I… *thumps chest* have made badges! (imagine that in a Tom Hanks voice, and continue for the rest of this post)
To help promote ourselves as up-and-coming Illustrators looking for work, our tutors suggested we look into unusual ways to get our name out there – something a little different from the standard business card/postcard route. I thought it would be fun to make badges (or ‘pins’ if you’re American) with my characters/web address on, and here’s what I came up with:
I think they turned out pretty well for a first batch 🙂
Featured from top to bottom:
1st Line: Mascot from my soon-to-be-website whereIdrawtheline.com, Cosmo Cat, and a Meteor Mouse
2nd Line: The Carrot Crusader and his side-kick PeeWee
3rd Line: The Carrot Crusader’s evil nemesis, Dr Potassium and Sour-faced reporter/token love interest Peachie Keen
4th Line: Name for my new website and Emo Cat, a character from my 2nd year work
Here’s a few shots of the badges in action…
Time’s rapidly running out on the University clock for many of us, and while some of us struggle to get everything sorted out and printed last minute (i.e: me) others have not only managed to get designs finalised, but have also somehow found the cash to expand into actual merchandise (honestly, I don’t know how they do it) – I refer to the creative team of my younger brother Jon, and his partner
in crime Ms. Megan Morris, and the Ebb & Flo project in particular.
Jon and Megan have always been beach bunnies, and have successfully introduced both my parents to body boarding and wetsuits (an impressive feat in itself) so I wasn’t surprised to hear that Megan was working on her own surfing brand. However, after a week of stressing out over Facebook about not being able to come up with a name for her brand she actually liked, we decided to put our brains together and hash out a few possibilities. Eventually we both agreed that ‘Ebb and Flo’ worked best, as I personally enjoyed the three letter stackable nature of the words, and my brain was already coming up with logo ideas. I spent a fun hour doodling in my sketchbook, then jotted out this inked version in about 20 minutes:
As I say, it was only quick, but I liked rubiks-cube like order of the design, and how the wave was integrated into the lettering (the sweep of the wave carving out the shape of the ‘L’ in particular) and Megan liked it so much she asked to use it along side her own design (a much fancier and more professional looking logo, but hey, she IS a Graphic Designer!) and that it would appear on Ebb & Flo merchandise, and maybe even a surf board! Anyway, I told Megan that the design was hers to do with as she pleases, all I asked in return was a free sample and sure enough, my T-shirt came through the post today!
As you can see, the design received a few tweaks here and there to neaten it up a bit, and I think it looks great 🙂 You can see Megan’s logo design on the label and tag, here’s a close up including my own ‘tag’ which I use to sign most of my work:
The tag has just been photo-shopped on here to show what it would look like; the majority of the clothing features Megan’s design, so it would have cost more than they had at the time to do two separate labels, but that’s fine with me – it still looks great to see my tag up there… looks like I’m an actual, real-life designer or something You can see what I mean about Megan’s logo design though, it really does seem to ebb and flow… clever girl… *bonus points for dinosaur related quote*
Anyway, I’m sure you don’t want to see me in mine, so here is Jon and Megan modelling their own goods (vain or what? :P) in front of some poor bloke’s garage door… come on guys, he’s late for work already, and it’s the third time this week…
You can find Ebb & Flo on facebook or twitter, and they currently have a website under construction – www.ebbandflo.co – and they’re both lovely people (yes, even my brother, what can i say, he doesn’t get it from me…) so I’m sure they would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Megan and Jon both study at Newport University, and both graduate this year. Jon’s degree will be in animation, and he’s currently working on an awesome little film that i can’t wait to share with you all once it’s finished – watch this space!
Well, it’s that time again. Creative Futures has passed like a lumpy stool… it may have been hard work at times, but now it’s time to explore my leavings and see what I digested. Hmm, a rather unpleasant analogy perhaps, but as everyone knows and very few people admit, there are few things more satisfying than taking a big dump, and Creative Futures is the same – on the hole, an intense learning experience. Well, that’s enough poop talk, let’s get stuck in shall we?
The week started off in an unusual fashion with a
brief summary of the life of William Shakespeare… the eventual moral of the story being that while famous as a creative type, old Wills was also a ruthless business man – and so should we be. Afterwards we had a talk by the editor of Design Week Angus Montgomery, who among other cool stuff, showed us these alternative energy saving light bulb designs by UK design company Plumen – I think they’re beautiful, and the concept is brilliant – I’ve never been a fan of energy saving light bulbs, but I never realised just how boring their design was until I saw these, which I suppose is the key concept of a great business idea – finding something people didn’t know they wanted, and capitalising on it.
Next up was cheeky chappie Mr John Allison, web comic illustrator extraordinaire and all-round nice guy who we decided might make quite a good Doctor Who Doctor. Look, here he is:
John’s talk ‘Building an audience’ was all about knowing your audience, and by that I mean the audience of fans you gather as people start to take an interest in your work. John’s most popular comic thus far has been Scary Go Round, featuring tales of bizarre happenings in the fictional town of Tackleford. When he brought Scary Go Round to a close, he said that he lost a large chunk of his fan-base, and when he started his new project Bad Machinery which is aimed at a younger audience, he lost even more. His advice was simply to treat your audience with respect – yes you might loose people on the way, but at the same time you can’t just pamper to the fans, as your work will never develop in new ways/you’ll never have chance to explore new ideas – as long as you don’t end a loved series with a big ‘fuck you’, the fans will come back eventually (note: this is a summary of John’s words as interpreted by my notebook, and is not in anyway a word for word transcript!)
John showed us some of his older work, and it was interesting to see his transition from traditional, to digital, and then back to traditional again (well, a combination of the two really) – in my opinion his more recent work, with the hand drawn lines is the best he’s done so far, but it was encouraging to hear that it took him a long time to find his feet with it, especially as this exact medium-style issue is something I’ve been wrestling with recently. One thing I did pick up on though was just how much effort he put in with the sheer amount of comics he was drawing – as much as I love drawing, it’s a level of dogged determination and commitment I’ve yet to find
I made quite a few scribbled notes on John’s talk, so I’ll summarise via the ancient art of bulletpoints:
- Put the hard work in and it’ll pay for itself in the end
- Respect your audience
- Be consistent with your artwork – if you alter your style too much, you may alienate those that were attracted to the old style in the first place
- Don’t be shy – sell your stuff at conventions
- Be confident – believe that people want to buy your comics
- Make contacts – email people who do similar work to your own, get feedback/advice
- Study Successful people – learn from them
- Be Enthusiastic about learning – you’re doing something you enjoy, it should be fun, but don’t believe you know it all yet
- Fund yourself through Marketing – sell your designs on merchandise (t-shirts etc) to help pay the bills
He also had some trade secrets about jobs and how to handle clients – but they wouldn’t be secrets if I blurted them out here, so tough! But he did say that business cards are things that get picked up… and thrown away – it’s best to explore other, more attention grabbing options – something I plan to work on over easter.
(interesting, John was saying how the panel layout for Bad Machinery was designed with tablets in mind )
And finally just this, as I thought it was awesome:
The illustrator/animator Karen Cheung followed, and was one of the first speakers I’ve heard at Creative Futures that actually said she used an agent (Jelly) something which I’ve considered, but not explored yet. Karen said that her agent charges 30% commission, which has been a controversial subject in class, as some people think it’s too much, whereas others think it’s reasonable… I’m not sure yet. Some of the client’s Karen has worked with through Jelly seem to make the larger commission worth it (Peugeot, Virgin Media and Paramount Comedy) so I guess perhaps it’s the old student thing of not wanting to part with any money. The thought of having someone else deal with all the clients and haggle for money is appealing, but then there’s a part of me that thinks it’s something I need to experience to grow as a professional. Karen said that she prefers it that way, as she’s very shy, but I could help but feel that if she had to deal with these demanding people herself, maybe she would be a little more confident? I don’t know, but she was lovely anyway 🙂
Karen used to be a zoologist, so many of her illustrations feature animals. In 2006 she won the MacMillan Prize for her book ‘Sheepless’, a quirky little tale about a small boys journey into his own body to find all the missing sheep he’s failing to count late at night. Despite winning, her book wasn’t actually published due to the slightly graphic content (by which I mean detailed drawings of inner body parts) which I find a bit strange – why would her entry win if they didn’t want to publish it? Food for thought considering my current project…
Karen’s most famous for her animation work, which includes two short films (Headache Hotel and Welcome to the Zoo) and animations done for the Paramount Comedy channel (which I think is now Comedy Central). Here’s her showreel:
I also popped along to Jonathan Edwards‘ talk as I always do, as I think his work is great, but I also follow him on twitter where he posts a LOT of his recent illustrations/character designs, so I didn’t make a whole heap of notes. Good news though! According to his tweets he’s decided to make an Inspector Cumulus comic! For those of you unfamiliar with the character here’s a toy Jonathan had made:
I’ve emailed Jonathan about the best way for me to go about making a toy of one of my own characters, and annoyingly haven’t had time to follow his advice since the semesters (and therefore my projects) changed – but it’s on the checklist dammit! Not long ago there was a competition to win one of these little beauties called ‘Draw Cumulus’ which I entered… but unfortunately I entered it too late – I hadn’t realised the timezone difference!! Missed it by a few hours! ARGH – not a mistake I’ll be making twice anyway. As I don’t think I’ve posted it up yet, here’s my entry:
A repeating pattern called Inspector Cumulus: Hard Case (little pun there) – it’s a bit messy now I look back on it, and it’s much more Jonathan’s style than my own, but I think it still works really well, and I enjoy the colours I used for this piece. Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to this one, which if it didn’t win, it really bloody well should have done!
Jonathan also told us that the next character in this series is also up for the toy treatment; Private Detective Hopton Moss – can’t wait to see it 🙂 The rest of his talk was about the work that he and his partner Louise Evans (AKA the Felt Mistress) have been doing in Tokyo recently, including helping to design rather stylish looking Kimono’s…
all based on this one repeated illustration…
…pretty clever huh?
But seriously, the best way to see what Jonathan is up to to to follow him on twitter. Or if you’re American: “twitTOR” – do it now!!
Creative Futures was wrapped up for me with a video conference call between Dan and his friend Martin Steenton, publicist at Blank Slate Books which I’m sure to them was a very casual affair, with jokes and japes and Martin looking like he was just relaxing at home waiting for the kettle to boil, but it was a first for me, and made me feel like a proper professional (not that ACTUAL professionals would have got that excited over it of course) and was overall a pretty surreal experience! But that aside, I think I found it to be the most useful and informative of all the talks. As much as I enjoyed the visual side of the illustrators talks, the interesting thing about the video call with Martin was that he was speaking to us from the other side of the fence – the client side; he knows what he, and other publishers are looking for in artists such as myself and did his best to summarise it in an hours talk. Suffice to say, I made a great many notes, so I’ll do my best to wrap them up in a cohesive manner…
Ways to get noticed
- Get your name out there – use social networks such as Twitter to help spread your work around – a retweet by the right person can share your work with thousands of people with similar interests
- Pitch to publishers – email or just mail them, get their attention
- Make your work visible – use blogging, website promotion and the right tagging to score higher google search results
What Publishers are actually looking for
- Some publishers will be looking for finished, polished work ready for publishing… but not all
- Blank Slate are generally looking for more of a ‘concept’ – if you can show that you have the necessary skills and can explain throughly where a project will go and what it’s target audience/market value would be, it might be enough to get published
- KNOW how to sell your work – be enthusiastic about the project, present it in a well informed manner – KNOW your audience
- Prior Contact – having already contacted people who work for publishers (such as through twitter) can be a great way to break the ice
- Research the Publisher – if you’re work is in the style of Indie comics, approaching a superhero-centric publisher such as Marvel would greatly reduce your chance of getting publisher. See who they are already publishing – is it similar to your own work?
- Be Persistent – don’t give up, sometimes it takes artists an age to get noticed, but even if it does, continual posting on the internet will give you a strong web presence, as well as a larger online portfolio
- Tailor your work to the publisher you want
- Sell YOURSELF, not just your work
- If you can get recommendations/quotes from established artists it’s a great way to get a publishers attention – don’t be shy, just ask them, most are happy to help if they can
- Some publishers such as ‘No-Brow’ are looking for particular styles – often craft-based in No-Brow’s case
- Others, such as Blank Slate, are more general – increasing your chances if your work doesn’t easily fall into one particular catagory
- Foreign markets may require different approaches – European comics are very traditional-media based, whereas the flooded comic market of the US and Canada might require a more ‘fresh’ approach in order to get noticed
- Artist approaches publisher
- Publisher buys work for an advance
- At Blank Slate you keep the character rights, but Blank Slate gains the publishing rights for a limited period
- A Publisher can buy rights to one of your characters off you, but you then lose the rights to this character and any further success it might have in the future
- As you become better known in the illustrator community, you can ask for more money
- Publishers are after direct sales rather than through stores such as Amazon, as that’s where the higher profits are made, but this limits your exposure somewhat, so don’t expect big royalties straight away
- Digital Publishing has become much more popular in recent years, but is vulnerable to piracy
Do’s and Don’ts
Publicity and Marketing
- When pitching to a publisher DO have as much work to show them as possible, even roughs – anything to help show where the project is going
- DO explain why it will work, who it appeals to
- DO include emails, quotes or reviews if you have them from fellow artists
- DO email publishers before hand asking them if you can send them work to look at – if you have more than one contact at the same publisher, email them both – double your chances and create a talking point between these two colleagues
- DO approach publishers tables at conventions – show them a short, concise portfolio
- DO print things yourself in small quantities if you are able, and send them to publishers so they can SEE the project as it will appear finished
- DON’T be arrogant, be confident
- DON’T be unfocused about your work – make it coherent
- DON’T send someone your work if it’s clear from the outset they’re not going to like it (see ‘House Styles’)
- DON’T ask for ‘honest feedback’ unless you REALLY want it!
- DO make your table look nice – put a bit of effort in – if it looks like a miniature shop, people will be more encouraged to buy things
- DO be friendly, charming and polite – no publisher wants a Diva on their rota
- DO bring only your BEST work with you
- DO make friends at these events, with publishers and fellow illustrators alike – you’re all like-minded people
- DON’T bring every piece of work you’ve ever drawn – keep your portfolio up to date and concise
For those of you wondering where Back To The Creative Future’s Part I and Part II are, bravo for getting this far down the page! The links are below, but they are only from last year, and are in nowhere near this amount of detail – some of the artists featured are still amazing though, so feel free to snoop 🙂
Apart from the odd competition, this semesters work is going to revolve around a children’s book that I am attempting to write and illustrate. It would be nice to have it ready for entry into the McMillan Book Prize, but as i’m fairly new to this, we’ll see how it goes.
My style of art has always had a degree of “cuteness” about it. To start with, it used to annoy me, as it was (and still IS, I haven’t given up yet!) my goal to become a graphic novelist, and cute doesn’t really fit in with Adamantium claws and symbiotic suits (unless you count X-Babies I suppose, and who does…). I used to blame an over-exposure to cartoons, which along with caffeine, are the only vices I pursue with any vigour, but with new cartoons such as Adventure Time and Regular Show being cute, but with a darker, more satirical edge, it seems there’s a market for children’s stories with more bite, and my tutors agree with me – not to mention my one tutor has been trying get me to draw a children’s book for ages 😛
The basic plot of the book revolves around the natural rivalry between two young boys, escalating into an argument about who’s brother could beat the other’s brother in a fight; with the stories of the older brother’s brawling abilities transforming into ridiculous claims of vampire and werewolf heritage… amongst other things. The bones of the story are likely to alter over the weekend, as after chatting with my tutors I realised I was doing far too much explaining in the text AND the pictures, and not illustrating enough action, which is where all the fun is, but I thought I would share my work so far so you can see it start to take shape.
Technique – Layered Glass
Wanting to do something different this time, I thought I would try out a technique I first experimented with during the first year. Basically, the idea is to separate your illustration into foreground, mid-ground and background, and then sandwich these layers of illustration between layers of glass, stacked one on top of the other so that when you look down on it, you get a real 3D sense of depth. The more glass layers you use, the greater the sense of depth. To help explain what i mean, here’s a handy diagram I knocked up:
and to give you an idea of what it looks like, here’s the paper cut-out I did in the first year of Pinocchio getting swallowed by the Whale…
(Warning: File has not been re-sized and is LARGE)
As you can see, the blue/green tint of the glass gives the illustration a great sense of perspective, and while I’m sure the same effect can be replicated on a computer easily enough, I’m not quite there with my digital skills yet. By adding blue tinted transparent layers between cut-outs in Photoshop, you do get a SENSE of how it might look, and that’s what I did with this experimental, snowy scene:
If you look at the colour of the snow on the road, you can see how it would appear underneath four layers of glass thanks to the blue-tinted layers. The snowflakes and glow around the lamps were obviously added by a digital paintbrush here, but could just as easily be replicated by a regular paintbrush and some real paint on the top layer of glass, then wiped off when it’s time to shoot the next piece.
The scene itself is copied from an image found on Google – here’s the two side-by-side:
The two main of the story are two young boys currently named Jonny Thompson and Tommy Johnson – they are the exact same height, age and weight, their names are similar and they even LOOK similar – people are always getting them mixed up and it drives them crazy. I’ve tried two slightly different methods for the boy’s cut-out’s, and neither are quite working for me – the hard line of the fine-liner used on Tommy is too harsh, whereas the softer coloured pencil used on Jonny looks a bit rough and unprofessional. I’m still tinkering with these two, but this is what they look like at the moment:
This project is going to take up most of my time over the next couple of months, so if you like what you see here be sure to stop by from time to time, and I’ll try and keep the blog as up to date on the project as I can 🙂
Here’s my entry for the D&AD Illustration brief – a front cover design for Little White Lies magazine. the brief was to create an illustration in the same style of most that adorn the front cover of the magazine, that of a portrait depicting the main character, with hand-written type stating the name of the film itself – there were several films to choose from; I picked the JJ Abrams film ‘Super 8’.
Why Super 8?
I’ve watched Super 8 recently and I thought it was a excellent film – it features a simple if slightly over-used concept, and the genre of sci-fi/horror is not exactly new, but that fits in perfectly with it’s 70’s setting and small american town folksiness. Brilliantly acted by it’s young cast and given the extra sheen (and lens flares) that has made JJ Abrams a popular name, the film reminds me of E.T, and other alien-orientated adventures of my childhood days, such as Flight Of The Navigator and it’s this sense of nostalgia I get when I watch it that makes the film so endearing.
About the Design
I feel portraiture is a strength of mine, but finding a theme-appropriate setting for this portrait was at first, somewhat problematic – I drew several different versions of this same head (that of main star Joel Courtney) each with a different style, and while they were all good in different ways, I could not find a way to link them to the film (other than the fact that it features the main character of course) – most of the screen shots I found on Google just had him looking terrified, so I wanted to try a different approach. Eventually I had the idea of building his face from the tiny alien cubes that make up the alien’s spaceship in the movie – and I think it works really well. I was worried at one point that he was starting to resemble ‘Pinhead’ from the Hellraiser film franchise, but I think by softening the lines I’ve avoided that. He looks quite sad, but then the character goes through quite a lot of emotional turmoil during the length of the film, so I think a slightly forlorn expression is more than reasonable given the circumstances! Putting the text in a Super 8 film strip seemed like a no-brainer to me, and perhaps it IS a little obvious, but I’m hoping no-one else will have thought filling the entire background with the same strips – if only because drawing them took the longest out of everything!
I’m really pleased with the finished design. What the white/grey head loses in depth that some of my other versions had, it gains in a sense of innocence, and spooky, other-worldly light. As already mentioned, I’m chuffed with the background – the time it took to draw paid off, and although I tried several colours, this dark purple/red/brown shade really makes a good contrast to the soft light of the head. The type lacks a little of my usual flare, but makes up for it in impact, and even looks kind of old-school too. Overall it was worth the time, hard-work and money I put into it, and even if I don’t win, I would be pleased to feature it in my portfolio.
Final piece – Line Work
Here’s the head and the film strips as I drew them, before they went through the Photoshop car wash:
As mentioned above, I went through several versions of the head while i was trying to decide which one I would use. Here are the best of the rest:
– Pencils: This is of course, the medium I’m most confortable in, and while it was technically quite accurate, it was the safe option, and therefore rather boring…
– Brushpen: This one was a lot of fun actually. I never usually given myself the freedom of JUST using a brushpen, as usually the inaccuracy bugs me… but I really liked this one.
– Cross-Hatching: This was more my usual sort of style – tight, controlled line – some parts (such as the hair) work better than others (such as the skin tones) but I liked this one too – it seemed quite striking as an image
– Lines: Back to pencil again, this time with the aid of a ruler. I’d never done anything like this before, but I REALLY liked the effect – this was my second choice if the cubes hadn’t of worked.
Just as a parting gift, I though i would share the different stages of my cross-hatching piece. I scanned them in as I was going in case A) I needed a more basic version of the linework for something and B) quite frankly, in case I ballsed it up completely.
Special thanks to Brogan, Martin and Andy for putting up with my MANY questions about the submission of artwork process, and Lucy for helping me make most of the important decisions!
Quick post to show what I’ve been working on over the last couple of days – this week is now COLOUR week. It’s taken me forever and a day to ink my pages, but I’m confident they will all be coloured within the week (what this says about my digital colouring skills is debatable)…
So, here’s the final(ish) front cover of the comic I’ll be handing in for this semesters assessment: “Who Killed Artie Choke?” – a superhero whodunnit with a vegetable cast
I’m pleased with it at the moment, but as I said, another week to go yet, so I might make some alterations to the fonts/image size etc – PANIC STATIONS EVERYONE!!