We’re moving!

We’re packing up and moving over to http://www.michellekrasny.com/blog/. The archives will still be here, but they’ll be there too and all new posts will be on the new blog. When the dust settles the result should be amazing! But bear with me while the formatting is still a bit nuts, there will be some awesome articles coming up! Like:

  • My thoughts on the SVA MFA thesis show
  • My process!
  • Review of prints received from iprintfromhome.com
  • And much more!

Illustration Friday – Lesson

Uh-oh, looks like Elephant is in trouble.

Postcards – my first try

So after deciding on a printer (uprinting.com) and spending a little while looking up printing regulations I decided I’d sit down and make myself do something for my postcards. It’s daunting, because you want something that’s going to be eye catching and that someone’s going to want to stick on their wall. I hope I got that, but for a first attempt I’m alright with it. It’s definitely better than some earlier attempts where the space was 50% taken up by cool borders … probably not wise for an illustration card.

Anyway here’s what I came up with. The front is a simple, hopefully arresting but cute image with a scrap of contact information on the front. I was told that this is important because if someone does like your card enough to tack it up, they can’t see the back.

On the back I put my name, address, phone # and e-mail (edited out of this version because it strikes me as a bit creepy to post all of that on the big wide web). I made sure that it followed all the postal regulations, but that was pretty easily done after some rudimentary Google. They’re pretty straight forward, don’t put anything in the bottom area where the bar-code goes or the right side where the address goes or the upper right side where the stamp goes (there are actual measurements for all of those here). You can’t have rounded edges or square (very expensive) and other than that you’re pretty free. As far as return address goes, apparently if it’s a direct mail campaign then you don’t have to include your address, but I didn’t know if I qualify for that or not. Plus it doesn’t hurt to give AD’s one more way to contact you, right? Although if they contact you via snail mail I’d be dubious … And I stuck on a cute little silhouette of the robot, the same doodle you can see in my banners (probably not wise, but meh, he’s super cute). The final will be a bit trimmed down from these and will come out 6×4.” I ordered an obscene number (500!) but the difference between 200 and 500 was $3 … and I figure that if I don’t use them all I’ll just give them to people for free with gifts and whatnot. I mean it’s a bit cuter than a business card, right?

Trails and Tribulations of Printing and Promotion

So if you’re an avid reader of my blog, as I’m sure you are …, you probably know that I’m gearing up for my first mailing of promotional materials and that I then plan to really get out there with my portfolio and hunt down some work. This presents me with a whole host of problems, I’ve never faced before. Like: what kind of paper should I get my prints done on? or what kind of information do I put on my postcards? Or how on earth do I design an e-mail promotion. One by one I’m tackling these and searching for the answer, and I just wanted to share what I’m learning.

The first problem I faced was who do I send  my stuff to? Fortunately, as I covered in an earlier post, I found adbase who I’m currently deeply in love with and going to leave my husband for any day now (kidding honey!). They immediately helped me with questions I hadn’t asked yet like how do I know who would prefer e-mail and who would prefer postcard promos? How do I put together an e-mail promotion? How do I avoid going straight to SPAM? and so on. So yay adbase, I highly recommend them!

Now I need a print version of my portfolio to show around, to drop off at offices and for this summer’s SCBWI conferences (I’m signed up for all the portfolio reviews!). After looking at a few different options including my usual printer (uprinting.com which didn’t have good art print options), a recommended printer (Duggal – tooooooo expensive) and then poking around the etsy forums – I discovered iprintfromhome.com which, despite a little bit of difficult site design, seems like exactly what I’m looking for. I ordered 3 test prints of my work. Following their fine art recommendations I went with Giclee 8 x 12″ prints on Somerset Velvet paper (supposed to be like watercolor paper) which cost about $34. When they arrive I’ll be sure to take pics and let everyone know how I feel about the results. If I’m happy I’ll get my whole portfolio done and maybe some extras as gifts or for sale :)

So now while I wait for my husband to put the finishing touches on my new site I’m trying to design my postcards (and next I’ll do my mailers). I killed some time by making a portfolio on Foundfolios which came out pretty nice. But now I have to figure out a few things. I ordered some temporary business cards from overnight prints which other people have raved about. Honestly there were some alignment issues which could easily have been my fault, but the fact is that that wouldn’t have happened with my normal printer (Uprinting), so I think I’ll stick with them for future postcards and business cards. They may be huge and faceless, but the price is right and I know I’m getting a good quality product.

So that’s where I am right now. I’ll update you on things like, good postcard design, good e-mailer design, actually SENDING your materials, showing your portfolio and such as I go. Ok, wish me luck!

Illustration Friday and Some Brain Vomit

Okay so this week we’ve got … the robot for the Sonya Sprockett Book Dummy (soon to be featured in my banners and promo materials, so yay for him). We’ve got this week’s IF (bicycle)  inspired by those very bizarre old timey bicycles from the 1800′s and some late-night google-image trolling. And also inspired by the research for the Sonya Sprockett book, a dressmakers dummy with butterfly wings, also for reasons to do with the lateness of the google image trolling. 

More on Buying Mailing Lists

So after my last post I started to feel out Mailing List providers a bit. At Adbase I made a free account so I could really explore the site and clicked a link to be called about getting 2 days of free complete access to their site. Freshlists (which doesn’t open in Chrome) had an e-mail contact on the contact us portion of the site which I e-mailed asking for a bit more information and whether or not they ever do promotional pricing. Creative Access‘s site is a bit of an unavegable brick (the page where the e-mail was listed was somehow a picture of a clickable link instead of a clickable link … so I put off sending that e-mail until later).

Adbase called me back the next day and very convincingly sold me on a plan that will cost ~$100 a month for a year (so $1200 a year- it’s currently 40% off though- yay promo deals) where I have access to their entire site. That’s not only all of their US and Canadian database (60,000+ names), but also a portfolio site which is easily accessible by all the professionals in the database, a promotional e-mail designer and a contacts manager which is easily sorted into call lists, printed onto labels or e-mail lists. The added stuff isn’t stuff I couldn’t get other places, but it’s nice to have it all in one seamless package. They also will train me on full use of the site because as they pointed out, it’s in their best interest for me to succeed.

Freshlist responded with a curt e-mail explaining that they do not do promotional pricing but that I could pay their fees quarterly OR all at once (comes to about $400 a year for access to a database of 7,000 names)

Honestly I never finished with Creative Access because Adbase had already scooped me up but they claim to have over 100,000 names (although I’m dubious as that particular page last updated in 2004). I couldn’t find a price anywhere (maybe it’s free? haha) and the only contact information was an 800 number or their “marketing” department.

So yes, adbase is more expensive, but if they’re a 1/4 as good at helping me sell myself as they are at selling themselves I’ll have more  work than I know what to do with. They really blew my mind when someone over there went to my blog, downloaded the bird people (a little project from my blog a few months ago), printed them out and took pictures! I’m very impressed and am excited for this first year of adbase subscription. If everything goes well it sounds like a service worth keeping (In terms of monthly expenses- it’s less than healthcare, rent or groceries and I get more from it!)

Also, before I get in a heap-ton of trouble here’s one of several pictures my lovely mother-in-law snapped of the bird people while they were on vacation in Switzerland.

The Evolution of a Sonya – and buying mailing lists

She started off so different … anyway, I’ve recently picked my dummy back up. I feel like after a semester of intense figure drawing practice, and learning how to use 3D rendering software, that I can now create the same character, recognizable, well and from different angles. Also my technique has evolved since I put the dummy down, from marker and digital coloring to pen and ink and watercolor. If you’d have told me then that I’d be working in watercolor now I would have laughed at you, but a combination of serendipity and Sergio Ruzzier’s strong opinions on the matter lead me to some very conventional media.

I’m hoping to have the dummy done, or at least presentable, for this summer’s SCBWI conference. It put quite a dent in my wallet, but I signed up for EVERYTHING. One-on-one portfolio review, juried portfolio show, illustration intensives, everything! I figure that even though it all scares the pant off me, the major expense is still the travel and the fee to walk in the door so why not shell out an extra $250 and get the most out of the experience possible. (If you’re going to be there, say hey! I’ll be the one psyching herself up to talk to strangers while rocking in the corner)

I’m riding high lately because one of my professors, who is also a noted children’s book author and illustrator, told me that she liked my work AND that I didn’t have a fatal flaw! Which was high praise for me, although you may have had to be there … Anyway, it went straight to my head which was nice because I need more praise to go to my head.

In other news I’m still working on my mailers and getting together my list. I WAS basing my list off of the 2011 Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market book, but have since been told that it’s next to useless. Few of the names are up to date, if they are there at all, and there are hardly any e-mail addresses. Without a name to send your card to, you may as well just throw it in the garbage at home and save yourself 42 cents. Also pretty much all of the entry’s request a detailed resume and query letter before or accompanying any postcards which, according to those who know, is ridiculous as no one sends those anymore. Apparently the book is compiled by surveying the publishing companies, so the answer you get there is what a publisher would like to see in their wildest dreams and not necessarily industry standard.

So I’ve been looking at Adbase, Creative Access and Freshlists. All 3 were recommended but Creative Access and Freshlists’ websites are jokes … unless I’m looking at the wrong sites. I mean, you can’t even open Freshlist on Chrome! On the other hand Adbase has a pretty hefty pricetag. They’ve got 20% off deals right now if you also want to shell out for a Contact Manager and E-mailer system, but I’d rather just use free services (like my G-Mail contact list and MailChimp). At least then I know that the company won’t fold or change something and I’ll lose access to my entire mailing list!

Sketches of Naked Ladies

It’s been a while since I’ve sketched some naked ladies for you. I’ve been dutifully attending my anatomy drawing class (which is little more than a life-drawing class with an anatomy quiz in the middle) but I haven’t shown you guys what I’ve accomplished there. Most because I felt like it sucked pretty hard, it’s been a while since I HAD to use charcoal. But last week I was pretty happy with these 2.

Also, speaking of figure drawing, tonight I’m finally dragging myself to one of the Society of Illustrator’s sketch nights. They have them every Tuesday and Thursday, but so far I haven’t been able to go. I’ve heard good things about the models and set up itself but more importantly, I’ve heard it’s a good place to meet art directors and the like … Normally I wouldn’t dream of anything so forward sounding, I’d be happy to sit on my little blog in the upper left corner of the internet and wait until someone stumbled upon me in 50 or 60 years … maybe. But my portfolio class had a speaker last week, Rich Tu, who was SO enthusiastic about life, illustration, and schmoozing that some of it had to rub off. Seriously, he was so enthusiastic he looked like he literally couldn’t contain himself. Anyway, he had this attitude that seems really healthy for such a word-of-mouth industry which is A. why shouldn’t I contact the head of the New York Times art department (for instance?), I may only have 2 things in my portfolio, but it doesn’t mean they’ll say no and B. to know, love and talk to everybody.

Honestly, I’m not going to become a social butterfly, the only time I ever successfully did anything like that was freshman year of college and there was ALOT of liqour involved, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t grow a pair and talk to people I admire. Stalking them on the internet is my first baby step, but if I run into someone who’s in the biz, I’m going to try hard not to start blushing and looking at the floor and acting like I’ve just been caught in a lie.

Anyway, the Society of Illustrators is a great place, definitely worth checking out if you’re ever in the city. It’s several floors of awesome, they have a couple of show rooms which they fill with illustrated art (just like a museum or something!) and they have an amazing little bookstore in the front that’s all annuals and magazines and other illustrated books.

Buying and Using Pen, Ink and Watercolor i.e. my first tutorial! – sort of

I’ve been working with pen, ink (both drawing and calligraphic) and water colors for a little while now, and I feel like I can contribute some basic information about how they mix and where to buy them. I previously touched on this a bit in this post, but have decided that something with a bit more detail might be nice.

BUYING YOUR SUPPLIES

Paper -  Because you’ll be working with wet media, a watercolor paper is best. Use whatever you like best, but I like hot-press watercolor paper (as opposed to Rough or Cold-Pressed which have more toothiness, thus more texture in your final, although they also tend to be more absorbent and will buckle less with moisture). I haven’t tried too many brands, because this stuff is expensive, but I’ve had really good experiences with Arches Hot Press Watercolor Blocks (I use 9 x 12″). After a bit of shopping around, Dick Blick is the cheapest actual, physical store for this paper (right now for $21.35) but Jerry’s Artarama and Art Supply Warehouse have it for the same price, so whatever you prefer. Everywhere else I looked, it was at least a few dollars expensive. If you want to go cheaper (and I certainly don’t blame you if you do) L’anaquerelle is a bit cheaper but I’ve found it isn’t quite as smooth as Arches.

Before I get into inks … a quick note on the differences. Calligraphy Ink is the kind of ink you put in pens while drawing ink is typically used with paintbrushes and in airbrushes. DO NOT put drawing ink in your fountain pens, they have components which make them “water proof” that will cause build up and clog your pen. Calligraphy Inks, even if they say they are water proof, are no more than “water resistant” because they lack those components.

Drawing Ink - I haven’t tried many different brands of drawing ink, mostly because I’ve come to prefer water colors. However, you can get an opacity and vibrancy from a nice drawing ink that you can’t always obtain using watercolors. The brand I use is FW Artists Ink which is acrylic based. This type of ink is different than most drawing inks because it has pigment (most inks are dyes). This becomes important when you want to say … erase the pencil lines beneath your coloring. I have no preferred store for drawing ink, but Dick Blick has a decent selection. Also I should note that I believe you’re supposed to use drawing inks for airbrushing and I’ve only ever painted with them … so you know, take me with a grain of salt or two.

Calligraphy Ink – Calligraphy ink is pretty awesome if you don’t mind the expense. Honestly in terms of bang for your buck it’s a pretty good deal. I buy Noodler’s Ink at Art Brown (although I believe there are several online vendors if you don’t have a vendor near you) and although it can be about $12 a jar, I get a 6 oz bottle which is honestly more of that color than I’ll use in a lifetime. What I love about ink is it paints on like a water color but you can erase through it. It’s also pretty <3 and there’s nothing more fun that fiddling around with fountain pens. Also it comes in like a trillion beautiful colors in these pretty old timey bottles.

Water Colors – I don’t know much about water color. I used to use one of those little cheapo pellet things that comes with a free brush. I recently decided I’d really give them a chance and bought a set of student grade Van Gogh paints. I’m happy with them, but really couldn’t tell you any more than that.

Brushes and Pens – These are really a matter of person taste. I like to use a $35 Lamy Fountain Pen with a fine tip for my inking and store brand brushes for my water colors or to paint with my colored inks (or black ink washes), but really, whatever floats your boat.

Other good things to have on hand include paper towel, for blotting and messy lines, lots of water, several dishes you’re willing to sacrifice to ink stains, a flat surface.

A FEW TIPS AND TRICKS FOR USING WATERCOLORS, DRAWING AND CALLIGRAPHIC INK TOGETHER

Just in case you skimmed the earlier steps some important points of inks and paints:

  • Pigment based colorants lay on top of the paper, meaning you can’t erase pencil underneath them, but you can lighten or dilute them a  bit after you’ve layed them down and they’ve dried UNLESS your pigment is mixed with a dye.
  • Dye based colorants stain the paper, meaning you CAN erase through them, but once they’re dry they’re down and there’s no moving them around or perfectly blending edges.
  • If you mix pigments and dyes together, they take on the worst properties of each, meaning no blending and no erasing through.

The first thing I learned when playing with these media was the most exciting, they can all be mixed. I wouldn’t recommend pre-mixing anything because stuff tends to separate and go all weird when left to sit, but in the short term you can mix your pretty green drawing ink and your blue watercolor to see what they look like and they paint on the paper just fine.

That’s it. Mix it up, play around, and have fun!

Quick Post today

No new art to show for today. I’m working very hard on compiling my mailing list … not right now, obviously, but before this post and again after (probably).

Anyway, I wanted to mention one SUPREMELY AWESOME BLOG I just found while trying to figure out how to make my mailers. http://tradesecrets.wordpress.com - an amazing advice column type-thing that give you the … trade secrets (der) for illustration! Written  by Meg Hunt the blog’s articles range from art supply recommendations to tax advice.  Basically, it’s what I aspire to one day do here but with years more experience and the ability to be succinct and organized. Definitely a must-check-out resource for any brand spanking new illustrators out there.

While I’m gushing I thought I’d mention my new favorite watercolorist, Emma SanCartier. Her control of the medium is breathtaking, one day, I hope I’ll be that good. I saw her at MOCCA, but the crowd was a little too overwhelming for me, so I hopped over to Barnes & Nobles the next day and picked up her new book “The World is Your Oyster.” Check it out! My favorite page is the “grab the bull by it’s horns” page. So much energy and beautifully contrasting colors!

Alright, I better get back to my mailing list. Grrrr

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