Sunday, October 25, 2009

Studio Makeover, A New Goal

I haven't cleaned my studio since I moved in with Reg in 2003. That's That's nearly 7 years. Every once in a while I would scoop up a superficial layer of artwork and store it, throw away some reference print-outs and some miscellaneous debris, but other than that, I haven't made much effort to change my ways. I have a huge drawing table (got it for a steal--100 bucks about 10 years ago from a guy I shared a house with), but have only really been using about a third of it in the last few years because it's been covered in art supplies and other stuff. So I finally decided to do something about it. It's taken the better part of a week, but I've finally gotten it cleaned and organized. You might notice that the keyboard is broken, dropped in the process, a small price to pay for a clean and organized studio. The process has been a kind of excavation, turning up old work and discovering just how bad I used to be.

Here's what it looks like now:

This is what it used to look like:

March 2006

July 2009

This is Probably Going to Sound Embarrassingly Earnest, but...

Right now, I'm not anything close to a full time freelancer. Until recently I felt like I had failed as a freelancer, and was very much on my way to giving up the idea that this would ever happen. But with the encouragement of Regina and a few friends and acquaintances, I've been inspired to redirect my energy towards this goal and am determined to be well on this path by the end of next year. The first thing I've done is tried to identify what my weaknesses are and address them. Organization has been one major setback, and so cleaning the studio was one more small step in the process of becoming more organized and better prepared.

Another problem is that for a variety of reasons, my work has been inaccessible to anyone but a very small audience. To broaden the appeal of my work I've redirected my focus towards children's markets and have slowly built up my portfolio with more kid friendly pieces and pieces based on classic children's lit. Apparently I had forgotten why I wanted to do this in the first place: before I went to art school or had any formal training my goal had always been to make illustrated books, both for children and adults. Since graduation I've meandered in a lot of different directions, and more recently have tried to do editorial work, something I never had much aptitude for and something I didn't even know existed before college.

Also, because of a lack of discipline and focus early on, I lacked a certain amount of technical skill. This is something that can fortunately be learned and practiced, so to this end I've started doing more life drawing, anatomy studies and applying myself to making more credible spaces with more accurate perspective. In the past I've tended to neglect backgrounds and focus mainly on figures and now I'm more focused on complete scenes and multi-figure tableaus. Color is also something I've been paying more attention to.

Tin Salmunic, Angelique Benicio and Frank Stockton

Aside from Regina who is my best friend and my greatest support, three people have stood out as inspirations: Tin Salmunic, Angelique Benicio and Frank Stockton. Tin said something that really hit home, "Don't decide what your limits are until you've pushed them." Tin has been nothing but encouraging and supportive and I am grateful to have come in contact with him even though we haven't yet had the opportunity to meet in person.

Angelique is a friend from college who I recently have gotten back into contact with. Angelique is a powerhouse, a single mom who has been determined to make her living from her skill as an artist since she moved back to the states from an 8 year stint in Paris and Brazil. Just a few months after moving here she's already achieved this by doing commissioned sculptures but like me is very much interested in getting into Children's illustration. We've both been encouraging and helping one another to make this happen.

Frank Stockton is another illustrator who has encouraged me both personally, and through his very inspirational blog. You can check his blog out here:

And check out Tin's blog here:

And Angelique's website is here:


  1. Anonymous8:00 PM

    It's ironic to hear you talk about freelancing just as I read this today feeling exactly the same about the subject.

    I think that you have taken a huge leap in your work since looking back through your blog. BTW watching how you work and improve is inspiring!

    Looking forward to seeing more.

  2. Your post came up as anonymous, and I'm curious to know who you are, but I appreciate your kind words nonetheless!

    I agree about the huge leap. Yesterday I took a look back through my blog and could see how I was searching for a style, and all my struggles with some of the more technical aspects of drawing. Everything that I'm doing now is also based in things I've been experimenting with progressively, and seem to have evolved naturally from that process.

    It was also a little painful to relive all my struggles with low rent freelance jobs with art directors who had no interest in my personal style. They just wanted someone who could do the job for the cheapest rate. I would get angry and frustrated as I walked into one bad situation after another, dealing with people who had little or no experience with freelancers.

    It's not as though I don't still have much room to improve, but I think recent pieces represent a pivotal point in my development as an illustrator. It's really exciting for me, and my confidence is building. My process is more consistent and effective, and I feel more confident that the work that will result will be more satisfying, and that I can have confidence in the quality of that result.

    There's a joy in the work I'm doing now that I seldom have experienced. Each new piece gives me a new kind of pleasure. Not everything I do is successful, but more often than ever, I feel this.

    I don't feel on par with the illustrators I admire most, and I may never reach that level. I'm not going to be the great draftsman that some of those illustrators represent, but I feel I do have my own unique voice, and more than ever I'm able to articulate this.

  3. Siigh....your studio: I am so jealous. Such nice space-I LOVE IT! You should see my small crammed piece of shit apartment where I find myself like a hermit pasted in the corner at my computer- It is almost embarrassing :)

    About your previous statement regarding your work: I would have to disagree respectfully. I think you work is just as good on a commercial level as anyone else's and I don't think that it is geared towards such "specific" crowd. If you looked at Jillian Tamaki, whose work has some stylistic similarities to yours, she has made it really big time....and there is Yuko Shimizu, whose work 'screams' "Asian" culture/influence and style, yet she has found a happy place in the western commercial industry. You need to stop assuming how other people are perceiving your work and simply develop a mindset where you are showing your work everyone, never limiting your audience..and also have to force yourself to be very productive, regardless of your slow way of working. :)
    Your work is "very" good. Your new pieces always inspire my and I have downloaded every one of you pieces into my "Jed" folder that is found in my inspiration folder on my desktop......Now GO KICK SOME COMMERCIAL ASS!!!!!!! ;D

  4. Thanks Tin! I'm lucky to have the space that I have, but keep in mind it's also our laundry room!

    As for your remarks: I really get insecure with this stuff sometimes and constantly question the quality of the work I do. In the past I've had more confidence in my work than was warranted and so my inclination these days is to second guess myself. Your words are always encouraging and confidence building and I'm grateful for them.

    I'm doing the work I want to do and regardless of who my work may or may not have appealed to in the past, I think the work I'm doing now is much stronger. I'm a big fan of the artists you mention--Tamaki and Shimizu--but I don't feel that my past work was anywhere near as accomplished as theres and I don't feel I had quite developed my own voice.

    Now I feel like my work is strong enough to compete in that arena--not that I have their level of skill or accomplishment, but that my work is striking enough to catch someones eye in the way that their work caught mine.

    I'm working slower than even my usual slow pace these days because I'm being a lot more meticulous and taking a lot more care with these recent pieces. I'm doing this because I can and because I'm not on a deadline. The more I develop better work habits the faster I'll get, so hopefully I'll develop a little more speed in the near future.

    Thanks again for your generous encouragement!