Zen and Art

Talent Monkey


Monday, August 17th, 2009

There is an interview with SuperZeroes creator Will Terrell on the 2MT podcast now posted online. Go by and check it out. They talk about childhood ninjas, Lubbock, and why Will had no business getting into the comic book business, and if you’re a comics creator hoping to get into the game, there’s plenty of inspiration to be found. Please check it out!

badgeitunes61x15dark

VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Popularity: 10% [?]

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

This is a fantastic inspirational video on nurturing creativity.


VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Popularity: 11% [?]

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

So you’re tired of working 9-5 for a paycheck and you’re thinking of becoming a freelance illustrator?

(I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about becoming a freelance artist.  These are some basic points I try to cover.  This is by no means the ultimate article on becoming freelance, but it will help get you on your journey to getting started.  Hope it helps!)

GETTING STARTED

Becoming a full time Freelance artist is not something that happens overnight.  But it is definitely worth the time and effort.  It takes a while to build up enough clients to really make a good living at it, but starting out, its pretty easy to make it a supplement to a regular dayjob income.  And unless you’ve got people knocking down your door, I highly recommend you KEEP your dayjob, and start building a bridge to self-employment with freelance work.  In time though, freelance is definitely the way to go. 

HOW DO YOU GET CLIENTS?

Clients usually come from unusual places.  My first and favorite clients were ‘clowns’.  Literally.  I met them randomly nearly a decade ago while doing caricatures at the county fair.  I did a drawing for them, and that led to another and another, and after 8 years I was doing thousands of dollars worth of illustrations for them.  But if you’d told me that when I first met them, I wouldn’t have believed you.  Most of my clients came about that way.  Like most relationships it takes time to build up trust.  You just have to be patient, provide the best you can, and treat them the way you would want to be treated.

Its important to think of freelance as a long term thing.  You’re not looking for overnight results, because that will only make you frustrated.  But if you’re patient with it, and try to put everything you got into each job, each job will lead to more, and eventually, if you’re lucky like I have been, you’ll be making more with freelance than you could ever make working for a regular paycheck.  Keeping it consistent though… now that’s the tricky part!

A few pieces of advice…

1.  Invest in yourself.  Treat each job like you’re getting paid twice what you actually are.  Meaning, if you’re underpaid starting out for your first few gigs, put so much into them (within a reasonable amount of time) that your next client will assume you are worth twice what you were paid for the last one.  Over time this can work as a sliding scale to take you from $10 an hour work to $50 an hour to a whole other range of income.  Its all about the customers’ perceived value – balanced with your skill level and speed.  Both should increase exponentially over time.

2.  Work a month or two ahead.  If at all possible save up money before you go completely freelance.  Being without a day job, this may be hard.  The nature of freelance is that you never know when your next job is coming, and even when you have a gig, sometimes the checks are slow getting to you.  This said, I highly recommend you have a month or two of income saved up to work from BEFORE going freelance , so that you’re not doing each job out of desperation to get a paycheck. This can REALLY affect your mental state and your work.  Save yourself anxiety by saving yourself some cash.

3.  Don’t be afraid to say “No.”  Some jobs are not worth the headache.  Either the subject is something that does not at all interest you or the client gives off a vibe that your instincts tell you to beware of.  Walk away, or try to charge way too much to scare them away.  Whatever you do, its better than getting bogged down in something that will only make you miserable and consequently will take ten times as long to finish.  I will say this, the only clients that I have been consistently burned by have been churches and schools.  Art by committee is not cool.  So enter at your own risk.

4.  NEVER let a client know how long it actually takes you to do the work.  If you’re quick like a lot of freelance artists, you can knock out a quality illustration in a matter of hours.  But a lot of clients see that quick turn around and think you’re charging way too much.  So give yourself a little buffer.  If it ever does come up, remember, its not just the number of hours to do the art that the client is paying for, its the years of practice, sacrifice and experiences that have taught you to do it in that quick amount of time.   Some people don’t understand that.  Its best just to leave the numbers in black and white and not haggle over it.

5.  Get an online portfolio started like www.coroflot.com. I also recomend you make up business cards right away.  Something high quality.  They’re cheap these days.  I’ve seen many online printers like www.overnightprints.com make 1000 for as little as $30.  Keep the cards with you at all times and give them out everywhere you go, have friends and family help you market.

6.  Come up with a quick 20 second pitch.  “I draw cartoons, I can do…”  you fill in the blanks.  keep it simple, and keep the products and prices you provide very simple.  Run the pitch by people you trust for feedback.  Sell to every person you meet and have your friends and family sell for you too.  Its possible to make the pitch so conversational it doesn’t feel like you’re selling at all, but that you’re entertaining.  It takes practice.  Whatever you do just keep putting it out there.  You’ll start getting clients pretty quick.  At worst, pitching to people leads to an interesting conversation, at best, it leads to a lasting business partnership.

7.  Most importantly… think about where you want to end up.  I know artists that have spent decades doing menial graphic design just to pay the bills.  You have to ask yourself “is this what I want to be doing in five years?”  and more importantly, “WHAT do I want to be doing in five years?”  And take jobs that will help you get closer to that goal each week.  Remember, those without goals are destined to serve the goals of others.

Good Luck!

-Will Terrell

VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 9.5/10 (15 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: +11 (from 11 votes)

Popularity: 100% [?]

Monday, June 29th, 2009

HERE is an fantastic and inspirational graduation speech from Apple’s Steve Jobs to the Stanford graduating class.

Here’s a quote from it…

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

-Steve Jobs

VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 10.0/10 (5 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)

Popularity: 15% [?]

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

“I need to print my first book. Where do I start?  How many should I print?  And should I look to sell ads in it?”

No matter your experience, I offer that you start off simple. If you have never published comic books before, it’s hard to really know what people are going to respond to. So keep your first foray into the market relegated to baby steps.

The most obvious, first baby step to start with, is to print a mini-comic book. This is basically a booklet (8 ½ x 11 folded in half) made at any copy shop. Some people call them ashcans, because they usually end up in the trashcan. Stick to black and white on laser or copy paper, with a cardstock cover or possibly a color cover. (Color covers can almost double the expense to a book, so you really have to be confident in your product to go this route). The idea is that if you can’t sell a cheap Xerox book for $1 to $2, you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars to find out you can’t sell it for $3 or $4. So start small and work your way up.

I try to encourage people to look at making comic books as a process. Your first comic book is most likely not going to be a blockbuster. In fact, to be honest, your first 20-30 are probably not going to be bringing you fortune and glory. Especially if you are learning the process as you go. Think of this as one step at a time. As long as each book sells a little bit better than the last one, you are doing well. And keep hitting conventions with new books, so that you can see first hand, what people are responding to, what they aren’t responding to, and why. Eventually, you will start to see patterns and solutions, and you’ll put all the pieces together to finally put out that blockbuster you’ve intended from the beginning. Just be patient, and try to enjoy the process.

When you are printing, costs break down usually in increments of 100. The first 100 copies are usually a set rate .08 cents to .10 a page, and after the first 100 you get a discount. After the first 300 sometimes, and then 500 and so on. Booklets also usually print in 4 page increments. This is because an 8 ½ x 11 double sided page ends up making 4 pages. To help keep yourself organized (so you don’t set up the pages out of order) I recommend you take a stack of blank 8 ½ x 11 paper with as many pages as you will need, and fold them in half and number them pages 1 through however many pages you have, and the outside sheet is the front cover, inside cover, back cover and inside back. This helps keep you from getting lost.

When you bring in your order, you will tell them you need a booklet printed 1:2… meaning 1-sided copies printed to 2-sided copies. Or if you are really techno savvy, you bring in a digital copy with all the pages in order in a PDF, and let them print 1:2 from a disk. I highly recommend that, because you get a MUCH higher quality print from the disk than from copies.

I usually recommend that you start with at least a print run of 100, but ideally at least 300. I like to work in time frames of conventions when I’m working on a new book. I make a new book, with a print run of 300, for a particular convention. That 300 will often last me for 4-5 shows. And each convention I print another issue with 300. So that by the time I run out of the first book, I know if the series is going to do well, and if its worth reprinting. It’s also a good marketing tool to have several issues of a book to sell in a bundle at a slightly discounted rate.

When I print Mini-comics, I usually fold and staple them myself. This saves a lot of expense. When you have the copy shop do fold/staple, it can add a lot of cost to the book. Even though you will get a nicer product, because they’ll often trim the edges of the book to make sure they are squared. I’d recommend doing it at least once to see the difference. If you do decide to put them together by hand you will need to buy a Folding bone, and a Long-handle stapler. If you haven’t heard of one before, they are a Godsend for comic book creators.

VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Popularity: 23% [?]

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

“SELLING ADS and FINDING SPONSORS for comic books”

Printing comic books can be expensive very quickly.  Especially when you are living on an artists wages.  I recommend you sell ads and find sponsors. It is possible to cover the costs of your book. You just have to talk to enough businesses. But most importantly, you have to make people know that you are passionate about your work and that you are giving them their money’s worth. You’re not just in this for their money. You are passionate about your story, and you need their help in getting it out there.

Figure out how much you need. If its going to cost $250 to print your book Then that’s ten ads for $25. You could say a whole page is $75 or put four $25 ads per page

You can also find sponsors too. Go to businesses that you are friends with or people that want to support your career and ask for a donation… and you will list them in your book or put a sign at your table or something.

Go to places that you frequent a lot where the owners or managers know your face pretty well. Maybe it’s restaurants, or a store, or a club or your church. There are many people that would like to support you in a unique and different format. Always try to get other people to foot the bill for you. It takes work but it pays off if you do it. And be sure that you let them know this is not a one-time thing. You want to build a long-term relationship with them. Get them excited about supporting you in the future

The number one rule of thumb is this… “collect your NOs”

The worst that can happen by asking someone to buy an add or donate is that they say no. But usually what happens is they remember your name… your face… for future projects, and even better… sometimes you get more than you expected

VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Popularity: 12% [?]

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

the Aesthetic of Storytelling

Ira Glass, host of “This American Life,” giving a talk about stories and storytelling.

Ira Glass at Gel 2007 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Popularity: 11% [?]

Monday, January 19th, 2009

The FIRST show.

Often your first show will be overwhelming, no matter which one it is. But some more than others will utterly blow your mind. My first real convention experience was San Diego Comic-Con in 1997. This was before they doubled the size of the convention center. I spent the first day – drool down my chin – half blissed out and wandering around like a zombie – my friends dragging me around by the sleeve to keep me from running into things. Actually… things haven’t really changed all that much now that I think of it.

My first experience was much like I imagine many other peoples have been – high levels of exhilaration, over-stimulation, exhaustion and complete and total disappointment. I came with a backpack of my very first book to give away to every publisher I could find. All of whom took one look, cringed and brushed me on, the way one might an overly enthusiastic golden retriever – It’s not without warrant. That first book was awful. But it was no less heart breaking to hear from your favorite artists just how awful they thought it was. From Jim Lee to Neil Adams, they each took no pity on me and flat out told me I ought to quit then and there. I was in for many years of heartache and disappointment – was the general consensus. They were not wrong.

What made matters worse, was that my first comic book was a flip-book with a different story on either side. Both, stories that I’d written and created.  But on the flip-side of my pariah of creativity was the art of one Francis Tsai. No matter how I presented the material, they would creak out painful illuminations about my art, and eventually turn the pages over… and the heavens would open, the angels would sing and the praise would pour forth from their lips as though all were reading from the same exact script “Did you draw this?! ITs AMAZING!”SIGH..…”no”  I would reply. “My friend drew that.” “Oh” they would say… painful grimaces slowly crossing over their face once again. And so it went… the remedy for my tiny ego that had swelled briefly between the moments of finishing the book and arriving at the convention. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I was actually trying to SELL the comic book. As it was it took nearly 10 years to give away the 1000 copies in that print run.

By the end of the weekend I was broken down. I had no will within me anymore. Save for 3 people that took me aside and fed me a little encouragement to keep me from completely crumbling away.

  1. Danzig… thought my work was great. Go figure. Its organic!!! Like its growing out of the #@$&! page. Is what he told me.  And the art on the other side of the book “looked like he’d drawn with a ruler in his @$#!” (whatever that means?) But the thing that stood out was that he told me “it looked like I actually had fun drawing my comic.”  Which is something that you actually don’t see as often as you would think.  And its something I had to relearn after getting lost for many years trying to “get better”.  I may never know if he was just putting me on. But his enthusiasm made me smile and kept me pushing through the show.  Even now, my rule of thumb is, “If you’re not having fun doing it, no one else will have fun reading it.”
  2. I met Steve Oliff while lurking admiringly around the incredibly stunning Trilogy Tour booth tree with life size replicas of Bone, the red dragon and Usagi yojimbo (I was also secretly hoping the 350 people waiting for Jeff Smith would suddenly disappear). Steve was off in the corner of the booth, he said, keeping it warm until Charlie Vess returned. I recognized Steve’s name on his badge from Olioptics, Sam Kieth’s color artist on The Maxx (My absolute favorite comic book at the time). He asked what I had in my hand. By that time it felt like leprosy on the end of my arm… but reluctantly I surrendered the book to him. He was honest, but kind about what I had. For about 30 minutes he gave me real feedback and even a lesson or two – sketching out a demonstration in my little notebook for me to take with me. But most importantly, he imparted me with a gift that I have passed on many times over. Don’t give up. If it’s really important to you, eventually you’ll get to where you want to go. Every time I meet a new artist I remember that conversation and how much it meant to me.
  3. Lessons always come in threes I’ve found, I had heard the words from Steve, and felt the enthusiasm from Mr. Danzig… but to really believe something you need to see and example and on this occasion the artist Roel Wielinga was to be my example. When Roel asked to see my work I honestly barely knew who he was. I just knew he had beautiful paintings all over his booth and for some reason he wanted to see what was in my hands. He didn’t say much at all, he just listened to me vent over the horrendous experience that weekend. After I’d gotten it all out he just smiled, pulled out a painting from behind a stack of many others. He asked simply what I thought of it. I thought it was awful. But I would hardly admit that, so he said it for me.  Then he told me the magic phrase.  It was only five years old he said… that’s how quickly things can change. I knew from his example, that if I wanted it badly enough, I could make that kind of a change. In time, I can honestly say that I have. And I can honestly say that anyone can.

What did I learn from the experience?

  1. Start Small. Don’t pick the biggest convention in the country to get your feet wet. No matter how many people tell you it’s a good idea! Find as many small press/ indy conventions as you can and attend them all. Make friends. Take small steps. Small steps don’t hurt as badly when you fall.
  2. DON’T print 1000 copies of a book until you know you can sell ONE! This is a very common mistake. Print 100 copies at Kinkos. Practice selling 100 copies of a mini-comic for $2.00 each. Do it over and over with different stories until you can sell them all in 1 or 2 shows.  Then its time to start thinking about something more.
  3. Remember to have fun! It can be easy to get so caught up in the whole process of showing your work and getting feedback and your ego inflating and shrinking – that it takes away from all the fun, cool things you experience at a show. Take it in! Be a fanboy! Have fun!
  4. Put yourself out there! This is the opposite of rule number 3. Because there are some people that don’t put themselves out there to risk getting burned. No matter how painful it was, I am glad that I did it. It put me years ahead of some of my friends who are only now starting to put themselves out there.  And some that may never even try. Don’t wait! But find the right balance between having fun, and getting experience.
  5. Keep smiling! No matter who you are talking to, make it a good experience. You never know who you’re making an impression on, or who they know. So ALWAYS, ALWAYS make it good.
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Popularity: 12% [?]

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Quote

“If you always do what you have always done. You will always get what you’ve always gotten.” –Annonymous
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Popularity: 10% [?]

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Quote

“Everyday in Everyway, I am getting better and better.”

A doctor in the 18th century found that having patients repeat this phrase daily had an 80% greater success rate at healing than anything else did.  Find out what saying it can do for you!

VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.13_1145]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Popularity: 10% [?]