My Portfolio Building Homework – Part 2

Continuing my portfolio building journey from TheArtOrder’s blog series.  The last assignment asked me to think deeply about what my portfolio was currently comprised of. The next in the series is the self-assessment and asking the tough questions.

Don’t forget to read Jon’s original post before reading my homework assignments here so that they make sense!  Otherwise, you are only getting half the lesson.

Question #1   What are you passionate about?

Imaginative realism, high fantasy, alternate history, world mythology, folklore, subversive characters, art nouveau.

Question #2   What do you want to bring forth in the world?

Paintings and stories about my favorite kinds of mythical and subversive figures.

Question #3   Who do you want to be in your life?

I want to be the type of person who is completely immersed in their passions because I firmly believe that if I am not living a life that does not fulfill my inspiration and passion for art that I am unfulfilled, emotionally.  

I need to create and I do not want this act of creation of art, writing, etc. to be a small part of my life.  I want it to BE my life and that is the type of person I want to be.  When I die, I want to be happy that I was true to myself and my drive to create.
Question #4   Where do you derive your inspiration?

Everywhere, culture, human nature, flora and fauna, movies, stories, video games, folklore.  It is my job to make the connections between any and all things, no matter how mundane they might be.

Questions #5   Who do you want to be for others?

I want to be the person they turn to for tales of the imaginative, immersive, and elegant variety.

Question #6   What is your favorite content/subject?

The content I enjoy depicting the most range from roguish character types, characters who walk between the lines of morality, who charm us with their edge of mystery, to the mythic archetypes present in the subtle magic of folklore, particularly figures who visit the underworld and otherworldly realms.  

I also have an affinity for angelic and faerie figures who represent an otherworldly beauty and mystical presence.  I am also fond of illustrations of characters at the passionate partings and meetings that drive their stories, usually tragic or romantic in nature.

Question #7   What is your favorite medium?

Color pencil is still my favorite even though I am trying to work more digitally.  I also enjoy the mix of the luminous translucency of watercolor with the texture and precision of color pencil.

Question #8   Who is your favorite painter/illustrator?

It’s so hard to choose when there are so many illustrators I admire!  If I have to choose just one, it would be John William Waterhouse because of his powerful storytelling, mastery of texture, and his whimsical mythic subject matter. He paints the subject matter I want to paint with the kind of mastery over texture and atmosphere I wish I had.

Question #9   What is your favorite texture, piece of anatomy, basic shape, color to paint?

I enjoy the textures of flowing satin cloth, graceful necks, and jewel tones.

Question #10   What do you get out of painting?

When I successfully create a painting that I feel gets a viewer interested in learning more about that character or story, I get a great sense of joy and accomplishment out of their need to know more.  If they are an artist and want to create more art after viewing my paintings, I consider this the highest form of joy.

Question #11   What are your strengths in creative thinking, drawing, painting, problems solving, color theory, composition, perspective, visual narrative, and design?

My strengths lie in creating memorable color schemes and colorful characters.  I am particularly strong in depicting character expressions and faces.  I have a great love of diving into character personalities and discovering what makes them tick, which in turn feeds into my problem-solving, as far as painting these characters in a scene.
Question #12 What are your weaknesses in creative thinking, drawing, painting, problems solving, color theory, composition, perspective, visual narrative, and design?

My work lacks the quality of atmosphere and realistic lighting that would make it truly immersive. While my color choices are generally strong, I have a problem altering these colors to create various moods in my pieces.  All my pieces generally read as the same ‘serene’ atmosphere, which leads to a lack of variety, overall.  

My compositional structure is usually static and uninteresting.  I have trouble populating my backgrounds with interesting objects, architecture, and other things that would give them a truly narrative quality.

Question #13   Pick one company or product that you want to work on. (We’ll come back to this, so chose wisely).

Tor Books.

Question #14   What specific skills are REQUIRED to acquire work with the company or product you identified in #13, and what levels of proficiency are required in those skills?

The ability to create an image that would inspire a reader to want to learn more, and therefore buy the book, product, etc.  One must be a master at composition for this enticement to work.

Question #15   How do your skills align with the company or product you chose in #13?

They don’t.  The lack of immersion in my pieces really makes them too weak to carry a narrative or have the visual impact the book covers at Tor require.

Question #16   What is the skill that needs to be a priority for development to attain your goal of working with the company or product chosen?

Creating interesting and provocative narratives in my work.

Keeping in mind the company or product that you chose in #13:

Question #17   What specific problem does your company or product need solved visually?

They need to entice people to buy a book or product with just ONE image.

Question #18   What design challenges need to be solved visually?

Characters (and their situations) need to be clear and interesting.  Colors need to be striking.  Compositions need to allow for all of this action, while still having room for text which does not clutter the entire painting.
Question #19   What issues of  “user experience” need to be solved visually?

Prospective readers of the Tor Books brand need to be able to instantly identify an interesting book from a sea of other books.  They need to be instantly fascinated by the narrative of the cover and to have their desperation to learn more to be so bad that they must buy the book to find out the whole story.

Question #20   What one image in your portfolio shows that:
• you have ALL the skills required
• you have the level of skill proficiency for all skills required
• you understand the problems that needed to be visually solved
• you can do the job better than an artist they are currently working with

I don’t think I have any one image that asserts all of these skills.  The closest one would be Blacksent: Book of the Umbra.  

It’s an old piece that’s not a part of my current portfolio and there are several things wrong with the anatomy, perspective, and atmospheric mood, but it’s the only piece in my body of work that gets the viewer asking ‘why?’.  Why are those characters so distant and seemingly helpless?  Why is the main character so distraught?  A pity this piece is so dated now, or it would be in my portfolio.  It was the first book cover I ever created.

Personal Revelations:  

Just one.  I need to do MORE work!  Looking at my body of work, I hardly have anything that even lines up with what I list as my inspirations or even what I enjoy drawing.  For as much as I am passionate about characters and storytelling, I have few pieces that depict the kinds of things I enjoy drawing OR want to get hired to draw.I think at some point I was trying to focus my career on drawing what other people wanted me to draw, pretty things that looked good on lunchboxes and journals so that I could get paid and still live as an artist.  

It hasn’t been until recent years that I’ve had time to analyze the various professions and realize that my passions and interests line up more firmly with book cover illustration and character design.  My previous attempts to get into licensing only left me feeling bored and unfulfilled.

I’ve already come to this revelation in the past, but this self-assessment only cements my dedication to this new direction!

Back to Part 1
On to Part 3


  1. Harley-Rebel says:

    Specific skills might also include:
    • Understanding of market needs in imagery
    • Ability to work with design elements
    • Ability to create visual designs that allow for design elemets
    • Ability to design for spines and basckcovers
    • Ability to create visual narrative that asks questions rathr than answers them
    • etc.

    Get the idea of identifying SPECIFIC skills needed for a particular company/product?

    • Those are definitely good additions for considering what a publisher might need. I didn’t get that incredibly specific in my own answers because it really depends on the job within the company. A book cover isn’t always printed, it can be for an ebook too, which doesn’t require a spine design.

      These very specific formatting concerns I assume are less relevant to building a portfolio than having the skills to create the imagery in the first place.

      Still, doesn’t hurt to be aware of every bit of info, so thanks for adding to the list!

  2. Kelley says:

    I found your portfolio today through the ArtOrder blog. I think we have similar styles and interests, and I would also like to work for Tor books! 🙂 I agree that you are particularly strong in drawing elegant faces and flowing cloth.

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