Monday, December 21, 2009

Thoughts on Generating New Ideas

My thoughts on generating good ideas for illustration taken from a recent interview with some follow-up question and answers provided as well.

Some people refer to a problem among creative people as 'writer's block' to describe a condition where producing an idea on que is daunting
and can become quiet frustrating if the 'block' continues over a prolonged period of time, especially if a deadline of some sort is involved.
I've encountered this scenario more than a few times myself. And like others who have faced this issue, I sought answers.
Along the way I learned many different ways to deal with this and most of the time I can get the ideas with no problem now if I use some of the tools I've learned along the way.

Designer Paul Rand said, "It's not important to be original, it's important to produce consistently good quality work." So don't always be trying to re-invent the wheel for everything you do, focus on the quality of the work.

In the 1940s there was an excellent comic book artist named Mort Meskin who had the equivalent of 'drawing stage fright' each day he came to work. He would sit at his drawing table and according to Will Eisner, creator of the Spirit, Meskin could not draw until someone in the bullpen walked over and put a mark on his paper. It didn't have to be an image of any sort, just a line. Then Meskin would whip out a gorgeous page of work that everyone in the studio would oogle over.

When I was doing some comic strip work in newspapers. Editors would call and say I need a panel or a strip to fill 'x' amount of space. Sometimes they
would have a topic, other times they would just say fill the space. This could be tricky since they would appear in publications with different points of view so I had to try to appeal to a large segment of viewers. At times the deadline would be very tight with just mere hours to come up with an idea and fully execute and paste-up the work for press.

It was during this time I appreciated what I had learned from other artist and instructors regarding this subject. For years I have jotted down ideas on paper scraps, napkins, pieces of cardboard, whatever was handy. I have also managed to keep a lot of them. Some of these saved ideas translated into printed comics as I needed to create work on a tight deadline. I had thought of these ideas driving in my car, working, listening to music or whenever and jotted them down for posterity. Now they were resurrected and given a second life and saved me in a pinch.

I find inspiration from lots of things, movies, TV, books, magazines, the web, etc. But I get the most inspiration out of looking at other art. I collect original works of art and surround myself with it and constantly draw inspiration from that source. I love hitting a museum or gallery and looking at the line work in someones art. Or visiting with other artist and talking shop or other interests. The world is filled with imagery so inspiration surrounding us all the time. Just slow your pace and take a look around, solutions are everywhere.

Something like the elegant brush work of artist Noel Sickles often is the type of thing I love to look at to get inspiration, here is an attached
sample.




DE: Thanks for the example, David. This is a great answer+, full of insights from your experiences.
I can see that recording of ideas as they came to you through observations/inspirations seemed to resonate. Have you found any one particular approach works best? To expand, in graphic design classes taught at universities we often teach the very formulaic approach of research, thumbs, roughs,comps, finals, and the first of those stages deal with idea-ation and concept development. Have your experiences in the field so far formalized the creative approach for you in a sequential way?

Also, have you ever submitted your ideas to a client just to be told "Nope, not working...start again"? If so, did that alter your process?
Again, super insight, I look forward to your continued thoughts and insights.

DP: Hi David Thanks for the chance to add more to the conversation. Here are some additional follow-up answers for your questions.

That is the way I was taught to do things when I started in illustration. I still pretty much hold to that method, though I'm not rigid about the process. I've
been fortunate to be asked to do some stuff in a deadline situation where the editor just asked me to give them a particular piece that was a certain size and due to time constraints no formal process happened, I just turned in a finished piece and they would run it.

Though when I do stuff like that I always do my own crude thumbnails to work things out. I don't want to be correcting stuff on the finished piece of art if at all possible.

When working on a sequential narrative like a comic book type story, if it is given to me in a script format. I will print out the script and thumbnail and block of page sections, panels, etc. the way I see the visuals right on the script itself.

The writers often break things down pretty well but often don't have the strongest background in presenting the visuals in an effective manner so you may have to modify
some things to let the art speak to the reader and counter balance an over abundance of text, since comics are a visual medium.

But yes I try to keep a process going to some extent as it helps me feel like I'm completing little milestones along the way and I can stay motivated when things bog down by seeing that I've made some progress. That process helps make this possible.
You also asked if I ever submitted my ideas to a client just to be told "Nope, not working...start again"? and if so,did that alter my process?

Yes! Many times early on. This is usually because things were not fully discussed between the client and myself. When I started in the business I did not know to say 'no'.

Sometimes you have to say no. You get some client that wants you to do the work to look like someone else's work that is nothing like what you have in your portfolio. You may find that like other folks, you need money to pay the bills so you choose to do the job anyway and eagerly tell the client 'yes'.
Then the finished piece doesn't come out the way the client sees the work in their mind because they are hung up on someone else's art style and not yours. They think
you should be like a photocopy machine and just make it happen. Conflicts begin and the whole scene can go downhill from there. So be willing to turn down work if it looks like it will end up in a train wreck anyway as you need to keep a professional reputation that is positive. And knowing when to say 'no' to work is part of that.

Once I made the mistake of trying to update the editorial style of a publisher. They were constantly doing educational work with figures that looked like they were out of "Leave It To Beaver" or "Father Knows Best" TV series from the 1950s. I modernized the clothing and environments and had all of the work rejected. Clearly my fault by not communicating about taking a new direction with the editorial staff first. And I paid for it by investing all that time and effort on some pieces that weren't paid for.

I've had clients who were hung up on the medium. They would insist on watercolor for the work when the printer and myself would be telling them the work would not reproduce the way they expected. Rather than head the advice they were paying the printer and I to have for them, instead it would be an ego fueled demand for what they wanted. The colors don't re-produce the way they expected and everyone is unhappy. Naturally those type of projects never go in a portfolio and you hope they don't even give you any print credit by placing your name on the work. Because in that process you give the clients what they want but the artistic quality is compromised and you don't want to weaken the perception of your artistic skills, so you just have to tuck those pieces away from the seeing world.

In those instances sometimes it might be my fault or it could be the clients. It is a learning process. You've got to make those mistakes to move forward and learn.
Some clients have stretched my abilities and caused me to learn new techniques or to come up with solutions that have helped me on other projects down the road. I once had to develop a process to animate a Simple Text document (a mac format file similar to the 'Notepad' on PCs for you non-Mac users out there.) To this day I don't know of any other instance where that has been done again, but I did manage to animate the text with some trial and error in the early days of computing.

So yes sometimes you have to be flexible and be willing to alter the process. Sometimes you come out with some great new stuff other times it can fall flat on it's face. But the best way to filter this type of thing out is to learn when to say 'no' to clients who are not hiring you 'to be you'. Instead you should learn your own strengths and weakness' and work with the projects that fit your skills. Not only will your work be a better representation of your skills it will most likely please the clients too if they are made aware of what your skills are capable of producing for them. Then everyone will come away feeling good about the work.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Illustration Friday Topic: Crunchy



This weeks Illustration Friday topic is Crunchy. This is the piece I am publishing for this topic. This one is a digital image I created with Corel Painter.


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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Georges Seurat

Today is the birthday of French Impressionist George Seurat. If you ever have the chance be sure to view some of his original work. I've always enjoyed the work of Seurat once I discovered it and was wowed when I saw some of the original paintings at Dallas a few years back in a great show that had the work of Seurat and most of his contemporaries. But today is George's birthday and I just wanted to acknowledge his work and recommend studying his use of light and color if you are an artist.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

How does the use of color impact the emotional feel of a piece of art?

How does the use of color impact the emotional feel of a piece and can it add significantly to the message of the illustration?

Black and white images can have emotional feelings like color images but where color has an advantage is that the range of choices becomes truly vast. One has to be trained in a good foundational understanding of color to be able to have a consistent mastery over their illustrations.

Improperly placed colors can kill a piece's impact just as quickly as the good color scheme can pull us in.

Colors have an evocative inner-appeal to the viewer that allows them to discern meaning from their surroundings. This translates into how they may view works of art as well. With the proper use of colors you can evoke the emotional response that you wish to convey or even transmit subtle information that seems more implied. For instance, a sepia tinted image conveys an aged quality. Corporations tend to avoid
sepia in their marketing strategies because it doesn't have that immediacy or the pop that a red or an orange will have on first glance.

Sometimes we are limited to a certain number of colors in print by the budget or even the ability of a certain type of press to reproduce different colors accurately. In those situations we have to have a good working knowledge of color so that we can still convey that emotional appeal we are seeking to get from our viewers.

We also have to know our intended audience because some colors have different meanings in different cultures around the world. You wouldn't want to find yourself working on a brochure detailing the problems of color blindness and have your working color scheme be in greens and reds. But keep in mind their are those with blue & yellow color blindness too. In fact it is a whole subject worthy of study apart from this blog post.

But having an emotional impact through the use of color can be seen throughout art history. The loud orange and deep blues of Edvard Munch's, "The Scream" highlight the agony and impact of the figure in the image rendered in a very loose style. Here we see the colors adding greatly to the image's emotional impact. Whereas had the color scheme been in greens and yellows we would have thought the figure
was sick or ill perhaps.

Yes the emotional feel of a piece can be greatly altered by the colors you choose, be they a full color range or as simple as a monochromatic color scheme. Colors can be an illustrators tool to help present the image in more ways than just line work or shading.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Illustration Friday Topic: Music

This weeks Illustration Friday topic is music. I've been listening to lots of blues lately and decided to experiment with some new brushes in Photoshop. So I created this digital painting with Photoshop CS4. This is an image of the birth of the career of Blues Legend, Robert Johnson who has legend has it, wanted to learn to play the blues and went down to the Crossroads and made a deal with the devil by selling his soul to learn to play the blues. This is my interpretation of what happened out on Highway 61 deep in the heart of the Mississsippi Delta region.











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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Does The Use of Clip Art Hurt the Professional Illustrator?

I see this topic around the internet and the general question is: Desktop publishing and the use of Clip Art has everyone people the ability to add graphic images to documents. Does this spread of clip art pose a threat to the professional illustrator?


When I initially read this question, I had to stop and think. The thing that gave me pause was all of the issues that are similar to this and seemed to have bundled themselves together in my mind. I'll explain. I've been involved with custom illustration work since the late '70s. In those early days of my freelance career I would get all kinds of odd jobs because I would take anything that came my way for the experience. We had no form of mass communication with other artist the way we do today. Most of the research you could do on an illustration career was found in out-of-date books in the local library and they were few and far between. So everything you learned, someone taught you that had experience or you jumped into the project and learned as you went.

The goal of course was to go to college and learn all the mysterious secrets of success. Forget forums online where you can ask other people that we have today. In those days you may have been lucky enough to know the cousin of some guy who was married to the woman who cut and pasted newspaper ads for the local weekly newspaper. Or perhaps you had an art teacher in high school who once did the cover of a local literary magazine? Or the lady next door painted barns and teacups on doilies. This was your point of reference for information.

So let me back-up a bit. That lady who worked at the newspaper doing paste-up is our link to this answer. I didn't know her. But I knew people like her, people who had to compose ads for the newspaper. In my case I knew the store manager of the local Wal-mart and each store back then made their own newspaper ads. I think at this point there were only about 200 Wal-mart stores in the world. And they did everything to cut costs back then. Even using local store employees to make the paste up ads for their local newspapers.

My friend saw that I was interested in advertising art (graphic design was not a common term then, people tended to refer to it as commercial art back then). So he let me start preparing the ads for weekly sales. And you know what? We used clip art.

Every store had sign painting kits to make their in-store signs for windows and displays. No on-staff artist, just the most talented person who would step up and volunteer generally got the same minimum wage to be creative rather than unload trucks and clean bathrooms.
Now being creative is a very subjective term thinking back on what we did then. But in addition to those sign kits each store had ad kits too.
The local newspaper staff person would come by and pick up the work when it was ready and you would get the work ready by using these kits.
They were primarily composed of stock images of clip art. Drawings of models in various generic looking clothes, Toasters, mixers, and
other appliances. TV's, stereos, bags of cookies, chips,clothing, etc. There was generic clip art for all of it. All you had to do was get the information for the proposed sale and find your art. Clip it, paste in a tasteful layout and pass it off to the folks from the newspaper advertising department. We would even save all of the proofs for our old ads and sometimes cut them up to reuse certain pieces of clip art, as I mentioned we had to keep cost down.

Were we putting illustrators out of work? Absolutely not. Were we being asked to come up with some unique visual creation? Heck no!

I eventually headed off to that fabled institution called art school. Back then my school of choice was Oklahoma State University School of Technical Training at Okmulgee. Then reputed to have
the fourth best commercial art program in the country. And just a mere few hours from my home. My eyes were opened to the world of custom illustrations and ads. One of the things we were taught was to maintain a 'swipe' file. A file of clippings and photos that you could use
in your work to expedite your work flow. Having handy reference could save you time and money.

The legend of one student there was that he was so over-zealous with his file system that he quickly ran out of space. He supposedly had a little train of three filing cabinets on wheels he would drag to class every day just so he could be the best designer in the school.

One thing we never did was discuss clip art. In fact I don't think my work on the newspaper ads even came up. Nor the methods employed in the teaching curriculum.
We were to busy learning how to use the art-o-graph, the hot wax machine, slicing rubylith and amberlith, ordering type, inking with triangles and T-sqaures, etc. When we toured some ad agencies in Tulsa we even saw real living and breathing on-the-payroll staff illustrators. (Though they were never employed in the same ratio as the graphic designers and paste-up artist at the time.)

Now the big days of illustration were already over. Photography had already come into its on and replaced illustration as the image type of choice in most cases. So even though those clip art books existed they were not harming the illustrator anywhere nearly as much as the photographer was.

As I have already talked a lot about this subject without getting an answer to the question, I will jump forward in time and save you decades of anecdotes.

In the mid -'90s I had worked with clip art, custom illustrations, cartoons, typography and photography to create designs. Both for print and for this new budding technology, the web. In fact most people thought I was crazy for wasting so much time on the internet. But one of the
things I discovered was all of the great free fonts and clip art you could get. Heck The Corel Corp. would give you a whole catalog full of the stuff if you bought their software, the Corel Draw Suite. Even Adobe and Macromedia would even throw some clip art and free fonts in the mix as an incentive to purchase their software too.

As I worked with computers over the coming years, I found that clip art was a great tool to knock out a low budget, quick turn-around type job. An ad for a family reunion. A flyer for that lady who painted barns and now decided she would offer the world art lessons. A newspaper ad for a furniture store, a business card for the small business owner or a church bulletin for a local church. None of these type of work had budgets alocated for custom work. But the work needed doing. The fact that clip art existed made these jobs possible. It put no one out of work and generated a tiny bit of cash for the original creator of the clip art when they sold it to the clip art publisher. (These where ually images owned by the artist that had already been generated for other custom work and now was being resold for use again so that some residual income could be generated from work that had already been paid for.)

Today, I own a 'swipe file' full of clip art. I also have several of those big clip art collections you see advertised. And you know what? They are
great for what they are....time savers. They allow you to take on some of those low paying jobs to keep the electricity turned on. If you are very creative you can do a mash-up of clips and create original work. But if your client isn't paying you to do this your are just killing time that could be spent on other work in your studio.

Now when doing design work I don't buy stock illustration. I consider the term 'stock illustration' to be that type of work that is a step above the massive clip art collections. The work cost more to acquire the useage rights to. It is also used less than the general copyright free clips are, so it is less visible in the public eye and thus has a perceived higher value. While some stock illustration and photography are similar to the clip art we discussed earlier in the fact
that they may be images an artist already had created and just had sitting in inventory waiting to be re-used. Some stock art is actually generated for the purpose of selling it as stock imagery. Especially in the photography field. Yes photographers are still competing with illustrators for sales of visual art today.

So here we are today in a world filled with clip art, stock art and custom art. The difference in the times is that while clip art and custom art both existed back then, stock art has risen to the top in playing a larger role in image use. Not only for convenience and keeping budgets
lean, but also because we are not in a world of local creators. We are in a global world of image makers all connected to the public and vying for attention via the world wide web. We don't just rely on pounding the pavement to get face time with art directors, nor sending them
postcards every quarter reminding them of our existence. We don't have to spend thousands of dollars just to get printed in an illustration directory next to all of our competitors just to be seen. Now we too can connect with image buyers in a quicker and more efficient means by the use of technology and improved communications that are now available to the design studio owners.

The thing we have to do as illustrators (as opposed to designers) is market the fact that we create unique imagery that is not seen by everyone else in the world prior to its usage as new work. You don't have to worry about the competitor down the street having the same weekly flyer images as you do which would make you seem un-original printed with your shared stock imagery. (Though if you are working with a large corporation who expects custom work, you sure better not try to cut corners and deliver a job with stock imagery as it will come back to haunt you.) Market yourself as creating original and unique work for the task at hand and play up all aspects of this unique originality.

But....don't beat yourself up trying to convince a cheapskate to pay more for custom work. Some people are committed to being cheap and tasteless(They probably are not educated in the arts enough to realize they have no taste). It is not your mission in life to change or educate them. That is just a deep hole to throw time and money into that will have little or no return. If they want work created with clip art or stock art let them have it. They are not going to pay an illustrator working wages anyway so the usage is not cutting into any illustrator's work load. These people are who stock and clip art were designed to reach. In a way it is a 'headache
relief'' tool as it helps take care of them while leaving you more time to work on real illustrations for people who see the value in custom work and are willing to pay a realistic fee for its creation.

So in retrospect, photography killed the spread of illustration and cartooning. Clip art and stock art are just side effects of artist trying to generate additional income while reselling art that they already own the rights too. And while print editors and art directors have made the choices over the decades to embrace the spread of photography. The rise of electronic publishing has seen such a huge growth in recent years so that stock images and clip art have been gobbled up and regurgitated enough to where the images are becoming common. Or the quality and sameness when compared to custom work is very apparent to even the less trained eye.

Custom illustration once more is needed and is a commodity that is in short order compared to days gone by when illustration was king. Originality is the key to selling the idea of custom work.
Finally I can't touch on this subject without bringing up one other thought that gets bundled together with this topic in my mind. It is the topic that is the core of what makes me have a bad feeling about custom illustration and dealing with cheapskates. That topic is 'Spec Work'.
Spec work (short for speculative work) is work that is done for no financial compensation. It is done for the promise of exposure or to get your foot in the door. It may be pitched as a sample or just trying you out to decide between you and the other one or two hot-shot artist the
potential employer is considering using. Spec work is the work that those cheap and sometimes con-artist clients are trying to foist on the new designer or the inexperienced illustrator. The get-something-for-nothing crowd. Students beware! It is dangerous and a waste of your time.

Nothing ever good comes from it to the artist. It is the classic instance of someone being taken advantage of. It is like the star struck actor arriving in Hollywood looking for any entrance into the industry. You will be an instant target and labeled a sucker. You will cheapen your work and
reputation and all of the other folks working in illustration as well. Spec is bad! Spec should be fought and taught against at every opportunity.
No matter what they say or how they make you feel, do not be lured into this scam. These are people who do not value you, they do not value your work or education. They are out to lie, cheat and steal any way they can to save a buck. They are not concerned with real quality and
originality. These are people I do not work with and will not work with. If you are wise, you won't either.

So sometimes there is a feeling that clip art is like spec work in that it can harm the industry but when we really look at the issue, clip art and stock art are not the villains, 'spec' work is! Join the 'No Spec' campaign today. (Visit nospec.org)Keep in mind the Graphic Artist Guilds' "Ask First" campaign. Stand up for your artistic rights as well as your fellow artist. Help educate one another as well as new students entering the industry. Because if you hide in a corner and let this type of thing get out of control you will find yourself not getting paid what you are worth. Nor will anyone be left to value custom work. Avoid the meat markets like elance.com. These are not gigs worthy of your time, their clients are buying work that is the bid for the cheapest deal type
jobs. You can't compete with someone in a third world country who will work for pennies on the dollar. And these third world artist can't compete on a creative playing field that is present for true custom illustrations. That being said you don't work for anyone willing to take advantage of another human being that way. You also can't expect that the work generated there will be the best work available as artist will not put as much into a ten dollar job as they will a thousand dollar job. You get what you pay for. That is why these companies are bottom feeders and not part of the large corporate world. Microsoft and Apple don't start a new campaign and run to elance.com looking for original creative work because it is cheaper there and can save them money on their budget. No, instead they buy the best art available that is custom fit to their unique campaigns. They pay for the best people because they want the best work to represent their image to the world. In doing so they create a personae that helps the public perception of their corporate image and sells products as well as shares of stock.
Meanwhile Joe's T-shirt shop is feeling lucky because they got some guy to design a new shirt for free, all they had to do was point out that at least 25 people would see his work and the exposure would be overwhelmingly beneficial to his future career. Remember No Spec!

Well I guess you get the idea by now. I see clip art and stock as useful tools. I don't personally sell my images in this manner. I do however use the material when originality is not the key factor and budget and deadline considerations are. On the other hand spec work kills our
industry and the value of our work. That is the real area of concern to the illustrator in a troubled economy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Color Use in My Work

This is a recent question I received about color.

"You have used color extensively in your own work will you share some of your personal preferences?"

The ways to add color are many and varied. Some of these methods are able to work together effectively and some are not, primarily due to the nature of the mediums in question. For example you can not add watercolors on top of dried tempera paints as the moisture would disturb the underlying medium of tempera.

I've always been adventurous with art tools and love to find new ways of approaching image making. My color favorites include, watercolors, Conte' pencils, acrylics, colored pencils and with computers-digitally. Other methods I have used in the past and still do when needed are, oils, pastels, gouache,tempera, casein, alkyds, markers, crayons, watercolor tins, watercolor pencils, enamels, colored inks and colored dyes, fingerpaints, airbrushing, spraypaint and colored ball point pens.

I've been attracted to colors since I was a kid growing up in the 1960s. Plastics were able to accept vivid highly saturated colors at this point-in-time and toys came in many vivid hues. When I was about 5 years old we bought a large color TV, going from black and white to color
was huge in impacting my young mind. At first I thought everything that was filmed in black and white was from the past and apparently before color had been invented.(In fact the film that I made sure to watch annually, "The Wizard of OZ" was filmed in color decades earlier, unbeknown to me at that time.) I later realized that was a wrong assumption but found it funny when my kids came to a similar analysis
when they encountered black and white films for the first time at a young age.

Needless to say Saturday morning cartoons and all the great 60s TV shows that started filming in Technicolor over the course of the decade(as opposed to the cheaper black and white) literally blew my young mind. The NBC peacock was truly spectacular and worthy of watching
each time it appeared as far as I was concerned. Or the CBS chimes that followed the brightly colored letters with the voice over stating,"Filmed in Living Color" (not to be confused with a FOX TV series by the same name that followed decades later).


Shows like Hogan's Heroes, Bewitched, Gunsmoke, and the Beverly Hillbillies went from one season in black and white to the next in color and it seemed like they had leaped into the future. Meanwhile shows like the '60s Batman and Green Hornet played up primary colors found
in use in comics and that was my other huge are a of influence, comic books and comic stips. The dynamic use of primary colors in comics. I loved the black and white line work when I could see it printed by itself but the color comics really brought life to the medium. One reason why Sunday Funnies are always bigger draws than the smaller black and white dailies in the comic strip sections of our newspapers, is that spark of life the color adds.

Finally my teachers in elementary school exposed me to fine art at the capitol building in Little Rock, Arkansas on field trips. There I encountered my first color field paintings along with other abstracts that just focused on color.
Ever since then I have loved using color, weather it be full color or something as simple as a monochromatic scene.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How important is shading in illustration?

I work with toned art as in painting as well as straight line drawing in black and white illustration work. One question I hear sometimes is: "How important is shading in illustration?"

Line drawings tend to be flat. Depth can be added with different techniques in line work but none are as effective as shading the forms.
As in real life we see things not in lines but in shades of color. This is brought on by the way the human eye works in conjunction with the way light works as a direct source, an ambient source or as a reflective source.
My first college art professor (Alan Shaw, Oklahoma State University School of Technical Training then called OST cir.1979) that taught life drawing and anatomy was one of the most technically gifted illustrators I've encountered. Every class felt as if Albrecht Durer was standing before you sharing knowledge. And the thing he shared most often, in
fact it was his mantra..."It's all a matter of highlight and shadow." That was his secret to understanding drawing.
And to use highlight and shadow you have to have shading. Line work simply won't do.
A few of the reasons we should consider the use of shading because of this is the following: 'Spotting Blacks'
When you work on a drawing, a painting, a comic page or storyboard, etc. you want to be able to show depth. A camera captures depth-of-field but can be a poor tool if it washes out the image due to improper lighting or settings. An artist captures that same depth of field by his
use of shadows first then followed by adding highlights.

I recommend the shadows first, a building of the image from dark to light (This can be confusing by the way I say it so let me clarify, the medium you use sometimes can determine this method by it's nature for example: oil paints require you to work from dark to light as it is an
opaque medium like acrylics; watercolors like transparent dyes require you to work from light to dark building up shades in layers of color.)

What I mean is find your darks, the dark areas of the image. The shadows, the dark colored areas if there are no 'pure black' areas are what I am referring to. You want to be able to 'spot' those areas first and pay careful attention to them as these areas bounce your eye
around the image, provide balance and grounding in an image as well as creating an underlying rhythm.

They add a mass and weight in the areas that they occupy and can cause receding from the foreground. Shading by the use of shadows helps to add that third dimension in our 2D work. It is helped by highlights.

Highlights add that sense of reality to the work. We get reflections off of objects as the light source bounces off of an object helping to create it's visual form for the human eye. The closer the object to the eye the brighter the surface. As the object recedes into our depth of field it
begins to take on shades but the part closest to us is generally the brightest and the part that will have the highlights. The thing to be aware of is that light sources can create highlights in unusual ways depending on type of source and the direction along with the ambient light mix but
that is a whole other subject and I don't want to digress.

With highlights coming usually at the end of the creative process, they are sort of like the spark that Dr. Frankenstein used to animate his monster. They create that spark, that glint of reality that we expect to see in a multi-dimensional representation. The best example I can think
of to keep this short is looking at a drawing of a person's face. In portraiture the eyes are the key to capturing the person's image. And the key to bringing those eyes to life is near the end of the drawing process and we add the final detail that is known as 'catch light'. Catch light
is that little glint, that little sparkle or twinkle we see in someone's eyes. The glassy, moist, curved surface of the human eye reflects the light it is taking in and that little tiny highlight can be key. It doesn't have to be a huge mark or stroke but just that tiny little addition can bring the final work to completion.

That is why becoming a good illustrator requires more than just hand skills, it requires knowledge and keen observation as well. Letting the shades of an image create our positive and negative spaces is another key element to good composition, leading the eye around the work and providing balance and harmony in the image. Knowing how light works and how color works combined with all of the other ingredients that go into drawing, help to make an illustrator more well rounded in the skills that they posses.

Once you learn the basics of line work, you've only just begun as highlights and shadows aka shading will literally take you to that next dimension in your work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What is the Difference in Raster and Vector Images?

Sometimes I get asked this question or a variation of it so I thought I would include a response here on the blog for everyone else who may have wondered about this topic.

"What is the difference between pixel-based images and vectors? When do you use a vector instead of pixels? Or, when would you use a pixel-based image instead of vectors?"

To make things easier in answering this question I will refer to 'pixel based images' as 'raster images'. I am more accustomed to thinking of images composed of pixels as raster format files as that is the correct terminology. Now to the nitty-gritty of this discussion. Raster images are like Vectors, unique because of the way the file types store information. They both produce a visual result but they do so by different means.

Raster images are sometimes referred to as bitmap images. The information contained in this file type is stored with a bit by bit comparison of the images that you see on your computer's monitor. Each individual pixel is part of a larger collection of pixels that compose a giant grid.
Each one of those pixels contains information from the file that the screen shows you in an identical location on the grid when it is viewed on the screen. These grids represent points of color with-in an image. And based on the number of color bits assigned to the file, your color
depth can show more or less of the color variety available in the overall image. Since each one of these little rectangles combine with all the rest to provide the information for the image, the file can become quiet large especially the more the color depth increases.

When zooming in very close to the image you will notice the little jaggy stair step type edges that are formed by the shapes of the edges of the combined pixels. In a way this is similar to the process in which the Impressionist painter, George Suerat combined tiny dots of various
hue to form the desired visible color and light in his images. Each tiny brush dot may have been composed of a slightly different shade or tint but when all were combined they formed the visual color the artist desired by letting the viewers eye mix the colors while actively viewing the
image.

These blending hues, 'contones' as the print industry refers to them, are a 'continuous tone' in appearance, though when you zoom in the differences of each pixel becomes visibly apparent.
You can find raster graphics used more with images like photographic files or files of an image like a fine art painting. Many of the newer applications for working with raster images now contain a selection of built in vector tools for things like typography so that this hybrid format
can maintain the crisp edge found in vector files.

Vector files are nothing like Raster images because as we said earlier, the file types both store information in different ways. Vector has a method of information storage that involves lines, points and curves. This is all done with mathematical equations that represent the image we
are working with.

Since less information is stored in this format, the file size is considerably smaller than Raster files. And unlike Raster files you can stretch and re-size Vector images and the image will stay crisp and clear. If we zoom in close we do not get a grid full of colored rectangles but just a zoomed in view of the image we are looking at.

While a photograph saved as a vector would require very large amounts of processing time, simple toned images and type work better with the vector format. Vector formats are also very popular in animation file types like flash animation files or the older .gif format. Even the most
basic, the .gif file can contain a stack of vector images that sequence through based on a time line and create an animated image like those found in many web sites. Since the vectors contain the information in a compact system all of the continuous toned parts of the images do not have to have information for every individual pixel the area is composed of thus saving much file space and keeping the overall size small for the information it contains.

This can translate into more data being included in distribution via the internet by faster download speeds or even in being able to fit more files into a back-ups device like a CD or DVD for example.

Depending on the type of image you are working with and the ways in which you need to store it, distribute it, or transform and re-size it through reduction or enlargement; you should be aware of the positive and negative elements of each file type and how they work with the
information contained with-in.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Test For Title #2

I'm working through the title posting issues on ping.fm.
New Changes Today^Today I set up new services to be reached via ping.fm This is a test post to check their status, please ignore.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Look Blog

I've been away from the blog for a couple of weeks working on various projects. When I logged into the blog today I realized it had been a year since I changed the look here, so today we are trying a new template from blogger. I'm hoping it is easy on the eyes and makes reading more enjoyable than the previous version.

Meanwhile I hope to get back to posting on a regular basis as I have wrapped up several projects that will allow me more time to post here.

News is coming soon of big things.....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blog Quest

I've been on a bit of a quest of late to try all of the various blogging platforms. At least the most accessible ones.

After I work with all of these services for a few weeks I will offer my opinion on the different tools available at each site.

I started installing Movable Type on one of my domains that are not public yet and found that it is problematic in its installation. It may make up for the difficulties once it installs but as it stands this is like trying to update a Wordpress installation on your own server. Plenty of back-end stuff, which I find a waste of time. But I press on in this experiment and we will see what comes of it....

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hi

I'm just setting up at utterli today.

Mobile post sent by onepainter using Utterlireply-count Replies.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I have a new portfolio at qapacity.com

I just set up a portfolio at qapacity.com

David Price Design at Qapacity

What types of illustration work is available and where can you find it? What is the cost?

Answering some questions from recent readers questions is the focus of this post. I've had these questions asked several times in different ways so I thought I would answer them here in the blog so others could share in this information.

What are the various types of "illustrative artwork" available. Where can you find them, and what do they cost?


There is a large variety of illustrative artwork. In fact the question can lead to several different answers the way it is posed. If we look at the markets that employ illustration in their processes, we will see one group with variety of illustration needs or qualities being defined. Or if we look at the physical types of illustration defined by the way they were created, we get an entirely different selection of facts governing the outcome of the question. So I will look at both. Along the way I will discuss the issues of cost as well.

First lets look at the markets that would purchase illustrations and then use them in different ways as well as in various locations. At the top of the food chain we have advertising. It will rank at the top in the market place for the fees it will pay for its illustration needs. The illustrator will find he has to be involved with many more limitations, directions and revisions along the way. His work may appear in the form of print, web, television, packaging, billboards, signage, direct mail, POP (point of purchase), transit advertising ie. The sides of automobiles, planes, buses, etc. Usually all rights are purchased and the work can be reproduced over and over in many various forms without the consent of the original illustrator. You might find Corporate and Institutional uses like annual reports, in-house publications or marketing materials and manuals. Also brand identities, logos, corporate image and other needs may be met in this market. Prices for these services are varied dependent on the project type and budgets of its clients. The illustrations may be in this case as well as the others I will be discussing, paid via project rates or by an hourly rate. It is virtually impossible to accurately discuss project rates because they vary by assignment. But an hourly rate will be utilized here and further in our discussion. Keeping in mind that black and white versus color is a determining factor in rates being charged and color is always the premium item. Costs also generally run higher because of all of the rights being purchased from the creators ie. illustrators and designers.

After we discuss the next few types we will establish the average rate by the hour for illustrative services.

Editorial is another illustration market, one that generally pays on the lower end of the illustrators fee scale. The rates will vary as in advertising but the budgets will usually be on average much smaller. The plus side is the creative freedom is much freer in this market and the illustrator will be able to use more of his own vision and ideas in the final project. In fact he may retain certain rights negotiated with the editorial team. For instance an illustration may appear in Southern Living magazine and the editorial team may only purchase 1st North American Serial Rights. Which means they have the right to publish the piece first anywhere in the North American region of the world. The artist cannot resell the work until their rights have been honored with that publication. But if they decide to reprint the image, they will have to negotiate new rates for the second usage of the same image with the illustrator. Likewise the illustrator could then sell his work to Texas Highways magazine at a later date if they desired the use of the image and the original user could not dispute the usage. Editorial illustrations may be in the form of a small spot illustration, a cover piece, an article illustration or in some form of editorial/advertising hybrid. It may be in the form of an original illustration, cartoon or photograph, some of the variety of physical creation we discussed at the opening of this topic. And could also include things like computer generated digital art, fine art, collage, clip art, stock art or royalty free art.

Some of the areas we find illustration work is in: books, magazine, comic books, comic strips, animation, storyboards, children’s books, journals, educational publications, medical illustrations, courtroom and police work, CDs, DVDs, and Cassette covers, posters, postcards, greeting cards, collateral for promotions like subscription cards that fall out of a magazine when opened. Billboards, movie posters, political campaigns, religious publications, licensed products, package art, t-shirts, marketing material, etc.

Illustrators may employ many different techniques which will effect the final cost dependent on the skills required vs the number of competing illustrators that can start and finish the work with-in thier schedules. The skills, experience and reputation of the illustrator can cause a rise in the pricing as well. Recently graduated students entering the market will not command the prices of a seasoned pro. The pay scales will change as we have discussed but market research on the web and in the Graphic Artist Guild pricing and ethical guidelines we can get market averages which will also vary according to regional locations and economies. Some new artist and cartoonist may start out in the near the bottom of the pay scale making a hourly wage. While the most in demand illustrators may charge hundreds of dollars or more an hour.

Averaging in the various fields and experience range, we will find the average editorial illustrator will get about thirty-five dollars an hour to about fifty-five dollars an hour while the advertising illustrator will pull in a higher average but an equally varied price range from about forty dollars an hour to about seventy-five dollars an hour. The Graphic Artist Guild Ethical Pricing Guide and also sites like hotgigs.com can provide valuable statistics in helping establish a market price for the desired work. Keeping in mind each project is unique and has variables that can change the way each assignment is priced. Remembering also that licensing image rights or purchasing them outright from the illustrator plays a large role in the way pricing is established. There is no template or hard and fast rules to establish fees. But the most common element in pricing is the skill and work of the illustrator's own unique style.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Find me on bebo.com

Hey I'm at coroflot.com too!

Meanwhile...

While you anxiously await the new web site launch, here is one of the recent portfolio additions I have added to recently.


view my portfolio:
coroflot.com/onepainter

Don't get to wound up but big news is afoot.....

We are just hours away from the new web site launch!


So reserve your weekends activities to join in the festivities. I'll keep you posted as the final phase of back-end tweaking is now underway....

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel Comics!

Disney Buys Marvel Comics!

WOW!

This is a huge shift in the comics market. It boggles the mind at the possibilities here. Will there now be a Marvel them park coming to Orlando? Micky Mouse and Moon Knight teaming up? Goofy and the Beast? Marvel shows on the Disney Channel....or...a Marvel Channel?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Harding University Bison Win Season Opener!

Congratulations are in order to the Harding University Bison's coming in as the underdogs and beating the nationally ranked MSSU Lions in the 2009 Season Opener.

It was a nail biter of a game with the Bison defense stepping up the action this year and causing at least 7 fumbles during the game along with some great defense on the line and in the backfield. The offense started slow but built momentum as the game progressed in the second half, making the big plays when they were needed most.

It was great to be able to watch this game over the internet this year in one of the rare times that we were not able to be at the game.

I just wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate my son, his teammates and the coaching staff on a great game. Way to go Bison!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Attention Artist: Join Pal!

There are plenty of artist groups to join, GAG, AIGA, CAG, Society of Illustrators, etc. Now there is a new organization for professional artist and unlike the others the membership is free. The group is new and still growing but worth checking out. I'm a member, come join us.

PAL: Professional Artists League

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Which Comics Do You Read?

What do you like to read? A question you may have been asked before. How did you answer it? Novels, technical manuals, catalogs, auto biographies, magazines, newspapers or maybe comics? Comics, its a term we hear tossed around a lot to describe more than one thing. What do you think about when someone replies to that question? Depending on how old you are or where you live you might be thinking about something different than the person who asked the question.
The word comic often implies something funny. It can also be a short hand term for 'comic books'. You know those four color magazines that used to fit in a spinner rack in the local drug store. The ones that featured all of your favorite cartoon characters. You know, the funny ones, like Popeye, Archie, Heckle & Jeckle or Richie Rich? When these titles were popular they often went by the colloquialism, 'funny books'.
When someone tells you that they are reading a comic, it may not be a funny book or even a book at all. This great American art form like Jazz and Rock n Roll has great variety and depth. Not only do comics have funny characters like we mentioned earlier, there are also superheroes like Superman, Spider-man, Batman, Captain America, The Flash, Flagman and so many more that it would take hours just to read the names. As you can begin to delve into the word 'comics', you will find that it is a broad word that encompasses many different forms. All of these forms fall into many categories and from there they easily fit into many sub-categories The sub-categories can branch into many different areas genre, creators, characters, age range of the reader even abstract concepts like the periodical release of new content. But that leads us down a very broad path with many directions. We want to back up to a point before the sub-categories begin and see which areas they fall into themselves.
So what are these categories? We have already discussed books and even the use of the word 'comics' in front of the word 'books'. The result obviously is 'comic books'. The term 'funny books' was a term that often referred to comic books as it described stories about funny characters in these little pulp masterpieces. The term was also used derogatorily to sneer or make fun of the artistic medium known as 'comic books'. But there is more to the use of the word 'comics' than those. Readers of the newspaper often find similar material printed in the daily and Sunday editions of their publications. Only in this case the term 'comics' no longer refers to books. Instead it can refer to items that fall into two other categories for usage.
In this case the word comics is the shortened form of the term, 'comic strips'. Here we have the word, 'comic' referring to content that is very similar to material found in comic books. The word 'strips' refers to one of the difference we are noting. That difference is comic strips are published in a strip of panels laid out in a sequential fashion on the page. The second category that is quiet similar to these strips are 'comic panels'. These are comics that contain the whole story in one panel illustration. Before the comic strip, comic panels were quiet common. One of the oldest comics used in reference to this category is a panel that appeared in late nineteenth century papers called, “The Yellow Kid”. A feature that was so popular in its time that it attracted many imitators and allowed the medium known as comics to grow. It also resulted in the coining of the term, 'yellow journalism'. Buster Brown now famous for shoes was originally a competitor for page space in the early days of newspaper comics. Modern times have changed the use of the comic panel. Some magazines still use single panel comics like the New Yorker and Playboy. The popularity of the panel has dropped over the decades and the it was soon replaced in popularity by the strip. Though a few successful panels have appeared in modern times like “The Far Side” by Gary Larson.
The strips soon dominated the medium after they started appearing in newspapers. With the early popularity of the strip, it soon followed in the early twentieth century that someone saw the opportunity to collect these comics into book form. These early reprinted strips in book form gave birth to the modern comic book. When talking about comic books though, the books themselves fall into a few different categories under the heading of 'Comics' as well. There are many categories, 'Underground Comics', 'Ground Level Comics', 'News Stand' comics, 'Direct Distribution' comics, 'Independent Comics', Fanzines, Fumetti, Manga (not to be confused with Anime), Graphic Novels (also known as Graphic Narratives), 'Online Comics' and '24 Hour Comics'. Looking at this variety of items that fit under the umbrella known as comics you will find a variety of material created for different markets.
Earlier we discussed how comics known as comic strips led to the creation of comic books. As comic books grew in popularity, their content changed to meet the market demands. Original material was needed and the need grew quickly with the rise in popularity for this new type of reading material. Companies that produced these mass-market titles like DC Comics, Timely Comics, Archie, Nedor, Fox Features, etc. became known as 'news stand' comics. This was the most visible form the medium took and at its heights in the era of World War II, reached print runs in the millions for some titles. Another category appeared with the birth of underground comics in the 1960s with titles that focused on the counter-culture like, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Nard and Pat, Zippy The Pinhead and Fritz The Cat. Titles like these were all produced for a new market centered on the adult related material not found in the Comics Code regulated material found in news stand comics. Some of these titles advocated breaking drug laws and bordered on pornography all in an attempt to stress the freedom of the press. A few years after these books started appearing in head shops and record stores another category of comics appeared. Ground level comics. A term that was coined by Mike Fredrich who founded Star Reach comics. These books fell into the cracks between news stand comics and underground comics. The use of drugs and depictions of a pornographic nature were marginalized in this new category but violence and profanity were still abundant. The notion of ground level comics eventually became absorbed into a newer category that became known as Direct Distribution comics. Direct Distribution comics were comics printed to be sold not at news stands but instead directly to comic book stores. A new retail book store model that became wide spread in the late '80s. These direct distribution comics focused primarily on the super hero. The content of these titles was now free from the Comics Code Authority which had become archaic with its McCarthy like restrictions. This material was closely related to that found in Ground Level comics. Soon small companies appeared on the scene to produce comics for this market exclusively. Since they were not giant corporations like Marvel and DC comics they fell into a new category that came to be called 'Independent Comics'.
Even though they have been produced almost from the start of the medium, fans of comics also produced their own material for sale. In doing so they created a new category that became known as 'Fanzines'. A word that was created from the word 'fan' and combined with the last part of the word 'magazine'. A term that referred to a fan produced magazine. This term is now used for a lot of publications that fall outside of comics. But in that case you usually see the term being shortened further to 'Zines'.
Similar to these publications we find APA's (short for Amateur Press Association). Several creators would compile material make copies and send it into a central editor who would assemble the content into a publication and then distributes the printed work to all of the associated members.
Newer developments in comics have brought us the category, '24-hour' comics. These are comics in which the creator produces a whole book with-in the span of 24 hours without stopping creation till the whole book is complete.
Another recent category, 'Online Comics' are usually in the comic strip format or the panel format. They are located on the internet and only occasionally ever see printed form.
One category that has impacted book stores the most in terms of sales is the graphic novel. These comics are generally square bound collections of material or in the case of the books that contain one whole story, they are known as graphic novels. This form of comics has grown in popularity over the years and has helped to get comics back in front of people who would not ordinarily go into a comic book shop and see the large variety of material available there.
The category of comics that is the twin to graphic novels is the Japanese version of comics called Manga. Some of these books are as thick as a large city phone book and when published in Japan, read from the back to the front or right to left. Some American reprinter's have reproduced these for the U.S. Market and cut and pasted the material in a western tradition so they can be read left to right. This often creates a visual dilemma though as comic panels are placed in careful sequences with the artwork in the panels often indicating the direction to continue reading on the page. Rearranging these panels effects the artist's original story telling intent, often for the worse. Another note to remember is Manga are not Anime. Some people incorrectly refer to Manga as Anime but Anime is the Japanese form of animated cartoons. Anime are shown on film, Manga are printed on paper.
One last category I should mention is Fumetti. These comics are not hand drawn illustrations like most other comics. Instead this is a collection of photographs with the dialogue enclosed in comic style word balloons and the stories are formated like those found in comic books. Italy is the country that innovated this category and you will find the form most popular there.
The variety and styles of comics is vast. The categories sometimes overlap each other and often attract similar audiences. One can spend a lifetime exploring this form of entertainment and many people pursue that path. A lot of people have their favorites though. And no matter which one of the categories we have talked about that a person might prefer; everyone likes to refer to their favorite style of comics simply as comics.
So which comics do you like to read?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Water Based Paints: Gouache & Watercolor

The earliest paints used by man were water based paints. From pigments found on cave walls to hieroglyphics found inside the tombs we know as the Egyptian pyramids. Water based paints were the paints used for illuminating manuscripts in early books compiled by scribes before the invention of the printing press. Today they are still in use in various forms for differing reasons. The two dominant branches of water based paints are Gouache and Watercolor.

The early use of these pigments were of an opaque variety. The ability to cover surfaces with color was the dominant need of the medium at the time. Transparency was considered a weakness in the paint. Surfaces like stone and wood required a paint that would stay on the surface and cover what what was beneath it. Prior to the invention of paper, papyrus was the most common surface used by scribes. A fine opaque paint was desired to add color to manuscripts for the purpose of illumination.

Albrecht Durer was probably the first artist to use transparent washes of color in the sense that we recognize watercolors today. He needed a flexible medium that could be used to indicate color yet dry quickly while traveling. From that time the water based system we know as watercolors has surpassed the opaque variety of water based paints we know as gouache. The transparent capabilities of water color is highly desired and fine paper for the exclusive use of watercolor pigments is the desired canvas of choice.

The primary difference between the two type of paint is the opaque quality of gouache and the translucent quality of watercolors. Both can be used on various types of paper but you will find most watercolors applied by artist today are done so on the aforementioned watercolor paper. While gouache is most often applied to a thick sturdy paper surface like hot press or cold press paper. While watercolors tend to have a sort of staining effect on the type of paper it uses. Gouache rests on the surface of the paper and dries in a solid film. This dried paint can be easily cracked due to its inflexibility. Therefore the sturdy paper stocks are chosen since they will not easily allow bending and flexing of the surface.

Both types of paint can be applied with pen nibs, ruling pens, airbrushes or natural hair brushes. Synthetic bristle brushes do exist for use with this medium but most artist tend to prefer the natural hair brush like the sable, for its flexible characteristics and the memory flex in its individual bristles that allow it to reform to a point when moistened. The natural bristles also hold more pigment when loaded with color compared to their synthetic counterparts. Unlike oil or acrylic paints, clean-up after using either gouache or watercolors is much simpler and allows your natural hair brushes to be reused multiple times if taken care of. Many commercial products exist to clean the pigment from the brush fibers but simple cleaners like common shampoo works well and is more cost effective for brush care using either type of paint.

The two mediums find different audiences both in terms of artist who use the materials and collectors who purchase works of art. Fine artist tend to use watercolors when working with a water based paint. The artist who consider themselves purist in this field do not use the pigment that is commonly referred to as white. Instead they let the white of the paper show through in parts of the painting that require white areas. Special frisket films or masking techniques are often employed to keep these areas of the paper free of color so that the white area stays pure. While users of gouache freely use white pigment as they are building up their color in a fashion that covers the canvas completely. The watercolor papers used by these artist tend to have a watermark embossed into the paper, placed there by the paper manufacturer. In commercial illustration this watermark would need to be cut from the working surface of the paper so that it would not reproduce in print. In the fine art world the watermark is left in place in the painting and is considered a mark of quality as well as providing a unique identifier in the original work.

Working with the two mediums requires two different approaches. Gouache being an opaque paint works in a similar fashion to other opaque media like acrylic and oil paints. Or like another water based paint known as tempera. The method involves building up the colors working from dark to light. Watercolors on the other hand like translucent inks and dyes have to be worked from the opposite approach. When working with transparent color the pigment must be worked from light to dark keeping the light areas of the paper color exposed while allowing pigment to build up in layers in the darker areas.

Gouache paints are most often used by illustrators and graphic designers though the usage of any hand made works of art in the graphic design world continues to shrink each year as computer aided design is now the common working method for items going to print. Illustrators and designers like the bright pigments and swift drying time gouache provides since meeting deadlines is usually of paramount importance in their deadline laden market. In working with these paints, artist have a clear choice when a project needs to meet certain criteria. These different systems although closely related provide variety and characteristics that are unique to each color system. And while the popularity of their roles have changed over the centuries, these reliable pigments are still staples in the modern artist's tool chest.


Johansen, Tony. “Watercolor And Gouache Paint Characteristics”. 1 Feb. 2009
http://www.paintmaking.com/watercolor_and_gouache.htm

Reuel's Distribution. “Winsor & Newton - Designer Gouache Colour”. 1 Feb. 2009
http://www.reuels.com/reuels/Winsor_Newton_Designer_Gouache_Colour.html

Monday, August 3, 2009

So You Want to Sell Stuff on Ebay?

You were thinking about surfing over to ebay to see what was selling. Maybe you had a few items laying around your house that looked like they still had a little life left in them. What would it hurt to see how much money you might make just sitting in front of your computer screen? Then you realized that even though you really need to earn some quick cash to help pay down that student loan, you better go ahead and get your class project out of the way first. So you search the web for research material and an article catches your eye while you browsing google and what do you find? An article about selling stuff on ebay...oh joy!

I started selling items on ebay about the same time I started selling items on yahoo auctions back in the mid-1990s. Auction sites were the new types of web sites that people were just discovering when I encountered them. The internet was still new and somewhat insecure at this point in time. So I had the feeling of suspicion as I contemplated handing over personal information to set up a new account at these web sites I had discovered in my web quest. But remembering the success I had posting items on AOL's message boards where there was no oversight at all; I took the plunge. I also looked at ehammer.com but found it to be a little deserted compared to the other two. Lycos and Excite auctions were the same way. Most everyone had a auction site it seemed but yahoo and ebay were starting to slug it out for the top spot.

After I sold a few items on each service that first year, things really began to change. The number of people online had grown significantly in that time span as more households were finally receiving internet service. And ebay had jumped out to a significant lead in the auction field. Now days, ebay is about the only auction service that is worth investing time in. There are still a lot of specialized sites that cater to a niche market but the traffic and interest are reduced in those environments. So my first bit of advice is, don't waste time with the other auction sites. Focus on one site only.

Remember when you become a seller on ebay, you are competing with amateurs and pros alike. There is a niche for each new seller but you have to find it own your own. For example some amateurs haven't a clue about how to maximizing their selling potential. Some pros are paying employees to do their work listing hundreds of items a day. But keep in mind some of those employees are bored and don't do a very good job with every listing they work on. These lazy employees and inexperienced amateur auctioneers create areas of opportunity where you can exploit the knowledge you gain from research at first and eventually from your own personal experience as well as you continue to gain knowledge about your new online business.

As a seller you need to use a professional attitude when dealing with other people's money. Always be courteous and prompt in your communications. Also be sure to treat the customer like you would want to be treated. It is always good to purchase a few inexpensive items to experience the customer side of things. Doing this will also help you start earning positive feedback ratings.

Feedback ratings allow a person to see information about the previous sells and purchases of other ebay members. People leave comments about how your dealings with them were handled and you want to have as close to 100 percent positive feedback as you can. You will be judged on the items you ship to your customers. You will also be accountable for the description of that item, your shipping speed, you packaging quality and many other little things people will pick out and describe in their feedback to you. As you shop at ebay yourself, you will see that you feel more confident checking out the seller's feedback score and the comments other buyers have left for them. If you see someone with several negative comments be prepared to run quickly away from that seller's auction. But before you do, evaluate the negative comments left to make sure that it is not someone just trying to ruin the sellers reputation by posting negative details in retaliation for some deal gone wrong.

Yes that does happen. Some people are vindictive if they feel they had an unhappy experience with a seller. Some of them are even trying to run cons of some sort. In the collectibles arena, 'bait and switch' is not unheard of. This is the type of thing that can scare away potential new sellers. Just like in any real world retail environment, you will have some small chance of encountering people with agendas that go beyond basic commerce. But don't let those few bad apples ruin your chances at becoming a future auctioneer! These things happen in every business involving sales of merchandise. You will find ebay does a very good job in keeping out the riff raff. They have a very well established dispute resolution center and are constantly striving to protect both buyer and seller from the activities of undesirable thieves.

I have talked around the subject long enough. Now lets get to the nitty gritty of auctioneering. I won't delve into every detail on how to list an item, you will find that in the wonderful help section at ebay. Instead I'm going to give you a little insight from my own personal experiences instead.

First you need an item to sell I've sold vintage comic books, sports cards, collectible toys and a few other odd items. One thing I've noticed is that you will maximize your sales and sale multiple items to the same person more frequently if you focus on one category. If you have comics, cards and toys that you want to sell it is OK to have items from multiple categories listed for sale at the same time. But when you are posting your listings, list them in clusters from the same category. Try to list about 10 or more items at a time. For example when you do pick a category, lets say comic books, then list ten comics and if you decide you want to add some sports cards to your inventory, then post them in a block of ten new listings as well. But do it in groups. Don't just list a comic then a card then a comic then another card, etc. This technique will help keep similar items that grab the attention of category specific buyers clustered together so when the auctions end they will be ending close to each other in their respective categories Buyers who are interested in a certain item might also be interested in a similar item you are selling from that same category. So then you may have them bidding on multiple items from your auction as their eye catches something else in your listings that may be closing at the same time as an item they are already considering from your posts.

Another way you can encourage this multiple sales technique is by offering reduced shipping fees for purchasing multiple items. In my auctions I offer to send from one to ten comics for the same price as sending one. I love to combine items in shipping as it allows the customer to save money and it saves me time in packaging. Using USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging I always know the cost of my postage no matter where it is going. And I can decide in advance how much I can fit into one box for a flat fee and still do it safely so the items arrive there well packaged and safe. The package will get there in a short amount of time and has some built in insurance benefits as well when using Priority.

Shipping will play a big part in closing some deals when a buyer sees multiple seller selling identical items. Sure you can offer less expensive shipping via First Class Mail and other ways in certain situations like Book Rate or Parcel Post. But those take awhile to get there and that can result in impatient buyers leaving you low feedback scores which will hurt your sales overall. Looking at the big picture its better to offer the best shipping service at a slightly higher rate with bulk discount options i.e. ten books for the price of one.

Once you have your items listed, look for questions from potential bidders and answer them promptly. There is a feature that allows any potential customer the opportunity to ask sellers for more information and you want to always monitor that while your item is posted. You can even choose to post the response to the auction itself so that you don't have to keep answering the same questions over and over.

As soon as the auction closes send out your invoice with all of the information you require to finish the transaction. Do not send the item till you receive payment. This is common practice so don't worry that you will offend someone. Once the payment arrives send their new item to them the same day you receive their money. Don't wait a couple of days to ship because they are paying a higher shipping fee to get that fast Priority Mail service, remember your not shipping First Class so you have to be fast.

You can get free shipping supplies customized for ebay items from the Post Office website. Envelopes and boxes of all sizes that are for Priority Mail use but customized with an ebay logo on the box. Of course you can pick up regular supplies at the local Post Office too but I like the look of the special boxes. It makes you look more professional when you use them. Make sure you use plastic packing peanuts, bubble wrap, tissue paper or something else to protect the items you ship. Offer insurance on expensive items. You can get that information from the Post Office as well along with other special services like delivery confirmation.

Finally, be sure to select the appropriate times for you listings. Check other seller's closing auctions in the categories you are trying to sell in. Research which days of the week tend to have the busiest sales for your item's category I find that weekend days are duds for me in the categories I sale in. In fact I have it narrowed down to two specific days that I get the best sales results. So when I list new items I always try to list my auctions on those same days and let the auction run a full week for maximum exposure. The items will end on the same day of the week you list them on if you choose the seven day auction style of listing. (There are also three and five day auction listing options as well.) Then when an auction I list closes on the key day I have chosen, I also try to find the best time of day for it to close. Keeping in mind that you are selling across multiple time zones. Be sure to think about your audience for your item and when are they most likely to be shopping, working or sleeping. You can narrow it down and have all of your items in this time frame with multiple items from the same categories and hopefully selling in multiple to the same bidders. That way you do most of your shipping at the same time as well and cut down on trips to the Post Office saving you time and gas money.

These are just a few of the tips that I've learned over the years. There are so many things you will learn as you gain experience. And ebay offers a wealth of information on their web site for sellers. There are many active forums for discussion as well. So is there a lot to learn? Yes there is and you will learn most of it as you list new items. Don't let the task seem to daunting though. It really is a simple step by step process that anyone with a little time and patience can learn. The rewards can be great. And maybe you can actually put a dent in some of those looming debts or earn some extra money to take that well deserved vacation. So do you feel like becoming an auctioneer? Going once...going twice...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Designer Wanted No Pay But Great Experience

One of the first things a new graphic design graduate experiences is the quest for employment. Today the internet is one of the places you will most likely find job listings related to your field of study and that is the area where many would-be designers start their job quest. Reading through the list of available jobs can sometimes be very quick. Either the jobs that suit your skills just aren't posted where you are looking or you find that you are quickly eliminated from the position as your qualifications fall short due to a lack of real world experience. To be fair the market is also filled with experienced designers who are also looking for work but unlike you they only have experience and no degree. But they also get quickly eliminated from a lot of the positions listed due to the lack of a mandatory diploma that is required in some listings. In both cases you each have part of the ingredients to fulfill the needs of the employer. You may even both have the talent to do the job well. But that one big missing requirement leaves you each out in the cold for opposite reasons.

You continue the search, narrowing down the options while you look for the perfect fit. Suddenly something catches your eye. A call for entries to a possible lucrative job lead. This scenario plays out over and over every day in various formats from message board threads to classified employment advertisements. Postings abound seeking workers with design skills. Even neat places to work appear. You can find job openings in the video game industry, media and animation, comic book and editorial illustration, children's book illustration, greeting card design, CD and DVD design. Even web design is trying to lure in the designers that find themselves with one of the missing ingredients. Yet there is the key. You are missing something just like other job hunters out there. You either lack experience or educational certification. Some people have noticed this little secret in the job searching world and have managed to find ways to exploit this discovery to their own advantage. Some potential employers do this with the best of intentions. Most on the other hand realize that if they deal with certain people who are at the point of desperation trying to break out of a catch-22 like scenario, they can manipulate work arrangements to the advantage that will go toward their profits regardless of weather or not you will also benefit from the same arrangements.

What you have finally encountered is the ever present job notice requesting the work of an artist/designer/illustrator/photographer/cartoonist. All you have to do is provide the work in advance and if the job makes a profit or is picked up by some mysterious publisher then you will get paid. Or maybe the offer takes the slant that no money is involved what-so-ever. Instead you get a great piece for your portfolio. You may get recognition. You may be promised the possibility of future work. Or you may just be competing with other creative types for the same thing. Each one of you working for free and allowing the employer to have a selection of finished work to choose from. Thus saving the employer money and giving him a range of choices while one creative person has work selected and everyone else gets told, 'maybe next time'.

This begs one to ask the question, do other professions get treated this way? Do we walk into a contractors office and ask him to build a few houses on spec so that we can decide if we like his work and if so we may purchase a home from him? Do we ask the list of Doctors we find in the yellow pages if they will each prescribe us their choice of medications for our ailment and we will sample each physician's recommendations then get back with them on the treatment? The contractor can provide a portfolio of previous work for your consideration and the physician can provide the academic credentials to prove their qualified for the job. Designers can provide academic credentials and portfolios as well. Yet designers for some reason get asked to do work for free more than the others do in their career fields. And both new and seasoned vets of the design world must wrestle with working
on speculation or 'spec' work as it is commonly referred to in the industry vernacular.

There are many reasons to not accept this type of work. In fact it is considered by many in the profession, a disservice to fellow designers. Yet some people do take the work. The reasons are varied. Some choose to add professional work to their portfolios so they can apply for more paying jobs. Yet the very definition of professional implies that you are paid for you talents and are not an amateur, someone who doesn't get paid. Some do this work for non-profit organizations or for religious affiliations that they may support personally. Perhaps they hope to make other business contacts from the groups they deal with. Some people are afraid to turn down any work they are offered. Though discussing this topic with working designers you will find that the clients who are reluctant to pay you or try to do everything in the most cost-cutting fashion tend to be the clients that you will be least happy working for. They do not respect your skills as a professional and most designers agree it is best to avoid these people from the start. You can probably approach a non-profit group or religious organization you are affiliated with and have some success at getting some pieces for publication without being taken advantage of if you let them know it is for a one time deal. But try to avoid any postings you find on the internet or in newspaper ads that want you to work on spec.

So if you do go the spec route what happens after you win? According to Blair Enns president of Enmark Performance Development, “You’ve just given away your highest value offering for free, now how do you look the client in the eye and convince him that your services are worth what you are asking? Even when you win in a spec situation you set the tone for the relationship moving forward in which the client dictates and you respond. You have ceded most of your bargaining power on price negotiation, and you have demonstrated questionable business acumen.”

Don't sell yourself short you are a talented person with a future ahead of you in a lucrative field. It may seem hard to break into at first and there are some pitfalls that may be in your path but that is true with any career. If you do choose some spec work do it sparingly. Instead develop ways that you can present yourself to a quality employer and be prepared to say no sometimes. Move onto the next candidate. You often will save time, money and aggravation not to mention some self-respect. Spec work is like walking in a mine field and while sometimes our paths go through that dangerous area it is best to look for the warning signs in advance and avoid the hassles all-together.

Enns,Blair.”Spec Can Be Beaten.” July 21, 2005. AIGA. 7 Feb. 2009
http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/spec-can-be-beaten

AIGA. “Position on Spec Work.” 2008. AIGA. 7 Feb. 2009
http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/position-spec-work

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Historic Reprint Exclusive!


When the World Wide Web was new and still waiting for broadband to appear; people connected on slow dial-up connections via services like America Online.

In those dark days of the internet, AOL hosted a message board in it's forums for comics (then one of the largest gathering places of comic fans on the web)buried inside the Independent Comics section there lurked a forum dedicated to my comic book character, Flagman. The forum was called "Flagman & The Creation Station". An AOL employee confused my website's name, "The Creation Station" with being part of a title involving the character Flagman. There was no connection other than they were both my creations but folks still found there way there so they could discuss the hero from the backwoods.

Several comic creators frequented the message board there and we cooked up the idea to do an art jam. It was the same thing as a group of musicians getting together and playing but instead of being together we worked online. Sure that sounds sort of strange as working online is an everyday thing now. Back then though it was not common for artist. Even though they are now common a comic jam was unheard of. And as far as we can tell,this was the first. For sure it was a fairly large scale endeavor for the then online comic book community.

This work was posted online and featured on the web for years but finally disappeared when geocities.com closed its hosting servers, the place where the Jam resided for all those years.

But now in a historic reprint exclusive, if you are in my friends list on facebook.com you can once again re-live this wonderful historic comic art jam!

Visit me there to see the works of many comic artist you know and love. The list includes the mysterious MMSketcher, an artist who feared to reveal his true identity in the early days of online communication. Dave Hartmann contributed three pages to the project leading the the pack in total work for this project. Followed by the previously mentioned MMSketcher with two pages and "Stanley The Mole" creator, Robert King who also turned in two pages plus the final full color splash page.

Also in the line up was another local comic artist Brian Steward who is the creator of Painstake and has worked on various projects from Troma Studios, "Toxic Avenger" comic which I inked a bit off to Kevin Eastman's version of Heavy Metal Magazine.

The first person I met online and later in person was Hawaiian artist, Michael Hraba. We managed to meet once at a portfolio review in a parking garage in Nashville, TN of all places.

Jonnie Allan, the creator of the popular, "Stickman" comics and who also collaborated with myself and Rusty Gilligan on a 'Golden Age' style comic project that was printed by M.A.I.N. Comics and Blue Orbit Press, also contributed to the Online Comics Jam.

Elfquest artist, Jeff Zugale who is also the creator of "Mystic For Hire" contributed a fun page while in the early days of his comic career.

I also did a page and included my character "Vex" who had been published by several comics publishers at that point in cameo appearances as a horror hostess type of character.

Kevin Atkinson, comic artist on New England Comics, "The Tick" was slated for a page as well as Rusty Gilligan a couple of other artist who worked with us at Quantum Comics but work deadlines caused delays and the project finally came to a halt.

It could resume at anytime though....hint hint.

Meanwhile to see the originals you have to be my friend on facebook.com or be patient as I will be making them public once again at some point but until then you gotta find me and the Online Comics Jam on facebook.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When I first attended art school in the '70s, one of the hottest books to own among artist was a book collecting images from a group of artists known as "The Studio". (I wish I still had my copy that was stolen.)

The four artist that made up this group were: Jeffrey Jones, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith and Michael Kaluta, whose Art Nouveau influences are the topic of this weeks items in my web search. For years, before our decor changed, my wife and I had signed and numbered original prints hanging throughout our home of three of these artist, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Smith and Michael Kaluta. I was never able to secure a print signed by Jones.

Each artist had their own visual style but they were all related in some ways. One thing that was common among them were that they were all professional comic book artist. Who at this time were creating original pieces of illustration that were created for the fine-art sake rather than for a commissioned job. Jones had a traditional paint style of classical painters with fantasy images as the subject matter. Wrightson whom I've had the pleasure of meeting and sitting and watching him do his amazing work, in person; used a style that was very similar to 19th century engravers. Smith being a British citizen was heavily influenced by the English artist that were dominant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. And as I hinted at earlier, Kaluta was very much influenced by Art Nouveau.

All of these artist have played a big role in my work as well as the styles in which they were influenced by. In visiting their sites you will see that they are professional illustrators who have a wide range of subject matter and stylistic content. But if you treat yourself to looking about their sites you will find the influences I mention.
First on our list is Michael W. Kaluta. While being very famous for the images he created of the pulp character, The Shadow, be sure to follow the link to his portfolio containing the "Wings of Twilight" and you will see his Art Nouveau influences.

http://www.kaluta.com/

Next is Jeff Jones. An artist who was once a man but has since all of his successes as an artist, is now a woman. Yes that is correct, he had a sex change. But since we are concerned about his period as a male artist I will refer to him as him and not her. I surfed over to his web site but it seems to be having troubles loading images, instead check out this tribute site to his work:

http://ping.fm/lLybJ

Our third artist is unparalleled in his line work. It is a joy to behold. When looking at his artwork you feel like you are looking at an engraved image. But it is all had drawn. As I mentioned above I met Mr... Wrightson and spent some time watching him at work. On request he sat down took out a sharpie marker and just began hatching away. No underdrawing, no pencil study, nothing. Just a black sharpie that allows no mistakes, and a drawing pad. He produced imagery just like the section of his site I have zeroed in for you today. This takes you into the depths of his site on this link. I did this because he is the victim of a goofy webmaster who has set up his site as a forum. Feel free to back track your way through the site. But I wanted you to see the amazing work from the Frankenstein prints. I own some of these as I mentioned earlier. Be ready to be AMAZED!

http://ping.fm/VomWh

Rounding out The Studio's founding members is the only non-U.S. citizen, Barry Windsor Smith. Smith moved to NYC to draw the first 20 or so issues of Marvel Comics published version of the Robert E. Howard, sword and sorcery character, Conan The Barbarian. Smith came to the states and lived and drew on a park bench in Central park until he was paid enough to get a place to live. Soon after the artist joined in the new group that became The Studio.

http://ping.fm/Tm408

That completes our look at the members of the Studio. Let me know which of these artist you like best and why.