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Live Painting at the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6, 2011 by jdonat20

I had a great time this past weekend doing caricatures and painting at the Twin Lakes Arts and Heritage Festival.  If you would like to see some of the work I did, go to:


All Day Painting Event

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2011 by jdonat20

This past Sunday I took part in a charity event to raise awareness (and some money) to combat Cystic Fibrosis.  Danny Overdorff coordinated the event and there were four very talented local artists who also took part.  A good time was had by all.  The venue was awesome and the cause was a worthy one.  Below are some pics of me working on my contribution.  The five artists involved each did a 30 x 40 painting that was auctioned off after about five hours of work.  I look forward to doing more of these in the future.    


Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by jdonat20

As my G3 semester comes to a close I am reflecting upon my practicum and what I have taken from the experience.  Most importantly, I have found that my current process could use a little tweaking in terms of how I divide my time.  Although I did, in fact, conduct five interviews with professional artists (only four of which I was able to blog about because I was asked to keep the fifth ‘off the record’) I feel as though my practicum project was not quite finished.

I plan on making self-promotion and conversations with professional artists a part of my ongoing process of learning.  I think paying more attention to this component of my work, being an aspect of my professional practice that has fallen short of my aspirations, is a worthy and necessary goal.  Discipline is something that I need to reintegrate into my daily life.  I need to make an honest effort to create the time to advance myself in the areas I have been neglecting.  I believe I can do this and so I am going to.  Unlike the physical artwork I have been producing, my work in regard to ‘myself’ will never truly be ‘finished’.  The sooner I accept this, the sooner I can begin a new transformative process.

I think the interviews I’ve conducted over the past few months have been both uplifting and grounding.  They managed to pull my head out of this otherworldly realm and placed it back on my shoulders for a brief moment, reminding me of my physical placement in the universe.  In that sense it coincided with my meditative search for a definable, personal philosophy.

My original plans for my practicum were to create a blog and use it as an online journal, detailing my new approach to self-promotion.  My advisor, Mr. Peter Hocking, suggested that rather than internalizing my project so much I should reach out to professionals in my field of interest and engage them in conversations about the logistics of being a working artist.  I think this was a much better and more useful project than my original idea.

I’ve never had a blog.  I’m not very good at talking about myself.  I’ve always been more of a listener.  Most of the time when I attempt to share my interests with others they can’t listen for more than a few minutes without their eyes rolling back into their skulls and drool starting to drip from their chins.  I figured that a blog would be a nice way for me to express my thoughts without feeling like I was boring people.  It was more for my benefit than anyone else’s entertainment.

Being disciplined enough to blog regularly has been difficult.  I am still going to have to work at this.  That is why I have chosen to allow my practicum to roll over into my next semester.  Right now the format of my blog is not entirely accessible.  My posts are long and wordy, much like this report will be.  This is not conducive to what a blog SHOULD be.  So, I have dubbed my blog a ‘journal’ for now, and we will see if I can manage to transmogrify it into something… um… bloggier as time goes on.

The process of interviewing professional artists wasn’t all that complicated.  I chose individuals whose work I enjoy and respect.  I also chose people who have influenced me either directly or indirectly and who are currently working in specific venues that I have a vested interest in.  I spent some time creating a set of basic interview questions, which I later adapted to suit each individual.  Three of the interviews were written correspondences.  The other two were phone interviews.  Although the written responses to my questions were more thorough and will no doubt make for useful reference as I approach the publication of my current work, the phone conversations were ultimately more enjoyable.  I found myself using the interview questions I’d come up with as guidelines while conversing.  I didn’t even bother to take notes.  Instead I just listened.  After I’d finished conducting an interview I would create a blog entry about that particular person and how I relate to them within my own practice.

In between interviews I worked my way through an E-book I purchased prior to my G3 semester called ’15 Steps to Freelance Illustration’.  The book came with a workbook addendum that posed questions about creative practice.  I integrated these questions into my blog entries as well, all the while trying to sort out where I might fit into the world of freelance illustration.  So my practicum was a combination of conversations and considerations about the practical and the purposeful.  This being the very definition of praxis, I feel my practicum has urged me towards integrating these ideas into my daily life.  Implementing praxis has arisen as my new challenge.  If anything, I feel like my practicum gave me an opportunity to learn from the experience of others and begin forming an idea of exactly how I must change in order to become what I have always hoped to be.

My blog has been my documentation of this project.  I think I have established something that will help me to keep myself in check so long as I can begin to make it a habit.  I will be working on this.  I received positive feedback on at least two of my interviews, so I feel that the topics discussed and the way I chose to document the conversations was effective.

I certainly have a better understanding of certain facets of the commercial art industry as a result of this project.  The need to grow and expand my self-promotion practice has become more than just an apparent necessity, it is a desire now that I am cultivating.  I eagerly look forward to completing my current project so that I can blog about the process of it’s creation, production and my search for a publisher.  I have committed myself to a few community art events in the next couple of months.  I will be documenting these events and blogging about the experiences.  I am planting a seed and I believe that my blog and my new focus on self-promotion and peer networking can help to germinate that seed.

My practicum has enhanced my interest in an aspect of my professional practice that has long fallen to the wayside.  I think a hallmark of a successful practicum might be that rather than simply ‘ending’, it becomes an extension of what you already do.  I feel that, with time and effort, I will see my practicum develop into a fully integrated praxis.  I don’t think I could ask for anything more.

PRACTICUM (part 4 of 5) !

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2011 by jdonat20

I’ve really been trapped in my brain lately, trying to make sense of a lot of things.

“Why am I doing this?”

I ask myself that question an awful lot.  The answer is always something along the lines of; “I’m following my bliss”, or “It is my calling”, but I think I may need to investigate and delve a bit deeper in order to ascertain the true meaning behind my current preoccupations.  It’s something outside the realm of definable psychology.

I’ve been very fortunate all of my life.  I have parents who are unwaveringly supportive, friends who have always had faith in me, and an environment in which to live that constantly stirs my dreams and inspires me to creative action and introspection.  I want to believe that what is emerging is a direct result of all these things, that it is an extraction of all the divinity and pure love I’ve found and been blessed with, and that somehow that will make it honest and special.

The illustrations I have been creating for the last year are so much more than just images, they are small fragmentations of the jigsaw puzzle that is my soul.  Behind the complex symbols and the arcane figures lies something that even I do not fully grasp.  I’ve linked each image to the next in a mythological narrative so that the suggested meanings will be more apparent, but there is something hidden below the surface.

Whatever it is, I plan on seeking it out as soon as the work itself is complete.  I often find that I do not fully grasp the substance of what I have produced until I have put some distance between it and myself.  There is a certain perspective that one gains after being displaced from a situation.  When you are enveloped in it, you can’t really see the complete shape of what you are summoning from your own depths.  I have subdued and conquered many creative impulses in the past by surrendering to them until they were completely manifested.  After all was said and done and I’d had time to forget about it, I would revisit the work, reflect on it and realize that I could scarcely remember the process of it’s creation.  This says to me that either I have a horrible memory (which I really don’t think is the case), or the work itself was a result of something beyond me.  I have come to believe that the most potent of my creative expulsions are not entirely of my own volition.  I am a conduit for ideas that the dissolution of my ego allows for the trasmittal of.  In essence, I am doing ‘God’s work’.  I am allowing the universal voice to find a passage into the corporeal through me.  I am a monk creating an illuminated manuscript by candlelight in the dark depths of my cave-like monastery.

Something is speaking to me, something primeval and supernatural.

I know it sounds strange, like extra-terrestrials are feeding their alien ideas into my brain or something.  In a way, it is very much like that.  It has been an intensely spiritual and almost religious experience and the bouts of both joy and despair that ensue during the work’s creation can only be indicative of the power inherent in what I am attempting to filter and transmute.   Either that or it’s making me go insane…or both.

The nature of my work is so deep and rich that I am sure I could spend my whole life with it and never feel that I have a complete understanding of it.  Maybe that is the beauty of it.  I have found something that answers questions with more questions and feeds my soul in a way that other subjects cannot.  If I am to truly accept and encompass the idea of being a perpetual learner, then I suppose having something like this is the equivalent of following a theological discipline.  The fact that IT found ME, by my summation, is even more indicative of this notion.

I look forward to disposing of my frenetic, physical practice following this marathon of production in order to re-center myself and gain a new perspective on what I have done.  The trees have been calling me to come sit with them and reflect and to merge with the energy of the universe in a passive and accepting way.  I feel a self-actualizing retreat approaching.  This is the next goal I am aspiring to.  But, first things first…

As a result of all this thinking I have been doing, I have not spent much time considering the “practical” over the last month or so (BIG SURPRISE THERE!).  Self-promotion has, once again, taken a back seat to my intrinsic concerns.  However, I did manage to conduct an email interview with an extremely talented and successful artist right before I was whisked away on the winds of my own intoxicating, illustrative fantasy.

If you have never heard of Ciro Marchetti, then it is my pleasure to introduce you to him.  You can view his immaculate illustrations here:

Mr. Marchetti was extremely thorough, thoughtful and honest in his responses to my questions.  I have a great deal of respect for him and for the intense quality of his work.  He is a consummate professional and a profoundly gifted artist.  I am grateful that he took the time to correspond with me amid his busy schedule, and the release of his ‘Oracle of Visions’.

When I read Mr. Marchetti’s biography on his website something that initially stood out to me was his “personal collection of old mechanical instruments and artifacts”.  These objects are symbols in and of themselves.  I believe that much can be derived from analyzing ones own personally acquired/collected symbols.  Mr. Marchetti is drawn to complex mechanical objects such as compasses and kaleidoscopes, whereas I am drawn to simple shapes and icons like hearts and trees.  I could surmise that, based on his collection, Mr. Marchetti is very detail oriented, precise and builds with a layered quality that is explosive and brilliant.  His artwork echoes this sentiment.  Based on my own symbols I could assume that I am simple, yet deeply rooted, fluid -yet grounded and of course, we’re both passionate.

I believe we subconsciously surround ourselves with things that symbolize us as people.  Over time, we become symbols ourselves.  In the same way wine matures with age and acquires a deeper more complex flavor, people’s personalities become more palpable as they evolve.  In getting to know a person, their countenance becomes a symbol for their personality traits.  It’s similar in its associative property to the way we see the behaviors of certain animals or natural event as allegorical.  Examples would be a ‘busy beaver’ or a ‘slow, but steady tortoise’, ‘an ‘elephant that never forgets’ or a ‘sly fox’.  The I-Ching relates natural events such as the flow of rivers and the growth of trees to how people act and react.  A person’s name and face become synonymous with who they are and what they do.  Therefore, we are all perceived as symbols by others.  I would even go so far as to suggest that there are aspects of our own symbolic essences that we do not see and cannot ever be fully aware of, else it would alter our perceptions as well as our actions and we would then cease to be who we are .

 Ciro Marchetti’s first venture into the world of Tarot was ‘The Guilded Tarot’.  He admits that he knew very little about the Tarot when he was first commissioned to produce a deck, and that the more academic of the “Tarot community” did not receive it as amicably as the rest.  Nevertheless, it has become very successful, and no doubt that success has everything to do with his incredible artwork.

His work is both intimidating and inspiring.  The images are so pristine, ethereal and bold that they almost seem to undulate and breathe.  The fool just looks ready to leap off the card and begin juggling the signs of the western zodiac for your amusement.

Mr. Marchetti’s fantastic work has afforded him a career as an artist.  He told me that ‘freedom’ is the biggest difference between commissioned work and the art he creates to suit his own creative needs.  He has found success through self-published as well commercially distributed Tarot decks and the selling of prints through his website.  He is now able to pick and choose projects based on personal interest rather than a need for income.  This is the dream every artist aspires to.

Photoshop and a Wacom tablet, (which is a stylus with a virtual drawing surface that responds to changes in pressure) are the mediums through which Mr. Marchetti invokes his incredible visions.  If you have ever worked with a Wacom tablet, you can see the talent he wields.  The level of detail, depth of field and surface textures he orchestrates which culminate in these incredible, super real images is simply amazing.

When Ciro was a child, he always got ‘As’ in art class.  His parents weren’t too keen on that seeing as how art is not something people can make a living doing.  He managed to rise above this discouragement however, and it seems that it may have fueled his determination to prove that he could in fact make art his life.  I’ve been lucky enough to have parents who have always encouraged my affinity for art.  But admittedly, the way the economy is and with the government slashing budgets and basically throwing the arts out with the trash, it’s hard to see how artists can still find the same sort of success Mr. Marchetti has acquired.  He has obviously worked very hard to find it and his style and technical skill are testaments to why he has obtained notoriety.  Art is so incredibly important, and it saddens me to think that an entire generation of artists might be lost in the economic shuffle.  I believe art will somehow persist, but the damage at this point may be irreparable.

Mr. Marchetti told me that his work as a graphic designer served as a steppingstone towards his current success.  Being a master of computer generated painting, Mr. Marchetti believes that digital media will never completely eclipse ‘hands-on’ art making.  Although he does recognize the manner in which exclusively digital art is overwhelming the market, as well as the tendency of advanced software to make someone with “little to no natural skill” into a painter instantaneously.  My favorite response from this interview was, and I quote:  Fortunately the digital media does not (at least for now) include a “create” or “imagination” button on the key board.”  So very true.  Thank God we’re still encouraging creativity.

Mr. Marchetti was candid in speaking to me about the invariable difficulties of self-publishing as well as the challenge of getting picked up by a large publisher.

The cost of printing anything is highway robbery.  The cost of printing a Tarot deck to all your personal specifications, as well as a guidebook and of course the packaging- is astronomical.  This is why I am hoping my ‘Kickstarter’ project will aid me in this venture.  I will talk more about ‘Kickstarter’ as soon as my project proposal launches.  Mr. Marchetti told me to “be honest” about my commercial viability.  That’s something to really wrap my head around.  Does what I produce truly lend itself to the popular mainstream ?  I believe it will if it’s offered on the correct platform.  I spent some time considering this in my previous blog posts.  Perhaps I should explore it further.

Mr. Marchetti told me that, since most genres have been explored in terms of the Tarot, I should be sure to make my deck personal to me.  Well, we can check that one off the list.  My deck is ‘me’ through and through.  I hope that this level of personalization is apparent and what will make it stand out.  Mr. Marchetti suggested targeting a specific audience and trying to “reach out” to them with my theme.  I am hoping that what I have created will bridge several genres and find favor with both the academics as well as the casual cartomancers.  Obviously, this is a great challenge.  But something I will always have is faith.

Mr. Marchetti told me that he is rarely ever satisfied with his work.  He always looks back at previous images and feels he could improve upon them.  This is the curse of many artists who are their own worst critics.  We scrutinize every detail until we can scarcely even look at the image anymore without needing to ‘fix’ things.  I have learned to let go of images once they reach a certain point.  I can tell when I am finished with a piece because I am ready to work on another one.  The previous image isn’t perfect, but it’s as ‘done’ as it’s gonna be.  I could ‘noodle’ away at it forever, but there is a point when an image can become overworked.  You have to learn to just tell yourself “STOP! It’s time to move on.”

I would like to thank Mr. Ciro Marchetti for donating his time to my practicum project.  It was a thrill to take in his artwork while reading his words and putting it all together to create a symbol for him in my own imagination.  He has inspired me to continue on my current journey and to leave no stone unturned in my search for my own personal symbolic meaning.

PRACTICUM (part 3 of 5) !

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2011 by jdonat20

When I was about ten years old, my Aunt Alison bought me a ‘How to Draw Cartoons’ kit and video for Christmas.  The instructor on the video had a deep, jovial voice and these distinctly droopy eyes and he just kind of reminded me of a cartoon character!  He became like my own personal guru, and a good friend.  He really got me excited about cartooning.  I watched that video until the tape was on the verge of snapping.  But I preserved it, and I still have it today.  The fellow in that video had taught me something that I would not fully grasp until a couple of years later.

My parents were fond of vacationing at Nags Head, North Carolina.  I, of course, accompanied them until it just got to be ‘not cool’ to go to the beach with my parents anymore, so I stayed home.  But in the earlier years of those trips to the Outer Banks, we would always fall into a familiar routine.  We went out to certain restaurants, saw a movie now and then and went to the beach every day.  My favorite thing to do, however, was to go to the t-shirt shop!  I can remember with great clarity the way the shop was set up.  There were racks upon racks of blank t-shirts, and plastered all over the walls were iron-on prints that you could pick from.  The walls were literally COVERED in cartoons!  It took me forever to pick which one I wanted each year.  I recall it making my Mom and Dad angry that I couldn’t just pick one.  There were always two or three that I wanted.  I started really paying attention to the cartoon images on those walls in the years after I started cartooning.  The method the fellow in that video had taught me somehow tuned my eyes and my brain into perceiving shapes with greater clarity.  I started trying to imagine how I would go about drawing the cartoons I saw on the walls of the t-shirt shop.  Then, once we got back to our rental home, I would find some scraps of paper and test my artistic hypotheses.  This is how I learned to ‘see shapes’ and to break whatever I was viewing down into smaller sections in order to draw them.  This was the foundation of all I would later learn as I developed as an artist.

I soon went wild, drawing every animal I could imagine.  When I ran out of ideas, I pulled out dusty old encyclopedias from our basement and started searching for animals I hadn’t drawn yet.  Eventually, I had developed my own method for drawing just about every creature that walks, flies, swims or crawls.  Everything branched off from there.  I started creating my own characters.  My love of comic books pushed me to experiment with drawing superheroes as well.  Then, when I turned fifteen, I was trained to draw caricatures at Idlewild Park for the summer.  I combined what I had learned from that old ‘How to Draw Cartoons’ video with the method I was taught by Mr. Ray Kuchinka, and suddenly, I was a real cartoonist, getting paid to draw for a living.  It was everything I wanted.  I owe so much of my inspiration to so many people, but the one that always comes to mind as an early influence is that guy with the deep, jovial voice and the droopy eyes who taught me how to ‘see shapes’ without me even realizing it.  That man’s name is Bruce Blitz.

Mr. Blitz hails from Pennsylvania, just like another of my other favorite artist/illustrator Roger Hane.  It’s nice to know there’s some history in these parts.  It feels pretty isolated from the rest of the world out here among the trees.  Bruce Blitz takes me right back to being in fifth grade again.  Hearing his voice on the phone this morning was really just pure nostalgia.  I know I probably gushed a bit about how important his teachings were to me as a budding cartoonist, but he sounded glad and was graceful in his acceptance of my gratitude.  What a nice guy, and so easy to talk to!  I would sure love to just sit around and chat and draw cartoons with him.  He seems so easy-going and happy to talk about art.  It made me feel at ease.  Admittedly, this phone interview thing can feel a little awkward at times, but I felt no such awkwardness while speaking to Mr. Blitz.  He made me feel the same way his video made me feel all those years ago, excited to draw!

So, needless to say, it was a real treat to talk to him for the better part of an hour and to swap stories and learn a bit more about him.

As a professional, Bruce has been the star of numerous television programs geared towards teaching kids how to draw cartoons, simply and effectively.  The encouraging, closing phrase “Keep on Cartooning” that Bruce enthusiastically proclaimed at the end of each episode became his motto, and his philosophy that cartoons should first and foremost be ‘fun’, seems like the most obvious idea, but ironically it’s the first thing people tend to forget about when tying to learn how to draw.  Teaching how to draw cartoons is what Bruce feels is his strongest calling and he hopes to do more of it in the future.  I can attest to the fact that his method is the most effective.  I’ve taken many cues from him when teaching cartooning myself and I am always letting people know that I am teaching them the ‘Blitz’ method.  I will always be sure, in the future as well, to let people know who Bruce Blitz is and that they can purchase his “How To” kits and really take their cartooning skills to the next level.  You can practice all you want, but sometimes you just need that extra push to help you have your ‘AH-HA!” moment.  Mr. Blitz is great for that.

Originally, Bruce Blitz was a musician.  Drawing cartoons was a fun, side job.  Eventually he found his way to the World’s Fair where he began doing caricatures daily and, in his own words: “That was my college.”  A lot of what Bruce needed to learn about the business of drawing cartoons on demand he learned doing caricatures.  Citizen’s Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, is home to two caricature booths owned by Mr. Blitz.  If I lived in Philly, I would certainly apply for a job there.  As it is, I live in Podunk PA, so I have to figure out where I can set up my own caricature stand on a regular basis, rather than chasing down random craft fairs and festivals and shelling out a bunch of money for a booth that might not attract enough business to pay for the set up fee.

“Make your avocation your vocation.” Those are some words of wisdom from Mr. Blitz that I will take with me from our conversation.  The personal connection he made with me throughout this interview came in the form of his anecdotes.  He told me about a sandwich shop that his parents took him to.  There was a big board with specials and prices on it in front of the shop and embellishing the words was a cartoon.  The character was bold and bright and so cool it seemed to pop right off the board.  Mr. Blitz remembers this sight with great clarity and says that it was that image that really ignited the spark.  After that, he began his cartooning quest.  He also told me about a brief comic strip that Bill Keane, creator of ‘The Family Circus’ did called ‘Silly Philly’.  People could write in with gag ideas for the strip and of course Bruce, being a big fan, leapt at the chance.  Bruce’s sister also decided to submit a gag idea.  In the end, Bruce’s idea was rejected, but his sister’s was accepted!  Years later, when Bruce interviewed Bill Keane, he brought along a copy of the strip with his sister’s gag idea and had him sign it.  That real life story is almost like a gag in and of itself.  It’s funny how life works sometimes.

Mr. Blitz just seems like the kind of guy you want to befriend.  He knows how to have fun and how to play, and in this world of opportunistic artists racing to be current and follow the trends that come with new technology, it’s good to have someone who reminds you to slow down, be yourself and be adaptable to the change as it comes.

With newspapers becoming a thing of the past, printed comic strips seem to be dwindling.  Even the style of art has changed and become more, for lack of a better word, ‘careless’.  You just don’t see the same kind of highly recognizable styles you used to see.  So many strips and even animated cartoons are mimicking this super sketchy, purposefully infantile and messy look, almost on purpose, because it has become the trend.  If it’s not flat and without tactility, it’s a cel-shaded knock off of Japanese animation.  I have nothing against anime, in fact I like some of it quite a bit, but when EVERYTHING starts to look like it, it gets to be overkill.   Most trends tend to really ruin collective, creative expansion, in my opinon.   I don’t think the classic stuff is diminishing because of a lack of interest.  I just think kids aren’t being exposed to the same sorts of things as I was growing up.  Kids are impressionable and they will take whatever you hand them and that will have a strong effect on who they become and what their tastes lean towards and then, effectively, what trends will emerge in their consumerism.

The aspiration I had to become a freelance artist and live my life producing cartoons in my studio seems to be even more unlikely now than ever.  I believe it is the marketplace that has created this disparity.  I see these things being dissolved because the technology is moving forward so quickly and as artists we have to adapt and follow these changes.  We have to find new ways to make a living within the structure of new media.  But with this new media, how many art forms will die because they simply don’t translate from a tactile form to a digital one?  This is when your age starts to catch up with you.  You realize that things really ‘were better back in the old days’, and there’s nothing you can do to stem the tides of change.  It’s time to adapt, or die, just like the dinosaurs.

Although I’ve already done so, I would like to convey my gratitude to Mr. Blitz for taking the time to talk with me and for just being who he is.  He has brought joy and creativity into the lives of many children and inspired artists such as myself, instilling in us a passion for cartooning.  He remains a bastion of an art form that must survive, and I believe will, because of people such as him and the honesty and love they imbue their work with.

Reflecting on Juvenilia: (A look back at old work and what has emerged as my distinct style.)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11, 2011 by jdonat20

After considerable analysis it appears to me that I have acquired, through repetition, mimicry and surrender to my passions, three stylistic attributions beyond the observational realism of technical, academic translation.  This is the triune of my style.

The most basic of these attributes I would characterize as CARTOONING. I refer to this style as ‘The Flip Side’.  When I draw a caricature there’s a kind of visual shorthand that I‘m using to communicate whatever idea the person I am drawing requests of me.  As an illustrator, it is imperative that I know how to draw, or at least fake, everything and anything.  Beyond that, I also have to be able to draw the imaginary.  Exaggerated expressions and movements, bold lines and bright colors are what make cartoons what they are supposed to be…FUN!  Wacky, zany, goofy, ridiculous cartoons are the musings of children and adults alike, come to life on a piece of paper.  I believe this particular aspect of my style to be geared towards children, but not exclusive to them.  I could illustrate children’s books, greeting cards, and magazines.  I could also see this style working for a syndicated comic strip.  Many publications use spot illustrations and cartoon gags to embellish text, and seeing as how I am pretty quick with a bad pun, my wry wit could be conducive to this venue.  Cartooning takes the least amount of effort for me.  In fact it represents a challenge easily met and enjoyably won.  It’s like play time for me.  I can bust out all kinds of cartoons all day long, no problem- especially when I have a captive audience.  It’s the closest I come to performance art.  When I draw a caricature, I am playing to the clients’ humor and creating, right before their eyes, my version of their daydream.  If I make them smile then I’ve done my job.  The type of media I use, pencil, ink, colored pencil and occasionally watercolor, are probably partially to blame for the ease with which I can produce cartoons.

The secondary attribute that I would characterize as an evolution of my cartoony style is my FANTASY ILLUSTRATION.

I often refer to this stylistic offering as ‘From the Outside In’, suggesting I am using my introspective ‘inward eye’ to find these visions.  This aspect can emerge as either an expressionistic, semi-abstract thoughtform, or a narrative with an iconographic feel.  This version of my illustration seems to just sort of happen.  It’s difficult to dictate what comes out when I am being this loose and freewheeling.  There’s really no initial plan.  I could probably fiddle around with it until I figured out a version of it that I could produce regularly, but I tend to retain this aspect of my creative spirit for special projects.  The exhibition I produced called ‘Manifestations’, was a culmination of this type of spontaneous expression.  As pieces of fine art sold at a gallery or a commission as a result of an exhibition I might draw interest, but I think this style is the least compatible with popular media trends.  Obviously this free form expression is my favorite aspect of the three.  They could make interesting book covers or album art perhaps.  My next attribution is a fine-tuned version of this style, sort of a combination of the cartooning and the fantasy art…

My third attribution I would call STORYTELLING art.  This is more like sequential art in appearance just not in style.  I use mixed media to achieve the final result.  Pencil, Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Ink and sometimes Gouache are my weapons of choice.  The completed images range from an illustrative cartoon to an expressive comic book.  The details are a hallmark of the style.  There’s always a lot to look at and think about.  It’s conceptual and narrative.  This is the style I am currently using to produce my Tarot deck.  This is also the style I’ve used on all of my promotional mailers.

This is the aspect of my style that I find the most challenging and the most rewarding.  There is still a level of rebellion apparent in my execution.  To take this attribution to it’s furthest technical intent is not my aspiration.  I enjoy that my expressive, fantasy style mixes with the line work of my cartoony style to create these storytelling contrivances.  I could see this style being used in illustrated books, sequential or non.  The previous post included some poor digital images of old work.  I think it is plain to see where these styles come into play.  I guess the adult decision in response to my own animadversion would be to just pick one style and go with it.  I thought that’s what I was doing with my mailers, but maybe I’m wrong.  The mailer that got me published is more like my cartoony style but with a dark, sequential look to it.  Is that what I’m supposed to create?

I am also open to doing work of a more realistic nature.  I am more than capable of it, it’s just not where my heart lies.  I refrain from marketing myself with this type of work for that reason.

This next paragraph is me thinking out loud and typing at the same time:

It’s really difficult to pin down just what direction to focus all of my energy in.  I could pursue the caricature art with a bit more vigor I suppose, booking more gigs and trying to get more parties.  I could invest in a newspaper ad, or some other kind of local advertisement perhaps.  If I am to begin really fostering the growth of that particular angle then I guess I should probably start documenting the caricatures I do as well huh?  I wish I had even the foggiest notion of how many caricatures I’ve drawn in my life.  My old pal Ray Kuchinka who was my mentor when I first started drawing caricatures at Idlewild Park back in 1995, has a pretty good thing going it seems.  He does a lot of events and he makes a point to network about them.  I guess I should start doing that too.  I don’t want to step on his toes.   I know in business they say competition is a good thing because it brings out the best in the competitors. But I’ve never been one to horn in on someone else’s territory.  I’d have to really consider a lot of logistics in terms of how much advertising is effectively necissary and the cost would obviously have to be reasonable or it wouldn’t be worth it at all.  You can only take a loss so many times in the hopes that it will lead to more business, before you have to stop bleeding the stone.  Maybe this is the direction to go.  It’s easy and fun for me.  I’ve got a lot of experience.  I love drawing people.  They are highly marketable, and since they usually get hung on a wall, they act as their own form of advertising.  Maybe it’s really time to devote myself to this particular attribute and product.  It’s definitely something for me to consider.  I would have to draw up a plan of attack.  I suppose compiling a local mailing list could be a first step.  Letting local businesses know that I am available for events and parties, adding a new section to my web site and Facebook page that gives pricing and examples of the work, and creating a new mailer that is specifically geared towards caricature art and cartooning might be the way to go with this.

Which brings me to my next consideration: mailing lists.  I have purchased editorial mailing lists from the David Goldman Agency several times now.  I would like to do that again.  I would also like to compile a list of the Art Directors of all the major children’s publications and a few children’s book publishers, such as Penguin Books and Harper Collins.  I’d better add this to the checklist.  This blog might actually become my ‘worklist’, and a way for me to look back and remember what I was thinking about doing.  I forget stuff, cuz life gets so busy and cluttered when you are in the midst of it.  I have to write myself ‘to do’ lists almost every day.  It’s good to set small goals for yourself I guess.

Ok, so next on this list of priorities would be creating a mailer that would suit each of these venues I’ve mentioned.  I could make a caricature mailer specific to that product with examples and pricing.  For the editorial art I would need an eclectic set of subjects all rolled up into an image that is cute, but humorous and really stylish, something clean and professional that can make anyone smile.  The children’s publications and books could be a bit more artsy and expressive, as a distinctive style and the ambiance the work evokes seem to be more important to that venue than diversity or clarity of concept.  Ok, wait a minute.  This is a whole lot of money I am talking about here.  Getting one mailer printed costs and arm and a leg.  Getting three different mailers done, that’s just insane!

My colleague Bridgette Mongeon, who has a great blogsite and is a master of self-promotion, recently produced a brochure as opposed to a mailer.  This might be something for me to consider.  I can showcase my diversity while focusing on the three major aspects of my art.  So the brochure could have an editorial illustration on the cover.  I already have a pretty good idea for that (Holiday Heroes!  …shhhh don’t spill the beans!).  Then, on the inside, there could be a series of caricatures and an image of me drawing at an event looking all artsy (heh heh).  Then on the reverse there could be a smattering of more stylized, bookish art.  This might just be it!  If I weren’t so swamped right now, I would jump all over this idea.  I am going to give myself the assignment of producing this mailer/brochure during my break between semesters, after I have completed my current work.  I think I can handle that.

The link above (which was posted for my benefit, as i mentioned- i forget stuff) will direct you to the Carnegie Library web site’s kid’s section.  This is another local business I could consider soliciting that might also lead to some interesting local contacts.  Under the caricature portion of my new mailer/brochure I suppose I could include a blurb about hiring me to do events or even teach workshops on cartooning, as I will be trying my hand at teaching this summer at the Westland Academy for the Arts in downtown Greensburg.  The more I can offer, the better chance I have of making a living, right?

In terms of social networking, I have a Facebook artist page, a Deviant Art porfolio (that desperately needs some attention) and a few other portfolio sites.  I do not have a Twitter account, but I might have to swallow my pride on that one and just hold my nose and dive in.  I need to create a buzz and get my work in front of the eyes of as many people as possible.  What better way than the internet?  With all the people constantly starring at their ‘smart phones’, it seems the best way to get their attention.  This is also why I am considering producing my Tarot deck and graphic novel as E-books, then pursuing a broader publication.  I also think that some type of exhibition to kick off this new push of presumptuous business savy would be beneficial.  Luckily, with the help of Mr. Daniel Overdorff, there may be an opportunity for that in the near future.  I just wish it wasn’t so damned expensive!!!  Framing costs an arm and a leg.  Having prints made is a nightmare not only because of cost, but because often times the ink printers use is non-archival.  Putting together something to accompany the work that describes it, gives prices for prints and suggests pursuing a commissioned work for something more personal is yet another chunk of money I would have to invest, and with no promise of reward or perpetuation of work.

How do artists make money- seriously?  Between the cost of art supplies, and marketing materials, not to mention student loan repayments, how does ANY artist who isn’t super famous make a living?  It just boggles my mind.  I need to get a bunch of grants, but I don’t know the first thing about writing one.  Ah, but that is an entirely different topic for another day I suppose.

I’ve been fortunate to connect with several industry professionals through Facebook.  Social networking has been helpful to me, but I’m not sure how to use it to my advantage in terms of business.  I guess that is something else I will have to experiment with.  Deep breath, one step at a time.  Maybe, since this blog heralded a new beginning for me, I should find a way to make an exhibition more than just a showing of my work.  Maybe it should be a showcase of “me” as a business.  That’s something else to consider and try to plot out.  Newspaper promotion, local television ads, a billboard (which I did once inquire about- HOLY CRAP those are overpriced!) I could draw caricatures at my own exhibition perhaps.  There is so much to consider in terms of promotion that I begin to get a little nauseous.  So much money needs to be spent.  So many investments of time must be made.  I feel like I’ve been dumping so much into this all of my life.  It’s time to water those seeds and see them sprout like sunflowers.  I want this thing to explode and set me free.  It’s time to make it happen.  Well, maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow… but soon, and for the rest of my life.

Taking a walk down memory lane…

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11, 2011 by jdonat20

I was looking back at a bunch of old work and considering how I’ve arrived at this point.  I figured I would share a few pieces and take a break from the verbose blogging for a day…..  

Writing Frenzy!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2011 by jdonat20

I have been type-type-typing and starring at my computer screen for the better part of a week straight.  I’ll bet I have segmented eyes by now.  I finished some packet work for school, wrote a significant portion of my book and tweaked some interview questions in preparation for an upcoming phone conversation.

There’s been a bunch of other stuff too, but it’s all become a jumbled mess of brain spaghetti and I just lost my appetite.

I have been reading tons of stuff on the Internet, including the ‘Bhagavad-Gita’, excerpts from ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and ‘Gilgamesh’.  I go to sleep dreaming about killing the ‘Bull of Heaven’ and I wake up expecting to find myself on a pilgrim trail to the Cathedral in Kent.  I think I have been on the verge of a complete mental breakdown.  I’m walking a thin line.  That’s what happens when I do ‘words’ for too long.  I get touchy, grumpy and my attention span attenuates to the equivalent of a goldfish.

Every conversation I have with anyone lately turns into a debate about taste and philosophy. I feel myself becoming agitated and I’m slipping further and further away from the general populace.  Maybe it’s time to be a hermit again for a while.  I get really mad when my intelligence is tested and my neurons misfire.  It seems like it happens all the time.  Then I have to defend myself because- “I know what I’m talking about, dammit!”  Ugh.  So much mental work for so little reward is starting to really take its’ toll.  I just gotta keep truckin’ and hope it’s all moving towards something super awesome.

One of the interviews that I had planned fell through, so now I am waiting to see if Mr. Bruce Blitz will have some time to chat with me on the phone.  He was a huge influence on me when I first started drawing cartoons, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll be available soon.  In the meantime, I figured I’d address a few more things in terms of the ‘business of illustration’.

My website is meager.  I’d like to redesign it.  This is something that’s on my ‘to do’ list for sure.  Right now my site is pretty much completely geared towards my cartoony, illustrative style.  I think this is my venue as it is the version of illustration that comes easiest to me.  Visual ideas that I can communicate  with this style are wide-ranging.  Deciding which images to use as marketing material is difficult.  I look at a lot of art, in particular illustration.  I’ve seen many styles.  Mine stands out.  Most of what I’ve seen as of late has either a very refined, technical execution, or a painterly verisimilitude.  The most recent stylistic current has been flowing towards digital minimalism and is very flat.  A contrived style is something that I’ve avoided in order to allow my natural predilection to emerge.  I can mimic and work in a wide variety of styles if need be, so it becomes about what sells and what I am willing to sell myself as in order to obtain work.  Perhaps the best thing I can do is to go through all of my work and decide what to focus on and showcase based on what is most popular.

Making the images I chose presentable and exciting to potential clients, that’s the trick.  Selling myself is something I’m just so terrible at.  I love my own work.  I’ve gotten past the point of being super critical.  I recognize what is wrong with a piece technically, but I basically stopped caring about technicalities in favor of entertainment and pure eye-candy.  I make the choices I make because that’s what I want to see.  I would rather a piece be fun and enjoyable to look at as opposed to being technically perfect or realistic.  I find imperfection charming in art, which is probably why the expressionists and fauvists speak to me.  Their styles are impulsive and unrepressed.  It’s like seeing someone’s soul splattered all over a canvas.  It makes me giddy and draws forth an emotional response.  I have fought to remain true to this inclination.  The unfortunate business of it is: expression is less marketable than a facsimile of something popular, clean and flawless.  Something without tactility, without brushstrokes or fingerprints is like listening to music made by automatons… it just lacks essence.  It seems like a lie.  I’m a sincere person.  I don’t want to lie.  I want to be myself and in doing so- make a genuine connection.

I think it is important to establish that I am a cartoonist and that detail and color as well as lowbrow humor are aspects of my creative persona.  Beyond that, the passion is inherent to each image I produce and if you look, you will see it.  I’m not certain where I can go beyond that without pretending to be something that I am not.  I want to lure potential clients in with my style, my humor and my disregard for protocol.  By that I mean that I have not succumb to the apparent need for technical perfection.  I have embraced my imperfection and made it my signature.  Aesthetically, my work is bold, eclectic and pleasing.  I want to be hired for these things.  I want to be desired and sought after because I am known for putting it all out there and really working to bring a concept into reality in a form that both satisfies the client’s sensibilities while simultaneously expressing who I am in every line, every smudge, every expressive splat!

Originally, I wanted this blog, at least in part, to read as a resource for other struggling illustrators.  But instead it’s turned into more of a journal for me to write about what I am considering in terms of my own professional artistry.  I am okay with that.  If I can keep it going, and I am able to find some work I will certainly blog about it.  I can see my blog transforming according to where I am professionally and personally.  I am glad that I started one, even if I am really bad at keeping up with it.  Ideally, I would like my blog to transition from an experimental diary about the business of art making into a marketing tool that I frequently add to and include information about what I am currently working on, what new projects I am pursuing, as well as how my general philosophy on art is changing with the times.  If I can find a way to blog once a week about whatever I might be working on, this could become much more effective and enjoyable.

My Goddard comrade John Kovaleski, creator of ‘Bo Nanas’ and frequent contributor to ‘Mad Magazine; has a blog that he uses to keep others updated as to his current creations.  It’s really entertaining to stop by it every now and then and read about what he is up to.  I hope someday my blog is more like his.

If I had a Twitter account I might be able to convince more people to follow me and be interested in what I am creating.  Although, as it is, I’ve had trouble even convincing my Facebook friends to ‘like” the artist page I created in addendum to my personal page.  I’m just not sure how to get myself out there, in the face of everyone and anyone.  Short of a billboard, a commercial on public access television or some kind of publicity stunt, I just don’t know what to do.  If I had a bunch of free stuff to give away or an opportunity to produce work in front of a large group of people with deep pockets, maybe then I could garner some attention.  Hmmmm.  Now I’m starting to think about what kind of publicity stunt not involving vandalism or personal injury/embarrassment I could get away with.

I will have to return to this topic after I’ve had some time to consider what I am willing to endure for a dollar…

The ‘not fun stuff’… (part 2 of 2)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2011 by jdonat20

Ok, so I’m thinking I have a few different target markets, any of which I would be happy to produce work in.

1.)   Children’s books and publications… would be the first venue.

I am reasonably good at drawing ‘cute and fuzzy’.  I have enough technical ability to devise a style specific to the client’s needs based on what they may be drawn towards aesthetically.  I can mix media including, but not limited to: watercolor, crow quill pen, colored pencil, marker, acrylic paint and gouache to produce all manner of different results.  If a client has a particular style in mind, I could mimic that style pretty effectively.  This is the confidence in my ability that my education and practice have given me.

So, what kind of marketing materials do I need to produce in order to grab the attention of children’s book publishers?  Once I’ve figured that out, whom do I solicit and how do I go about doing it?  Is a promotional mailer enough?  If I am planning on soliciting editorial art directors as well, should I attempt to produce a mailer with subject matter that fits into either category, or should I make separate mailers for different genres?

2.)   Editorial Illustrations… would be another venue for my skills.  I could do spot ads, vignettes, even covers for virtually any published material looking for a clever cartoon.  Style is a big selling point in this market.  They want your personal, visual language to be starkly different than everyone else’s so it really stands out and grabs you.  Otherwise it needs to be extremely similar to another artist who they regularly employ, that way- if their go-to-guy is over-booked and up to his eyeballs in deadlines, you can be his pick-up artist.  Well, as much as I am certain I COULD mimic a style if given the assignment, I am not interested in being a shadow for someone else.  I want the product I am selling to be ME, not the reminiscence of someone else.  So, that being said, I need to be sure that whatever style graces my mailer is one that is “in” and also, “fresh”.  How to do that, and still remain truthful?  I am not above contriving a style based on what is popular, but I would certainly rather find myself a commodity based on what I naturally produce.  Realistically, how can I make this happen?

3.)   Sequential art… would be my third preference.  I’ve always loved comics, and there was a time when I considered both a syndicated comic strip and a career in comic books.  I think I got turned off to the notion because I have serious creative issues with the idea of illustrating someone else’s characters.  Someone once said to me, “The world doesn’t need more people who can draw Batman or Spiderman.  The world needs new ideas.”  Well, I’ve always thought of myself as kind of an ‘idea machine’.  With the rise in popularity of the graphic novel, I am hoping that this craving for new ideas is truly an evolving trend.  That being the case, e-books might also be a good route to go with something of that nature.  Ok,ok stop- I’m thinking out loud now.  Back to the point; sequential art.  If I were to pursue sequential art as a career I would have to get over the whole. ‘I don’t wanna draw batman’ thing and just suck it up.  Also, I did not go to school for sequential art and I am therefore at a distinct disadvantage.  My roommate was a sequential art major and the specifics of what they were basically being trained to produce were nothing like the freewheeling, expressive techniques I learned from being an illustration major.  Comic book artists use blue pencil on Bristol with ink and computers for colorization.  I use paint and pastels, rag paper and sometimes, even canvass.  Comic book artists develop a distinct style that emerges through tight pencil work and stark inking techniques meant to convey mood and create drama.  I mix media in a sloppy, soupy, chunky mess and then I sculpt away at the mess until it becomes a refined, yet loose and exuberant image with little attention paid to perspective, architecture, or lighting.  There’s also this little problem of how I don’t like drawing anything mechanical, nor do I enjoy drawing buildings.  In fact, I despise it.  It’s one of the most boring things ever to be an expressive illustrator and have someone ask you to use a ruler and a bunch of photos to draw a damn building, or a car or a robot.  The robot might be slightly more interesting, especially if it has organic parts.  Generally, the use of a ruler takes away my freedom of expression and so I lose interest.  You can’t become a comic book artist if you don’t want to draw cars, guns, buildings, etc.  It’s that simple.  This might be the main reason I’ve shied away from the idea of it all these years.  Anyways, in the interview I did with Gil Sanchez (who actually painted his comic book pages- so yes, there are exceptions to the rule), he told me that having examples of the tent pole characters of each company to show at a portfolio review is the best way to get work.  If this is the case, I’m screwed.  I stopped drawing Batman and Spiderman in favor of my own characters about twenty years ago.  Now the only way you get that out of me is if I’m drawing your caricature and you request it.

This brings me to the actual logistics of promotional ephemera.  I don’t like the idea of having to send out a new wave of mailers to 800 plus art directors every three months.  It’s just too expensive.  However, it would certainly keep my work in front of their eyes.  If only there were a cheaper way to produce them, but there’s not, from what I have seen.  Having work showcased in certain illustration periodicals, I have heard, is an effective way to get attention.  But the cost there is even more than the promotional mailers, and there is no guarantee that the people you want to see it will see it.  The old adage “You gotta spend money to make money,” haunts me.  I don’t have any money.  I need to make money, THEN I can spend some of it on marketing materials.  I certainly can’t afford to spend that money on marketing materials that aren’t going to be seen by the people I’m trying to impress.  So, I’m stuck making mailers and crossing my fingers, toes and eyes.

I would prefer to create an image that could cover all three of the proposed genres above, but that is quite difficult.  I have an idea in my head, but now I have to clear the time on my calendar between schoolwork and other projects to produce it.

Curse you time!  There’s never enough of you in the day and even when I stay up until six in the morning, trying in vain to stretch my work hours, you still find me later and I am left rushing to catch up.  Time and stress are the enemies of all who live.  The ticking clock is my nemesis.  I always said, if I could have one super power- it would be complete control over time.

I have used Facebook to set up an artist page and I have about forty fans right now.  I guess having a fan page is sort of useless until you hit the big time.  Then your name becomes a byword and your work becomes a symbol.  I’ve added work samples to several online portfolios and I have a web site of course, but these things are only effective if people know they exist.  Just like me, unless they are aware of my existence, what good does all my skill do me?  It really just gives me something to sell.  I am marketable in the sense that I can provide both a service and a product.  But of course, I’m not the only one.  Those positions are all filled and they remain that way for a long time, until someone retires or dies usually.  When a spot opens up, a thousand people all cram together, trying to squeeze themselves through the door.  I need to figure out how to slip past the congestion and directly into the lap of that “right person”.  It sounds like such a fantasy.

Prayers, magick, manipulation of the universal stream of chakral energy, which should I try next?

Finding a representative is as difficult as finding the work itself.  It requires the same scrutiny and manner of persuasion.  Talent, style or marketability, which is most important?  Which gets you the most work?  Which one is paramount in the search for representation?  I wish I knew.  If I could find a rep, I think things would start to happen.  But that’s like a pirate saying, “I wish I could find buried treasure.”  Even with a map, there are perils and booby traps along the way.  You can’t trust anyone.  Everyone is competing with you.  Once you find where ‘X’ marks the spot, you gotta dig and work to unearth it, all the while watching your back.  Once you’ve done that, you have to find a way to transport it- as it can become quite a burden if you are not prepared to carry the load.  People will be running behind you trying to pick up whatever you drop and of course, trying to sabotage any attempt you make at getting back to your ship.  Once you have made it to your ship and you have your treasure, everyone expects to be paid for helping you get there.  Everyone is a charity case.  I am a charity case.  I just want that one person to give me a lucky break.  I want the chance to prove I can carry the load.  Getting that opportunity requires you to set sail on stormy seas, and many never return.

Ok, that’s about enough of that analogy.  I’m starting to crave seafood and a flagon of rum.

If I were an artist rep, what would I want to see: In this economy, I’d probably be on the lookout for something safe.  It would have to reflect the kitschy style that has become the popular norm and have a smarmy sophistication, as well as an easily reproduced, digital color and feel.  It would basically have to be EXACTLY what I don’t like about modern, illustration. Figures….. hmphf!

I’m gonna go brood in a corner now while I think some more about…. stuff.

The ‘not fun’ stuff…(part 1 of 2)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 by jdonat20

As you may have noticed, my second wind for this blogging project has tapered off into a occasional (about once every two weeks) consideration.  I can’t help it.  I’m really trying to be more consistent.  I tend to get sidetracked by too many other things.  I guess the fact that I’m doing it at all is still better than nothing though… right?

With this installment I want to satisfy a logistical need and simultaneously get something I consider to be relatively unpleasant out of the way.  This particular post will deal specifically with the nitty-gritty of money making.

Now, depending on the project, the commission rate obviously changes.  If I were doing a watercolor painting as opposed to a quickie caricature in sharpie markers the amount of time, application of technique, subject matter and, of course, the materials used would alter the cost dramatically.  Because of this variation I need to establish a basic hourly rate for my services that I can apply to any given project, this way I can consider what my time is worth first, then add on the cost of the peripherals.  I think that, as a professional talent who has spent his life pursuing a career in art, who feels that he is reasonably proficient in multiple styles and who needs to be fairly compensated for his level of education and technical facility, $25.00 per hour is an equitable rate of pay.  However, this rate is based exclusively on illustration work.  If I were to be busting out tons of caricatures at a festival or similar venue, I would have to charge more per hour, else I would be completely screwing myself.  This is why, when approached to do caricatures, I will often give the client a choice between $75.00 per hour, or they would have to allow me to charge per caricature (between $5.00 and $15.00 per person).

When I was commissioned by Cobblestone Publishing to create a double page spread for their Halloween issue, I was offered a flat rate of $400.00.  This was non-negotiable and of course I leapt at the chance to be published, so there was no question in my mind.  Based on my personal rate of $25.00 per hour, that particular job should have taken me roughly 16 hours to complete.  Admittedly, it took a lot longer than that, but I wanted to make a great first impression.  Drawing several monsters on top of a map of the world was going to be a timely task no matter what.  There is a level of quality that, as a professional, I must adhere to despite my going rate, and this means that I will often make the sacrifice of getting paid less than I should.  At least most art directors can ‘ball park’ a figure that is reasonable.  The average person who is out of their depth when approaching a professional artist to design something for them has no idea what they will be charged.  Any price seems too high because, “art is fun” right?  They could just as easily have their teenage son or the girl down the street design something for their bake-sale flyer, and it would be way cheaper.  Well OF COURSE it will be- they didn’t spend 28 years and $100,000 dollars to become a skilled, professional artist!  I mean c’mon now- you wouldn’t expect a dentist to work on your teeth for next to nothing, and if you didn’t like their prices you sure as hell wouldn’t ask your brother to extract your wisdom teeth for you.   I’ve been drawing a whole lot longer than most dentists have been working on teeth, so I think I am entitled.  But it seems like no one gets that.

Consider what goes into creating an illustration for someone.  There’s the initial research, the thumbnails and all manner of preparatory work before I can even begin the actual drawing.  The first few rough drafts help the client decide what direction to push me in visually.  Then we start the final, which then might be revised.  The more revisions, the more time it takes, the more of a pain in the ass it becomes and therefore additional charges accumulate.  When a piece is done, the client must realize that they are purchasing the first rights to the image which means that they can print it, but they cannot reprint and sell that image unless they chose to purchase the full rights.  The difference between these two ideas is lost on most people.  They don’t understand that they cannot continually use an image without compensating the artist, unless they OWN the image itself.  It is this part of the business that the average, off-the-street client does not want to deal with.  The minute you start talking legalities most people tune out and change their minds about working with you.  So how can this be avoided?  There’s no easy answer for that.  I believe in being honest and upfront about everything in business and so allowing someone to believe they are getting one thing, then charging them for another only to later point out the fine print in a contract and thereby extract even more money from them is something I would like to avoid.  The contracts I have created are very comprehensive in my opinion.  Contracts, however, tend to be a deterrent when it comes to freelancing for any normal person as well.  They want to just write you a check and be done with it.  But if they decide to write that party (that I did caricatures at) off as a business expense, and my name is on the bill, how do I claim that in my taxes?

That brings back the issue of tax write-offs and what I should keep receipts for in order to acquire recompense.  Now my head starts to ache.  I’m so incapable of dealing with this.  I need an agent who can take care of this part for me.  I really need to make another attempt at finding representation.  At least then I can deal with people professionally and I’ll be guaranteed records of all my transactions.

The contracts I have created are adaptable to any work I might be asked to do, and they include information about revisions, kill fees and the specific rights the client is purchasing.  I am always clear in my communication with the client and I do my best to try and figure out exactly what they are seeking before I even begin work.  If they are coming to me, they were either referred to me by word of mouth or they received a promotional mailer and thereby were directed to my website, so they SHOULD effectively know what they will be getting if they hire me.  My online portfolio is currently very specific.  I ‘streamlined’ (which is a fancy word for edited the crap out of) my site so that there were far fewer images and all of them are very similar in style.  This can be beneficial professionally when dealing with art directors, but the average person who sees only one style of art (in this case cartoony illustrations) assumes that’s all you do and so they would never think to hire me to do a portrait or a landscape.  I am not altogether upset by this.  I prefer to draw cartoons and that is the style in which I would like to advance professionally.  If I were really hard up for cash though, I might put an ad in the local newspapers that displays a more marketable set of images for the available clientele.  Example; I live in ‘old people and rich folk’ town.  These people probably want portraits of their family and landscapes of familiar places, rendered realistically in expensive media.  I accept this.  I realize I live in an area where the demand for any art without verisimilitude is sparse.  There are small contingents of artists and art hobbyists who like more eclectic styles, but for the most part, if I wanted to begin a lucrative practice specific to my geography, I would have to create work that is completely disconnected from my passion.  But, I guess that’s why it’s called work.  It’s not supposed to be enjoyable right?  Who ever said the business of art was ‘fun’ deserves a swift kick in the pants.

From a professional point of view, I believe my ‘streamlined’ web site displays an overall style and that my brand is apparent.  It is a vivid, cartoony, detail-oriented, low-brow style that could serve several purposes.  Childrens books, editorial illustrations, spot ads, greeting cards, magazines (in particular those with fantasy themes) and really anything that is wacky or zany seems to be my specialty.  My stylistic brand is loose, iconic and colorful.  It’s what comes naturally and so I continue to foster it’s growth in whatever direction it leads me.  In respect to how to make my brand a commodity, outside of sending a regular fleet of promotional mailers to the art directors of all the major US publications, I’m not really sure what else to do to make them aware of my presence.  Of course my style needs to catch someone’s eye.  My approach to doing that is probably different than the average professional.  So far, I’ve seen little to no results from this strategy, so I’m obviously going about it the wrong way.  My style and general subject matter do not suit the majority and the market is stuffed to the gills with already operating, reliable professionals.  Who is gonna give me a chance when they already have ten other people on speed dial?  I have to really impress them to get noticed and that’s beyond difficult.  I have to remain true to my style in the hopes that it will eventually pan out.  But, despite the encouragement of family and friends, I’m not sure that if I “just hang in there” much is going to change.  I have faith in my ability, and although I may be biased, I really like my style.  I would hire me!

How can I reach more potential clients?  Where is the market for my particular style?  This question plagues me.

To be continued……