Visual Evangelism

Illustration, Graphic Design, Web Design, Identity and Branding

Alvalyn Lundgren is an independent, multi-disciplinary designer and narrative illustrator.  She has 35+ years of experience in creating unparalleled, effective design  solutions and illustration for businesses, organizations, publishers and authors. 

Her clients range from small businesses to corporations and government agencies, representing a wide range of industry sectors throughout the USA, and magazines and independent authors.



Narrative, Historical, Sports, Botanical, Likeness


Designing Influence. Drawing Attention.

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Graphic Design

Identity, Visual Branding, Web Design

Alvalyn exceeded our expectations and assisted us in developing products that we are proud to share and has helped us step away from the crowd by assisting us in telling the story about our methodology.

— Dave Johnson, ITG Consultants, LLC —

Are you ready to take your visual communications to the next level?


Creative Services

You can entrust your design or illustration project to me. I offer total project oversight, from concept through completion.

Web Design

Fully responsive, built on the WordPress framework: for business, non-profits, magazine, portfolio, shopping cart, donations, blogging, and more.

Graphic Design

One-offs or campaigns, print or web, for advertising, editorial, direct mail, social media, web sites, signage, trade shows, events.

Brand Strategy

From a graphic audit to a branding plan that fits your goals, strategy is offered along with a design project.

Logo & Identity Design

Your logo is the foundation of your brand strategy. Everything else emanates from it, and it’s applied to everything, from your business cards to your social media. It needs to be unique and specifically tailored for your business or organization and work for a breadth of platforms and media.

Narrative Illustration

Storytelling in visual form for picture books, story books, trade and nonfiction books., in a fresh, realistic style.

Editorial Illustration

Narrative scenes and environmental portraits for magazines, newspapers and journals.


Original photographs in a photo-journalistic style — sports, concerts, events, street, documentary, landscapes. Subjects include locations, people, product and objects, using natural or available light. Available as part of a contracted design project.

Editing and Writing

Technical, narrative and descriptive copy based on your talk points, and editing of existing copy. Offered as part of a larger design project.

Total Project Management

I take care of all the non-creative aspects of a project, including art direction, print management, web site management and set up, mailing services, and more.


My blog, Eye Level, is where I write visual notes and verbal sketches about what I know: design, illustration, drawing, freelancing, copyright.

Working Late: 5 Essential Boundaries for Freelancers

November 17, 2016
From time to time I’ll fire off an email to a client during the late evening or early morning hours. Occasionally, an immediate response comes back expressing surprise that I’m working so late.  Often the client will follow with another or several emails, expect me to respond right then. The thing is, I’m not actually available to clients in the wee hours of the morning. If I send an email at 1:23am I do it for my convenience, not the client’s. Freelancers set their own hours. I happen to work a split schedule. I work in the morning and then again at night. In between, during the afternoon, I schedule meetings and run errands. I go play or take the dogs for a walk. Although it’s a somewhat unusual time block, I create great work for my clients. But I am not available to my clients outside of my stated business hours which are the usual daytime, weekday hours, even if send a midnight email. So I won’t respond to the up-all-night client until the next afternoon. In this way I enforce my boundaries. Design is a service industry. We independent creatives are in service to our clients. As a whole, we enjoy helping people achieve their goals. A good many of us often help to the degree that we forget about setting boundaries, or, if we’ve set them, we neglect to enforce them. The  problem with this is that we allow the wrong things to take up our time and become our focus. Time is not a renewable resource. Our time is threatened on a daily basis by the expectations and demands of others. So many of us get out of bed and check email or pop on the television first thing, and move into our day based on what others want to make of it. 5 tactics to maintain boundaries When clients and designers work together, it’s a collaboration. Every collaboration requires boundaries to make it work. These are a few boundaries I’ve established which help me serve you to the best of my ability. Business hours. Publish official business hours in your contract and on your web site. Although you may not adhere to them behind the scenes and, as I do, function on an entirely different schedule, letting people know when you are available to them and when you are not helps protect your creative time. When a client thinks she can converse with you on Sunday evening, she will. Some of my clients actually work weekends (event producers, for example) but I cannot conform to their business hours. Even if you send a midnight email it should not mean you’re open for business or available 24/7. Ignore emails, phone calls and text messages until the next business day, and then be prompt to reply. NOTHING is a creative emergency needing your immediate attention at 2:00am. Share your process. I begin every project with a research and inquiry phase. This means that, immediately after the project contract is signed, I am burrowed in for

Light and Shadow in Skin Tones

November 10, 2016
In this tutorial I begin with some color theory about skin tones and how we perceive light and shadow. Then I move into how to mix flesh tones using the 3 subtractive primaries, and why you are better off not using black to create shadow areas. Use complements instead. I end by creating a color sketch. Materials and tools used in this tutorial: Moleskine® sketchbook Winsor and Newton® watercolor: Purple Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Primary Blue (cyan) and Naples Yellow Winsor and Newton® gouache: Ivory Black M. Graham® gouache: Yellow Ochre   Disclaimer: I use my own materials and tools in this tutorial.  

30-Day Draw-What-You-See Drawing Challenge

November 9, 2016
In order to form a habit of drawing daily, you can participate in or create your own drawing challenge. The thing is, you will never get better at something unless you do something about getting better. In drawing, you can build skill and confidence just by drawing. No matter how good you become, you can always mature in your craft. Many artists and illustrators challenge themselves with a series of daily assignments. My colleague, Duane Eells, finished up a year of drawing figures and immediately launched another  365-day project of drawing a face everyday. You can see his Instagram posts here. And, even if you already draw every day, participating in a challenge (like Inktober or The Big Draw LA) will push you to explore new approaches and subject matter. What’s different about my Draw-What-You-See challenge I’m launching my first-ever 30-day drawing challenge. I plan to post a new drawing challenge a couple times each year, both for myself to level up my skills, and to encourage you, my readers and students, as well. What you’ll find that might be different about my approach is that I’m focusing this challenge on direct observation. Rather than drawing from your imagination, which is a viable and popular option, I have made a list of objects you should already have around the house or in your community. Tips for completing this challenge Add it to your daily calendar and then follow through on the “appointment”. You can begin this challenge any time. The key is to stay with it for the full 30 days, doing some drawing every day. So schedule your drawing time at the same time every day — during your lunch hour, first thing in the morning, during an afternoon break, or after your evening meal. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off and keep going. Spend 15-30 minutes on each drawing. You can always go back and add details later. Use a sketchbook. If you make a journal or sketchbook, you’ll have all your challenge drawings in sequential order and in 1 place. You can observe your progress.   Don’t be too concerned about being perfect, being expressive, or developing a style. Just draw what you see, and allow yourself to make mistakes. Correct your angles and proportions, but don’t try to make a perfect drawing each time. Relax and enjoy the process of looking, analyzing and mark-making. I’ve included a variety of subjects — living, non-living, small to large, to give you a variety of forms. I’ve included some opportunities to include hand-lettering as well. Use whatever medium you’re comfortable with or that’s convenient. Use a sketchbook. Draw from direct observation, not out of your head. When you finish, you can review your work, and hopefully take up a new drawing project! The 30-day Draw What You See List: 1. Paper bag 2. Round fruit (apple, tomato, peach, pear, olive, for example) 3. Coffee mug 4. Tea cup and saucer 5. Water/hydration bottle 6. Hardcover book(s) – open and

Show Your Work: How Sharing Your Process Increases Your Value

November 2, 2016
When a client is looking for a creative firm, process and procedures are not obvious priorities in evaluating performance. The prospect is going to look for the quality of the final work and its results. And he or she will be concerned about time and budget. That’s where many initial conversations between the prospect and the creative talent start and stop. But there are 2 facts about getting paid for doing creative work that we cannot ignore: 1. People don’t value what they can’t see. 2. People don’t pay for what they don’t value. Occasionally, however, the prospect will ask about how you work — how you came up with an idea, and how you got to the final result. Good creative work is the result of a good creative process. The client who asks you how you arrived at a creative solution is asking about your process. If you hesitate in this conversation, you may lose the client. Creative Process No design is brought into being without going through a series of steps. Creative processes vary and are unique to the individual designer, illustrator or photographer, but there are common elements in every process. Generally, the following 5 steps will be undertaken: Identify the purpose of the created work. Is it going to tell a story? If so, what story? Is it going to persuade? Who, and in what way? Is it going to teach? If so, what, and to whom? Investigate This is the discovery, research and inspiration phase. If there is nothing new under the sun, we do not create out of nothing. Every creative work is influenced by the creator’s life experience, education, knowledge and world view. First, look for what is already created. Are there similar solutions out there already? If so, can they be improved upon? Then, look for what catches your eye. What makes something attractive to you? Ideate: get things down on paper. Sketch out concepts and ideas. Evaluate and test them against the purpose of the design. Will it work? Develop ideas into a semi-finished state and look at them. Test them out. Implement the final design. Create necessary variations. Publish and launch. Evaluate: how well did the design achieve its purpose? What are its strengths? Where can it be improved? Promote your process Turn your creative process into a marketing tool. If you want to attract high-caliber, high budget clients, show how you arrive at your creative solutions. Add your process to your web site, Behance profile, Etsy shop and social media. Share your notes, sketches and thoughts on Instagram and your technique YouTube. How? Simply answer these questions as the basis for your presentation: How did you define the problem to meet the client’s needs? What criteria did you use to guide your discovery? How did your insights inspire your idea development? How did you stay on course in your design process? How was the work implemented into the marketplace by the client? What were the results? Form a habit There are 2 things you

A Key to Productivity: Do the Right Things

November 2, 2016
roductivity is a popular and expansive topic, and it’s also big business. From apps and books on the subject to courses and mastermind groups, tools and techniques for overseeing tasks and projects both personally and professionally are proliferating. As creative freelancers, we live by deadlines. Being able to manage time on a project is necessary for our livelihood. So often, a project takes longer than we planned for and time seems to get away from us. How do we manage it? My purpose in writing this is not to offer another system or list of how-tos. Rather, I hope to offer a few insights that you can consider for maintaining your own schedule. I am making no promises or guarantees, but sharing the approach that has worked for me and others who I’ve shared it with over the years. So allow me to being with 4 premises: First, we cannot actually manage time. Time is the one resource that we all have the same amount of. There is no way we can save time or make time. When it’s gone, we cannot get it back again. What we manage are the things — projects and actions — we allow to occupy our time. That alone is the most fundamental insight I can offer, and the foundation for how I steward my projects and to-do list. Second, everyone’s system is unique. Considering everything from Getting Things Done to 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to Deep Work, to bullet journals, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You need a system that is comfortable and intelligent for you. Third, it’s not how much you do that makes you productive, it’s what you do. The idea is to do the right things every day that will move you forward on the road to accomplishing your goals, whether they involve meeting your client deadlines or buying a home. Fourth, do the right things for the right reasons. When your heart is in something, you have more enthusiasm and creative entry for it, which makes it easier to remain focused through trial and error, and other setbacks. So let’s look at some ways you might seriously consider to improve your productivity: The Weekly Brain Dump Session If you’re like me, you have a lot of ideas coursing through your brain. I’ve learned that getting them all down on paper removes the stress of having to remember them. The paper remembers them for me. (I only need to remember where I put the paper). So I do a sort of brain dump every week on a page in my planner. My planner is old-school, but it works for me, because the action of writing instead of typing helps me process and sort my list. I make a list of everything I can think of, personal and professional. It’s important to think about your life as a whole when you brain dump. I don’t spend too long in making my list — 10-15 minutes is usual. I borrowed this process

How To Build An Effective Professional Network

October 18, 2016
When you’re in business (and freelancers are in business), you build reputation through social and in-person networking. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a network is a group of people who are interconnected for the purposes of exchanging information, contacts and experience for a professional or social purpose. There is a great deal of permission in networking, in that those you’re connected to want to be connected, and vice versa. While we often think of professional networking as joining organizations such as LeTip and BNI,  you can cast a much broader net and diversify your sphere of connections. Networking should be part of your marketing plan. Think beyond the usual networking organization and build your professional network using a variety of tactics. Have you added these 10 actions into your networking strategy? Join a trade association within the industry you are marketing to, and do more than attend meetings. Become involved on a committee, volunteer to help with an event, and participate in special interest groups. The more active you are, the more likely you are to gain contacts that can become clients. Participate in sub-groups and committees in your own industry trade associations. Build alliances with like-minded pros and work together for the betterment of your industry. Contribute articles to newsletters and journals of professional and trade associations. Pursue guest blogging opportunities in order to share information and expertise.  Connect with editors and other writers. Keep your ears and eyes open for relevant topics and pain points expressed by people in your industry. Stay in touch with instructors and mentors from college and and continuing education courses. Teach a class or a conference breakout session, or seek speaking engagements.  You’ll establish yourself as an expert, and people will seek you out. Enroll in courses and professional development programs to increase your skills and knowledge, but also to expand your network. Ask for recommendations and opinions from your network. Acknowledging that people in your network have information you value by asking their opinion does wonders for those relationships. Meet together regularly with a handful of contacts over coffee or a meal. Just getting together builds trust and mutuality. If your contacts don’t know each other, make introductions and help them connect. Invite your contacts to attend meetings and events with you. Hitting up a trade show or business expo together can cement mutual interests, which of course, build relationships. Be on the lookout for news of your contacts. From a work anniversary announced on LinkedIn to a book publishing or a family event, send notes of congratulations and encouragement. And always acknowledge good deeds, gifts and referrals with a written note of appreciation. Building an effective network requires strategy and action, preplanning and follow through. It’s easier to build when you are intentional about it rather than letting things happen organically. For the freelancer who works solo, a good network provides opportunities for new projects, professional growth, resources, and business support. More importantly, it allows you to be the support and resource for others. Start building your network as early as possible, and continue to grow it as your

Keeping Good Clients: 10 Ways To Build Loyalty

October 18, 2016
Most freelancers will agree that it’s easier to hold onto an established relationship than begin a new one. And it’s less work to retain a client than to pursue a new one. While it’s necessary to market to potential clients, freelancers should make every effort to keep the good clients they have. Why? Profitability! They will spend far more time and money marketing to new clients than to maintaining their existing ones. When clients keep calling you, it’s gold! Begin by creating good work. Keeping clients is not automatic. You need to be the kind of creative services provider they want to work with. You are responsible for your working relationships. Your first responsibility is to do good work. The quality of what you create for your clients should be excellent, but that is only the beginning. There is more you should do to motivate your clients to come back over and over again. Ideas for client retention. Be reliable. Show up on time or early. Return phone calls and emails in a timely manner. Deliver on what you promise. Meet deadlines or get things done early. And when you mess up, own it, and fix it. Don’t cover it up or blame someone else. Most clients will forgive a mistake or oversight if your track record of reliability is consistent. Be easy to work with. A pleasant attitude and cheerful words go a long way in relationships. When a client likes you personally as well as professionally, they are more likely to seek your opinion and regard you as a resource. They are also more likely to give you more creative freedom. Take the lead. Clients what to trust that you know what you’re doing. They want to put their project into capable hands. The more you appear to be leading the project and they start seeing good outcomes, the more likely they will come to trust your judgement and will relax about your process, pricing and ideas. Acknowledge uncertainty. Especially with new clients, you will need to explain what you do, how you do it, and when you will do it. Think about the project from the client side. What are their questions. What do they need to know about their role in the project? Keep your clients informed of changes, of hiccups, and when things are going smoothly, provide a status update. When you have a question, pick up the phone or send an email. Every client is different. Learn what each of your clients’ strengths, weaknesses and preferences. Talk their language. Your client won’t understand terms like value contrast, compositional structure and implied line. While unfamiliar vocabulary might impress them that you know what you’re talking about, they will appreciate more when you explain and use simple words. They do understand words like return on investment, psychographics, and brand promise. Learn and use their language back to them. Understand their industry and their pain points. Get to know your client’s mission, vision and position in their field. What problems are they struggling with?

5 Ways To Create A Focal Point

October 11, 2016
here are, of course, more than 5 ways to create a focal point in an image or design. The big picture idea behind creating a focal point is that you’re emphasizing something by using a contrast with what’s going on in the surrounding area. Contrast is difference. The focal point of a design or image is the main thing that you want the viewer to see or understand. Everything else becomes a supporting character visually. You can create more than one focal point in a design and, depending on what your intention is, those focal points can either compete with each other or one can be greater in importance and the other secondary. It’s all in what your purpose is — what you’re trying to communicate. What I’ve included below are five of the methods for creating a focal point. These are fairly simple and should be obvious as you look at the examples. Focal Point By Color Just by using one of Itten’s 7 color contrasts you can easily bring attention to one or more elements in your design. If everything is fairly light in color, introduce a darker color. The darker color will stand out from the lightness. If you’re working mostly with neutral colors accents, add an element or two with a brighter, more saturated color to draw attention and create visual interest. If your color palette is dominantly cool hues, introduce an element in a warm hue and it will separate visually from the rest. Focal Point By Scale If everything is fairly small create something larger, and the viewers eye will land on that because it is different in scale. Conversely, if everything is large in the design by adding in something that’s quite small as a focal point you will bring attention to it. When all elements in a design are the same size even if they’re different in color and in shape you have to use a different means of creating a focal point. Focal Point By Isolation This method relies on the gestalt principle of proximity. We tend to group things that are positioned to close to each other into a single unit.  We will treat a group of things as one thing. (We do with with spoken and written language as well. In English, we speak of several things (plural) combined into a group (singular). Isolating something from the rest of the crowd will bring attention to it and away from the crowd. This is how headlines and pull quotes work on blogs and in magazine articles. Focal Point By Pointing You can arrange things so that they line up along an implied line and create a path of movement. Position the element you want to emphasize at the end of that movement, or in a way so that it interrupts that movement. The viewers eye will be directed along that path to that thing you want to focus on. Focal Point By Framing Frames create a boundary or border around something. We use frames all the time. We put margins or whitespace

What’s In Your Swipe File?

October 11, 2016
What is a swipe file? Also known as a scrap file or morgue file, a swipe file is used by creatives of all types to collect, sort and store bits of inspiration. A swipe file is where you collect ideas, notes, and images to ignite your creativity. It is an immediate source for research and idea generation. Why keep a swipe file? Creators should be collectors. Because as creators we need to think bigger than ourselves, we must make use of the ideas of others to fuel our own vision. Swipe files are just the thing to help you generate ideas. They are especially useful because they are full of content you’ve already curated, so you know what you have on hand. You organize your swipe file in a way that works for you, so that you can locate items quickly. You can defeat creative block by rummaging through a swipe file. Marelisa Fabrega of recommends visiting your swipe file every day, not just when you’re woking on a project. When you’re tired or are simply having trouble coming up with amazing ideas, a search through your swipe file primes your thinking and creative problem-solving. Curation leads to creation. Curation is the act of selecting, organizing and managing items in a collection. Curation is not adding things to a junk drawer, but involves deliberately classifying and organizing things. When you curate, you collect things that are meaningful to you, and which, potentially, you can share with others as relevant content and inspiration. You curate with the intention of pooling ideas you can combine and you improve upon in your own work. Keeping a swipe file is curating. You collect visuals, tips, examples, notes, headlines, photos, etc., and organize them in some way so that you can easily look up a topic or subject. Ideas spark more ideas. The more mature your collection is, the more ideas and inspiration sources you have to draw from. I began my swipe file while I was still in school. It was a practice that was encouraged by all my instructors and required by some, and was considered invaluable for idea generation. At that time I kept my file in two 2-drawer metal cabinets and was constantly pulling images from magazines, newspapers and junk mail to add to my collection. For one class assignment we were asked to bring in several unrelated images and create an illustration during class using all the images as a source. Be choosy about what you swipe. In other words, don’t acquire just to acquire. Swipe with a purpose. Everything you collect should have a reason why you’re collecting it. What you swipe will be different from what others swipe. When you see something that gets your attention, for whatever reason, add it to your file. Creation is the process of bringing something into being. To create anything, we need ideas to generate ideas. There really is nothing new under the sun. But there are new combinations and surprising takes on what already exists. A swipe file contains the

Pricing Strategies for Creative Freelancers

October 4, 2016
ricing your creative services is one of the most-discussed topics among freelancers. There is no one right way to price your creative services — there is no industry standard. There are many factors involved in pricing, and many pricing strategies. It’s best to choose one method — what you’re most comfortable with — and stay with it. Utilizing a variety of pricing structures is confusing for you and your clients. To price correctly, the idea is to understand what it’s all about. Pricing is meant to be a value-for-value exchange. From the client’s point of view, pricing is about cost and expenses. They need a piece of visual communication and are paying for its creation. From the freelancer’s point of view, pricing is about lifestyle. How many hours in a day or month do I want to work? How do I charge enough to sustain my business and my household yet not be working all the time? How do I charge what’s right so that I don’t under-price but also don’t over-price? The 5 most popular pricing strategies Time-based. Whether by the day or by the hour, time-based pricing is where most freelancers start out. It makes sense, since most employees are compensated based on number of hours worked. We’re used to it, and the business world is used to it. The key here is to charge appropriately. You may start out in the $20.00/hour range and, as you grow in experience, increase your rate. If you position yourself as a consultant rather than an entry-level, mid-level or senior-level creative, you generally will be able to charge more per hour, and be able to work less hours each week. With time-based pricing, you increase your revenue either by increasing your rate or the number of hours you work. Project-based (per project). Another common pricing method is to charge by the type of project. For instance, the design of a 6-panel, letter-sized brochure is set at a standard price. A 6-page non-commercial web site is set at a standard price. This means you’re charging for the type of work, not the time you spend on it. Clients like this, especially when you offer a menu of projects. They also like it because you’re not charging extra for add-ons or changes. Unless you get very detailed in what’s included in the price, you can end up with less revenue and a lot more work than you expected. Example of a detailed project pricing description: Logo design: includes 3 initial concepts, 1 refinement and 1 final design. Package-based or bundled. When working on a number of related projects, packaging or bundling may be right for you. Package-based pricing is popular with web designers and some portrait photographers. An example of package-based pricing is creating a web site plus a specified number of branded social media graphics and an email newsletter template as a package deal. Package deals are often used to attract new projects and clients. They provide the client with an array of related visual communications pieces for one low price.

How To Attract Your Ideal Clients

October 4, 2016
First of all, let’s define who your ideal clients are. An ideal client is one for whom you do the kind of work you want to do, and who pays you to do it for them. You cannot market your work effectively to everyone. Not everyone needs what you do. That means you will need to identify specific prospects within the larger business population that have problems you can solve. To be ideal, those prospects need creative services like yours and will also make the investment. Once you have identified your ideal client type, the next step is to attract them to you. I use the idea of attraction rather than pursuit, because it’s better to be attractive than to run after people. Being attractive takes a bit of work up front, but it pays off in the long run as clients seek you out because they know that you can solve their problems and meet their needs. What follow are not specific how-tos or tips. I’m suggesting a point of view or mindset in thinking about your work and how you serve others through it. As a freelancer you are less likely than an employee to be selected for your capabilities than for the benefits you provide. You will not build your reputation because your vectorizing skills are incomparable, or because you can draw a photorealistic rendering of a celebrity. Client will work with you because they trust you. Here are some things to consider if you want to attract ideal clients to you: Decide what you do. Whether you specialize or generalize, you’re creating a niche for yourself — your ideal role or position in your own marketplace. Are you a photographer? What do you shoot? Eileen Escarda is an architectural photographer with a specific niche within that category: hotel resorts. Are you an illustrator? James Gurney paints animals and dinosaurs in landscapes. A designer? Danny Yount creates motion graphic titles for film and television. And if you provide a diverse set of skills (for example, you are a photographer and graphic designer), make diversity your niche. Whatever your niche is, you will become known for it. So make a choice and stick with it for awhile. You can add on or change focus down the road, but establish your reputation in one or two areas first. Do good work. This means that you continually develop your craft. You will never truly arrive and stay put in developing your artistry, skill, and creative thinking. If you are not growing and developing, you are not maturing in your work. Study, reading, research and practice are the 4 pillars of becoming a master designer, illustrator or photographer. You should never stop learning. And, you should never send anything out the door that is not of the highest quality in creative problem-solving and craftsmanship. By creating excellent work you will attract excellent clients. Do mediocre work, and you will attract clients of that quality. Solve real problems. Be the solution-provider your client want to work with. The clients you want to work with have issues that you should be
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5 Inconvenient Truths About Freelancing

September 20, 2016
Freelancing can be regarded as a great adventure in which you go from project to project following your dreams and pursuing your passions exactly as you want to. You have total freedom. You can work wherever and whenever you want to. These are very real rewards of working independently. Every coin has two sides. On the flip side of this romantic vision we find the less desirable aspects of freelancing. Other than the obvious concern of not drawing a steady paycheck, there are things about freelancing, especially as a creative, that are inconvenient. We don’t always notice these until we’re made the leap into independence, and they surprise us. Even so, the reward of flexibility, freedom and self-determination balances or exceeds these difficulties, making the inconveniences more than worth it: 1) You’re on your own. That’s a given. But we don’t often consider what that means and how it plays out day to day. You have no fallback position. There is no one who will cover for you. Your mistakes are all your own. Creatives who love teamwork and collaboration may find themselves isolated and cut off. There is no one to bounce ideas with. One way to address this inconvenience is to build a network of peers. Join a professional organization or meet-up group and get together regularly for mutual support. Be sure to connect with people who are further down the road than you are. Anyone who’s ahead of you on the freelance journey and is experiencing success can share their experiences and how they solved problems you’re facing. Seek wise counsel for important decisions (wise being the operative word there.) 2) You are self-determined. This means you are entirely responsible for the actions you take, the goals you set, and how you manage your time and money. You need to be self-motived and self-disciplined. This may present a problem for you if you are used to team leaders, art directors or managers telling them what to work on, when to work, and how to work. Moving directly from school to freelance work is a huge change. Solve this problem by taking a look at your life goals, personally and professionally. Write them down and give them a timeline. Identify your values and write them down. Decide what kind of work you want to create, who needs it, and who is willing to pay for it. Look at what successful freelancers do who serve the same markets you want to serve. Consider them as resources to learn from, not as your competition. Being self-determined means, among other things, that you determine how your freelance business operates and who you want to serve with the work you create. 3) You may not be respected as a legitimate business owner. This is a tough one, and it’s not about clients respecting you as a professional peer. It’s more about how you’re regarded and treated by banks, landlords, credit card companies and insurance companies. When you are self-employed, it is not that easy to acquire necessary funding
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Which is Better for Self-Promotion: Email or Mailers?

September 20, 2016
Self-promotion is an ordinary and necessary aspect of doing business as an independent creative professional. Unlike social media marketing, self-promotion campaigns are targeted to contacts who have either opted in to your email list or are art buyers with businesses and agencies. Self promotion is generally done via email or direct mail using a physical mailer. So, which is the best distribution channel to get the word out about what you offer? What is the purpose of self-promotion? You promote your work for the following reasons: To introduce yourself; To stay in touch; To show you’re still around and working; To showcase new work; To enter a new category; To ask for an assignment. Self-promotion is not advertising in that it is not paid placement. While you will need to allocate a budget for it, your recipients should be people who have given permission to be added to your list, or who are regularly engaged in handling freelance talent. First, lets talk about who you are targeting. For illustrators, photographers and designers, you will want to target art buyers, for the most part. Art buyers, art producers and photo editors are different titles for the same role. They act as the liaisions between art directors and freelance talent. They collect and curate self promotion materials for the purpose of matching the right talent to a project. They will search through their files (digital and physical) and pull promotion pieces that fit the need of the assignment and make recommendations to the art director. They screen portfolios and negotiate contracts with the freelancers or their reps. They handle all the business aspects of a creative assignment. Art producers are very busy people. They can receive more than 100 emails a day from illustrators and photographers, not to mention postcards and other printed promotions. Being assigned a project relies on getting your promotion in the right place at the right time. There may not be an immediate need for your work, but there may be in 2 years. You might not be the right illustrator for a current project, but you might be the right one for two projects down the road. If you are a designer, you may target art buyers, but you may also promote your work to heads of departments, business owners, marketing directors, and others who are potential clients. Your first take-away on that is that you need to be consistent with your self-promotion efforts. You can’t send something just once and stop. Create a campaign of 4-6 related pieces sent at regular intervals throughout the year. Your promotions should reflect the kind of work you want to get. You won’t be assigned something that you offer no visual proof of. Your second take-away is that your promotions need to be appropriate for the agency or publisher. If you want to illustrate children’s books, do not waste time or money sending promotions to buyers who focus on adult trade books. If you shoot product, do not promote to agencies or companies that create lifestyle

Decoding Hexadecimal Color Notation

September 13, 2016
My color theory students have asked me to explain hexadecimal color notation. Their most often-asked question is “What is it?” I will break it down for you in the simplest terms I can. Hexadecimal is a 6-position numeric identifier used to define color in html, css and other code. Each color is designated by 3 pairs of characters. The system is based the binary numbering system. Hexadecimal includes 16,777,216 unique color code combinations. It is an additive system understanding, meaning it represents colors in the Red-Green-Blue (RGB) environment, not the Red-Yellow-Blue (subtractive) color system, which is also known as the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow system. Hexadecimal is used for the additive color system Let’s begin with why white light is the blend of 256 red, 256 green and 256 blue — the full amount or amplitude of each of these primaries. Each primary is at its most present at full saturation, or the amount of 256.  How do we get the 256? In digital images of 8-bit color density, the amount of the 3 additive primaries varies between 0 and 256. There are therefore 256 intensity levels for each primary: R, for G and for B. When you combine all 3 additive primaries equally at their full saturation, the result is 256 x 256 x 256, or 16,777,216. That’s white light. The hexadecimal notation is 6 characters preceded by a hashtag. The 6 characters are a combination of 10 numerals, 0-9, and 6 letters, A-F. The hashtag ( # ) indicates that what’s coming next in a line of code is a hex color notation. The Hex String #000000 There are 3 pairs of binaries in a hex string. Each pair indicates the amount of an additive primary. As the numerals increase, chroma and/or amplitude increase(s). #000000 The first pair indicates the amount of red #000000 The second pair indicates the amount of green #000000 The third pair indicates the amount of blue #000000 This notation indicates zero amount of each primary. Pixels are all OFF. There is no light, so it’s black, which is the absence of light in the additive color model. Achromatic grays are identified with numbers alone, from 1-9. The higher the numbers are, the lighter the gray is:   Since numerals aren’t adequate to notate the full range of color possibility, letters are used to designate higher numbers so that we can create a full range of colors: A=10   B=11   C=12   D=13   E=14   F=15   Colors that appear lighter (tints) have more luminance and less intensity. Their hexadecimal notations are indicated with higher numbers, which shows that they are closer to white light (#ffffff). You can think of it this way: the more Fs there are in the notation, the lighter the color is.   Hexadecimal and RGB Since hexadecimal is a short form expression of RGB amounts, here is a hexadecimal notation compared to an RGB notation: #FF33CC = 255/51/204 The amount of red is FF or 255, the amount of green is 33 or 51, and the amount of blue is  CC or 204. Here is a screen shot of my Adobe Photoshop

How to Draw Hands Using Basic Shapes

September 13, 2016
n addition to the face, a person’s hands are the most expressive part of the human anatomy. Movements, positions and gestures help us to communicate and express emotion. A dissatisfying quick sketch experience in a cafe sent me on a few days of study recently to recapture the joy and technique of drawing hands. Hands are not something you can ignore or be lazy about, both due to their complex structure and expressive nature. There is as much personality in a person’s hands as there is in his or her face. So being able to draw hands with some accuracy is important if we want to communicate well when drawing the human form and likenesses. The hand has a very complex structure, With all its joints, planes and landmarks, drawing them is as intimidating as drawing the entire body. It becomes easier if we look beyond all the details to the structure and basic shapes involved. The idea is to reduce complex elements to their simplest shapes. When you do this, you are able to draw even the most complex forms with ease. I was drawing during lunch at a cafe, and picked out a gentleman across the room as my subject.  Since he was also eating lunch, he was moving a lot, and was partially hidden behind the person seated beside him. As I drew, I had to improvise pose and features a bit, including his hands. In drawing the hand, I realized I had lost sight of its structure. What I had drawn wasn’t communicating well. Because of that, I studied up on hands, relearning what I already knew and reinforcing it by drawing a number of hand studies. Begin with simple shapes Since the fingers are attached to and supported by the hand, begin by blocking in that basic shape. The shape of the palm is a square. The fingers extend from one side — each one anchored in its knuckle. Think of each knuckle as an oval, and the fingers as a set of cylinders or rectangles. The thumb extends from the opposite corner, aided by a triangular wedge of flesh. The fleshy base of the thumb is oval or even teardrop shaped, and the pad at the tip of the thumb is an oval.   Draw Through The hand has volume. The palm and fingers all have front, side, top, bottom, and back planes. Obviously, we can’t see them all from the same point of view, but we need to understand that they exist and think “through the form” to depict the volume. Overlap Forms to Depict Volume Overlapped shapes, where one is in front or or on top of another, immediately creates a sense of depth. When one thing is behind another they cannot both be on the same visual plane. Therefore, look for places where forms overlap, where exterior contours continue into the interior of the form. Capture the gesture Look for directional lines that unite hand to wrist and fingers to palm. Either the thumb or the index finger will take the lead when the hand is in motion. Look for those
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The Freelancer As Business Owner

September 6, 2016
When you start freelancing you become a business owner and are responsible for the success or failure of your enterprise. Honestly, it can go either way, depending on what you do. Yes, it’s pretty much all on you. Whether you jump into freelancing from school or from employment, you’ll quickly come to the realization that you’ve taken on responsibility for your own business and accepted the role of an owner. Owners are very different from employees. While an employee can be all in with their employer’s business, he will never be an owner. He will spend a good deal of time on creating things, and almost no time on business things. He can easily quit. He has little stake in the enterprise. He can pass accountability to his upline or sideways to his coworkers without consequence. Owners have no upline. They act in the best interests of their business or they will not be in business very long. To build a successful freelance business, the creative professional must do the creative (the fun work) and the business (the obligatory work) well. Doing the right things for your business will support your creative work, you will spend more time doing business things than creative things. You should expect to spend close to 80% of your time in building and managing your business, and the other 20% will be on the actual work you do for clients. That’s just the reality of it. If you’re a freelancer and your business skills are weak, do something about it. How do you get good business skills? You acquire them, either through a course, through a mentor, through an organization or through online searches. Successful business owners take care of things. They prioritize, establish systems, communicate, perform customer service, market, pay their bills and keep their books. They integrate their business and personal lives, and operate from a solid foundation that they have systematized to make it repeatable. Your foundation begins with your BHAGs – those big, hairy, audacious goals you set for yourself. These goals are not necessarily business-related, but are purpose-driven ideas you want to accomplish or be known for. These BHAGs drive your business and your personal life, and center around the things you value. Everyone has BHAGs. Few people actually map them out to make them tangible enough to achieve. Here are 6 things that creative freelancers should know about ownership. Owners take action. They don’t sit around until they are told what to do. They commit to the long, hard work of building a successful business. Owners strategize, plan and follow through. When they fail at something — and they do fail — they use it as an opportunity to learn. Owners honor their commitments. That means they meet the deadlines they set. They pay their contractors. They follow through on what they promise, even in the small things like responding to email and answering questions. And the first commitment an owner makes is to herself. Owners develop the discipline to do the non-creative
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