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posted by marrael 2013-06-26 01:41:22


Advice on Publishing, Part 4: Cover Art
More for authors going into self-publishing, I do think this is a good run-through of the considerations and skills that go into designing a good book cover. Artists aiming to be cover artists can benefit, and at the least, you can stick a link to this up on your website so your author friends start considering your work. I personally feel painted art makes a real impact and is a bit more sophisticated than stock photography, but I am, of course, biased.

Sad that this has to be found on a joke site, but it does give good drawing advice.

How to Draw Boobies (Warning: has boobies.)

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Drawing Tutorials and Exercises

posted by marrael 2012-02-18 17:07:57

Just a collection of links today while I recover from some (more) traveling undertaken this past month. These online sites will be especially useful if you've had little or no formal art education--you'll get a taste (or reminder) of the exercises that students of drawing do. First one is the most nifty:

Figure & Gesture Drawing Tool
(Yeah, it's the online equivalent of the drawing exercises done with a live model.) Before you think it's just hours of bliss copying a nude girl's likeness on your canvas, know that that isn't the only point of figure and gesture drawing. The great thing is, the page itself explains gesture drawing exercises, and you get a choice of BOTH female and male models.

Still here? 
 
Wings on Humans Art Tutorial 
 (found via Elizabeth Barrette's blog entry, Wing Tutorial Art)
I wish I could credit the maker of this tutorial, but am having trouble finding the original source. If you know, let me know!

Fantasy Art Study on Ning
This group combines drawing studies and exercises on both drawing and rendering techniques (mostly traditional media) and subjects of fantasy art. So if you think you need the basic lessons, but still want them focused on fantasy art, this is a great site! Regular "study group" exercises (using Andrew Loomis' Figure Drawing for All It's Worth and Peter Stanyer's The Complete Book of Drawing Techniques) are posted on the site, and the comments section is where members can respond by posting results from their own practice. It's a place which encourages participation because of this semi-formal format where you read the tutorial, then show your own work.

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It's 2012!

posted by marrael 2012-01-16 00:30:00


I have been a bad, bad blogger; I went on holiday and let myself succumb to the post-holiday slump. Anyway, now that's over, welcome back, and into a new year: 2012! I'm not even THAT late, because if you follow the Chinese calandar, the new year (the Year of the Dragon, if you were curious) doesn't actually start until January 23rd! (Ha!)
  
 
If you were worried your errant blogger wasn't returning, or had run out of topics to cover, have no fear of that. First up: Spectrum, that yearly anthology of gorgeous contemporary fantasy art, is accepting submissions for their next compilation until January 27th. I'm going to admit: I think I have nothing up to snuff (yet. There's always next year!) but if you're feeling good about your chances, get your butt moving on your entry! 
  
 
Next: An epic post on the silliness of girls' poses on fantasy book covers was posted recently by the fabulous fantasy writer, Jim C. Hines. (I'm linking to his LJ entry but it's mirrored on his site too.) After you're done laughing and wiping the tears from your eyes, catch his follow-up post, in which he provides links (some of which I've also provided on this blog). This one, however, I must highlight: Men's Versus Women's Poses 


Last one for now: Small Business Resolutions Worth Keeping. There are a few tips on the page, and my favourite is the one about prioritizing and limiting distractions. Having a timer on one's FaceBook/Twitter/surfing time sounds excellent. As is having daily/weekly/monthly goals. (I have a monthly goal to finish at least one "big" painting per month. And this year, a modest but doable goal, I think, to post at least once per week at Fantastic Portfolios.)
 
 
See you next week!
 

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Artists Helping Artists

posted by marrael 2011-11-24 00:36:07


In the free-wheeling and dealing world on the Internet, it's always been interesting for me to note the wide range of artistic styles and abilities out there that are still quite dazzling to me, who managed to live the first 17 years of my life without it. Prior to the Internet, my exposure to art was in the form of books, stationery, art classes and museums. Even with regular exposure to the widest variety of books, it was still looking at art through the filters imposed by industry experts and book editors. It wasn't bad (on the contrary, it was all good stuff) but it was rare to find rough sketches or pictures of work in development outside of biographical books about artists. Even in the early days of the Internet, scanners weren't common, digital painting was (more or less) in its infancy, and the artists to be found online were probably just a fraction of a percentage of the artists you can find online today.
 
 
Recent explorations on the Internet revealed to me that it isn't just artists of various abilities flourishing online, but the tutorials written for artists of varying levels by artists at varying levels. It really shouldn't have been a surprise to me, because some of these tutorials have been the subject of hilarity in some of the forums I roll in (frequently, tutorials by obviously young-male artists trying to teach others how to draw ladyboobs). Maybe it's just the Thanksgiving spirit getting to me, but I had an epiphany looking at these tutorials yesterday, even some of the ones I know I'd have written completely differently: It's all artists trying to help other artists. And this motivation to help is found at all levels of ability--which is brilliant.
 
 
Now, I could end here after pointing out that we could be grateful for this alone (and I'll also provide links to general tutorial sites at the bottom) but I'd like to take it further. Sometimes I find stuff on the internet alluding to artists behaving badly, whether it's stealing (not cool), being flaky (as artists, we're allowed some slack being "creative types", but not too much), ungrateful, jealous, not good at sharing, et cetera. I'm not going to be schoolmarm here, because I've hardly been the model for any type of moral behavior for much of my life, but I will share something: It's definitely no fun being in an insecure place, and being in so deep that looking at other artists gets you down. And after looking at so many tutorials, I wonder if the trick to coming out of negativity is to turn it around, recognise one's strengths, and use them for helping others (this includes other artists). Because everyone starts somewhere. No one is born Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci right out of the womb. There are art teachers, there are informal art teachers, and there's art by tons of other artists we look at everyday, and all and every one of them is going to affect our own art, whether we're conscious of it or not. 
 
 
OK, so some artists may look like they don't need help anymore (if so, good for them; but remember there was a time they did); they're still vastly outnumbered by other artists and beginning artists looking for encouragement. And giving encouragement is something that will keep you in a positive place--and grateful when it's returned!

 
(Disclaimer: Not all generous acts of helping others will be received with 100% glowing gratitude--like these flog entries--but that's OK. ;) Do it to potentially help or to just feel good without expectations of things you may not be able to control. Easier said than done, but this is a disclaimer for you.) 


Besides art-hosting sites and artist's personal websites, art tutorials can also be found on sites expressly for providing tutorials and help for various subjects. And last by...

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Perfect is the Enemy

posted by marrael 2011-11-20 19:02:50

Pfshaw, has it really been 10 days since my last blog post? I am shamefaced. A lot has been going on, and I suspect that many other artists as well have been taking advantage of this time of year where Christmas shopping (or, Christmas selling) is the top priority of independent shops and artists. What a handy excuse! And handy blog topic.

The title of the post may come from advice you may have heard before, commonly "Don't let perfect become the enemy of the good". Or: "Perfect is the enemy of the good," which, I am again ashamed to find out, originated from Voltaire, who wrote one of my favourite books ever, Candide. (That guy? Genius.)


Perfectionism, it has taken me a long time to figure out, really is a flaw. Here are the excuses I used to run through in my head, to avoid selling my work (and, some of them I'm still using): My portfolio isn't good enough yet. I haven't got my prints of this picture just right, I can't offer them for sale! There's a stray dot on this picture that's bugging me. My web site isn't ready. I don't have photos, or good enough photos, of this product. I don't have a story or description of Shakespearean standards to accompany this product. 


"Not good enough" is an excuse that rears its head constantly, and it's just a delaying tactic. It's used to deliberately place an obstacle between oneself and the Test--Will it sell? Do people want it? Will people pay for it? Deciding not to sell ("yet") yields the same financial result as not having people buy it, but the former lets us keep our ego, while the latter brings on a whole host of disappointments and questions ("WHY?") and may necessitate us working harder to sell, when all we want to do is create art. It's really understandable. But also counter-productive. 


Any job--every job--has bits of it we don't enjoy quite as much as other bits of it. Selling isn't as much fun to me as creating, but until the day I can afford a marketing department, it's a necessity, and perfectionism (useful as it can sometimes be in art-making) shouldn't come into it if it stops me posting services or items for sale. Good enough is good enough. All I need to do to convince myself of this is to visit Regretsy from time to time, and see some truly weird and questionable products that are offered for sale (in various places, not just etsy), accompanied with photos taken in the semi-darkness, and descriptions written in ALL CAPS or wth hillarious spelling errows [sic].


Of course it may be disappointing to spend time crafting an auction, or an etsy posting, or Craigslist posting, or a new product, and get no responses, so start with creating or listing items and services that take the least effort. Those may yield something! And then work up to those that take more investment (time, money, or materials-wise). 


Happy selling!


Recommended links: IttyBiz Confessional: What if I'm not awesome enough?
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The Stuff of Nightmares (Part II)

posted by marrael 2011-10-18 00:52:26

(Note: This is a post that, if the blog works right, will be posted automatically to the Flog during Janet's absence from Oct 15th to 20th. Comments posted to this entry will be moderated on her return.)

So maybe marketing isn't your weakest skill, and you've actually got lots of customers lined up for your art, hooray! Writing these posts, I was tempted to call art-freelancing "being your own boss", but we know that once you've got a client, sometimes that isn't the case; you've now got a customer to please, and we've all heard the saying that "the customer is always right". But is that true?


If you found yourself rolling your eyes a little at the old nugget, well, I can't blame you. In fact, this two-part post was inspired by the recent reminder that we get difficult clients sometimes, and often face ridiculous pre-conceptions about our chosen line of work. But luckily there are artist communities sharing information on especially tough clients who either stiff artists on money, or who ask for too much for too little money, or who break, or refuse to even sign on the simplest of artist-client contracts. I won't link to the communities here, suffice to say easy for artists to find and join, and they are usually moderated to prevent the offenders themselves barging in.


I find contracts a must when working with new clients, and even a description of the terms/your package in email in bulleted points can count as one, as long as it's in a form that your client can read and agree to in writing. Should an especially large project make you nervous, however, then by all means print up an agreement and get signatures on it--any refusal or reluctance on your client's part to do so should send up a red warning flag. (You can find templates online or in books at the library.) Know your rights as an artist, and know that while publishing rights can be negotiated, copyright is not something you give up without express writing and huge financial compensation. (Extra reading:  Creating Art on Commission Without Getting Burnt: A Short Guide for Artists)


Contracts and artists communities can't protect you 100% from nightmare gigs, of course, but knowing your rights (and the best ways to deal with tough clients) can make it easier to know when to walk away and how to cut your losses.

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The Stuff of Nightmares (Part I)

posted by marrael 2011-10-15 23:44:11

(Note: This is a post that, if the blog works right, will be posted automatically to the Flog during Janet's absence from Oct 15th to 20th. Comments posted to this entry will be moderated on her return.)

Marketing is my least favourite part about being a freelance illustrator, and I bet I'm not the only one. I know it's part of the job, but it can be rather boring compared to working on new art (especially for oneself), so it's one of those things that get shoved to the back-burner and only brought to the fore when bringing in money starts looking of paramount importance. I'm still the worst person when it comes to marketing, but it's at least still easier to write about than actually do. (Like, I know about the Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market [bookblog] but I've never used it.)



One of the most regularly updated blogs about marketing art and craft is the Etsy Seller's Handbook. If you're on Etsy, you can choose the option to be updated about the latest articles through their newsletter(s). 


Another blog I'm fond of, though it is a more general blog about small businesses, is IttyBiz (Marketing for Small Businesses Without Marketing Departments). It covers topics like creating products, dealing with different types of clients (more on this later), and sometimes just the difficulties of running a small business. The posts can be brutally frank sometimes, which to me is perversely comforting, because once in a while, I think, we need confirmation that freelance art (or freelance anything) is tough. (The recommended posts are How We Killed Social Media and When You Feel Like a Raging Failure.)


Escape from Illustration Island regularly does business-related posts, and one of the more eye-catching articles I found myself reading recently (since social media is big now) was How To Manage 70 Online Profiles. You know how you probably have 10 galleries on different artist or portfolio websites (including this one)? Yep, this article is for you!

In the next post--The Stuff of Nightmares (Part II)--I'll talk about difficult clients/commissions and what we love to hate about them. But before I go, this post would not be complete without some (ahem) pushing of products from our sister site, EMG-Zine. Check out the Art of the Business of Fantasy Art anthologies! 


Till the next post!
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Challenge Accepted!

posted by marrael 2011-10-08 00:47:01

Pardon Barney Stinson's favourite phrase for the title of this post, but it is about online art communities that share a regular theme for members to work on (whether weekly, monthly, or haphazardly). If you're the kind of artist who needs to look for ideas, or just likes a regular challenge, these communities and themes are wonderful ways to get the creative juices flowing for the theme of the week (or month, or [insert time frame]).

Illustration Friday is a well known (multiple-genre) illustration site that recently featured Sam Weber for their artist interview (I love him, so he gets a tangential link in this post) but also has a weekly topic revealed every Friday (hence the name of the site). Artist participants (any genre, any medium) just have to submit their image related to the topic during that week--they can either create one just for that week's topic, or submit an older work, as long as it's appropriate. The only technical requirement is that the full-size image should be hosted on a static, dedicated page already (blog posts OK). IF's community is friendly and encouraging, and the multi-genre nature of the challenge means lots of different media and styles can be seen for each theme.


If you're on DeviantArt, there's Theme of the Week (that despite its name, actually posts a new theme every other week).

Enchanted Visions is project that boasts a new theme (and gallery of art) every month for its members. It is regular as clockwork (almost!) and is concentrated on fantasy, fairy and mythological art. You are not limited to the current theme and can work on its current or older topics. The only rule is that the artwork created is for the Enchanted Visions theme, not an older work "retrofitted" to an existent theme as convenient!


For "haphazard" art challenges, ConceptArt.org has a Challenges and Collaborations area in their forum, and Jon Schindehette at The Art Order posts challenges as he comes up with them (and the new one is a doozy!). Elfwood's Thomas Abrahamsson also has an art contest from time to time, which you'll have to check on Elfwood's Site News


And the last one is a personal fave, though it probably qualifies as "haphazard" and provides way more than one theme or topic at a time: EMG Sketch Fest! Once a month, 24 hours are designated for that month's Sketch Fest, during which members of the public are invited to submit text or photo prompts, and artists submit interpretations of those prompts created during the 24 hours. The rule? Each sketch created should not take up more than an hour of the artist's time. Artists are of course free to complete the sketches after the Sketch Fest and upload the finished versions for the gallery of finished work.


So this is a sampling of websites that have regular (or not-so-regular) art challenges, and in a range of styles, media and abilities! Got more? Share below.
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Steampunk Art

posted by marrael 2011-10-06 02:06:06

Tor.com is in the midst of Steampunk Week, and illustrator John Coulthart shares his collage technique and inspiration for steampunk art in Crafting Steampunk Illustrations. Collage isn't a technique commonly seen in fantasy art, but seems to fit steampunk to a T!

For those of us creating illustrations "from scratch", How to Draw Steampunk Machines is still one of the best online (and free!) tutorials I've seen. Flickr has thousands of wonderful photos of steampunk costumes (and gadgetry, and jewelry, and whimsical inventions) for inspiration, but if you'd just like a blog that show you the highlights of steampunk art, I can recommend Steampunk Costume.

Have a favourite steampunk visual resource of your own? Feel free to share!

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Subjects Dressed for Success

posted by marrael 2011-10-04 20:01:08

Unless you're an artist with a penchant for making all your fantasy characters nude in your images (all the time? really?), dressing them up in made-up costumes and armour is part of the fun of painting and drawing in this genre. Whether we are consciously aware that costume design is part of fantasy world-building is individual, but it's something that doesn't hurt us to become more mindful of. Jon Schindehette of the Art Order posts about A World of Fashion, while my personal way of going about costume design has mostly to run along the "is it practical? does it look good?" lines of thought. This subject also a chance for me to introduce a few of my favourite blogs that regularly cover the topic of armour, and what women warriors wear in fantasy art.

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor is a tumblr site that shows you what it says on the tin, and more: female fantasy characters dressed in practical armour, and pragmatic clothing, when they're not your usual armour-clad, or should I say armour-adorned female fighters. (Much as your friendly Fantastic Portfolios flogger enjoys a little bit of skin now and then, chainmail bikinis are extremely silly.) You could call Women Fighters Reasonable Armour the counterpoint and palate-cleanser to Go Make Me a Sandwich, a (mostly) humourous site that points out the regular FAILs to be found in gaming art when it comes to costuming women. (Hint: It's not that half-nekkid women are bad, but they're certainly not the only type of female characters that should exist in depictions.) Go Make Me a Sandwich also features pretty good anatomical corrections to pictures featuring women with rubber spines and silicone breasts, when they turn up (too often!).

A blog that regularly highlights and comments on armour design is The Realm of Zhu, which even has a tag for posts about female armour. It approaches the topic of armour from a refreshingly pragmatic standpoint that I appreciate, as a spindly-armed artist who knows nuts about physical fighting. 

If you know of more sites or blogs that regularly discuss practical fantasy armour and costume design, feel free to share in comments! (Just sign in with your member account.)

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