Category: Art Marketing

Patreon Project Kit for Artists

Cross-posted from The Muse’s Library.

I’ve been on Patreon now for about a year since the site went live. I’ve tried a lot of different experiments in that time and have built a small, but dedicated following via this community-driven site. I’m a firm believer that crowd-funding is the wave of the future and the core building block of a growing breed of artist-entrepreneurs.

I thought I’d share that spirit of giving by sharing the structure, templates, and other resources that keep my Patreon ticking!  I hope it helps other artists out there considering promoting their projects via this site.  Let’s make a Patreon!

Patreon Profile Image

Release Schedule

When you set up your account, it’s important to have an idea of how and when your releases will occur and also other notices you’d like to send to your Patrons so you can be aware of how much you might be spamming them at once so they don’t get fatigued by your posts. Mine go something like this:

– Last Day of the Month.  Patreon begins charging your Patrons on the 1st of the month, so let’s start there!  The monthly image is uploaded. I only release one painting per month to keep things simple, but you may want to release more frequently! If I ever do more than one painting a month, I stagger out my releases so that there’s always one being posted per month.  However, I do not charge monthly because I am a slow worker and I’d rather my Patrons only get paid when I release a painting, rather than taking a chance that they might not receive anything if I’m not productive enough.

– Within the First Week of the Month.  Rewards for all levels are posted in individual posts (one for each tier) and a PM is sent out regarding my Keyword Inspiration sketch (an event I hold monthly for $5+ Patrons where they turn in prompts and I draw the most inspiring prompt).

– The 15th of Every Month.  A mid-month reminder post reminding people to attend my monthly Studio Hangout (with a link to the Event on Google+), sharing a WiP of that month’s art, and any other important reminders that might be relevant. The 15th is also my internal deadline to have the physical Rewards mailed out.

Last Wednesday of Every Month.  A link to the recording of my live Studio Hangout is posted.  The recording is auto-generated by Hangouts and posted to YouTube for me, which makes things easy.

Digital File Rewards

Digital Rewards are the cornerstone of any Patreon since they’re easy to fulfill and require less of an expense on the artist’s part. Here are a few ideas for distributing digital items.

Patreon Attachments. The downside is a user might have to sift through a lot of posts to find the older Rewards that wouldn’t have been emailed to them. Storing a master list with links that you can link Patrons to in a private Rewards post is another idea to help keep track of older Rewards for new users.

DeviantART’s Sta.sh. DA’s sta.sh allows for private viewing of file links for anonymous viewers who have the url. You can store any kind of file (image, video, etc.) and also ‘stack’ them if you have multiple releases you’d like to show at a single url. The current default limit for free users of DA is 2GB while Premium members get 10GB. Another random perk is that you can also hotlink to sta.sh files if you are embedding images into html on other sites.

YouTube. YouTube allows you to upload videos at private links (called ‘unlisted videos’) that are only accessible to those who have the link.  It’s a good alternative if you want to offer a streaming option for videos instead of requiring a complete download of the entire file.

Private Journal Entries

Sharing exclusive posts can really make Patrons feel special! However, Patreon’s current journal function is very limited and doesn’t allow images and text to be formatted easily. For this reason, here are some suggestions for ways to share private journals:

WordPress Public Draft Previews. If you run a site built with WordPress, the Simple Preview plugin allows you to share a link to a Draft which is private and only accessible by those who know the url. The downside is comments currently don’t function on these posts. A workaround is to disable comments on the post and request that Patrons comment on the original Patreon post that led them, including a link so they can easily access the correct url to post their comments.

DeviantART’s Sta.sh. While also useful for storing files, you can also use Sta.sh Writer to create more robust journal entries than Patreon currently does. These private journals also allow users to comment on them.

Physical Rewards

Postcard and Greeting Card Mailings. I use www.postable.com for a fast, secure, and easy solution for mailing out postcards (ie. Christmas cards, Thank You cards, etc.) to my Patrons. You can personalize your cards online, though they will not be handwritten.

Prints. I usually print off my own prints via an Epson Artisan 1430 which boasts lightfast inks and wide format printing (up to 13×19 inches), but when I need bigger and/or fancier prints (ie. giclee, canvas, mounted prints, etc.), I turn to www.iprintfromhome.com (tell them Angela Sasser sent you and we both get Thank You dollars when you make your first order!).

Reader Suggestions

Before I get to the Templates, I’d love to hear your reader suggestions in comments!
If you have any tips or resources you’d like to add that I find particularly helpful,
I’ll add your tip to this journal entry with a link to your Patreon page.
Let’s make this entry a great resource for the community!

Templates

It’s important to have a link to your Patreon wherever you promote your work. Here are a few buttons and banners to help you out with that!

Download the editable files all at once here.

Profile Image Montage:

Button:

Event Banner:

Logos:

Mentorship Slots Available!

EDIT: I’ve updated the Casual Mentorship after some feedback. Now with more bang for your buck!  Also added a more in-depth explanation of exactly what the Portfolio Review and Art Marketing sessions would involve.

Last year, I tentatively opened up the Creative Consulting section of my website.  Now, I’m excited to roll out Mentorship slots via my Patreon reward tiers!  I’ve had a few requests from other artists who wanted to have a deeper educational experience than my painting critiques, which I offer via redlines and paint overs.  I’m currently offering two types of mentorships:

The Casual Mentorship

You will receive:

  • A monthly personalized 30 minute long Portfolio Review OR Art Marketing Consultation (EDIT: changed this previously from being a one-time session). You may also pay for additional sessions separately (see my rates here).
  • A single paint-over per month for your work in need of critique!  Additional paint-overs can be purchased separately (see my rates here).  A narrated video of your critique will be recorded and uploaded privately for you to view at your leisure on my YouTube channel. Paint-over videos will be fully detailed, providing advice and study resources. See an example of how detailed my critiques can be here.
  • A .PSD of your paintover which you’re free to use as a base will also be sent to you!
  • I am YOUR personal Art Cheerleader!  I’m at YOUR disposal when you need advice!  E-mail me any time and I will give you advice on studying, resources, and other art-related topics.

The Full Mentorship

You will receive:

  • A monthly personalized hour long Portfolio Review OR Art Marketing Consultation. You may alternate which one you prefer each month.
  • Up to three paint-overs a month for your work in need of critique! A narrated video of your critique will be recorded and uploaded privately for you to view at your leisure on YouTube. Paint-over videos will be fully detailed, providing advice and study resources. See an example of how detailed my critiques can be here – http://angelasasser.deviantart.com/critique/.
  • You will also receive a .PSD of your paintover which you’re free to use as a base.
  • Just like the Casual Mentorship, I’m at YOUR disposal when you need advice on studying, resources, etc.!

EDIT:  What are the Portfolio Review and Art Marketing Sessions?

The Portfolio Review and Art Marketing sessions would be hour long online chats that we have together via Hangouts or Skype to discuss your needs during the mentorship.  The Portfolio Review would focus on your art and any concerns you have related to your work and techniques while the Art Marketing session would be mainly focused on your business and marketing efforts.

If there happens to be time left after we’ve discussed the primary topic, we can always talk about other things, but I like to keep the sessions focused on a primary concern so as not to overwhelm us with information.

Extra, Extras!

In addition to the mentorship perks, you’ll receive a slew of other goodies I’m offering via Patreon that come with my Mentorship reward tiers, including wallpapers of my art, monthly tutorial videos, and more!  See the Rewards section of my Patreon page for the full details on what other rewards are included.

I’m only offering a limited number of slots right now so I can make sure that each student will have the dedicated attention they deserve, but this may change in the future, should this venture prove successful!  For those who might be new to my work and would like to know more about my credentials, you can read more about my experience here.

Have any questions or comments?  Feel free to comment on this journal or email me!

Book Club: Artist As Brand Part 8 – My Website

My reading of Greg Spalenka’s Artist As Brand continues with section VIII. What Makes a Great Website/Blog.

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!

Blog vs Website

Section VIII talks about what makes an interesting website and blog.  I love the allusion to a website as your studio while your blog is a conversation and is more interactive.  That immediately puts into perspective how a website should reflect your style while a blog can be more conversational and more casual.

For those who don’t have much experience designing a website, this section has great tips on suggested sections (ie. About, Contact, Press, Newsletter sign up, etc.) and exactly why you’d need them.

Newsletter Strategies

Spalenka also presents great suggestions for writing newsletters. I always have a hard time figuring out what’s relevant and have had a problem having enough art to show (since my attentions/products were so split up).  My newsletter has gone quiet while I build up enough of a buffer of a new consistent body of work to talk about.

Example of Online Brand (from My Own Experience):

Shadowscapes – The Art of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law immediately sprang to mind for me while I was reading.  She has a fantastic online brand identity and social media/website presentation.  Most impressively, she built most of this herself from the ground up, having been a computer science wiz before she became an artist.

Stephanie has a centralized shop on her site and I can always tell I’m on Stephanie’s sites when I see her dreamlike Celtic knotwork, watercolor textures, and soft color palette.  Her newsletter also has a similar feel and updates her fans on upcoming events, new art, new tutorials, and a monthly giveaway which all feels relevant and cohesive to her brand identity.

My Homework

These sections definitely got me thinking about how I want my Angelic Shades and The Fantasy Art of Angela R. Sasser sites to be different.


Angelic Shades Studio – Should be a vintage inspired theme with Art Nouveau flow and flourish.  Soft pale colors (blue, purple, light grey, and white).

Store should serve fine art buyers and my target audience (ie. fancy mats and framed art, postcards, greeting cards, etc.).


The Fantasy Art of Angela of Sasser – Should be elegant and sleek with just enough flourish to not make it too stark.  Black, white, or neutral with accent colors.  Words and images blended together to reflect my love of characters, stories, and narrative images.

Store should serve book lovers, gamers, and character fans. (ie. journals, bookmarks, playmats, dice bags, themed sketchbooks/storybooks, graphic novels, etc.).


Re-designing these sites with more of a specific identity in mind is definitely high up on my to-do list!

I’ve left out SO much concerning all the various resources Spalenka mentioned, so definitely go support Spalenka’s book/workshop if you are finding this blog series helpful!

Next Up: High Touch Venues – Conventions to Galleries

Book Club: Artist As Brand Part 7 – The Art of Social Media

My reading of Greg Spalenka’s Artist As Brand continues with section VII. Brand Promotion – The Art of Social Media.

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!

This section  provides a detailed list of forums and communities for networking, many of which I hadn’t heard of before.  There are a lot of sites dedicated specifically to networking ‘tribes’ (ie. Ryze.net and Tribe.net) that I have yet to tap!  I’ll have to post later over at The Muse’s Library with some thoughts on these sites and their usefulness for artists once I’ve had a chance to properly assess them.

Shop Tips

Spalenka also makes a strong argument for having a shop on your website instead of using a portal shop like the many POD sites (Zazzle, Fine Art America, etc.) or markets like Etsy.  I’ve been back and forth on this issue for years now.  Running a shop on Etsy, for instance, gives me a shop front that’s easily accessible and discoverable by a public market and is supported by the marketplace.  Etsy does take a percentage, but the setup provides a nice backbone for a shop that I didn’t have to build myself.

I’ve built shops from the ground up, spending hours upon hours perfecting it, only to have something go wrong on the technical side of things.  Not to mention the fact my website alone simply does not get the traffic of eBay or Etsy, no matter how much I promote it.  Even still, Spalenka argues that marketplace trends are always changing while your website will always be the same central location and this is very true.

Etsy, for instance, is battling with changes at a corporate level with many artists left disgruntled by the flood of wholesalers taking over the market.  Your central website, however, will never go out of style and a shop would be easy to find if it were located there.

Bearing this in mind, I aspire to create a shop front on my site using WooCommerce, which I hope will be an easy to implement plugin for this WordPress based site.  I’ll probably still use Etsy during high traffic seasons and to sell quirky cute handmade things featuring my art, but it will probably not be my main shop front anymore, granted I can get WooCommerce working!  Adding one more thing to my business re-organization to-do list.

Publicity Tips

This section also features some fantastic tips on publicity, such as ideas for blog events and links to press kit tutorials.  It’s a bit overwhelming!  I know I need to hit publicity harder, as it’s something I really haven’t relied upon. I’m just never sure where genre art like mine can find an audience and partner site to be featured on, since I don’t work with well known IP’s, nor do I have a really recognizable body of work, just yet.

Putting a pin on this section to come back later when I feel I’m finally ready with a decently sized body of consistent (theme and skillwise) work!

I’ve left out SO much concerning all the various resources Spalenka mentioned, so definitely go support Spalenka’s book/workshop if you are finding this blog series helpful!

Next Up: What Makes a Great Website/Blog

Book Club: Artist As Brand Part 2 – My Virtue’s Shield

Chapter II. Your Core Virtue Emblem of Spalenka’s Artist As Brand is one I was particularly looking forward to, as it deals with coming up with a logo or an emblem for your core virtue.

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!

 

I’ve struggled with coming up for a logo for years and was never quite satisfied with the images I developed.  I knew I wanted something related to butterflies, a personal totem of mine.  I identify strongly with them and now, having solidified my core virtue, I understand why.Unlocking creative potential is a value I strongly resonate with and what are butterflies but the ultimate symbol of realized potential?  They start as unassuming larvae that morph into a chrysalis and emerge as something else entirely, something beautiful that always existed within that original form.  They carry the map of what they will become inside themselves always.

But how to make a butterfly logo that wasn’t cheesy or gaudy looking?  Here were a few of the designs I made years ago before I gave up and moved on to a generic font logo:

Spalenka offers a strategy for logo sketching which I found to be particularly helpful.  Trying his approach helped me to break away from the geometric patterns that I was never quite happy with.

Again, I’m purposefully leaving some of this process and explanation vague.  Go buy Mr. Spalenka’s book if you want the full explanation straight from the teacher!  This is merely my interpretation and specific results.

I knew I wanted something asymmetrical to represent my work, which I feel is more organic and flowing than hard lined and symmetrical.  I also needed something simple enough to be iconic and easily stamped on cards and other marketing collateral.

My rough sketches for each keyword based on

Spalenka’s ideation technique.

 

Next we have the culmination of all of my sketching!  It’s amazing what mental associations and symbols you can discover if you just sit and think hard enough.  I ended up leaning towards a design that echoes the form of the chrysalis and the wing of a butterfly all at once, while also incorporating the theme of a seed, another representation of potential which might also double as a keyhole.

2nd row, the last one on the right is my fave! What’s yours?

This has been YEARS of frustration solved for me.  I consider this book worth the money spent just on this section alone just for the help it gave me when coming closer to resolving this personal struggle I’ve had with defining a logo.

Next up, III. Your Vision Board
 
Go on to Part 3. (coming soon!)

My First Kickstarter – Part 1 – Concept, Preparation, and Promotion

I’m excited to announce that I launched my first Kickstarter project this week!  Rather than just shamelessly plug it here, I thought I’d talk about my journey through the conception, promotion, and closure of this campaign.

I’m an absolute newbie at this, so I’m bound to learn a lot and hope other artists considering Kickstarter might learn something from my experience too!

Check out my project here!

Why Kickstarter?

I’ll be honest, I would never have thought of using Kickstarter for funding paintings, at first.  The site was originally founded to ‘kickstart’ projects that would not otherwise get off the ground.  I’ll still be able to make these paintings.

What finally encouraged me to pursue this series via Kickstarter was the fact that having an extra infusion of income would actually help me be able to worry less about pursuing other freelance work so that I can create these paintings faster while also aiding me in maximizing the potential quality of this series (ie. afford models to have more variety than my own visage, afford updating old supplies, etc.).

Kickstarter also reaches a potential worldwide audience I didn’t have access to before.  This project also represents a chance for me to not just maximize the series’ potential, but also provide an opportunity to offer very unique limited items to my collectors, which is mutually beneficial to us both.

I also saw other artists using the Kickstarter format to similar effect with their own series of paintings which really motivated me to give it a try at least once.  Echo Chernik used Kickstarter to fund her Winged Women series so that she might be able to have more time off from her packed schedule to invest in this Kickstarter-only personal project.  Sam Flegal also used Kickstarter as a boost for his Norse Mythology series of paintings for similar reasons.

The low risk nature of Kickstarter is also appealing.  If the project is not funded, I’m not stuck with a closet full of prints no one wants gathering dust in my apartment.
In the end, embarking on this project is also a mad scientist experiment for me as an Arts Admin grad.  My main hopes are to educate myself on how I can best use Kickstarter for both myself and my fans, whether I succeed with this first project or not.  All mistakes and triumphs will inform future ventures!

Preparing for the Project

It took a lot of research and reassurance for me to finally launch this project.  I did the following before even considering making it a reality:
  • Researched similar Kickstarter projects to mine.
  • Took the Succeeding on Kickstarter class on Skillshare, which was exceedingly detailed about the process and best practices for Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
  • Had many friends, colleagues, and family review my project via the preview link before launching.
  • Planned a cross-promotion with my Patreon patrons so that I could be sure that they still receive the special treatment they deserve for supporting me directly.  Patrons receive a pack of postcards for free for backing the Kicstarter at any level.

Promoting the Projects

Currently I have done the following to promote my project:-  Posted on Reddit in /r/artnouveau, /r/crowdfundingprojects, /r/kickstarter, /r/artstore, and /r/art (still researching other relevant subreddits).

–  Contacted Art Nouveau themed tumblr blogs in hopes of utilizing tumblr’s amazing organic reach (still awaiting a reply).  Also posted a video post on my own Tumblr (please give it a re-blog, if you like this project!).-  Contacted several Art Nouveau dedicated Pages on Facebook (still awaiting response).

–  Paid $40 for boosting my Kickstarter’s video post on my Facebook Page over the next few days.  My Facebook Page also feeds automatically to my Twitter.
–  Paid $100 for promoted Tweets on Twitter.  Hurray for $100 credit for trying it out for the first time!  I am essentially getting free advertising.  Never used this before. We’ll see how it works!
–  Contacted several Art Nouveau themed Groups on DeviantART as well as a couple of Kickstarter themed Groups to ask for promotion.  I’ve heard back from at least one Group with 2,595 Members and 3,450 Watchers thus far.  This group has featured my Kickstarter deviation on their front page and has agreed to do a journal feature soon.
–  Posted the project’s video to YouTube.
–  Posted the project to Prefundia with their free package.
–  Emailed the Art Career Project about featuring my Kickstarter, if they still do that (still awaiting a reply).
–  Posted on my Instagram.-  EDIT:  Added a promo image on my website’s main page and this blog.

–  EDIT:  Added a promo Cover photo to my Facebook Page.

–  EDIT:  Submitted a press release to http://www.crowdfundingpr.org‘s free submission area and to TheMarySue, a site dedicated to female geek news where I have seen other female artists get some promotion, if they found the project relevant to their readers (which I hope they do!).

–  EDIT:  Asked friends and family to get on the promo boat, if they can.  Many have already shared via Facebook and Twitter.

– EDIT:  Sent out e-mail updates about my Kickstarter to my mailing list.

I’ll share results of which places seemed the most effective for me once the project has ended!If you can help me spread the word too with a share on your favorite social network, that’d be fabulous as well!

Next up: What on earth do I do while the campaign is running??

Critiques, Portfolio Reviews, and Consultations for Artists

This week I tentatively rolled out a section on my website for Creative Consulting.

What means this ‘consulting’?  Well, some of you might remember my Portfolio Reviews and Critique Corner articles here on this blog where I was able to provide direct feedback and helpful resources to artists wishing to improve their work.

Sadly, these sections of my blog have faded away after I realized I just don’t have the time anymore to do them.  I’ve been increasingly busy dedicating myself to my own portfolio work as well as nurturing commission work on a grander scale than I ever have before.

However, I really, really hate to see these columns go and I stand behind the way this kind of direct interaction and critique can help other artists in a profound way.  As such, I am still offering portfolio reviews and critiques for modest fees, which you can view the rates here.  If you have a surplus of deviantART points, I also take payment in points for the red lines and paint overs here.

This is a way for you to work with me directly without having to catch me in-person at a convention.  We also won’t have to worry about your subject matter, which I would previously have had to censor if it was going to be featured on this blog, which I try to keep Safe for Work.

An example of a paint over and critique featuring the art of Kim Ravenfire.
You can read the full critique here.
An example of a red line featuring the art of Judith Mayr.
You can read the full critique here.

For more examples of my critiques, read on here.

I still plan to participate in critiques online in places like the GoldenCritique-Club on dA and WiPnation, but I will only be able to do so when my schedule, interest, and projects allow.

In addition to paint overs and portfolio reviews, I am also tentatively offering online art marketing consultations.  I’ve always wanted to do this, but felt I could not until I was at a point in my career where the methods I have studied and experimented with have yielded tangible results so that I can be confidant and justified when advising other artists.

E-marketing and its potential for artists is a passion of mine which I have studied professionally in the Arts Administration program at The Savannah College of Art and Design.  There, I earned my MA after the completion of my thesis focusing on the evolution of audiences and patrons via the expansion of the internet and its social venues.

I’m excited to finally be able to apply what I have learned on a grander scale! I have previously only provided advice via panels at conventions, blog posts at this journal, and private interactions with artists I know seeking advice on expanding their business.

These sessions are meant specifically for individual artists and will focus on their current e-marketing strategies, filling the gaps of their e-marketing knowledge, and discussing which online venues might work best when considering their work.

For those who are new to my work and don’t know my history in being able to critique art or speak on the topic of e-marketing for artists, you can also read about my credentials and experience with these subjects on the Creative Consulting page.

I’m excited to foster this new way of connecting and helping other artists!  I look forward to what amazing work you guys might send my way and the trust you might place in me in helping to improve your future work.

Wishing you all inspiration!

Portfolio Review: Laurie Thomas

The year draws to a close and I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season!  To celebrate the end of yet another year here at this journal, I thought it only fitting to end with a beginning!

I’m happy to introduce the first portfolio review in what I hope to be an ongoing series.  This review is for Laurie Thomas, who sent in the following samples of her work:

See more at Laurie’s DeviantART Gallery!

Overall Impression: Laurie mentioned that she was interested in getting into games, licensing graphics for apparel, and possibly designing for movies.  From what I can tell, you’re well on your way to having a stunning portfolio, Laurie! Your colors are bold and your designs rich and detailed.  What it seems you need to do now is come up with a strategy for focusing your subject matter and presenting your portfolios in such a way as to appeal to the industries you’re hoping to enter.  I say ‘portfolios’ plural because each industry is going to expect something different!

When licensing to the apparel industry, you’ll need a large body of consistent work that will also fit well on t-shirts, bags, etc. (at least 24 pieces for presentation, so I’ve read).  Licensing companies like series of images with consistent high quality, so if you can tie together your characters into some appealing ideas (ie. birthstones, zodiac signs, gemstones, elements, etc.), you’ll have some great basic pieces to start yourself out with!  A great way to see if your art will fit on items is to upload them to Zazzle, which pre-renders your art on the item of your choice. It’s a simple way to create licensed art mock ups, which are essential for creating presentations.

You also need to be aware of the trends that sell (ie. fairies, lolita, gothic, cute things, etc.) and that means doing some research! Keep up with other artists in the industry (Anne StokesAmy BrownJasmine Becket-Griffith, etc.).  Start paying attention to the clothing brands that sell items with art similar to yours and make a note of who those companies are.  I highly stress reading Licensing 101 before you go down the licensing path. Be aware of the dangers and the options for selling your work, as there are many!  Above all, register your copyrights before licensing anything!  The US copyright office allows registration of sets of images, so that may be a cost effective way for you to go.

As for the game industry, I can see your work fitting in very well with many of the social media/networking games tailored for younger audiences with anime inclinations (ie. GaiaOnline, Facebook games, MMOs, etc).  There are also opportunities in interactive novels and manga!  I highly recommend subscribing to magazines like ImagineFX to keep up with the game art industry and scout out jobs. It’s also an excellent place to learn about presentation skills from pros, as well as techniques and shortcuts!  This advice also counts double for movies, which requires a similar skillset to concept/game artists and are also addressed in IFX.  In general, work on presenting characters, accessories, equipment, and environments.  Conceptart.org and CGhub‘s weekly challenges are great places to start building a game design portfolio. They’re also great places to learn from more experienced artists!

Strengths and Weaknesses: You already possess very highly developed technical skills, but I would watch out for making your images too detailed.  Koi for example has a lovely color palette and character, but the intricate designs, patterns, flower bursts, and clothing folds really overwhelm the eye and lead the compositional flow every which way.  A way to balance this might be to downplay the flowers, while simplifying her kimono and other details.

Speaking of those flowers, they seem a bit unfinished in comparison to the rest, which is something you’ll need to consider for your final products. If a final product is meant to be printed larger, areas that aren’t as tightly developed will appear sloppy. However, if your final product is going to be smaller (ie. Card art, small items), there’s no need to put all that detail in, because the smaller resolution will allow it to appear smoother.

Another thing to be aware of is that limiting your style to anime may shove you into a niche box.  If it’s a box you’re comfortable in, than be the best you can be in that niche and you’re bound to get attention!  However, you must also be aware that anime style in general (at least in the States), is stereotyped as being for juveniles.  It may be more difficult to get editorial illustration work with an anime style portfolio, but that is where presenting varied multiple portfolios to varying clients might serve you well.  Also, you may not even want to do any other work, and that is okay too!  It’s just that the more varied an artist you are, the higher chances you’ll be able to round up that next job to feed yourself.

By the same token, you only want to put out work you want to be hired for, else you’ll get stuck doing work you loathe.  It becomes a balancing act between getting good at the niche or adapting to something different and that’s a call every commercial artist has to make.


I hope this portfolio review has given you some food for thought, Laurie.  Best of luck from me to you and I hope to see your name in the headlines soon!  If any of my dear readers here have additional advice for Laurie, please share in comments! I am not the end all, be all and welcome anything useful others might have to add.

Interested in a Portfolio Review of your own?
Read here for more info on how to get one!

What is Artfire? An Artist’s Point-of-View

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell HandmadeA few months ago, I’d never even heard of Artfire, but had already been a vested user of Etsy since 2008. Now after plenty of fiddling over at Artfire, I feel confident enough to talk about its usefulness for artists.

What is Artfire?

Like Etsy, Artfire is a community marketplace for handmade and vintage items who offers community forums, item collections, and groups to join. The main difference in philosophy being that Artfire allows you to plug external websites much more in your own listings and pages, unlike Etsy, which discourages such practices. The other difference is of course the fact Etsy is far more entrenched with greater press coverage.

Artfire is catching up, though! If their constant marketing campaigns, helpful articles, and numerous twitter accounts is any indication of how much they’re putting into making their site known. They also offer their members discounts at CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) and VIP discount cards at Joanns Fabrics (10% off regular and sale price items)!

Selling on Artfire

Much like Etsy, artists can post listings of items, sort them into browsing categories, and find buyers for their handicrafts. Where Artfire differs in this respect is that listings have no expiration date. A user must ‘check in’ at Artfire to keep their listings higher up in the search results, which weeds out the people who post listings and leave them there without maintaining them.

– Prints and Fabricated Art Items
Another quirk of AF I’ve found is that if you’re selling art prints, cards, or any other pre-printed open edition item utilizing your art, they have to be a run of 500 or less while Etsy hasn’t set a number, to my knowledge. This isn’t much of a problem for me, however, as I’d be happy to even reach that amount of sales per item!  With the number of open edition prints listed on AF, however, I suspect this policy isn’t heavily enforced.

– Seller Invoice System
AF boasts a pretty full featured invoicing system for sellers, including itemized invoices where you can check off each stage of payment, packing, and shipping as it happens with a field to enter an item’s tracking number. This number is automatically emailed to your customer when you enter it, making these invoices pretty handy for taking care of your customer all in one place!

– Feedback and Non-Member Buyers
One big difference between Etsy and AF’s way of handling transactions is the fact that AF also encourages you to do what you need to do to make a sell, meaning customers don’t need to have an AF account to buy! They can simply use AF’s shopping cart feature. This means you don’t get feedback or karma from the transaction, but that doesn’t seem terribly important on this site, despite the fact users can still leave detailed feedback on your shipping, quickness, item quality, etc. Because there’s no final value fee taken out when a sale is made, it’s easy enough to cancel the order and relist with no loss of money, should you have trouble with a non-paying buyer.

– Promotional Coupons

Another extremely useful feature of AF is the ability to create promotional codes. While you can do this on Etsy, Etsy restricts your coupon codes to only a certain percentage off or free shipping. AF’s coupon code functionality is more robust with the ability to tailor your coupons to a percentage off and free shipping, but also allows you to apply coupons to seller-defined studio groups and price ranges, the order total, or even specific items. Coupon codes are also another premium member feature.

– Other Useful Features
If you’re a user of Etsy, AF makes it easy to download your CSV file from Etsy and import all of your items with only a few tweaks required! This is a premium member feature, however.  You can also batch edit your listings, move them en masse to new categories, and take advantage of a detailed vacation mode that allows you to leave your items up, but auto-responds with your ‘away’ message. Unlike Etsy, which simply hides your items completely from listings until you disable it.  There’s also a ‘sales mode’ that allows you to discount everything in your shop at once.  Sales mode and vacation mode are both non-premium features!

Crunching Numbers

Another major difference between Artfire and Etsy is the fee structure. Artfire charges a flat monthly fee (I pay $5.95 thanks to a beta deal I got, but standard pro rate is $9.95 as of this entry) while Etsy charges 20 cents per listing for 3 months and takes 3.5% of your final sale’s value. If you’re hosting a large amount of items, AF can be really useful for keeping costs down each month.

As for sales numbers, I’ve noticed a greater number of handmade craft items and cards selling here rather than my prints and original art, but it’s still great to get the exposure on my artwork along with everything else. I have a feeling that as I grow my shop and become more entrenched in this community, these sales proportions will change!

Customization

One thing I absolutely love about AF is the ability to customize the color theme and style of our shop pages! I’ve included a screenshot of mine below. Most of the customization is, again, a premium member feature.

See my Artfire shop in action!

See my Etsy shop in action!
Final Thoughts

Rather than choose one community over the other, it’s easy enough for me to maintain both my Etsy AND Artfire shops with AF’s import feature!  The amount of sales I’ve made via both communities have made them well worth investing my time in and will only continue to increase their usefulness as another means of income the longer I use them.

Interested in joining up as a premium member at Artfire? Use my referral link! We’ll both get a free month plus be entered into a drawing for a free DSLR camera for both of us!♥

I’m also a member of the Artfire Fantasy Guild, so drop on in and say hello!  I’d love to see some familiar faces there.:)

Inglourious Artests

(For in-joke reference, see Inglourious Basterds)

Today, I am grumpy and thought I would share.

What makes me grumpy?  I am not in the studio.

Why am I not in the studio?  Because as a one-man business, I’m doing business upkeep instead.

What business upkeep might that be?

  • Taxes – I do them in Turbotax myself because I am hard-headed and don’t want to pay someone else to do essentially the same thing as going through a step-by-step program that walks you through them. (Just my opinion..probably wouldn’t recommend this course of action to folks not comfy with a computer and lots of tedious reading.)
  • Gallery Setup – I recently bought a space in a local gallery, meaning I’ve had to fill it with signs, frame & hang work, take inventory, and any number of endless list of things just to make it presentable.
  • Filing Receipts – This goes hand in hand with taxes. Got to keep good records of your expenses and income!  I use Quicken to keep track of my cashflow and record receipts.
  • Making Phone Calls – As much as I’d like to think I am SO awesome that people will come to grovel at my feet and offer me opportunities, I’ve spent much of my time on the phone lately setting up book signings, repeating the same marketing spiel over and over.
  • Updating Website and Shops – Entering products one by one, picking categories, uploading product images, and all that fuss are required for marketing my work on Etsy, Artfire, etc.  This tedious activity is the sole flagship of my online sales, meaning there is no escape from doing this duty!

There are times when I am willing to trade a kidney if I could have someone do this crap for me so I can spend more time in the studio. Alas, no one has taken me up on that kidney offer!  Alas again, this was my choice to run a business and be a micro-manager of every facet, therefore there’s no one to blame but my evil twin, Mangela!

If there was a time I was thinking on how awesome it would be to draw ‘pretty pictures’ all the time and bring the enjoyment of sexy otherworld creatures to be adored the world over, that time has passed!  Running a business requires just a pinch of shameless self-promotion with a dash of evil.

Evil being the thought of preying on people’s impulsive spending tendencies to make a sale (IE. the acquiring of a credit card terminal to persuade those with plastic money, for instance), of convincing them they need things that they really don’t (IE. my pretty pictures of stuff). Evil being that undercurrent in my thoughts, no matter how small, that leads back to how I can help promote myself.  Evil being the realization that, yes, the purpose of any business is to make money, in addition to anything sprang from morality and inspiration, that drives your urge to keep waking up every day and doing this thing called a business.

So, balancing a bit of wickedness with all this pretty talk of ‘doing what we love’ I’ve talked about on this blog!  (And I do love this, for all that I purport my grumpiness).  I will keep creating (when not upkeeping).  I will keep drawing sexy otherworldly pretty things because I damned well want to.

But first, gotta update a few more websites…

….Kidney, anyone?