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A “Newbie’s” Guide to Commissioning Artwork

June 10, 2009

So you’d like to commission an artist to paint an image for you. It might be a picture of your dog, your kid, yourself, your role-playing character, your dead grandmother, a character in your novel… it doesn’t really matter what you want painted, there’s someone out there with the skills and the talent to fulfill your vision. But commissioning art isn’t the same as going to a store or even to the hair salon. If you’ve never hired an artist before you may be unaware of how it works, or the best ways to handle the situation.

Narrow the Field

There are tons of places to find artists online. Some good places to start are or if you’re looking for a wide variety of artists who work in different styles. Search keywords that have to do with the kind of art you’re planning to commission: portrait, animals, fantasy, etc. It’s probably a waste of your time, and the artist’s time, if they specialize in fantasy art and you want a picture of your dog. If you know the kind of medium you want the image in, look for artists who specialize in that medium (pencil, ink, oil, digital, watercolor, etc.). Again, if you have no interest in digital art, it makes no sense to hire a digital artist and expect them to do a watercolor painting for you.  Narrow the field down to several choices and rank them according to who you’d prefer to hire based on the work they’ve displayed. Read more…


Just a quick update & Sketches

June 5, 2009

Some quick sketches done this morning to loosen up. Some sketches in there based on Twitter pics, too. It’s funny how such teeeeny little pictures can make people look totally different to how they really look. Sketches on the right (to the right of my signature), were done without reference. I know, I’m a bad person.

I hadn’t updated in a couple of weeks, so I thought I’d give you all some eye candy to look at.

I also want to point all of you over at Artemisia:

Artemisia is a blog project that I started back in March with friend and artist Louisa Gallie. She was visiting me (all the way from Scotland) for a couple of weeks, and one day we started grousing over the dearth of hot sexy guys in fantasy art and how all the juried books and contests etc seemed to be presided over mainly by men. Also, even though the two of us are personally accquainted with a ton of female artists, they never seemed to get much exposure–at least not compared to the men.

So we started Artemisia in an effort to correct some of those imbalances. It’s a blog about fantasy art, and being a female artist working in the industy. It’s about promoting other female artists. And it’s also about equal rights: if women must be objectified… why can’t men be too?

Some of it is a little risque, and sometimes we’re probably a little too opinionated for our own good. But we try to be honest, and base our opinions on our own experiences and observations. We also do a lot of interviews with other female artists out there (and a few men!). So if you’re looking for a new blog to read, well… I thought I’d mention it. (And I do actually update over there more than I do here.)

It’s also starting to get some major attention from different places in the industry, which we’re pretty excited about, actually. 😀


May 11, 2009

A month or so ago, my work was reviewed over at Blue Moon Rising. It was a great review, and something that the writer said really, really touched me. It got me to thinking about my characters, and about some of the things I try to say with my artwork, and in particular, about the word “Audacity.”

It’s a great word. And it really summed up for me a lot of what I want to say with my art. So I set out to paint something that to me represented true audaciousness. In character with most of my work, though, it had to be a challenging painting, challenging subject, and had to push the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of.

I’m a big believer in that.

It needed Action! and Armor! and Atmosphere! And to fit with another of my goals, it needed to be set in a pre-exisiting world that wasn’t specifically of my own making.

The character in this painting is Raethe, my Halfling Rogue D&D character. The scene isn’t from any particular adventure, but it’s a story I keep for her in my head. She’s tiny, yes, but gutsy, more assassin than thief–but she keeps her options open, and she loves shiny stuff.

I did a lot of looking at D&D white dragons for this painting… they look about as flight worthy as a semi-truck, but I think I got it. It was a weird angle to try to pull off, too, but hopefully it works.

I really want to thank Meredith Dillman for posing for me so I could get Raethe’s body position correct, Constanza Ehrenhaus for doing research for me on dragon toes, and Louisa Gallie, Cris Griffin and Patrick McEvoy for critiques and support.

Also, Raethe has her own Twitter account… if you want to hear her bitch about fighting undead, pwning sorcerers, and the trials and tribulations of traveling with a human monk, you can follow her here:

An Unfamiliar Familiar

May 10, 2009

This week’s Art Order challenge was to come up with an unfamiliar familiar. If you’re a D&D player you’ll know that most familiars are rats, snakes, cats, ravens, bats, weasels… with the occasional imp, or dire badger thrown in. Familiars must be, according to D&D rules, a common animal that the sorcerer or wizard bonds with (though there are allowances made in special situations for magical creatures to become familiars). Research done, I started wondering what sort of familiar I would want.

As always, inspiration is often right under our noses.

In my backyard I have a birdfeeder that, until recently, was suspended from our drake elm by a tv cable. (We’re geeks here, such things were handy). Below it was a plastic pedestal bird bath. We have several dozen birds that live in the many, many trees around our house, as well as several daredevil squirrels. Recently we discovered that there was also a couple of raccoons.

One morning I woke up to discover that the birdfeeder had somehow fallen in the middle of the night, spilling seed, nuts and dried fruit everywhere. Well, there should have been dried fruit and nuts, but most of it was gone and only the seed was left. I refilled it and rehung it. Two days later, same thing. Feeder on ground, nuts and fruits gone, still plenty of seed left. Hmmmm. Again, I refilled it and rehung it. The next morning there was some evidence that something had been hauling on the cables trying to pull up the feeder. Weird. So I fixed it again. Two days later, however, I woke up to find not only the feeder on the ground but something had snapped the bird bath pedestal, which was pretty flimsy, true, but shouldn’t have broken like that.

I brought the feeder into the house, left out some fruit and nuts, and then sat up late to wait. Around midnight our little thief showed himself.

Raccoons are surprisingly noisy. He slipped through the yard, then down to the patio. He sat up and looked for the feeder, but I’d brought it in. Disappointed, he set to work on the fruit and nuts and the bugs and earthworm under the dead leaves.

The next morning I did some research on raccoons. They climb well, high up in trees. Their eyesight is pretty poor, but their hearing and sense of smell is phenomenal. They can remember the solutions to puzzles up to three years later and have some minimal counting ability. We’ve upped our cable suspension on the bird feeder to a chain with a closed hook system. Near as we can tell, he was using the bird bath to jump up onto the feeder and swing on it till it fell.

Why aren’t raccoons an option for a familiar already? Certainly they’re at least as clever as a cat or weasel, if not more so, and they can be as big and vicious as a badger. So Slippy here is my submission for the Unfamiliar Familiar challenge. He gives his sorcerer bonuses to listen checks, intelligence, and in addition he can pick simple locks and solve simple puzzles. There is the problem, however, of him sometimes getting into packs looking for food…

Wonder if WotC might consider giving him a bonus “Rabid” attack at higher levels? 🙂


New Art in Gallery

April 28, 2009

Two new paintings up in the gallery. I’m clearing out my in progress folder and finishing things up. Personal projects always seem to take longer than commissions… probably because I’m not being paid to concentrate on them so I’ll have three or four of them waiting for a chance to get finished. My Ustream Sessions have been great incentive to work on them, though. It’s nice that I have that hour or so carved out to work on stuff for me.

I have at least one more portfolio piece in my In Progress folder, but I’ve got some commission work that needs finished first, and we’re also coming up on the end of the Team CHOW challenge over at ConceptArt. I’ll post some images from that soon, but in the meantime you can check out my teams Sketchbook thread here: Once Upon a Sundown

Anyway, I give you the final of Puck’s Introduction and an experiment of sorts: April

Art Order

April 21, 2009
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I think I mentioned it before but, if you’re not you should be reading It’s written by Jon Schindehette, Sr. Art Director for Wizards of the Coast. In addition to being a really fun read, ArtOrder also gives some great advice and insight into the world of fantasy illustration and game art.

On Tuesdays, Jon posts a concept art challenge. It’s open to anyone, of any skill level, and it’s a great way to promote yourself and get exposure for your work or your website. Unfortunately for me I didn’t have a chance to participate in this week’s challenge. Didn’t even decide I was going to sketch out my idea until about… oh… two hours ago. But I’ll go ahead and post it here, even though it’s past the deadline (which was Sunday). I’ll try harder next week.

Anyway, here’s my futuristic Tiefling, in an age when they’ve developed technology that works with magic, and jewelry embedded in their horns is also a form of technology that amplifies and projects their magical abilities. If that made sense. It’s 3 am. Time for bed.

You can also follow Jon on Twitter under the name ArtOrder


April 20, 2009

In the quest to find new ways to promote myself I’ve tried a lot of things. Internet galleries are a huge part of that, true, but there’s tons of other ways. Thought I’d take a minute today to talk about some of the ones I’ve had the most experience with.


DeviantART has been a huge, huge help in promoting myself as an artist. The community is vast, and if you are willing to participate it’s a great way to generate pageviews, get your name out there, and even sell your work. I started at dA back in 2005, I’ve had three Daily Deviation features in that time, and every year my watch list and page views grow exponentially. The key? Constantly posting new, quality artwork; journals; and networking with other artists. If you expect to just post a gallery there and get some exposure it’s never going to happen. The best way to move forward at dA is to bring as many people with you as you can. Feature other artists, promote and participate in contests, get involved in the forums, chatrooms and community, and comment and review. It’s not hard, and the rewards are excellent. The downside to dA, of course, is that it’s huge, it’s busy and difficult to navigate if you’re looking for something in particular, and it’s not taken very seriously by the artworld in general. Got a deviantART gallery? Don’t link to it if you’re looking for professional work most of the time. AD’s are wary of dA.
My deviantART gallery

I’ve been an Epilogue member for a long time. In fact, it’s the second oldest of all my galleries. A few years back I volunteered to be a forum moderator over there too. The best thing about Epilogue is, of course, the juried submissions. If it’s not the absolute best in sci-fi/fantasy genre art, it’s simply not getting in. The editors are pros in their field who do their best to objectively view a very subjective range of artwork and determine what can be improved, and what’s perfect for the galleries there. Getting in is seen as a high mark of quality. Getting rejected however causes all kinds of drama. I’ve seen it all: people who think editors have personal vendettas, “they don’t like digital”, “they just don’t like traditional”, “they don’t understand it”… you name it. Luckily the Epilogue forums are full of really helpful members who are there to help you improve your art. It’s a small community, compared to some of the other big sites, but we do our best to make sure that it’s a constructive community. No prima donnas allowed. Even if you don’t make it into the official art galleries, the forums there can be a great way to help you improve your skills. The bad part about Epilogue? Ads. I hate, loathe, despise the ads. Google ads, adsense ads… pop ups, virus checkers, spam blockers, and occassionally questionable content ads. It’s gotten so bad that I hesitate to link to my Epi gallery, and that’s not a good thing at all. On top of that the gallery and submission process are several years out of date when it comes to design, useability, and community integration.
My Epilogue gallery


Elfwood was the oldest of my galleries up until a few weeks ago when I finally went in and removed it. The first stop for many amateur fantasy artists, Elfwood is billed as the largest collection of sci-fi/fantasy art in the world. I have my doubts about that. What Elfwood is, and has always been, is a stepping stone. You’ve just drawn your first dragon in crayon and want somewhere to post it? Elfwood’s the place. Part of my problem with the site, however, is that despite some serious upgrades in terms of coding, the site is ugly. It needs a good designer to come in and wipe the slate clean and make it look professional. The other part is the moderation system. You have to submit your work in a ticket that goes into a queue. I’ve had work sit there for MONTHS before it got passed through a moderator. And the moderators themselves are volunteers and I’ve seen a lot of personal agendas get mixed in. Good artists harassed over really stupid rules: one who had drawn some random “rune” designs in her painting was harassed for not translating the runes into English in the description. Another was harassed for not stating that she’d referenced the fairy wings in her painting from her OWN photo of a dragonfly. I decided months ago to pass Elfwood up. Without an overhaul, it’s not the place to be.

If you’re looking to go into the world of professional illustration or concept design, this is the place to be. Right now it’s the one of the hottest sites on the web for up and coming artists. Massive Black entertainment is the driving force behind it, and they’re putting out some really exceptional resources for artists: DVDs, training courses, tutorials, and even a free artwork registration database that will hopefully help alleviate some of the Orphaned Works worries. Their weekly conceptart challenges are fun, entertaining, and surprisingly drama free. Some of their member sketchbooks are phenomenal records of artists who’ve gone from barely drawing stick figures to full master class quality skills. My only real quibble with CA is the lack of integration between the art galleries and the forums, and the difficulty navigating using teeensy thumbnail images.
My ConceptArt gallery


Much like ConceptArt, CGSociety is another big art community for those who are looking to head into the field of computer generated artwork. They focus much more on modeling and animation than does CA, but there’s still a fairly large base of 2D artists working in digital as well. CGSociety Challenges are awesome, huge events with amazing prizes and an impressively long roster of participating artists. Their portfolio section is also pretty impressive. Customizable, fairly clean and efficient. Again there’s some problems with integration with the rest of the community, but I’ve got less of a complaint with CGSociety’s navigation and search. Unfortunately their forums aren’t quite as welcoming as others, so while I love the portfolio aspect, I tend to avoid the community.
My CGSociety Gallery



I recently signed up for a portfolio through I’m impressed with how utterly simple the process is, how clean the portfolio pages are, and how slick and easy the design is. Really, as a portfolio site I have no problems with it. My complaints are mainly in the navigation process: it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle there, and there’s no real community to speak of. It’s basically nothing more than a portfolio service–and I’m not quite ready to shell out $12 a month for something I could probably build on my own site just as easily. I’m testing it at the moment, but I’m not certain I’ll stick with it.
My Carbonmade portfolio


What’s Twitter doing on here? Well when it comes to self promotion, Twitter, for me, has made a HUGE impact. It’s simultaeneously a highly interactive community, a forum, a blog, an ad service, and chatroom. I can post about my live drawing sessions, then micro blog about an event I’m at or want to go to, I can post about an update to one of my real blogs or websites, post images of completed works and WIP projects, bitch about my daily life, chat with other artists, get critique (and give it), get advice or software support in real time, learn about other products and software or podcasts that might make my work better or easier or more entertaining… it’s an amazingly simple thing to use that has really benefitted me on so many levels. If you’re not on Twitter… you’re missing out. What doesn’t work on Twitter? Don’t use it for only ONE of the above. If I look at your Twitter page and all you do is link to blog updates, or promote a product or website… not interested. If all you do is talk about your dog, I probably won’t follow that either. You have to be flexible with it, and willing to interact with others to get the most out of your Twitter experience.
My Twitter page


If you’re not camera shy (or microphone shy) and have no problem living in a bubble for an hour or so every so often, UStream is a great way of connecting with your fans and other artists. I’ve really enjoyed my UStream sessions. It’s been a good way to get real time feedback on my work, and to give advice and tips and tricks to other artists. The pages are really customizable and you can make your show really work for YOU, if you’re willing to try it. The downside: it’s the new hot thing and pretty soon everyone is going to be doing this. In order to stand out you have to really nail what you want to accomplish with it, and make it work for your viewers as much as it does for you. Give them a reason to keep coming back.
My UStream feed (Shows live on Wednesdays at 1 pm EST)

There are a ton of other sites out there to help you connect and interact with your fans, with ADs, and with other potentential clients. These are just the few that I’ve got some experience with. Other things you might check out:

Just… whatever you do, stay away from MySpace.