Saturday, March 9, 2019

How Do You Stay Relevant in the Freelance Life?


An art student named Corey asked two questions:

1. As an illustrator who has been relevant for a long time and still is relevant today, you have seen how the industry has changed. What advice can you offer so that we will always be a way to maintain our value as illustrators in this ever changing industry?

I don't know if I'm relevant or just a living fossil!

Fortunately, the Universe of Art has many planets. I just choose to live on the one dedicated to imaginative realism and physical media, because there will always be a demand for those.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind. As with any other creative endeavor, visual art is competitive. You have to produce among the best work in your category. That means making the extra effort, studying and sketching, improving your weak points, whether it be lighting or gesture or form or perspective, or landscape.

No one arrives at a bountiful career and just settles into the harvest. The survivors are always improving and learning.

Economic realities change. Anyone who has been around a long time has had to re-engineer their business model a few times. This is true whether you work as a comic artist, an illustrator, a film designer, or a gallery painter.

Computer technology has driven a lot of changes in the last three decades, with new business models springing up around social media, crowdsourcing, and digital distribution.

Taste changes too. There will always be an appetite for novelty. You can be a classicist, but you still have to come up with something no one has ever seen before.

If your work is original and if it draws deeply both from your imagination and from the world around you, your work will continue to have relevance. Take your inspiration first from your own experience. If you want to get fired up by the art of others, look at artists of the past or from other cultures, not your close contemporaries.

Tap in to the thing that you loved about art when you were a teenager. Stay alert to new opportunities, new clients, new ways of reaching your audience, and experiment to see what works and what doesn't.


2. Most of us will at some point will become freelance artists and I know that is how you started as well. What tips can you give that you have learned to help you find and establish connections with clients?

To find clients, go to conventions, send around postcards, and maintain a good website and Instagram account. Once you get trusted with an assignment, hit it out of the park and do everything you can to make your client happy.

I regard any kind of freelance art as a form of collaboration. For example, if you're painting a paperback cover, you'll need to work closely with the art director, and your job is to bring the writer's vision to life for the reader.

If you're concept artist, you are visualizing a director's ideas. You're not just painting pretty pictures. When I do paleoart illustrations for science magazines, I'm mindful of enlisting the input of the editor, art director, and scientific consultant at various stages of the process.

As with any other dealings you have with other humans, communication is the key. Your job is to make a great picture, of course, but your task is also to lower the blood pressure of the art buyer, and to help your client win.

One thing I like to do is to produce behind-the-scenes video content for the social media feed of my magazine client. They can't afford to hire a videographer and they're hungry for content. If you can provide that, you'll be doing them a favor and yourself a favor, and you'll make yourself much more valuable to them.

Above all, be reliable and deliver on time. As Neil Gaiman once said, you need to: 1) Be really good at what you do, 2) Deliver on time, and 3) Be pleasant to work with. If you can accomplish two out of three of those qualities consistently, you might be able to make a living, but it's a good idea to be able to deliver on all three.

5 comments:

nuum said...

>>I don't know if I'm relevant or just a living fossil!
Master

What would you think if I said you are a "relevant fossil" ?
Your blog is the first thing I read in the internet every morning.
by the way, I hate digital painting.

Please, Keep us bringing your old-fashioned style of life.

Paulo - Rio

Tryggvi Edwald said...

Your blog is my first stop every workday morning.
I found the following an absolute classic quotable:
"No one arrives at a bountiful career and just settles into the harvest."

(I also like the next sentence, on always improving and learning. It is my philosophy that once you stop learning, you could just as well be dead.)

Thanks for the many, many inspiring posts.

Real life cam said...

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing a great information and useful. it really daily active news

Unknown said...

I have been reading your blogs and following your youtube channel for a while now.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and knowledge with us, I've learned so much from your videos and blogs than I ever have from other sources.

Anh - Vietnam

Unknown said...

I have been reading your blogs and following your youtube channel for a while now.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and knowledge with us, I've learned so much from your videos and blogs than I ever have from other sources.

Anh - Vietnam