Tools are an essential part of the creative process, this much is obvious. What type of tools you use to get the right results is a different subject. A HUGE misconception is that in order to get the best results you need to use the best tools! I COMPLETELY disagree!
The most important tools to utilize in the creative process can't be purchased off some shelf. Most aspiring artists / designers look out at the landscape of other creatives and think "I need to know what tool he / she is using to get that effect, if I figure that out I'll be set" This is a mistake! What most fail to see is not that the artist found a magical tool but that they have developed three crucial aspects to the creative process. These are:
1. HOW they think | The development / training of their mind
2. How they see | the development / training of actually seeing objects
3. How they create | The development / training of their hand
1. Your MIND
Your MIND is the strongest tool in the creative process. When properly fed, properly disciplined and properly exercised you will see the fruit of your labor. This varies for most artists (how they develop their minds) but for me it's a steady diet of just a few specific but crucial pieces.
A. I ensure a healthy balance! Art is just one aspect of my life. I take breaks, have other interests, rest and spend time AWAY from art. This allows my mind to free itself of creative blocks and re approach my passion with a fresh perspective.
B. I read! I allow my mind to be absorbed in other topics, ideas and perspectives. This challenges my thinking and gives me new ideas!
C. I study Masters of specific crafts. My list of artists who inspire me is far too long to list but they are diverse in their area of expertise. They range from Master Penman's to Graffiti artists, from painters to fine artists. I study their technique, their approach, their interests all in an effort to broaden who I am and push what I am capable of.
2. The Art of seeing
To look on an object is one thing but to see... to see is EVERYTHING! I SEE objects, art, people, nature. I see HOW it's made, the lines, the composition and specific forms. Developing how you see things allows you to KNOW them. Knowing them gives you the ability to understand HOW they are formed and that gives you the ability to re create them, re imagine them. Developing how you SEE helps you refine your craft. It allows you to see your weak points and gives you solutions!
3. The HAND
Artists like myself spend thousands of hours refining their technique. They condition their hand's, their arms and at times the entire body to move in specific ways to get specific results. How I draw with a pencil is vastly different from how I ink, how I write calligraphy and how i use the mouse. These techniques can't be summarized in an easy "HOW TO" seminar but only uncovered when you invest time. It's in this commitment you slowly uncover the secret. The secret is training, discipline and mastery over your body.
My challenge is that as a creative you should seek to develop the most important tools EVERYONE has first. Once you accomplish this you will understand that the actual tools you purchase play a small part.
Current tools shown above:
Mouse (no brushes just the mouse and pen tool in Illustrator)
Technical pencil (Cheap Walmart purchase. Whatever feels good in my hand. .05 lead)
Pilot Precise (use for inking detailed work)
Brush Pen (Faber Castell brush pen for lettering)
Brush Pen (Faber Castell "Big Brush" for lettering)
Sharpie Chisel tip (My "go to" tool, it can be used in so many ways)
Pilot Parallel Pen (For calligraphy. 6.0 mm and 3.8mm)
How do I market myself?
This is a deep and somewhat complex question. There are easily a million books on marketing and honestly what works for one may not work for another! What I will attempt to do for you is list of the top 5 things that I do and have proven to work for me!
The first four will be consider PULL marketing (where you are drawing clients to you and/or having them return) and the last will be PUSH marketing (strategy that involves taking the product directly to the potential client)
#1. YOUR PRODUCT QUALITY! This is often the most overlooked area when an artist is trying to break in to the market. No matter if you are just trying to penetrate the industry or you are a veteran, the quality of your product (in this case your art) is the largest factor that any potential client will use to determine if they want to hire you are not! STOP trying every other marketing tactic RIGHT NOW and focus on producing the highest quality piece (in both technique and idea) that you can possibly create! Your portfolio communicates volumes about not only your talent but work ethic, dedication and ability to execute the idea better than others! The largest determining factor why I get clients is due to the quality of my art! As an artist NEVER lose sight of your ability to create and always push it to new frontiers!
#2. SERVICE! This is the second largest aspect of business in this industry that is left aside for a quick buck. Your level of service leaves a lasting impression on the client and is one of the largest reasons you will have a client return or disappear (never use YOU again) You need to be mindful of the processes you have. How you consult with the client, how clearly you communicate, how well you listen, if you deliver on time (or before the deadline) and most importantly how you treat them. Most artists treat their clients like a paycheck, a transaction. This is the easiest way to communicate that you don’t care about them, their brand or their needs and only care about that payday! Take GOOD care of your clients. Represent their ideas and brands as if it were your own and they will return time and time again!
#3. YOUR WEBSITE (and how well it performs!) Your site needs to look good, that goes without say but more importantly it needs to perform! This all boils down to one factor, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) If you don’t know what this means then I suggest you start studying. When you go to Google (go there now) and type in “CUSTOM LETTERING” then click “IMAGES” you will see MY images (SWEYDA) ranking higher than others and more frequently! This is not by chance but by purposing, by learning and by knowing HOW TO. It’s not my job to explain HOW but yours to study on the best techniques to get your images ranking higher and here’s why:
Art Directors / Creative Directors in most companies (medium to larger) build style guides for their brands next release. They are looking out in the world (through Google searches) to find ideas, styles, market trends etc etc etc all in an effort to direct both an internal art team and freelancers on what they want the next release to steer towards. It stands to reason that when they are doing this you want them to see YOUR images and as many as you can get in their face!
#4. Social Media! I know this seems like a no brainer but the determining factor if you are utilizing it right has little to do with the amount of followers you have and everything to do with your conversion rate (how many followers are converting to clients!) I’m not on Social Media to make friends!!! In all honesty I would take face to face time over social media ANY DAY but... I realize that this is a vehicle to gain clients and support my passion of creating so I play!
First thing I did was decide what platforms I wanted to be on. I chose Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Dribbble and Coroflot. Secondly I gave each of them ten to fifteen minutes a day to “market” and watched for growth, for traction. I decided I would give each five months to gauge whether or not it was worth my time! After five months it was obvious what to drop and what to focus on. Facebook was a waste of my time! My focus is to produce the best quality work and have that work gain me clients and Facebook was just a waste (for me). I closed it immediately! Instagram on the other hand was growing! Not in followers but clients! I took the time I would normally use for Facebook and doubled down on Instagram. In addition Coroflot wasn’t performing so I jumped ship and dropped that time again on Instagram! Each time I focused more time where I could see growth (IG) it grew more. Instagram currently makes up more than 40% of my project requests! My advice is to find where you want to market and then invest in what works for you!
#5. Target Marketing. This is where you determine WHO you want to do business with and TARGET them with a specific marketing angle to land their business. Every year I determine 5 companies I want to work with and build specific marketing pieces to land them. Example: In 2014 I targeted the five companies I wanted to work with and decided the best way to land them was to get in front of the Art Director (decision maker) with a unique piece. I decided to build a custom book for each one. This was a hard cover book with 50 pages of my work. The “unique” aspect of the book was that I took the first 5 pages and tailored them to the specific client! In those five opening pages were an intro lettering to the Art Director, potential (pitched) work and my desire to work with them. The remaining 45 pages were broken down in to what I do best (Custom lettering, custom illustration and merchandise development)
The entire point of the campaign is to showcase my work in a unique way and get that on the decision makers desk so it stands out over all the other mail and potential freelancers who aim to gain their business! Each year I do something different and each year I land half of the clients I seek to gain!
My advise: If you want to learn how to market yourself then become a student of marketing. Read some books or articles (both) watch some videos and start the process. The worst thing that could happen is you gain a few more clients and get to draw / design for a living!
Today is the launch date of the limited edition Predators PMag series collaboration with the team over at Leo Armory
They are the result of HUNDREDS of man-hours of design, testing, and collaboration with the Leo Armory team! I can not be more proud and humbled at not only their attention to detail but hard work on this project.
Each box set takes their team well over three hours to produce - from taking them new from their package, to laser engraving the art and serialization, to fitting them in their display frame and packaging them along with their matching Certificate of Authenticity (coin). We're extremely proud to be able to say that we source all components and materials that make up this set from U.S. manufacturers - many of which are small, veteran owned businesses. We cut the foam and acrylic, ColorFLASH the box, assemble and package these kits completely in house. This project has been a labor of love for all of us here, and we are confident that those who receive one of these will enjoy it for years and years to come.
NOTE: To start, click through the above images to see the progression then read below!
What is your process when creating custom lettering?
Unfortunately there’s no easy answer here. The process or approach is determined in large part by the client (or brand) and how I feel about the brand (my mood)! If the client is a streetwear brand I automatically think hand lettering so I start pencil to paper! If it’s a client like Harley my mind jumps to hard edges and graphic effects so... I start with a font and see how far I can customize it. Each brand brings it’s individual vibe that I consider and then there’s my mood. I literally will go against the entire grain and push in a different direction if I feel it’s necessary. I almost think it’s implied (at times) by the client. They want me to look at the brand and then go “I feel we should walk off in this stylistic direction!” They want me to interpret the brand through my creativity.
As far as tools in the process I stick to the basics BUT I always introduce new tools to play with (recently added some brush pens). The standard tools are a mechanical pencil (cheap one from Target!), a ruler, various Sharpie markers, a few microns, the mouse and the Pen Tool.
The majority of the time the process goes like this:
Start sketching to get some basic ideas in place. This is the time to “free think” with my hand. I just let go and see what happens.
The next step is to choose which sketch (or sketches) I like and sharpen them up. This is over a light table and just sharpening the kerning, line weight etc etc.
Once that is complete I scan in. I then use the Pen Tool and re-build each letter (outline or fill, whatever the sketch calls for)
After that portion is complete it’s back to “free thinking” I evaluate the piece and start to add, subtract, distort etc etc etc all in an effort to get to a point where I feel it’s done!
Once the pieces are complete I start to build / develop the design work around them and just create!
One thing worth noting is that each time I feel a piece of custom lettering or hand lettering etc is complete I will duplicate the piece and re-hash it! It’s almost a game to me to see how far I can take the piece in a different direction from the original while still staying as solid as the first. It’s just another opportunity to explore really!
Last note: When I’m in Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand (yes I still use that program!) I NEVER use brushes. I never have! It’s just the Pen Tool!
To kick off the New Year, New Site and all the new followers I'll be doing a Q&A Sessions on the blog every Friday.
I have a ton of content but wanted to open it up to you.
If you want to know about my processes, marketing to clients, tricks in Illustrator, tools I use etc etc leave a comment below and I will add it to the list.
Why vector? Why take a hand illustration, scan it in the computer and basically re-illustrate the entire piece? While I LOVE hand illustrating (traditional pencil to paper) vector illustration does have it's place. First off let's start with the clean lines. While I would love to believe that my hand is disciplined enough to create a consistent clean line the truth is it has it's quirks. Best thing about that is it SHOULD! Hand illustrating and vector illustration are two entirely different animals. One (hand illustration) conveys subtle emotion, tonal range and an organic feel that NO computer program will EVER mimic. Vector illustration has a mechanical, hard edge feel that quickly conveys are more refined / finished piece. It lends it self well to screen printing and after all... that's the business I'm in.
I hand illustrate first because I feel I'm an artist first, a traditional artist (pencil's) and that relationship is one forged in YEARS of intimacy. I scan and vector (re illustrate in the computer) for two reasons:
#1. I am in the business of creating graphics that will eventually land on shirts, skateboards, cars, helmets, boats, posters and a host of other consumable products. Since that majority of the third party companies that manufacture these goods have equipment that produces these graphics in the highest form (screen print machines, digital printers etc) Vector is the best choice. It's clean lines almost guarantee that what you see on the screen is what you will get on the end product.
#2. As an artist I am FASCINATED with almost every aspect of the creative process. When I was introduced to the computer and a graphic program I was instantly hooked. The ability to change colors rapidly, numerous tools at your disposal and the ability to re-approach the project from every angle without having to invest the initial illustrative time was a potent mix I still to this day am amazed at!
I hand illustrate because it's my first love, the birth place of ideas and honestly freedom to me. I vector because.. well it makes the illustrations look badass! Ha!
I'm often asked why I add so much detail and spend so much time on the pencil illustration if I'm just going to vector it up! If you are an illustrator then you will easily understand why I do this. I love to draw! No matter how far technology will push the arts it will never replace that relationship I have with a pencil in my hand. Lead on paper is an amazing process. It conveys emotion and has such an organic feel that I've spent the majority of my life with. It's home! this Optimus Prime Illustration was one of hundreds of illustrations that I labored over only to "re-draw" in vector. In my estimation it's worth it. Illustrating pushes my design skills and designing forces me to push my illustrations!
Custom lettering can be tricky. Most lettering artists stick to one stylistic tone. while I think this works in some situations not all clients are the same! I have a variety of clients, highly diverse lifestyle brands that call for variety. It's not enough to be skilled in one style but necessary to seek all styles, all disciplines.