November 25, 2008

Questionable Characters pointed me this morning to Questionable Characters, a website where you can ask a question of Ben Barry and Frank Chimero, both illustrators and designers, or just browse the answers. Questions range from "How much for a puppy" to "How do you keep yourself current in the design business?"

November 24, 2008 Interview with Brad Holland Irene Gallo interviews Brad Holland.

"I am most affected by artwork when it alludes to a mix of emotions that cannot quite be articulated. Much of Brad Holland’s work has that effect—like waking up from a dream and thinking that it seemed like a good dream... Maybe. His use of clean, simplified spaces creates an image that at first seems emotionally detached, but the somber colors, abstraction, and exaggeration presents a deeply subjective and personal point of view. Like a dream, you may not be able to fully express what you feel, but those feelings resonate long after the experience." More...


This profession is fickle. I remember when I began, I had just hit my stride, my first project for Rolling Stone was awaiting publication, and I was making a good living producing art. Then September 11, 2001 changed everything. I didn't work on a paid project for months. I took another job at a gym, and made due. Fortunately, the economy bounced back, but it was a hell of a curve ball at the start of my young career.

Today, the economy is as bad as it has ever been. All artists are feeling the financial pinch- art budgets are reliant upon advertising dollars. When advertising slows down, so does the purchase of art. My business is slowing down to a trickle. So, what to do?

Now is the time for personal projects. Development of multiple revenue streams. Diversifying, to put it into proper fiscal terminology. I am working on all of those personal projects that have been kept at bay in light of a flourishing business. I assume that this economy will rebound, but you never know. It is best to hedge your bets.

Analyze your product. What do you have to offer?
Your art- what venues are you not pursuing? Illustration, Gallery work, design, books, editorial, advertising, self generated assignments, licensing, comic books/sequential, video games, children's books, competitions with financial prizes, etc.

Remember, that you are also armed with information- how to make an image, build a website, draw, think, etc. Who could benefit from those skills? Advertising agencies, video game companies, universities, people wanting to attend workshops, etc. Be proactive, and you can find an audience for the things that you produce.

The projects that generate the greatest financial rewards, are always the most personal projects. Imagine creating a character, and a story line for a comic book, or graphic novel. Seek a venue for a publisher of your collected works (if it is realistic). Collect stories of others, and illustrate them for a children's book. Find a local gallery, and paint a show of your personal work.

These are actually all things that I am actively pursuing. Hopefully you will find the ambition, the drive, the ability, etc. to focus your own personal vision into a final product that you can then market. Lord knows we have the time...

Stephen Johnson Honored by New York Times

Stephen Johnson's book, A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet, was chosen as one of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books of 2008.

You can see a slideshow of their 11 picks here. You might recognize a few from the recent Original Art Show at Society of Illustrators.

The NY Times also reviewed the book along with two others which push the alphabet format into more sophisticated territory. Of "A Is for Art" the review says:

"For a magnificent medley of works produced over many years, some on a huge scale, read Stephen T. Johnson’s 'A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet,' one of this year’s winners of a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award. Johnson has works in prominent collections, and New Yorkers may know his 66-foot mural in the DeKalb Avenue subway station. In the author’s note he explains this project: 'For the past six years I have been exploring the English dictionary, selectively choosing and organizing particular words from each letter of the alphabet and, based solely on the meanings of the words, developing a visual work of art. I took ordinary objects and made them unfamiliar, removing functionality in order to reveal their potential metaphorical associations, which can lead in turn to overlapping and sometimes paradoxical meanings.' The art is also just plain fun to look at. The colors and materials are eye-popping, and Johnson hides a letter in each of the 26 pieces.

One work, “Dotty Diptych,” is made of nearly 2,700 white and black dominoes; dots in the right-hand panel of white dominoes form a tricky letter D. This is a grown-up’s alphabet, but for children it is also a whimsical introduction to the realm of abstract art."

Incidentally, this is the second time Johnson has had a picture book on the Best Illustrated Books list. The first was Alphabet City. When asked about his fondness for conceptualizing the alphabet, Stephen says "Indeed, I do have many more alphabet book ideas...!"

"A Is For Art" by Stephen Johnson

Excerpts from the book A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet by Stephen Johnson.

November 20, 2008

Taking Questions on the Biz at

For the past month I've been taking questions on the forums. Many of the videos on this blog are in answer to those questions. If you're interested in the business from a rep's perspective, you can check out the thread here. We've covered subjects such as style, subject matter, marketing yourself, what to put in your portfolio, and more.

Below is a sample post to whet your appetite:

Each artist should think of him or herself as a brand. And as such, we become memorable. People think of brands and the brand brings up an association. And an artist, if they have a very strong brand, will bring up associations in clients. This is what you need and what you aim for.

To use an analogy, think of actors who become movie stars. Need I say more than Clint Eastwood? He brings up mental associations, and they use his name as shorthand when discussing a project, or another actor. If the actor fits the mold, everybody gets it.

As Eastwood's career has matured, he has been allowed much broader roles including the incorporation of vulnerability and introspection. But his core (his brand) has remained the same.

...this is my take on a strong signature style that grows and flowers over the years.

June Walker: Tax Saving Tips for the Graphic Artist

Designers Dozen: Tax Saving Tips for the Graphic Artist by June Walker, Tax & Financial Advisor to the Self-employed since 1979.

Riding Out Tough Economic Conditions

Richard answers more questions from the forums.

November 18, 2008

Kimber Lost in Mexican Mountains, STILL Makes Deadline

I went on a ride with some friends on Sunday from Cuajimoloyas at around 10,200 feet in elevation through the mountains and down to Oaxaca about 55 kms away. I had ridden this area once before but this was a new route planned out with satellite photos on Google Earth and topographical maps of the area.

The ride should have taken us about 5 hours but we returned over 24 hours later. The problem was there was simply no trail. What Carl thought was a trail on Google Earth was actually a cut line through the forest marking a regional divide. And while there were no trees on the cut line the brush had re-grown so thickly it was almost impassable. 

Rather than carry our bikes back up the mountain we continued moving forward. As a rule, there are lots of trails through the mountains, most used by mule teams that collect firewood. We saw signs of trails but nothing rideable. Simply, the area was remote and unused. 

After 9 hours we had gone 13 miles, mostly by pushing or carrying our bikes. The sun was setting and we were deep in the woods with no sign of a trail. Just as the sun went down we managed to make a ridge and could see the lights of Oaxaca far in the distance, but without enough light to find a way through the forest. So we decided the only choice we had was to spend the night.

On the ridge top we found a grassy area to bed down. We had filled our water bottles at the last creek crossing but no one had any food. Since the morning had been so sunny and warm most of us had left our layers of extra clothes in the truck where we unloaded. Through the night there was always someone awake to feed the fire and had we not had that it would have been really unpleasant. I think I got about an hour or two of sleep at the most. I figure we camped at about 8000 feet and the temp got down to around 5 degrees C.

By 6:30 am there was enough light to continue. A couple more hours of bush whacking and we found a trail that  was actually in use. Two hours after that we rode out of the canyon and headed for the nearest town to get something to eat.

I arrived home at 11:00 am had a shower and went to bed. An hour later Kari woke me up saying there was message from Richard who had a rush job for me, get back to him ASAP. Well, this was one of my favorite clients so I couldn't say no. I got up, called the art director, Larry Gendron, and went down to the studio to start sketches.

I worked through the day on Tuesday and finished the painting at 2:00 am Wednesday morning. Then it needed to dry. By Wednesday after breakfast it was dry enough to scan and I sent it off, relieved and tired.

IlluXCon in the News, Featuring John Jude Palencar

About 200 artists and fans came to the area for IlluXCon. It’s the first convention in the world dedicated to fantastic illustration. Read more and see the news video.

November 17, 2008

Larger Markets

Richard answers more questions from the forums.

Where Do Clients Look?

Richard answers more questions from the forums.

American Illustration HubDub

Every year we go down to the Lower East Side's Angel Orensanz Foundation for the annual American Illustration book release party (except those two years it was someplace else—what was that all about?) Every year I have way too good a time. Really, way too good. It's one of the only times we get to meet, talk to, and hang out with our friends and idols in the industry. Often we find out they're all (with kid-like enthusiasm) fans of each other too, and that is why I love this business!

If you missed the party, it's ok, you can still check out the artwork.

All photos by Rick Theis

November 15, 2008


I have completed two new canvases for my fall show at Ghostprint Gallery in Richmond. Several details are shown above. The finals won't be shown in their entirety until the pre-show opening. I hope to produce enough canvases for two shows, so that I can edit down the final numbers for a better all around show. We'll see what time allows.

Shepard Fairey in ARTnews

ARTnews: A Two-Way Street.

For Shepard Fairey, the work’s creator, the thrill of perplexing the public with a mysterious slogan (is it a band? is it a cult?) was the beginning of a prolific career making street art—the catchall used to describe not-always-legally-installed stickers, posters, stencils, murals, and 3-D sculptures. More...

November 12, 2008

Western Union's "Proyecto Raices" Mural

Rudy Gutierrez was commissioned by Western Union to create a piece of art to be reproduced as murals in various cities as part of a project called “Proyecto Raices”

Western Union developed the national program to celebrate Latino Heritage and honor America's Latino roots.

The project was created with the purpose of beautifying and uplifting the communities where these murals are erected. With the creation of the murals Western Union has taken an active role in building relationships and developing closer ties with the community that it serves. The mural consists of mostly Central-American imagery including traditional Mexican sunflowers, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, and an Indian sculptural-like form at the center. It is inscribed with Gutierrez’s words “Conectando, Uniendo, and Inspirando" (Connecting, Uniting and Inspiring).

The unveiling in Miami (Homestead) in May 2008 was a great success. Award winning Mexican singer Lupe Rivera demonstrated his support among 500 guests who partook in an afternoon of activities celebrating latino heritage and tradition.

On July 10th 2008 Primer Impacto (First Impact) a prominent national Spanish language television news program, broadcast by Univision in the USA, aired an interview with Rudy Gutierrez featuring the mural.

October 2008 brought another unveiling of the Mural art, this time for a Western Union in Dallas Texas.


I like to dream big. I set the largest venues, galleries, challenges, etc. as my goals. I then break those challenges down into smaller, digestible components. I assign very specific numbers and facts to these smaller goals. Instead of making an unquantifiable statement like: "I want to be the best illustrator in the world...", I would analyze that, and try to determine the things that would need to happen to make that a ambition a reality. Recognition, accolades, consistent work, quality of work, etc. are all things to consider, and are all checkpoints to help you keep track of progress in your career. I then break those smaller steps down even more. Giving things very specific criteria keeps things from being too open ended, and too grand. "How" is always the best question to ask once you have figured out "What" you hope to accomplish.

Remember, there are things which you are in complete control of: How hard you work, how quickly you grow (this is closely related to how hard you work), recognizing opportunities, and taking advantage of them, what you know, and what you learn, being a great student with a curious mind (this should last your entire life), your willingness to share, to be taught,surrounding yourself with more talented people, more driven people, etc., committing to you goals and embracing them as part of your lifestyle, etc.

Equally as important as what you do , and those things that will help you to attain your goals, are being aware of your weaknesses, and the things that will keep you from realizing your dreams. Beware of laziness, nay sayers, arrogance, unchallenged fear, and life choices that take you away from your path. Often times, bad habits from our life in school continue to affect us long after, especially if we live in the city where we graduated. There are associations with people that are unhealthy, and decisions made out of boredom that grow into bad habits and addictions. Do not let the doubts of parents, friends, family, boyfriends/girlfriends, wives, or anyone for that matter direct your life.

I moved to Kansas City soon after graduation to be around a group of artists affiliated with the Illustration Academy. It broke my heart to leave my new girlfriend behind (she is now my wife), and being away from this life that I had established in my home town was the hardest thing that I ever did. Still, all of my distractions fell away, and once I got over my "social withdrawal", I was able to focus on my goals. The year in Kansas City became one of the most important times in my life.

I have noticed that that the rare moments of true, soul-fulfilling contentment in my life are always on the heals of fears that I have faced. We tend to fear the unknown. If knowledge is power, then the more we learn, the less we fear.

November 10, 2008

2008-11-11 05:18:00


The original "Pearl Fishers" illustration is now available for sale in the "Purchase" section of my website

The original, gold medal winning "Death of a Salesman" illustration is now available for purchase, as well.

A Visit to Asia Society

Last week I attended the Asia Society in NYC. The current show is entitled “Art and China’s Revolution.” I was curious and openminded, but did not know what to expect. As a long-time member, I’ve grown to trust the Asia Society’s curators to always successfully mount wonderfully intriguing shows. This certainly was no exception—it blew me away.

The first thing that I thought of on opening the doors to the show was the incredible skill level of the painters. And almost immediately I thought of Greg Manchess, an artist who I have represented, admired, and become good friends with over the past years. Gregory, in my opinion, has a great facility of laying down a heavy brush stroke in a manner that I feel is similar to many of the artists represented in this show.

These artists worked under unbelievably dire conditions. The vast majority of the art was propagandistic in nature. But what you have to do is get past the subject matter and look at how brilliantly the artist painted these subjects. To me, that’s a lot harder than facing a blank canvas and doing what you want, when you want, and how you want.

If the communist authorities really understood how these artists were ‘getting away with murder,’ they’d probably have them thrown in a gulag. But because they were able to bring to the subject such a high level of skill, the authorities kept them working.

All of you who are going to be in New York City on or before January 11th, 2009—I recommend you spend a couple of hours at the Asia Society and Museum, 725 Park Ave NY NY 10021.

Looking at Frederic Richardson

on Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

November 8, 2008

Kimber Day of the Dead Recap

Halloween on the 31st of October and “Dia de Los Muertos” on the 1st and 2nd of November make for an interesting cultural contrast. Halloween reminds us to protect ourselves from the spirits that move among us by placing a candle in a Jack o’ Lantern while Muertos invites them in for a drink. Leave it to Mexico to take any occasion and add good food, music and drink.

Muertos is unique in that Mexicans take the remembrance of deceased members of the family and proudly share it with anyone, stranger or friend. On the November 1st and 2nd families gather in cemeteries to elaborately adorn the graves of loved ones with flowers, candles, sand murals, and welcome the souls of loved ones back to spend the night together. Throughout the night family members alive or dead come and go to the graveyard, musicians sing songs, hot food is served up and of course glasses of mescal are passed around.

They do the same in their homes by building altars made of cane stalks to welcome back the souls of the dead, the bright orange flowers serving as beacons to attract the souls, the glasses filled with water a place the souls can occupy. Favorite foods and drink, or favorite items are placed on the alter.

For our part we built an altar on the patio of my studio, a place for wandering souls to spend a couple of days. In the evenings we visited two cemeteries beautifully decorated for the reunion between this world and the spirit world.

November 6, 2008

Marshall Arisman on Huffington Post

Marshall Arisman plays with the big boys. Just look at this article on the Huffington Post about him by Vickie Karp: Third Screen: Marshall Arisman on How to Look Around.

Should I Split My Portfolio?

Richard responds to a series of (very excellent) questions taken on the artist forums.

What Should I Put In My Portfolio?

Richard responds to a series of (very excellent) questions taken on the artist forums.

How to Fight a Lousy Market

Freelancing is a risky business, economic crisis or not. You? You knew that going in. You are the kind of person that relishes a challenge. You know that when jobs taper off and the voices on the phone belong to more telemarketers than art directors, that is not a time to cut your promotional expenses. You've made up your mind to be an artist for a living, and that is a commitment that outlasts any dip in the dow.

We all see the relationship between the market and the jobs we get as artists. When consumers get scared, corporations get scared, and they cut their advertising budgets. That puts the squeeze on the editorial market, and before you know it, you're wondering if you have enough change in the couch for a value meal.

But, when our industry get squeezed, you must remember that

  1. There is still work out there for a talented professional, and

  2. This market driven hesitation is only temporary

The best way to deal with spare time on your hands is not to panic, but to regroup and to promote.

Everyone else is wringing their hands, waiting until the market looks up, but not you. You are out there making connections and getting your work seen. You have a goal, an idea of where you want to be, and you are not going to give up because of a slump.

Clients are still out there, and so are opportunities for creative marketing. There are still lectures to go to, parties to attend, and hands to shake. Now that those who are less serious are ceasing to promote themselves, so much the better for you and your amazing work.

If you don't have a plan, now is the time to get to work on it. Take out your portfolio, load your website, take a good hard look at all your promotions. What do they say about you? Are they professional looking? Is the quality and style of the work consistent? Are you showcasing only the best of your artwork? Where is it that you as an artist would most like to be in five years, and do your promotional efforts reflect that? If not, you have some serious leg work to do in your chosen markets. Take the opportunity to focus on this and you'll be glad you did when the market turns around.

If you're a young illustrator you may not remember being affected by previous economic slumps. We've been through many, and you know what? Illustration never died. It cycled. And with each cycle came more interesting projects, new and interesting artists, and no shortage of new ideas.

Be one of those artists that comes out on top when the market returns. Get your promotional machine in place now so that its momentum can carry you when you're insanely busy with work.

Muhammad Ali illustration by James Bennett

November 5, 2008


I have added the process work for the BB King portrait recently commissioned by Rolling Stone magazine to my "purchase" section.

I have shipped out the original artwork for "King of Hearts", "William Henry Harrison", "Jekyll and Hyde", Mickey Mouse Club, and Santana to be displayed by my new gallery, Storyopolis, in Los Angeles.

What About the Rising Level of Competition?

Richard responds to a series of (very excellent) questions taken on the artist forums.

How Should One Price a Piece of Art?

Richard responds to a series of (very excellent) questions taken on the artist forums.

November 4, 2008

A Night in the Life of John Jude Palencar

The first thing I remember about meeting John Jude Palencar is sitting across the table from him at Applebee's, watching a wicked smile emerge as he told the waitress that he preferred his steak to be "Cypher Pink" (after the very pink steak which the character Cypher from "The Matrix" eats while discussing his Judas act).

You would not believe that a person capable of having such a quiet reverence to his art would also be capable of having so much energy. John's brain is full of ideas, stories, and experiences. During the course of a conversation he talked about anything from exotic Irish landscapes to SNL skits. He even started a light-saber duel of brushes with me.

I went to his studio with the intent of doing a time-lapse film of him re-creating his well-known "Madama Butterfly" painting for a short video that we're putting together. My flight was booked to come in around 9:30 at night—I thought that would be perfect because I could leave straight from Richard's office, be set up by evening, start filming early in the morning, and get everything done before 4:00—just in time to head back to the airport.

But John doesn't operate that way. He makes his own schedule, which means that 9:30 at night might as well be 9:30 in the morning. When I came in that night, he was charged up and ready to go upon arrival. He gave me a tour of his studio which was full of skulls, toy animals, and collection of twisted and gnarled pieces of wood, all for creative inspiration. Then, as he likes to put on horror movies while he works, he gave me the choice of selecting which one we'd watch. I chose "The Thing," a John Carpenter film in which everyone except Kurt Russell gets horrifically turned into aliens over the course of the film. It was clear John had seen this a few times as he was able to point out several hidden gems of storytelling within the film.

John's hands literally flew over the painting. He sat completely relaxed in his chair, leaning back and holding his brush at length as he cruised to finish at about 7:00 a.m. Usually a painting takes him about two weeks, however, this was different because he'd done the painting before. I was asleep—half-way suspended in mid-space—on my chair when John rubbed his hands on the painting and declared "Done!"

After cleaning up, John took me around his house and showed me more of his artwork. He's kept several of his most well-known pieces for the home, including the Eragon cover, which he's had several offers for, but prefers to hold on to.

Which Career Is Right For Me?

Richard responds to a series of (very excellent) questions taken on the artist forums.

When Should I Look for an Agent?

Richard responds to a series of (very excellent) questions taken on the artist forums.

Metropolis POV: Vote Design!

In the spirit of this most patriotic of days, Metropolis has posted an excellent series of links to "web sites that are at the convergence of design and democracy". This way if later today you find yourself in a sugar coma from the free Krispy Kremes and Ben & Jerry's, you'll have something to do while the free Starbuck's coffee kicks in.