting all these Links and tips. Since I am now in the transitional phase between having been fully employed and possibly becomming a freelancer I REALLY appreciate the info.
The only two cents I can add from my expirience as a corporate illustrator is that one should be able to let go of ideas and concepts and otherwise stuff one cares about. Since the customer is the one picking up the tab and the ad possibly knows more about the customers style and expectations (that´s her/his job) expect a lot of stuff thrown out or even half finished pieces ending in the shredder in favor of a new idea the customer had while having his morning dump, pardon the language. That´s exaggerated maybe but sometimes tru thou. Change this, make him laugh more, yes I know I said I wanted pink jeans but make em striped yellow and violett now - and so on. You need a thick hide.
A tutor once said to me: "Let your mind go!" and it didn´t come back.
Wolf@WorK aka Sketchbook
my Heavy Industrie, Military and Steampunk References/Textures (updated Oct 2012)
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December 18th, 2008 #10
Also, be sure to check out the CA thread with the very experienced artist's representative, Richard Solomon, taking questions on The Business of Illustration:
There are additional videos and illustration relevant news (some provided in the above discussion thread) also in the Richard Solomon blog, here:
December 18th, 2008 #11Registered User
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Good stuff! Thanks.
December 20th, 2008 #12Registered User
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thanks a lot!
July 21st, 2009 #13
September 20th, 2010 #14
This is all great stuff! I was wondering if there'd been any discussion about selling prints online via website like DA and cafepress and the like. I don't see it as a huge revenue stream (most profits/and cost are on the website) but I wouldn't mind earning a few extra dollars here and there for work that could essentially just be sitting on my hard drive.
November 15th, 2012 #15
Top Seven Mistakes Made By Aspiring Illustrators, by Kristina Gehrmann:
**Finished Work Thread **Process Thread **Edges Tutorial
Crash Course for Artists, Illustrators, and Cartoonists, NYC, the 2013 Edition!
"Work is more fun than fun."
"Art is supposed to punch you in the brain, and it's supposed to stay punched."
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