Day 5. Portfolio day. The winners have been through the gauntlet. They pushed through their assignments and have the tools to succeed.
Larry Elmore started the day giving his advice to the winners. Listening to him is a special treat with his amazing wealth of experience. He spoke about how technology has influenced his work for reference gathering and about lens distortion when taking your reference. His tip was to use an 80mm lens as it will be similar to the human eye. Regardless of technology, he has used models for 40 years and gave sound advice for keeping everything legal to protect yourself. One of the beauties of technology is the distribution outlets for your projects. While many of the older publications are now gone, new outlets have evolved thanks to the internet. So the age of technology has really made it an incredible time to add revenue streams that make you money while you sleep. All this advice was really good, but the primary force of the talk was about how an artist sees. Not just look but to really see it, to the point where you understand the shapes and patterns. Cataloging your visual library is a lifelong journey but is vital to an artist’s visual vocabulary and once you understand the shapes and patterns you can manipulate them, distort, and make something new.
Bob Ciano, has worked as a Creative Director for Wired magazine, St. Mary’s College, Life magazine and the New York Times. He gave his lecture with the illustrators about their business plan and reinforced their usage rights as artists. He asked some great questions which the winners will need to ask themselves regularly. Questions like: What art do you make? Who is your target? What has the response been to your art? Are you getting work? Because if you are not making your living on your art you are not a professional. He talked about the invoice, the basics being: Who it goes to. When it’s due. How much. The most important thing he looks for in promotional material is to do something different, even if it’s something small. You must market yourself. This includes research on your other illustrators. You must be a good designer, and a good marketer using a website and social media. Make sure you are making projects that stand out, not just portfolio pieces. Don’t worry about the rejection letters as it usually takes 3-5 years to have enough clients to not work a day job, but it works that way in all industries. He discussed how to sell by targeting who you want to work for. Do you have a promotion piece and are you going to send it to them every month till they tell you to go away or give you a job. Art Directors and Creative Directors are busy people and it takes many tries sometimes to get the timing right and the right project to come along. The key is to never stop sending.
The Winners broke for lunch and then upon returning conducted round robin style portfolio reviews with each of the visiting judges providing a vast wealth of knowledge to draw from. Each Winner had 20 minutes for each session with their choice of Ciruelo, Larry Elmore, Bob Ciano, Echo Chernik, Lazarus Chernik, Val Lindahn and past winners. With so many biases and different experiences each Portfolio Review would be different and it seemed to be a pattern that after the timer quite a few artists and judges went over their time. That just speaks to the level of art that is winning the competition, each year builds higher from the year before.
Past Illustrators of the Future winner Ven Locklear came to talk and showcased his work and his experiences working at Liquid Development. He has worked on games ranging from Farmville to Halo 5, and with companies like WB Games, Zynga, Disney Interactive, 343 Industries, and Bethesda. Most of his presentation was how he entered into the industry and provided avenues for the winners if they would like to pursue a similar career path. In this case there were a couple winners who definitely have that style and they were able to converse further after the fact.
Most of the night the winners spent rehearsing at the theatre where the event is fast approaching, all anyone could talk about was the humongous dragon that wrapped around the stage. If you cannot attend the event personally make sure to catch the live streamed event to see all the winning pieces as well as who wins this year’s Golden Brush Award.
Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.