Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Make A Living As An Artist-You Can Do It!

Hey everyone! Happy Thursday. How are you? I am doing great. I wanted to share something with you all because I think that it's important if you want to make a living as an artist. When I say artist, I don't just mean someone who draws or paints, I mean any creative. As you know I make my living as an illustrator AND a writer. For illustration slash "artist" I work in many areas. That is how I make a living.

People always ask me for advice on how to do this, what's the trick, secret, etc? Well the truth is, IF YOU REALLY WANT THE TRUTH, and most people don't, is that making your living as an artist is HARD. Do you hear me? It's hard. It's one of those careers that has a lot of rejection and sometimes months where you don't have any work coming in. 

I started my art career in animation. I worked 80-100 hours a week and put in 110% giving it my all on 10 films back to back to back... and I thought, "well I'll always have work because I work so hard and people like that." HA! Joke was on me. In 2003 traditional animation hit a real low with the closing of Disney Florida. Over here in La la land we had already seen it fall and then that was the final nail. Everyone was out of work, I am talking hundreds of qualified people who all had to reinvent themselves. Which we all did.

I continued to work in animation for years from project to project and that was great, but also hard as the traditional.hand drawn jobs became fewer and fewer. I loved drawing for kids so I went into children's books and I am happy to say that I am about to start on my 20th. I love illustrating for kids' books, but it doesn't cover everything as they take a long time. So what else do I do? I still work in animation, I paint, I do commissions, I do graphic design, I do logos, I do greeting cards, I work as a character designer, background painter, visual development, I am a colorist, I do infographics.....get it? I work on tons of different things and that is how I am making it as an artist. Truth is, I am not sure I could do anything else. This is what I know.

I am also a writer-but that is for another day. I work as a consultant (see my workshop and consulting pages) and help writers reach their goals. I am going to have a course for creatives called I Love Mondays, so please sign up for my newsletter for information on that.

I really want people to know that they can make a living as an artist, but until that is ready, here is a GREAT video from Marie Forleo (who is one of my business coaches-I am in B School and learning from her all the time) I hope you like it, it's really great and she basically says what I just said in her cute, Marie way. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Andreas Deja's Book on Disney Animation

Yay! How cool is this? Andreas was my first supervising animator at Disney on Hercules. When I met him I was clueless about who anyone was in the industry, I just thought he was the hilarious guy I met in my friend Jacquie's cubicle when I was getting my drawings looked at. LOL.. He was an amazing friend to me when my mom was dying. He is one of the best people I have ever met.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why You Should All Read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Okay anyone who went to highschool or who lives in the real world, read Thirteen Reasons Why-I am planning to blog about this book on both my blogs-But I will say this, unless you were homeschooled, this is the shit that goes on in high school and sadly even as adults. Not everyone commits suicide, but what people do and say does impact others period. I honestly believe this book should be required reading in the 9th grade (maybe 10th) starting now. I'll post the blog links when I get to them, I am being more thoughtful about them than my usual ramblings because of the subject matter-so it's just a question of time.

And I know this book is a few years old, I didn't read it for a lot of reasons, mostly because when I read the title I said to my friend in the bookstore "shit this is about a girl who kills herself, I think I need to wait" I waited. I kept picking it up at Barnes and Noble and carrying it around and then ultimately putting it back. It's haunting and beautiful and sad and truthful in every way. Go read it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Mork and Why Suicide is the Worst Day of Your Life

Okay so the saddest news went around the globe yesterday and we all learned that our beloved Robin Williams took his own life. It's beyond tragic, but the first thing that popped into my head wasn't anything nasty like, "suicide is selfish" or "why would he do that, he had everything?" Just some of the posts I have seen on social media in the last day. The first thing that popped into my head was, "this is so sad, I wish he could have found a way to make the pain stop." I also know that the "funny" people are often the saddest. Humor is a way of coping with all the shit that happens in life. I have a motto, that which does not kill me, makes me funnier, and while that is meant humorous, it's really the truth.

Some of you know and I have been so worried about sharing this information, but now I figure screw it, if it helps one person than it's worth any ridicule I may get. I drove to San Francisco in 2009 twice to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Two times I made that decision. I simply could NOT take one more second of the pain I was in. Here is something that is important for people to know, I do NOT suffer from depression or bipolar disorder. Yes I am an artist and a writer and I could easily have either, but I don't and yes I have seen doctors, especially when I was suicidal after my mother's death in 2004. I thought, I am not normal because the pain gets worse every day not better-there must be something clinically wrong with me. There wasn't, I was just in pain.

The fact that I don't have a mental disorder is probably 100% of the reason that I was able to walk away from the rail and say, "okay this pain I am sucks, but I don't want to die, plus that really looks like it will hurt." Humor again, my go to is always humor.

It wasn't just about losing my mom, although that ripped my heart out and the pain is something that I can't truly describe-even though I am a writer-that's how bad it was. It was like losing a child. I felt like a part of me died with her.

Before mom died, my step brother was killed in a car jacking in Phoenix while I was living and working in Sydney, I felt like if I was in the States it wouldn't have happened, which is wrong, but it's how I felt. My brother and I were really close all through high school and college so his death was the beginning of what I now call the "LOSS DECADE" of my life.

Then Sept 11th happened and I lost friends, then mom got cancer, then grandma died, then mom died and as if all this wasn't hard enough-traditional animation crashed and I lost my career.

Someone on FB was posting about Robin Williams' death and saying that money is never a reason to kill yourself. Well to this person I say, that is so wrong. I don't know what issues with money Mr. Williams had, but I do know for a fact that when you go from having money and a career to being worried every single day about money and paying bills and for me being homeless, it does take it's toll. It's about so much more than money, it's about feeling like a failure. It's about feeling like you aren't worth anything in society, it's about self doubt and feeling like you are the only one who isn't making it work. Even if none of that is true it's how it feels. For me, not having money coming in for 8 years up to when I decided to jump was enough to make me feel like I was failing at every turn. The stress of always wondering if I could afford to eat and pay my rent was debilitating. No matter how many jobs I applied for and tests I took for jobs, nothing was working for me, so yeah MONEY was a huge part of my decision to jump.

So where was I? Oh yeah after mom died in 2004, I went to Denmark for a year, I needed the work and it was a great escape from reality, but what was so bad about that decision is that I didn't deal with her death at all. Nothing in Denmark reminded me of my mother and so it was new. "I am fine" became something I said all the time when people asked me how I was doing about mom. When I came back to the US in 2005 I was lucky enough to have a job in AZ. Arizona! UGH that is where mom lived so all the pain from her death came right back, but at least I was working.

Then that job went bust and I moved to middle America for another job that went bust after just 5 months-these places went out of business or had layoffs, I wasn't getting let go, the jobs were ending.  I moved back to Los Angeles still pretending everything was fine and then the 4 weeks I was working at Disney ended and I was back to fear, worry, stress etc. Then the phone call came.
"Your father is brain dead and we need you or your sister to come pull the plug" Yes that is what I heard. I feel into a deep despair. "OMG I HAVE NO PARENTS LEFT!" and I am in my 30s.

Well my sister decided not to pull the plug and this started a 6 year nightmare of my dad in a home with the mental capacity of a toddler to maybe first grader at best. A lot of the time he didn't know who I was when I called, but he did come out of the coma he was in and was not brain dead. But it was beyond hard to call my own father and he didn't know who I was, I had lost him. I was grieving-AGAIN.

So by the time 2008 rolled around, my depression was so bad that I could hardly function. I was worried all the time about money and I missed my parents so much that it hurt constantly. I had no one to talk to about it as grief counselling is wicked expensive, so started to make a plan for a way out. In 2009 I made the decision to go to San Francisco and jump. My mom and I had talked about her walking across the bridge if she made it out of her cancer, so I would walk across the bridge and then jump.

I knew it was selfish, I didn't care. YOU DON'T CARE when you are in that place. You only care about stopping your pain. Ever have a really bad day? I mean REALLY bad? Like your significant other cheats on you? Your kid dies, your parent dies, you lose your job? Anything like that? And it's ALL YOU CAN THINK ABOUT or TALK ABOUT? You are being selfish because you need to be in that moment, now imagine that magnified about 100 times and that is how one feels when they are committing suicide.

I knew that people would be sad, I knew that I would be missed, I knew what it would do to my remaining family, I didn't care. None of that mattered because the grief and pain I was feeling compounded by the constant fear of being homeless and feeling like a failure was more than I could take. Luckily for me when I got to the bridge and looked over the side something inside of me stopped me and even though I went back a second time-because of course I felt like a failure for not even being able to kill myself right-the same thing happened and I stopped and chose life.

Again, I do not have a mental illness so that choice was an easy one, but for someone dealing with all this crap and suffering from depression? Forget it, that leap is saving them from the hell they are in. It always bewilders me when people say "suicide is so selfish". Of course it is, it is the worst day of your life if you want to die. Now add a mental illness like being bi-polar or depression and then you don't have the skills or reasoning to not take your own life.

Mr. Williams was a great actor, comedian and from what I have heard person, but he was struggling with something bigger than any of us can see-well most of you who haven't been there. I hope that in his death people will really start thinking about the way they judge others in a more compassionate way and also really understand suicide for what it is, a way out.

Here is a great article that I want to share in case anyone here is thinking about taking their own life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

SCBWI Summer Conference and My Thoughts on the Weekend

Hi everyone! So most of you who read my blog and have for many years know that I am just as much a writer as an illustrator. I do both. Mostly I make my living as an illustrator, but I do both. In 2001 I joined the SCBWI because I was going to be the next Noel Streatfeild - well in my mind anyhow, then I did something stupid. I decided to follow TRENDS~~ What? What was I thinking? Who does that? Well me, and I wrote three "chick-lit' books, that of course, while published have not brought me fame nor fortune. Big mistake me doing that.

That all said I got busy with animation and didn't renew my membership into the SCBWI until 2012, and now I am super active in two regions and I am even hoping-waiting to hear- hoping, that I will be the new illustration coordinator for the Los Angeles region. Fingers crossed!

The SCBWI is amazing and simply the best place to be if you are at all interested in children's books. Everyone is great and there are so many resources via our membership that I could go on for days, but I won't.

I am writing this because this was my first SCBWI conference and it was great, inspiring and all that-I should be revising my MG or my YA novels or drawing instead of writing a blog, but I have so many people asking me, that I was compelled to.

Overall it was GREAT. I connected with lots of new people and hung out with some friends from a writing class, learned a lot and had fun. All the things a conference should deliver. :)

I think that some people did make it a bit harder to enjoy and this has NOTHING to do with the SCBWI, but rather people who just don't have the sense to be respectable to others, that speaks to them.

The first thing that happened Friday am when I was in the registration line, a woman who I don't know came up to me and said, "Hi, I am so in so from so in so's class (I don't want to use her name or the class she knows me from), and you are the one who thinks she is an illustrator but can't draw."   WTF? Seriously? This happened-and it was 7 in the morning, I had been up since 4. I said, "I am an illustrator, that is my day job." The rude bitch smiled at me and said, "Are you delusional? No you aren't, I hope you aren't entering the portfolio review you'll embarrass us and yourself." I smiled as an RA (regional advisor) from another region stood there with her jaw on the floor-seriously, like a cartoon it was on the floor. The woman walked away like the troll she was and I just let it go. The RA apologized to me and I laughed it off, and of course said, "I am an children's book illustrator, it's my day job, people are just jealous and weird."

She was not the only person who acted totally wrong at the conference, some girl sat next to my friends and me kinda kissing our asses until she found out an agent was next to her and then she stopped talking to us, gave one of our seats away and was bragging about how said agent wants her work.

There will always be at least one person like that at every big event. I just don't understand the way people act. I met tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of amazing new friends, I am open, friendly and enjoy connecting with anyone in this industry regardless of how monetarily successful they are or what level they are at.

I reconnected with many friends from my days at Disney Feature animation. I saw many writer friends from classes and agents that I know.

I may be stupid but I don't believe in kissing ass to anyone for any reason. I think that especially in big events, a person should be genuine and make real connections. This is Los Angeles, and I can tell you, we all see through that bullshit in seconds. So many people become my "new best" friend when they see my IMDB or hear that I worked for Disney for so long, it's just not cool.

Anyhow, so I am digressing. Big surprise as I tend to babble.

The keynotes were all amazing, inspiring and well planned out. I liked how the mixed up illustrators, authors, agents and editors. I think my only suggestion would be to have it be a little more equal to writers and illustrators. While I do both, if I was just an illustrator, I would have felt left out a lot as all the conversations, from everyone except the couple of illustrators who spoke, were addressed to writers.

I am lucky that I am outgoing, but for some it was a bit harder to talk to people they didn't know. The SCBWI members are the best group of people and usually are super accepting to anyone who approaches.

The days started with big group keynote speeches and then we had our breakout sessions, then more speeches and then more breakout sessions or workshops. I of course had to divide mine up since I am an author, and an illustrator and a professional.

On friday I went to two illustrator talks that were great. One of them was from an art director who basically reaffirmed that there is room for all of us, from cartoons to graphic novels to classical art, we can all work in many areas. Of course I am sending him my post card. As someone who is cartoony but does work in many areas, this made me very happy. The woman I mentioned above is not the first person to say something snotty to me about my work-because I have been working a lot for super young kids books and I am cartoony. I also do other types of work and work in many area, so this talk was great for me and what I do.

On a side note, I am not sure when doing cartoons became something to put down. It has happened to me more in the real world where even friends have said, "you're not a real artist" or "you just do those cartoon things".. well I make 100% of my living as an artist, drawing cartoons, so I am actually a real artist. (Sorry to digress, but I don't get it. Cartoons are awesome and guess what, we have to learn human anatomy and life drawing too) 

I then went to a talk about novelty and board books that I had never thought about doing, but do think that it fits my style well and could be fun to try. I was very inspired by the speaker.

Saturday was a little weird for me as I got a massive migraine that isn't even fully gone yet despite trying everything I know and have done for years to get rid of these things. I went to two author talks. One was on series and the other was from an agent about what is working. Yay so happy to hear that the genre I am working in-because I just am writing a story that I love is actually on the rise, just starting to be on the rise and agents and editors are looking for this type of story. So that makes me feel great. I know now that what I am doing is what editors are looking for, now I just need to make it perfect, stand out, get an agent in my 1 in 1000 chance and then get published.. I am getting on that right now. :)

Sunday I still was fighting the headache and I felt sick etc so I had to leave a little early. I went to a workshop on dialogue and voice. Some of you know I have a book that I wrote on dialogue (not published yet) and I used to teach an only course about dialogue, so maybe it was redundant for me to go to this, but I just wanted to make sure that I know what I know and that it's NOT really that different for teens and tweens than it is for writing for adults----PHEW, I am doing it right.

I missed the afternoon one I was going to go to because my migraine was so intense by then that I could barely stand up, much less drive home. I missed JUDY BLUME too---that is how bad it was. I missed Judy Blume's keynote!! OMG, seriously, but I wouldn't have made it home had I waited any longer. 

I have already connected via social media and email with some of the authors and illustrators who I met or just loved their keynotes and I am feeling good about where I am in my stories and I am going to continue to work on my craft-which here is something I have always known, but others were surprised about-THAT PART NEVER STOPS. In this creative life, we always have to grow, learn and get better.

Thank you for reading. I am writing an article for the SCBWI newsletter called Kite Tales this week, I do think that it's for members only, I am not 100% sure on that.

Have a super day, week etc. :)

P.S. My portfolio was in the review, I didn't win anything, but I have already been contacted by two different people about possible work for them and their company. One is an art director from NY and the other is an editor from NY who is passing me to her art director. YIPPEE~

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last Day of July

Omg it's the last day of July! Things are getting really busy for me and I am very excited about all of them.

The first thing happening starting tomorrow is the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles, which is SOLD OUT!

If you don't know, the SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I do both, professionally. I have illustrated about 18 books now and written a few picture books for a mobile app company I worked for in 2012/2013 called FarFaria. I am currently pitching my early chapter book series entitled Uli Driscoll in Trouble, and will have a dummy at the conference attached to my portfolio.

I am currently taking a revision workshop to finally get Ryuan - my then YA, now MG series into better shape. After a few rejections I took a closer look.

At the conference I am splitting my time between writing workshops and illustrator workshops, I am also in the portfolio showcase-and even though I do this for a living-I am still nervous about, but thankfully 19 years of acting and acting training, no one will see that in me on Saturday night.

I am meeting tons of my friends from various writing courses I have been in this year and also of course all my SCBWI CenCal and Los Angeles friends. I am very excited about this.

Secondly is Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search. I met and discovered Lilla Rogers last year and then it became my mission to take her courses and learn how to make more art that sells. I have been in bootcamp since Feb and then took MATS A in the spring and now the GTS.

I have been really grateful that most of what I have made in the classes has been selling, either in prints, licensing or in my shops on products. As well I have been getting contacted a lot more about other projects based on work I have done for the classes. It's been really an amazing journey. So on August 5th, I will start this talent search, which is going to be very fun, hard, exciting and most of all rewarding. I am showing some work from the Feb bootcamp assignment here. Oddly enough none of these were the final pieces and all of these designs have been selling, so it's worth it.

In addition to the two things I mentioned above, the third thing I am doing is the Make It In Design Summer School Beginner track. I chose only one track because I knew I had these other things coming up. It just started so I haven't done anything yet, the assignment is due on the 7th! But since I am gone this weekend, probably I will start it today and finish when I get back from the conference.

On August 9th I am taking an all day workshop on concept with Jill and Martha also through a Path to Publishing
This is for my series, Ryuan.

So besides rewriting a novel, pitching a series, taking drawing courses, being in a contest, I am also working and looking for more work, but I am EXCITED!

This is what being a working artist is all about!! Learning, growing, applying, getting hired, getting rejected, being rich, being poor and everything inbetween!

I hope you are all as busy with exciting things as I am, life is too short to just watch it go by.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Let's Support Each Other As Artists

So I am writing this post not to hurt anyone's feelings or come off as negative, but lately I have really been bugged by the way some of my "friends" have spoken to me about my work. I am not sure if it's jealousy behind it, or just ignorance for having any manners, but I have heard things like this.

"What you do isn't real art, it's cartoons"
"I do support you, I just don't like cartoons"
"You aren't really an artist, you scribble cartoons"
"I didn't know you could draw, I thought you played around with cartoons"

And this could go on forever. Oddly enough these statements are not coming from "fine artists" (which is a whole nother kettle of fish) but from people who also work in ANIMATION! I am not kidding.
Another friend of mine went on and on about how stupid she thinks kids books are and who would pay for that?

So I am writing this today to ask each and every one of you to support each other instead of make stupid insensitive comments like these people have. To be honest and fair I don't love everything my friends do, but I would NEVER in a million years cut them down.

I believe as creatives we need to support each other and lift each other up. Maybe that is just how I was raised.