Category: developing style

Summary of Art 2015

Thoughts on 2015 – It’s been a tough year, no lie.  A lot of IRL challenges meant I spent a lot of time off instead of making art and that sent me into a spiral of depression that was hard to escape (I’m still not completely out of it).  When I was finally able to get back to creating art, I had to drag it out of myself.

On the upside, I completed The Rapunzel comic, which has been in the making for years!  I also finished the IP Development Mentorship with Robot Pencil and laid the seeds to a fantasy story I’ve been working on for over 10 years now and that’s something I’m majorly proud of!

My best piece this year was probably Blood of the Few.  I really pushed myself to strive for something different and cinematic!  This piece plus all the other work I did for the mentorship was yet another step in the direction of a personal project (Song of Exile) that I really want to push forward with in a major way in the near future.

Next Year – I’ve decided to do more writing and have planned to split my schedule between wrapping up some of my ongoing art projects so I can dedicate myself fully to Song of Exile.  If there’s anything I’ve learned from our trials this year, it’s that life’s too short to wait on doing those things you’ve always wanted to do!

List of Art for 2015’s Summary
Last year’s Summary of Art:
For an expanded look back of my progress as an artist, check my other art progression meme.  It has my art since the age of 9!

Does it Pay to Specialize as an Artist?

I was quoted in an article over at CreativeBloq, “Does it pay to specialise as an artist?” 

Featuring some familiar faces and some of my own art and thoughts as well!  I’ve struggled for years to find my artistic voice and sort out my passions from my wide array of interests. Hopefully these words of wisdom help others figure things out for themselves as well!

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 –
  • 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!

Re-branding an Artist – Part 1 – Tough Questions

So, you like drawing, but also painting, writing, candle-making, and beading?  I know how you feel!  Being multipassionate seems to be a habit of most of the creative people I know.   Our minds like to wander and play and that’s part of how we keep ourselves creative!

However, this characteristic usually leaves most of us with a huge problem – an unclear sense of artistic identity and, therefore, an unclear brand.

I’ve had this problem for years and it’s only been until recently I’ve sat down and put a magnifying glass to my brand.  For example, just look at the mess that was my website last year.  I had masks, Art Nouveau, surreal work, miniature work, sculpture, anything and everything all thrown together on my site:

My Angelic Shades site back in 2013.

After discussing my fractured identity with fellow artists and a friendly Art Director, I realize that this Anything and Everything approach was really killing my sales and my presentation.

What an AD might think:
“She has so many styles!  She must still be a student and probably isn’t very reliable.  She hasn’t quite mastered anything.”

What an average person might think:
“Wow, this is all really cool!  But later on, I probably won’t remember what it is exactly she’s selling.” 

Echo this sentiment for selling at conventions, too.  After seeing all the masks, art, etc. at my table, most people aren’t sure what I’m selling or if it’s all by one person, since the themes differ so vastly.  This also made my sales pitches extremely complicated, as I wasn’t sure how to address all of the products on the table.

Or my other favorite.

“Wow, this is cool!  I’m going to ask this person for a commission that she’s not necessarily interested in doing because she’s obviously interested in doing everything and is very versatile.” 

In truth, I’d actually prefer it if people ask me for work that I specialize in, rather than work that I don’t specialize in.  Most of the time, the work I don’t specialize in doesn’t go into my portfolio and is never seen again.

The Tough Questions

I had to start asking myself some important questions and coming up with answers that faced my fears as an artist.  These burning questions have been on my mind for a long time now:

What am I passionate about and what is just fun to do?

A lot of people think ‘hey it’d be fun to make my hobby a job!’ but what they don’t realize is that once you make your hobby your job, it’s not fun anymore.  If you turned to that hobby for recharging and relaxation, chances are that being forced to do it for monetary purposes is going to destroy that sense of fun and play you had with it.  You’ll most likely have to get another hobby now that the last hobby has become the job.

My Answer:  I realized over the past few years that Art Nouveau and soft watercolor work is my ‘fun’ art.  So is mask-making.  I turn to these modes of expression to refresh my creative well.  Making them my job meant I had less time in my life for the mature fantasy work I am passionate about.  Admittedly, the money is nice and that also swayed me towards these other forms of expression.  This choice of splitting focus resulted in much burnout over the past couple of years.

My art as a body of work has so many facets.  What should stay and what should go?

Think about what target audience there is for your work.  Does your work actually target the same people?  Did you do something for random fun but it just doesn’t fit in with your other work?

Sometimes it’s just better to leave things off of your professional face for storage on something more casual, like tumblr.  Keeping unrelated work can make you look like a student or unreliable in your ability to finish consistent work.  Stop thinking of what is your ‘best overall work’ and starting thinking ‘what is your best work for what specific audience’.

My Answer:  For me, I ended up dumping the ACEO and Surreal sections from my site.  These works were all older and I’m not exactly interested in being hired to work in that vein anymore.  On the other hand, I still wanted to share my artisan crafts and Art Nouveau, as I’ve put many years into them and still find them as viable professional faces to share.

And thus my brands Angelic Artisan and Angela Sasser were born!  Angelic Shades is my original studio name, which will now be purely for the work I created for my book, Angelic Visions, and for my Art Nouveau work.

My mature fantasy work is going to be housed on a new site that I’m currently working on (sneak peek here!).  Angelic Artisan has also been moved off to its own cozy website dedicated solely to my artisan crafts (a move which happened last year, actually).

I chose my real name as a studio identity because I feel like this brand is finally me.  I have found MY voice and what I feel is going to be the artistic identity I want to become known for.  Another perk to deciding what my ‘main’ identity/studio is going to be is that I now realize where the majority of my time needs to be spent.

Angelic Artisan and Angelic Shades will both now be downgraded to side projects that I only do for fun.  This is a huge weight off me and one that I feel will allow me to focus my time on my passions instead of being torn between too many tasks.  It’s going to be hard saying no to the commissions that come in for artisan and Art Nouveau work, but decreasing my stress levels and focusing on my long-term goals is what needs to happen for me right now to stop feeling so overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me.

Bonus perk – my sites just look sooo much more beautiful and professional now that they have ‘themes’!

Since I am re-branding mid-career, how do I mitigate changing my identity in the face of collectors and AD’s?

This one is my toughest question right now.  How do I change what I’m doing so that people won’t be upset by my switch of direction?  Most of the other multifaceted artists I’ve talked to worked to become known for one thing and earned the respect of AD’s and their market before they branched out.  They were stabilized by the fact their fans would follow them and that they still have the respect of AD’s whom they have proven their reliability to in the past.

My problem is I got good at one thing I realized later on is not the thing I want to be known for.  I’m not sure if I’ll be burning bridges doing this.  It’s quite intimidating!

My Answer:  Right now, my plan is to completely break my art styles up into Angelic Shades and Angela Sasser with their own corresponding sites and outlets so that when I hand a business card out to an AD or anybody else, the linked site on each unique card will present a consistent body of work with a clear theme.

As for AD trust, I will probably only be showing AD’s my Angela Sasser brand, unless their projects specifically call for soft watercolors and/or Art Nouveau stylings.  They shall never know my secret identity as a soft flowy watercolorist and mask-maker!

I have no idea what this means for my social media faces, however!  I’m so entrenched in the Angelic Shades username that I’m not sure if people will actually follow me to a new name, if I start one.  Brand consistency for ‘Angela Sasser’ demands a new Twitter, Facebook page, blog, etc.  I’m not sure I’m going to do this yet, but you will be the first to know!

STOP!  Do you really want to do this?  Are you just messing up a good thing?

If you’re doing well as you are and enjoy what you’re doing, maybe you should just leave well enough alone?

My Answer:  It’s taken me many years of struggling and burnout to realize I’ve invested my time in the wrong places because I was more focused on making money than taking the risky path and following my passions in illustration and concept art.  I was afraid and didn’t trust myself.  I let bad advice and pressure from loved ones dissuade me from focusing on what I really wanted to do.  I also didn’t really have an idea of where I wanted to go back then, so I did what was fun and acceptable.

Just because you might be capable of creating something that someone enjoys and will pay money for doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what you’re meant to do, especially if your heart lies elsewhere.

Knowing all this, I feel my mistakes have helped me to refine a laser focus I’m looking forward to implementing now that I’ve identified where my heart truly lies.  It’s only through experiencing these early struggles that I know myself better and can look forward to the future with more confidence!

Reader Questions:

Do you have multiple creative businesses?  How do you  handle running them all at once? Share your tips in comments!

Next Up: Part 2 – Brand Design

Developing Personal Symbolism

So you’ve gotten pretty good at your medium of choice and have even collected a few good commissions under your belt. Confidence is slowly seeping in as a personal library of images begins to grow from a collection of sketches and half-formed thoughts into a gallery of images that one can truly be proud of.

And…what now?

I feel like I’m at this point lately with my artistic evolution. I’m proud of a select few of my pieces and gaining the confidence to start marketing myself as a ‘professional’ on art show forms, but I still feel like I’m not quite there yet. There’s a key ingredient missing and I’m still in the process of discovering what it is through trial and error. Lately I’ve been turning back to my roots, to the artists that made me want to draw in the past and the artists that keep me inspired to draw each and every day. They show me a glimpse of the worlds I could create and the emotions I could convey if I could just get myself there.

What is it about their art that I enjoy so much? Why am I drawn to them? Why do their pieces feel ‘finished’ to me and why do mine don’t? I turn to artists who are my contemporaries. Meeting them at shows and admiring their work is an extra kick in the butt for inspiration that makes each convention a joy. I see the work of folks like Matt Hughs, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, and Tom Fleming that strike a deeper chord with me because of the dreamlike, and oftentimes dark ethereal quality of their work. What do they all have in common, I wonder?

And it hits me. Their work has a deep core rooted in symbolism and heavy with emblems reflective of their own stylistic choices. The root that grows from mother to fetus suggesting a piercing tactile bond. Alighting swarms of butterflies indicative of the freed soul. The bleeding apple representative of Eve’s sin. Each artist spins a tapestry of symbols unique to their own choice of colors, emblems, and compositional style.

I won’t say this is key to success for all artists, but I do know that the presence of a system of symbolism really draws me to the work of most of the artists on my favorites list. I’ve seen the embryos of symbols creeping up in my own work. The climbing, barren vines blooming with white roses at the angel’s presence. Candles burning in the dark where forgotten ideas lay undiscovered or discarded. There are so many fragments of symbols I don’t quite understand and haven’t yet fully given birth to yet. If I keep drawing and painting and observing, I’ll find them waiting in nooks and crannies of my perception, some obvious and some not.

But I suppose finding one’s own system of personal symbolism is like finding Enlightment, a fleeting perfect thing that will never last as long as the mind keeps searching for meaning in everything.

And how boring would it be if our symbols never changed or evolved at all?