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

Graphic Design

Identity & Branding, Print, Publication, Web


Designing Influence. Drawing Attention.

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Creative Services

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

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 lively, realistic style, with an emphasis on historic, sports and portrait subjects.

Editorial Illustration

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

Graphic Design

You cannot do any marketing or promotion without graphic design. Single designs or campaigns, printed collateral and direct mail, WordPress web sites. For advertising, editorial, direct mail, social media, web sites, signage, trade shows, and events.

Brand Strategy

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


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.

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?



My blog, Eye Level, is where I write visual notes and verbal sketches about what I know: design, illustration, drawing, freelancing, copyright.
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Leads and Referrals — What’s the Difference?

January 19, 2017
Early in my freelance journey I joined a business networking group through my chamber of commerce. Networking groups consist of members of different industries, with no duplication. There is only one mechanic allowed, only 1 web designer allowed, only one veterinarian, etc. Passing on leads to fellow group members was a requirement of group participation, and for this group it meant 2-3 leads each week. Regular attendance and lead exchange was a requirement. I got work from the group members directly, but few leads panned out for me. I also found myself distracted from marketing my own business because of the requirement of seeking leads to give to other businesses. I resigned from the group within a year because I just didn’t feel effective. So a recent question from a colleague prompted me to recall my experiences, and to consider the differences between a lead and a referral.   Leads vs. referrals Referrals are pre-qualified. A referral is where someone directs or commends one person who has a particular expertise to another who needs that expertise. There is the idea the the referral has been qualified to some extent, before their information is passed along. We can think of a referral as a qualified sales opportunity where the two parties are introduced to each other and both have agreed to be introduced. Consent is a prime aspect in successful referrals. Leads are a type of referral. They are reasons or motives to contact someone.When you’re given a prospect lead, you reach out to make the connection. A lead is unqualified. It’s a chance opportunity with potential. Leads are not personal introductions made by a third party for the mutual benefit of both. A person who is given a lead has no assurance that things will pan out. The lead had not given permission to be contacted, so it’s a basic cold call. Unlike leads, referrals are targeted. A referral is someone who needs what you do, who fits your client profile. There is greater potential for work from referrals than from leads. Referrals generally come to you, while leads are something you chase after. Here are 2 examples from my own experience: A colleague gave me the name of a portrait and wedding photographer, and passed on my name to her, with the idea that we could do business together. But I do not work with wedding photographers, and she was not in need of design work. There was no basis to connect, despite the good intentions of the referring colleague. For me, it was an unqualified lead. In another instance, a colleague thought I might be able to advise her friend about starting a freelance business. She asked if her friend could contact me, and I agreed. That was a qualified referral. The upside of leads is that you can gather a lot and build a huge list. But then do some homework to filter out those that don’t fit your ideal client profile. Unsolicited leads may not be a good fit, or the person sharing the lead may not have permission from the lead and may not be actually recommending the

Drawing Tip: The Ears Are Pivotal

January 13, 2017
These 2 drawing tips from my sketchbook are all about ear position and human head proportions. First, let’s look at the head in profile (side view): The Position of the Ears in Profile (Side) View As you can see, the ear is the pivot point and anchors the head to the neck column. Whether the head rotates upward or downward, the ear with remain in the same location and appears as the center of the rotation. My notes on the page are: The distance from the forehead to the back of the head is the same as the distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin. The head, in side view, sits within a square. It’s also important to note that the hairline is lower than the top of the head. Hairlines vary from person to person. The top of the ear attaches at the level of the brow. The top of the helix, which is the outermost rim of the ear, may sit higher than the brow line, depending on the individual. The eyes are positioned halfway between the top of the head and the bottom of the chin. As a general rule, position the eyes based on the vertical center (equator) of the eye ball. The attachment point of the ear lobe is level with the base of the nose. The jaw ends at the base of the ear. The head sits forward of the shoulders because the neck is angled. This is really important to note if you’re a beginner at drawing people. Most beginners tend to draw the neck as a vertical column, and also make it too thin.   Vertical Position of the Ears in Front View Shows Rotation On this page I’ve sketched examples of what the ears do when the head is rotated or tilted. Here are the notes: The axis of the ears is always perpendicular to the center axis of the face. When the head is tilted to the side, the ears remain aligned with each other but one is higher than the other. As the head rotates upward and downward, the ears are clues to what the head is doing. If the person is looking straight, the ears are centered with the upper attachment at the brow line and the lower attachment at the base of the nose. When the person looks up, the ears and chin align. The ears are lower than the face. Looking downward, the ears are higher than the face. When drawing likenesses, individuals vary. The idea for you as artist or illustrator is to compare the features of the person to the theory of anatomical proportions, and observe the differences between what you observe and what you know. In knowing where things are positioned and how they’re scaled in general, you are able to recognize the specific landmarks on the face and head you are drawing. Since the head “leads” the rest of the body in movement and direction, it’s essential to develop strong skills here when drawing

A Guide to Drawing Pencils

January 13, 2017
Pencils are so common that we use them without thinking much about them. When it comes to drawing, we become much more aware of the pencil as a creative tool, and we have a lot more choices for drawing than for writing. Selecting a wooden drawing pencil is an important and sometimes confusing task. What should you use when precision is needed, and what do you use to create broad tonal strokes? Pencil selection is easier when you understand the numbering and grading systems in use. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on wooden graphite pencils. The lead in a pencil is called that due to its lead-like color. Pencil leads are actually a mixture of graphite, which is a form of carbon, and clay. Pure graphite is brittle, so clay is added to reduce breakage. Graphite has been in use since the 1500s. Pencil Grades There are two grading systems used to classify graphite (lead) pencils: the Numerical and the HB. Both scales indicate the degree of hardness or softness of the lead. What makes the graphite soft or hard is the amount of clay that is added. More clay creates a harder material. The hardness or softness of the pencil lead affects its feel — rough or smooth — as you pull it across the paper, its appearance, and its smudge-resistance. Softer leads will feel smoother, appear darker and smudge more easily. Smudging is a desirable quality for many artists and illustrators. Numerical (American) Graphite System In the Numerical Scale, the graphite is designated by hardness of the lead. A Number 1 pencil is softer than a Number 4 pencil. The grade we use most often in the USA for general writing is the Number 2.  Hard lead creates a light mark with a low smudge factor, while soft leads create a darker mark that is much easier to smudge. Pencils using the Numerical scale will often have a ferule (a crimped metal ring) and a rubber eraser on the non-writing end, and are used most often for writing. HB (European) Graphite System Graphite drawing pencils use the HB system. This system describes the hardness (H) or softness (B) of the graphite. An HB pencil is approximately the same hardness as a Number 2 in the Numerical System. Increasing the number of the H factor increases the hardness of the lead. Increasing the number on the B side increases the softness. A 5B pencil is softer than a 2B, and a BBB is the softest and blackest of all. There is no industry-wide standard for graphite systems. A 6B Derwent may feel differently than a 6B Staedtler Mars Lumograph. Be adventurous in trying out a variety of manufacturers before deciding which is best for you. It’s a personal choice Any pencil will make darker and lighter strokes depending upon the amount of pressure you exert. The harder the lead, the less range of pressure difference. You’ll discover that you can use a very light touch with a 6B pencil and draw a line as light as one made with a 6H with heavy pressure. The question of which pencils to
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Should Freelancers List With Online Business Directories?

January 6, 2017
Q: As a freelancer, is it worth having business listings like Yelp and YP? A: It depends upon what directories you choose and why you choose them. There are advantages and disadvantages to being listed. Reasons for listing a business include: to increase exposure to potential clients to communicate your presence and what you offer to acquire more clients. Online business listings can increase inbound traffic to your web site, establish your presence in your local community, and provide leads on which to follow up. If you focus on finding clients in your own locale, local business listings may help. Because it’s a local business listing, your presence in an online business directory will assist you in being regarded as a legitimate business and creative professional. That’s important for a variety of reasons. List for the right reasons You want to be intentional about creating a listing on Yelp, YP, Manta, and any local business directory. If the clients you want to work with are looking on those platforms for service providers such as yourself, it will be worth setting up at least a free listing. The use of online business directories should not be your primary means of finding clients. Make it part of your marketing mix, but don’t rely on it as a major source of client acquisition. There are downsides to listing that are not always apparent when you sign-up. My Experience With Yelp On the advice of a trusted colleague, I set up a listing for my freelance business on Yelp and a few other online directories. At that time I was expecting to increase my exposure to potential clients near me. I chose the no-cost level on each of them. Fairly soon after I set up my listings, I noticed a marked increase in spam emails, telemarketing calls, and requests from offshore enterprises. I received email requests from individuals outside the USA asking me to hire them so that they could come to the States on a work visa. I began receiving a higher percentage of Nigerian-type money scams. And I received a series of project requests from scammers asking me to create their web sites. I have no evidence to directly correlate my presence on online directories with the increase in junk and spam emails, but I don’t believe that the increase was merely coincidental. Since I listed on Yelp, I’ve received 3 legitimate project inquiries. I received 4 from, and zero from the other 2 directories. None of the inquiries were gigs I wanted to accept, whether due to budget, type of work, or caliber of client. Yelp representatives call and email several times each year to ask me to upgrade to a paid listing and to create special offers that will entice Yelp visitors to go to my web site. Since I don’t offer discounts and I don’t have walk-in customer traffic, I am not interested in upgrading. Although I have not paid to be listed in online directories, being listed has not helped me reach my goals. Inbound traffic to my web site from Yelp is minimal. I have cancelled my other director listings, and would like to remove my Yelp listing, but cannot. Once
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Profit Motive and the Freelancer: You May Be Running A Business If…

December 22, 2016
A photographer is still in school full time but is already establishing connections for professional work. She is purchasing cameras, lenses and equipment she will use in her career. She paid a professional designer to create her logo, business card and web site. She has had one small paid job so far and is scheduled to shoot an event in a month for which she will invoice and be paid for her work. Can she deduct the costs of marketing (web site, logo, business card) and equipment on her income taxes? It depends upon if she is demonstrating a profit motive. Profit motive is the intention of making a profit. Motive is the reason behind one’s actions. If you are in business, it is assumed you want to make a profit. With creative freelancers, the issue as to whether someone is running a business or doing a hobby can be a concern. Art, design and photography can easily be considered hobbies, not businesses. In fact, many clients would prefer that we do our work for the love of it alone and don’t care about being paid. However, we have the right to earn revenue and make a living via our talents, and if we choose to do so, we need to go about it correctly so that we can earn a living. If you have a profit motive, you must show intent to make a profit. This does not mean you must make a profit in order to claim deductible expenses. It is for this reason that, in Freelance Road Trip, I walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up your business and the putting necessary legal frameworks into place. The frameworks help to protect your livelihood from hobby-loss designation in case of a tax audit. These are some ways that demonstrate you are seriously running a business: If you obtain a business license, you may be engaged in business. If you have a business plan, you may be engaged in a business. If you have business checking, savings and credit lines, you may be doing business. If you file a DBA, you may be setting up a business. If you join (by paying dues) a chamber of commerce, you may be engaged in business. If you pay self-employment taxes, you may be running a freelance business. If you set up accounting and bookkeeping software with income and expense categories that relate to the Schedule C, you may be creating a business. If you distribute business cards, you may be promoting a business. If you receive money in exchange for your creative services, you may be running a business. If you are spending time regularly marketing, networking and pursuing client leads, you may be building a business. If you collect and remit sales taxes on tangible goods, you may be running a business. If you set fees for your work, write contracts, and register copyrights, you may be engaged in business. If you have a marketing plan, you may be creating a business. If you have a web site that says “Hire me
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What’s the Difference Between Pro Bono and Spec Work?

December 22, 2016
Is there a difference between pro bono and spec work? If so, what’s the difference? First, let’s compare them. With both, you work for free, providing your creative services at no charge. And that’s where the comparison ends. The difference is in why you work for free, and also in who initiates the project. What is pro bono work? Pro bono work is for the good, to take up a cause or to help out a client. The freelancer is practicing generosity and putting the needs of others above their own. In contrast, spec work is at minimum a test, and may be a ploy by the client to acquire creative work without paying for it. A big difference is that pro bono work is something a freelancer chooses to do. Services are offered in support of a worthy cause. I encourage freelancers to take up a cause, but to also be strategic in how they go about it. Pro bono work should not replace paid projects. Freelancers need to generate revenue, and donating their services does not help their bottom line. It’s a really good idea to devise a pro bono policy and even an application process. Another common factor in pro bono work is that the freelancer often initiates the project. She recognizes a need and wants to help, and approached the organization with an offer of services to support the cause. Freelancers are not required to do pro bono work, and should not do it unless their heart is in it and it’s for a cause they really care about. When pro bono work is required or demanded by a client, it becomes spec work.   When pro bono work is required or demanded by a client, it becomes spec work.   When considering pro bono work, ask  yourself what will it lead to? Will you gain paying clients? Will you be able to use the work in self-promotion? Does it fit with your values and life goals? Will it offer a great amount of creative freedom?   When you engage in pro bono work, you should: Use a contract as if it’s a paid project, and do not begin work until the client has signed the contract and you’ve answered all their questions. It’s a real project even if unpaid, and should be treated like any paid project. The contract should be specific about deliverables, deadlines, rights transferred and when when they transfer and for how long, and the total value of the work. It should include whether or not the freelancer is to receive name credit, and will be using the work for their self-promotion campaigns. If the pro bono work is in exchange for an in-kind sponsorship, the exchange opportunities (ad space, social media takeover, for example) should be clearly stated. The client needs follows through on their end with what they promised. Provide the client with an invoice that shows the full value of the work performed and the discount being applied. This reinforces the value of your services and the resulting intellectual properties, even though the client did not

Applying the Gutenberg Principle in Print and Web Design

December 16, 2016
The Gutenberg Principle is a lesser-known design principle that describes the general movement of the eyes when looking at a design in which elements are evenly distributed. It’s also known as the Gutenberg Rule or the Z pattern of processing. Visual designers should understand that the viewer’s eye does not remain static but is constantly traveling across the design surface, looking for visual pathways, landmarks and resting points. It is up to the designer to control the path of travel and therefore the order information is received, by strategically positioning elements (shapes, lines, colors, textures, etc.) The more trained the eye of the viewer, the more of these elements will be found and the more engagement happens. So designers need to present a path of travel if they want the viewer to linger within the design. This is true for print, web, motion and UX. The Gutenberg principle assumes a design space is divided into 4 equal quadrants. Active quadrants are the top left and bottom right. The passive quadrants are bottom left and top right. The top quadrants are primary over their corresponding bottom quadrants. Left-to-right readers (English, Spanish, etc.) naturally enter the design space at the top left and flow diagonally down to the bottom right before exiting the design. This is a natural path of travel for the eyes. It may be mirrored in right-to-left readers (Hebrew).   The designer can choose to lead the eye in this natural Z pattern, or he may choose to present other entry and exit points. If he chooses to follow the Z pattern, he is working with the flow of reading gravity, moving from top to bottom. He will place key elements and focal points — the most important information — along this path of travel. This results in more comfortable reading and may increase comprehension. Disrupting this natural pattern leads the eye around the design in different ways. If a very large element is placed at the bottom center, the eye will enter the design at that point, and move to other landmarks from there. Visual designers, photographers and illustrators should be aware of how the viewer will see their finished work, and plan accordingly. It’s up to the creator to lead the eye on the right path in order to make the most of the information contained in a design.

Using Color Zones In Portraits

December 16, 2016
A color zone is an area where one color influences all colors in that area. This is known as color dominance, and it occurs constantly. It is especially noticeable in the human face, which has 3 distinct color zones. We’re used to seeing these color zones, but most people don’t recognize them. The zones are easier to notice on light-skinned people, but all people have them no matter their ethnicity. When painting a portrait in traditional media, or doing digital retouching or painting, working with color zones adds realism and makes for a convincing result. It is also important to note that color is influence by surrounding colors, lighting conditions and reflected light. Color perception is relative. The same color will appear differently depending upon what’s around it. This is discussed by Josef Albers in his theory of color relativity: The Interaction of Color. Facial skin tones are broken into zones. In general, skin tones in the face create 3 distinct color zones: yellow/white, red and blue/blue-green. These areas are clearly depicted in these self-portraits by Alfonse Mucha (more subtly) and Rembrandt Peale: Top of the head, forehead and brow area are yellow or even white. The skin is thinner in this area and contains less capillaries. Cheeks and nose are red. This is the fleshiest part of the face and contains more blood supply which results in those rosy tones. Mouth, chin and jaw are blue or blue-green. This is the zone that’s most often affected by reflected light and will be influenced by color that bouncing off clothing and other surfaces. In men, because of the beard area on the jawline, the jock in this area can appear quite blue. And in women it’s an area that will cool and neutralize. Since men don’t wear make-up, these zones are easier to notice. On bearded men, you can incorporate the coolness into the beard, applying the color zones to the face and hair that frame it. You don’t have to use highly saturated colors when “zoning” a portrait. Be subtle with your mixing. Color in light and shadow areas Another consideration when mixing color for flesh tones is the quality of light. Under a warm light, shadows will appear cool. In cool light, they appear warm. It’s a complementary relationship. If you depict your subject underneath the cool light, the light areas of the face will tweak cooler and the shadows warmer. So instead of mixing yellow ochre and cadmium red for a flesh tone in light under cool light you might want to mix a cooler yellow, perhaps a raw sienna, and use warmer earth tones (browns) and in the shadow areas. Color is a property of light. Our perception of colors on surfaces is always affected by what the light is doing. Color temperature — warm or cool — is relative to the overall color palette. The very suggestion of coolness in a shadow placed next to a warm color in a direct light area is all that’s necessary. You do not need to force the issue or go overboard with over-saturation.  Very often, you can create a shadow by using a cooler color in the same hue

Designing a Successful Year

December 9, 2016
Each December I take a couple weeks off to celebrate the holidays and go through a visioning and goal-setting process in preparation for the new year. It’s a comfortable and convenient time for me to review the past 12 months and decide how to move forward with new goals and renewed purpose. My approach to this planning is holistic: I look at my WHY, read through my BHAGs, and revise my plans based on what worked in the current year and what didn’t. I include personal and professional goals, because I consider life as an integration rather than a balancing act. I also note the areas where I didn’t accomplish things because of my own shortcomings: did I waste time here, did I fail to follow through on something there, was I unprepared for the unexpected? I want to be honest in assessing my successes and failures. What can I carry forward without change, and what did I learn from my  failures? My answers to these questions form the foundation for my planning. Planning is design. Anytime we plan, we are designing (not visually, of course, except in how we map, chart and record our plans). In a sense, I am designing my year. Most of us go through a planning process without making the connection to design, creativity and problem-solving. To get anywhere, to accomplish anything, we first have to make a plan. Accomplishing goals is very much about solving problems. I think it’s crucial for creative freelancers who want to succeed to plan well. Here are 5 key areas areas which I believe should consider in their year-end planning: Review your vision and mission, personally and professionally. Your reasons for freelancing relate to your life goals. It’s a good idea to have a vision for your life and to live intentionally. If you create a vision statement for yourself (your WHY), and you write it down, you can tie everything — professionally and personally — to it. When you anchor your goals and actions to your WHY, you are more likely to accomplish your goals because they become meaningful. Not sure how to discover your why, create a vision for your life and set meaningful goals? Wondering if you can really design your life? I participated in Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever in back in 2015 and it truly changed how I approach visioning, planning, and living on purpose. I came away inspired and made significant changes to how I design my life. I recommend it to you. Check out Michael Hyatt’s free webinar! Update your business plan. Begin by reviewing your existing plan. Ask what worked, what you need to do more consistently, and what didn’t work. In adjusting your plan, consider what things in the previous plan were not feasible or that need to put onto your “someday” list. Look at the deadlines you set in your existing plan. Were they reasonable? In revising your business plan, consider working with a mentor to advise you. Is there a mastermind group or Facebook group you can

Create A Better Portfolio

December 7, 2016
Whether online or in hand, your portfolio is the primary means of landing a job or finding clients. Art school graduates have focused on developing and fine-tuning their portfolios during the last terms of their educational career, but even for those who are self-taught or have been professional for years, the “book” remains the primary thing for promoting your work. In reality it does more than a resume in determining whether a creative is the right fit for a particular design position or project. You cannot get by as a creative professional without one. I’ve been managing my own portfolio and advising students and working pros on their portfolio for awhile now, and I wanted to share with you some tips and insights about managing your own portfolio. Use physical and digital portfolios Styles of physical portfolios have changed over the years. When I started out, I had large format transparencies made of my work and presented them sandwiched between acetate and bound in hand-made black mattes. Currently, hard-cover post binders are popular environments. Format aside, you need both physical and digital versions. While many creatives use Behance, Creative Hotlist, Design Taxi, and other online portfolio sites to present their work, I cannot stress enough the importance of having your own web site. Whether you run with a done-for-you  option such as Squarespace or a self-hosted WordPress  site, an online presence is a requirement for doing business. For go-sees, portfolio reviews and in-person meetings with prospective clients, a physical book is necessary. While showing work on your tablet is an option, it’s useful only when wifi is available. The binder or box portfolio allows clients to interact with your work in a tactile sense. In an agency setting where you drop off your book and are not present during the review, the art buyer is able to flip through at her leisure and also compare it directly with another book to determine the best creative for their project. If web design is your sole focus, a printed portfolio is still a good idea. It allows you to present your work in a broader context, and when wifi is not available, it’s a reliable showcase of  your design talent and thinking ability. Printed portfolios are not subject to the whims of technology. And, as pointed out here, walking into an appointment with your book under your arm gives you a certain authority and command in the meeting. You have something to show that’s worth looking at. You present a credible bearing. Digital, remember, is virtual. Print is real. A recommended portfolio strategy Once you have your portfolio, what do you do with it? You need a strategy for management and distribution. Include portfolio updates in your annual marketing plan and be sure to schedule them on your calendar.  A well-managed portfolio goes a long way in convincing prospective clients that you’re the person for the project. I wanted to offer some tweaks and tips for managing your portfolio: Your portfolio is never a finished work. You will always be updating with new work, and your book is constantly evolving. This means you need

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
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