Friday, October 23, 2009

Bookish Notecard Sets Available

There is no such thing as "too many books"! 
Select unique gifts for book-lovers, bookworms, and bibliophiles at Owl Square Press. New selection of bookish notecard sets featuring me and other bibliophile artists. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Magazine Market For Illustrators: "Dead or Alive?"

The State of the Illustration Market
The number of magazines going out of business of late is far greater than anything we have ever experienced, and many of those staying in business are having an extremely difficult time. Magazine subscription sales are dropping and advertisers, realizing that magazines are not getting the same level of attention from consumers that they did in the past, are cutting back on their print advertising budgets. However grim this sounds, take heart the good news is there are still a lot of magazines out there approximately: 3,500 magazine in the US alone and approximately 200 are children's and family magazines.
What I Learned in School

So I actually graduated college as an editorial illustrator; meaning I was trained to make pictures for magazines and newspapers and any other forms of periodicals. It was so cool to do that then. In art school we would try to figure out which graduating student would be the next Time Magazine cover artist. Meaning who will be the next Rock Star! If you got a job doing a major cover you earned 5-10K! Thirty years ago.
Now people look at me and ask “What is an editorial illustrator?” and if they are young enough they ask, “What is Time Magazine?” I just turn away and look at my iphone to see if anyone emailed me for about a job. I do this ALL the time. Most of the time I burn out my phone battery checking mail BUT once in a while, I do the victory dance in a crowded elevator with people asking themselves what is an “editorial job? And why is she jumping up and down on my foot doing that stupid dance?” It’s a rush, I love it and it’s worth the wait!
What I learned in school
To communicate subtle thematic tone in a narrative
Give faces to characters in a story
Inspire the viewer to feel emotion
To expand and enhance the storytelling of the narrative.
Weighty stuff! But how does all that translate to magazine artwork?
Illustrating for adult and children’s magazines is an exciting and challenging part of my art career. I love the immediacy of magazine work but I then I also like driving like a taxi driver in downtown San Francisco in rush hour.
The shorter deadline is challenging as it immerses me directly into the project. Being very fond of reading, the stories I am asked to illustrate stir up my imagination while the short deadlines force me to think quickly, graphically, to use strong compositions and color all to engage the reader. But you have to really like deadlines. I mean really like them. You also have a style that allows you to work fast to do this kind of work well. I work in acrylics (as it dries fast) in a format size that conforms to my scanner so I can paint, dry it, scan it, then email it off to the AD or editor.
Artistically my job is to hook the reader by enticing them with the art so they look at the page long enough to want to read the story. The illustrator’s job is to bring the story to life for the reader through the artwork. Magazine illustrators are conceptual thinkers who know how to how to interpret story and they show their narrative skill by producing an illustration that represents the essence of its accompanying text. Being a good magazine artist is more about how you think then how you execute.
Art Directors for magazine typically hire me to do complex feeling pieces. The stories have moral issues, fears, hopes and sometimes death, things not all explained left, unfinished unresolved. I am completely happy with this. I love putting my feelings into my pieces and clients think I am good at that. I always try to add in the unseen elements of the story into my work; what I feel and respond to when reading the story. I try to give the pieces something more than the obvious interpretation.
Take note, creating an editorial magazine piece is different than creating art for a children’s book. If you are used to making pictures as a series as in a book, when switching to magazine work you must bear in mind that you are distilling the story down to a high concept and do not have the opportunity to slowly bring the reader into a world. You must focus your concept into one important scene that best conveys the mood and action of the piece. As an editorial illustrator this is your one chance to get the viewers attention before they turn the page. An example of a good a magazine project for your portfolio is one that allows you to illustrate a series of large pictures and or spots. This can be a good choice to submit to a book publisher as it shows more development.
Research Your Marketplace
The first step in finding magazine work is to become familiar with the magazines in general. Go to your local library or local bookstore there you will find a large array of magazines for children. It seems like obvious advice but sometimes but I am stubborn and dumb and do not like to listen to the obvious. Then it bites me later. If you look, what is out in the market right now then you have more avenues to send your work too. Looking constantly at the market place alerts you to trends in publishing that might now be warm to your style. Whole Foods is great example of a research trip as they have quite a selection of unusual magazines. You can find me in the supermarket end aisles shaking and turning over new magazines to get the lose subscription cards. They must staff Whole Foods with all Canadians, as they are always so polite! They will ask me if they can hold the magazine while promptly stuff the subscriptions cards to Dog Yoga Magazine into my purse (which I to later add into my magazine database.)
Look through as many issues as you can to get a good sense of the style of art used. Some use a wide range of styles and some have very consistent looks. Read them to find out what kind of stories they use and if you relate to those stories. It is essential to understand the age and the focus of the readers. Not all publications will be right for your art so it may be best to select a few to start with that are a good fit for you. I’d say about 75 percent (probably more) of magazines out there are not for my style. Safe to say Guns and Ammo is not going to call me anytime soon. Many magazines have web sites that provide submission guidelines. Look through these as well. As always, follow the guidelines carefully as to not get rejected based on a technicality.
Subject Matter
To get magazine work create a targeted piece to send out as a promo. Once you have done your research the next step will be to pick subject matter that is appropriate to the readership. Typically, an art director will look for an ability to draw appealing children of cultural diversity (a thing I do a lot), animals (either portrayed realistically, stylized or anthropomorphic) and familiar locations or situations such as parks school rooms or a child’s room.
Chose an existing story that is appropriate to the magazine to illustrate or generate your own ideas. Make sure that you have provided enough details to be narrative – to “tell” the story with your art. If you are particularly interested or an expert in a certain subject matter, then play up that strength.
Not only do you have to worry about what you illustrate but you have to understand where the story will fit on your artwork. Look at magazine with the eyes of a designer to understand how the page and copy layouts work. Magazine art is often given limited space and the artist is challenged to design a page with that in mind. Get to know what a full page, ¾ page, ½ page or spot illustration means. Demonstrate in your samples your understanding of a copy and headers by leaving space for it in your design. Some magazines use a lot of spot illustration. Others may put the story within a border; overprint the type on the art. Carefully design the illustration it does not interfere with the copy. For me that’s one reason I chose very stylized compositions.
I will dwell on this topic a bit. There are many artists are in the world making illustrations but not all have a unique approach. Quite a few rely on trends or looks taken from other artists. Do not do that. Please! Each one of you is capable to bring a unique approach, voice, or style-whatever you want to call it, that makes your art your very own. Style is ultimately what sells you. It is an important component but is very hard to define. It is called the artist’s voice. It is in the artist’s color sense, the quality of line and point of view, the composition. Your experiences, your skill, your technique, and influence from other artists all contribute to your style, but don’t let those influences rule you. As difficult as it seems allow yourself to experiment, try to bring your own interests and passions into your art, because if you do then your style will feel like it is really you talking thought your art.
In the Golden Age of Illustration, realistic and or decorative art was king. The great part of today’s market is diversity, anything well deigned and executed goes! Have some fun, live a little, that is why you are an artist.
Sell Yourself
I hate selling myself. I hate going to mixers. I hate cold calling for work. I hate attending conferences. I hate it all. As outgoing as I am I just cannot make small talk with the intent to ask for work. I act like stupid a high school freshman at a first dance; Clumsy, inarticulate, sweaty and fearful of rejection. However, I have to do it or I will no longer work. At all. Period. If you are like me ease the pain by taking advantage of all the cowardly ways I like to sell myself from home; through personal Web sites, either your own or a group directory. These have become an incredibly important way for art directors to have easy and immediate access to your portfolio(s). It is not enough to just have a web site; you will need to direct your potential clients to it. Sending postcards or printed mailers periodically, advertising in sourcebooks, and other online directories are all effective ways to get your work seen. It may take several different strategies to effectively attract magazine work. I have found that sending sample packets that are tailored to individual art directors to be very effective. I select several pieces from my portfolio that are appropriate for a magazine. I create my own sample sheets on my home printer, generally one or two illustrations, and my contact information, and then mail them to the art director with a very brief cover letter explaining my interest and experience.
There are many inexpensive ways to produce postcards, large and small format, one sheets, promo pieces. Just make sure it looks professional. Have another artist look it over to get feedback on font use readability and appropriate use of images for your market.
To cut costs I now try to use as service such as Adbase to do email blast mailings. Then when I get interest I send out specific printed mailers to those companies. For me this is a cheaper and more targeted way to advertise. Plus I get a data on who is actually opening my emails. Much more scientific than dumping three hundred card in a mailbox.
To track my submittals I make a excel doc for all submittals be it a children’s book or other markets. I keep a log on what I have submitted, market, date and other personal notes for follow-up.
It keeps me honest and focused on who much I am really selling myself, how often and how effective I am.
Take advantage of foreign markets. Many list services now offer European and Canadian publishing contacts. Look outside the US for work. It is a global economy so use it!
Learning to wait the market place out
So, I have taken this long to tell you this. I am so sorry but it sucks   out there. Really. So what do you do? Firstly, you must be thoroughly committed to do this to stay in the game. A sugar daddy is helpful; no kidding, a working spouse, or partner can make or break your career. Get some one to help you stay in till the economy and the publishing market settles down. Part-time job such as teaching art, bookstore work… whatever it takes to keep you going. However, your job should be flexible as to take to on assignments.
There are a lot of magazines still out there so stay optimistic.
Good luck and hang in there!!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Magazine Market: Dead or Alive?

The Magazine Market: Dead or Alive? 

SCBWI Lecture Series

Free for SCBWI members ($10 for non-SCBWI members.)

Date: October 17 

Panel: Caren McNelly McCormack, Liz Amini-Holmes and Angela Haight 

Time: 4 - 6 pm 

Place: First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, 1985 Louis Road. Palo Alto, CA

Panelists will present ways to make magazines and periodicals work for you in this challenging market. Wine and Halloween chocolates will be served to ease your pain.