Business of Illustration | Bookkeeping Checklist

By heather at 9:27 pm on Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Erica over at Outright.com sent me a great bookkeeping checklist… perfect timing, as I was just updating my business budget with the last invoices and receipts for the year. The tips were very helpful, with the pointed reminder that “if you don’t record it, in the eyes of your bookkeeping, it doesn’t exist!” This checklist has specifics which will be helpful to US illustrators, but with my business based in Canada it’s still a good general reminder of items to not forget.

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Painter’s Tip | How to Clean Hardened Paintbrush Bristles

By heather at 12:23 am on Sunday, December 20, 2009

watercolour paintbrush illustration

This week I discovered one of my good acrylic paintbrushes was as hard as a rock… I obviously didn’t clean it properly the last time I used it! Hoping to recover the brush I did a little online search for ways to soften up the bristles. I was pleased to discover that the solution was in my kitchen cupboard… white vinegar.

Here’s the method I used* :

  • • Place the brush’s bristles down into a glass or jar.
  • • Fill with white vinegar just to the metal ferrule.
  • • Let sit for a few hours. At this point the bristles will have softened up considerably.
  • • Pour some white vinegar into a shallow pan on the stove, and place the brush’s bristles into the vinegar until are submerged.
  • • Gently heat the white vinegar (not to boiling!) until paint is loosened from the bristles.
  • • Rinse the brush in water, then use gentle hand soap to suds up the bristles to remove any vinegar.
  • • Rinse well. Condition bristles with a brush cleaner optional.
  • • Make a mental note to wash the brush more carefully next time it’s used!

*Inspired by eHow.com (How to Soften Paint Brushes and How to Clean Paint Brushes That Have Hardened)

Filed under: business of illustration, tutorials1 Comment »

Spotty & Eddie Visit Percé | Before & After Colour

By heather at 6:03 am on Friday, December 18, 2009

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

Am about halfway through digitally colouring my pencil illustrations for Spotty & Eddie’s latest adventure by Lisa M. Chalifoux… wanted to share a couple before and afters of my illustrations (clicking on them will bring up a larger image). The colouring has been going very quickly thanks to my new Wacom tablet… I bought my first one this summer and taught myself how to use it, so this is the first big project I’ve used it on. And I LOVE it. Also, here is a snapshot of how the layout is turning out in the InDesign file… I find it helps dropping in the colour illustrations into the layout as I go so that I can make sure the colours balance nicely.

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

Filed under: work in progress, sketches, illustrations, childrens books, business of illustration, colour, Spotty and Eddie3 Comments »

FAQS | A Few Questions About Greeting Cards

By heather at 9:00 pm on Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I just sent this email off to a fellow greeting card artist who had a few questions… thought I’d share!

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Q: Is it acceptable to just work digitally or does the original have to be done in traditional paints (or what have you) and then scanned?

A: You can illustrate with whatever medium you want, digital or traditional, whatever is your style! (See FAQ: What Medium Should I Use?)
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Q: I read your bit about resolution size for cards.  8.5 x 11′ with an inch at least of bleed over… but what about for other illustrations? Will this be specified by the client?  Also scans should be done at 300dpi correct?

A: Yes, sizes will often be specified by the client. The letterhead size recommendation illustrations is only for ease of scanning, don’t feel limited by it if you’d prefer to work to different sizes. And 300dpi is high resolution, perfect for scanning illustrations. Often I scan at 300dpi and 125% just so that I have a little flexibility with the final size. (See also FAQ : What Size Should I Illustrate Greeting Cards?)
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Q: I’m wondering how lucrative or not  the greeting card industry is? It must also be very competitive like the rest of the business.  Is it very difficult to land a gig and is that done using an agent as well?

A: Greeting card work is seasonal, so there are certainly dry periods. The industry is a bit slow at the moment. Landing gigs isn’t difficult when it’s in a busy season, simply getting your work in front of the art director’s eyes by sending samples is the best way to make contacts… no need for an agent to do this for you.

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Q: Guess it’s not necessary to watermark?

A: It’s always a safe idea to watermark any illustrations that you send via email or post online as it helps to protect from theft.

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Filed under: business of illustration, greeting cards, FAQS1 Comment »

Calling All Eco Art Supplies!

By heather at 4:26 pm on Friday, December 11, 2009

environmentally friendly eco art supplies

Finding eco-art supplies has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and had a chance a couple weeks back to really do some research and order some environmentally friendly alternatives to some of the art supplies I use regularly. Being a full-time Mom I’m also keen on green art supplies for children… and happily there is more demand for eco-kids art supplies than for professional grade, so I was able to easily find a selection of crayons, paints, markers, pencils & papers to try. I’ll be posting reviews here on my blog of both professional grade and children’s eco-art supplies, and compiling them all on my new list of Green Art Supplies. Am so excited to give these a go, especially my new Canadian 100% Recycled Eco-Jot sketchbook.

If you know of any great environmentally friendly art supplies, or have tried any yourself that you like please let me know!

P.S. To reduce the carbon footprint of ordering these art supplies online, I ordered all my new supplies (save one item!) from the same online shop. Making one order from one location, rather than ordering individual items from multiple locations, is an easy way to care for the environment as it saves on the extra resources (fuel, packaging, purchase orders) used to ship multiple items.

Filed under: green design, inspiration, business of illustration2 Comments »

FAQS | Do publishers really look at unsolicited samples?

By heather at 1:30 am on Friday, November 13, 2009

Question : Do publishers really look at unsolicited (illustration) samples? Or do they have interns to do it?

Answer : YES, publishers and art directors really do look at unsolicited illustration samples! When I worked as Art Director for Northern Cards, I used to receive samples and sketched ideas via email, snail mail, and even fax. Was fun seeing all the new artwork and styles cross my desk! Many artists would work on spec (not at my request!) and send finished artwork samples, but we often purchased designs from artists who sent their ideas as black and white mock-ups. I would review the artwork… at a glance I’d have a good idea whether the style, caliber, and subject matter of the work would suit our product lines. Sometimes the timing of the samples would just be off (i.e. receiving Easter submissions when we’re looking for Christmas…), but we’d keep files of the artists samples to call on when it would suit.

Larger design firms may have interns sort through digital and printed samples, or even source illustrators via the internet or source books. As long as you are actively marketing your illustrations and keeping your work landing on their desk you’ve got a better chance of being remembered for a suitable project.

Filed under: childrens books, business of illustration, greeting cards, FAQS Leave A Comment »

FAQS | Is it ok to send sketches of ideas to greeting card companies?

By heather at 8:07 pm on Thursday, November 12, 2009

Question: Is it ok to send rough sketches or designs to publishers instead of finished illustrations?

Answer: Yes! Art directors don’t mind receiving roughed out ideas, be it sketches or digital mockups. Some art directors even prefer this, as if your design is picked up, they can have you illustrate the final artwork to their greeting card specifications and/or even make any minor adjustments to the design before you start on the finals. Sending roughs* is also good for you as the illustrator, in that you avoid working on spec, spending time illustrating artwork with only a chance it will be purchased. To protect your ideas when submitting to various companies, just be sure to include a © Your Name on your designs.

*When I say “roughs,” I don’t mean scribbled on the back of a dirty napkin… try to keep them neat, descriptive, easy to make out the idea you’re trying to portray.
I’ve posted more tips on sending samples to greeting card publishers here.

Filed under: business of illustration, greeting cards, FAQS3 Comments »

FAQS | What size should I illustrate for children’s books?

By heather at 9:34 pm on Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Question : Is there a preferred size to illustrate children’s books?

Answer : I’ve found is that size varies from publisher to publisher. Happily, if your manuscript is picked up by a publisher, they will let you know what sizes are available to you. This goes the same for self-publishers, who are able to give a good rate to authors for printing books because they have a standard cookie-cutter size they work with.

A very helpful editor over at Omnibus Books gave the advice at a children’s book writing seminar that it is very unusual to receive finished illustrations with a manuscript. She went on to say that it is even discouraged because of the uncomfortable situation that can arise when the story is literary genious and the illustrations are scribble, or the illustrations are masterpieces and the story is dribble!

With that advice in mind, if you wish to submit a manuscript with illustrations, I would lean towards only sending in sketches and perhaps one finished illustration (as a sample) with your manuscript to a publisher.

That being said, there are many talented aspiring writer/illustrators out there… and to you I would give the advice to just illustrate larger than you hope the book will be, and paint extra bleed (trim) around the illustration. That way if your story is picked up by a pubisher, there is flexibility to scale down and trim the illustrations as needed.

You can find more tips on how to illustrate a children’s book here. And if you have any questions about children’s book illustration or publishing, feel free to post your questions in the comment section.

Filed under: childrens books, business of illustration, FAQS7 Comments »

FAQS | What medium should I use to illustrate greeting cards?

By heather at 2:33 pm on Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Question : What medium should I use to illustrate greeting cards? Is it ok to use different mediums and surfaces, such as acrylic on canvas?

Answer : There aren’t any restrictions on what media you use to illustrate your greeting card designs. Whether you illustrate with watercolour on paper or oils on canvas, what will be the deciding factor is how awesome your illustration looks. Just consider how easy it will be to digitize your illustration (whether it be by scanning or photographing) before you delve in. Other than that, the sky’s the limit!
You can find more tips on illustrating for greeting cards here.

Filed under: business of illustration, greeting cards, FAQS1 Comment »

How to design business cards for illustrators

By heather at 1:00 am on Monday, October 26, 2009

Developing your own brand is the first step in marketing yourself as an illustrator. The purpose of a business card is to quickly provide the recipients with your contact details, to remind them of who you are and what you do. The best part about being an illustrator is that your business card doesn’t need to be stuffy… it needs to reflect your style, while being simple enough to complement any printed promotional materials that it may accompany.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your business card :

  • • Contact details to include are : Your logo, name, phone number, email & website.
  • • Keep the type treatment clean and legible. Choose type treatments that you can carry across your other stationary (such as invoices, letterheads, quotes, etc.) Above all keep your promotional materials consistent with each other, you don’t want a higgldy-piggledy bunch of promotional materials.
  • • Size : Go with a standard business card size. While choosing a unique size is, well… unique… it can be a wasted expense when the thing people are most interested in with an illustrator’s business card is illustration!
  • • Full-colour printing : Prices for printing have dropped significantly, so that now it is almost as cheap to print full-colour (front & back) business cards as it is to print them in black & white. Yeah, full-colour illustration opportunities!
  • • Embellishments : It’s a personal preference whether you want to splurge for embosses, varnishes, or matte-laminates… just keep in mind that you want your illustration to be the star of your business card.
  • • Consider including an illustration : You’re an illustrator, so take this opportunity to show off your style! Chose an illustration that best reflects your talents. Crop in close for interest, or show the whole illustration on the back of the card. You could even illustrate something especially for your business card. If you have more than one style, you may want to consider having more than one business card (just be sure to keep your logo and contact details consistent between business cards.)

Above all, have fun with your business card… give it a bit of your personal flare, and don’t be afraid of making it look like your own style as people like to see an illustrator’s styles come through in their branding materials.

Filed under: business of illustration2 Comments »
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