Site Updated!

By heather at 1:37 am on Tuesday, January 8, 2008

illustrations heather castles illustration portfolio artist

Yippee, my official portfolio website,, has just been updated with new images in the stock & portfolio sections! My brother, Luke MacKay, came up with the original design & interface for me, I think he did a great job!

Filed under: illustrations, business of illustration3 Comments »

Directory of Illustration 24

By heather at 3:53 pm on Friday, January 4, 2008

This year I decided to place an ad in the Directory of Illustration… and the massive 600-page hardcover book arrived just a couple weeks ago! I took a flip through and there is some fabulous work in there… I’m feeling very inspired!

Since this is the first year I’ve listed in the DOI and the book has just launched, I can’t offer much feedback yet on how successful it is as a self-promotional piece for children’s book illustrators… I continue to find personable, old-school guerilla marketing techniques to be the best method of meeting new clients. So listing in a directory is a whole new kettle of fish for me! But thus far I’ve been impressed with the DOI website, which allows you to post your blog feed via RSS, your portfolio, and even feature your current projects.

If you want to take peak, you can Browse the Book here. My little ad wound up on page 362/600!

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2008 Illustrations | Year In Review

By heather at 1:11 am on Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Here’s a look at the 79 illustrations I completed in 2007 (clicking on the image above will bring up a bigger picture!) This year was a change of pace for me, with switching gears from full-time illustrator to full-time mum! I’ve loved the joys of having our little girl, Hera, in our lives, and have felt lucky to be able to continue to illustrate in my spare time a few hours a week. I managed to illustrated two new children’s books (The Little Boy’s Smile and Tartan Meets the Queen); 3 greeting card illustrationsdrawings inspired from our trip to India in 2007; and more recently started an Illustrated Diary of Hera’s Stuff.

Filed under: work in progress, inspiration, illustrations, business of illustration Leave A Comment »

Understanding ACMI Artist Materials Seals & Toxicity Labels

By heather at 1:00 am on Friday, August 3, 2007

My awareness & concern for non-toxic art materials has been rekindled… I’ve often noticed the AP labels on my paints and art supplies, but not really bothered to find out what they mean. So here’s a quick 101 on deciphering the safety of your artist materials… (Read on …)

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Freelance Switch | How NOT to Apply for a Freelance Position

By heather at 8:27 pm on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 is a great hub for advice, marketing tips, and job postings for freelancers of all kinds. Last week they posted this is a funny & down-to-earth article by Darias A Monsef IV, on how to apply for creative jobs… I’ve included some excerpts below of the key points :

There are some mythical freelancers who like unicorns that prance in open fields and sasquatches who lumber through the forests… have fully booked schedules and are never in need of finding new clients and work. For the majority of us though, we’re always on the hunt for new leads.

1) Read the Entire Job Description
I know that some job listings are really long and boring, but from a clients point of view if you can’t stay focused long enough to read their employment listing… chances are you’re not going to stay focused all that long with the actual job either. (Read on …)

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How to build an illustration portfolio

By heather at 10:46 pm on Wednesday, June 13, 2007

portfolioA portfolio is an illustrator’s visual resume, intended to communicate to a potential client / employer what you are capable of and the caliber of your creative work. A portfolio, much like a resume, should constantly be kept up-to-date with your best pieces.

Here are some tips to help you build & maintain your portfolio… (Read on …)

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Step-by-Step How to Colour a pencil sketch / drawing in Photoshop

By heather at 4:09 pm on Saturday, May 26, 2007

monkey photoshop

This illustration technique me feels like I’m a little kid again and colouring in the lines! I really enjoy this style, as I can take my time with my B-pencil & smudge stick rendering an illustration… and then hop on the computer and create the final black & white and colour print-ready files respectively in a matter of minutes. It is an ideal style for creating a lot of illustrations in a short amount of time, as it achieves a traditional feel without the time involved in creating watercolour paintings.

The step-by-step process I follow to colour my illustrations in Photoshop is :

• Illustrate the character with a graphite pencil on bond paper (I like printer paper as it’s smooth and fits on the scanning bed!)
• Scan each illustrations at high resolution
• Create a Photoshop file for the character illustration
• Remove the character from the background and place it on its own layer, carefully removing the whitespace with a soft edged eraser tool or feathered magic wand selection (see below)
monkey photoshop

• Adjust the contrast
• Save out a flattened, grayscale version as a TIFF (I’ve set up an action to do this in Photoshop automatically for me)
(Read on …)

Filed under: work in progress, illustrations, business of illustration, tutorials, Little Land Adventures8 Comments »

How much to charge for illustrations?

By heather at 9:21 pm on Monday, April 23, 2007

‘How much should I charge for my illustrations?” is one of those unecessarily ambiguous questions creative people face when they are asked to provide an estimate for a project. While many clients have a set budget that you have to work within, others ask you to provide a quote for your project. You could pick a number out of a hat… or if you’ve got a little business sense, you’ll take the time to do a little number crunching to be sure all your bases are covered.
When I started out freelancing, I found this article (below) by Neil Tortorella posted at Creative Latitude very helpful in establishing my own illustration pricing. I never ‘quote’ an hourly rate for illustration work, I quote for the entire project up front… but my starting point for every quote is working out how much time the project will take, and how much I need to earn at a minimum to to meet my annual salary.

Below is a step-by-step guide of what to take into consideration when coming up with your hourly rate… it’s a good starting place for establishing your illustration rates :

Creative Latitude : How do you Rate?

“If there’s one question I’m asked by designers more than any other, it’s how to figure out what to charge for a project. We have several ways. We can look it up in the Graphic Artist Guild’s Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (PEG). We can charge the ‘going rate’. Or we can make a good guess at what the client is willing to pay and charge that. There are others, but these are the typical methods.

The Guild’s PEG is a good source and every designer should have a copy. You might find it a bit too general, though, in some areas. The ‘going rate’ is called that because if you’re not careful with it, you’re going out of business. Unless you happen to be clairvoyant, guessing what you think the client will pay is just plain bad business. The idea isn’t to figure out what the client will spend. It’s figuring out whether you can make any moolah on the project.

A better way to approach the problem is figuring out your bottomline: where you need to be to really make money. Go below this point and you’re paying your client for the honor of working for them. The more work you take on at the wrong rate, the deeper the hole you’ll dig for yourself. You can actually ’sell’ yourself right out of business with a rate that’s too low. Go too high and you’ll price yourself out of the market. Once you know your true costs of doing business, you can make sensible decisions.

You’re unique. Yup, just like every other designer out there. We all have different set ups and our costs vary. So we need to tap into some of that high school math you complained you’d never use. Actually, this is pretty elementary, so don’t sweat it.

The place to start is you. What’s your target salary? And let’s be realistic here. If you have employees, you’ll need to add up all the salaries. On top of that, you’ll need to figure in other associated costs like taxes, FICA, insurance, etc. A safe figure is 25-30%. I lean toward 30%. The math looks like this:

* Salary: $40,000
* Associated costs at 30% of salaries: $12,000
* Total: $52,000

Well, that’s a start. So how many hours are there in a year? Hmmm; let’s see. Eight hours each day. Five days in a work week. Fifty-two weeks in a year that’s . . . er . . . Hang on. I’ll save you the trouble of digging out that calculator. It’s 2,080 hours. Again, if you have employees, you’ll need to multiply that by the number of employees.

Now, if you’re like most people, you probably would like to spend a few holidays with the family and you may get a bad cold now and then and need to take a day off. Let’s factor those things into our equation (based on an solo practice):

* 7 legal holidays (US): 56 hours (8 x 7)
* 2 weeks vacation (you need some time off): 80 hours (8 x 10)
* 5 sick days (did you get a flu shot?): 40 hours (8 x 5)
* Total: 176 hours

Take that off the top of our total hours and we’re left with 1,904 billable hours. But, you probably do other things around the office like invoicing, sales calls, surfing the net and reading articles like this one. Well, you can’t bill for that time so we’ll need to ax those hours too. If you’ve been a good designer, you’ve kept time sheets. A review of a few weeks can give you a pretty good idea how much ‘down time’ you have. If you’ve been bad and haven’t kept time sheets, you’ll have to give it your best guess and make some adjustments later on . . . when you do keep time sheets. A typical target is 25%. If you’re new, it may be as much as 50%. Hopefully it’s not more than that. Let’s use the 25% for this example.

That brings our billable hours into the more realistic area of 1,428 per year. Now we’re getting somewhere! Now simply divide your billable hours into the cost of salaries and voila! You have a rate of $36.41 ($52,000/1428). Let’s round that down to 36 smackers. This is the amount to must charge to get your salary and its associated costs.

You’ve got stuff. Stuff is good. We all need stuff. Designer stuff includes things like office rent, utilities, phones, computers, software, paper, ink, marketing materials, yada, yada, yada. You get the idea. Now it’s time to start adding up all your stuff. The accountants like to call this overhead. I guess that’s because if you buy too much stuff, you’ll find yourself in way over your head. Let me pull a number out of the air. Say for our example your overhead costs $35,000 per year. We need find the percentage of salaries this overhead represents. Simple. Divide the overhead ($35,000) by the salary ($52,000) and you come up with a little better than 67%. Add this to the base rate we calculated earlier:

$36 X 67%= $24.12

36 bucks plus the $24.12 for overhead is a whopping $60.12. Again, we’ll round that out to a clean $60.

And there you have it. Now you know you need to charge at least $60 per hour if you want to eat and pay your rent. We also know that we need to contract at least 1428 hours per year, or 119 hours each month, to make this mark. Pretty neat, eh? Now we’re starting to act like a real live business! We not only solved our rate problem, we also set a sales goal.

Well, I guess that’s about it. What’s that the Accountant is saying? There’s one more thing? Hmmm . . . we took care of our salaries. Our overhead is nailed. What else could there be? Oh! A profit! We need to make a profit. Profit is that funny money that allows our business to grow and expand. It’s the leftover nest egg that gives us the ability keep employees on when things get slow. It’s what allows us to replace the old G-3 with a nifty new G-4 and a Titanium Powerbook to go. Yup, we need to make a profit.

How much profit do we need? I’d say not to go below 10%. 20% is better and that’s what we’ll use for our target. Time to pull out the calculator again. We’ve established our base rate at $60. 20% of 60 is 12, so we need to tack $12 on top. Our final rate, to recover salaries, overhead and a healthy profit, is $72.00. If you’re like me, you’ll round this amount up to a tidy $75. It just sounds better and adds a slight fudge factor.

Now that wasn’t too bad, was it? The final rate is the number you’ll use to do your estimating, whether you charge by the hour or by the job. It’s the number you can’t afford to go below. No more wondering if you can afford to take on this job or decline that one. You have facts to back up your decisions.

If you can’t find your calculator, you’re in luck. Being the nice guy that I am, I’ve posted a spreadsheet on my site that will do all this for you. You can find it in either Mac or Windows flavors at Happy calculating!

About Neil Tortorella
Neil Tortorella has been calculating his hourly rate for over 25 years. He’s pretty sure he’s got it right this time. ”

– © Neil Tortorella, Tortorella Design

Filed under: inspiration, business of illustration40 Comments »

How to Recycle Pencil Shavings

By heather at 11:49 pm on Monday, April 16, 2007

I came across this post on How Can I Recycle This?

“Last week, I wrote a bit of a rant about how much I hate it when pencil leads are broken (HATE) and asked what I could do with the formerly-useful pencils. But I didn’t think about the resultant sharpenings. If the pencil is wood, I guess they can be composted - right? But what about previously-foam-cup pencils that can’t be composted? I know it seems a really small thing and almost isn’t worth caring about, but any suggestions?”

As an illustrator, I create an incredible amount of pencil shaving waste! I even have a ‘graveyard’ of pencil stubs too short to comfortably use anymore but am too sentimental about to actually throw away. Happily I don’t need to toss the pencils shavings in the trash anymore, as I’ve discovered some great ways to keep shavings out of landfils :


• Mulch : wood pencil shavings make great mulch in the garden

• Use graphite sticks instead of pencils (completely reducing the shaving waste)
• Use solid graphite pencils (completely reducing the shaving waste)
• Use refillable pencils and just purchase new leads (be sure to purchase those packaged in recyclable & recycled packaging)

• wood pencil shavings can be composted
• wood pencil shavings can be used as kindling in fireplaces

Filed under: illustrations, business of illustration4 Comments »

Sample Illustration Agreement / Contract / Terms

By heather at 1:00 am on Wednesday, March 21, 2007

When working with Clients on illustration or design projects, establishing the terms of working together before the project begins protect both the interests of the Artist and the Client. A contract which clearly includes your Terms & Conditions is one of the most important documents you can set up for your illustration business… it will set you apart as being ethical & professional. Having your clients sign a contract doesn’t take much time… and if taking a minute to sign an agreement for the project ahead scares them away, they probably weren’t legit anyway. In my experience, any legitimate business would not bat an eyelash at signing a contract before the work commences.

When writing your own Terms & Conditions, be sure to specify :

  • • the timeline for the project
  • • what you are providing to the client
  • • what rights the client will have to the artwork
  • • what rights you will have to the artwork (i.e. intellectual rights, the right to use the art for self promotional purposes, etc)
  • • whether you are willing to allow the client to alter your designs / artwork
  • • cancellation fees
  • • number of copies of the finished product you hope to be provided free of charge

Sample Illustration Terms & Conditions

Below I’ve copied my Terms & Conditions (which I include when I give a quote,) feel free to use this as a starting point to create your own:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A schedule compatible with the Client’s timing requirements will be established at the outset of the project, with project commencement contingent upon prompt acceptance of this proposal, and with anticipated completion date of March 31, 2007. All dates and time schedules are contingent upon prompt project commencement and timely Client’s input as required.

1. Client acknowledges that Illustrator is first and sole owner of all “copyright” and shall retain intellectual rights of all Illustration(s).
2. Upon payment in full of all fees, the Illustrator shall grant the Client’s unlimited rights for all approved designs and shall transfer
ownership of high resolution scans of the illustrations, design mechanicals, and reproduction specifications to the Client.
3. Illustrator is entitled to use all Illustrations for self promotion purposes or to enter into any contest.
4. Reassigning of Rights : Client may not assign or transfer this Licence or any part thereof unless authorized in writing by Illustrator.
5. No modifications, changes or alterations may be made to Illustrations or any part thereof, directly or indirectly, without Illustrator’s prior written consent.
6. Cancellation: Should Client choose to cancel work after commencement, Client agrees to pay Illustrator 25% of the final fees if the cancellation occurs after sketches; 50% of the final fee if cancellation occurs after revised linears; and 100% of the final fee if cancellation occurs after final art.
7. Credit : Client agrees to include a credit to Illustrator in connection with the Work.
8. Illustrator’s Copies : Client shall furnish Illustrator with two copies of the Work upon publication.
9. Terms become effective upon the signing of the agreement. It will be retroactively cancelled if the Client is in default of carrying out the complete payment of the invoice in the 90 days of receipt.

If you found this post helpful, you might also like to read about other Business Tips for Illustrators here.

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