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.


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 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 Not an art business book that is out of date as soon as it’s printed.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.

questions2.jpg 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.


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.


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...

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