Originally Published: January 2012
by Christina A. Tugeau, Artist Agent LLC, SCBWI member and speaker.
It is difficult to produce, create, and invent when paying assignments are often far between, underpaid, overly demanding, and have short deadlines. Everyone deals with this in his or her own way, but I want to suggest jumping right in with both feet as a fun way to deal with the issue! I’ve noticed great energy coming from artists who have taken this “depressed time” and made it a RENEWAL time. They are discovering talents deep within themselves—both new and forgotten—as well as innovative ways to display these talents. This energy and newly produced work has repeatedly led to new jobs!
One way to find motivation is to join a critique group. Being an active member of an in-person critique group means continually producing new work to share within specified timeframes. This is wonderful motivation. Additionally, you’ll receive the reward of helpful and insightful critiques from fellow artists.
But how do you come up with ideas for new work? Several artists in my agency have signed up with weekly sketch blogs or sites. These sites post a topic and by signing on, you promise to do a themed sketch every week, no matter what. You then post the sketches and members discuss them. Talk about motivation! It’s like the days of art school studies where you were “forced” to produce sketches or studies every few days or once a week. It was SO HARD, but great growth came out of the practice almost without thinking. That’s rather the point: You dig deep and find NEW skills while you PLAY.
This “new” from you can motivate client buyers by motivating themto hire you. To get a client’s attention, you have to present something not only competent but memorable. While they may not be able to tell you what they really need in specific terms, they know it when they see it, so you have to WOW them. They have to see your skills in order to hire you. Don’t be afraid to dig deep into yourself. You’ll be sure to find gold you can then let buyers see.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been doing the occasional client e-mail list blast. (CAUTION: Don’t do this yourself as clients generally find it annoying when the blasts come from individuals.) For these blasts, I select a theme around topics such as holidays, times of year, particular events, etc. I inform the artists in my agency and they decide whether they want to submit an image for me to send. What is most exciting is that the artists find the spontaneity of these original pieces fun to do. This year—this week, in fact—several of my artists have received jobs as a result of these e-mail blasts, including book contracts! This motivates the artists in my agency to participate even more! And we are motivating the clients to use us by continually putting new images right in their laps. You can do a modified e-mail blast by designing a page of themed pieces in your style. Have fun with it! Then mail the sheets to any buyer who has ever shown interest in your work and to publishers you think you’d be a good fit for.
Another way to motivate yourself and clients is to be open to the original sample. Original samples are done for a client who likes your work, but isn’t sure you can nail a character. In the past, I declined these requests unless there was a token payment (and often there still is), but now I encourage artists to do this. Why? Doing the sample gives you a better chance to win the project. If the client declines, then you have a new sample for your portfolio which might work for another client. (However, be careful about client confidentiality.)
Another method for producing new work can be to do a few images for that friend of a friend who is looking for an artist for his or her self-published project. Because it is often not cost-effective for you to do extensive illustrations for little money or in the hopes of distribution, you might opt to do a character sketch or a couple of scenes. These illustrations may help the writer sell the project. They may also motivate you into areas you had not previously thought of. If you do decide to illustrate characters for a writer, be sure to document that you own the rights for the visualization of the character and the use of the illustrations. This will keep your work from being copied by another artist.
Fall is great time for a high level of motivation and a great excuse to create many fun images! I hope you will jump right into the deep end and test the waters!