Thursday, May 1, 2014

Make Art Work

-By Lauren Panepinto


So I have something really exciting to talk to you guys about.

Almost a year ago, at Spectrum, Dan Dos Santos invited me to start writing a column here at Muddy Colors. I felt a little intimidated at first - some of the best artists in the world post here, what the hell was I going to add to the conversation? I thought about it, and I realized I would simply take the questions I am asked again and again at cons, in portfolio reviews, and out at art events, and answer them here, in this very public forum, as honestly and as clearly as I could.

I came to realize very quickly that there was a real hunger to hear about the non-art issues of an art career—contracts, invoicing, how to approach art directors, how to network—and in general, that Art Schools don’t teach Art Business. While the resources for artists to educate themselves do exist, for the most part they’re in the form of articles scattered across the web, and documents embedded in the websites of various organizations. There’s no clear path, or one trusted resource that covers all the issues of art business. There are amazing blogs like this one, and fantastic communities like ArtOrder. There are schools like SmArt School and IMC and TLC and The Art Department. There are groups like Pact. There are amazing artists and art directors and event organizers who give so much of their time to help this community, and if you stitch all those resources together you would make the perfect Art Business education.

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And I realized that I was sitting at the center of the spider’s web of all these connections, and I started to talk to people about it. At portfolio reviews, I asked my reviewees what they needed most to help them break in. I asked the art community online what issues they wanted to see me post about next. Every time someone told me I should collect the posts into some kind of book, I took it very seriously and asked them a lot of questions. I held an AMA that almost killed me. And, as Art Directors do—we keep warning you—I gossipped with other ADs.

A lot of these ideas crystallized while I was teaching a SmArt School Summer Art Director Bootcamp with Marc Scheff. Marc has one foot in Illustration, one foot in Art Direction, and was the perfect partner to crystallize all these ideas with. On a ride back from Illuxcon last year, Marc and I had a long talk about this crazy idea...to make a book. Not an art business book that is out of date as soon as it’s printed. Not a bloated book that everyone buys and knows they should read but never does. Not a reference book so dense with legalese that you need to read other books in order to understand it. Something simpler to read and reference. A friendly guide.

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So...now we’re turning that book brainstorm into a reality.

We want to make a guide that gives artists the most specific information in the simplest language possible. We want to give artists an outline of the things they need to know about Art Business, and building an Art Career—the stuff that never goes out of date, the framework you need to build first, that then lets you maximize your time and effort on creating art. The stuff newbies need to start their career, and pros need to build it. And then, in each section, we’ll point to exactly where the best resources are for further information. Both a print version and an ebook version will link to a living database of all the best art industry resources on the web. We don’t want to replace all the fabulous work Muddy Colors, ArtOrder, Pact, SmArt School, Spectrum, Illuxcon, and others have been doing—our goal is to put up road signs and give you all GPS systems that point right to them. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel-- we’re trying to help anyone in the industry—newbies and vets alike—connect the dots in an easy, accessible way.

We want this guide to be the one that people actually read, that teachers can pass on to their students, that can be digested quickly and easily, and then points you in the right direction of whatever further learning you want to do. We want this guide to get artists back to creating art as efficiently as possible.

And we want all of you to help us do it.

In fact, you already have. I thank everyone who has already put up with my questions, volunteered stories, or collaborated on Muddy Colors posts and Art Order competitions. This community inspired us to start this project and we want to make sure you have a voice. We want your ideas, we want to hear your needs, and we want your feedback.

We’re going to Kickstart this—we’re aiming for some time in June—and we’ll also need your help sharing that around. This is a book for all freelance artists. Illustrators, Designers, Sculptors—anyone who is trying to make a living by selling their art. But this community, this SFF art community, is the warmest and friendliest and most giving corner of the commercial art world, and we’re starting here. This is a project that many of you have asked for (often quite loudly and sometimes drunkenly at cons) and we want you involved.

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And because we’re Art Directors, and we’re writing a guide on Art Business, we’re going to get the project rolling by commissioning artists to help. And actually PAY them. For reals. We’re not going to ask them to work on spec and promise to pay them when the kickstarter gets funded, or pay them “in exposure” or anything like that. We’re going to commission real artists to do real work and pay them real money from our own pockets because we believe in this so much. And as we go thru all the steps of the process, we’ll be letting everyone watch it as a real life Art Business demo. You want to know how we find artists? You want to know what a real brief email looks like? Well, stay tuned.

Right now we have a holder cover, but we’ll be commissioning cover art, and inside the book we’ll have artists illustrating a number of Quotes and Maxims about Art. I got the idea from my last Muddy Colors post, when so many artists contributed so many personally inspiring words. We’re going to turn those words into art, both to illustrate the book, and as limited edition posters for kickstarter rewards. We’ll have stretch goals for more illustrations and more posters, and if we overfund, we’ll be putting the money towards funding the sites that we consider our partners in crime - resources like Muddy Colors, ArtOrder, Pact, and many more. And if we really overfund in an exciting way we’ll be forming scholarships to both online art programs and seminars like IMC and TLC.

If you’re interested, sign up below to hear details, help contribute to the content, or to follow along with our adventures in Art Business… No spamming (not even shirtless pictures of Marc). We promise.

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So what the hell is Drawn + Drafted? Well, it’s the umbrella name for the book project. And for future shenanigans along the same line. Not just for me and Marc, of course. For starters, we Art Directors often have day jobs and we walk a fine line where sometimes projects we want to do, or things we want to say, are not necessarily things that our parent company would want to be aligned with. Sometimes Artists want to work on things they're concerned will pigeonhole them. This will be a safe place where some members can be public, and some members will need to have secret identities. Think of Drawn + Drafted as the Justice League of secret Art Directors and Artists doing things that need doing...and, of course, also doing some stuff that’s just for fun.

If you're going to be at Spectrum, come find me & Marc and give us your thoughts. We're also holding 3 Art Business Bootcamps, which is a sneak peek into a lot of content that will be in the book. Hope to see you there.

Sign up for the Drawn + Drafted newsletter to keep up to date on the book, the kickstarter, and to make sure you don't miss any of the resources we've been developing...



44 comments:

  1. So excited about this! I'm glad y'all have to chutzpah to bring something like this together. So far it sounds like a lot of the pondering points, questions, and discussions I have with other illustrators when we talk shop. It's definitely in the same vein as discussions I have with students about the wide world as it opens in front of them. I hope to be able to contribute where I can. Have fun at Spectrum!

    peace-BV

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  2. Really excited about this, especially the part about the art business demo and how you guys go about finding artists.

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  3. Amazing! The design/arts world needs more of this, so glad to see people taking the initiative to actually do it and do it well. Can't wait to see how this unfolds!

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    1. Initiative...thats another word for caffeine right?

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  4. Too long, didn't read... just kidding! :) This is a great post and a fantastic project. I have to give a talk soon on all of this stuff and I'm going to encourage the local Fine Art community to check MC religiously everyday and buy this thing. That's the great thing about MC- it may be SFF focussed but there's no resource as good for any kind of art. Thanks Lauren!

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    1. Actually we're going to make this for as wide an audience of artists as possible. I worked in non SFF books for almost a decade before Orbit and Im going to be activating all my design-world connections to help as well.

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  5. This sounds great Lauren, let me know when we can submit for doing some hand-drawn type for the book!

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  6. To everyone that wants to be alerted about the kickstarter launch AND especially artists who are interested in being commissioned for the project, sign up for the newsletter at www.DrawnAndDrafted.com

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    1. Hell yes. Would LOVE to be involved in some way on this with you guys.

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  7. I love this! Can't wait to hear more about it at Spectrum!

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    1. aw that was the sweetest email. thank you!

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  9. This is fantastic! A lot of these "unknowns" are part of the reason I didn't pursue an art career as seriously after I graduated years ago. No one would share or have clear cut answers on the business side of doing art as a living. See you at Spectrum!

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  10. Thanks for the great comments everyone! I'm really excited about this and glad to see I'm not the only one.

    We have been working on the book for a while now and while it's not done, we think it's a great resource for everyone. Pooling all our AD/Artist/Designer tips and tricks into one easy-to-read resource.

    Feel free to ask questions, or email us/get on our mailing list at http://www.DrawnAndDrafted.com

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  11. Oh man, there is SUCH a need for this, you have no idea! (Well okay, obviously you do, hence why this is being made...)

    I recently fielded some panicky questions about pricing art on Tumblr, and wrote up a couple of posts with basic info on figuring out prices, contracts, and links to art and business resources (including Muddy Colors.) It was just off-the-top-of-my-head stuff based on my own experience, so I thought nothing of it at the time. But it went instantly totally viral. There's obviously a need for this kind of information. And it's evidently not easy to find. Worse, the good information is scattered all over the web and mixed up with daft advice from kids selling five dollar commissions, so it's easy to go astray.

    Even when I was in art school, our supposed "business" class was really kind of useless. I had to interrogate multiple teachers on various business subjects during breaks, and try to piece together whatever bits and pieces of advice I could get that way. (There was no internet then.) And most of what I know about freelance taxes I got from my Mom.

    Now I'll have a handy centralized resource to point to whenever questions come up. This will be excellent. :) (Besides having a handy resource for my own reference, of course.)

    (Just FYI, some of the subjects I see come up most often that people have the least clue about are
    pricing and contracts. And a subject NOBODY seems to even think about, but should, is taxes.)

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    1. Gwen you're spot on. We have found that the business/legal side of having an art career are the most muddy (get it? Muddy? Colors? I'll show myself out....). We have some great resources we are including that should help anyone whether they want to copyright their work, all of it, or set themselves up for licensing deals.

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    2. that was terrible, marc. is it too late to get a new partner on this book?

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    3. No. I was smart and got a contract. #protip

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    4. DAMMIT WHERES THE KILL FEE CLAUSE

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  13. Has anyone ever read "Nuts & Bolts: A Blueprint for a Successful Illustration Career" by Charles Hively? It's the closest I've found to a practical, easy-to-read guide to the business aspects of illustration, but it's way too short and not nearly in-depth enough. I'm hoping that Drawn & Drafted can be like a more thorough version of Nuts & Bolts.

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Kelley. I'll have a look at it. I've read a few others that we like, and we plan on filling in the gaps, absolutely.

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  14. Lauren, I've been to planning to take all your MC posts and print then and put them in a binder...that should tell you how much I'm looking forward to this book project! Hands down this sounds fantastic!

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    1. this will be ever so much more portable.

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    2. Oh good. I was sure I might be the only person that printed out art articles without them being forced college reading!

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  15. This is a great idea! Just signed up through your link above and look forward to hearing more about this project as it grows.

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  16. Amazing project idea! I signed up immediately. This will go on the shelf right next to my copy of Art/Work which has been my super readable go-to reference for things like shipping art since college. I'd love to contribute whatever I can to make this a reality!

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  17. Great idea Lauren, I look forward to the publication of this book! On a related note, I am curious about artwork revisions in the modern publication world. I would think that clients are more likely to ask for them due to the rise of digital art, and the perception that computers make changes easier than the old days. And digital changes ARE easier than alterations on a true oil or acrylic painting. So I am wondering if artists who work in traditional media get cut a little more slack than digital artists regarding the dreaded revisions?

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    1. good question. i don't cut traditional artists "slack" but what I do is make twice as many checkins. the artists sends progress along the way, and I have editorial approve each step, while yelling in their ears that WE CANT PHOTOSHOP THIS ONE LATER GUYS. still, there's a lot of times the artist will make alterations in digital after, even if you're a traditional painter, you need to know digital if only to make sure the best representation gets sent. I don't care how sexy your painting is if it won't reproduce well on my book cover...

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  18. Great feedback guys! I'm so glad you're excited about this!

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  19. I'm very excited about this project! I'm just starting out as an artist, and I sometimes find it bewilderingly difficult to figure out how to get seen, and get seen as a professional. As much as I have been taught about this subject already, it feels like a very complex one, one that takes a huge amount of personal experience. With this book, I'm going to be able to skip all that boring experience stuff and get rich quick! Yessss

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    1. hmmm. I don't think we can afford a money-back guarantee....Marc?

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  20. This is soooo needed. Thank you!

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  22. Damn, this is awesome. Sure I'll back this project

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  23. It will be awesome! thank you!!!

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