Creating Rituals To Do Significant Work

May 17, 2017
I’m currently reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success In A Distracted World, in which the author makes the case for engaging in serious, uninterrupted times of extreme focus in order to accomplish goals and create great work. As an independent creative and an introvert, I often “burrow in” when working on a client project not just to get it done, but to do it well. I find that I need to do this in my business as well. This is why I first picked up Newport’s book. Newport describes various ways one can “work deeply” (that’s one of his chapter titles). Among other methods, he lays out a strategy for ritualization and how to establish structures and systems that include time specifically assigned for deep work. He describes ways in which we can design our time, and why we should do so. I’ve long recommended that we design our days. Rather than allowing tasks and requests to determine our schedules, we can be strategic and create opportunities to engage in focused work. While Newport has given me insight and ideas for strengthening my own rituals, he has also helped me to see how my rituals enable my work, how some rituals can disrupt and distract me from my work, where I need to make changes, and why it’s necessary to engage in deep work as a creative.   The Concept of Ritual Rituals are more than habits and go far beyond tracking the number of steps you take or how many glasses of water you drink in a day. Rituals have meaning, and are about thought more than actions. My rituals include beginning each day with a mug of coffee and my journal. I also read every day. I struggle with exercise and drawing, however, because I allow project deadlines or student questions to interrupt these activities. This is something I’m working on because I’m in a time of transition from one business model another. Creatives who make a living from doing creative work need to establish time for doing that work so that they can be successful. Every person is different, and your rituals will not look like mine. The important thing is that you establish rituals as part of an overall system for pursuing creative projects. Using a system helps you succeed. Newport outlines some necessary aspects of ritualization: Time and place: Decide on a specific location for specific things. For example, I conduct my morning quiet time at my desk, not at my workstation, or on the coffee table. Connecting certain types of work with certain environments helps us do the work. We tell ourselves, this is where I do this thing, and that’s what I’m going to do while I’m here.  For some, that can be a Starbucks, for others, it’s the back patio at home, for others, it’s a library. There are certain things I do on my desktop and nowhere else. Time is also crucial. You need to dedicate a block of time just for that specific work. When
drawing

Add Energy To Your Drawings With Structural Syntax

May 13, 2017
Whether drawing from photographic reference or from life, we can easily adopt what I call a line-by-line approach to drawing. We look at our subject, observe, draw a line or two, look again, draw another few lines, and slowly build the drawing. Although striving for accuracy, we come to an end result that is somewhat flat and uninteresting. What did we miss by focusing on getting the contour lines right? We missed the gesture and structure. I don’t want to get too “academic” in presenting the concept of structural syntax, but it’s an important principle to understand if you want to give life to your drawings.   What is drawing syntax? Syntax is most often used as it relates to written language. Since drawing is a visual language, it applies there also. Syntax is the order or sequence in which a structure is constructed. So in design and art, it relates to how we create things in proper order and position so that the whole creation makes sense. The final drawing or artwork is created by building one thing upon another, line by line, shape by shape. If you understand that some things must come first in order to support other things in a design, it makes sense to think syntactically.   Why is syntax important in drawing, design and art? Drawing is an observational activity requiring attention to detail and awareness of the entire drawing (or design). While you don’t have to begin with core structures when you draw, you should be aware of how the forms (the objects or subjects you’re drawing) are structured and how they relate to each other. You need to represent the movement and direction of the form. And you need to acknowledge the parts of the form that you cannot see from where you’re sitting, so that as you draw what you can see, it feels connected to the part you can’t see. Syntax is also important to “ground” a form in space. How does the form relate to the space around it? How does the space support and frame the form. We can easily be so eager to get to the details and contours that describe form that we forget to hang them on something. We’ll go right for the details and overlook gesture and structure. In doing this, we’ll end up with something that’s lifeless, although accurate.   How do we draw with syntax in mind? Gesture describes movement and direction. Without structure and gesture, our drawings have no energy. Structure is the combination of forms on which we “flesh out” the form. It’s what we hang the details on. In gesture, you’re forced to look at the entire figure at once. You can’t pick a contour and follow it along when you’re drawing gestures. Because they’re quick impressions, you have to move fast to capture the essential idea of movement and attitude.       Gesture animates the figure in a drawing, and it’s what animators focus on when developing a character. We can take the animator’s focus and apply it to our
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Making the Most of a Creative Review

May 4, 2017
You can get more out of a creative review than just a go-ahead to move to the next phase of the project. In coming together with your client to assess work in progress, opportunities open up that you can take advantage of. I can’t tell you how many creative reviews I’ve had over the years, nor can I remember them all, but certain ones stand out to me for reasons beyond getting a client to approve the work. So I wanted to share my thoughts about creative reviews so they can be more valuable to you than simply obtaining a good-to-go from the client. First, let’s look at what a creative review is. For an ad agency or design firm, it’s usually a conference room meeting with the creative team, the client and the firm’s account execs. The creative team presents their concepts and approach, the account execs present stats and figures, and the client provides feedback and asks questions. For an independent creative, it’s a meeting with the client where you share your approach to their problem and the insights that guided your thinking and the resulting creative work. The client provides feedback and asks questions. The meeting can be face-to-face or virtual. During a creative review, you will be expected to defend your creative decisions. The client will want to understand how you analyzed their problems and concerns, and how you arrived at each solution. This presentation is the first time the client will be able to experience how you work, and will naturally make a decision whether to proceed with what’s been presented or to go in a different direction. Here are some insights about creative reviews that I’ve gleaned from working with clients for over 35 years. Use the creative review to: Understand your client better. Present your work and reasons for your design choices, and ask what they think. Every client is looking for something different, something that fits their purpose uniquely and thoroughly. You cannot meet one client’s needs by repeating what you did for another client. Something that’s suitable for Client A may not be at right for Client B. It’s your responsibility to ask them to put things in the point of view of their clients or customers. What’s working? What’s not? What needs tweaking? The more you know your client, the easier it will be to create useful solutions for them. You will be able to anticipate their need, and suggest other possibilities to them. For example, I learned that one of my non-profit clients was looking for funding beyond their donor pool. I asked if they had heard about the Amazon Smile program. They had not. But they have now set is up and are starting to see good results. Improve on your presentation skills. Are you able to talk about your work from their point of view? Can you present their problem in your own words and describe how you are solving it? Is your presentation style working? Can the client easily view your presentation? Do you have
design

The Art of Influence: 5 Ways to Affect Your Outcomes and Attract Clients

April 28, 2017
If you want to be successful, you need to be influential. Influence can be positive or negative, and everyone has influence. The key for success as creative freelancers is to be strategic in growing your influence. Decide what you want to accomplish, and do the things that will influence that outcome. You don’t need to be influential with everyone, but you do need to have influence with some: specifically, your ideal customer or client.   Influence is the ability to affect something. As a creative entrepreneur, you want to make an impact in your area or you will not remain in business for long. When you are influential it’s a given that you are also attractive to your clients. When you complete a job for a client, and you did it well, others will notice. If you were able to pull it off for Company A, you can certainly pull it off for Company B, and so on.   Influence is built over time. By creating work for clients that helps them achieve their goals, you are building your own reputation. As you help others become successful, you create your own success in the process. John Maxwell, author, speaker and coach focusing on leadership and influence, wrote, “A successful person finds the right place for himself. But a successful leader finds the right place for others.” As a creative entrepreneur, you understand the value of your talent and expertise. You provide specific services that fulfill the needs of specific clients. You want to be influential because you want to affect the outcomes for others. That non-profit client will not meet its campaign goals without the design of appeals and collateral. The restaurant will not attract a new clientele without strategically-designed website and marketing strategy. That craft brewery will not get its product into the marketplace without the photography that will help tell its story and convey the enjoyment of drinking their beer. When you take this approach to your work, you will influence the decisions of others directly, and also indirectly through them.   Influence is necessary for your brand. While your brand as a creative entrepreneur is not influence alone, it’s a starting point for building your reputation in your marketplace. Influence has become the driving force in buying choices because there is so much competition in any market sector. This means that you are not the only creative expert in your field. Your prospective clients have myriad choices of who they will work with. They’ll choose you if You are easy to work with, They can make a solid connection with you, You give them value, and They understand that you have their best interests at heart. In short, they need to trust that you’re not all about you and advancing yourself.   Be interested. In his influential book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie said: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other
design

Optical Color Mixing

April 21, 2017
There are two ways color is mixed to make new colors. One is commonly known as admixing. The other is optical mixing, also known as optical fusion or perceptual mixing. What is admixing? Admixing is the process of blending pigmented color together to form a new color. So we take red and yellow paid and depending upon the proportions that we use we can get a red orange and orange or yellow orange. Or, we take blue and orange and blend them to create browns and gray. Through admixing we create a color and then apply it to the surface. We can see what the color will be before we apply it. In optical fusion, 2 or more colors placed near each other create the illusion of new colors. Admixing is used for pigment colors, including all sorts of paints and dry media, dyes, inks, crayons, food coloring, and other colorants. (Anything that has color contains pigment). When you are using devices or viewing computer or television screens, color is not admixed, but optically mixed. What is optical color mixing? Optical mixing, also known as partitive color, is the perception of color resulting from the combination of adjacent colors. In other words,  when color is mixed optically, the blending occurs perceptually, and takes place between our eyes and our brain. The perceived blending of color increases with distance. When you look closely at a television screen or computer display you will see the screen is divided into a grid or network of pixels. Each pixel is capable of displaying different colors depending on the electronic information it is receiving. So a group of red pixels intermingled with a group of yellow pixels will not actually blend into orange, but will be perceived as orange (a mixture of red and yellow). What specific orange we see depends upon the ratio of red to yellow pixels involved. This is all a very simple way of explaining the difference between optical color mixing and traditional admixing of pigments.     Optical fusion is accomplished with pigments as well as light. In 4-color process printing, four different ink colors — cyan, magenta, yellow and black — are laid down in various proportions and densities to create a full-color continuous tone image. Getting up close to a printed image reveals that the image is made of individual dots of color. The more dots and the smaller they are, the more refined an image appears. Optical fusion also occurs in other media such as woven fabrics and mosaics.   Optical fusion is not a result of digital media. About the time that photography started developing (pun intended) in the 1800s, Artist began experimenting with optical mixtures and light impression. The Impressionists, especially the Pointillists, laid down small areas of color and allowed them to fuse visually to create images. French artist Georges Seurat is known for his wall-sized paintings composed of colored dots. Let’s take a look a work by Hippolyte Petitjean, a lesser known neoimpressionist painter. In the larger
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Do You Need A Marketing Plan?

April 13, 2017
Q: As a freelancer, do I need a marketing plan or can I just wing it? A: Indeed, you do need a marketing plan. Marketing is vital for your business success. You cannot hope to succeed in your creative enterprise without one. In order for your business to do well, you, as the owner, need to (in Freelance Road Trip terms) map out your trip before you get behind the wheel. In a sense, your marketing plan is more important than your business plan, since you cannot acquire clients and earn revenue without letting people know about you. That’s the essence of marketing. Many freelancers — and I count myself among them — do not like marketing. We find it easier to create things for other to use in their marketing than to market our own work.   Marketing is not selling.   This is something we need to get over. Marketing is not selling. If we understand that we are always marketing on a daily basis in terms of influencing others and building our reputations, it’s a quick translation to marketing our work. You can’t earn income if you have no clients. To get clients, you need to attract them to you. The activities you do to attract clients is marketing.   Why Freelancers Should Use A Marketing Plan A marketing plan removes many of the unknowns in attracting clients. It puts you in control of when, where and how your work will be seen and who will see it. Creating a plan helps you hone in on the kinds of clients you want to work with so that you don’t waste your efforts chasing those who are not a good fit for you. A marketing plan solidifies your hoped-for  future. You have methods and strategies in place that you can follow up on. The key here is to do the follow-up — to execute the plan. A marketing plan clarifies your brand and messaging, so that you do not create confusion for your prospective clients. A marketing plan provides a way to measure the effectiveness of your  promotional efforts. You can differentiate between what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your actions accordingly. A marketing plan, when written, makes it more likely that you will follow through and execute the plan. When you have calendared the days you will send your email promotions, attend a networking meeting, or post work on Behance, you are more likely to actually do it. A marketing plan allows you include a variety of activities and spread them out over a specific time period. It gives you a big-picture point of view. A marketing plan reduces your need for referrals. While referrals and recommendations say a lot about your expertise and professionalism, relying solely or mostly on referrals means you’re letting others control your workflow and your client base. That’s very risky for your business. When you create and implement a plan that includes a variety of channels and platforms, you take the wheel, driving your “vehicle” where you want it to go. You choose your clients. And
design drawing Illustration

Introduction to Light Logic

April 7, 2017
Light logic is a system of using value pattern to create the illusion of real space and form. It is simply the idea that light interacts with form in a logical and expected manner. It always does the same thing. You can rely on it. Light reveals form. We can’t see form without light. In fact, we can’t see anything unless there is light. To draw anything realistically and in a convincing manner requires an understanding of light and shadow and how they work together to reveal the forms we see. Light and shadow work independently of color. Color, of course, will appear differently in shadow than in light, but a form that has multiple colors is still subject to the laws of light and shadow. So light and shadow are primary over the colors of an object. One of the easiest ways to begin to understand light logic is with a spherical form. Take an round form with a smooth surface and place it on a table. Aim a strong light source such as a desk lamp or a flashlight on it, and you’ll create light and shadow relationships. One of the first things to understand about light logic is that the amount of light affects how we perceive form. Under a strong direct light source we will see strong shadows and a lot of reflected light. Under an ambient or diffused lighting shadows will be soft and subtle. When you want to draw accurately and realistically, you use some sort of tonal shading to depict light and shadow. So it’s important to understand what the shadows are doing. Shadows are formed where there is less light hitting a surface. So by manipulating shadow areas, we turn the form. This creates the illusion of volume. This is light logic. No matter what medium you’re using, light logic principles are the same. In sunlight, shadows have a predictable pattern. All the shadows maintain parallel relationship based on the direction of the sun. Under artificial light, shadows are angled away from the light in a radial pattern with the source of the light at the center of the radius. Additionally, in artificial lighting conditions there may be several different light sources causing multiple shadows in multiple directions. It’s a lot easier when drawing to place your objects or your person under a single direct light source. It just simplifies things as you’re learning. When light comes from a low angle, shadows are long. An overhead light creates short shadows. The effects of light logic deal with the light side and the shadow side. On the light side, the highlight is the lightest part of the form. The smoother the surface, the more obvious the highlight. On a sphere and other rounded forms, the highlight is circular or elliptical. On other objects, the highlight will conform to the contours.   Characteristics of Shadows Within the shadows exist the core shadow and areas of reflected light. I’ll demonstrate these below the first I wanted to discuss the difference between form shadow and cast shadow. Form shadows are created where the form does not face the light the light. When surfaces are not
design tutorial

Creating Compositions That Communicate

April 7, 2017
Whenever we create design and art we are composing. Composition is the make up, arrangement or structure of a work, whether it’s music, writing, or visual art. Composition is often used interchangeably with the word design. Composition sits on top of structure and is the visible result of planning and arranging a space. Structure is the foundation or framework that we hang things on. In art and design, we deal with principles of composition and compositional stress, and composition is supported by a formal or informal structure. Structure begins with the frame of reference, or the picture plane. When we compose a drawing, illustration or design, we first begin with the space and its proportions. Portraits are often composed on a vertical structure. Film, video and television are composed on a horizontal structure. Images on Pinterest are vertical, Twitter favors horizontal graphics and Instagram is a square format — a structural shape with a 1:1 proportion or ratio.   Psychological Aspects of Composition We can create different moods and messages  simply in how we create structure and relate composition to it: Horizontal structure with a horizontal composition: calming, peaceful, restful, pastoral. Horizontal structure with a vertical composition: sturdy, static. The relationship of the horizontal and vertical create a cruciform configuration in which the directions cancel each other. Horizontal structure with a diagonal composition: active, energetic, motion. Any diagonal conveys a sense of action. Vertical structure with a vertical composition: monumental, worshipful, heroic, stabile Vertical structure with a horizontal composition: serene, focused, static Vertical structure with a diagonal composition: highly dynamic, active, off-balance. Whether you’re designing a page layout or an illustration, you can use any of the combinations. The idea is to use the elements in order to help communicate your idea, story or message. An illustration of an automobile is more expected as horizontal structure, horizontal composition. It is also static. Place the car on a diagonal axis in a vertical composition and you communicate speed and movement, maybe even danger.       Consider these structural variations using the same composition: Some Design Tips Always compose your layouts and illustrations with the intended purpose in mind. What do you need to communicate? What structure makes the most sense given the use of the work? What compositional stress is most appropriate for the message? How will your design or illustration work across a variety of uses: web site, printed book, ebook?

Create A Social Media Connection Strategy

March 30, 2017
When you’re in business, you use social media differently than you do personally. I was an early adopter on many social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Back then the idea was to connect with almost everyone who asked, to post just about anything from food to puppies, and also to post the same content on different channels. Over time I’ve found it more useful to be circumspect about what I post professionally and personally, where I post it and who I connect with on various social media platforms. I developed a strategy for using social media that evolved into my social media marketing plan. That strategy includes who I connect with and why. I go through a purposeful evaluation process when I receive invitations to connect or friend. Through my Facebook user profile it’s been fun to reconnect with people I knew in school. Some of my profile connections follow my Facebook page and help to promote my articles, trainings and posts. Facebook works for both personal and professional connection, although it’s been more about keeping friends and family updated on my work and activities. I don’t have to explain what I do as often as I used to because they see me in action on Facebook. LinkedIn is another animal altogether. Its purpose is professional networking. My students often connect with me there. I’m more likely to connect with my clients and industry colleagues on LinkedIn than on Facebook because it’s business-oriented and provides greater likelihood of future work. It’s not the place to post pictures of pets or household tips. When I get a request to connect from an old friend or former family member though LinkedIn, I stop and consider carefully before accepting the invitation. I received an invitation from someone who has not been in my life personally or professionally for 12 years. Given what her LinkedIn profile reveals, she would never be a future client nor be able to recommend me professionally. I have no reason to accept her invitation. It just doesn’t make sense to do so. Depending upon how you use LinkedIn it can be very profitable for growing your network. It would seem that the larger your network the more opportunity there is to find clients through it. That is not the case because not everyone is a potential client. I think it’s better to keep a smaller network of people who are likely to work with you, refer you or endorse you because they know you or have a really good idea of who you are, than to connect with everyone who extends an invitation.   6 questions to ask before connecting If there is no logical reason to accept an invitation on LinkedIn, don’t. And no matter what, don’t accept an invitation from anyone without checking out their profile first. Is this person someone that you would recommend? Are they someone who would recommend you? What is the likelihood of you working together and having a good outcome that’s mutually beneficial? Here is a 6-point checklist to help you decide: Do you know the person? If you have met the person, have worked
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A Freelancer’s Guide To Retainer Agreements

March 16, 2017
When you work project-to-project, you can experience inconsistencies in your schedule and revenue flow. One way to mitigate those gaps is with retainer agreements. These agreements are being used more and more by independent creatives seeking regular revenue. A retainer is simply a contractual relationship in which you, the freelancer, guarantee a certain number of hours per month to a client at a specified rate for a predetermined amount of time. Retainers allow you to schedule your work in advance. They provide consistent income as long as the retainer is in effect. They create stability for you in an unstable economy. For me, having a few good clients on retainer means I don’t need to have as many clients. I need only half a dozen or so in order to pay my bills and invest for the future. I have more time for teaching gigs and special projects. Retainer agreements can be time-based, project based or type-of-work based, and are used when providing creative services for a prolonged period of time. When a project involves months of work, a retainer can be a better option than hourly or progressive (milestone or date-driven) billing. Retainers are paid in advance of performance. This guarantees that you get paid, but it also means you must follow through with the work. Because retainers are paid in advance and they are paid consistently, you should provide a cost benefit to the client in the form of value and guaranteed availability. Otherwise, why would they agree to a retainer? Having clients on retainer also means that you don’t need to spend as much time on marketing and promotion. You won’t need to be constantly looking for new clients. Don’t scrap your marketing altogether, however. Doing so would be suicide for your business. You simply change your marketing strategy to pursue better quality clients. The nature of retainer agreements puts you in more of a consulting role. You will be fully away of your client’s needs and services, and you will provide them with preferential attention. The relationship is clearly and equally reciprocal. You invest in the client’s success and the client invests in yours. To make retainer arrangements work, you need to be strategic in who you work with. Not every client is is right for a retainer relationship. They need to be people you want to work with for a long time. You need to choose clients who will not expect you to provide services beyond your normal scope of work (for example, writing press releases or walking their dog), who will pay you up front, and who will provide meaningful work. Retainer agreements are ideal for the following types of ongoing creative and support services: Social media marketing Newsletter design Email marketing Web site updates and maintenance Visual branding programs Marketing and branding strategy Content creation Recurring work Complex, long-term projects. Retainers require good stewardship You will want to keep track of the hours you spend for each client so that you’re not overworking and losing money on the deal. If you

Blue Steel: Anatomy Of A Portrait

March 10, 2017
In my article, Show Your Work, I talk about how showing your creative process increases your value to clients. If you are selling your creations to customers and collectors, sharing your “creation” stories will increase your value in their eyes. When I begin any illustration, I have a good idea of how I want it to turn out. During my creative process, that idea usually changes to some degree. You see, the process itself will suggest other options. Consider these suggestions in light of what you want to accomplish with the work, and accept, table or reject as appropriate. In the case of Blue Steel, my original quest was to design an illustrated portrait of the actor, Clint Eastwood. Since I like Westerns, I chose to represent one of his outlaw/cowboy characters rather than his police characters. My original idea was to include a realist background in a light (low value) color palette so that the silhouette of the figure would be the first read. That idea was scrapped fairly early in my process as I began laying in the background underpainting — a wash of neutralized reds. I made the decision to create the areas of greatest contrast not between the figure and the background but between the face and the hat. So when viewing the final work, we look past the gun to his eyes and the steely expression on his face. The first-read focus was shifted. These photos are presented in order as the painting was developed. You should note that it requires a deliberate decision to pause at strategic points during your process in order to document and evaluate your work with a few photographs. This deliberateness is necessary to do if you want to show your work and tell the backstory of your approach, creative vision and technique. Shooting video as you work adds additional authority and credibility.   Technical notes: WinsorNewton transparent watercolor, WinsorNewton gouache, Prismacolor pencils and Derwent Inktense pencils on Fabriano Artistico 100lb paper.  All images are © by Alvalyn Lundgren. To order giclée fine art prints or purchase a license, please contact Alvalyn Lundgren. Related Reading: Light and Shadow In Skin Tones Using Color Zones In Portraits  

Using Visual Planes in Design and Art

March 10, 2017
Planes are probably one of the least known formal elements of design outside of the classroom, but understanding what they are and how they’re used is crucial for anyone engaged in creating visual art and design. Anything that we see and use that has 2-dimensions, whether it’s a page in a notebook, a TV screen or a browser window is 2-dimensional. Some background on formal design elements Among the formal elements of visual art and design (which covers graphic design, illustration, photography and fine art among other disciplines) are these 4 conceptual elements: Point — a position in space; Line — a point in motion or a series of points; Plane — a line in motion or a series of lines; Volume — a series of planes or a plane in motion. By formal we mean that something is related to form, which is the total outward appearance of a thing. By conceptual we mean that the element does not physically exist but we understand it as being present. In other words, we perceive it but don’t actually see it. It’s implied. Shape is a visually defined or designated area that has two dimensions height and width. That means it is a plane with a defined edge. It is a formal element of design but it’s not conceptual. Form is a visually defined area that has three dimensions. Form has volume, and is the 3-dimensional expression of shape. A form is the total of all its shapes. A cube is the 3-dimensional expression of the square. A cube has 6 sides — each one square or rectangular (compressed from a square). A sphere is the volume that relates to the circle, and a pyramid is the volumetric expression of the triangle — a flat shape. Any form can be sliced up in any direction into a series of planes. With the exception of the sphere — which has no planes — the shape of the form changes depending upon our point of view. Planes In Real Space So what is a plane? It is a conceptual area having both length and width but no depth. So even in three dimensions planes are two-dimensional. The depth of a plane is so minimal in relation to the length and the width that we consider it to not exist. Plane is the same concept in 2-dimensional and three dimensional space. Planes function in both 2 dimensions and 3 dimensions. When you draw or paint, you’re working 2-dimensionally on a plane — the paper, board, tablet or canvas surface. To create the illusion of volume in 2 dimensions you need to create the understanding of conceptual planes: foreground, midground and background. A three dimensional volume is made of a series of planes. One of the easiest ways we can understand the idea of a plane in three dimensions is with a traditional book. Each page in the book is a plane. The page has length and width, and is easily measured in those two dimensions. Sheets of paper are planar forms. The multiplication and repetition of these planar forms creates the volume of the book. Each sheet of paper in the book sits on a different
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Contracts Protect the Freelancer and the Client

March 1, 2017
As I write this article I’m in the middle of a contract negotiation involving copyright and licensing of one of my character designs. I worked with a local organization for a number of years to produce a community event. As a member of the organizing team I received a small sum in most years as compensation for my work. Most of my time spent was pro bono. At no time did we have a written contract. I resigned from the organizing team six months ago but since discovered that the event was continuing to use my visual designs for certain promotions. So I sent the owner an invoice for a license fee and he balked at paying it. The issue that the event owner had was that because he paid me he thought owned my work. Ownership is a common assumption among clients, especially when there is no contractual relationship. It is one of the best reasons why freelancers should always use contracts while working with clients. Learn from my experience so that you don’t have to learn from your own. A contract puts everything in writing so that everyone knows the expectations, the terms, what rights transfer, when they transfer, and when they revert. A contract protects the client from wrong assumptions and protects the freelancer from being assumed upon. Section 204 of the United States copyright law specifies that copyright does not transfer unless it’s in writing, and it has to be the copyright owner who is making the transfer. There is only one other way to transfer a copyright and that is via a legal judgement. Here is the law as stated at copyright.gov: 204. Execution of transfers of copyright ownership (a) A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent. (b) A certificate of acknowledgment is not required for the validity of a transfer, but is prima facie evidence of the execution of the transfer if— (1) in the case of a transfer executed in the United States, the certificate is issued by a person authorized to administer oaths within the United States; or (2) in the case of a transfer executed in a foreign country, the certificate is issued by a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States, or by a person authorized to administer oaths whose authority is proved by a certificate of such an officer. So while I worked with this event for the better part of a decade and received a percentage of proceeds most of the time in exchange for my time and visual designs, at no point did the rights to my work ever transfer to the client. Why not? We had no written contract. >Because the owner of the event is also part of a local cover band, I put it to him like this: Just because you cover the song does not mean you wrote the song.  So, fellow freelancers, first of all never work
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Taxing Topics: A 9-Point Q&A For Your Schedule C

March 1, 2017
The first 3 1/2 months of the year are known in the US as tax season. If  you are an independent creative professional, that means you get to fill out your Schedule C once again, or for the first time. But creative freelancers and tax forms are sometimes a difficult mix. These are some common deductible questions I receive from students and coaching clients. I provide short, concise answers to them with this disclaimer: Talk with your accountant, tax preparer or tax attorney to confirm what deductions are available to you. I am not an attorney and I am not offering legal or financial advice. Should I fill out my own return? You certainly can and a lot of people do. The choice of doing it yourself or paying someone else  is up to you. Do you prefer to use a paid service? Would you rather do it yourself? About 80% of small business owners use the services of tax professionals. If you self-prepare your return, be sure to first read up on how to do it. Software such as Turbo Tax® walks you step-by-step through the return and schedules. If you use a professional tax preparer or service, you may deduct the cost as a business expense. My 1099 shows the total of creative fees and expense reimbursements. What do I do about that? Include the entire amount shown on the 1099. Deduct the expense costs on your Schedule C. They will even each other out. I got a 1099 from a side gig and a W2 from my employer. What do I do? Report 1099 income (non-employee compensation) on your Schedule C. Report wage income shown on your W2 on your Form 1040. How do I deduct business mileage? Include business mileage on your Schedule C. If you deduct mileage, be sure to differentiate between business and personal mileage, and deduct only what you have kept written records of. There are some good mileage and car expense tracking apps which send you cvs or html files of your mileage and car expenses. I advise that if you don’t keep records of something, you can’t deduct it. If I work from home, will I get audited if I deduct for my home office deduction? I can’t say. I don’t know if audit risk increases simply because someone claims a home office deduction. My understanding is that the deduction for the home office requires that it’s your only place of business, and that it’s used exclusively for business. You can’t rent a co-working space or office somewhere else and also deduct your home office expenses. You can’t deduct for a home office if it’s part of your kitchen or master suite. Can I pay myself a salary and deduct it as a business expense? You can take profits from your business as a salary or as a draw, and don’t need to do any withholding. You will pay self-employment taxes based on the net profit shown on your Schedule C. Are my art supplies a Cost-of-Goods or Office Expense

5 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Color

February 10, 2017
Although we see in color, have favorite colors, and use color for practical reasons every day, we aren’t necessarily aware of what color is, how we see it, and how we use it. I pulled these 5 principles from my complete course in color theory, because they are stunning aspects that dumbfound many people. 1] Color does not physically exist. That red ballcap is not really red, grass is not colored green, and the sky is not filled with blue.  Color is a perception caused by light waves received by our photoreceptor cells and stimulating our optic nerves to tell our brains that we’re seeing red, green and blue. Nothing is actually colored. We see color on an object because the object contains pigment that reflects and absorbs light waves. What is reflected by the pigment is the color we perceive. 2] Color is energy. Color is a property of light. White light, aka visible light, is that part of the energy spectrum that we can see (rather than hear). White light is a blend of various wavelengths from red on one end to violet on the other. 3] Color is dynamic. Because color is a property of light and is measured like sound in amplitude and wavelength frequency, some colors advance, meaning they are seen more quickly, and others recede. Reds are longer in wavelength than greens or blues, which is why we see red so quickly at a distance. Red is used in highway signage systems to catch our attention when we need to do something immediately, such as STOP! 4] Black and white are colors. Black, white and grays are colors but are in a different category of color than the 12 hues. Black, white and gray are not hues because they lack chroma, and they’re not browns (chromatic neutrals) for the same reason. Black, white and gray are achromatic (without color). But, in order to perceive them, we need pigment to reflect and absorb light waves. For example, black is perceived when the entire white light spectrum is mostly absorbed by a pigment. Very little light (although there is always some light) is reflected by the pigment. With pigment, we can always make black darker by casting a shadow on it. White is the result of the entire visible light spectrum being reflected back at high amplitude.   5] RGB and RYB are both correct. There are 2 kinds of light. Direct light is created by a source, such as the sun and stars, fire, light bulbs, electronic devices, and bioluminescent critters. Indirect light is reflected from the surfaces of objects. Direct light is required before indirect light can happen. Direct light is known as the additive color system, where mixing its 3 primaries, red, green and blue, together creates white light. This is the RGB system which covers all your lighting and digital devices. Indirect light is known as the subtractive color system and pertains to anything that contains pigment. Its primaries, red, yellow and blue (specifically, cyan (blue), yellow and magenta (red) combine to create

How To Show 3D Volume in 2D Space Using Spatial Devices

February 10, 2017
  How to create space… specifically, how to create the illusion of volume in 2-dimensional art and design. In this tutorial I present 3 spatial devices, or methods, for creating spatial depth. The methods for creating spatial depth — the illusion of volumetric (plastic) space — you can use in your designs and art are: Open form: the image “bleeds” off the edges of the design, giving the viewer the impression that what they are seeing is part of a larger scene; Vertical position: Things that are positioned lower in the picture plane are understood as being closer to the viewer if they are below eye level, and higher in the picture plane if they are above eye level; Diminishment: Things that are smaller in scale are understood as being farther from the viewer. Extreme foreshortening pushes the limits of diminishment to create depth; Linear perspective: Uses the principle of diminishment in relationship to eye level and how we organize information in our visual field; Atmospheric perspective: Things that are closer to the viewer are more detailed and saturated in color; Value: light colors advance on a dark background, dark colors advance on a light background, light colors on a light background recede and are not distinct, dark colors on a dark background recede. Manipulating value contrast creates the illusion of depth; Overlapping forms: When a form is understood to be in front of another, we automatically assume spatial depth. Proportion: objects are depicted in accurate proportions based on how they appear in reality.  

Drawing Basics: Portrait Drawing Tutorial

February 10, 2017
A demonstration tutorial from my sketchbook using a bearded man as the subject.  
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3 Reasons Why Creative Freelancers Should Go Bold Or Go Home

February 3, 2017
A long time ago in a faraway place called Pasadena, CA, I sat in a classroom and heard my instructor say, “You can’t sit around waiting for someone to hire you. The phone’s not going to ring simply because you’re an amazing artist or designer. It’s not going to ring just because you graduated from Art Center and have a stunning portfolio.” The difficult truth is that he was right. No one will call you. No one will “discover” you. No one will find you. And no one will just show up on your website and hire you just like that. Well, maybe occasionally that one will happen. But really, no one is looking for you. Whenever I express my frustration with not getting enough clients (it happens, freelancers!) someone always says “You should be on Behance.” or “Are you on Creative Hotlist?” or “You should advertise in the Workbook” or something similar. The thing with that is, I’m already on those platforms. And despite what their sales reps say, they are not all that effective on an on-going basis for luring clients to you. You can post your work on Behance, Tumblr and Instagram. You can build your website. You can use the latest platforms and marketing channels. But the reality is, no one’s going to find you. Unless you… Do the work of being found The key to being found is not in the platform you use. It is in identifying and engaging with people who can use what you offer. In order to bring people “home” to your web site you have to go out and grab them and bring them in. You need to introduce yourself and invite them in, and give them a reason to accept. In short, you need to go looking for them. Go ahead and set yourself up on various platforms. But don’t rely alone on being there. No platform is going to promote your work for you. That’s your job. From my own experience, we need to move beyond our doubts and fears and take the risk of exposing ourselves in the marketplace. We need to do this frequently. We must be willing to make a few phone calls. We must be willing to network and walk up to total strangers. We must be willing to send a personalized email. We must be courageous to ask for referrals. We need to boldly request appointments, advice and testimonials. We must be determined to ask for the sale.  We need to make a plan and follow through. If you want to work with a certain organization, how will they know you exist unless you reach out and introduce yourself? And when you reach out, you need to know who in the organization to connect with. That requires some sleuthing. Once you know who that person is, how do you craft your introduction so that they will want to know more, recognize that you’re a good fit and are compelled to “hire” you? This also takes some research. It also requires some deep introspection on your part, because you
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10 Items On My Don’t-Do List

February 2, 2017
I keep a Don’t-Do list. I spend most of my efforts on my to-do lists, agendas, and getting things done,  but a few years ago I began a list of things I don’t want to do. Managing my time and being effective in my work and personal life lies as much in what I decide NOT to do as in what I decide to do. Keeping Yourself Accountable There is a statement in the Bible about not allowing the little foxes to overrun the vineyard. I think this is good advice for creative solopreneurs. We are each accountable to manage our own time. Allowing small, insignificant things to distract and take over is not good for my business, and probably not for yours. I started my list to remind myself to avoid certain actions, behaviors and attitudes that get in my way. Things that distract me from my destination, that take time or that don’t fit, are added to the list. These are 10 business-related items on my Don’t Do list, not in any particular order. Don’t answer incoming calls from 800 numbers or numbers not in my contact list. I either decline or let the call go to voicemail. Then I decide whether to call back or not. Don’t respond to clients’ emails, texts or phone calls outside of my business hours. This guards my time and supports my productivity. There are no design “emergencies.” Don’t respond to unsolicited emails or sales pitches. Like you, I find myself added to all sorts of email lists I didn’t sign up for. I regularly click the unsubscribe link and then clear the email from my inbox. It’s similar to voicemail. I use folders to sort, bulk-delete irrelevant email without reading it, and aim to zero out my inbox every day. Don’t obsess over mistakes, problems or negative feedback. Worry slows me down, wastes time, and crams my head with unproductive thinking. Don’t keep my email open all the time. I set 2 times each day to read, sort and respond to emails. I try to keep these sessions to 10 minutes. By controlling when I manage email, I get more work done because I’m not being interrupted. Don’t pursue tactics or spend money that do not build income or influence. For this reason, I no longer submit to design awards competitions, join certain groups or promote my work on certain platforms. Don’t discount my fees. Reduce the scope of work instead. Don’t accept a new client if there’s even the slightest hint of trouble ahead. Spotting trouble becomes easier the more experience you gain with problem clients, unfortunately. I’ve had my share of those. If, in preliminary conversation with a client something is said, a direct question is not answered directly, or a tone of voice changes in a way that makes me uncomfortable, I politely decline the project. Don’t continue in a conversation where an ad hominem comment has been launched. Quickly end the discussion. Don’t be concerned about appearing weak by not responding.
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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 YP.com, 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. Neither is income-generating. 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 require 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 approaches 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 for self-promotion? Does it fit with your values and life goals? Will it offer a great amount of creative freedom? Decide on a set of criteria to guide you in whether a project is worth it.   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 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 to follow 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

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