Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Taco Heaven

Hey guys! I have a t-shirt for sale on Cotton Bureau. It's called "Taco Heaven" and you can order it here. There’s a few different styles and options available, pictured below. They all look great if you ask me!

These shirts are perfect for any taco lover or clothing wearer in your life, but they are also only available till February 5, so act fast! Buy one (or a bunch) if you're interested, or just spread the word if you like! Thanks so much!

Monday, December 29, 2014


I have less to say about invoices than I did about income-tracking spreadsheets, but I did re-design my invoice template this year, and since I'm reasonably happy with it I figured I might as well share that here as well:

This is pretty straightforward, I think. I just update the INVOICE NO. and DATE as well as the other fields:

"To" is the person who receives the invoice. "Ordered By" is the art director or other person I've been working with on the actual job. Sometimes they are the same person, but if they aren't, it's good to include my contact's name in case anyone in the billing department wonders who the hell I am.

As much info as I can include about the specifics of the job. If the client has an official description or purchase order number, that goes here as well.

Usually "none," but occasionally I have to charge for excessive revisions, kill fees, and so on.

The most important part! I write this number in a bigger font size than anything else on the page, so it's easy to see. I have that thing about "Due within 30 days" on there to protect myself, but I'm not a big stickler about it. I've been lucky enough to have pretty good clients but if I ever have to go after a deadbeat this will come in handy.

My contact info and Tax ID stay the same, so they're a permanent part of the template (background) layer in Photoshop.  (I used to have a crappy old Word document, but it was ugly, featured design elements from an outdated version of my site, and probably didn't even look the same on all my clients' computers.) Once everything is updated, I save the file first as a .PSD and then a flattened .PDF, which I email to the client.

A note about color: When designing this invoice, I tried to consider the needs of the clients who would be using it. Since I send it electronically, I was tempted to go full-color, with a bright background and all sorts of other details, but for all I know, some of my clients may need to print off hard copies and would resent the drain on their printer ink. Instead, I settled on the more conservative version above, which should work well even if printed out in grayscale.

Friday, December 19, 2014


As the year draws to a close, I thought I'd talk about something you don't hear too much about in the illustration world: paperwork!

When I started working steadily, I realized I needed a system to keep track of my various assignments, income, expenses, and so on. For a while, I just scrawled everything in a notebook and stuffed all my receipts into an envelope only to sort them out at tax time, but eventually I streamlined the process into something that works much better. I now keep simple spreadsheets to track my expenses and income.

The "income" one is far more interesting, and I refine it every year, to better suit my needs as my career grows. Here's a screenshot as well as a breakdown of what I put in each column, and why:

All the specifics (dates, clients, fees, etc.) are made-up, so don't read too much into them

This is the date the job came in. Handy if I need to comb through emails to find details or particulars about the assignment at a later date.

New for 2015. I used to be able to keep this kind of stuff straight in my head, but as I get more work, it's hard for me to remember overlapping deadlines. The plan for this year is to write the date sketches are due in this box, then replace it with the date they were actually turned in as I submit them.

Same basic idea as "SKETCHES" above.

This is the date on which I submitted an invoice. Depending on the client, I might hear right away that my final art was approved, and I can invoice on the same day. Other times, though, the art director needs to present my art to editors and other staff, and by the time they all approve it, sometimes the word doesn't get back to me. If I haven't heard anything in about a week, I check in with my contact and make sure it's okay to invoice.

Self-explanatory: for whom I did the job. Right now I'm still using pretty broad descriptions of these, but as I do multiple jobs for different departments/publications at the same parent company, I may have to be more specific in the future.

My friend, the illustrator Mark Zingarelli, once suggested starting these with an arbitrarily high number, so it wouldn't look like my first couple invoices were my first couple jobs. That has worked out well!

The date the check arrives. This is more for my own reference (keeping track of the time between invoicing and getting paid) than anything else. For tax purposes, it's more important to know when I've actually deposited the check, but that's only an issue at the very end/beginning of the year.

How much I got paid. This automatically gets totalled up at the bottom so I don't screw up the math doing it myself.

Everything else I want to note about the job. Usually a sparse description is sufficient, but if a client has a purchase order number or submission ID they want noted on the invoice, I jot that down here too.

The color-coding is kind of a new element as well, to help me keep things straight when I'm working on several jobs at once. The jobs that are in white are completed, while the ones highlighted in yellow still require something else from me, whether it's sketches, final art, or just writing up the invoice. Also I use a different color scheme overall from year-to-year so I don't accidentally open up the current year's records when doing the previous year's taxes, and so on.

Anyway, I hope that wasn't too boring! I know when I was starting out it was hard to find this kind of information so I thought I would share my method in case it helps any newer artists out there. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Got a weirdly specific request in my recent portfolio review: to include more drawings of mythical/fantasy creatures: dragons, unicorns, etc. To that end, here are some designs for a possible griffin character.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Flea market

Man oh man do I love flea markets, yard sales, and junk shops. So much so that I designed my newest postcard around that idea, and sent it to like 150 different art directors and editors. Hope it brings some fun new assignments my way!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Runaway pig

This past weekend, I attended the Western PA SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. The highlight for me was getting a one-on-one portfolio review from Amy Cherrix, editorial assistant at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

She helped me see what my strengths are, but also challenged me to take some risks and try stuff outside my comfort zone. For example, she suggested that I start sharing some sketches so editors and art directors can get more insight into my process. I know I tend to equate my "best" work with "work that took me an agonizing amount of time and effort to complete," so it's difficult for me to see value in the simple and easy, but I'm trying.

That said, here's a little sketch of a piglet running away from home:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Studio tour

The topic for tonight's #kidlitart chat on Twitter is "show your studio space," so I took a couple terrible photos of mine and figured I might as well share them here as well.

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This apartment marks the first time in my life I've ever had a dedicated studio space, separate from the rest of my residence. It's not a room exactly, but a smallish (approx. 7" x 9") den, set off from the hallway connecting my bedroom to the bathroom. Somehow, I managed to fit just about everything I need in here, as well as a bunch of stuff I probably don't.

Below is the "drawing" portion of my studio: flat files containing all my original artwork that's too big for conventional-size boxes, an old drafting table I've had since junior high, and assorted other storage. I can see my silkscreen supplies here, even though this isn't where I do my screenprinting.

On the walls are (l-r): a print by me, an old Mickey Mouse board puzzle, a poster from the local craft fair "Handmade Arcade," a Small Press Expo poster by Tony Millionaire, and a print by Sam Bosma. The smaller prints on either side of the bulletin board are by Derek Yaniger. Underneath the Handmade Arcade poster is a small wooden sign that reads "Industry is Virtue the Idle Never Know" that I bought at a flea market.

And now here's the computer side, where I honestly spend more time. The metal rack to the left of my desk houses reference material, my "to read" / "deal with this later" piles, a handful of comic strip reprint books, and a couple vinyl toys, a Superman bank, and my childhood View-Master. Underneath the lamp I've got some old children's books (mostly Little Golden Books), plus boring work stuff like contracts and purchase orders and receipts.

Finally, here's a panorama of the whole area, so you can see how it all fits together. What else is of interest? The window on the left is full of SCBWI newsletters and design magazines. That's my ukulele in the box on the floor next to the nightlight--I enjoy busting it out from time to time when I need a little procrastination to help my sanity. Unfortunately, those windows face a brick wall so I don't get a ton of natural light, but it's still worth it to have my own dedicated work area for a change.

(Not pictured: cats.)