Thursday, December 8, 2016

AD Access

-By Lauren Panepinto

If there's one question I get more than any other, it's how do you get access to Art Directors? Many of the Muddy Colors columnists have spoken about the importance of professional feedback, and how it can really light a fire under you and push your work to the next level. If you want to be commissioned for illustration jobs, who better to talk to than the very Art Directors you want to be hired by? But we're a busy folk, and even though we make ourselves as available as possible at events and conventions, it can still be hard to catch some time with us. For shy artists uncomfortable with networking in crowds, it can be even harder. And if geography or budget don't allow travel to conventions and seminars, then you've always been at a bit of a disadvantage.

One of the very first columns I wrote on this blog was about Approaching Art Directors: how to find us at conventions, professional events, and on social media. Then there's the whole article on Portfolio Reviews. And then a whole article about how important face to face networking is. Every year at cons like Spectrum and others, Art Directors give hundreds of portfolio reviews to artists…but what happens if you don't live in a major city where companies that use art are based? What if you can't afford to get to conventions? What if you need more help than just the 5 or 10 minute portfolio review you're able to snag with an AD even if you do get to attend a convention they are at?

Hunting Art Directors is an important part of the job of becoming a professional illustrator…but it's also the part that artists universally have the hardest time with.

Now, I am happy to see that Art Order, the site run by Jon Schindehette, who has Art Directed for many properties, including ThinkGeek, Treehouse, and Wizards of the Coast, has added a brand new service to the site: Online Art Director Access. Art Order is a great site in the family of educational beacons in this community (like Muddy Colors, smArt School, Drawn and Drafted, and others), and it specializes in one-on-one artist career development. Jon has always been a champion of the mentor/mentee system, and this new service takes that relationship online in customizable levels of access.

At the new Art Order Career Development page you can schedule Portfolio Reviews, Mentoring Sessions, and (my favorite) hit the Panic Button with a growing roster of professional Art Directors in varied fields.

Currently there are 5 Art Directors available for 30 and 60 minute portfolio reviews, longer term mentoring, and 15 minute Panic sessions where you can get an immediate AD response to a specific piece you may need help and guidance on.

I spoke to Jon Schindehette about his vision for the site, and Art Order on one hand is continuing to specialize in making that mentoring process and career development more accessible, and on the other, walking artists through entrepreneurship with printing, product development, and manufacturing. These are services that artists ask me about all the time, and I am happy to be able to send them to Jon and Art Order.

If you've ever wished you had an Art Director on call to give you honest feedback and help you make your pieces better, then check out Art Order's new services.


  1. Fantastic post Lauren! Great help.

  2. What sort of mentoring lasts for only 3 hourly sessions and costs $300? What exactly is anyone supposed to gain by this besides basic info available in many places? You don't become a kung-fu master by taking 3 hourly lessons. Seems more like a seminar of sorts, a discussion, in which case it's way too expensive.

    1. You're not paying just for the 3 hours, you're paying for the 10-30 years of experience and trained eye. If you've never sat down with someone and had them completely pull apart your portfolio, put it back together, and completely rethought your career goals, well, then you'll just have to trust the people that it has happened to. This is what ADs do at portfolio reviews at cons, on a smaller, faster, scale so they can get to help as many people as possible. This service opens up that opportunity to a longer, more focused review, and especially opens it up to people who can't make it to conventions and industry events. I think it's actually too cheap, because it's a lower rate than most career coaching. Here you get the career coach, plus the fact that they're working in the field you specifically want to be in, which is rarely the case with career coaches.

    2. I know that one is paying to gain access to the experience of someone who's been doing this for years, it's one of the first things we learn trying to get into this industry. But 3 hourly sessions with someone looking at your work and discussing the possibilities, giving you direction etc isn't mentoring or coaching because those are long term. At best it's a seminar, at worst it's advice. I didn't mention the portfolio review because it is sound and it's accurate in it's description. So our slight disagreement is semantics.

      As far as pricing goes, I must insist, if only for the fact that most people who may be interested in this are people outside of the US who don't make nearly as much cash as the average person in the US. $300 are a monthly wage in many parts of the world. I'm not saying they should lower the price but it's not as accessible as you think. At some point people should get out of the rich man bubble (because yes, even a person around the poverty line in the US is rich compared to people in the Balkans) and realize that 90% of the planet hasn't the money to spend on Marvel dolls, clothes or a car every 5 years nor $300 for 3 hours of advice because they need that money to pay the rent and buy some bread. So for you, yes it's cheap but for the rest of the planet, believe me you, they couldn't even understand any grievance you may have about money (and it's understandable if you have some).

      That's why I was saying it shouldn't be considered mentoring. Mentoring is long term, not 3 hours, and yes it might be a great service wow, yoo-hoo, but it's not cheap to the average human.

    3. Hi Michael,
      I totally hear what you are saying and I recognize your concerns about the mentoring program and the costs.

      The mentoring program is NOT a 1 hour chat session. The goal of the program is to tear down all the roadblocks that keep you from progressing in your career, providing you insights and assignments to push you beyond what you currently understand to be true, and give you new possibilities for your career. I personally took a professional mentoring program that was twice the cost of our program, and the same session length. It was the most confronting and challenging thing I've ever done in my life...and the most effective. Perhaps you should consider signing up for the FREE 30 minute consultation session to learn what might be possible for you in the mentoring program.

      As far as cost, we are creating a FREE email course that will be developed to help creatives take on their career and build an effective portfolio. If this is something that is of interest to you, please sign up for our email list and select the "career development" are of interest so you can be notified when this program launches in early 2017.

    4. Hello Jon,

      Don't get me wrong, I wasn't doubting the program. I was pointing out that in this age where the internet is a way for us to access things we never could have (my personal journey is a testament to that), there are times when the US-centric mindset is too intense.

      The issue is the pitch and it's phrasing. For instance, Jeff Watts has some one on one stuff with him or his teachers. They are even more expensive. Do I think they should lower the price? Not on your life. Jeff's got such quality and passion for what he's doing that he makes non-artists want to take his courses. You guys shouldn't lower it either. It's just that Jeff presents his stuff in a way where the poor SOB who can't afford it, knows that it's high-end, not geared towards him...yet.

      Now this "The mentoring program is NOT a 1 hour chat session. The goal of the program is to tear down all the roadblocks that keep you from progressing in your career, providing you insights and assignments to push you beyond what you currently understand to be true, and give you new possibilities for your career. I personally took a professional mentoring program that was twice the cost of our program, and the same session length. It was the most confronting and challenging thing I've ever done in my life...and the most effective.", now that was an awesome pitch because people get a better idea as to what it is and why it's that much (again, for non-US living wage). That's all.

      Other than that I have no issue and no doubt that you will be doing a great job, I mean, you and I corresponded via e-mail a couple of years ago and tho unfortunately for various reasons (most of which are economic hehe) I haven't developed as much as I should have, I did benefit a lot from your advice.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I've really struggled to write this and not sound like a cynical ass, so perhaps it's a suggestion for a future post: there's a massive rise in the things an amateur artist can pay for in order to help them reach their goals (I've watched enough tutorials in my time, and they certainly helped me reach my goals, so I'm not knocking them at all), they were quite few and far between when I started out but now they're everywhere.

    Are we/is the art community being careful enough to ensure that amateur artists are not being used as a source of income? I'm just speaking hypothetically of course, sorry if that comes across as otherwise :) (smiley face means I'm being nice, that's internet law!)

    1. I agree, and there's absolutely discussions going on between many of the people offering services like this in our community. The fact is, there's a huge need for these services, and the internet makes them available in a way that they never were before. A generation ago it was: go to art school or self-teach yourself with a few available books. Now there's so many more resources, tailored to your goals. IMC, smART School, Schoolism, One Fantastic Week - they're all a bit different and focus on different needs in the art community. Marc & I do the Art Business Bootcamps because there is a lack of that education even IN art schools. Are there things that are more worthwhile than others, or more specific to your goals? Absolutely, and you should research any program before you hand over money. But many of these programs charge the bare minimum needed to make the program run at all. Artists and ADs are professionals who need to be paid for their time away from their other jobs, but I know the costs of the programs I promote here in articles and the profits are minimal. And many many of these sources are also giving away a huge deal of very useful material for free.

      I guess when it comes down to it, I'd rather these services be available to the people that need them. But you can only give so much of your time for free…trust me, I know.

    2. (When I say the costs of the programs are minimal, I mean the profit is minimal over the costs of running the program. Websites, video editing, space rentals, etc are not cheap)

    3. Hi Phil,
      The new FREE email course we are creating for to enable creatives to take on their career and build an effective portfolio might be right up your alley then. While it won't be tailored education like the mentoring and portfolio reviews, it will provide some great tools to improve your portfolio with velocity. Look for it in early 2017, or better yet, sign up for our email list and select the "career development" area of interest to make sure you get notified when the program goes live.

  4. I love technology! This is such a great service, and thank you to everyone involved for putting it together and offering their time and energy. It's pretty awesome that artists from around the world can get a portfolio review and serious, in-depth advice on their work without having to wait months or years for that magical opportunity when they can afford the time & money to make the trip to a big convention or event.

    On the cost - sure, the three hour mentoring sessions aren't affordable for everyone. And in that case, there's still a ton of free advice and education out there, not the least of which is this blog. But unless you live on the doorstep of a regular convention area, consider what travel, accommodation, time off work & ticket prices would cost you in exchange for maybe 15 minutes with one of these ADs. Three hours of undivided discussion for $300 is a bargain.

    1. Never mind the "Panic Button" option for $30. I thought that was pretty awesome as an entry-point anyone could use.

    2. That one is total gold. Crit groups are great but sometimes you need a focused, single opinion from someone whose expertise you can trust completely. Last time I got a 15 minute one-on-one with an AD, it involved a trip to Paris!

      (Not that the trip wasn't awesome but still, it cost more than $30!)

  5. Wow, what a great opportunity! I wish there was someone on there that did the same kind of consulting, except not aimed at a certain client or a presentable portfolio. For all of us trying to build and complete a self-constructed art education, it might be great to have what effectively is an occassional advisor: someone who could weigh in on the paid-courses, books, and self-led practice we've laid out for ourselves and how we're progressing. When I went to SFAL, I had some great and very helpful portfolio reviews with ADs, but the most helpful one to me was the MuddyColors review, because nobody giving it was thinking of their brand, or of my art in terms of it needing to be put to work ASAP.

  6. Fantastic post Lauren! Great help.

  7. Question: What time zone are the availability times that are listed? Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see that it said anywhere.

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  9. While you are here, John, is there any way to access the old ArtOrder website/blog? It was a goldmine of info for aspiring illustrators and I am sad to see it gone.


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