eddyjames asked: please come to tcaf next year.
I’m gonna try! Sam & I are going to apply for a table!
caseyboots asked: Hey Kali- about your last post- I'm wondering if you can give a good example of an email you'd send to an AD to introduce yourself and your work. How would you word that? When you take time to grant sage advice..well, everyone really appreciates it. Thanks.
Hey Casey! I’m glad! Though as a caveat I wanna say I still don’t have all my shit sorted, and I’m no super-famous/millionaire illustrator (YET?!), but I try to give advice from my own experience :)
So, email! People have different takes—if you’re funny and clever or can say something original/fun in an email to an art director, go for it! If you met the AD somewhere, or have some other tidbit of personal connection, mention that!
When in doubt, keep it short and sweet, a couple sentences is fine. Say hello, and then something like:
I’d love to work with you!
I wanted to share some recent illustrations!
Let me know if my work is a good fit for any projects you’ve got going!
But be sure to ALWAYS include a link to your online portfolio, that’s the most important part. An art director is ultimately going to hire you for the quality of your work—the email (or postcard) is just wrapping paper. You could also include 3 jpgs of specific work they might be interested in, too (don’t make ‘em email-bustingly large tho) Some ADs are more fond of email attachments than others.
miss-atrocity asked: Hey Kali, I'm an illustration student at MICA, and I was wondering if you live off of being an artist, and how exactly that works? How you get hired for enough jobs? I'm just really concerned about the future haha
Hey there! I do live off being an artist! The rest of my answer is kinda long, but I’ll give it my best shot.
How it works: It’s tough in the beginning, but it gets better. You probably already know that you need to promote yourself in order to get jobs—email ADs, network, send postcards, get involved in social media, make a website. You build up a base of jobs, one at a time. Sometimes you may get repeat jobs from one client, or maybe a bunch of random jobs from various people. Some people’s work is more suited to a particular section of illustration—book covers, business-y editorial, kid’s work, whatever. (figuring out where your work fits or where you want it to fit can take some time, but it’s good to have some goals!)
Eventually a snowball effect happens—after a few years art directors contact YOU now, once your work starts to be seen more and more. Which is nice!
Now, the money management part during all these times is where it can get a bit tricky. Usually at the beginning you need another job, preferably part-time so you still have time to work on whatever freelance jobs you can get. When I first graduated I worked part-time as a concept artist at a local videogame company, which paid my rent while I was contacting editorial AD’s and getting a tiny trickle of freelance work. (heads-up—this part is hard. Working any 2 jobs is hard!)
Living in Baltimore helped because cost of living is cheap. I also had been saving money in a savings account since I was a kid (any holiday/birthday/summer job money went into the bank). 8 months after graduation, the videogame I was working on was cancelled and I was let go from the company, so I decided to give full-time freelance a shot. Luckily I had that nest-egg of saved money to help get me through a lot of rough patches in the beginning, and over time I’ve been able to keep a relatively stable amount of savings to tide me over slow months. It always seems like I’ll get a bunch of jobs one month, and very little another month. Because of that instability, it’s important to recognize that you need to be frugal! (and also take opportunities when they come!)
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I can change the direct time-to-money relationship that pervades illustration. I’m kinda slow at drawing, so it limits the number of jobs I can take on & the money I can make. One small thing I’ve been doing is selling prints—which means that I can reuse some of the illustrations I’ve already made and make additional money from them. Making my own book or product seems like a smart move, since I could get continuing royalties off it. I’ve also heard some illustrators talk about selling some of their old work as stock images.
Getting into finances is smart, too. I’m lucky to have an uncle at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and every year I put some of my earnings in my Roth IRA account (so I’ll have some income when I’m old and decrepit) and I also have some money invested in stocks. I really think that art school should come with financial classes for artists—money stuff can be complicated and intimidating, but it can also be important for your future comfort & happiness. I’m just scratching the surface right now, there’s a lot I don’t know!
In any case, short answer: Keep working, save your $$$, and look for additional opportunities to make bank ✧
fish702 asked: Dear Kali, I live in Las Vegas but am hopping on a plane to attend Ltd Art Gallery's ASOIAF show in Seattle as Game of Thrones is just about my favorite passion. I was wondering If you would be able to reveal your piece or possibly the price of it as I am planning on buying as many of the prints as possible and it has been quite difficult to pull a preview from Ltd. Thanks in advance if this is at all possible and great luck at the show…maybe I shall see you there. Cheers,Steven
Hi Steven, I hope you have a great time at the show! I’m super excited to see what people have made for it! Unfortunately I’m clear across the country and won’t be able to attend in person. I’ve been both overworked and pretty sick lately, and although I’ve tried I haven’t been able to finish a new print for the show. (which has been a big bummer)
However: All 5 of my previous ASOIAF pieces will be for sale as 8x11 prints (in case you’d like the Leech Lord eyeing you while you go about your business)