I Can’t Write, BUT You Get to Illustrate my Book

Hey I just met you this is crazy here’s my manuscript, illustrate it for me. 

Have you ever been in this situation as an Artist?

How often do people offer you the opportunity to do the artwork for their children’s book? It seems that as soon as people know you’re an artist, they want you to illustrate their book. They haven’t got a clue how it works in the real world of illustration, or that maybe you don’t want to spend a few hundred hours designing, drawing, and illustrating a story that it took them 2 hours to write. And it’s their first book, and probably not finished and will need you to fix the story.

It’s always awkward. It would be flattering if these people knew your work, but most don’t. They usually just know your an artist and they they know, (or think) that they are a children’s book writer.

Any way, we put this together awhile back using Xtranormal.com. I would recommend it for you to go have some fun with it but I can’t find it out there any more. I wonder if xtranormal is gone. Oh well, you can waste a LOT of time on there.


The Secret Life of a Professional Artist and Freelance Illustrator

The Secret Life of a Freelance Illustrator; Professional Artist

People know nothing about freelance illustration 

a treasure chest full of treasure It’s amazing how many people know nothing about freelance illustration. I think most people assume you have to be crazy to be a freelancer – they’re probably right. Interestingly enough back when I had my highest earning years back in the late 90’s my wife would get comments from women at the park like: “Has your husband found a job yet?” or “It must be hard being married to an artist”. My wife would say, “you have no idea!” I think she enjoyed messing with them. People with good intent would drop little clues like, “I hear they’re hiring over at Home Depot”.

Being a Professional Artist or Illustrator was easier back then. 

Back then being a freelancer was a much easier feat than it is today. I’ve talked at length about the current state of freelance illustration in lectures and one on one. Today the freelance markets are fractured and constantly evolving. I know illustrators who are now bankers, or working at Home Depot. I know editors who are teaching school among other jobs, like at Home Depot. I know editors who are trying to become artists and illustrators. I know illustrators who are now graphic designers or trying to become editors, or work at Home Depot. I even know art directors who have been laid off and re-hired by the same companies to freelance graphic design. I know art directors and editors who have lost their jobs to down sizing and are still looking for their next job. At Home Depot. (the t is silent)

The World has Changed a lot for artists and Illustrators.

The world has probably changed more in the past 10 years than ever before, not counting war or ice ages and crazy stuff like that. I probably sounds naive and over-reaching but can you imagine any other technology that has changed the world in such a short time as the internet? Remember the last time your internet went down and you sat in fetal position sucking your thumb waiting for the horror to end? We can’t do anything without it!

Be happy, Say “no” to bad freelance jobs, and drugs of course.   

But I digress. Let me divulge some of my secret activities! Sometimes I don’t get dressed until the afternoon. I’ve skyped without pants (as far as you know) – maybe with you! – but I promise, not with your daughter. I go shopping on weekdays (sometimes at Home Depot) while the world is at work. I work longer and harder than most people with a regular job. I can’t remember the last time I put in fewer than 70 hours in one week, sometimes more than 90 – BUT – they were the funnest (most fun, but hey! I’m an artist trying to be a writer) hours I could imagine putting in. Most days I wake up pinching myself (dream metaphor) that I get to do this. It wasn’t always like this however. It took me about 15 years to learn that my life is so much better off when I don’t spend more than I make and I say “no” to bad freelance jobs. What are bad freelance jobs? The kind that make it hard to sleap and have you cringing when you wake up. I can’t tell you what they are because your bad jobs will be different than mine. And hopefully fewer.

The Lonely Artist; Freelance Illustrating has it’s downsides

I’ve wished I could stand around the water cooler and catch up on the latest chatter. I used to get really lonely painting all day (and got hooked on General Hospital for about a year back in 1993). I’ve called other illustrators randomly from the old directories just to strike up a conversation. I worked on Christmas day once because the client had to have it two days after or they were going to go with someone else. (to be read out loud with a whiny voice) I happened to get paid $13,000 for that job, it was for Sprint, and it only took me about a week to complete. I could do it now digitally in a few days and enjoy Christmas with my family and saved some of that money. And I once earned $20,000 for a phone call (remind me to go into detail on this one on another blog post). Best phone call ever! 2nd best woulda been when when the doctor told me I didn’t have worms. LOL.

‘Underindulgence’: the Key to Happiness?

I’ve learned to spend less than I make. This is probably one of the most important skills you can learn. Stress is a killer…no really…STRESS WILL KILL YOU. I’ve had about 3 really stressful times. And I wake up pinching myself wondering if I died all those times.

1) Back when I was stupid I got down to about $800 in my account for the entire month and I didn’t have any assignments! I was so nervous I made a few calls to art directors I had worked for in the past. A few of them gave me work and then of course I got a deluge of assignments the week after.

2) Back when I was really really stupid – we were spending more than we were making because we were making lots of money. It was right after a year where I turned down over $70,000 worth of freelance work because my plate was already too full in 1998.Yep – we spent all the money in our account and couldn’t get paid from any of my outstanding accounts for about 3 weeks. (Please don’t think I’m seeking any sympathy – in fact you should leave a comment with your best synonym for dumb ass)…Luckily I had been saving quarters, nickels, and dimes in a jar. I’m not kidding, I got that puppy off the shelf and counted out $90. Later that day I had my car filled up and groceries in the fridge. I Kept checking the mailbox but each day there were NO checks. We stopped driving unless it was absolutely necessary. Did I mention that our two credit cards were maxed? The following week when the fridge was empty I went for the back up plan – the penny jar! SHOOWEE – $20 later and I was back with groceries again – amazing how far you can stretch your last $20 bucks. Remind me to give you an in expensive recipe for black eyed peas. Eventually we got paid – crazy thing was that I was owed about $28,000 in outstanding checks but this is the lesson: Don’t spend it until it’s in your account and even then – DON”T SPEND IT!

3) Back when I was Ultra Mega Stupid – we got in over our heads again. (notice a pattern here? some of us have to learn the same lessons over and over) I had about a year when we were going through a really really dry spell for freelance – this was also a transitionary time – it’s a long story – but basically I had to learn all over again how important it is to save money. We survived! We downsized. We learned what we needed to have to be happy and what we could live without.

It’s not how much you make that matters, it’s how much you keep

The good news is that in the past 5 years I’ve had more money than I did when I was earning much much more. We wasted so much money back then. Now I keep enough money in the bank to pay all of our bills for about 9 months. This is enough time to really make drastic changes if things aren’t working out. Don’t tell my fam, they will find something or things we just cant live without and make me spend it all.

So there you go – the secret life of a freelancer isn’t so secret anymore – Ups and downs yes, but it’s the best JOB I’ve NEVER had.

I painted the image above a few months back for National Geographic Learning. It was one of about 8 paintings I completed for an educational project they had for ESL students. I was given the assignment from Cynthia Currie – an art director I hadn’t heard from in about a decade. It was really neat to get a job from her again – I hope she reads my blog so she can see how exciting it was – hint hint! :)

PS- Here’s that inexpensive recipe for Black Eyed Peas:
1 bag Black eyed peas
Empty peas into a pot, dig bag out of trash and follow cooking instructions on the package.

The Day of the Teacher: Poster by Will Terry

Speed Painting of the CTA Poster 

Will Terry was commissioned to design, and illustrate the poster.

Will was asked to design a drawing and render some art to celebrate California’s “Day of the Teacher” celebration. He decided to incorporate multiple career choices into the poster and to a city-scape type setting. He also uses color in his beautiful style so it is fun to look at and fun and entertaining to watch.

Here is the speed painting by the semi famous, Will Terry.  Give it a look, it’s only 3 minutes long and set to good music. He says he could play with these shapes all day. But lucky for us, he time-lapsed it so we can watch him in 3 minutes.

Thanks Will for recording this so we can all enjoy your work.


Head, Stone: Speed Painting in Photoshop

Things Happen When you Just Start Drawing

I was sketching in my sketchbook and this just kind of happened…

0008 prehistoric headstone

I hadn’t ever painted a pile of rocks before so of course I had to find out what it would look like in color. I say paint but of I used Photoshop. It still feels like acrylic painting to me. Then the next logical step was to make it into a video. I sent it to my sister Beth who said its boring, “make it cool or something, you need to make something move, it’s a video after all”. So I did, be sure to watch the end. And no, it doesn’t wink. (spoiler alert!) That is an inside joke for all those who actually watched my Giant speed painting video a week or two ago. Plus, a pile of rocks that looks like head, cool  huh? I have no idea what is buried beneath but it’s probably something way cool. I don’t know who the kid is either, probably someone way important – seriously – weird things happen when you just start drawing.

Photo shop speed painting, a quick demo of digital painting online

Artists take it on the road

Artist Road Trip to Chicago

This was awhile back but I hope you’re jealous 

So..’m not going to apologize for taking time out of my busy life and driving off to Chicago with two of my good friends. – I’ve been busy – but hey, the guys need a road trip once in awhile. Poor Wayne stayed home there just wasn’t room for the little guy.

Famous children’s book author Rick Walton, the man who wrote Gary’s place, Illustrator Guy Francis, and I drove to the American Library Association Conference back there. We went to promote ourselves to librarians since they recommend books for awards and consumers. It’s an amazing conference/Expo – anything and everything that is used in a library, and a lot of stuff that is not, is being pitched, sold, recommended, hucked, and pushed. From furniture to books it’s all there – and so were we.

We stayed with Eric Rohmann and Candy Fleming in the suburbs the first night – thanks guys for being such wonderful hosts – they invited publicists, editors, authors, librarians, and a few illustrators to a party – Rick gave schmoozing demos.

Rick put Eric’s Caldecott to good use – it was just collecting dust after all.

The view from our hotel – thank you Albert Whitman for putting us up.

We found Laura Seeger signing her books. She is awesome!

My cat allergy wasn’t that bad in Chicago.

Guy finally found a hat that fit.

Rick was almost arrested for public intoxication – we convinced the authorities he was writting a book about poles – a sequel to Holes.

I got to sign in the Albert Whitman booth.

We found Kristyn’s book and took a really stupid picture with it – I don’t really know what the purpose was other than to look really stupid – sorry Kristyn – we un-cooled your cool book. But hey, we pulled off stupid.

If your in Chicago go here – you can start out your day feeling like you just had breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Why did we go here on a Sunday? and stand in front of this sign? To get our picture taken, why else.

This is why we didn’t have any women in our group!

I got to sign again at a party.

At the Caldecott banquet we heard from Beth Krommes and Neil Gaimon – great speaches on their medals.

Me and Beth – She asked me what I thought of her limited palette – WOW – she….asked me! I hope I said something lever yet intelligent.

Neil was very excited to have yet another photo taken with two strangers – PUT UP WITH IT NEIL!!! HAHA.

Me and Uri Shulevitz….WOW!

We came, we conquered, ….we stopped for nothing!!! NOTHING I TELL YOU!!!
(It’s 1:30 AM)

We thought we had seen it all – then on the drive home…….

Line Quality: Artists Use this Simple Tip for a Better Drawing

 Line Quality, the Thick and the Thin: Get in Line for better design

Through Thick and Thin, Let the Quality Begin

line quality

Before and After

To illustrate how Thick, and Thin Lines make a more Interesting Drawing, I just took a little plastic template with a few shapes to choose from and quickly traced out these little leaflets to the left here. The first one, on the left, I just drew with a consistent, uniform line and it reads as a leaf. But is a very basic drawing. The one on the right, I traced lightly with the same template and pencil. When I was done, I decided that the light source would be in the top right or up above and to the right. So I lightly erased a lot of the lines that would be bathed in light if the light were coming from the top right. Then I took a real pencil, a 6-B I think, and I darkened and thickened the lines in the areas that would be less likely to have direct light shining on them. The bottoms of the leaflets and to the left. This is a good little exercise especially for beginners.

Thick and Thin Lines Make a More Interesting Drawing

A sketch of two leaves, one with good lines and the other, plain.

After and Before

Here I took the same plastic template but traced a different pattern. The oak leaf. The one on the right, as you can guess, I just traced with a uniform line. Equal pressure, no thick no thin, just plain old line. Yes you can tell it is a leaf, you can tell it’s an oak leaf. That is, if your a boy scout or someone that knows what an oak leaf looks like. BUT… The one on the left, has a little more depth to it. A little, a lot more interesting to look at. It is more likely to make it to my moms refrigerator. Once again, I chose top right for my light direction, I softened the lines that would be lit, and then I darkened and thickened the bottom left-ish lines.
And as you can see, I shaded the leaf in and put a cast shadow under it to help lift it off the paper and give it some life.

I don’t always draw dinosaurs, but when I do, they’re happy. ~Bob Ross lol

I don’t think Bob ever said that, but it’s something he should have said. 

Line Quality Dino Skull

This little sketch has been in my sketch book for a long time and one of my children helped me a little bit while we were in Church. Well, to stay awake in church, I often get my sketch book out and doodle or sketch. I hope the congregation folk just think I’m taking copious notes.

“That Wayne Andreason brother sure gets into these sermons!”

Some times to keep my kids still-ish, they sketch too, but when they get board of that, I let them look through my sketch book. And sometimes they “help” by adding to my sketches. As you can see that the top of this skull has got some thick lines where they should be thins. Well, my excuse is that my daughter or son, started drawing over some of my lines. Especially on the brow and over the nose, otherwise the line quality still works with this drawing or sketch.

“That brother Wayne is long winded!”

Digital Art Frog Demo Speed Painting in Photoshop

Speed Painting with Photoshop: Digital Art, Frog Demo

4 minute video of my 10 minute Frog Demo in Photoshop

10 min Frog from will terry on Vimeo.

I just needed to have a little fun with my artwork today

So what’s up with this video? I finally felt the art deprivation bug chewing on the back of my neck so I decided to do something purely for fun. This Photoshop painting was done in just over 10 minutes. I paint characters like this for my school visits and project them on a big screen for assemblies. I like to give kids a taste of what my paintings are like and they seem to like it. I love how quiet a few hundred 2nd and 3rd graders become when I start painting my little frog, gator or boar with my Wacom tablet.

Shameless plug alert! Artist for Hire!

I could come to a school near you and paint this lil’ fella as well as talk some art and reading and career talk, if you want – just put me in touch with your librarian or media specialist.

Mountains of Paint on a Pallet – Years of Buildup a Work of Art

Mountains of Paint: Artist’s Paint Pallet, a Work of Art

I seldom use my pallet or acrylic paints any more

palette (5)

Since I went mostly digital, I hardly ever use my brushes, my paper towels or even my beloved pallet. Beloved you say? Well, my pallet is like an abstract painting that is 20 years in the making. I still love painting in acrylic, it’s just that digital painting is so much easier and faster now. There is something to be said for traditional painting. The smell of oil, the finished work, paint on canvas is so timeless and original.
So I’m feeling bad because I just don’t add to this creation any more.
What started out as an insignificant piece of Masonite that I pulled out of the trash,
turned into this big thick clump of endless layers of acrylic paint.
layers of paint since 1990 
a painter's pallet, years of acrylic paint build up. Makes for a 3-D piece.So I was looking for something I could blog about and then it occurred to me – my pallet! This mound you see before you is constructed out of all of the acrylic paint I’ve used since 1990! It started out as my friend Wayne’s Masonite oil pallet. Wayne thought his pallet was too big so he cut it in half and tossed my half (the piece you see) in the trash. Way back then it was just a flat piece of 1/4 inch board. When I pulled it out of the trash and started using it as my acrylic pallet it began to grow.

Don’t Throw it Away! It’s got Character.

palette (9)


There was a time when I was going to discard it – it was growing out of control and I thought it would be easier to work on a new one. In fact I did carve some off a few times. But then I looked at it again – all bumpy, colorful and lumpy, Full of character and personality, We’d been through a lot together. “There there lil’ fella, don’t you worry – daddy isn’t going to abandon you like Wayne did.” (can you tell it’s 2:00 AM?)

He’s been around too

palette (10)So here he is – I figure he’s probably middle aged like me – lots of miles, like me and many more ahead, like me, (I hope). He’s been to Maryland, California, technically Nevada and Idaho, but mostly he’s lived here in Utah. Of the thousands of paintings I’ve done he’s got parts of all of them in him.
 I think I’ll name him Benjamin since I never had any run-ins with anyone named Benjamin.

There is an arch in there

palette (6)Oh, and that arch you see was at the request of my children constantly nagging me to sculpt some form into him – It took about 9 months to build the arch. Sometimes you just gotta ask yourself, “What would Dr. Seuss do?” I think his pallet would look a lot like Benjamin.