"How do I get my foot in the door?"

Today I got an email from an artist who has been doing card illustration, but wants to take that "next step" in his career. He asked me, "How do I get my foot in the door?".

I get asked this a lot. The good news is, its easier than ever to get noticed by large publishers, thanks to the internet. Really, getting your "foot in the door" isn't the hard part...its the easy part. Staying there is the really hard part, for the same reasons. The internet has created massive competition and art directors are getting inundated with submissions from quality artists everyday. But you need to get the gig before you worry about keeping the gig, so back to the original question. "How do I get my foot in the door?"

If you're not happy with where your career is right now, you need to determine where you want to be. Then focus your efforts at achieving that goal. Do you want to do concept art? novel covers? comics? What specific genres do you want to work in? What specific companies do you want to work for? Maybe you want to stay in your current market, but want to work for better paying companies. You need to set clear, specific goals.

Next, you need to look at your current portfolio and see if you already have pieces that are representative in quality, format, and genre of your career goal. If you objectively feel you already have those pieces, then its just a matter of making sure the right people see the work. That part is easier now than ever. Work the internet. Post your art everywhere. Have a presence on every web forum/networking site possible. Get to know who the art directors are, and how to submit to them. Network with other artists, preferably those who are already working for the companies you want to work for.

If your portfolio is does not already have the pieces that will make you a slam-dunk hire for your target company, you need to make some new art. Do you want to work for Games Workshop? Do a Warhammer 40k-style sample piece. Wizards of the Coast? Do a M:TG/ D&D type piece. Marvel or DC? You should showcase their characters. Tor Books? Study what they are currently commissioning from their artists and take your cues from that. The key here is that you carefully design your portfolio to cater to the companies you want to work for. Show them that you can not only illustrate their genre, style, or characters, but do it at a skill level better than most of the freelancers they currently hire. You have to exceed their expectations. Really "Wow" them. They already have a stable of artists they are comfortable working with, so your portfolio has to really impress them if they are going to pass over one of their "regular" artists to give you a shot.

That's how you get your foot in the door. Whether you can keep sustaining freelance work depends on your speed, dependability, and professionalism. Building professional working relationships with the people who hire you is the key to a long career as a freelancer. Art Directors depend on you to do consistent, quality work and to always make your deadlines. If you build that trust, they will keep giving you work over and over again. At least until that art director leaves the company...then you have to start building a new relationship with whoever replaces them. And the new art director may already have a group of artists they like to work with. I told you it wasn't easy. ;)



Iron Man Toys, T-Shirts, and all sorts of other stuff

A few years ago I spent several months creating artwork for the Iron Man movie merchandise and toy packaging. Here are a couple examples using my IM illustrations:

Well I spent most of 2009 doing the same for Iron Man 2 merchandise and toys and some of it is finally making its way into stores. Over the next 6 weeks expect to see an explosion of Iron Man 2 merchandise available. Here's a few examples I've found on the web featuring my artwork:


Adventures in Dinosaur Swamp

Here is a look at the drawing for Adventures in Dinosaur Swamp. This was a blast to illustrate. I love multi-genre stuff, and I couldn't resist throwing in a pulp-era jungle babe along with the merc and giant power-armor guy. Fun stuff!


Cover Pencils-Rifts Ultimate Edition

Here is the pencil drawing for the cover of the Rifts main rulebook. This was done in 2005. On the final color version (which can be seen in the "Book Covers" gallery) the energy streams/wisps emanating from the Rift were created using fractals in Photoshop.


Looking back

Here's an old ink piece i did around 2001. It was done with brush and crowquill on Bristol. I love working in this style, but its very time consuming and not very good for deadlines, so I was never able to pursue it as much as I wanted to.

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