Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where to go from here? Post GenCon 2017

SPEEDY RECAP of GenCon 2017
Sales were the best they have been but still seem to be far below what everybody else makes. My sales pitches were poisonous to my sales. Take aways 1)bigger booth to have more angles 2)more art displayed equals more sales 3)going to get ruthless about what I show. Going to show older stuff that sells and not show better work that doesn't sell. I often think of the booth as a display of my portfolio but that actually hurts my sales and that's what a con booth is really about. 4)Going to make a price sheet for the table as well. 5) Quick title and description attached to each piece helped. 6)Booth assistant is a must-have. 7)Should have gotten my wife involved in running the booth much sooner. 8)Playmats were selling again. 9)Gaming art was responsible for most income but personal work got people to stop.10)Have to start charging $1 or $2 per signature on cards.11)My prices for prints are too low.

Where to go from here?
Analyzing how to make a better living from this I have broken down my potential work into three categories.

Personal Pieces
Goal:Change this into the more premium product line. Focused on quality over quantity.
  • Small but more passionate audience although I don't think I have found the audience yet.
  • Giclee, limited edition, limited time to purchase, more archival, embossed, embellished, limited time window, foil,ready to hang
  • NO regular prints. I don't think my personal work can count on volume.
  • Rarely used on any sort of functional items.
  • Target gallery audience more with these.Try some very different types of conventions/venues.
  • Can create instructional videos and walkthroughs of this work.
  • Premium book collecting the work 
  • The coffee table set collection of premium prints (went over well at GenCon)
  • Images as part of a series from now on. Perhaps sets of three.
  • Never sell in shipping tubes.

Current Client Work
Goal:Push the work that fits archetypes and shoot for quantity. Separate from personal work.
  • Make MtG drawings more refined for sale and drawings after
  • Artist proof paintings
  • Always open edition prints and sizes between 8x10 and 11x17. 
  • MtG prints should primarily be a size that fits in a card binder.
  • Always sold in shipping tubes.
  • Bundle related IPs such as MtG, Monte Cook Games,werewolves,etc
  • No more metallic prints.

Personal Commercial Work
 Goal:Design artwork specifically for utility or the market.
  • Con Exclusives
  • Push Licensing more
  • Location Sheets
  • Creature Cards
  • Playmats and other functional items. Artwork designed for these from the start.
  • Participate in royalty projects
  • Adult coloring books
  • Alternative dust jackets-probably too niche
  • Tokens-serious doubts about the viability of this but may be wise if doing more GPs.
  • Author signing illustrations if I coordinate more with the authors.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tool Review: Coreplay Fitness Body

Coreplay Fitness Body review

What's in the box

1:6 scale figure with head sculpt, hands and feet.
3 extra sets of hands. 
1 set of high heel feet
Spandex suit thing


This figure features more "heroic" proportions at about 9 heads tall. I have yet to find anyone in reality that isn't 8 to 8.5 heads tall so I will have to make note to shorten the legs when using this as reference unless I want a particularly cartoonish or heroic looking figure. It also seem the the distance from navel to pubis is a bit short. With the clothing on there is some extra room at the crotch so with clothing on the distance from belly button to pubis would appear accurate. It's clever if that was intentional. From the side, the abdomen is super skinny and is even more pronounced because there's a strong curve to the back. It's unfortunate that the front of the abdomen doesn't reflect that same curve by bowing out some.

The head clearly has some anime influence in it's proportions and paint job but it's not that bad. The eyes are maybe slightly lower than normal and the paint job kind of makes them seem to wrap around the head. Easy enough to adjust both in a drawing.


I actually really like the sculpt on this figure because unlike most 1:6 scale female figures this seems to have been made with the intention that this figure would not be wearing clothes. This means muscles have been indicated! 
Look! Calf muscles and tendon.
That dimple between the clavicle,deltoid and pectoralis! Indications of biceps,triceps and deltoids. Like all female action figures it still has the big fake looking boobs pushed together to create cleavage. Kind of disappointing since the rest of the body was sculpted as though there would be no clothes.

It's cool that we can see some muscles here but it's sculpted as if the arms are pulled back. A more relaxed sculpt might have been nicer.

The hands are all fine. The regular feet though(not in this picture)... very non-committal and generic. BUT at least they offered flat feet as many female figures only use the high heel feet.

I thought it was interesting that they chose to give the sculpt a playful expression. Usually they always go with a neutral expression. I like it because it's close enough that I can easily convert my drawing to a neutral one if that's what I want. Since I'm using the figure for drawing reference I like sculpted hair over real hair.


As far as my reference figures go this is the least articulated one I have unfortunately. There is no ability to twist anywhere in the torso so there will be no contrapposto in the poses. Unfortunately this is the norm for 1:6 scale female action figures. This one does at least put a point of articulation underneath the breasts but it is comically limited as these gifs show. Still it is better articulation in a torso than most other female figures. The hair sculpt kind of interferes with posing the head but it's not that much of an issue. Other than those issues the articulation is pretty good. Some sculpts will have the neck more separate for articulation but I actually kind of like it not having that extra point of articulation because it's so rare I am doing an illustration of someone with their chin on their chest.

Paint Job

This really doesn't factor into my purchase at all but the skin was weirdly ghostly pink. Ready to go as reference for a vampire though I suppose. The paint on the eyes is really strange with a white stroke around the pupil. Eyeliner paint is bizarre but I find it strange in reality too.


Again, this doesn't factor into my purchase. It was easy enough to remove and seems it would go back on fine. It's really thin so if you bunch it up it actually seems to mimic real scale fairly well.


The joints are very tight and the feet are very hard to change out. So it seems to hold poses really well.
This models head uses a ball socket so it unfortunately isn't compatible with other 1:6 scale figures I have. So no swapping heads.
Also, at $70 it's practically the best figure you will get for the money especially with all of the hands. 


It was a good value for the money but won't replace Phicen figure when it comes to more complicated poses. If the pose isn't complicated though, I will definitely be using this figure particularly if the character in the final illustration isn't covered up entirely with clothes. 

This is the right direction for 1:6 female figures though as it is making more attempts at realism. Now we just need to see more with articulated torsos and maybe some head sculpts that show emotions. The Shi figure is the only one I know of depicting an angry woman. If they want to stick with not articulating the female torsos then let's see some heavier set female reference figures as that would make more sense to me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

2016 GenCon recap

The TLDR; won an award, landed huge clients, no headaches, and didn't make any money.

The Good

So I tried to take some inspiration from my previous blog post and really cast selling out of my mind and the result was having zero headaches. Usually I find having a booth stressful and it gives me headaches that leave me too exhausted to do anything after show hours beyond sleep. This year I had a lot of great conversations at my booth about books and the craft. I was able to do all of the after hours socializing and do it on fewer hours of sleep.

I made some new friends thanks to all of that socializing and that's awesome. Also, it is much easier to remember names when you don't have a headache.

I enjoyed giving artists advice and critiques. Hopefully I see them all next year and their portfolios are even better.

I won a Juror's Choice Award from Tyler Jacobson which was unexpected and awesome!

I got some work from a huge client that I had pretty much given up hope on getting work from and didn't think my portfolio really targeted anymore. That was completely unexpected and exciting.

My booth neighbors Nez, Brian, and Jessi were all great.

The frames on the pictures were nice.

I sold out some older prints I was trying to get rid of.

The Bad

I was really trying to unload my stock of prints so I was selling things really cheap. Despite prices my sales were pretty awful. It was as if it were my first GenCon so the whole thing resulted in a record low as far as money earned. Meanwhile price of booth,etc went up. Luckily I was pretty timid with expenses for this show so I really didn't lose much money. Below I ponder possible reasons for the disaster.

I think the artwork appealed to artists but not GenCon attendees. That could be because the work I was pushing wasn't attached to any properties or because it was too surreal (although other more surreal artists seemed to do well).

Playmats sold WAY less than normal.

My booth was rather sparse compared to normal so maybe that minimalism hurt me.

Only Hext TCG fans stopped by the booth (I don't make prints of monsters though) and their game is digital. So none of the players of L5R, The Strange, Noble Treachery,  Gods of the Fall,etc stopped by. There are so many games on the show floor which I have created artwork for and nobody stopped by to get anything signed except playmats.

 My wall display maybe looked a bit fancier with the frames although I know I still didn't handle that as professionally as I could. I didn't have anything vertical on my table which is different but in the past it was ALWAYS images on the walls that got people to stop and not stuff on my table. 

In the past I have always had one image that was HUGE and that helped to get people to stop so perhaps having all prints on the wall nearly the same size caused there to be a lack of focus.

This year I made matte finish prints rather than metallic which could have hurt sales. Basically I went for volume rather than selling a few more expensive prints. 

I need to trash my banner. I suppose I will have to create something without art that just has my name on it because I hate spending money on banners with artwork that I won't like in a year.

I had one low price point which I thought would simplify things but perhaps turned people off.


 Contrary to my expectations the newer and prettier personal work does not interest people as far as prints go. I hate to abandon prints of them entirely. Might have to make extremely fancy prints of those to sell at high price points so that I can sell only a few.

The trend seems to be towards LOTS of stuff on the walls and table rather than less. Personally I found many booths to be sensory overload but it seems to be working for others so I should at least try that next year.

There are too many people selling playmats. They are dead.

Lots of people trying to sell functional things so perhaps I should move towards that. Lots of books too but I do not have a large enough catalogue of personal work which I'm happy with. Something to work towards I suppose.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Social Vampires

I'll seem way less ranty if I put gifs and silly pictures in here. Maybe this blog post will make a couple young artists better at networking/self-promotion.

gif from American Psycho
There's a breed of artist/human that I keep coming across that is just sweeping across social media and real life events. They look just like us. They talk like us. Sometimes you'll feel a chill go up your spine and it may be because you're in the presence of a... SOCIAL VAMPIRE.  Here are signs that you or your friend may be a social vampire.

gif from 30 Rock
 1.They friend everyone on Facebook and then unfollow everyone on Facebook. Except maybe those who might hire them.

gif from The Green Hornet
2.Someone else has the connections they want on Facebook? They will post their art,writing,etc and tag people who have the audience they want.

 gif from Black Books
3.They promote their work and projects but do not participate.

 "HELLO WORLD! I have a gift. ME." 

Reddit, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, and DeviantArt are their tools and community a foreign concept. It's good to spread your work around but try to participate in some of the communities and understand why nobody responds when you don't.

gif from I have no idea where 
(I really wanted a gif of Jar Jar saying "Yoosa should follow me now, okeeday?" but no luck)
4. They love "who is following you back" sites for Twitter,FB,etc. "You don't follow me! BLASPHEMY! How could I possssssibly be interested in your content if you're not seeing mine?! I only followed you so that you would follow me back, I could ignore your stuff, and maybe you would be suckered into contributing to my thing. Here's a auto message through Twitter for following me so that you can be reminded that I primarily want your money."

gif from King of the Hill
 5. They have just added you on social media and message within 30 minutes asking you to create fan art for their IP, your client contact information or to pledge/promote their thing.

 Screen from New Girl
5. Every sentence is an "I" sentence. Ever found yourself in a conversation that seems to die after two sentences? You may have stumbled into a social vampire enclave! Does every sentence begin with I? No questions have been asked of anyone besides what you have said? RUN!

 gif from Supernatural
6. When a social vampire finds itself alone with what I assume appears to be husks to them, they will draw forth their phones and OH HOW the checking of the e-mails shall commence! Eye contact? Only if thou art their prey. RUN!

7. The most devious activity of the social vampire is the sabotage. On occasion the social vampire will actually denigrate the work of others or actively block others' access to what it deems their source of food. Everyone at an event passing their work around? Guess who is hoarding it all and then suddenly turning it all over when time is up? Meanwhile they bring plenty of work to share. They want into an art show or more wall space and it's, "so and so hasn't been doing this long enough/isn't good enough/doesn't sell anything/is selling under the table/isn't whatever enough".

 gif from Supernatural
8.The social vampire is also known for their backlash at those in the industry who critique when asked to critique or simply do not acknowledge their greatness. Here's a great example from the writing world.

I blame Patreon, Kickstarter and Kindle Unlimited. Let's all go out and make friends. Find out what people like. What are they going through? What are they working on and why? What are their hobbies,favorite foods,shows,etc? How is their family? Take a genuine interest in their lives. Make connections with human beings because most human beings are interesting and it will make you a better person and smarter. Help others through your feedback and sharing. Eventually you won't even have to ask others for help.

This post was something I have been thinking about ever since hearing Creative Pep Talk Podcast a couple months ago and just a recent event made me want to finally put together a post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Writing, Gestalt and Current Events

Lately I have been reading a lot and listening to a lot of audiobooks as well. I ran a creative writing contest where I read probably a hundred entries. I have read books because they were by local authors or by popular writers rather than because of my own interests. This is all to say that I have finally read some really bad writing, some really excellent writing and some mediocre writing. I am finally beginning to see HOW something is well written and it's clarifying some thoughts on visual art.

Again I'M NOT A WRITER and my grammar is sure to be horrible but here's an example of the sort of thing I keep coming across.

"He was pale-skinned and wore a gold breastplate with matching baltea under a tattered red cloak. A dirty brown tunic covered his legs to the knees. He made others uncomfortable."

"His breast plate was the color of fetid piss which seemed to run down and turn into the dangling belts at his waist. From his shoulders hung a cape reduced to strips the deep color of a man's innermost blood. His tunic was the color of nightsoil. Among the filthy clothing his flesh stood apart as it reflected light like a pearl, opalescent and shimmering. He was divine and absolutely disgusting."

Style one is factual, utilitarian and efficient. It could be argued that it paints the clearest picture. It instructs you on how to feel about the previous description.

The second one barely even defines actual colors. It tries to force the reader to imagine the colors or imagine the clothing articles as other things. The purpose is to make the viewer participate in the story and create an opinion on those colors. It doesn't say how these colors should make you feel. It reminds me of the idea of Gestalt in visual art. I am sort of trying to take my art from style one and move it more to style two. Trying to use these fantasy narratives to get viewers to think or feel something entirely different. Trying to get viewers to participate more.

With recent events I have thought about creating art that is somehow about our modern world but my ideas always seem like style one. It's too on-the-nose. It's too journalistic.  If I create scenes that aren't from events then it begins to feel manipulative or preachy. If I wanted to have the viewer feel love or loved, I don't think the solution is to necessarily draw two people loving each other. Is the solution to draw something love-able? Draw something that attempts to make the viewer remember what love is like? Do figures make the viewer feel disconnected or does it help unify? Should a concept like "love" be the middle man to a bigger objective? Of course all of this can't be too direct or purely from the imagination or I believe it will feel manipulative and cheesy. At the other end is seems pointless to pull directly from an event that's probably already been photographed or it will seem journalistic or like propaganda.

I feel like I have to draw something indirectly related to the topic and hope the viewer connects the two things. It seems the goal has to be using the Gestalt effect to create an image near where you want viewers to arrive emotionally or logically. If it's too far from the destination then it falls apart and fails with nobody making the connection. It's tricky and like learning an entirely different style of thinking or writing. These are the things I have been thinking about as I worked on my personal pieces of the past year which have been some of my most popular work yet. I'm currently on hiatus from that work as I want to think about it more and see if I can develop something better. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015-Year in Review

Personal Work/Patreon
My Patreon support has dipped here at the end of the year but it was great for motivating me to work on my own stuff.  Now that I'm really shooting for book covers I think these pieces will help more than most of my regular client work would.






The Island


Client Work/Properties
At the end of the year I got to work on a huge property. One where I'll be able to drop it's name and regular people on the street might know what it is. That's really the first time I could say that. Here at the end of the year I've been able to get a couple book covers some of which I can't post the finals for yet so that's great.

Undercrypt Scar
Defensive Archers


Twilight of the Gods

Lucas Hale

Unhelpful Work
About 9/40 of the works I have released(more like 9 of 50 completed) from this year were unhelpful to my career and were just done for the money. There was also about a month and a half of hourly art work that I haven't released that doesn't really further my career either. I wish that number were better but I believe it is better than previous years if only because I did fewer pieces this year which meant I got to spend more time than usual on each piece.

I've heard that it's best to try to do a good job of participating in one community/social media  rather than try to tackle them all. So I've started trying to participate a little more and be more interactive with the community on DeviantArt. I've been giving a lot more critiques and plan to continue. 

I found some new tools this year that I'm loving. Paintstorm Studio is helping me to feel more comfortable when I'm making certain artwork. I'm always e-mailing the company reporting bugs or asking for features and they are great at fixing and implementing things.

I went to GDC and Spectrum this year and didn't do any of my normal conventions. Earlier in the year I was thinking that I needed to devote myself to video game stuff if I wanted to make money so I went to GDC. I really didn't have the portfolio together to get that kind of work and it wasn't nearly the venue for landing work that it was 8 or so years ago. So while that was a waste of money it had a big effect. It made it clear that I needed to make a very specific portfolio to get the video game work I wanted. The problem was I really couldn't see myself being motivated enough to make that kind of work on my own which tells me that I shouldn't pursue it.

I love illustration and not concept art/design.  This helped contribute to my deciding to go to Spectrum. Unfortunately it was a bust as well. I did learn what the convention is like which is very helpful but I missed my opportunity to show my portfolio much. Basically there was a meet and greet night where it was chaos and I felt like the poor ADs were being torn apart by a pack of piranhas. I hoped to catch the ADs when they wouldn't be exhausted sometime on the show floor but unfortunately I only found one with their lei on (which means they are doing reviews). That saint of an AD was Jon Schindehette whom I already have somewhat of a connection with. He gave me great feedback with a lot of insight. It was exactly the sort of critique I was looking for. I just didn't make the new contacts that I imagined.

Weird Idea Experiments
It's not often I do any sort of work for free but I had this plan to run a contest to quickly spread my name as an artists looking to do book covers. Basically writers could get a free cover illustration if they shared the contest on their social media. The post ended up getting nearly 5k views which I am fairly happy with but I only received about 50 submissions I think. It hasn't lead to any work yet but I learned about some writer communities that I was unaware of so now I know some places to hunt for work.

The other idea I had came late in the year. I was loving Paintstorm Studio so much and some people were picking it up based on my recommendation and yet I was surprised I haven't seen more people using it. So I thought to reach out and contact Painstorm Studio about potentially sponsoring me. I put together a whole pitch with numbers and a scaling system,etc. It wasn't going to be much money but with it stacked on Patreon money which was $100/piece by itself at the time it would have made it even easier for me to find time each month to work on Patreon pieces. They kind of agreed which was awesome but there was such a language barrier that I just dropped it before it could start. I just didn't want any money being exchanged if they potentially didn't understand something I said or I didn't understand what they said,etc. Still I was happy that it was a fresh idea for me that I developed and was technically successful at pitching.

I've never ran any ads for myself before this year. I decided to run an ad on DA which I think just cost $25 for 500 clicks. I thought with their huge traffic that it would quickly get the clicks but it seems with ad blocker and premium accounts there's not the kind of quick impressions that I expected so it actually stretches out over a long period of time. It only reached 50 clicks and 310,000 impressions. I didn't see any increase in Patreon or a significant increase in messages,etc. I'm still not sold that it was necessarily a bad decision. Maybe just need to find where I should be running ads.

2016 Plans
Pursue book cover work
Re-work my Patreon or develop a new way for me to pursue my personal work.
Try to attend the Spectrum Convention again.
Return to selling prints at conventions.
Sell Prints through DA - So DA prints are a real rip off for the customers and the artists get a pittance. BUT I've come to the conclusion that the DA market is a totally different market from what I see at conventions. So because I only make $1 on a print on DA doesn't actually mean that's a $15 loss at a convention. When I briefly sold prints on DA about 10 years ago I made some sales so hopefully now that my work isn't awful I can see some regular tiny income through there.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Finishing a piece of art is hard. In highschool I think finishing was the biggest hurdle among artists  my age and every now and then I get e-mails where another artist is having trouble just finishing a piece. It seems to be a particular problem with personal work. I recently finished the piece above.

which started off as this thumbnail.

Shortly after the progress above I found that I wasn't looking forward to working on the piece anymore. This is a personal piece and I wasn't looking forward to working on it anymore? What the hell happened?! Nobody is twisting my arm to do this!  I wasn't upset with the work I just wasn't looking forward to working on it again the following night. So I began to ask myself hard questions about why. The piece felt generic to me.  There's probably a thousand pictures of women with feathers all over them in high fashion magazines, a dozen women dressed like this at every Burning Man, and two hundred illustrations of similar scenes. Why do I bother? The photography stuff is more realistic than my work will ever be and the illustrations probably have better costume designs. After pinpointing the reason for my sudden lack of enthusiasm I was depressed about the prospect of finishing it. Originally I was pursuing the image as an opportunity to do some up close details and make an image showing a rendering of several different materials. Someone had given me good advice that I should try to make pieces that showcase whatever I consider my strengths. I think my strength may be conveying textures. So I was perhaps focusing a bit TOO much on this being an image of a bunch of swatches of textures.

What brought me back around to being excited to work on the piece was remembering what the initial spark was for the sketch. The idea was a woman that birds were attracted to and she was eating them. That gets my brain going again. Ok so she's a trap. I was drawing magpies because they have shimmery colors in their wings but there's also the myth of them liking shiny things. Let's put some shiny stuff on her as bait. The wings on the side of the head kind of look like horns so let's remember that as it it makes her seem more diabolical. This background isn't literal. I wasn't thinking of her literally as a woman who sitting outside eating wild birds. It's a metaphor. This is about being lured. Being lured by shiny things. Shiny things like coins. Money. Is this an illustration about thinking pursuing wealth is a trap or dangerous? Is this about greed?

From there I was excited about the image again. It wasn't about a woman with feathers on her head. It was unbearable to work on an image about a woman with feathers on her head. It was a joy to work on an image of a woman with feathers on her head that was about greed.