Speed vs quality

Speed vs quality: Which is more important to your clients?

 

 

Illustrators that have worked for many years often amaze people by how quickly they can draw an image on their favourite media. Often, what’s equally amazing, it’s their attention to details that comes with the quick hand. Unfortunately, when people see this, they tend to assume that it is the result of natural born talent and not the product of years of training and hard work.

 

Frankly anyone can draw quickly, but it’s unwise to compromise accuracy for speed in this line of work. 

 

I always try to be fast and accurate in my illustrations, but it can be very tough when the clock is against you.

With tight deadlines I’m not talking about the luxury of few days or weeks. I’m talking about a FEW HOURS.

My experience with La Stampa (an Italian daily newspaper) helped me a lot in this department. For that type of collaboration, I had two hours to find the concept, do the sketch and deliver the final illustration.

 

 

After the first illustrations I started to develop some tricks which helped me to be faster but without compromising the quality.

I took note that 70% of the time was spent in trying to find an idea for the article. So, I had to find a way to have some “already made ideas” ready to use or modify for the occasions.

I’ve already talked about recycling ideas here. That would be a solution, but the article topic also helped me.

 

 

Most of them were about politics and economics, so I started to think about different general concepts and ideas I could use once or twice.

Another trick that helped me to be faster is the creation and use of texture which is like a pen marker: in this way I can colour in flat colours and then apply the different textures.

The recycling of old shapes and features from previous artworks (i.e. character’s faces, dresses, pattern, etc) is a winning strategy against time as well.

 

 

Having listed some of my preferred methods, you must consider that not all of them are always applicable due to the commission nature. Therefore, a good preparation is always key for success.

 

As I mentioned before, I prefer these ways with very thigh deadlines only (few hours) and not when I have one day or more. In such cases I prefer to work on the concepts from the beginning, doing everything properly with the right amount of time to also detach myself from them and revisit them later with a fresh mind.

 

Do you have any tricks to work faster but with quality?   Let me know in the comments box below!

Keep Updated

Today’s topic is about promoting yourself as an illustrator. To do so you need to get your work into the right people’s hands; this is not rocket science, but it requires its fair share of planning. The beautiful part is that there are no fixed rules, so you can do it in whichever way you prefer.

Before stating, like in anything, you need a bit of preparation to make it easier for the future. My suggestion is quite demanding at the beginning, but it pays out big time after the first round. I found it vital to build a solid contact list of art directors.

There are three vital pieces of information necessary for a complete contact list:

 

  1. The name of a company that commissions illustration
  2. The art director’s name at that company
  3. The address of the company

 

The first one is straightforward: look for other illustrators and where they publish their work. Take a note and be sincere with yourself: is my style in sync with the magazine/newspaper? Quality over quantity is paramount in our business. It’s pointless to have 100+ contacts when at least 80% will turn you down automatically.

The second and the third one can be a lot more difficult, since finding the art director’s name may take a bit of work. But I’ve already shared with you some useful website here.

 

I store everything on an Excel file which I keep organise and updated in case the art director changes or if I have another new magazine to add. I remember to annotate the main topic (or topics) that the magazine covers, date of my last contact (you don’t want to flood them with emails!!), their answer and if I worked with them (if they were good clients or not).

 

Here you can see an example:

 

 

When you have your contact list you need to send them new illustrations. I wouldn’t send updates every month though, I think a good range of time is between three and four months.

 

 

So let’s write our email…

 

 

Introducing yourself to client can be awkward, but for most designers it’s a necessary step in finding new work.

 

Keep it short and clear: say who you are, what you do and why you are writing.

 

Ah! And don’t forget to attach your website link and images. I don’t remember how many times I forgot to attach the images to my email!!

 

Remember: emailing does not guarantee an assignment. Trying out a new illustrator is a liberty that isn’t always affordable; factors like timing, demand and familiarity play a big part in assigning a project. Introducing yourself (and your work) should be your priority. Be patient and trust the process.

 

 

Do you have any tips to how to contact Art directors? How often do you send your updates?  Let me know in the comments box below!

Behind the scenes of my illustrations

I find the process of creating my illustrations quite intuitive. It’s based on trials and errors, and I go back and forth until I find the results that satisfy me.

As a conceptual illustrator, I work with ideas. The process itself is sometimes unpredictable.

I’ve experimented with different workflows until I found one that suits me.

When I work for newspapers and magazines, I usually have to extract ideas from a given text. I focus on the main topics of the article, but I also pay attention to concepts which attract my attention in that moment.

 

Then I try to link the different concept to different words. These could be synonymous or whatever the concept make me think about.

 

I tend to enjoy this part of the process because it let me think without restrictions. I will worry about how to represent them later on but in this part I just follow the flow.

 

 

 

When I identify an idea that might work, I start sketching.

Sometimes my intuition tells me almost immediately that the idea will work. Other times, the sketch shows many problems that I have to solve. And other times, the sketch confirms that the idea won’t work at all and it’s time to find another one.

The sketching process is also valuable because it generates additional ideas by itself.

So in other words I use this system as a guide but I trust my intuition the most. There are times where I even skip some of the steps because I have already a good idea to begin with. I have the tendency to save ideas for the future. If they are not suitable at the moment, I store them in a sketch-pad next to my desk and recover them later on. If you are curious I already talk about it here.

 

What is your process behind your works? Let me know in the comments box below!

 

The eternal insecurity

As far as I can rememeber I had problems with firm and clear cut decisions. If I had time I would overthink the matter and become more and more obsessed. It’s no secret that I prefer tight deadlines!

 

Since I started my collaboration with La Stampa (an Italian newspaper) I’ve become more aware of this problem of mine. The default scenario is composed of me, my tools and two hours where I must sketch, draw and deliver the final illustration.

 

It goes without a doubt that the first times I was nervous: the constant need to make a first good impression with future collaborators is a familiar worry that lead you through your entire career.

 

But such apprehension can fuel our determination and it can be seen as a healthy challenge.

After some time I realized that the strong point with tight deadlines is their intrinsic simplicity. They help me to focus to take decision that I would never allow myself to take if I had the luxury of time.

The usual thought around my head is: what solution can be done quickly and as clear as possible to transmit the message?

 

Sometime I recognize that what I have in front of me is not the best idea, but it helps me to think swifly.

 

 

It was, and still is, a good training.

The problem is when I have too much time on my hands. At some point I’m going to ask myself, “Why did I make it red, not green?” and “Could I try it upside-down, or left to right?” and then at some point it becomes arbitrary.

But having too much time is not always bad.

I find the sweet spot to be on 2 days. In this case I don’t feel the rush and I can have enough time to step away from my creation to start a critical analysis from fresh.

At the moment I find it difficult to dissociate instantly from my work when I have a couple of hours to create and develop. Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to create a “mental switch” that, with a simple flick, will help me to change my perspective from creator to reviewer in an instant. In the meantime, only practice can help me towards this goal.

In conclusion, my opinion on “deadline anxiety” can be seen as an opportunity and a handicap in the same way. If it is focused on the deadline itself, it gives me the chance to focus my energy on the final result. If there is not anxiety about the deadline, all of it can affect my creative part.

 

Do you prefer tight or long deadlines?  Let me know in the comments box below!

 

Ready, Set, Scribble!

Often we associate scribbling with negative habits: it’s out of control, childish, messy, sloppy or wasteful. But it’s also great fun.  

When I was a child I used to play this game which I called “the scribble game” (or “il gioco dello scarabocchio” in Italian) with my friends.

We used to do a competition of who was drawing the most creative scribble drawing. We had so much fun!

 

The scribble game combines interactive and fun activity. 

 

Here’s how to play it…

 

MATERIALS

  • Paper
  • Pens, pencils, crayons, or markers

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Each person scribbles something quick on their sheet of paper.
  2. Swap scribbles (or, if more than two people are playing, each can hand theirs to the person on their left).
  3. Look at the scribble in front of you to see what the lines suggest (you may want to turn it various ways to look at it from different angles).
  4. Finish the scribble drawing by adding your own lines and marks (use your creativity to guide you toward something personal and/or meaningful to you).

 

 

I had so much fun with this game and I had so many good memories that sometimes I want to incorporate this way of drawing in my illustrations.

Mostly it happens when I get stuck in the creation phase of an illustration. I would like to play with the composition but I don’t really know how to start.

In this case I just draw one or more scribbles and then I try to incorporate the idea of the illustration into it.

 

 

Unfortunately it could be time demanding, therefore I don’t do it when the design has to be done on a tight schedule.

 

How about you? Have you played the scribble drawing game? Let me know in the comments box below!

The importance of sharing

Do you have a running buddy? I’m not actually talking about the act of running (which I’ve already talked about here, by the way).

I’m talking about those friends, colleagues, relatives, who are very honest with you and they help you to run your business better.

 

How?

 

Coming up with fresh and new ideas isn’t easy; when your job requires churning them out daily, it can be easy to hit a wall. (Not to mention frustrating.)

 

That’s why I find helpful to do brainstorming sessions with others sometimes.

 

Thanks to the Internet this can be done easily in any location and with any person that you like.

 

The best brainstorming sessions are when you come up with bad ideas first.

 

Word games can be powerful ways to help remove you from the traditional mindset that tends to produce generic, unoriginal ideas.

One great word exercise is creating a “word storm.” To create a word storm, write down one word, and then brainstorm a whole slew of words that come to mind from that first one. Try thinking about the function of that word, its aesthetics, how it’s used, metaphors that can be associated with it, and so on. Let the ideas flow naturally, and don’t over think it — this is meant to be a creative exercise.

 

 

I’ve been to a few events here in Dundee where they use this “word storm” exercise. One thing I found very helpful is the use of post-it notes. Everyone is in front of a wall, they write their word on a post-it and then they attach them on the wall.

In this way there is no leader, everyone is part of the brainstorming.

Create a mood board.

 

A mood board is simply a random collection of images, words, and textures focused on one topic, theme, or idea. Like with mind mapping, the visual components of the mood board can be anything branching off that central topic.

I usually don’t have time to create a proper mood board but I make a folder where I save all my inspirations for that topic.

 

Doodle.

 

Yes, doodle! Something I’ve already covered here, remember?  🙂

Doodling helps people to break out from the traditional mindset and think about familiar things in a different way, perhaps leading to unexpected connections.

It can help in brainstorming too.

 

So, what are the benefits of sharing ideas?

 

I don’t know about you, but I want to work better. Not only do I want to work better, I want to get better at what I do every day.

Every time I share ideas with others and have a discussion with them I improve.

 

Who do you do brainstorming with? Is it better than doing it alone? Let me know in the comments box below!

The art of recycling

During my time at my master in Bologna, my friend Irene used to say that I was very good at recycling. She was not wrong and today’s post is about this topic.

I’m not using the word “recycling” in the context of in-house waste management (sorting glass, tin, paper and discarded food in their dedicated bins).

I’m talking about my practice to use and adapt previous ideas for new projects. During my time at the art academy I’ve always tried to reuse some old projects for other exams. These could have been ideas already made but never realized and finalized. Sometimes the time wasn’t enough, other times the requirement for the exams were diverging too much from my initial idea. Nevertheless, I kept them aside for later use.

I didn’t do it for laziness as some of you might think right now. I did because I believed in that idea:

 

only because it wasn’t right for a project doesn’t mean it couldn’t be right for another one.

 

In The meaning of doodle I already anticipated that sometime I use my doodle ideas for some illustrations.

 

For example…

 

 

Brexit’s side effect was a rejected sketch from a past commission. When I had another one with a related topic, I adapted the illustration into a new one.

 

 

This behaviour of mine is well used during my collaboration with La Stampa, where different doodles that I’ve made are used as starting point for the illustration.

 

 

This is very helpful for me because it allows me to save time on finding the right idea, and every minute counts when you have to deliver your final version in about two hours!

 

 

Do you recycle too? Do you have other ways to be more time effective? Let me know in the comments box below!

 

The meaning of doodle

Waiting or listening with a pen in your hand? Probably you’ll start doodling. And what you choose to doodle will reveal a lot about your personality and mood.

 

We usually doodle when our mind is absent.

 

 

Many of us end up drawing the same things. Stars, flowers, boxes and arrows frequently crop up — common symbols of aspirations and feelings.

It turns out that what you draw could tell more about your personality and feelings.

For example, emotional people who want harmony and crave affection tend to use rounded shapes and curved lines. Practical persons tend to use straight lines and squares. Determined people will use corners, zigzags and triangles, while more hesitant types use light, sketchy strokes.1

I often doodle when I’m on the bus, when I’m talking to someone and when I’m sitting in a waiting room.

 

 

I’ve noticed that I really like to doodle simple shapes, in specific rhombus but sometimes also faces. I find doodling very relaxing and playful at the same time.

Sometimes is also useful as I use my doodles for my illustrations. I use them for pattern or for ideas. I usually remake and develop them related to the concept of the illustration.

 

 

But what they means?

 

FLOWERS

Flowers tend to imply something very personal and can be referring to relationships.

People who doodle flowers are usually sentimental people. They value things like marriage, children, photos, good memories.2

 

SHAPES, BOXES, AND GEOMETRIC PATTERNS

These people are considered to be very clear thinkers. Sometimes they may have separate things in separate places. They have their work mates, their school mates, other mates and they don’t necessarily mix their lives.

They often deal with things and have checklists. They like to be organised.3

 

YOUR OWN NAME

Doodling your name or initials is common for those who enjoy being the centre of attention. Teenagers often doodle just their first name or the initial indicating a desire to break away from the family and do their own thing.

Doodling someone else’s name, on the other hand, shows they are in your thoughts.4

 

ARROWS 

Arrows indicate direction and goals. A determined person with a specific goal in mind will draw arrows, subconsciously ‘aiming’ at his or her ‘target’. 5

 

FACES OR EYES

Faces are very personal. Essentially they are drawing themselves. A happy face means generally a happy person. If you draw angry faces — it doesn’t mean you display anger, but you could be feeling it unconsciously.

As for eyes are pretty similar thing to faces.6

 

CHESS BOARD

The black and white chequerboard doodle suggests patience and persistence.7

 

HEARTS

Obviously a romantic doodle. Drawing a heart indicates you’re in love with love.8

 

INTRICATE PATTERNS

Busy, highly-detailed doodles are often drawn by people with an obsessive nature, who simply will not let go of their ambitions or loved ones.9

 

STAIRS OR LADDER

Drawings of stairs and ladders also often indicate you have an important, long-term task in hand.10

 

BOATS AND PLANES

Doodling any form of transport often indicates a desire to escape from a situation.11

 

SPIDER’S WEB

This can symbolise a feeling of being trapped or the  desire to entice someone into  a particular relationship or situation.12

 

STARS 

Stars are often drawn by ambitious people. Lots of little stars indicate optimism. Neat, uniform stars suggest good mental focus, while freehand, asymmetric stars show an energetic personality.13

 

1-13 Ruth Rostron, MOTIVATING NEEDS in DOODLES and DRAWINGS, The Graphological Magazine, 24 Winter 2006-7.

 

Can you recognise yourself in any of these doodles? Let me know in the comments box below!

New year plans

I have always been a planning person but since I met my boyfriend I became even more. This could be a disadvantage sometimes if you need to improvise but luckily it doesn’t happen so often.

I really like have plans and stick with them when it’s possible. At the end of the week I feel more accomplished when I tick everything in my checklist and I already know what I need to do for the following week. I feel very organised.

 

 

At the beginning of the new year we always want to be better. We have a lot of good intensions, but we don’t think about the process and how we are going to achieve them.

 

The result in giving up very soon.

 

Having a plan help you to break the goals in different steps, which are more achievable. It’s like a long run: you don’t have to think about the whole length of the run. You need to break it in small parts.

Why planning?

 

When you start to plan you are transforming the intentions into actions. The goals become more and more real.

 

When I  plan I  ask myself these questions:

  • Why? Think about the reason you want that specific goal. If it’s not strong enough you will probably give up.

 

  • How? I break into small parts my goal and I think how I can achieve them.

 

  • When? The plan is made but when will you meet your goal? Put down a deadline for each step you wrote down. In this way you won’t procrastinate.

 

By sticking to the plan, you will create new habit which will be hard. The important part is to be persistent and keep in mind the reasons you want to achieve that goal.

To make my plans every week I use Evernote.

Evernote is a very useful free app which allow me to create tabs and notes. I can also share my note with other people and they can edit them too.

 

 

 

Ready for the New year? What are your goals? Let me know in the comments box below!

Why side projects are so important

Illustrator colleges, art directors, clients always suggested me to experiment and do personal works. But I’ve never been the person who draw everything whenever she has the time.

 

I need to have a purpose for everything.

 

But I have always been a fan of DIY project where I could experiment new techniques too. Throughout the years, I did several side projects such as illustrated lighters, animals scarves, ceramic painting etc…

 

 

Lately I realised that experimenting and  personal works doesn’t mean drawing necessarily. You can do whatever you want, you just need to enjoy it and be passionate about it.

Through side projects you improve skills that you can use in your current workplace.

 

 

You are not trying to make a career out of it. You are just trying to build skills.

 

Late last year I made the effort to work on little bit every weekend on  side projects.

 

 

There are many reasons for a illustrator to work on a side project. It’s a good way to stay excited about your work, keep your entrepreneurial skills sharp, and most importantly – it’s fun!

 

An obvious statement, but important: you should be excited to work on your side projects.

 

If you’re excited to be working on your side project, then you’re only going to be more motivated to finish and show it off.

Work and fun don’t necessarily have to be opposites. Growing up it was always work then play, but as freelancers we’re capable of turning what we love to do into revenue.

 

 

For example, making these kind of project I understood I really like pattern. So I’m trying to integrate them in my illustrations when it’s possible.

They also allow me to think outside of the box without focusing on the message or without any worries about what the clients would like.

My last project was my Christmas decoration which I very much enjoyed making. I would like to take this opportunity to whish you a very joyful Christmas. See you in the New Year with a new post!

 

 

Are you working on a side project? How you keep inspired yourself? Let me know in the comments box below!