Sunday, May 17, 2009

There Is No Holy Grail

I am not perfect. I do not claim to be. I strive to be better at the things that I do. There is no Holy Grail that will make that easy for me. It's hard work.
I have a couple of reasons for doing this blog. The first is as a platform to both develop my portfolio and to display it. I also try to have an educational element to it... both showing off artists and designers that I enjoy and admire, and (hopefully) talking about tools and techniques that I use from time to time. Lastly, I do this blog as a sort of documentation of my progress as an artist moving toward freelancing.

I want to mention that it's not always easy. I've been bogged down with work (both during the day and freelance at night) as well as the fact that it's summer, and my daughter is mobile and awake more of the day. My personal stuff is at the bottom of the list, and usually comes late at night. Bed sometimes wins. LOL.

Anyway, tonites post comes to you for a couple of reasons. 1.I was too busy to do much worth showing you... Actually, I did a lot, but am not ALLOWED to show you. 2. I got a couple of e-mails from a friend who is wanting to get some use out of his degree, but isn't sure about where to start. He is in a similar position as me time-wise. Working, Family/kids time, etc... So I'm not really sure about this, but here goes. His questions, my responses as I see them.

These answers are just my opinion from my current vantage point. I am not full time freelance, I do not have cut and dry answers.

"Jeff I wanted to know how one would start trying to get jobs on CA I saw there are low level freelance jobs to working for free. What do you know about this stuff? Help a brother out. I just want to know the good, bad, and ugly of it. Thank you"

As with any job type situation, you have to apply for it, and show that you can do the job you are being asked to do. This is a public forum, so to "Apply", all you have to do is post in the thread saying something like "Hey! I'm interested in doing this project, and I think I'm a strong candidate for it because_(Fill in the blank)_. Please view samples of other projects that I've worked on here _(fill in the blank)_. Samples don't have to be crazy, and you don't need a huge, Laser Awesome website for them either.
Your blog, CA sketchbook, or Flickr account would all be fine. It is important to have them though, and that they be FINISHED. If you are wanting comic work, do some finished pencils showing Characters interacting in a story framework. Also do some inked pages. Maybe even download penciled pages by other artists and ink them, so you can show how you would ink another artists work.

If you need some "get up and go" to feel like this is a real project, try doing some of the P.O.W. (Panel of the Week) activities in the community activities forum. Activities are fun, and a good way to pad your portfolio. You can also get some good feedback from those guys.

Having a portfolio/samples of your best work is really REALLY important. Nobody will hire an artist without seeing their work first. And honestly, if they did I would seriously think about whether it was a good idea to work for them. LOL.

The job forum is set up so that you can check out possible jobs based on what you feel comfortable charging right now. Many people start in the low paying section, because that way you can prove your worth before (to yourself as well as potential employers) before you start taking on bigger jobs with more responsibility and more pay.

Generally working for free sucks. The upside is that you can build some credibility, experience, and a portfolio from doing this kind of work. The important thing here is to remember that there is a reason you are doing it. It's not just hobby work. Just because it's non-paying does not mean that it should be treated with less respect than any other job.

Both of these options are for people who want quality work, but can't really afford to pay for it. So the mutual benefit is exposure and experience.

I hope this makes sense and helps.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

"I want to know how you do it man? How do you find the time... Especially with the little one. What are your words of wisdom on that. I thnk I'm going to use the structure of the skillful huntsman to come up with a portfolio and story and try to get work from there, obviously start small, but go to it. now I just need deadlines and motivation :) So how do you dig deep?"

This is a harder question, but it's really about desire and discipline. It's also about being able to break down both your day and your projects into smaller pieces. I'm going to give you a breakdown of my "typical" week day.

I get up at around 6:30, get dressed and pack lunches... Basically get Abby and me ready to go. We all pile in the car at around 7:30, I'm at work Between 8 and 8:30, and I'm there until 4:15(ish) then I go and get the girls, and come home (5:15), Make dinner and eat (6:30), Get Abby cleaned up and ready for bed (7-7:30) and then spend some time with Amy until 9 or 9:30. This means that I have 1 hour and 30 minutes to work on my own stuff before bed. That includes checking e-mail and surfing for whatever. (Freelance deadlines will sometimes change this around, and Amy is wonderful about supporting my dropping out of existence when I have to)

I know I have a lot of projects on EVERY burner. So I dance between them, and do a little at a time. I put stuff off when I need to. But the important thing is that I honor my commitments first. I spend a few minutes scribbling and doodling. I'll work on some pose studies at Posemaniacs, or ink a drawing or work on some coloring or vectoring, but it's little bits. I don't have enough time to commit to doing a ninety minute warm-up drawing. If I was down here all day, every day, then sure I'd warm up for ninety minutes, but I'm not. So I don't. I warm up for five minutes and then work on something.

This goes back to what I was saying at the top of this monstrosity of a post that I applaud anyone who sat though... THERE IS NO HOLY GRAIL. So many people are out there looking for that one supply, that one book, tutorial, video, paper, pencil, snarfblatt... whatever, that will make it EASY for them to be a good artist. That thing DOES NOT exist. It's about hard work. It's about dedication.

It's about wanting it so bad you want to live it.

Think about what you want to do. If you want to be a concept artist, and work on defining the look of characters and worlds, then by all means use the skillful huntsman book as a structural guide to building that portfolio. It's a good book, with good work.

If you want to do comics, do some pages. If you need an idea, check out the P.O.W. community activity on They give out a plot summary and you have a couple of weeks to turn out three pages. It's a good way to get some work behind you and into a usable portfolio, and you might make some good friends to hold you accountable for it.

Sorry everybody. I think I've rambled on long enough for one day. I hope everything is going well for you all. If you have any questions or comments... or if you want to call me an ass that doesn't know what he's talking about, feel free to drop me a comment. Until next time, take care and be good.

Your friend


Joe Romano 2 said...

Jeff, what a great post. I can relate to the daily choas. I have two little ones 2 and 3.5 yrs. It's crazy trying to balance work, fam and the art stuff. Keep up the great work, and know that there are people out there cheering you on. Keep up the great work and enjoy the fam.

Ryan Bowlin said...

Really loved this post, Jeff. You're awesome.