Monday, June 29, 2009

Art Director Don'ts

This is a follow-up to my last posting on For What It's Worth. Scanning the web today I found the following piece on José Cruz's site. Every illustrator should keep this posted right above their computer...and every art director should take note:

Don't ask me to do art for free!
Don't ask me to sell my art CHEAP!
Don't ask me to incorporate ideas that don't work!
Don't ask me to do BAD ART!
Don't ask me to work on SPECULATION!
Don't ask me to put everything into a piece of art including the Kitchen Sink!
Don't bother to call me if you don't like what you see in my book!
Don't ask me to illustrate like another illustrator!
Don't ask me to underbid another fellow illustrator!
Don't get estimates from several illustrators and choose the cheapest!
Don't ask me to Think Like You!
Don't ask me to Read Your Mind!
Don't ask the client what he thinks!
Don't ask the client what you think!
Don't ask me to wait 90 days for payment!
Don't ask for something overnight unless you pay me overnight!

Good art directors already know these don'ts but it's up to us to make everyone aware of why you do hire an illustrator and the value of illustration.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Maira Kalman: And the Pursuit of Happiness

Maira's art is always stimulating, I particularly enjoy her take on fashion and children and own every children's book she's done plus some more adult books that are a treat. Her work definitely come from a single source, today's feature in the online New York Times is another topic I have a passion for. Maira takes us on a trip to Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson has always been a favorite of mine, a true Renaissance man, and I've made many a pilgrimage to his home, outside Charlottesville, Virginia. My daughter went to school in Lynchburg so Monticello was just up the road; I'd always wanted to visit and with her being close by I made a couple of trips there and then a couple more later. Every visit is a treat, on my first visit we were able to go upstairs, but they had to stop doing that--the Fire Marshall and insurance prohibited it.

Sitting on top of a hill, the house is an elegant addition to the landscape. It was fun to see where he and his new bride stayed while the first of many incarnations of Monticello took place. A simple square box, two-stories tall but quite compact which now links by a boardwalk to one side of the house. There's an identical twin on the other side. Jefferson was intent on getting the house just right so he built up and tore down until he had the house he wanted and seems like I remember he only lived in the final form the last 12 years of his life.

Maira captures the man in pictures and words perfectly and has me salivating for a return trip.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Creativity: An Act of Will

Something interesting came across my desk today. It came from Joseph Michael Essex at sx2 design consultancy and speaks about the act of drawing in words much better than I could write. Enjoy!

Yes, Creativity is an act of will. It also demands practice, discipline and confidence.

“I don’t have a creative bone in my body” and “I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler” are a few of the responses we hear when we explain our work. Most people assume that creativity is a gift, a talent you are either born with or not. This is both true and not at the same time.

The primary component of creativity is awareness. We all are born with the capacity to be creative because from birth we absorb everything. We soak everything in, we learn at an exponential rate. It is only when that awareness turns on itself and becomes self-critical do we narrow our focus. If our drawings don’t look like those of others, we lose confidence in our own vision of things and we stop drawing.

When we stop seeing and settle for the familiar our creative muscles begin to atrophy. The patience, energy and discipline required to continuously examine the status quo for relevance and substance becomes too much work and risk for too little reward.

Creativity has more to do with attitude than art, more about ideas than images, and more about motivation than innovation. It’s not always about what’s new, but what is possible, even meaningful.

Those that are willing to risk embarrassment by asking the “dumb” questions will learn a great deal. By questioning the king’s new clothes or challenging how things have “always been done” we allow ourselves to discover new things. A few steps back toward childhood might expose opportunities we were too close to see.

Let Joseph know what you think.

Monday, June 15, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 5

There seems to be a pervasive request for freebies lately; it's almost like the buzzword for the 21st Century is Free. Whether it's Google trying to get illustrators to create work for Chrome for nothing or the free downloads that seem to be invading cyberspace. There's nothing wrong with bartering in tough times, it's a historical fact that artists have bartered their art for food and shelter but the idea that a multi-billion dollar corporation can't pay an artist's fee for usage is downright despicable. But it's not unusual.

Unfortunately illustration lacks the respect of the vast majority of art directors, art buyers, editors and the like. They view illustration as second-rate, only to be used when they can't afford photography or just to fill a space. They don't view what an illustrator does as anything special, nor worthy of a high fee.

And the worst thing of all is that too many of us are willing to work for free or very close to it. And everyone knows it. You wouldn't find a photographer taking the bait from Google and more importantly, Google wouldn't even bother to approach them because they know what the answer would be--NO.

It's like the difference between cats and dogs. Illustrators can be like pups who sit there wanting to be loved, waiting for someone to throw them a bone. Cats on the other hand are aloof, sure they can be affectionate but they're not there begging for attention. When they approach you it's on their own terms. Cats know their value and they play to their strengths. If illustrators were more like cats they wouldn't do assignments for free or for a ridiculously low fee. The illustrators who turned down Google are like cats, the ones who took the bait are like dogs. We all need to be cats.

3x3 Children's Book Show Judging

The First Round

The Fifth Annual 3x3 Children's Book Show judging took place on Wednesday, June 10 at the Art Directors Club. Our judges included David Caplan, senior art director, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Laurent Linn, art director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Eleni Beja, editor, Holiday House Books and illustrators Raul Colón, Sean Qualls and Serge Bloch.

L to R: Serge Bloch, Eleni Beja, Laurent Linn, Raul Colón, Sean Qualls and David Caplan

This was the first year we've actually judged the actual books, previously all judging was done digitally and for a very good reason, by judging the work digitally we were able to get a panel of international jurors to judge the work. We find that there are distinct differences between books from the the States and from outside North America. This year we decided to try doing the judging here in the New York--we did have one international judge, Serge Bloch who has been living here the past three years and is returning to Paris at the end of June. There are two parts to the judging, the actual books and everything else that has been entered digitally. We discounted the entry fee if entrants entered the actual book but it seems over half chose to enter digitally. The digital judging will be over in about two weeks and we'll announce the winners at the end of the month.

Eleni and Raul check out a book

Judges were asked to select their favorite books during the first round, we then placed upside down paper cups and gave each judge different colored chips to vote for the pieces they felt should be in the show. Once the digital judging is complete we will be able to announce medal and merit winners in this year's show.

Photos by Sarah Munt.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 4

Today's subject is about something that's been concerning me lately, Blogs and Blog-lite.

This is one of the times of the year that I'm immersed in illustrator web sites. Clicking on links in IllustrationMundo. com looking for new artists. Adding artists to my favorites list. And inviting a few to join the next issue's Gallery or Showcase. It's been about six months since I've been so devoted at looking for new artists--though I'm always on the outlook.

There seems to be a disturbing trend towards the use of blogs or blog-like sites and away from the traditional web sites. This has plusses and minuses, but as you can tell I'm none too thrilled with the approach. You must remember I'm spending a great part of my day doing nothing but looking for artists, that's a truly unique position. An art director or art buyer won't spend this kind of time, nor will they try to figure out an illustrator's site.

Sure on a blog it's good to not have to wait for images to load, to see images larger than normal, but you're forcing me...and art scroll down the page to look at your work. Two things are going to happen, we won't scroll all the way to the bottom and we'll make a judgement on the first two or three pieces we see--which may or may not be your best work. And we're not going to read any text. Whereas when you show us the traditional thumbnail images, cropped or not, we can select random images to look at. While we may not look at more than three or four images, depending on how much time we have, but chances are better that we're walking away with a better understanding on who you are as an artist.

One good thing about a blog-like site has is that it is not over-designed. You wouldn't believe how many ultra-designed illustrator sites there out there. Great work, lousy navigation, slow loading times and total confusion. There was one site where the homepage is this pattern of lovely houses against a red background. I couldn't find a link to the work to save me. I clicked here, I clicked there but finally in frustration I just left the site. I gave it a chance, an art director will not; they'll give you about a second to get your navigation so they can find your work or leave. A lost opportunity for you. No work is so great that we're going to labor over looking at it. Art directors just don't have that kind of time, even the art directors who love illustration. Remember we're trying to grow the market, to reach art directors who are not using illustration, or using too little.

Overall most illustrator sites have way too much design to them. Art directors are not hiring you to design, they are hiring you to communicate. And a good test for that is how well you communicate with them. Through your web site, through your conversations. Keep blogs like you would a diary, share those with your friends and family, but don't try to use them as a marketing tool unless you are good friends with the art director you hope will hire you. And make it dead-simple for us to see your work, chances are better you might get an assignment. Don't make it simple and you're dead-certain not to.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Call for Entries: Images 34
The best of British contemporary illustration competition 2010

The Association of Illustrators (AOI) has announced their call for entries. The deadline is July 31 and only UK illustrators or overseas illustrators working for UK clients may submit work. Work must have been completed since January 2008. Enter and pay online. Images 34 will distributed in 2010. Full details are available online. US fees are in parens.

Entry Fees per entry (including VAT)

£20 ($32.18) AOI full/associate member
£23 ($37.02) AOI student/college member

£30 ($48.28) AOI corporate/AOI/SAA agent member

£38 ($61.16) Non-member
£30 ($48.28) Student/college non-member

Publication Fees per full page* (including VAT) 

In line with the new format of the Images annual, only full pages are now available to selected entrants. Individual illustrators may publish up to two selected entries per full page.

£220 ($354.07) AOI full/associate member

£264 ($424.88) AOI student/college member

£330 ($531.10) AOI corporate/AOI/SAA agent member
£440 ($708.14) Non-member

£330 ($531.10) Student/college non-member

Hanging Fees per image (including VAT)
£44 ($70.81) AOI Member

£88 ($141.63) Non-member

£66 ($106.22) Student/college non-member

Please note: Each selected exhibitor is committed to hang a minimum of one image at the London show at the rate published above

Deadline: July 31, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Intern: André Carvalho, aka André da Loba

We have added a new intern at 3x3, a recent graduate of the SVA MFA program. Thanks to Kim Abondi at SVA who put out the word, André asked for an interview. Born in a small village in Portugal, André studied graphic design and then moved to Spain to take classes in illustration. After freelancing as an illustrator/designer he attended the School of Visual Arts Illustration as Visual Essay program, graduating this year. His work has been exhibited in both 3x3 and Creative Quarterly and won a prize at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

After a briefing on the particulars of the job, André showed the group his portfolio. Housed in a wooden case he'd found on the street, he opened what was to be an atypical book. It was like watching a magician perform. Instead of traditional two-dimensional books his storytelling took the form of simple wooden blocks which when turned presented the next stage of a simple story, his paper maiche head when spun answers either yes or no or the weighted profile of a man's head which hung easily on the tip of ones finger. It was truly a visual treat. Most of the materials were found on the streets of Manhattan, used cardboard, blocks from scraps leftover from the sculpture labs; materials not usually found in an artist's portfolio. The magic was not only in the work itself but the performance by the artist, you could literally feel the enthusiasm for the work. It wasn't showy or pretentious, it was an expression of love and not unlike the experience one feels from experiencing Philip Petite walking on the wire. Speaking of love, the del Loba is a reference to his grandmother's nickname who raised two children as a single parent. He said, "If that's not an expression of love, what is." We found out that Carvalho is used for design work and da Loba is for his illustration work.

He may or may not work out as our intern, we'll know soon enough, but he certainly has a great future ahead of him as an artist/illustrator, the magic is bottled up and itching to get out. A true original.