Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Illusion of Security

In 1992 I was at a crossroads. Try to find a full time job illustrating /graphic designer or take the road of uncertainty and dive into a freelance illustration career. I gambled. To this day I don't really know how I did it. I was married with one kid and they were depending on me to earn a living. My wife had to have been scared but was supportive. My parents I'm sure thought I was nuts - but were also encouraging. My friends said little. I think everyone expected it to last a little while but that eventually I would have to suck it up and get a real job.

Why do we make decisions that go against our passions? Why did I feel like I was taking the risky road? Why do people think that doing what they're naturally good at is a risk? Maybe taking the road well traveled is the risky road...I would submit that we're often motivated by FEAR.

We all crave security. We think we want to know what will happen tomorrow. We hate not knowing where we're going.  We imagine horrible things that rarely come true. We want to know what we're going to be. What we're going to do. How and where we'll live. How we'll pay for things. etc. These aren't bad things to want but they do feed our often irrational fears. Personally I don't know anyone who is homeless. I know people who have had to live with relatives - I lived with both my parents and in-laws in the early part of my marriage. My point is that no matter how bad it gets it's still not as bad as what we imagine.

There is no such thing as security.

The person who has a nice house is worrying about their drug addicted child.
The person who has a nice job just found out that his spouse has cancer.
The person who just got a promotion hates her job.
The person who is fully prepared for retirement just learned that her husband has been cheating.
The person who has the nice car, house, vacations feels empty and perhaps suicidal.
The person who has done everything "right" just got layed off because of the economy.
The person who followed the advice of parents, teachers, and councelors owes more money in student loans than his/her job will ever afford.

I have a lot LESS fear than ever before. I don't chase security. I try to make decisions based on my ability to achieve the goal - not because it's what others think I should do or what I think will make the most money. This has lead to some AWESOME FAILURES! Like my Kickstarter a few months ago. I won't pretend that that one didn't sting. I felt like I got the Sh#% kicked out of me by kickstarter - but it was totally worth it because it armed me.

While those who did it the "right" way might worry about getting a pink slip I find it ironic that by doing it the "wrong" way I have a little less stress about that part of my life. My income comes from many places now and if one falls off - big deal. I earn income from:

freelance illustration
video tutorials
original sales
stock illustration
school visits
youtube partner

Some of these don't pay very much but it all adds up. Earning income from many different places was never written down as a goal or plotted out -it just sort of happened from working each day on that which I love - creating art. The piece above was one of those pieces that painted itself. I was watching the clock while working on it - wondering how hours were melting away as I tried to finish it before I had to run off to class.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Call For Folio Academy Instructors

Folio Academy is extending invitations for quality instructors to contribute their expertise and paying 60% of retail if we receive videos by Jan 1, 2013

Our website was holding us back and the poor organization caused us to halt adding content and focus on the site. We wasted about 6 months when our first programmer didn't pan out. We learned. Ouch. Then we went back to the devil - I mean angel we knew. Sometimes the answer is right under your nose but you're too busy smelling the cookies in the oven...I have no idea where this is going.

Anyway - now we're ready to start extending invitations to participate in the creation of tutorial videos and there are two ways to participate:

1. We have limited times and space for instructors to be recorded in our Utah studio - email me at if interested. We're mostly working with in-state people and those visiting. (not eligible for 60% comission)

2. Produce your own video series for us to upload to the site. If you're interested in creating your own videos here are some guidelines:

DO NOT MAKE VIDEOS until we've seen a sample of your video quality and send you a contract. What we would like to see is a proposal of what you would like to teach, a web portfolio, and a 1-2 min youtube sample video.

The video quality needs to be good - a nicely lit studio or workspace. No water heaters in the background or your mother-in-law walking through your shot asking if the beans are done? Videos need to be shot in HD (720p is a good size)

Good audio that's clear and loud enough.

Great instruction that's easy to follow and understand. No long periods of dead space. Energetic or enthusiasim for the subject that displays your passion.

Videos broken up into logical segments to make searching for specific parts easier.

Screen capture that clearly shows what controls, buttons, and tools you are clicking on.

Again, if you're interested in receiving 60% of the retail sale of your video series you would need to deliver videos to us by the 1st of January 2013. We have an FTP link that's a snap for you to select your video files and upload to us.

Here are some subjects we are looking for.

Figure drawing, anatomy, sculpture, graphic design (beginning, intermediate, advanced) drawing animals for kids, animation, drawing for illustration, drawing for animation, head painting, digital painting in Corel Painter, producing story ebooks & apps, drawing manga, writing children's books or if you have an idea that you think would fit our site - contact us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Free Folio Academy Video - NEW SITE!!!

We're celebrating the launch of our Folio Academy 2.0 website by offering a free video tutorial to anyone who would like to blog about us. It took us longer than we thought but we now have a website that's much more functional than our first version. We figured what better way to say thanks to the people who already know about us and our customers than by offering a little trade - a  blog post for a free video series of their/your choice.

To get your free video you need to:

1. Make a blog entry on your blog between now and Sunday Oct 7th.

2. Mention Folio Academy in your post - but you can write anything about us like:  "I hate Folio Academy" or "Folio Academy is run by a bunch of weirdos" (because it is) or maybe you like us and want to talk about something you've learned from one of our videos. It's totally up to you.

3. You need to link to our homepage here:

4. Send us a message at this link: telling us your blog post is up.


Include the email address you ALREADY used to set up your Folio Academy account OR if you're a first timer with F.A. include the email address associated with your paypal account (this way if you ever choose to purchase a video from us it will be added to the same account/password.)


Most importantly tell us which video you would like us to put in your account for FREE!

So that's it - we're looking forward to adding more and more videos and filling in many of the gaps we have right now. Our long term goal is to be able to offer quality art instruction at affordable prices.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Registering Your Copyright - Pros and Cons

Artists often wonder if they should or shouldn't spend the time, money, and effort to register their copyright. There are some distinct advantages to registering with the US copyright office but there are also disadvantages - some of which you might not have thought of. In the following video I give information from 96 professional illustrators. I asked them if they register their copyrights - their answers might surprise you. In the end it's always good to educate yourself on this subject so you can make the decision for yourself. If you want more information the US Copyright Office has a great FAQ section here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Art Related Job -Worth It? Or A Trap?

Do you get a kick out of watching someone else eat a nice juicy steak - or do you want to tear into one yourself? (or a veggie burger :)

I often hear students receive the advice to get an art related job that's "safer" and easier to land than pursuing their desired choice of becoming a freelance illustrator, writer, or fine artist - so they can later make the transition to what they really want to do. The art related jobs are usually something like art director or graphic designer, animator or even an editor. I would think that in some ways this would be somewhat offensive to art directors, graphic designers, animators and editors who really love their jobs. They're living their dreams and probably don't want to work with people who are settling.

I've had many friends, students, and acquaintances over the years who have opted to work in an art related field. Most of them have NOT transitioned into their dream career after many years in their second choice and many of them never do.

Using your creative mind is taxing - your brain is a muscle - so working 8 hours in in an art job will wear you out. As one of my graphic designer friends puts it, "I've just given all I have to do my job - the last thing I want to do is come home and work on becoming an illustrator."

Compare that to another friend who works in a non-art career. He told me, "All I can think about while I'm at work is getting home to work on my painting."

I'm not saying that it's never a good idea to work in an art related career. One exception that comes to mind is the person who dreams of creating their own "blank" and can learn how to create their "blank" while working for someone else on their "blank" and getting paid to do it.

Choose wisely my fellow artists - regret isn't fun and you don't want to be that person who wishes they hadn't wasted so much time figuring out what they didn't really want to do.

I created the painting above about 10 years ago and I can still remember what it felt like to be free to work on exactly what I wanted to paint at that time. Nothing compares to living life on your terms - free to express yourself creatively.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tutorial: Adding A Photo Background

I was playing with this image the other day and thought I'd make a little tutorial to show how easy it is to add a photo for the background. Sometimes you might not need much storytelling in the background but you also don't want a flat color. If you watch the video you will see that if you paint your foreground image as a silhouette you can easily try different photo backgrounds.

Oh - and the meaning behind the image is up to your interpretation but for me it was inspired by the fact that most of us have much more in common that we might outwardly think at first glance.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Are eBooks/Story apps evolutionary?

If you could ride a horse really fast back in 1860 you might have been able to land a job delivering mail for the Pony Express. You might have even delivered one of your own letters to let your parents know you landed a good job - although not without danger. But in less than two years (in 1861) you would have had to let them know that you were unemployed again - replaced by the telegraph which had been gaining momentum and could do what you did in a fraction of the time.

If you manufactured telegraph equipment or sent telegraphs you too were out of a job about 30 years later - replaced by the telephone. Now many people are finding it possible to live without the land line opting for it's cousin - the cell phone. My father worked for AT&T for 30 plus years and saw a lot of technology changes - he even installed some of the first cell equipment for the Montgomery County police in Maryland and pondered, "This technology is too way will it ever be used mainstream." He didn't realize that phone companies would give the expensive cell phones away in exchange for a monthly contract!

So let's examine publishing. Someone long ago figured out that you could flatten clay into tablets and write on them but they broke easily. The Egyptians created the process of pounding out reeds to make papyrus to write on while the Chinese found a similar product - bamboo -and it was about 100 AD that the Chinese invented paper. So for about 900 years we've been using paper to send, store, and share ideas. That's a pretty big tradition.

I get asked all the time if I think ebooks are a fad? If I think it's worth it to produce them? If I think making apps are better? How I found my programmers? Is it better to try to find an agent and get my book published traditionally? How I plan on marketing my apps? What should I do?

I'm flattered that so many would think I have the answers but the truth is that I'm just a dumb guy who fumbled his way into this industry and is now trying to figure out what my next moves will be.

But for what it's worth - here are my thoughts:

1) I've never seen a new technology evolve into the market with as much popularity as eReaders - and then die off. We have some great forerunners to the publishing industry that give indications that ebooks are here to stay. Music is now digital. Movies are now digital. Photography is digital. Periodicals - digital. You can paint digitally and yes books are also offered digitally. You're even reading my blog digitally - a new method of sharing ideas less than a decade old. So where does that leave paper? I think it will eventually be replaced. Sure there will be some who won't want to give up their paper - I see them as part of a significant group like those who still listen to vinyl records. Are they wrong to like paper - of course not - but will paper be the dominant delivery method of books? I don't think so. Will the children of eBook reading parents have a romantic connection to pulp?

2) If paper goes away what happens to publishers? I think some publishers will thrive in a digital world and I think some won't figure out how to stay relevant. I see a lot of authors and illustrators stuck in old ways of thinking and some keeping an open mind as to how they can take advantage of the coming changes. There are pros and cons of working with traditional publishers and the same is true for indie publishing. Neither one is superior to the other - just different. Is it hard to get an agent and sell your book to a publisher? Yes - and it can take years of trying. Is it hard to publish on your own? No - the hard part is getting the attention of your audience. Becoming a successful author/illustrator will be just as hard if not harder in the future.

3) How can I attract the attention of my audience?  I've read a lot of articles online about marketing eBooks and apps. I've seen a lot of people trying to game the system with fake reviews from relatives and begging "likes" on Facebook. I've heard of people paying for reviews and making up fake awards for their books. Many give their eProducts away for free in hopes of climbing to a higher sales rank on retail sites. I've said it before and I'll say it again: There is no substitution for greatness!

Your product must be AMAZING, EXTRAORDINARY, SUPERB, INCREDIBLE, and UNBELIEVABLE! It has to be extremely beautiful or disturbing or funny or touching or informative or witty etc. I looked on my iPad today and noticed that of the indie apps that I've purchased I found them from friends, review sites, and social networks. None of them came from ads. None of them came from promotional campaigns. None from being asked to click "like". None from FREE!!! None from hype. What they all had in common was an individual sticking their neck on the line and saying, "try this - I like this - you'll probably like it too." And so the "good stuff" will get passed around and generate a viral quality simply because it's good and nothing else.

People say that I'm naive. Perhaps. But I know how and why I buy eBooks and apps. I also know many success stories where the product was so cool that people had to have it - couldn't live without it. When you buy a song on Amazon or iTunes did you buy it because you saw an ad? or did you download it because it was stuck in your head? - in other words it was awesome right?

Am I afraid of making mediocre ebooks/story apps? You better believe it!-YES - it keeps me awake at night. But fear is a good thing - if you're not afraid you probably don't understand how vital it is to create something truly original.

There's no substitute for being awesome! The internet has leveled the playing field making mediocrity hard to sell and celebrating greatness. Be Great! And don't listen to the nay sayers who will tell you that the little guy doesn't stand a chance next to the giants entering the ebook/app craze. There will be many who will write or speak negatively about indie publishing simply because they haven't found success - I would submit in most cases they didn't produce a product that people had to have - so now they're eager to dash the dreams of others - it's just sour grapes.