Tuesday, March 31, 2009

artful communication

I was just looking at my son's recent essay and saw he had gotten red marks for several small grammatical errors. My husband and I explained to him that it may not seem like much, but he needs to slow down and reread his essays better to avoid typos. I also explained that I reread every email twice prior to sending. This led me to thinking about my post a few weeks ago on neatness and presenting your art. 

Personally I think it is very important to send typo free emails. But what is more important is how to communicate well about art. Here are a few tips that will help you create a blissful, telecommuting relationship with clients.

#1) When sending my first rough sketch I always include a detailed email describing the item I am delivering, my objective, how it achieves the goals of the project and any questions that have come up. 
#2) When writing about a visual element, it's crucial to be simple and clear. For example, it is not clear to say 'the shape on the left'. It would be clear to say, 'the large blue square shape in the upper left corner'. It may not seem like much of a difference but, if you aren't in the room looking at the art with the viewer, trust me they can get confused and may not be looking at what you think they will be looking at. 
#3) Before I do revisions to a file I send an email and clarify what I understand the changes to be, and exactly what I am going to do, and when. This simple email, written with precision can save me time later. 

My point is, when you communicate to your client over email, take a moment to digest the goal of the conversation, then carefully detail 'What', 'How', and 'When'. Really easy stuff. Not only will it save you time, it will make you money because your client has clear expectations, and you can churn through the work and get onto the next project.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I recently started working on some fun new surface design for a sock maker, Sock It To Me. They are a Portland, Oregon sock manufacturer and make some really fun stuff. As I started designing I found it was so much easier, and yet more difficult. The easy part is that the artwork needs to be simple shapes and vector. The manufacturing process, knitting, colors = knots and obviously more colors is more money and more work. I also learned more colors means a tighter sock since you have more knots when more colors are used. Less really is more! 

Now for difficult. It is funny to me, how often what is the easy part, can also be the hard part. Creating simple work turns out to be challenging since you must reduce ones concept to simple, digestible bits, that are tiny. Sort of like designing 'favicons', little bits that are easy to read. I find that I design with loads of color and often with odd angles. But this project required flat, straight on views, or profiles of items at the most obvious angle. 

Example to the right >>

The designs will be in Sock It To Me's next sock release so visit the site and buy some groovy socks!

Monday, March 16, 2009

mom was right

Yes it is true. Mom was right. I don't know about you, but my mom was a stickler for nagging us kids about working neat. She had to nag us because we didn't really listen and were sloppy, in a hurry and thought the mess would clean itself. I remember being a late night baker and she would get so mad at me for not cleaning up my mess as I worked, and for leaving a pile of slop in the sink with the slop covered bowls and utensils used to bake my treats. 

Now working neat seems obvious to me now as a grown up. I nag my own kids about being neat in the kitchen and cleaning up their slop as they make things. Of course they don't listen well, hence why I nag. 

This same principal of working neat in the kitchen is every bit as important, more so even, to working neat on art/files you wish to sell, or are contracted to make. I wouldn't have thought of making a blog post about this if I hadn't recently been reviewing some student work. The work was clever and fun, loved the concept and the style. But if I had been presented it as an Art Director I would have looked at the artist in shock. Granted it was a student, (albeit college) but the art had been shoddily put together with markers to cover up mistakes, and edges ripped. The work was finished work, it wasn't a study. What this made me realize is sometimes artist's don't realize that neatness, and presentation really counts. I am not saying you can't have a messy studio, paint and chalk dust everywhere. But if you want to give a finished piece to an Art Director, it better be labeled, clean, and ready for reproduction. The art should look like a professional made it. Otherwise, who will perceive you as a professional and want to pay you a professional wage?

Working neat doesn't stop for painting, drawing and the like. As a designer I hate picking up someone else's files to work on and not have layers labeled clearly. I can tell you a Photoshop file with 100 layers, just floating around, none labeled, none in groups, is a big, stinky pile of rancid poor workmanship. So, while you are thinking about clean papers in your portfolio, think about that digital file and make sure you are organized, and tidy before you hand it over. If not, you waste people's time, and no matter how good you are, whoever is having to clean up your mess will gladly trade you for someone else as soon as they can. 

Think clean, organized and professional. And call your mom to tell her thank you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

skills I have learned from my dog

Often I find myself thinking how lucky my dog is. He gets fed, he gets to go for walks, he gets someone to rub his back, I mean really? I was pondering his life, and how he sees the world and realized he had a lot to teach me about being. 
1) Never stop thinking this is your lucky day. Oreo never loses sight that today might just be the day. The day for what I don't really know, but he knows today could be it.
2) Be loyal to those who have always been there for you. Loyalty is paramount to being a dog, and to being true to yourself and those that help you be you (and what artist hasn't relied on someone to help them learn or evolve?).
3) Celebrate every meal. Ok, well maybe not the meal per se, but every success. It's easy to overlook the small ones sometimes, but they deserve a good nod.
4) Never give up hope that someone is going to give you attention. C'mon every artist wants attention. We all want to get noticed and get some deserved attention for all our hard work.
5) Don't be afraid to take a break from it all. Now my cat is the master at this, but this is about the dog. So, take a break. 
6) Be happy. Even though the kibble is monotonous, life is pretty good after all.

On that note, I think I will go make a fresh pot of joe, and go chill for awhile.

Monday, March 2, 2009

control z

I have to share a life experience that sort of frightened me. When it comes to illustration I split my time 70-30 digital work to traditional. The percentage has been migrating digital for some time but has spiked in the last year. 

A few months ago I was working on a series of traditional paper and paint pieces. I had been struggling with the color for awhile and kept revisiting one section of a painting. Not being pleased I decided to shake things up and scraped off the paint, then lathered on a new layer. The new color was just so wrong. So completely wrong. As soon as I saw what a bad choice I had made, in my head popped this, 'control+z'. At first I didn't connect what I had thought. Then it struck me. Yes I had actually thought that I could use a key command to fix something in the real world. I was mortified. The lines had finally blurred. I sat for moment amazed then I started laughing at how ridiculous it was. I truly couldn't believe that I had a hot key moment in the real world.

What does this teach me? Oh, maybe I spend too much time on my computer. But it also made me think about how we use tools. I love my computer, I love painting digitally. And I love the freedom. I love that I can use Control Z, and have a 'do over'. It isn't the death of real painting but digital work has a real place. The flexibility is dreamy to me. And the speed. Digital painting is akin to using a kitchen tool to make your work easier. I am going to keep doing my digital work, interspersed with traditional painting. And hopefully I won't try to hot key my way out of a corner.