Graffiti comes in so many different forms. On a brick wall in an alleyway I often walk by in Needham, MA I always find a number of messages written with gum. At first I found this perplexing but after some time I became intrigued by the concept and couldn’t help snapping a few photos.
The messages on this wall are simple and sparse for now but after some research into gum graffiti and gum art I’m able to recognize that this may be the beginning of something potentially big and interesting.
BIGGER AND MORE INTERESTING
And here are some bigger and more interesting items I found to share with you:
Under Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, Italy you’ll find a wall covered with thousands of love letters and gum.
“Kids are not allowed to feel any connection with where they live … The only imagery that children see around them are billboards and TV; every part of their environment is out of bounds or sold off. That’s why they don’t care about their streets. This is a small way of connecting people.”
Ben Wilson, from The Observer
There are other ways to work with gum in public; some are discovered accidentally and some just…happen. Like Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California which has been ongoing (aside from a few cleanings) since the 1950s, and The Gum Wall in downtown Seattle which is said to house gum measuring several inches thick (Two fun facts: 1) A scene for Jennifer Anniston’s film Love Happens (2009) was shot at the wall. 2) The Gum Wall has been ranked as #2 of the world’s top 5 germiest attractions by TripAdvisor. Ireland’s Blarney Stone is #1).
Some people might be turned off by this practice of marking an outdoor space with a piece of rubber slathered with an individual’s DNA but just think how gum-free the ground must be for blocks around! And the work can be quite beautiful and artistic- you might even describe it as sticky pointillism.
Jamie Marraccini has been creating interesting gum sculptures for over 20 years.
Maurizio Savini is an Italian artist who makes sculptures from fibreglass and pink chewing gum.
Author Ruth Spiro wrote a book called Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist, about a boy who creates artful bubbles. Spiro is the founder of Bubble Gum Day: Every student who donates $.50 or more gets to chew gum in school for the day and proceeds go to any charity the school chooses. I can’t think of any teacher who wouldn’t put up with the sounds of chewing and popping for a day and get behind this.*
And that’s just some of the gum graffiti and gum art going on in the world. Got any cool gum links to share?
*Except for my 7th grade English teacher, Ms. Rieser, who, from what I was told by my fellow gum-chewers, would inexplicably cry whenever she smelled grape bubble gum. So naturally, most students showed up daily chewing grape bubble gum.
Ready, Set, Freelance is a series of articles based on Ed and Justin’s presentation of the same name. Actually, it’s more of a crash course into the wild world of freelancing. The articles provide guidance on how to navigate the pitfalls and rewards of working as a freelance creative professional. Enjoy.
As a freelancer that does even a small amount of business, you will at some point have a client who is going to need a W9 form so that they can report their payments to you on their taxes. For many of us, this means filling out a simple federal form with name, address, and of course, Social Security number: everything a budding identity thief would need to run off with a few jet skis and maybe a small condo on Lake Tahoe in your name. Considering how there’s really no way for you to be certain how protective the client can be over this information, it’s a good idea to protect yourself.
How? With an Employer Identification Number (EIN). It’s a special number issued by the IRS that’s tied to your SSN. Since it’s not your Social, it provides a layer of protection in case it ends up in the wrong hands. You don’t need to have an LLC or anything. Additionally, it sets you up as a legitimate business which allows you to easily open a business banking account, get a business credit card, and even register as a reseller with certain vendors (meaning you won’t pay sales tax, your clients do.)
Here’s the best part: you can apply for an EIN in a matter of minutes online. Be certain to write that number down in a few places as it’s a pain to get a reminder or a new EIN.
Start here and click the “Apply Online Now” button…
In the midst of reading Once Upon a Flock, I would catch myself glancing outside into my backyard from time to time. I didn’t really know why I was doing it- I certainly wasn’t bored and I’m not afflicted by ADD- and then it dawned on me: I was trying to picture where a chicken coop might go. Now, I know you don’t know me but the last thing I want in my life is a chicken coop. I don’t even want a dog, despite my love for all things canine, because with two young kids, I don’t want the responsibility of one more living thing.
And that’s how good this book is. Here come the adjectives: Heart-warming; adorable; kind-hearted; funny; endearing. Wow- that list might only be appealing to women. Adjectives for guys: Fun; interesting; sporty (not really). Author/illustrator Lauren Scheuer weaves a surprisingly captivating memoir of the bond she has formed with her chickens through words, photographs and colorful, well-crafted illustrations. In fact, as indicated in my opening sentences, the story is so enthralling that I found myself laughing out loud and beginning to care about Lucy, Hatsy and Lil’ White.
Lauren’s style is very warm and engaging; her storytelling is relaxed and without any pretense while her illustrations and photographs help to complete the world she is describing. More than two full pages are devoted to sketches of various coops as Lauren worked out what would best suit her girls. Certainly, the Trojan coop and the Taj Mahal coop would not have been good choices but Lauren didn’t want to leave a stone unturned.
“These chickens were going to be my living lawn ornaments, so color was the first consideration.”
The story takes us on a journey from the author’s desire for a livelier backyard (or was it her desire to conceive and execute a challenging building project?) through choosing breeds based on how nice they might look in the yard. There’s a pause to admire prolific egg production and coop rejiggering, all while sometimes heart-breaking and sometimes heart-warming (but always charming) episodes are recounted for us. And believe it or not but you’ll become invested in those chickens because of Lauren’s sharp observations and her ability to convey their individual personalities. And then you’ll unwittingly find yourself gazing into your own backyard…
This is author Lauren Scheuer’s first book and it had its genesis in her blog Scratch and Peck where she continues to blog about her chickens (it’s sort of the prequel and the sequel to this book, which will please fans of the book).
Pick up Once Upon a Flock at Amazon or anywhere else books are sold. It’s a wonderful read with many funny moments. I’m now reading the book with my seven year old son who loves to laugh at Lauren’s smoothly quirky turns of phrase, comedic situations and fun drawings.
He hasn’t asked me to start a flock yet.
Illustrations courtesy of and © Lauren Scheuer
NEVER EVER LET FEAR DRIVE THE BUS
This is great advice I heard from licensing guru Cheryl Phelps. We all are afraid of failing or coming up short, and that fear can paralyze us into not making changes or choices that in the long run could further your career. Five years ago I made the decision to stop working on licensed artwork projects (Disney, Nickelodeon, etc.) and promote my own style. I was incredibly afraid of not getting work, though that fear wasn’t as strong as the excitement I had from doing projects in my own style. It was a slow transition but over time I’ve been able to stop working on licensed artwork and now work on everything in my own style.
NEVER EVER DO JUST ENOUGH
When working on projects be sure to follow, down to the smallest detail, any art direction given and then add to that. For example, if it’s a book cover, maybe you give an idea on how to work the title into the illustration. Or you sketch up a fun illustration for the author’s picture on the back cover. It’s a little extra work that wasn’t requested but will go a long way to show the art director you’re thinking about the whole product and not just the illustrations.
NEVER EVER FORGET PROMOS (because clients will forget you)
It’s always good, even when busy, to keep up a regular schedule of sending both printed postcards and e-mail promos. Though you may have to tell someone your schedule is full, you’ll have that contact to touch base with once your schedule isn’t so full.
NEVER EVER ANSWER EMOTIONAL EMAILS (or texts) RIGHT AWAY
When you’re stressed out trying to negotiate via email a particularly difficult contract or you’re being asked to change something for the 50th time, it’s always better to take a breath and let cooler heads prevail. Though you shouldn’t take forever with a reply, if you need a little extra time to center yourself you can always send a quick email saying you’re running out to a meeting but will get back to them later that day or first thing tomorrow. “It’s better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterwards.”
NEVER EVER THINK ABOUT WORK ALL THE TIME
With the majority of illustrators at home working all hours of the day or night it’s easy to figuratively take your work down to the dinner table or out to your kids’ ball game, especially when you’re struggling with something. But giving your mind a break and being present and enjoying life will refocus you when you sit back down to that drawing board. I promise! And your loved ones will enjoy you more too!
Gary LaCoste is a freelance illustrator living in western Massachusetts. He started his career in 1998 working primarily with licensed characters for the toy and game industry. Clients included Hasbro, Nickelodeon, and Lego. In 2007 his focus expanded to include children’s publishing where he gets to promote his own illustration style. Gary has illustrated over 25 titles (and counting…). See more of his work at garylacoste.com
By Bruce Miller
In the late 1980’s when several top marketers, specifically in the fashion industry, were setting up “in house” advertising agencies, they made a point of bringing top creative talent into the mix in order to keep the quality of the messaging on creative par with ad agencies they once employed. The same typically holds true with the internal packaging, promotions and digital media departments most large companies have today. There’s usually someone at the director level on staff to oversee internal creative efforts as well as to help give creative guidance when external resources are brought in.
So, what bearing does all that have on the innovation department? Well, throughout the recent recession and with budgetary woes still lingering, many leading marketers have been forced to cut back on using outside innovation agencies and in many cases have foregone their services all together, opting to bring their innovation efforts in house. While internal staff can assume many of research and project management roles their innovation agencies once provided, one key role is much harder to fill with existing corporate resources and usually remains conspicuously vacant : The role of the innovation creative. “Innovation creative?” a client might say, “But we’re all fairly creative and can brainstorm ideas internally. We do it all the time. Our consumer insights assistant can write the concepts, and our packaging intern can sketch the visuals . . .” Yeah, and my plumber can probably change an electrical socket, but I’m not about to let him wire my house!
As Chief Creative Officer of a leading innovation agency, I was often called upon to pull a client’s wayward internal innovation project out of the proverbial fire. One example that comes to mind is of a highly regarded food company that created a handful of new product concepts using their internal team. The team leader was a bit unsure of the consumer appeal of a few of the concepts and wanted our professional opinion before going into qualitative testing. Okay, “a bit unsure” is putting it rather mildly. As I thumbed through the deck I could barely keep my face from contorting into the “yucky face” my kids often make when they see or taste something they wish they hadn’t. One concept was for a new meat snack called “Ham Bar.” Yes, you read correctly, “Ham Bar!” The image below the headline was a primitive marker rendering of a 7” long bar of processed ham! How’s that for “yucky face” material? My gag reflexes wouldn’t allow me the time to read the concept copy before turning the page to the next gem of an idea.
I’m not trying to make the point that all internal innovation teams, sans outside creative support, are completely incompetent. Most include highly intelligent, hard working, well-meaning marketing professionals. They just do not typically include a trained innovation creative adept at concepting, and producing strategically grounded, powerful new product concepts. That is the simple point I am trying to make — The addition of a seasoned innovation creative could greatly increase a company’s internal innovation efforts chances of success. Period. Conversely, just think of how an internal ad agency would function without a Creative Director, or how the digital media department would perform without a Digital Design Director.
So who would this innovation team “creative quarterback” be and what should his or her background/credentials look like?
Look for someone who has experience as a CD or above in an innovation agency, ad agency or branding agency. They could be from the art or copy side, but ideally this person would have a track record of developing product concepts that made it to market and grew revenue. They should bring some knowledge of your category as well as a strong sense of strategy and brand savvy to their creative problem solving efforts. Depending on the size and needs of your company, he or she could either be a staff person or an independent contractor. Companies as large as PepsiCo go the independent contractor route for many of their marketing positions.
What would the job description look like?
Most likely it would include (but not be limited to) the following:
• Working with consumer insights and brand group partners to identify areas of innovation opportunity.
• Helping to develop innovation drill sites or platforms to be used in creative exploration.
• Taking a lead role in internal brainstorming and ideating sessions.
• Helping “non-creative” team partners develop their idea nuggets.
• Optimizing existing past and current product concepts. (Did someone say Ham Bar?)
• Facilitating the writing and art direction of product concepts.
• Assisting in the screening of outside innovation resources if needed.
• Taking on a creative liaison role when outside resources are brought in.
• Setting standards for outside resource creative deliverables.
• Attending formative and validation research and leveraging consumer feedback, oftentimes on-the-fly.
• Developing, implementing and assessing all viable creative approaches including those leveraging digital and social media.
Most importantly, what are the key benefits in creating such a position?
The benefits of having an on-staff Innovation Creative Director are multiple, including:
• Deeper immersion into core brand equity than outside creative resources.
• More creative accountability.
• Better translation of strategic platforms into creative solutions.
• On-demand creative resource.
• Creative input beginning with the project initiation phase.
• Higher quality product concept output.
• Consistent creative oversight of internal and external resource deliverables.
• The addition of a higher degree of clarity to the “fuzzy front end.”
• No more “Ham Bar!”
• Last, but not least, cost savings would be significant, allowing for a larger portion of the project budget to be shifted to commercialization.
There you have it. You may agree. You may disagree. But if you show me two in-house innovation groups, one with a seasoned Innovation Creative Director as part of the team and one without, and give them both the same exact assignment, I can tell you right now which one will be most likely to produce concepts that pass quantitative testing hurdles and become revenue-building brands in the marketplace.
Bruce Miller is based in Stamford, CT and has been on the creative side of product innovation for the past twenty years with countless in-market successes under his belt, many in CPG food categories. He has written several articles on creativity as it relates to advertising and innovation. Currently, Bruce is a front-end innovation consultant and the creator of the BrandCORE™ innovation process. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illustration © 2013 edfredned
What’s worse than a rejection letter? Two rejection letters. From the same publisher. For the same book.
Once a year, a major textbook publisher came by the art school where I used to teach to talk about their titles and solicit instructors for new ones. At the invitation of one of their representatives, I submitted a manuscript, and they rejected it. The next time they returned, she asked how my submission went. I told her. She looked annoyed. “I’m surprised to hear that,” she said. “Send it again and let me see what I can do for it.” So I did, and they rejected it again.
In both letters the publisher said that it was declining the manuscript because the potential market for readers was too small to justify its interest. After the second one, I researched the state of the publishing market, and I learned what a mess it’s in: nanometer-thin margins, miniscule royalties, whole businesses propped up on a handful of bestsellers, authors obliged to do most of their own marketing even when taken on by a prestigious house, and everyone in the industry bracing for the imminent demise of the paper book.
I started publishing my writings about art online in 2000, long before then. This necessitated that I learn how to program my own content management system. So after my disappointing two rounds with traditional publishing, I was apprised of two facts:
1) Self-publishing is only ever going to become increasingly viable and the book publishers are headed for the kind of deep trouble that the music publishers are in.
2) One can solve many problems by adopting a hacker ethos: pry off the cover, learn how things work, build a new version of your own.
When I became interested in comics again in late 2006, I decided to post them online at a site called The Moon Fell On Me. This allowed me to work with ideas about art, text, and technology that I hadn’t seen combined before. It turned out that there were a handful of people working in comics-poetry, and over time we found each other. In 2010, Warren Craghead organized an exhibition at The Bridge PAI in Charlottesville, Virginia that included my work and that of Oliver East, an English artist doing some great things in comics, as well as a few others’. Warren’s work is quite fine as well, sort of a combination of Stuart Davis, George Herriman, and Baudelaire. He draws unceasingly. The following year I got it in my head to produce an anthology of comics-poetry, and in 2012 I decided to make it happen.
By then I had a list of artists I wanted to work with, mostly people I found through Warren and his interactions on Twitter. One artist, Kimball Anderson, discovered The Moon Fell On Me through the Google Group maintained by the Boston Comics Roundtable, and we finally met at the BCR’s convention, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, in 2011. Kimball’s sense of narrative is fascinating – he’s written a poetry sci-fi comic that’s haunting – and his painting technique is juicy and lush. The final list, in addition to Warren, Oliver, Kimball, and myself, included Derik Badman in Philly, Julie Delporte in Montreal, Jason Overby in Portland, Oregon, and Paul K. Tunis in New York City. Everyone in this milieu is so inured to self-publishing that when I invited them to participate, I just assumed I would self-publish the anthology and no one blinked when I said as much. Warren, who has been the backbone of this project, reminded me that I ought to at least talk to some other people in publishing. I did, and one of them told me that he loved the idea, but the economy is so bad right now that they couldn’t take it on. Unsurprised, I rolled up my sleeves.
I entitled it Comics as Poetry. New Modern Press was already in informal existence as the entity behind another book I edited, Walter Darby Bannard’s Aphorisms for Artists, which is published online. I have a longtime interest in fine-art modernism that began under Darby’s tutelage, and I embrace an updated form of modernism in which visual quality remains the primary concern while allowing for any other creative need, even those not associated with historical modernism. Discussion at my blog, Artblog.net, hammered out what new modernism might look like, and when it came time to name the press the notion was a natural touchstone.
By the end of Summer 2012 I had everyone’s submission. I produced a cover and Warren handled the design and production. With some trepidation, I contacted the acclaimed poet William Corbett in hopes that he would write a foreword. We’re connected by a strange coincidence – both of us have written catalogue essays for a marvelous painter in New York City, Ying Li. It turns out that he’s a comics fan from way back and he was happy to do it. Also, he directs a small publishing venture, Pressed Wafer, so nothing about the project had to be explained to him.
I printed 40 copies through RA Comics Direct, who did a beautiful job of it, and tabled it at MICE 2012, surrounded by minis from the individual contributors. It did so well that I printed another hundred and put it up at Amazon through its Advantage program. That didn’t work, and I should have done the math more carefully before I went through the trouble. Amazon takes a 55% cut through Advantage, and you pay out of pocket to ship to them so they can ship it to someone else at the recipient’s expense. I lost about $3 on each book I sold through Advantage. If my production costs were a lot lower or my price a lot higher it might have made sense, but it was wrong for this project. I could ship to a reader as easily as Amazon, so I decided to handle my own fulfillments.
I set up an account at Google Checkout, which then completely disappeared. Checkout is on its way to becoming Google Wallet, and under this weird hybrid – I call it Google Whackout – I can neither verify the existence of my account nor set up a new one. With that abandoned, I put up a site for New Modern Press, established a PayPal account, and put their basic Pay Now button for the book on the site. Success! My contributors got the word out to their social media networks and orders started to come in. When I send them out, I draw a goggle-eyed bird that became a personal icon during my residency last fall at the Atlantic Center for the Arts with Megan Kelso on the back of the envelope, thanking the customer.
That’s where we are now. Word is getting out about the book, and the work therein has been written up by Tamryn Bennett, Aaron Geiger, and Noah Berlatsky. A few bookstores and comics shops here in Boston are carrying it; I’m proud to say that the title is both at Grolier Poetry Bookshop and The Million Year Picnic, which might be unprecedented. Since online sales and tabling look like the best way to sell it, my next step is to learn more about how to table effectively and garner visibility beyond the initial Twitter push. I’d like to see the Aphorisms book in print, and there’s already talk of Comics as Poetry II.
Franklin Einspruch is an artist and writer in Boston. His art has appeared in sixteen solo exhibitions and over two dozen group exhibitions. He has received several notable grants, and completed artist residencies at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts (Paros, GR), Stock 20 (Taichung, TW), the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation (Cranberry Isles, ME), and the Morris Graves Foundation (Loleta, CA). Einspruch is a member of AICA-USA, and has authored over 120 published essays and art reviews. He contributes regularly to Art in America and The New Criterion. His next solo exhibition will take place at Pine Manor College in late March.
We just received an advance copy of author/illustrator Lauren Scheuer‘s memoir Once Upon a Flock and we’re extremely excited to read it and tell you all about it! The book comes out March 19, 2013 and is available for pre-order at your local book seller or at Amazon: Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens.
About the book in 2 sentences: Once Upon a Flock was named one of the top 10 most anticipated memoirs of 2013 by Publishers Weekly and is based upon Lauren’s popular blog, Scratch and Peck. It stars Lauren’s backyard chickens with their big personalities, friendships, rivalries and secrets and tells the story of Lauren’s life with her quirky flock with loads of Lauren’s wonderful illustrations and photographs.
We’ll be reviewing the book soon but we wanted to let you know about it as soon as we could!
Update: You can find the review HERE
“Sans Titre”, Lucy Larousse and Liz Shepherd, 2012, 11″ x 17″ Watercolor and Screenprint
By Liz Shepherd
Scads of self-help books as well as serious research have been written about creativity and I often find myself nervously drawn to those titles. I am getting a pretty good sense of where my ideas come from but that doesn’t stop me from anxiously scanning the creativity boosting methodology of others to draw upon when my well of ideas dries up.
I have yet to learn very much from those books, except to confirm much of what I already know about being “blocked”, but I have noticed a few things about what I do when I am between projects and not enjoying it.
First, it is essential to acknowledge and welcome the feeling of being emptied out. Instead of experiencing this as a frightening void, it helps to bask in the quiet of a resting mind. Once calm, I am in “receiving mode”: I read more, more non-fiction in particular, I listen to other people’s stories of their travels or films they have seen, and books read, with improved attention, I go out of my way to choose films and music that usually wouldn’t interest me or are just rather odd.
It makes sense: If you put the same old stuff in your head, you are likely to get the same old stuff out.
I have found that it is important to say “yes” to projects that make me feel particularly cranky to push this theory that the discomfort accelerates creativity.
I was invited to participate in a group project, an exchange between some printmakers in Boston and a group in Strasbourg, France. The idea was that the French artists would create a background that we, the Bostonians, would work over and we would do the same for them. This is not a project that sounded fun to me, so I went for it
A watercolor (not a print!) of a forest, painted entirely in pale tones of blue was given to me as my background. Huh? I hate watercolor as a medium -so wimpy, so boring if it is not in the hands of a master (like JMW Turner, for one). However, I love silkscreening which doesn’t require soaking the paper (like printing etchings) so, that was my default choice of medium to work on top of the watercolor. Then what? This is where I got cranky (“ I don’t know what to do with this stupid blue forest.” “This is a stupid project.” etc.)
Dipping into the imagery that I have been working on lately, I screenprinted ladders in silver ink leaning up against a number of the trees in the forest. I wasn’t sure what it meant; although I did have a hunch it meant something to me, lurking in the back room of my brain.
Fast-forward a few months. My husband and I decide to take a driving trip out of Paris and settle on driving north: “we have a week, we haven’t been to Belgium before and I have heard interesting things about Antwerp. Hey, as long as we are in Belgium, let’s go to the Ardennes forest and check out the place where my dad was wounded in World War II”. This place, where the Allies and Germans fought the Battle of the Bulge, had mythic status for me. I had grown up hearing about my father’s experience, at 19 years old, of walking in the snow covered woods and suffering a devastating head wound that paralyzed the entire right side of his body.
We found the village of Houffalize, the town my father remembers being near when he was wounded.
There were three roads leading out of the town and we drove on each of them, getting out of the car to walk in the woods. The forest was just as he described it: It was planted in neat rows, not like the wilds of New England. I had seen footage of troops fighting here and it seems just the same. It was October when we visited, already chilly. I imagined those young men wearing only cotton and wool clothing, freezing in one of the snowiest winters on record, terrified, they knew they were replacements for soldiers killed or wounded. The ladders made sense to me: “Please, get me out of here” and the spirit (or whatever) of the dead leaving their bodies.
Back in the studio, I collaged together the photos of the Ardennes Forest with my drawings of ladders, and then made four-color silkscreen prints on translucent silk that will be displayed from floor to ceiling.
What’s next? I’m not sure. I have to empty out my mind and get out of the studio to see what is going on.
She graduated with an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University where she twice won the Boit Award. Her prints are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Edinburgh (Scotland) College of Art, Syracuse University, the collections of Percussion Software and Cell Signaling Technologies as well as numerous private collections.
Lucie Larousse has been studying illustration, etching and screenprinting at the School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg for the past three years.
What we all need is a foot in the door somewhere. Whether it’s the door to an ad agency, a local shop or a publisher, a door that’s even slightly open to us raises our chances of getting the job.
If you’re looking to break into the field of comic book publishing, then until December 31, 2012, your foot is securely wedged in the Top Cow doorway because the Talent Hunt (which we talked about a few months ago) is going on right now.
I reached out to President/COO Matt Hawkins with some follow-up questions to get those who are planning to submit to the hunt just a little more info.
(Matt offers his general advice to writers and artists HERE)
ED How has the hunt been going? Have you been getting many submissions or does it seem like people are waiting until closer to the last minute?
MH We’ve received quite a few thus far but I don’t have an exact count. I’m sticking them all in a folder and will be reviewing them all when I get back into the office after the new year.
ED There are always people who skip reading the rules of contests/searches. What have you seen to reflect this?
MH Well people constantly ask me the same questions on twitter or facebook that are answered in the document. It can be annoying, but I answer them anyway. I was going to update the document but it was already so widely distributed and the contest is almost over that I didn’t see the point.
ED You have said that no results will be announced until after December 31 (the deadline) and then you’ll be going through the submissions in January. What will be your process for reviewing and choosing the “winners”? Who else will have a say?
MH Everyone at Top Cow will have some form of participation. Marc (Silvestri) will help me pick the artists and I’ll be reviewing most of the writers myself.
ED By what date are you hoping/planning to announce the “winners” and how will you do it?
MH End of January. We don’t know how we’re going to announce it yet. The winners will know they won before we make any sort of public proclamation.
ED When writing the Top Cow universe, should writers be working with the post Artifacts universe or is it all on the table?
MH Post only, we have no interest in pre for now.
ED Why do you want to know if someone has been previously published?
MH Because the intent of this was to find unpublished people and give them an opportunity to show their work to a larger audience.
ED What would you say to someone who is on the fence about submitting?
MH Why not? If you’ve got an interest in being in the comics industry there aren’t many opportunities like this. Blindly submitting is pretty pointless if you’re a writer.
ED Finally, what types of helpful questions are you getting the most?
MH People just want to know what we’re looking for and I tried to elaborate on that in the podcasts and in my posts. We know what we’re doing with the artifact bearers not listed so we want people to come up with takes and stories on the characters on the list.
ED Thanks so much Matt.
Matt offers his advice to writers and artists HERE
You can tweet with Matt at @topcowmatt
To go along with the Top Cow Talent Hunt, we asked President/COO Matt Hawkins to give us a punch list of suggestions to those submitting their work for consideration. Here are Matt’s bullets:
Writers need to be able to convey mood, tone and character and do so very quickly.
1) The art tells it’s own story don’t use the dialogue and narrative to repeat what’s in the art. Use that to tell more.
2) Don’t overcomplicate. Especially when you’re starting out.
3) Have someone edit you. Very important, you get too close to stuff and you can’t see the forest for the trees.
4) Write what you know and especially what you want to know. Research makes a dull story interesting. If you write what you want to learn about it’s a nice win win for you and keeps you motivated.
5) Keep a writing schedule. Find times that you can block out to write and write during those times.
6) Writer’s block is bullshit. Just write something, anything. You can always go back and change it later.
I’m not an artist so I don’t review that many artist portfolios but things I’ll say are important are:
1) Do sequential work like comic book pages and especially a series of pages that connect. If you do a bunch of random pinup shots I don’t even save the submission.
2) Know where your light source is coming from in each panel. And sometimes use more than one.
3) Do forced angle shots and show us you can do foreshortening.
4) Vary your character sizes.
5) Be good.
You can tweet with Matt at @topcowmatt
Submission Form (PDF)
Why do books have to be opened right to left and read left to right, top to bottom? Sure, it’s how we’ve been trained to read, but since most of us conquered books some time ago, it’s good to try something challenging. I like to challenge my readers and myself when it comes to creating books.
A term that I like to throw around when talking about book design and book theory (if that’s even a thing) is “creative real estate”. I know this might sound overly romantic, but imagine in your quest to construct/design a book, you are a homesteader arriving at your claim, your untamed tract of wilderness. There are a number of plots that you can cultivate, or allow to lay fallow. Similarly, there are a vast amount of design decisions that are made when designing a book. Some of them are obvious, and some of them aren’t.
During a winter break from attending college at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I visited the University of Vermont Rare Books Collection. The hospitality of the UVM librarians was incredible; I was allowed to handle, read, and photograph a wide variety of truly innovative books. Artists like Barbara Tennanbaum, Margaret Kaufman, Damara Kaminecki, Julie Chen, and many more. What they do with the book as a form, and as an idea, is innovative and challenging; incorporating elements like folds, containers, interactive narrative building, and sculptural forms. I left the UVM Collection irrecoverably changed, and committed to the idea of innovative and challenging book design.
My favorite book artist, without question, is Julie Chen. Her books have been a great influence on me, and her quotes on book design and construction have been a guiding light for my own views. Here is an example:
“I view reading as an intimate act in which the reader must be in close physical proximity to the book, can control the pace of reading through the self-directed turning of pages, or equivalent action, and must interact with the book through the manipulation of the book’s physical structure.”
This is a great example of what I mentioned at the start about creative real estate. Many people even take the idea of turning a page for granted and assume that it is a given when designing a book. What is important to note is that the notion of creative real estate is out there and it can be built upon. When I design books, I try to make the object as original as the narrative within.
In my 2008 minicomic, Whaletowne, I made a one-sheet unfolding comic about a sailor who creates an ever-growing city inside of a whale. As the comic unfolds, the image area gets bigger and bigger. This echoes the theme of expansion. In the above image, you can also see that the comic comes in an envelope that resembles the whale. To read the book, you have to go INTO the whale which subtly ties into the narrative.
In 2007 I drew a book called Leo Geo. The catalyst for this story was that I wanted to have a comic, unbound by panels, in a continuous visual narrative. When I was designing the book, I really put the most effort into designing how the reader would interact with the book.
Let’s start with the orientation: Leo Geo is bound at the top so that it opens vertically. This creates a tall, skinny shape, resembling a hole. Naturally, there wouldn’t be as much of an impact if it were a square book. Additionally, the book reads top to bottom in the first half and bottom to top for the second half (when he has to climb OUT from the center of the Earth. There IS a method to the madness). This is more effective than reading left to right because of the nature of the story. Also, when people hold the book open in front of them and start turning pages, they actually start to mirror the physical actions of someone climbing down a ladder! It’s a really subtle interaction, but now I’m able to use more than just illustrations and words to get the reader into my story!
This is the 2012 published version of Leo Geo. The book has a horizontal cover, but reorients the reader vertically on the cover page. Book making and designing for interaction are some of the most exciting things I get to do as an illustrator, and getting to see readers interact with my book and have that “wow” look on their face is beyond rewarding.
If you’re interested in creating your own books, unconventional or otherwise, I recommend you start simple. Take a piece of paper and fold it a few times and see where it takes you. Then start drawing.
Or for a short cut, you can download a free handout (see below) that will take you through the steps to make a Whaletowne-style book. Try it out and make your own handmade book! Think of how you can use the idea of an expanding canvas to help tell your story. Maybe you have a character trying to blow the biggest bubble! Maybe you have a ninja school that keeps adding new wings! Be creative, and have fun!
Jon Chad graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008. Shortly after, he moved to WRJ (White River Junction, VT) where he currently teaches at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Jon’s newest book, Leo Geo was just released from Roaring Brook Press, and he has also done work for Stern Pinball, the FBI, and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time.
I took this ATM photo because I couldn’t believe this bank’s missed opportunities. Try to sell me on your interest rates. A line of equity? A checking account? Or at the very least, remind me what bank I’m standing at.
To me this is a huge branding and marketing fail. Shame on the bank and shame on the developers of the ATM software for not making it easy on the bank (or for not dropping the bank’s name in there for them).
But at least there were usable pens in the lobby. That’s pretty good, right?
I get print advertisements in the mail every month slipped into my supermarket flyers or inside coupon postcard packs and the ad from Castle Windows always has me scratching my head. Here’s the logo at the top of the ad:
Now, why on earth would a WINDOW company have a logo of a castle (or any building) that has no windows? It’s beyond me. In fact, the lack of windows stands out so much in the image that at first glance I would assume this is a high-security storage company. Perhaps that’s why Castle feels the need to define who they are in quotation marks.
After some research, it turns out that this company has a number of logo variations (and all perplexingly use that same outdated Cloister Black font). Thankfully, there are versions with windows in the castle.
Another print ad header but with a different (windowed) castle:
Logo from website:
Castle employs different branding without any reason; but they’re not alone. Many other companies have this same issue due to a need for branding guidance (whether because they have no graphic designer or no budget to get the branding straight). There’s a lack of coherence in what the public sees which can make a company less than memorable and perceived to be unprofessional. This incoherence can be seen not only in the logo use but also the message or colors and fonts in the body of the ad, website, business cards, letterhead, brochure, signage, leave-behinds etc.
Businesses- take a look at yourself the way the public sees you.
• Are you consistent in your branding (matching business cards, invoices, website, envelopes etc)?
• Are you consistent in your message? Does the text in your ad reflect the text on your website?
• What makes your company stand out (in a positive way)?
• Where can you improve perception-wise?
• Do you have good logo files (EPS files are the best to have- they allow the most flexibility) or is your logo sometimes fuzzy when it’s printed or on the web?
With some introspection and a little help from a graphic designer you can streamline your image, become consistently recognizable and up your company’s image.
I used to get some pretty interesting requests when people found out I’m an illustrator but after ridiculing them in cartoons, they rarely ask me for anything again.
We recently organized an event called Reinventing the Illustrator to help fellow illustrators understand that there are so many opportunities for us. More info to come about the event, but Justin and I thought we should share the inspirational postcard/poster we created for the event. Use this to get your creative juices flowing.
You can purchase a print at Society6.
Logo design by Justin Perricone and Ed Shems
Poster design by Ed Shems
NAMCO, the company behind PAC-MAN is looking to its fans to help choose the new look for the next (as-yet unannounced) PAC-MAN game.
On the PAC-MAN Facebook page, they have four looks from which to choose: A 3-D style and three (slightly different) cartoon styles.
I’m not convinced any of them are exactly right but much depends on what sort of look the new game will have (for example, the ghosts and color palette in D look eerie) and how far NAMCO is willing to stray from the original PAC-MAN game.
You can take the survey here: https://www.facebook.com/pacman/app_127709503932081
What makes a great collaboration between an Art Director and an Illustrator?
That’s the question Justin Perricone and I wanted to explore on behalf of art directors and illustrators when we began putting together a panel discussion for June 27, 2012. The event, titled The Art Director/Illustrator Relationship was co-sponsored by AIGA Boston, MassArt Office of Alumni Affairs and Rhode Island School of Design’s Alumni Relations.
A successful collaboration can make all the difference for the final product. It can win acclaim or, better still, create a final product that is relatable, balanced and beautiful to those who behold it.
But, much like a marriage, there’s a give and take involved where each creative must understand how the other functions best and allow them the space and feedback to create.
With the help of freelance designer and art director Jillfrances Gray, we created a laundry list of topics and questions to get the conversation going about the give and take in the relationship.
Scott Magoon: Illustrator & Art Director
First, we started with a wonderful children’s book illustrator, Scott Magoon, who also just so happens to be an art director at a large publishing house, Houghton Mifflin. Scott is the illustrator and writer/illustrator of a growing number of kid’s books and his style is both playful and engaging. Scott agreed to join our panel to represent both sides of the coin.
Ann Stott: Art Director
Ann joined us next. She is an art director at Candlewick Press and has collaborated on a number of award-winning kid’s books including the Caldecott Honor book, Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein and The New York Times Best Seller, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, as well as the Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald.
George Restrepo: Art Director
George is a freelance graphic designer and art director and in this capacity has worked with a number of clients for whom he has collaborated with an even greater number of illustrators. He previously was an art director for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the Improper Bostonian before moving on to a full-time freelance career.
Rob Dubé: Art Director
Rob is a senior art director at Hasbro, where he leads a team of art directors, graphic designers and freelance designers tasked with developing visual brand executions for Hasbro Games. He has led teams working on such brands as G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Nerf, Mighty Muggs, and Beyblade.
Ed Shems: Illustrator & Moderator
I’ve been a freelance illustrator for 21 years, having worked with art directors in a large variety of industries from books to magazines, comic books to board games and small restaurants to major brands.
But even after all that, I still have questions about how it should all work.
• What are an art director’s expectations of an illustrator and vice versa?
• How do Art Directors and Illustrators find each other?
• How should they communicate and exchange necessary information?
• What if an illustrator does not meet his/her deadline? What contingencies are put in place?
• Without naming names, what disastrous collaborations can you recount and what made them so bad?
• What do aspiring art directors need to know?
To start off the night, introductions were made and then the questions began- first from me, then from the audience and a couple from the panelists themselves. You’re probably reading this article because you’re interested in the conversation that unfolded and the answers provided by the panelists, so without any further ado, this is some of what was talked about:
• Some art directors find illustrators through self-promo mailers and some online. Some check out agent websites. Some companies have art resource coordinators (or a similar title) to whom an illustrator should send samples. Read more..
In July we organized a Screen Printing workshop (see Photos on Flickr) at Shepherd Print Studio in the SoWa District of Boston’s South End. Liz Shepherd taught the basics of screen printing and then each participant went about printing his/her own work. It was such a fun,productive time that we got a special request to do part 2. So here it is:
September 29, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Here are the details:
Screen Printing 2 Workshop
Set a digital print and a screen print of the same imagery side by side and you will see a world of difference between them. Screen printing makes available the kind of layering techniques that graphic designers know from Photoshop but the resultant print is infinitely more tactile and alluring. This workshop will focus on creating multi-layered, many colored screen prints. Working with multiple variations, images can be juxtaposed to create dramatic effects and bring unexpected meaning and results to the work. The emphasis will be on mixing transparent colors and overprinting them. Attendees will be provided with guidelines for image creation and materials on which to print.
Screen printing is one of the most popular, versatile, and accessible methods of printmaking. Renowned printmaker and instructor, Liz Shepherd, will lead this all-day workshop with an intro to multi-layering. We’ll then prep screens and print the art you provide. Bring whatever paper you’d like, garments or other fabric for printing. You will leave the session with prints of your own work as well as the completed screen to continue printing at home. Liz will also focus on techniques and materials that will allow you to take your newfound skills into the home studio.
This event is open to anyone with a basic understanding of screen printing. If you did not attend our last class that is fine.
RSVP NOW! Space is limited
This exclusive workshop is an all-day event and is strictly limited to the first 12 RSVPs. After registering, you’ll be given instructions on providing a design that will be ready for you when you arrive at the studio. We will have a 30-minute break for lunch- please bring a bagged lunch. Snacks and drinks will be provided. Free parking is available.
Fee includes printing materials. Fee does not include paper or fabric on which to print. If you need a screen, the additional cost for a 20 x 24 aluminum screen is $35 (please purchase at Eventbrite).
You can sign up at Eventbrite for our Screen Printing 2 Workshop
From President/COO Matt Hawkins:
“We are looking to hire two writers and two artists to do paid work for the company in 2013/2014. The goal of the Talent Hunt is to find two previously UNPUBLISHED writers and artists and give them a chance to expose their work to the comic industry in the printed and digital formats. The comics industry is an awesome one to work in… both Marc Silvestri and I thought about this and realized that at some point someone gave us a chance. We’re looking to do the same for a few people.”
There are a bunch of guidelines such as- DON’T send them drawings of Batman. They want to see you draw THEIR characters.
“You need to submit art samples and story samples ONLY based on these characters listed (below). Any submissions that do NOT feature these characters or that feature these characters AND other characters* not on this list will not be reviewed and the submission discarded. I’m willing to bet that most of the submissions we receive will be for Tom Judge. If you want to stand out, try one of the others.”
Sabine (Wheel of Shadows)
Glorianna Silver (The Ember Stone)
Michael Finnegan (The Glacier Stone)
Ian Nottingham (Blood Sword)
Ji Xi ( 13th artifact)
Pandora’s Box wielder TBD
Tom Judge (Rapture)
The talent search will run through 12/31/12 and no decisions will be made until after that date so they strongly urge you to take your time.
*For clarification on “other characters” please see the comments below
I couldn’t help notice this on the side of a tow truck the other day. I suppose they were hoping to make an impression so that the next time I need to tow my car I’ll use Countryside Towing… or maybe it truly is a PSA. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
If you’re a graphic designer like me, you’re probably thinking the same thing I am- at least they didn’t use Comic Sans.
I loved finding this yard sale sign. From the look of the wooden post, this is a very popular spot for signs. It’s located at an intersection in Sag Harbor in the Hamptons (New York) where if you follow the arrow you get to drive down a road with a beach on either side of you. One of my pet peeves is unclear signage and it even applies to signs put up by weekend yard salers. My problem with this sign is that it looks semi-permanent with its weathered surface, which goes against the whole concept of a yard sale (which is to get rid of some of your stuff in one fell swoop). And then, what’s with the numbers underneath? I really can’t figure them out (can you?).
But they were kind enough to put a smiley face…
Hard drive failure is fact of life. And I mean that. It’s a fact. No hard drive will last forever. But if you’re like a lot of folks, you just hope that failure is destined to come far after you upgrade and can copy files over to your new machine. But unfortunately, that’s not always possible.
Almost all modern creative professionals quite literally live and die by their computers. We design, illustrate, edit photos and do research on them. And where does all this information end up? On a hard drive. A piece of equipment that’s eventually going to die and render all that hard work useless. That is, unless you have a backup plan.
While it’s incredibly easy for a lifetime of work to be lost to a failed spinning metallic platter, it’s also equally easy to infinitely copy that same body of work. Read more..
Creative Relay has partnered with HOW Design Conference and we have a 4-day pass to give away!
This isn’t a national contest. We have a pass that we want to give you. Drawing is on Monday, June 18. Enter today!
My own personal top five list of things you should NEVER EVER do as an illustrator.
5. Never, ever, ever agree to work for stuff like cigarettes. Newsflash- they’re really bad for you (who knew!?). Work for something more useful, like a set of All-clad LTD pots, an open tab at a local watering hole, cheese, or my favorite – wine. Working in trade is exceptionally beneficial to illustrators – many of us have very little overhead- wink wink- who’s really making out here? Time is money, but it can also be a Cabernet! But really, if you have to work for trade, be sure to come up with a fair value for your work and get the equivalent in trade in return. Maybe more. I mean, stores and restaurants have mark-ups so in the end it costs them less money in cheese than your bill.
4. Never burn a bridge. I know sometimes you really, really want to, and you’d do it in style- douse it in gasoline, duct tape fireworks to it and light up the sky like it’s the 4th of July. But make sure you realize you can never go back there again. Ever. Even if, say, ten years from now, you’re desperate for work and decide to go back into that extremely small industry and the potential employer just had lunch with that, uh, “bridge”… Old Walt is right: It’s a small, small world.
3. Never let yourself have a vague idea of what you’re worth. Know what your hourly rate is going to be before you get on the phone with a new client- write it down so that when you’re mid-conversation you don’t totally wimp out and feel bad for them because they have no budget, but they love your work (they’ll feed your ego until you have to butter your head to fit it through a doorway). Because the next thing you know, you’ve agreed to work for $20/hour with 5 rounds of revisions, a color study and two-dozen flippin’ chocolate chip cookies thrown in for good measure. You’ll get off the phone feeling empty, alone, dizzy, and still broke with an expression on your face that says, “What-the-BLEEP just happened?”
2. Never work for family. Even extended family. You’re too busy to illustrate a damn choo-choo on a wall for Aunt Linda’s cousin’s boyfriend’s kid. For crying out loud, it’s not even his kid.
1. Never ignore the red flags:
- “Are you sure this design is the right size? When I hold my ruler to my computer screen, it’s way off.”
- “The owner’s wife doesn’t think this has enough pizzazz. She wants to work with you directly.”
- “The owner wants you to show his teenage daughter how to use Adobe Illustrator so that we can make revisions in-house.”
- “We don’t need you to spend that much time on it- just get some clip art.”
- “An extra $100 to typeset the page? Nah- we’ll just do it here.”
From wall murals to gift products, Lisa’s accomplishments are as diverse as her clients. Her designs can be found in Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Macy’s as well as being featured on blogs such as theydrawandtravel.com/, and theydrawandcook.com/.
Lisa will be a guest panelist at Creative Relay’s upcoming event: Reinventing the Illustrator on July 25, 2012.
We’re excited to announce that RISD Alumni Association will be joining Creative Relay as a partner for our events, webinars and workshops. RISD joins our other esteemed partners, Massachusetts College of Art and Design Alumni Relations and Career Services and AIGA Boston.
Our first event with our new partner roster will be The Art Director/Illustrator Relationship on June 27. This event will delve into what makes the collaboration between an Art Director and an Illustrator good and what it takes to make it great. We are so appreciative of our partners and the assistance they have given us by spreading the word about the content we have to offer to the creative community.
If you’re an AIGA member or a MassArt or RISD alum, look for the discounted rates for our events. More importantly- look forward to networking, mingling and learning with the creative community.
Quick question: When was the last time you updated your portfolio? It’s hard to think back that far isn’t it? This is a problem that dogs many creatives. We’re too busy cranking out great work to bother grabbing some of it for others to see. Well, consider this your inspiration to wrangle together all your best stuff and show the world what you’re capable of (hell, I might get inspired by it, too!). Here are a few tips to get you going:
First, get it in your head that you need to always be thinking whether or not what you’re working on is “portfolio-worthy.” Create a folder and drop JPGs or PDFs to use or just to remind you.
Now, you wouldn’t be months (or, ahem, years) behind on your update if you followed tip one. So tip two is to go through your client files. Go through each and see what jobs you were really fond of and might make a good addition. Read more..
On May 24, 2012, Justin and I gave a talk at the Creative Careers Conference at Massachusetts College of Art & Design. The C3 Conference is a two-day event helping to advance professional development for artists and designers. Our talk was titled Ready, Set, Freelance and below we’ve outlined a bunch of the points we talked about and included many links we hope you will find helpful.
The Keynote was given by writer/humorist Dan Hunter who spoke on How to Navigate the Creative Economy.
Helena Fruschio, the Massachusetts Creative Economy Industry Director, gave a very lively and informative talk about the Massachusetts creative economy and how to tap into it to boost or supplement your business.
Our event description:
Ready, Set, Freelance
Get ready for a crash introduction into the wild and woolly world of freelancing. Creative Relay co-founders and long-time freelancers, Ed Shems and Justin Perricone, will provide guidance on how to navigate the Read more..
When you’re a freelancer, nearly every conversation can be viewed as an interview because anyone you talk to might be your next client. When someone casually asks what you do for a living, it’s time for you to pull out your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short, verbal paragraph that sums up in about 30 seconds what you do and in what way(s) you are unique. It should pique the interest of the listener. The recipient of your words might be a small-talking salesclerk or an Art Director sharing a vertical lift with you; hence the name. Put one together and then rehearse it so it doesn’t sound like you are reciting something you memorized.
Two weeks ago I received a call from the owner of a new restaurant who needed a logo. He had also put in a call to one other designer and Read more..
As creatives, the majority of the work we do isn’t tangible. It’s a service. But along with that often come tangible goodies our clients want to get their hands on to further their business: business cards, letterhead, brochures, booklets, promo items and anything else you can slap a logo or illustration on. This is a huge opportunity for us. Here you have a client that you know wants to spend money, yet most of the time we let them walk off with the files to let someone else finish what you started. Why?
They’re YOUR client! Provide them with the services AND materials they want. How? It’s simple:
1. Start a relationship with a trade printer
Sometimes they’re called wholesale printers. They’re large printing companies that do high quality printing at low prices. How? Because they don’t have a sales team, they have you. You bring them the jobs and they run them for you at a price you can mark up. If you look hard enough, you can find 1000 full-color business cards for $20 shipped. If your client was looking to spend $100+ anyway, let them order through you and for $80 they’ve got a deal, no hassle because they’ve worked with you and you just pocketed $60 for work you were probably going to end up doing anyway. Google “trade printer” or “wholesale printer” to find one you like or ask your peers on Twitter or Facebook.
2. Mark up your work when you deal with vendors
It seems strange that a lot of designers don’t think to do this. It doesn’t have to be exorbitant, but a flat fee on top of the design helps defray the time you spend searching around for the best prices for the gross of floppy frisbees your client needs for a tradeshow. Time is money.
3. Make connections with local vendors
Google local promo companies and printers and ask for catalogs and samples. This will put you directly in contact with someone there. So next time you have a client that needs something, you don’t have to pack up their files and wish them luck. You can say, “Actually, I have a contact at Acme in Springfield and they make great coasters.” Right there you’ve become an asset to your client and can not only continue your business relationship, but can make some money off of it, too.
It may feel kind of shady to ask your client if they need services like these, but think about it from their perspective: You just designed them the perfect logo and business card and they want it printed right! What’s the sense in turning them away when you know what needs to get done and the best people for the job? Besides, think of the hell of finding out your client wants you to send files to their new favorite vendor… VISTAPRINT! (Not our favorite place.)
Caveat: There is one thing we should note: When you’re in charge of getting the printing done, it’s on you. Be sure to read the printer’s Art Submission Guidelines and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Make sure your file is prepped correctly, the colors are specified, the quantity is correct, the paper is right and the job is on-schedule. If the printer makes a mistake, they should reprint the job at no additional cost. If you make a mistake, it’s all up to you to make good. So cross those “t”s and dot your “i”s. Oh, and make sure your client has signed off on the job.
In my previous post, How to Get Noticed at a Comic Con, I talked about some ways exhibitors at Comic Cons can improve their odds of getting more attention for their work. In this post I’m just a fan.
The Fan Boy Side of My Day:
I’m a newbie to Comic Cons. I don’t know why as I’ve collected comics since 1984 when my friend Abe saw a drawing I did of Spider-man that I copied from the Sunday Funnies. “Did you hear Spider-man got a new black costume? I’ll loan you the book.” And I was hooked. I’ve been to smaller local shows such as MICE, but Boston Comic Con 2012 was my first real entry into the wild world of penny dreadful hocking and over the top (but in a good way) costuming.
WOW the costumes were amazing! I never found out what the costume contest prizes were but judging by the quality of the entrants, I would guess they
included a car and a couple of free overseas trips.
Flash’s Rogue Gallery kindly obliged me by striking a well-choreographed pose. Sinestro
was very authentic and the huge robot guy was incredible but my favorite had to be Spidey with the baby stroller. I mean, the guy’s gotta age sometime, right?
I strode up and down the aisles taking in all the signage and names and artwork on display. There were very long lines for Kevin Eastman and the Mad Magazine legends Al Feldstein, Al Jaffee and Paul Coker Jr. Ed McGuiness seemed to be working non-stop on commissions.
I hung around Alex Maleev who was busily working on a Daredevil illustration with pencil and Read more..
It’s three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon when you get a call from an unknown number. It’s a cold call! After a quick conversation you plan a time to meet. On Friday you show up to the designated coffee shop dressed sweet and sharp and spend an hour talking to a client you’d love to do work for and leave feeling like you’re on top of the world.
Over the weekend, you digest the brief and write up a proposal with all sorts of options and pricing nailed down. Hell, you even go out of your way and get it printed on that stack of letterhead you never use and hand deliver it to their soaring office in the sky on Monday morning. Later that afternoon your phone rings and it’s the client, and they’re not thrilled.
Your price is way too high.
Speculative (spec) work doesn’t always (some say, ever) work out in your interest. Neither does working for free so you can have another portfolio piece.
Don’t let a client take advantage of you. If a client’s business uses your artwork then you should be compensated.
Good luck and help spread the gospel.
How do you stand out in a sea of photographers, designers, musicians, filmmakers and illustrators? Stand out and show your personality.
Recently, I had the opportunity to gather with over 100 other photographers from all over Boston to hear from Mary Marantz of Justin & Mary Photography. Justin and Mary have quickly grown their high-end wedding business in a competitive market, touring nationally to help others. Mary was fresh off her talk at WPPI, the photography industry’s major convention. One important aspect of what she discussed was the importance of connecting with your customer.
When I first started my portrait business I was so excited when I would receive inquiries and crestfallen when someone failed to book a session. It felt a little like the date who calls but does not ask you out. But as the inquiries and bookings picked up I started to notice something important: The shoots that stood out all had something in common; like a good date, we had chemistry. As I thought more about this I noticed that this good feeling started before we had ever even spoken.
A common scenario for me is this: Someone inquires about photography on an online forum for moms and one of my former clients recommends me. The moms on the list look over the recommendations (if I know that I have been recommended I can watch the jump in my analytics). Some are just looking for the lowest price; I strike out there. Some want a studio; not me either. Some want backdrops or props; no go. But there are a few who look around and decide that they want ME. They want pictures of their families that feel like my pictures. Those are my clients. These clients say things like, “we looked through lots of photographers’ work and chose you.” And inevitably these are the shoots where everyone has the most fun. Like the best date–we are all being ourselves and feel confident that’s all that is required for this to be a long relationship. In the end I want to see their kids grow up–and I really mean that–I don’t just want to be one of the photographers a family uses in a long line of photographers. I want to be exclusive.
Mary rightfully pointed out that you should give people as much as possible to grab onto when choosing a contractor who will curate their valuable memories. Give them as many chances to get to know you as possible.
• Make the “About” section on your website specific and attention-getting.
• Tell a story that is uniquely you- have a point of view and STATE IT CLEARLY.
• Have a “things I like” page. Sounds silly, but it makes sense. Post pictures of everyday things (with or without text) that you love.
What is better than seeing a service provider who likes your favorite sports team/food/vacation destination/hobby? It seems like a Match. Kismet. The perfect photographer for you. Better yet, like the best online dating profile, it gives you a point of connection, a starting point in common. And the folks who don’t like what you like, they are not your clients. And better to know that before you spend valuable time and resources struggling to build a relationship!
There are so many great photographers/designers/musicians/filmmakers/illustrators out there that you have to distinguish yourself not only in your art, but also in your personality. Mary recounted a story of a bride who wrote to her and said (paraphrasing here), “…my fiancée loves, loves, LOVES your work–and just like you, he’s a huge Giants fan.” What came first? It might not matter. If you can do great work while helping your clients love you then you are much more likely to have a long term relationship on your hands.
Lisa Seidel is a professional photographer living in Boston, Massachusetts. Most of the time she specializes in capturing the memories and personalities of children and families. She does not shoot weddings (often). This spring she is unwittingly majoring in maternity shoots that culminate in adorable girl babies (who go on to newborn shoots!). If you want to see more you can visit www.portraitsbylisa.com, catch the cuteness on her blog, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram @portraitsbylisa
illustration © edfredned
About a week ago I received a frantic email from a client. The order of 10,000 business cards they needed for Monday was printed with a serious typo. It was Thursday. Oh, and I was boarding a flight to leave town for a week. Without my computer or access to the native files.
I spent the next half hour calling the client, checking proofs from my phone and trying my best to get a hold of someone who could get me out of this bind. In that time, I also became aware of two other projects needed for that Monday that were also wrong.
In the end I was able to get what files I had to a dear friend and fellow designer, put her in touch with the client and then manage the project as best I could from three time zones away. Working with the printer, we were able to get the client what they needed, albeit a few days late. The client was wonderfully understanding and, I’m very happy to say, is still a client.
This begs the question: how did this happen? I could blame it on the fact that they have a new point person managing the projects. Or that many times there’s a huge delay in communications, or about a half dozen other things. But the real problem is that I never communicated what I needed from them.
Typically, once I get the okay from someone there, I run the job or turn over files. However, this time around with so many small parts to the campaign, I never clarified the proofing process with the client. I ASSUMED that everything had been proofread and verified by them when it hadn’t. I have a really good working relationship with them and the overhead of maintaining and organizing sign off sheets seemed unnecessary. Without them, however, I didn’t communicate the “finality” of a reply from them that read “Perfect, Thanks!” To me that meant, “Make it so! Run the job!” When to them it very well could have been a verification of receipt.
It’s important to maintain a certain level of professionalism even when you think it’s completely unwarranted (and maybe even a bit awkward.) While it may seem like a needless paperwork formality, in the end a sign-off gives the client confidence in you and your business and gives you a way to make sure everything’s getting done right.
Photo by DailyPic. CC BY-NC-ND
Our next event is an online webinar with interactive designer/instructor Erik Fadiman.
About this Webinar:
The New World of Web Fonts
Creative Typography for the Web
A Creative Relay Webinar
Wednesday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT
Verdana, Times and Arial beware! The era of ‘web safe’ fonts is over. Thanks to advances in technology, font licensing, and improved web browsers, interactive designers now have a broad range of options for working with type on the web.
Get the skinny from interactive designer and instructor Erik Fadiman on where to get Web Fonts and how to use them to make your website or your clients’ websites searchable, functional, and importantly, eye-catching.
In this online webinar, you will learn: Read more..
Looking for a good laugh? The folks at Poke London have created an interesting time-wasting tool to give you a chuckle (and then, no doubt, to throw away).
HapppyIt goes where no serious designer would ever want to go- it converts the fonts on any website into Comic Sans. Just drag the bookmarklet button to your bookmark bar and you’re off and running!
For an especially fun time, we suggest you convert the following websites:
Your Facebook page
OK, so after converting a couple of websites this may get old fast but at least you’ll still be chuckling. Smiling maybe?
Now, we can all get back to despising Comic Sans…
Play the Kill Comic Sans Game.
I spotted this signage on the back of a minivan in the Target parking lot this weekend and couldn’t believe that someone would drive around looking like this.
Unfortunately, too many businesses don’t take the time to consider whether their brand (which includes signage, website, printed material, logo, the general appearance of their vehicles…) attracts or repels customers.
There’s good signage that makes you want to learn more:
And bad signage that makes you want to avoid a business:
Business Owners/Decision Makers: Find a graphic designer who excels at branding and who asks a lot of probing questions.
Graphic Designers: When working with a client on their branding, consider EVERY aspect of their business and promotions. For more about this, see Jackie Goldstein’s article: Grow your Business by Asking the Right Questions.
The new Aetna identity is less about standing out, and much more about fitting in. The universe of health care logos is quite small. Prescription brands are all remarkably similar with the vast majority going for some kind of symbol that shows “change” (wavy lines, gradients, open arms, etc.) The providers also fall into tight ranks of traditionally stiff, cold, professional, generally unassuming identity. Aetna finely balances the two for a very Read more..
Companies spend millions developing a brand in hopes that the mere glimpse of their logo, or sound of their jingle will make you throw down your cash for something they’re hawking. See how well they’ve done by testing yourself on our Brand Alphabet. Each letter is from a national and global brand. While some are the first letter, most are not.
Justin and I are looking forward to being one of the event hosts in our first Cross-Org AFTA Mixer in Boston this Thursday, the 26th.
As you can see on our Upcoming Events page, this is only the second Cross-Org Mixer organized by AIGA Boston with the goal of giving the creative community an opportunity to mix it up and network. Boston has a large number of creative organizations and a huge number of creative professionals so we’re proud to participate and help get the party going!
One of the highlights of the evening (aside from the networking, schmoozing, imbibing and card-trading) will be the opportunity to check out the slideshow of submitted work that will be projected. If you’d like to participate, just check out the requirements. Feel free to grab our Creative Relay logo PNG and drop that into your slides. Do it quick- the deadline is January 24, 2012!
Finally, I thought I’d show off the slides I put together to inspire you to send some in (and join us on January 26th! We’ll be close by the bar). Read more..
There are a large number of comic book conventions happening throughout the year so we pulled together a list so you can find the one(s) near you. The list is organized by region and then alphabetically.
If you’re looking for a list of conventions organized by date, a friend of ours, Franklin Einspruch, created: A Cromulent Calendar of Conventions for the Comics Community.
If we missed any conventions, please leave a comment with the link in the comments section and we’ll update this post. Read more..
Join us along with a cornucopia of Boston’s finest creative talent at AIGA Boston’s Cross-Org AFTA. Enjoy drinks, light refreshments, and seeing what others are doing. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to shake things up and rub shoulders with other creatives from a wide range of fields and disciplines and show off! They’re taking JPG submissions so that everyone can see what you’re up to*. Feel free to tack on our logo as well.
And the kicker: it’s free! Be sure to look for Ed and Justin while you’re there (check by the bar.)
AIGA Cross-Org AFTA
Thursday, January 26th | 6:00 – 9:00 pm
No Fee | Cash Bar | Everyone’s Welcome
District Restaurant and Lounge
180 Lincoln Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
See you then!
Please submit up to 5 photos, art, and/or design work of yours as JPEGs, sized to 1024 (w) X 768 (h) max, 72 ppi, sRGB. Name your image files with your last name and number that will help the images show together in the slide show (example: smith01.jpg) Please put your name as well as the organization you are with, on each of the images, so it can be visible when projected. All images must be submitted ahead of time, by January 24th to email@example.com. Discretion will be used with any questionable material.
Some of our live events are held at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Here’s some information to help you find your way. Please be sure to note whether the event will be held at the KENNEDY CONFERENCE ROOM or the TOWER BUILDING’S TRUSTEES ROOM.
MassArt Kennedy Building Address:
Kennedy Conference Room- 2nd floor, 625 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
Enter on the corner of Longwood, go up one flight and walk down the corridor. The Conference Room will be on the right side.
MassArt Tower Building Address:
Trustees Room- 11th floor, 621 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 (Google Map is a little bit off)
Enter on the corner of Evan’s Way. Take the elevator to the 11th floor and the Trustees Room will be on the right.
Part 1: The Basics
Graphic Designers spend much of their time making clients look good but some fail to realize that their own business suffers from branding failures. When was the last time you looked at your assets as a whole rather than as separate pieces?
First, a Definition:
A brand is the uniqueness of a business or product in the mind of a consumer. It is the emotional and psychological relationship between a business or product and the consumer. A brand is Read more..
Here’s a person who is thinking positively despite the current economy. She printed some homemade signs and posted them around town and is just so absolutely certain that there is a strong market for dog boarding that she took steps to make sure she won’t run out of tags for potential clients to rip off.
A big thanks to everyone who attended our “Putting the Free in Freelance” webinar. As I mentioned last night, here’s the “Zero to Freelance in 48 Hours.” If you have a free weekend, you can have a freelance business. And, as always, let us know if you have any questions.
Thanks to everyone who came out for our presentation last night. As promised, here is the cleaned up version of the PDF without all of the bits that don’t make any sense without me rambling on. If you have any questions, please drop me a line!
What is a creative commodity and is it a bad thing? Well, that depends where you’re trying to go in your career. I am of the opinion (shared by Jackie Goldstein who was the guest speaker for our webinar How to Avoid Becoming a Creative Commodity) that it’s vitally important in this economy to establish yourself as a creative partner who doesn’t just do the work asked of him, but asks questions and thinks creatively (no kidding) about how to solve the ACTUAL problems of the client.
The client wants a brochure? Why? Who is their target audience and will they read a brochure?
By Jackie Goldstein
Last year I had a call from someone who was referred to me by a past client (a typical scenario for me.) She said that she wanted to meet with me because she needed a new logo.
So after we set up the meeting I went online and checked out her website. It was a hot mess: everything about it was wrong. From the confusing layout, the disorganized content, the graphic elements, and the copy. Yep, basically everything.
So, how would you handle the initial meeting? Think about it. Really.
I found this sign in a very small town in New Mexico called Cloudcroft, and I loved the bold, no-nonsense statement it made. EAT. No specials in the window, just a bold-faced command and each viewer certainly must pause to consider whether his/her own mother placed that word there just for them.
I’ve been catching up on old Looney Tunes cartoons lately. My 5 ½ year old son has really taken to those old Warner Bros characters so the show got added to our DVR list and his grandmother bought him the Golden Collection Part 1. While I’ve never thought of myself as a connoisseur of the cartoons, I thought I’d seen a majority of the output between my pre-adolescent TV days and my current life. Okay, so I was mistaken; there are many, many more episodes of silliness, hilarity, sarcasm and fun. Many have been disappointed that the Looney Tunes characters haven’t been translated well into the 21st century. The sad attempts at live action/cartoon movies did nothing to move the characters into the must-have category for most of the public. And Mel Blanc’s son just couldn’t pull off the voices like his dad. But the latest Looney oversight might be the most egregious yet.
There’s much to be said about drawing the human form. In fact, there’s much artwork to be seen celebrating the beauty of the human body as well as whatever challenges the artist was trying to surmount (likeness, color, fluidity, lighting and so much more) in whatever style he or she has chosen. Even if your goal is to draw very stylistically, drawing from a model is a wonderful way to exercise how you see and how you move your hand/arm/body to translate the information you’re seeing onto paper. Read more..
Ira Glass, host of This American Life, explains the long hard track of getting good at a creative endeavor. Simply; give it time. You have passion, you have taste. Be critical of your work until it gets to look, sound, feel like something you want to be proud of.
Beautiful typography on a sign in York, ME. The letter “R” is always my favorite glyph. It’s got straight lines, curves, and can stand up on its own (try that with a “J”). This one is especially nice: it’s strong, stout, but personable and easy to read.
Photo by Justin Perricone.