Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The biggest deterrent for many illustrators is navigating through all the aspects pertaining to negotiating, contracts, rights, etc. It makes their head spin just thinking about it. If a client's project seems outrageous or unconventional, don't panic or make concessions — instead, listen to what they are asking and then do what many of my clients do – CALL ME! I can help you find someone to guide you, educate you and/or represent you. Let me give you two real examples of how I can help you in these situations.

1. A west coast Illustrator called me late one afternoon. She just received a call from an Ogilvy Chicago art director who saw her very first ad page in the Directory.  She listened as the art director asked her to submit ‘an estimate’ for a hi-level consumer product ad campaign budgeted for $15,000 which they needed within a couple days to get final approval from their client.  The illustrator had never done an estimate before – she was unaware of how to present one – and she wanted the job. So she quickly called me to ask how to handle this. I introduced her to a west coast illustration representative who was kind enough to teach her how to put an estimate together. The artist submitted the estimate on schedule and within 2 weeks the job was confirmed. Here is her print ad from the Directory that won her the project.

Sacha Penn - Directory of Illustration #29 ad

2. A local artist, tired of the local budgets, called me to get more national and international exposure through the Directory program. When his first print ad came out he received a call for a project he said was ‘bigger than he had ever negotiated before’ and could I help him. I asked him to describe the project so I could determine the right artist representative to help him with this particular project. The NY artist representative contacted him right away, negotiated the project for him and got him a bigger paycheck than he ever had before. The project with that client went so well that the rep invited him to join his rep group. Now the artist has a rep and a continuing presence in the Directory with the rep. Here is the first ad which got him the bigger paycheck.

Mike Ray - Directory of Illustration #28 ad

If you want the job, please show up for the interviews. The Directory program will give you the exposure you need to be considered for projects. When you get the call, you can accept the project as presented, negotiate on your own, or ask for help. If you are part of the Directory program, you can count on me to help. All negotiations can be crafted so it is a win-win solution for everyone. Knowing who you can count on gives you the best chance to succeed and will also position you for future opportunities.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Brand By Any Other Name...Artist As Brand

If you haven't heard of Artist As Brand® - here is a brief introductionFounder Greg Spalenka (award-winning, inspirational artist) gives us a brief introduction to his career enhancing program to help artists connect their talent to their marketing. Greg says, "The Artist As Brand mission is to empower an artist's authentic purpose and prosperity". Everything about Greg's program is in line with my own commitment to this industry - supporting artists to find their true passion and make a living doing so. I'm thrilled Greg is sharing this and future posts with us.

Greg Spalenka - Artist As Brand

What do Michelangelo, Coco Chanel, Sinatra, Andy Warhol, Clint Eastwood, Auguste Rodin, Meryl Streep, Frida Kahlo, Picasso, Damien Hirst, Mozart, Michael Jackson, Henry Moore, Maxfield Parrish, Ray Bradbury, Joseph Beuys, and Madonna, all have in common?

They are all brands.

Generally when people think of what a brand is they conjure up images of corporate products or logos from companies, however the true essence of this word goes deeper.

For artists it has more meaning than you may realize.

–noun and verb
1. kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like.
2. a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.
3. a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic.
4. to impress indelibly.
5. a brand name.

In the beginning, before multi-national corporations, before boards of directors, before mergers and franchises and takeovers, there were family businesses founded on individual enterprise or invention. Before the corporate image or the company logo, there was the individual name stamped on a product, a service, a labor saving device, or a form of entertainment, usually because it was the proud handiwork of one individual. 

A brand is a purpose transformed into a product or service that connects to people, the planet, and beyond. The key word here is purpose, and specifically your purpose relating to the personal vision of your art. This is where the heart of your essence resides, where your most potent art manifests, and the strength of your perseverance matures. The purpose inside you aligned with your personal vision is the foundation of your creative power. When your heart is joined with your art, a vital one of a kind signature is formed. This brand is unique to you and your intimate product.

All visionary creators throughout time who have made their mark on humanity are brands. They are remembered for their impact on the collective consciousness of the planet and many are household names. Imagine making art that touches an audience so deeply, they not only support your vision financially but they show their appreciation by promoting your ideas too for the rest of your life, even after death. That is the power of a committed purpose. 

Over a lifetime a successful creative mind can burn a series of meaningful marks into the mindset of a generation, but if their passion is great it is possible to start a fire that contributes a brighter light to the world.

Peace and passion,

Greg Spalenka

Greg Spalenka

Greg Spalenka, Founder of Artist As Brand® started his award winning career as an artist after graduating from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California in 1982. Moving to New York City he began a twenty eight year journey illustrating for America’s most prominent publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers.
As a concept designer he has worked on feature CG animated and live action films such as The Ant Bully, The Golden Compass, The Voyage of the DawnTreader.

In addition to gallery exhibitions, Spalenka has created or aligned with companies to manufacture limited editions of his art as books, printed items, music, jewelry, and other products.

Spalenka also teaches, lectures and conducts workshops at colleges, universities, art institutions around the country and abroad. Exhibiting at the San Diego Comic Convention for the last twenty years inspired some of the principles now taught in the Artist As Brand® Workshop and Workbook. Currently he is focused on presenting Artist As Brand® workshops, and finishing a myriad of projects from interactive books to music.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CREATIVES: UNITE to Diversify - Creating more business for you and good karma for our industries

Ed Shems - illustrator
You can’t go it alone. Being a freelance illustrator is challenging and competitive. The worthy competition challenges you to find ways to get out in front of your peers and prove your value to potential clients.
Editorial illustration for an article about creative quarterbacking
How can you do this? Naturally it starts with solving a client’s visual problem which may require additional skills that you may not have. Knowing how and what to deliver to get any job done right takes experience, professionalism and research. It often also requires ‘diversification’.

How many times has a current or potential client asked you if you can design a poster, packaging, business cards or a header for a website? How many times have you been asked if you have the skills to animate? Businesses large and small expect creatives to do more and more to solve their challenges without forcing them to hop around to multiple studios. When you turn down these jobs or refer them to someone else you’re not only losing out on opportunities but you could be turning away future business as well. It’s time to put your entrepreneurial hat on. Yes, it can be a beret.

This kind of challenge happened early on in my illustration career. Clients started asking me to create the illustrations for their marketing postcard PLUS to design it. I had to quickly learn how to choose fonts, design with bleeds and prepare the files for print. The best part is those clients kept returning with bigger jobs and larger budgets which sometimes doesn't even include illustration work!


“Do what you do best and delegate the rest.”
Jessica Hische, designer

Editorial illustration
I would not recommend that you become a jack-of-all-trades. If you do too many things it becomes overly difficult for your potential clients to understand what you actually do (and your elevator pitch becomes impossibly long!). This is why you need to get out and meet some of your fellow and sister creatives. Go out and shake hands with designers, schmooze with web developers and toast with copywriters. Check out creative organizations such as AIGA, Graphic Artists Guild or one of the many local-to-you organizations sponsoring networking events and gallery openings. Or if you really don’t like to leave the house, join various Linked In groups to meet other creatives.

Connect with:
·       Graphic designers
·       Web designers
·       Web developers
·       Animators
·       Copywriters
·       Printers
·       Photographers

Do some research to determine whose work you like and whether or not their work will mesh with yours. Get in touch and discuss ways in which you might collaborate on projects. Or just make some new friends who you can tap into for insight, advice or even a tutorial.

Illustrative designer Von Glitschka has what he calls an Inner Circle of people he can rely on to kick him in the ass (his words) if his work starts getting lousy. We could all use that. Sure it’s nice to get compliments from your friends, and friends of your parents, when you post your work on Facebook but it’s the constructive criticism from professionals you respect that will help you grow

An illustration from Ed's most recent book: Hamstigator


Working together
Rather than send my client elsewhere for any part of a job, I offer to bring in someone proficient with that particular skill to work ‘with’ me. I give that contractor full authority to communicate with my (now our) client as long as I am kept in the loop. Because I have recommended this person, their good or bad work will reflect on me and my business so I make sure to vet my contractor carefully.

What to look for when choosing a contractor:
·       Great work
·       Good communication skills-Good writing/spelling/grammar
·       Good organization
·       Professionalism
·       Open to feedback
·       On time (for meetings/calls and with delivery of the work)
·       Portfolio of samples to show your client
·       Make sure they will not undercut you to your client

While working with other creatives, it’s important to take advantage of the additional benefits from your collaboration: learning and sharing. Whether you’re learning new skills, software tricks or a better way to compose and send sketch files, you should always recognize that other creatives have something to teach you (and lest you feel belittled, remember that you have different things you can teach other creatives as well).
Kid's book illustration about a mechanical frog

I usually have the contractor bill through me so that I can be sure that the job has been completed to my satisfaction (After all, once again this contractor is representing my business as well as their own). Some creatives add a percentage to the contractor’s estimate as a fee for playing middleman. That’s entirely up to you and you should be ready to disclose this fact to your client and be able to back it up with sound reasoning (such as: it helps cover the time you’re spending on conference calls, discussing the contractor’s work, tracking the job and invoicing).

If payment for the contractor goes through you and reaches a certain amount, (find out what your state requires - I’m in Massachusetts and the amount is $600 and up) and whether that entity is an individual (unincorporated business), partnership or LLC, then you might need your contractor to provide you with a W9.

Not only can you learn from the contractors you work with, but you also have the opportunity to share some of what you know with a newbie. Perhaps the photographer you met is just out of school and has no clue how an invoice should look. Or her portfolio could use some reorganizing. Creative karma can do everyone a lot of good.

Start meeting other creatives and start adding to the types of work you’re capable of excelling at. You’ll be surprised by how diverse your portfolio will become in a very short period of time.

Ed Shems is an award-winning graphic designer and freelance illustrator specializing in editorial illustrations, kid’s books, character development and identity design. Ed is the former President of the Boston Graphic Artists Guild, and cofounder of Creative Relay: A resource for creative professionals. He is on the design advisory committee for DIGMA: The Design Industry Group of Massachusetts. Ed lives in Needham, MA with his wife Bree and their two kids, Leo and Cora. You can find Ed’s illustration and graphic design work at edfredned.com and his writing at creativerelay.com.

Ed's most recent collaboration is on You Tube. From August through November 2013, Ed worked with Zach at Cut to Create to produce an animated explainer video for a client. You can see the collaboration here: http://youtu.be/-5eEek2GRgI

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mobile Apps: Advice for Illustrators

The use of illustration for mobile apps is widespread. I see plenty of jobs from the Directory of Illustration for mobile apps. Some pay a whole lot of moolah!

We're hearing about mobile app jobs for just about everything and every industry. Some of these projects assigned to illustrators have amazing budgets and some are more mediocre but nevertheless the popularity of mobile applications has continued to rise, as their usage has become increasingly prevalent across mobile phone users. The illustrations used in apps are user friendly, addictive and extremely interactive.

The public demand and the availability of developer tools drove rapid expansion into a lot of categories, such as mobile games, factory automation, GPS and location-based services, banking, order-tracking, and ticket purchases,.apps for personal finance, teaching kids, dating, food guides, medical apps, apps for the gym - they have done it all.

Check out the Windows Phone for Apps & Games and EVERY visual is illustration.

Here's some advice from UX/UI Designer Ryan Whisenhunt, owner and operator of WhisenhuntDesign.com

"Look beyond the software and take a moment for the hardware, how it is used, who the demographic is, where it is used and why it is used. Create with context. In illustration it's all in the details and do not spare them. This is not your 72dpi flip phone anymore, smartphone resolution is higher than ever, the iPhone 5 for example displays at 326 dpi.

With that, so many apps rely on the vector clip art and rarely do you see anything organic and truly unique. An app designed/illustrated by an artist has it's place as long as you keep the user experience in mind because no matter how cool you make it look, if it is hard to use it will not be used.

Push your partnerships with shops by knowing product limitations. A lot of application development companies outsource the cool stuff. This is your chance to do more than artwork framed in a clean gray box. Look at apps, play with them, know that whatever you want to do can most likely be done.

Create so the application is art rather than a frame of your art and always keep the user experience in-mind.

Tip: Think about new or existing apps and rebuild them visually into an app portfolio based on your creative style. Look up some of the hot application development companies like Bottle Rocket Apps (large) or SlimPixel (small) and start sending your work. This will be a unique find for shops and you might be surprised at the response. Show them what they have not thought of and be creative. Companies are looking for unique ways to enter the flooded marketplace, be that unique answer." 
~ Ryan Whisnehunt

© Infomen / Début Art as seen on DirectoryofIllustration.com portfolio

Picasa for mobile
Image by Tom Chitty as seen on Directory of Illustration.com
Interactive in-store display illustration for Google mobile apps

Whisenhunt Design example of organic app design with function

Keeping Clients Coming Back - advice from creative services consultant Maria Piscopo

How illustrators can best work with designers and art directors

Once you have a chance at a job with a new client or a big job for a current client, there is a tendency to rush through the standard business practices. Don’t do it, especially with new clients. Illustrators often feel if they are “easy” on the client on the first job, the client will decide to stay and give them more work. Not necessarily true; all it does is set you up for an unhealthy relationship. The way to build healthy and profitable relationships with clients and turn jobs into repeat business is to use good business practices dealing with client projects. Here are some client project issues that will come up with your illustration jobs, and some tips on how to deal with them to develop and maintain a strong relationship thus encouraging clients to keep coming back with more work.

The Deadline
This is a very delicate subject in any job with any client. Many illustrators feel if they meet a miraculous and unreasonable deadline, the client will “love them”. Unfortunately, all that will do is ensure the client will always give you jobs with not enough time to get them done properly in the future! Every client has a deadline horror story to tell that makes them wary of giving accurate information on this point. The best bet is to ask the kind of questions designed to help the client feel more comfortable with your ability to meet their deadlines. Instead of asking, "When do you want this job done?" as this is much too subjective a question, ask for more objective and measurable information such as, "When will the website with these illustrations launch?” Look behind the stated deadline. By breaking the delivery into a series of benchmarks on a timeline, both you and your client will feel more in control of the process (and they will feel safer coming back for more).

The Specific Need
Be sure to find out what specific problem this illustration project is supposed to solve. The more accurate a statement from the client of their goals and objective, the better opportunity you have to meet it. Meeting the client’s goal, whether it is for traffic-building website illustrations or a sales-building package illustration, will always give you a better chance that they will come back again.

The Approvals
This is another touchy subject between any client and illustrator. Sometimes, you both are caught in nightmarish scenarios where everyone responsible loves the ideas and then someone with a higher authority shoots it down. Do the most you can to protect yourself and your client: be a team. Find out how many people need to approve the project. Who are they? How do they relate to this project? Where are they? How many electronic file transfers vs. overnight deliveries are involved? Will there be personal consultations with you or will your client make the presentations for you?
Also, be sure to distinguish between subjective and objective approvals. Subjective is someone's opinion and should be given only to the highest level of authority, i.e., is this the color background they had in mind? You could say that subjective approvals represent the aesthetics and are a “matter of taste”. Note how different this is from an objective approval, which is a measurable determination of accuracy—such as the correct number of subjects or the correct size of the product in the illustration. You want to maximize the objective approvals and minimize the subjective approvals to get the job done and make the client happy.
Cathie Bleck of Cathie Bleck Illustration, www.cathiebleck.com, gives five “core values” as keys to repeat business, “Reliability, intelligent solutions, originality, quality assurance, and treating them with respect.” Also, Cathie likes to get to know her clients, “on a personal level, and strive to keep an open and honest dialog between us. Keeping it friendly so to speak allows them the ability to feel that I am approachable on the project or any future projects, even if I don't get the job. I usually try to ask them in the bidding process who I am bidding against and what factors might determine the decision? We may start a dialog from here or another question regarding what I might be able to offer them that might make my service unique to the project.”

Handling Conflict
Finally, your skill in handling conflicts with clients will determine whether your relationship will prosper or end. It is important to know that conflict is not bad. In fact, it is natural and inevitable and you cannot avoid it. What matters is how you choose to manage the conflicts that will arise, and maintain a relationship characterized by integrity, and open communication to achieve the “win-win” that keeps clients loyal.
Cathie Bleck suggests,“I have very few conflicts with clients, but when I do I try to be direct without being negative. Pointing a finger at the problem and not them will hopefully preserve the relationship for the future. Putting the agreement in writing from the beginning of the project serves to alleviate most communication problems.”
Today's competitive marketplace justifies a closer look at how illustrators look at their relationships with clients. On the client's side, the same market factors dictate a new importance and evaluation of their relationships with their illustrators. The more you learn and study the relationship between the creative and the client, the better chance you have of getting the job, and then turning that job into a client and a long-term relationship!

Maria Piscopo www.mpiscopo.com is a creative services consultant, an art/photo rep and marketing workshop instructor specializing in effective and creative marketing strategies delivered in her business and self-promotion classes, keynotes, seminars and workshops for associations, schools and photo industry conferences. She is currently an instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and a reviewer for www.eyeist.com

Maria will be speaking in Seattle on May 23rd for the ASMP and Seattle illustrators group. This is one of the best workshops you could attend - highly informative - about pricing your work. 
She will repeat her new 2 hour workshop that she premiered at ICON ‘Taking Charge of What You Charge’
If you're in or near Seattle - please don't miss it! You'll thank me later!

from Norm Bendell's portfolio on DirectoryofIllustration.com (represented by David Goldman)
from Val Bochkov's portfolio on DirectoryofIllustration.com

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Illustrators Say About Finding and Keeping Clients

Conversations with many illustrators remind me that the market is still competitive - however here's what some illustrators say about finding and keeping clients:

~ Art buyers focus on talented artists who can solve a visual problem. Clients want to COLLABORATE WITH YOU - clients are not always focused on style.

~ Illustrators get work from many places. VISIBILITY everywhere is key! 

~ Active illustrators got rid of old assumptions and zeroed in on strategies that would grab market share and won some of the new business that exists.

~ Illustrators moved from high maintenance/low margin clients that are an impediment on their time to opportunities and clients that have become more profitable - producing a healthier bottom line.

~ Illustrators embraced industries that have money to spend while staying focused on their dream projects.

~ Illustrators improved and upgraded their skills - whether traditional, digital, 2D, 3D and/or motion.

~ Illustrators combine traditional graphic design AND illustration skills to create concept driven illustrative design and lettering work.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Drawing in the Digital Age by Gerard Huerta

Illustrator, type and brand designer Gerard Huerta has created some of the most visible and recognizable mastheads, logos, magazine and album covers. You'll recognize his work...

He's a creative who loves to draw each and every letter making them unique and personal for each individual client's solution.

I love him not only because he is so talented but because he also likes to share his knowledge, skill and expertise with other creatives. Keep in mind that all of his artwork is custom drawn before it sees the computer. 

When we spoke recently he offered to share his keen insight about "Drawing in the Digital Age". If you love letterforms - you'll love this...
     "I do not reminisce about the days when I didn’t have my computer. The ease of executing vector-based artwork does not make me long for my Rapidiograph pen, and all of my artwork is prepared digitally. But the initial stage of drawing is where almost all of my basic lettering design decisions are made, and that is well before anything finds its way into the


Since I draw all of my letters and always have, the process of visualizing something in my mind and then sketching it out allows for a unique and personal solution. This is based upon my ability to draw. I don’t begin with a font. Font design requires a different discipline from logo design. A good font is one in which all letters must work harmoniously with each other, regardless of which letter ends up next to which. It is for this very reason that I find using fonts somewhat limiting in my own work. Drawing allows me the freedom to customize a letter depending on its immediate and permanant neighbor. If I were to select a font as a starting point for a logo design, my creative possibilities would be minimized. In drawing the reverse happens: what if I put serifs on it? What if the first letter was script? Why don't we tuck the leg of the “R” under the “T”? What if the baseline were curved? It is an editing process based on a mental/visual/physical action.

The rock'n'roll concert posters of the 1960s are wonderful examples of drawing in this fashion. The uninhibited letter forms were created to pay as much attention to the shapes between the letters as the letters and counters themselves. Equalizing the relative weight of the negative shapes sometimes compromised legibility. But because the letter forms were hand-drawn a wonderful typographic pattern was created that was fun, curvaceous and musical.

The process of drawing for me is one of wonderful discovery. The pencil moves in a motion creating a combination of curves and straights, slow and fast. I see my mental images beginning to take shape before me as I guide my pencil. I sometimes feel as if the drawing is already in the paper and my pencil is simply detecting the forms embedded there. The practice of drawing not only helps me achieve more control over my newly created visual; more importantly, it continues to develop my ability to see.

My drawings have gotten smaller over the years; this, in part, because of better drawing ability, but also it is more efficient to work small. In the pre-digital age my drawings were about half the size of the final inked artwork, but being able to alter the working size in the computer has greatly changed my drawing and, obviously, execution style. Although my drawings can be looser and smaller, I always go to the computer with a drawing that contains most of the information I need to properly execute a final or a comp. In that sketch almost all of the creativity has already taken place."

For more about Gerard Huerta visit these recent interviews:

The Man Behind the Logos — Smashing Interviews Magazine

and Gerard Huerta gives shape, meaning to the letters that matter

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tips For Communicating With A Difficult Client

At some point in your career you may stumble into a troublesome client. How will you handle the situation? Knowing what you want out of the situation and your ability to communicate professionally will determine the outcome of your productivity and success...and impress upon future opportunities with this client or their referrals.

You'll find clients of all kinds knocking on your internet door. Some understand technology, some don't. Some have worked with illustrators before, some haven't. Some offer the rate up front, most won't. No matter what their experience - you must be professional enough to find out what contributions you will be expected to bring to the project.

Communication is important...clear communication is critical.
from Boris Lyubner's portfolio - www.DirectoryofIllustration.com

~ Start with and keep a great attitude and positive approach. Every email, phone call and/or meeting must be met with openness to listen to and learn the client's needs. Ultimately the client needs you to solve a visual problem.

~ Find out what the client is really looking for. If you don't understand what the client is asking of you - politely ask for clarification. Don't assume anything. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Assuming something can waste precious time. 

from Adam Niklewicz's portfolio - www.DirectoryofIllustration.com
~ If a client gets pushy or assertive - stay calm - often the pressure is coming from within their organization or the client may not understand your abilities or industry language.

~ Can you renegotiate if a project gets more involved than the scope of the project that was originally discussed? If you can re-discuss this it will diminish both of your frustrations and increase efficiency of the project.

from J.T. Morrow's portfolio - www.DirectoryofIllustration.com

~ Communicate clearly and concisely, especially in an email. No need for long emails. State what you want right away...and one issue per email please. 

~ Collaborate - most clients want you to make contributions based on your experience and creativity. They're not just hiring you for style.

~ Enlighten your clients when you feel that your approach is better for their outcome. Compromise when necessary. It will make the project easier to finish.

from Marcel Ceuppen' portfolio - www.DirectoryofIllustration.com

~ Be able to back your suggestions up with proven examples to support your decisions and direction.

~ Follow up all conversation in writing to recap what was discussed and refer to when needed so there are no misunderstandings. This will save time in the long run. Clients love it when you're organized.

~ Engage your clients with questions to express their thoughts and visual ideas and get them talking about their project. This is where you can really have fun with them.

~ Keep all communications open. If they impose on your productivity give them a time frame when you will be ready to show them what you're working on. If you know you'll be done by 3 pm that day, let then know you'll be in touch by 5 pm. This gives you enough time to tweak any changes, politely informs your client and keeps them in the loop.