Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Links roundup

Design Sponge - biz ladies how to avoid burnout
Interesting article aimed at 'Creative Entrepreneurs' about avoiding burn out

Smashing Magazine - Common client difficulties or turning all clients into dream clients
 Aimed at web designers, but the problems are the same for most commission work

ArtOrder - Marketing yourself (3 part series)
Some ideas on marketing - mainly for fantasy/ sci fi artists and some of the articles are geared towards conventions/ fairs (in person marketing)

Lifehack - 20 quick tips for better time management
Short, succinct tips for time management. You may have heard them before, but always good to reassess when things aren't working.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Thoughts on commissioning artwork - an artist's perspective

I read a short snippet today on a game development blog, and the long and short of it was that they believed hiring 2D artists was difficult. I read this once. Then reread it. I read some of the comments. There were comments about freebie artists and people that worked for royalties, so I've got a feeling that this blog was by either amateurs or people with naive view points on the worth of an artist. Of course I could be completely wrong and they had just dealt with a few difficult artists. Shock, horror! Me suggesting artists can be fickle!? But it's true, we're human - some are better than others with dealing with the business sides of the art world. You get fantastic artists who work to deadline with contracts, email on time, are always professional ... and then you have others who are not so great, or even great 80% of the time.

I read this, and I thought to myself why would they be having such a difficult time? So from an artist's point of view, here's a few things I look for when considering a commission:
  • Simple courtesies such as addressing the email to me, the artist. If I get an email with just 'Hi' or 'to the artist', my first question is whether this person is trolling for quotes and is doing a copy and paste. I always like to give the benefit of the doubt - maybe they are intimidated, maybe they want to appear formal, I don't know... I just prefer requests to come with simple politeness :)
  • Tell me who you are. If you are doing work for an online site and it's up, tell me about it - give me a link - I will go and look
  • Be specific as to what you want. Have a clear list of the kind of work you want, what rights you are expecting, sizes, deadlines, styles and budget. Think of it like buying a house or a car. If you came up to me and said, "I want to buy a house, what's it going to cost?"... and that's all you said, I couldn't give you an accurate cost. I'd say something like "Prices start from X, and go up to Y. What's your budget or what do you have in mind?"

    I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm trying to work out whether I can do you a deal, whether I can fit you in, whether I've got what you need. If you can't tell me what you want, there's probably going to be a lot of vague figures, or larger figures so the client doesn't try to use my quote for a one bedroom flat next to a railway line for an 8 bedroom mansion.
  • If you have a deadline - say it up front. Many artists have secondary jobs/ commitments. It's like putting a rush job on something that's already been scheduled. An artist may have to delay someone else's work, forgo something in their social life or work insane hours to get stuff done.
  • Consider the prices of things on the artist's website. Look at similar artists and their prices. If they say their going rate is X and you ask for a discount, expect the artist to ignore you or reply with a 'thanks, but no thanks'. Remember, for many artists, commissions are their bread and butter. If someone said to you 'I know you earn X an hour, but I expect you to work for me for free or %50 off' what would you say?
  • Size doesn't always matter. 50 artworks at 200 x 200 pixes is just as much effort, if not more than a single painting which is 1000 pixels by 800 pixels. Think of it like cupcakes. 50 cupcakes as compared to 1 cake - both take effort, both have different challenges. And painting individual pieces means you quite often have to work at 2-3 times the intended size.
  • Consider the artwork in the artist's gallery. If you want a Michael Whelan painting, and they draw like Picasso, chances are both the artist and the commissioner will walk away with something they don't like
  • Expect to sign a contract. Even for small pieces an artist will probably write something up which tells both parties what the expectations are.
  • Graphics are great ways to communicate. Talking in pictures often makes working out quotes that much easier. However that being said, understand that pictures have usage rights too and an artist won't be allowed to copy something exactly if the copyright belongs to someone else.
I'm sure there is more that I can add, but that looks like enough of a start. Anyone got other things to add?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Giving a critique to an artist

Sometimes you'll get requests for critiques, or even have someone give you one (whether you want it or not). So I thought I'd write a quick post on my thoughts about painting critiques (giving and receiving).

  • The first point of etiquette - don't offer a critique if the artist has specifically said 'no critiques'. It's the quickest way to get added to that artist's dislike list. There are many reasons why an artist may not want a critique: it may have been done as a commission and they were working to spec or within tight deadlines, it may have been an experiment/ speedpaint/ never intended as a refined, finished piece, or they may just be having a crappy day and don't want someone to point out all the flaws they already can see in their own piece. And yes, artists do critique their own pieces - they don't always need someone else telling them what they can clearly see!
  • Even when an artist has asked for a critique, don't take it to heart if the artist goes off their rocker at you (sadly I have seen all out flame wars start over critiques). If it's in a forum specifically designed for critiquing (complete with levels such as 'don't hold back' or 'be gentle') then it's easier to define what the artist is looking for. But when it's on a personal blog or in an open forum, maybe see if they do this kind of thing a lot and how they take feedback. Some people aren't really asking for a critique and will take it badly - even when you are kind.
  • When you give a critique, do it with the intention of helping them improve. Offer suggestions, ask questions as to why they painted something in a particular way, point out areas that need to be worked on. There's a term called the 'hamburger critique' - basically it's about always following a negative with a positive (the negative being the meat between the two pieces of bun).
  • Ask before doing a paintover or a redline - there can be some legal and ethical questions when someone else adds their 'hand' to a painting. And some artists just don't like redlines (personally, I think they are great as I think visually)
  • Watch the language. You can tell someone that you dislike an area of the painting, or something looks wrong without being mean. State the problem, keep emotional words out of it. 'The leg looks horrible' has a vastly different meaning to 'There's a problem with the character's leg - I think it may be because...". 
  • Words can hurt. Try to avoid words like ugly, horrible, crap ... you get the picture. These are emotive words - the kind that if you were talking to the artist in person would have them in tears, or punching your lights out :) If you can't say it to them in person, then maybe you shouldn't say it online.
  • Just because you offer a critique, don't expect the artist to heed your advice. There may be reasons why they did something in a particular way or with a particular colour - and considering it's their painting, they have the right to ignore your advice. Even if they don't use it, they may think about your comments for a future painting - so your words are important even if they don't appear to be acted upon.
  • It's alright to ask about the concept, but just remember that it's an interpretation. The artist is not asking for example whether you think Morgan Le Fay was a goddess, fairy or chick with really cool clothes. The painting is their vision and just because it doesn't gel with your interpretation doesn't make it bad. However, you could ask about whether the colour scheme or costumes were influenced by a particular school of thought. Sometimes concept can influence colour choices, textures and symbols, and can help reinforce questionable areas of a painting.
  • Don't critique the subject matter - if you think that all angels should be painted with white wings, that's not a critique - that's a personal opinion. It doesn't help the artist. But if you think that white wings would better help reinforce that the angel is a pure being then that is a critique.
  •  Be careful if you are comparing an artist to another artist. It can come across as you suggesting the artist is a copycat. Of course there are some cases where the artist has taken influence - but mostly they tend to mention it (either in comments about inspiration or favourite authors). And there are cases where both artists have unwittingly worked from the same stock image or just had very similar ideas.
  • Read the comments the artist has posted with the painting - and read the context of where it's posted. Telling the artist they need to work on the hands when they've stated in their own comments they need to work on the hands tells the artist you can't read!
  • Be familiar with painting terms - especially with digital art. Calling something a paintover when it's a painting is about the highest form of insult you can manage. Photo manipulation, paintover, 3D render and digital painting are all completely different techniques. It can be seen as a backhanded compliment if you think a painting looks like a photo, but more often than not it insinuates the artist has cheated in some method or used what could be seen as short cuts.
  • If there are lots of responses already, at least have a quick flick through to see whether what you've got to say has already been said. Sure, saying the same thing will reinforce the issue, but telling someone three times that their lighting is off just gets annoying after the first few times
  • It's also alright to disagree with comments by others. A critique is subjective.
  • And as mother always said, if you've got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

9 Free Photoshop brush resources

I was trawling for some specific brushes for photoshop. Here are 9 interesting sites

Free Photoshop brushes, textures and patterns
With over 5000 brush collections, 200+ patterns and nearly 200 textures, the collections are sourced from all over the web. Search by keyword, or look at the tag collections.

Brush King
Focusing on brushes, the collection includes over 7000 brush sets, with an easy to navigate set of categories. It also has a nice selection of general photoshop tutorials.

Quality Photoshop Brushes
While not all of these brushes are free in every single way, the collection focuses on quality rather than being a collection of everything. Features a user rating system, search and browse by tag functions, and if you go to the blog, you'll find some QBrush specially created brush sets.

In Obscuro - resources by Nela Dunato
Ok this is a collection of resources by one artist, but I really like her brushes. Her tutorials are nice and simple, focusing more to web design than art, but with brushes, textures and some lovely basic web templates, this is a site worth dropping by.

Get Brushes is free Adobe Photoshop brushes directory, featuring handpicked collection of the best brushes for Photoshop on the net, all free to download and use.

Here you’ll find PS brushes for every style and taste, ranging from always popular decay & grunge brushes, over abstract and tech, to gothic, coffee spills, hair, or fractal inspired brushes for photoshop. Have a look around.. and, well, have fun (Blurb from the website)
 PS Brushes
 This site, while the site and content don't jump out and make you want to download the brush set because of all the glittery pages, I really like the interface that shows you the detail of the brush on screen. The brushes are sorted by category, and while there's only a small number of brushes online (500), this is a site that I hope increases in size and use.

Featuring a large collection of brushes, patterns, textures, PSD files, actions, shapes, styles and gradients, this is a one stop location for all things photoshop.

I did find the site a little slow to use, but it may have been my internet connection at the time.

My Photoshop Brushes
A nice collection of brushes, patterns, custom shapes, styles and gradients. The tutorial on creating your own custom brush is nice and simple to follow.

Photoshop Free Brushes

More brushes, this contains some different collections I didn't see on the other sites. The only thing that would make this nicer was if the liceses were displayed with the brushes, rather than having to go to the brush maker's website for usage details.

Images are copyright their respective owners. I did grabs of the images in order to more easily define the sites. When using brushes/ resources from online, please read the licenses/ image usage policies.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Taming the RSS Feed (December EMG Zine)

I love learning and I'm always eager to improve the way that I do things. This is probably a good thing considering my core field is technology! However like a lot of people I am often time poor. Some of it is through disorganisation and bad time management (hey, I never said I was perfect!), but other times there are just so many competing tasks that things fall off the wagon.

I’ve found that if I really want to do something, I have to build it into my daily routines – make it like brushing my teeth or making the bed. And if I make it something that doesn’t take much time at all, it’s easy to move around if necessary, but more importantly is easy to fit in. One such thing I’ve found increasingly useful has been spending 10-20 minutes each day flicking through my RSS feeds.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Art supplies for the part time painter (EMG Zine November)

solneman2 on stock exchange
Don't have time to go to the art shop? What can you get from your every day supermarket/ grocery store, newsagency or shops that you regularly visit that you can use as tools? Many of you are probably already using these or have heard of the techniques described, but I thought I'd collect a 'shopping list' of supplies!

Of course you are not going to find artist quality paints, or sable paint brushes, but there are plenty of things that you can add to your artist toolbox that are cheap, available from general shops, and can extend out your toolset or allow you to experiment, particularly if you don't have time (or money) to visit the art shop.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Some interesting articles

At the moment I'm on a bit of hiatus from the art business, well at least commission work. But while I'm having a bit of down time, I'm refocusing on skilling up and getting together some portfolio pieces. That's not to say that I won't take on work that interests me and I have time for, and I won't be abandonning this blog as I continue to look for interesting articles, things to try and talk about my experiences in improving productivity, juggling things and improving my art.

How to clear you inbox when you're drowning
One of my favourite blogs, this article contains some great ideas on taming the inbox. A lot of the ideas aren't new, but it's always a good reminder.

"The beauty of an empty inbox is a thing to behold. It is calming, peaceful and wonderful.
An inbox that is overflowing with actions, urgent calls for responses, stuff to read … it’s chaos, it’s stressful, it’s overwhelming". (From the article)

How to design for your worst client - You
Not really a 'productivity' related article, but I found it a nice piece on designing your website. Maybe a few of the things mentioned may help you save time in the long run. While aimed at web designers, I think the content is relevant for anyone that relies on the internet as a business.
"In this article we’ll examine the barriers that hinder designing for yourself and reveal 10 rules to help you create the best design for yourself. Together we’ll squash that dark side in all of us." (From the article)

Perfectionism isn't bad in the long term
 An interesting discussion on perfectionism and excellence, and how perfectionism can prevent you from getting stuff done.
"The best ideas come from unusual sources. And some of the best productivity ideas I’ve come across lately come from a now-dead, 2500 year-old Chinese philosopher. Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism may not be remembered for lifehacking, but with a few modifications, some of his ideas will help you get things done." (From the blog)
How to learn to let go and love it
An article about learning to turn over work for your business to someone else.
" Are you a control freak? I think we all are at times, some more than others. Over the course of the last few years, as my business has slowly grown, I have learned that a big key to success is learning to let go and not freak the hell out about it. If you find yourself freaking out at the thought of letting someone else do work for your business without you looking over their shoulder, then this post is definitely for you." (From the article)

Image courtesy: