Category: portfolio reviews

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!

My Portfolio Building Homework – Part 1

I remember back in college we had a class called Professional Practices where we were taught to take the best of our classwork and throw it all together in a portfolio to present to the world in hopes of getting work. For years, I presented my portfolio this way, meeting rejection every time. Little did I know, this strategy of throwing in everything is exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do.

As an art director, Jon Schindehette teaches us in his blog series on portfolio building that a portfolio should be a unique statement made especially to speak to the one you’re presenting it to. It makes a simple sort of sense realizing that companies would want to see work they’d want to hire you for, rather than ‘that thing you painted that was pretty cool that has nothing to do with their brand’. Why it took me so long to realize this, I’ll never know.

I’ve decided to write about my experiences with Jon’s portfolio building class series here in a little series of my own exploring my journey with his prompts.

What is a Portfolio?

Assignment 1
Pull out your portfolio and mentally note every image that
• Fulfilled a list
• Came from your past
• Came from a job
Note how many images are left in your portfolio, and share it with the rest of the readers.

My Portfolio (As Presented at DragonCon 2012)

The Lotus Dancer (2012)
DND Nouveau (2011, private commission)
The Gift Giver (2011)
Archangel Uriel (2008)
Holiday Nouveau (2007)
Night Blooming (2009, for Angelic Visions)
Glimpse of Eden (2010, for Angelic Visions)
Dragon Prince (2011)
Geisha and Chrysanthemums (2011, tattoo commission)
Samurai and Koi (2011, tattoo commission)
Meditation on the Rose (2010, for Angelic Visions)
Forgotten Muse (2007)

My Revelations

In the end, I’m left with only FIVE total pieces.  Of these five, only three of them are even remotely in the area of book covers and art card work.  The verdict? I need more work…and badly! And not only more in quantity, but more thematically in my areas of interest.

Admittedly, I cheated leaving Lotus Dancer in since she was from my Fake Art Cards list, but I don’t find this list necessarily destructive, as it is specifically targeted to the art card market.  We’ll see if the later exercises in this series convince me I was correct in letting her stay!

I also disagree that no old pieces should go in a portfolio, especially if those pieces continue to show a relevant level of technical expertise and your area of pursuant interest.  However, for the purposes of this exercise, anything that was over 3 years old was crossed out.

So more than half my portfolio is shot!  Onwards to discover what exactly I can do about this disturbing predicament!

On to Part 2!

The Portfolio Regeneration Project

The main character from
Kushiel’s Dart.

Since Dragon*Con, it’s been a week of cleaning, catching up on work, and riding the tide of inspiration that always comes after taking part of such a large art show full of inspiring people.  The portfolio reviews I received there have my brain in overdrive when it comes to thinking of ways I can get my portfolio up to snuff.  I needed newer work and more of it.  I needed more examples of illustration, book covers, and the kind of work I’d like to do for CCG.

While I have CCG covered by using my own in-progress fantasy novel for inspiration, generating art for the rest didn’t seem as straightforward.  That’s when it hit me.  If I am seeking to do art for fantasy novels, why don’t I do what I’m doing with the fake Magic the Gathering cards and do the same with a novel?  Since my own novel is largely incomplete, I’ve decided to take one of my favorite novels on instead – Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey.

With fallen angels, a rich tapestry of unique mythology, masquerade balls, and intricate tattoos, there’re plenty of visuals for me to play with in this novel that are right up my alley!  The plan to generate more portfolio pieces is to re-read this wonderful book and create my own versions of illustrations of my favorite scenes, as well as any character art that comes to mind.  This may include my tries at creating concept art sheets for that career wish of mine to get into concept art for games later on in life once my work is ready.

Finally, after I’ve absorbed the whole book and its themes, I plan to do my own version of the cover art for it.  If all goes well, I will be doing this art generation project with more than one from the Kushiel’s Legacy series, or perhaps other fantasy favorites of mine!

Working from a book which, to date, has no movie adaptation makes it far easier for me to create my own raw original versions without a visual influence.  It also gives me the freedom without the copyright worries, since copyrights for books only cover the text, and not any visual representations.  Even so, I don’t plan to sell whatever art comes from this project without Jacqueline’s blessing first.  It’s main purpose is to freshen up my portfolio and not my own pockets.

The plan is to post sketch collections from this project on this blog, but for those of you who want to keep up with every step and sketch of the Kushiel’s Legacy themed work from this project, you can follow the Kushiel art blog here or its Tumblr counterpart here, which will echo the posts on the Blogger version.  The Kushiel art blog is empty right now, but it won’t be for long!

The old iPad I inherited from my dad has proven an invaluable tool for this ambitious project, as I can add searchable notes to my ebook version of the novel and highlight pages which have physical description for illustration purposes.  The pages are marked, the blank sketchbooks have been acquired, and my drawing fingers are itching!  Let the regeneration of my portfolio begin!

What is your dream illustration project?  What novel would you love to do work for?  Finally, what novel would you love to see me illustrate?  Discuss in comments!

Con Report: Dragon*Con 2012

Sporting a leather Magpie feather
made by the multi-talented
Brenda Lyons!

My brain has finally returned from Dragon*Con 2012 (some days after it officially ended, I might add)! It was a haze of cool costumes, reunions, and meetings, as it usually is.  This is going to be a LONG entry, so grab a cup of tea and get comfy!

The Con

This year was an odd duck for me. I spent most of my time selling at my table in the art show, running to panels in the art track, and riding on the train since we commuted in. I didn’t get a chance to see many costumes or really leave the Hyatt.

I did, however, brave all three dealer’s rooms to hunt down amazing artists Michael C. Hayes, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, and Echo Chernik to buy their books, which I had been looking forward to doing for a long while! There’s no better feeling than to shake an artist’s hand and show them you support their work by buying a book directly from them at a show. This probably worked against me as I suspect I spent all my profits doing just that!

I also met several cool folks I have known online for ages, but had never met in person. So many folks came by to say hello and show their support!  It really made me feel special this year and I have no words to express how this warms my heart. Thanks, you guys!

The Selling Experience

As always, the Dragon*Con art show is a well oiled machine!  Set up and break down went smoothly, despite the fact I had three times the stuff I usually do this year.  I sold decently at the art show and hit my selling goal to break even, plus a few hundred.  My best selling work at the show was The Lotus Dancer, which I sold out of at my table, while none of my masks sold from the 3D table, which I’ll probably be dropping next year.  People seem to buy more masks right off the gallery bay, so I suspect that’s where I’ll be putting my masks from now on.

What I  Learned About My Display

For the first two days, I had nothing but older watercolor work of mine up on the panels arranged in very symmetrical grid patterns.  I have Death the Kid level obsession with symmetry, which works against me sometimes when I put up art for display!  My boyfriend tried an experiment of arranging a whole new selection of my digital works in asymmetrically balanced patterns and we noticed this seemed to grab the attention of con-goers far more. Lesson learned. Gotta dump my old work, get larger pieces for max eye-catching capability, AND stop being so symmetrical!

Other Stuff I Learned About Displaying Art

  • Tiered wire magazine racks make for great mask displays!
  • Instead of stretching canvases on stretcher bars, I want to try affixing them to masonite and covering them with gel medium. Annie Stegg used this to beautiful effect!  Her prints had the texture of her original paintings after applying the gel medium.
  • Offer more sketches and/or sketchbooks.  A lot of artists have been doing this and it seems like a smart way to get a little added income from your sketches!  Instead of rotting in my art pads, I could sell my doodles in bins or baskets.  Got to break my sketch hoarding habit!
  • Start ordering things wholesale. A couple of the other artists looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I hand cut all of my mats myself.  It’s time consuming and I can save a lot of time finding places that sell mats, backing, and bags all in one place for cheap at a bulk rate. (Anyone know any suppliers? I have been looking into
  • Mitch Foust had an amazing looking display that folded up into little collapsible panels AND included its own lighting setup!  It also costs far less than my Propanels and seems to take up much less space.  It’s called The Original SMART Exhibit and it is lovely and professional looking!  It may not work well for my outdoor shows, but it’s a good choice for the inside ones.

My First Portfolio Review

This year was the first year I worked up the courage to ask other pro artists to review my art at length.  I talked to both Justin Gerard and Dan Dos Santos, two illustrators from Muddy Colors with amazing work who gave me some stellar advice at my review and during their painting demos, which I will paraphrase here:

  • Use more reference. They knew instantly where I had fudged anatomy and it really brought down the overall believability and quality of my work where I didn’t use it.
  • Relates to the last one. Do more preliminary studies and thumbnails. Both Justin and Dan did an alarming amount of planning until the next step in their production was merely  to copy the preliminary to their final format. My planning phase has always been short and rushed and that needs to change.  They did whatever they had to, from taking model shoots, to photomanipping in whatever props and faces they needed in the prelim phase.
  • NO PHOTOMERGED TREES! *hangs head in shame*
  • Cut out ALL of the old mediocre work from my portfolio. Out of 20 pieces, only 5 were really viable to show to an art director.  This means I better get cracking on new work!  If I’m not producing at last one polished piece a month, I am not being serious about my career nor will I get the amount of high quality images I need in my portfolio in a decent amount of time.
I’ve already emailed the both of them with my sincerest thanks!  I suspect the advice they gave me is really going to change my career in the best of ways, plus they are just two wonderfully nice fellows!  Don’t be afraid to chat them up if you see them at a con.

Photo and Video Stream

I only took a couple of photos this year while I was hurrying through the Marriott to the dealer’s room, but you can see them here.  I also gave a panel on leather mask-making, which you can watch the video walkthrough here.

Here’s a preview of two really awesome cosplayers who had built their costumes around my Red Dragon and Seraphim leather masks. You look stunning, ladies!

The Red Dragon and Seraphim masquers. More of my masquers
can be seen at Angela’s Masquers.

What’s Next?

I have been debating back and forth if I will even attend Dragon*Con next year.  My budget is very limited and while I always have a blast at this con, I really want to try attending other conventions geared for artists, such as Illuxcon or Spectrum Fantastic Live Art, where art is the focus and I can make more career contacts.  If I can do them all, I will, but it’s time to venture outside of my comfort zone, meaning that Dragon*Con will be prioritized beneath these others.

But this also means I have a whole new journey ahead of me to produce new, improved work so that I’m not just showing the same old tired pieces to people.  I also need more subject matter relevant to the gaming industries in my portfolio, if I am to seriously pursue the kinds of jobs I want there.  This probably means less floofy angels and more Elves, which I can’t argue with!  I have an action plan for doing this, but I’ll save that for next journal entry!

Thanks for joining me for my Dragon*Con wrap up. See you all next year, maybe?  If not, remember me when you see cosplayers in leather masks and/or wings. Take a photo for me!

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. 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!