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Hello everyone. I've been lurking around the site for a long time and have posted occasionally but not in a long time.
I have been working on various commissions and jobs since 2007, using the work to develop at the same time. However, I have come to a stalemate almost the past year.
My predicament is that most of the work I do is for little compensation (too little), yet I have some clients I work with on a normal basis so I have a small cash flow. The problem arises from the need to make at least that small amount of money to survive, the need to work better to improve so as to pursue higher paying clients and the fact that the work I am being commissioned for and the time I have to do it and the pay, isn't worth investing in working correctly (making a thumbnail studies, a tonal study at least and getting some reference to make a better image) mostly because it will take too long to complete and I will need money sooner!!! What a paradox. Also, I prefer to work with oils or at least acrylics to learn, improve and make those my mainstay, I don't quite like the digital medium, I struggle with it.
Another part of the problem is that I do not know and cannot find new employers (there's only some many RPG developers I know of) that will be able to pay somewhat more, so that I can invest in the imagery more but mostly to be able to develop a new portfolio showing my full skill!!!
In other words, I am too good for who I am currently working for, but not as good for higher profile work, and do not have the time to invest to get there (even tho I know some of my shortcomings!!!).
So, any advice or direction to clients or companies who may need a freelancer of my level is great. But, mostly what I need is a critique, a hard, heavy bashing. I need to see more of my mistakes, some I know (edge control, better drawing, more careful modelling, more careful light use and color temperature). Also, what else should be added or omitted to compose a portfolio of these. I am sure it will help to let you people know that my goals are to work as a freelancer for publishing of fantasy/ sci-fi and horror. No video game stuff for me save illustrations.
Following are some of my 'best' pieces that I have worked on the past year or so.
Hey man, I feel your pain on many levels and Art is such a bitch of a career sometimes yet it is also very rewarding if you can get a break or two. I think all of us professionals need an outside Eye to keep us honest and give us a good kick in the arse to get us moving and not complacent.
So, I'll crit yours if you crit mine.
1st off. Learn Digital. I fought the bitch for too long and it has negatively affected my career. You can't fight progress and either you get with the program or get left behind. Especially if you want to be involved in concept work. Digital speeds up your workflow tremendously. You just have to think of it as another tool. Like Markers or Conte or Ink. It's just a tool you use to get the job done.
2: Get a real web gallery and ditch Deviantart. A Professional needs a professional portfolio. There are many free services out there and you just need to put the time in to set up a web page. AD's want simple and easy to navigate portfolios to look at. No Flash, no gimmicky links. No music playing in the background. Think Simple, Powerful and Effective. Check out index exhibit. They are a European freeware site and I have friends that have used their stuff to create some really slick web portfolios.
3: Your work looks like Frank Frazetta. Too much like Frank Frazetta, Like he is the only influence in your world. I love Frank but you need to think about your own voice as an artist. Do you want to be known as a Frank Clone or do you want to be something else. If you want to be a Frank Clone than go for it with gusto. Study his process and sell yourself as a Frank Clone. There is a market for that and let's face it, if you can paint like frazetta, then you are GOLD. If you want to be something else, then you should seriously start drawing from other influences which leads us to #4...
4: What is your Art goal? Do you want to be a fantasy illustrator? If so for what company? What products? Look at the work that is being made right now for those products. Is yours on par or better? What are you doing to get your work to those producers? Check out http://theartorder.com/ This site is a goldmine for artists and illustrators looking for insight into the business and is moderated by an AD from TOR and I think Wizards of the Coast.
That's it for now my man. You ARE going to make it. You just have to put in the hard work to get there.
Wheeljack, first off thanks for the honest crit, I needed it and believe me I need more. As I said, I know many of my shortcomings, and I want to fix them, but i am sure there are more I cannot see.
Let's get to the most important thing that troubles me also, Frank's influence on me. Frazetta made me want to paint. There's more artists out there that I like, the problem is that 1)Frank's visions, quite by accident, overlap with my own on many levels, and although I cannot (due to constraints of said commissions) make what I want 100%, I find it very tough to get out of the classic Fritz motif because it either expresses me, or it serves best for unstudied, unreferenced, poorly paid commissions like these (oh god!!!). I definitely want to learn more on Frank's method, find what is in me, that his art unlocks (does that make sense?), but I don' want to copy him. On the other hand, many of the ultra realistic artists, lack the vividness, the life and the raw "tumescence" he and some others have. Richard Schmidt is an artist I like very much and who's technique I aim for in part. Generally there's more to how I want to shape myself than Frazetta, but it must come through traditional materials I suppose. It's a mess, but thank you for pointing it out for it being too obvious, I don't want to hide it, but I don't want to be a Boris Vallejo or a Ken Kelly, a Catherine Jeff Jones direction (no the style, but using Frank's base and going my on way like Jones did) is another story.
Next, the digital thing. All these are digital. I don't hate it really, I guess I just long for traditional work. I tend to make things too blurry digitally, or work too slow, and brushes and textures just confuse me.
Web gallery, will do!
Lastly my goals. I don't want to be a concept artist. Not even close. I want to do fantasy book covers, calendars, cards etc. I also have a longing for a 'fine art' side. Landscapes, architecture, portraits etc, but still with some imagination in them, but I cannot see myself trying to get into galleries just yet. A unification of illustration in general and fine art is a higher goal.
Companies? Tor and Heavy Metal are my top aims (don't know of other publications). Wizards also. Wizards seems closer to me than Tor, simply because, even if I give it my all, I cannot paint like say Donato, so I cannot compete of course. And even if I could paint well enough through use of reference, I don't think it would convince the Tor AD, but it would probably convince the Wizards' AD, yet I also want to avoid being too realistic, or at least 'stiff'.
Mostly, my problem is spotting technical problems (other than the Frazetta one) that I currently have. Other than that, I know I have to just do one thing, make more time and paint. I am just at a crossroads now I feel, and I have to take a direction, I've stood still far too long but all your points are correct and strong, so I will put effort into fixing them in parallel, despite the means. Thank you very very much!!!
Hey man, you are welcome for the crit.
The frazetta thing is a toughie. One thing about your work is that is reflects his work on so many levels. In fact at first I thought that you were simply copying him. That's kind of a back handed compliment I know so please don't take any offense. My only suggestion is for you to study him personally, study his methods. Have you watched the documentary " Painting with Fire?" it's all about him and some of his processes. He was a terribly gifted and arrogant man. He owned hundreds of cameras and was always taking pictures and storing that in his brain. I suspect that he had a photographic memory because he claims to have studied and memorized an anatomy textbook over a weekend. Not all of us are so lucky to have his gifts. You can learn to imitate his technique and then incorporate that into your work using your own original ideas. He tends to use similar compositions so perhaps you can push away from him if you try to shake up your compositions. Check out Andrew Loomis's book Creative illustration, he has a whole chapter on composition and pay attention to his technique for informal subdivision. Very useful.
Digital: You just need more practice. Check out Feng Zhu's site. fzdesign.com he has a ton of tutorials there as well as useful lectures on being a professional. Try different software. PS isn't the be all and end all. there are multiple types of software out there and maybe one of them will work out better for you.
You need to do more research on the market. There are tons of companies out there. Tor and Wizards are the top of the game. Go to your local retailer and check out all of the products. I take my Iphone and snap shots of packaging and book covers. I find out who published them, look them up and go from there. Wizards is a tough nut to crack so I suggest you use them as a long term goal and instead focus short term on a less established company. On the other hand Heavy Metal is more receptive to junior illustrators and publishes a wide variety of material and subjects so you might have luck with them.
The Frazetta thing is indeed a tough one. The problem is that book covers with an epic pose type thing, based on the format also, tend to use a classic triangle composition, a setup Frank used so much that today, we who do this work recognize it as Frazetta, which is unfortunate because I want to be able to use it since it works regardless. Although, the first piece for my upcoming porfolio I am planning to develop in the next 4-6 months, uses such a set up in a different way that may hint I feel at his work, but won't feel like a copy. As I said earlier, I wanna use the influence, not as a crutch, nor imitate it, but, use it as a basis to unlock what pool of art it taps in my own psyche. But bottom line, study others more yes. Basil Gogos is who i am currently looking at.
I watch Feng Zhu's stuff. I can't say I use it much, but he does provide much industry info. Any other channel or something?
Tor and Wizards are both long term goals for me. I just meant that Wizards is closer than Tor, relatively because in absolute terms they are both pretty far. Anyone else you can think of I could check? Maybe gimme a starting point on where to look online, because where I live (Greece) there isn't much, hell, there isn't even a local comics market let alone an illustration market.
I didn't know Heavy Metal was keen on looking at newer people, yet I still feel timid in sending them something, even to get a crit, and on the matter, Simon Bisley and Liam Sharp are two illustrators/comic artists I admire, but haven't studied yet.
You will work out the Frazetta thing and I'll be interested to see how you resolve it in your upcoming portfolio.
Try looking at this guys You tube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/MikeNashArt He has a more traditional approach and he also has a link on his site to some of his PS brushes.
Are there book stores that you can go to that carry products that you want to illustrate? Take a look at those products and on them it will state who made them and look up those companies on the web. Follow their links and also search Fantasy forums and online retailers for leads. A couple of lesser known RPG companies that come to mind are Mongoose Publishing, White Wolf, Green Ronin, Palladium( not sure if they are still around). Most of these companies have submission guidelines posted on their sites. Google is your friend!
I've never submitted to heavy metal but the last time I looked at the publication I saw a very wide variety of artwork both in content and quality. My understanding is that they are more open to accepting submission from up and coming artists. Try them and the worst that they can say is no. Better yet, contact them and see if they will give you some feedback.
I think that it really comes down to is: How Bad Do You Want It?
If you want it you have to reprioritize and make time. Otherwise you're gonna stay where you're at, unhappy and feeling like you could be more.
I know what you're going through. I had to ask myself the same question just last year. I have a wife, 3 kids, a full time job, and no spare time. However, I always thought I could do something with my art so last year I made time for it. I paint after the kids go to bed at 9:00pm til about 1:00am then get up at 5:30am to go to work. I crash hard on the weekends, but I still paint. My improvement in the last year makes it worth it. Everthing in my portfolio was painted within the last year.
You have it in you to make it... if you really want to.
If you're making a living on doing art then you're already a step ahead of me and 99% of the people on this website. I have to deliver pizzas to pay my bills.
Like the other posters, I can relate man. It seems the more I look for work, the more I find that games is where I need to go. And the more game stuff I paint and watch, the more I dislike it. I really want to do covers and cards, but its like winning the lottery! Why would they ever hire us, when they have the same ten guys doing all of the covers already?
There is a book I bought called Illustrators Market. Its categorized into sci-fi/fantasy publishers and you can easily find some companies to contact. That was over a year ago I found that resource and I never contacted any lol. I even printed some postcards to mail for $100 and never mailed a single one. We all run into this problem of priorities and running out of time, etc. I bought it on Amazon. Look for that or similar books.
About your fine art: I dont see why you cant sell some of it. The problem is, you will make even less money. I use Ugallery.com and I've sold about 12 paintings in the last two years. But they take 50% commission--it is brutal.
Now about your art: You have some cool stuff going on but its definitely not impressing me. None of it is unique(wheeljack went over that already) and none of it is really that eye-grabbing. I really like that it mimics traditional media because I try to do the same, but I still think your edges need to be crisper in general. And you need reference for all this stuff; for firelight hitting subjects, drapery, scales, etc.
Do what you wanna do. Make it happen. If delivering pizzas helps you pay the bills and gives you more time, then do it. Make it happen!
Thanks for the kind words to both Shorinji Knight and Artfix. I know what you guys are saying and most definitely I can say that yes, this isn't my most impressive work, or rather, it isn't the most impressive stuff in terms of composition coming out of my mind. But as I said, it isn't worth putting all the time into making it look too intricate and good (or is it?).
My general question I suppose was, what could I fix to help me get better paying work (even slightly) so as to make a little more time to make a portfolio where I put my all into my work, hence trying to get even better work within the year?
I understand all the points you are making, and maybe yes I should conjure up some time, spend less time on this stuff, more on a conventional money making job and through this route construct a new portfolio. Either that or just take my time with my current commission and pretend they are paying me $1000 per image, in hopes or getting such a job.
It's a weird call, but I'm gonna have to make the choice.
Any other critiques are welcomed!!!
Hey Line, Have you thought about getting an entry level job in a creative industry like graphic design, animation, publishing, production? Once you get your foot in the door, you're in and then you just need to work your way up. Opportunities to learn will be available as well as you will be surrounded by creative people which will only inspire and motivate you. For Example. Earlier in my career, I took a job at a production studio that makes foam installations and props. IE: Life sized Dinosaurs for museums and Children's play areas for shopping malls. It seemed like a cool job and I was called a sculptor but really I was Manufacturing by Hand. It was hard work, Dangerous, Toxic and didn't pay well. Anyways, I worked hard, paid my dues and eventually I got my shot in the design department and got to be the one drawing the dinosaurs! Once I got into design my learning curve took off. It might be worth investigating what places are in your area and see if you can get your foot in the door so you can "Learn on the job".
Just a thought.
Oh to answer your question better this time Line, YES spend time on your current projects! Instead of rushing your projects to make time for making portfolio pieces, make your projects portfolio-worthy!
Make sure your contract allows you to show it in your portfolio in a reasonable amount of time, maybe even right away.
Its nice because when you get a job you dont even like or pays crap, you can remember to put your heart into it because it will be that all-important portfolio piece
Your initial post lays things out pretty clearly in terms of what professional illustrators struggle with these days. There are a lot of us competing for a few projects, and pay is generally going down. So the advice is to do 110% on whatever projects you have (you know, put in all that extra work even though the client isn't paying for that), which, though it may help you to pull ahead of your peers, in the long run hurts us all (because that's what clients expect now). This approach is in part why the profession is where it is today - lots of people working for free! That's your choice though. Personally I would recommend that you earn money some other way while you spend a lot of your own time making your work EXCELLENT, then (re)launch your professional illustration career from there.
@Wheeljack: My friend, I wish I could. Around here (Greece, yea that poor country of jackasses pounded by wolves) there a no such jobs that I know of.
Publishers either just buy the rights to translate foreign publications, or just outright steal covers of other artists and slap a mixture of them on their book
covers. There's nothing else of the sort here. Not even a comic industry.
@Artfix: That's the direction I'm gonna take it now, along with fixing and adding more things from useful advice and criticism I've taken lately.
@Chris Beatrice: You have a point there Chris, tho I don't want to get out of the minor circuit I am right now. Maybe I'll slow down and use the extra time
to re-invent myself, but I don't want to keep away from it. I had to do it for several months last year when my retina detached and I couldn't see for a
long time. I missed it.
Also, your point on the excellence hurting the business is something I have been wondering myself for a long time. So many professionals talk against
working for free or very cheap (I agree). The same guys tell a kid off, saying that they shouldn't pursue a career in art for money (does anyone work for
any other reason?) feeding that STUPID "Modern Art" notion where, as you wrote, "Things became largely about bucking the establishment. Artists were
supposed to be undisciplined, outcasts, and poor". At the same time they
practice and preach about the idea of giving every piece your 110% even if the client hasn't paid for it...
It's all so conflicting, and easy to say this when you're ahead, especially if living was being provided for during education years (I don't say there aren't
people who had it differently, Jason Manly himself has said that he worked and studied at the same time). Such people then go ahead and give, as I've
seen, art scholarships to people who are outstanding (and good for them) but are so good, that they have no excuse to not at least be doing covers for
something as measly as say, dungeons and dragons games, making a buck. Meanwhile, everyone else is trying to figure out how to make oil paint stick to
the canvas, and these holier-than-thou dudes either put others own,confuse them with the above conflicting advise or just outright make things a mess (I
suppose that's why I get all I can from books and not people). It's all fun and games.
Thanks for your advice. I am going to probably follow it in hybrid form as I said, but it's cool to see you have had struggles (via your blog).
By the way, awesome blog you have there. People read this up, the man is excellent! http://illustrationfixation.blogspot...-your-art.html
Chris, I like how you sneak up on the focal point lol that made me laugh. And the blog is great. I dunno how you find time to do such a nice blog. I'm going to read all of the topics later!
The snow white and rose red painting is fantastic. I would never think of putting in all those things like bucket of cherries, scissors, butterfly jar, etc.
I will have to put more thought into my storytelling. Too bad it mostly goes unnoticed, but I guess we need to take pride and enjoyment out of doing it for ourselves, not for others to notice.
Line, thank you for loaning me your thread to say something to Chris here
And I agree about all of the confusion about what we should be feeling and doing as artists. I find myself looking down on graphic artists too and I wonder how that work can satisfy them. When I watch Feng Zhu here (http://www.youtube.com/user/FZDSCHOO...43/9nF6Jd3x4KI) who is incredible and I find myself trying to use his methods, but how is he satisfied being a tool and not creating something more meaningful? He of course freely admits in his videos that he is a designer, and not an artist. He creates designs, and not art. I really respect that he recognizes a difference.
I will never waver in the belief that your art is a job, and you deserve fair compensation like any other job. On top of that, most of us have college loans. When you pay a lawyer, you are paying him what he deserves and then more to pay his student loan debt. It should be the same for us. Rambling! I'm done now!