A little late, but here it is! Lot’s of experiments, some more succesful than others.
Figure Drawing January
A new year, new figure drawings! I continued experimenting with oil pastel like I did in November, but I needed some time to get back into it. That’s why most drawings are in the same line as last year.
I feel the most interesting drawings of this session where the ones where I used the strokes of the oil pastel to suggest form. I think I could go much further in layering different colours, but the model is only standing still for five or ten minutes. Maybe I need a model that doesn’t move at all to try that?
35 things that made my year
Inspired by Austin Kleon‘s 100 things that made my year list, I wanted to do something similar. I couldn’t get to 100, though, so that’s gonna be a goal for next year. For now, enjoy my 35 highlights of 2022:
- Seeing Red Hot Chili Peppers perform live! It wasn’t the best concert I’ve been to (and I haven’t been to many), but I had a great time nevertheless.
- Everything around the release of the graphic novel METRO 010: meeting the other illustrators at the release party, seeing the book in bookstores, realizing I’m an published illustrator now!
- Being able to give a guest lecture at Mediacollege Amsterdam!
- Participating in the Power In Numbers exhibition by Gallery Nucleus again! My piece is still up for sale, and so is last year’s!
- Visiting Copenhagen with my boyfriend!
- Working on my first card game this year, Mandala Mind! It will hopefully be released beginning of next year.
- Going to Gamescom and visiting Cologne!
- Enjoying the warm weather in my own garden this summer 🙂
- Learning to identify wild plants!
- My first home-grown beans!
- Upgrading from my 10-year-old Wacom Intuos to an Huion Kamvas 24 Pro!
- Attending semi-regular figure drawing classes again!
- Starting a monthly newsletter and being able to stick with it!
- Participating in #pleinairpril and winning a 1-year subscription to Clip Studio Paint!
- Discovering the work of Esther Morales – I love the way she uses lines in her drawings, mesmerizing!
- Participating in 3 game jams this year: the Global Game Jam, Ludum Dare 50 and Ludum Dare 51!
- Setting up a new bookkeeping system that works way better than the old one! It’s still Excel, but with more formulas, haha!
- Attending a couple conventions (The Big Draw & Tomofair) and realising I don’t feel ready for more.
- Alternatively, I was able to sell more print-on-demand products via Etsy this year, which I’m very happy about!
- I also sold my very first original drawing in January!
- And of course reading through reviews of happy customers!
- The many events I attended this year, Playgrounds, Fantasy Fest, even the tiny Fantasticon.
- Meeting Eva Toorenent in Arnhem!
- Our cactus flowered for the first time! (and it got cactus fruit too!)
- Teaching animation and game design workshops to high school students! It is not always easy but the people I do this with are amazing and it is really rewarding to seeing things ‘click’ with those kids.
- Visiting the city archive to look up construction drawings of our house. Going through those old documents was pretty cool!
- Working on a very cool game project that has been shelved unfortunately! I hope we will continue working on it someday!
- BNO Start studio visits! Through this program by the Dutch Designers Association, I visited the studio of Hansje van Halem, CLEVER°FRANKE and Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken. Inspiring, even though they do very different things than me!
- Visiting Irene Goede at her atelier ‘t Koewegje during their open atelier day!
- Accidentely seeing the film Moonage Daydream (long story short: I came for another viewing that was cancelled and the lady behind the counter took pity on us and gave us tickets to this film)
- Visiting the Gustav Klimt exhibition with my sister!
- Drawing with friends at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum!
- Analysing my social media and figuring out what each platform has actually brought me! Something I can recommend every artist and creative business in general, because where you spend most time and/or effort might not be the platform that actually does something for you.
- Collecting CDs from trift shops!
- And last but not least: blogging more! I still have a lot unfinished drafts laying around that I might never finish, but writing a bit every now and then is something I really enjoy and I’m happy that I was able to do so this year!
Figure Drawing November
As I feel more and more comfortable drawing in graphite, I’m looking for new techniques and materials to use in these figure drawings. I couldn’t find any tips or suggestions online, so I brought a material I hadn’t used in a long time: oil pastels.
At first I used them the same way I use my graphite stick: lightly blocking out the forms and gradually adding lines, forms and details pressing harder to get more contrast. Things got more interesting when I used multiple colours layered over each other, something I’d like to try more next time!
Figure Drawing October
I completely forgot to photograph and post October’s figure drawings, here they are! I tried my hand at charcoal again, a material I have a love-hate relationship with. I love the soft shades you can create with it, but I find it quite difficult to work with.
Figure Drawing September
Happily back to drawing the figure after the summer break!
The Big Draw Review
It is already a week ago that I traveled to Nijmegen to participate in The Big Draw‘s Artist Alley at the Mariënburg Library. After doing OK at TomoFair, I was curious how this would go: I expected a different kind of public here.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t good: I arrived with a wet suitcase and a soaked coat. This must have had it’s effect on the visitor’s count, though it’s hard to say to what account. On the other hand, hosting the Artist Alley in the library, we also had people browsing who didn’t know about the event at all and just came to lend a book. In fact, at the start of the day, there was only a A4 taped to the door about the event, it wasn’t advertised very clearly, so I wonder how many people visited the library with the intent of browsing the Artist Alley vs. regular library visitors who stumbled upon us.
To be honest, I also didn’t have the best table spot in the library. Most tables were in the large space in the center of the building, and we were kind of behind that between the bookshelves. There must have been visitors that have missed us because of that.
Nevertheless, I sold a few prints, one of them to a little girl who kept telling her mother that she really really wanted that print. Those are the best customers! I also met a lot of new fellow illustrators and creatives that are still studying or just graduated. I think half of tables were from artists from the St. Joost Academy from Breda / Den Bosch. A different community than Rotterdam, and fun to meet!
The weather was much better now and we could move our tables outside. That was the good news! I suddenly had to flip my table design as I now expected people walking past from right to left instead of left to right, though. I had thought I needed half an hour max to prepare my table, now the library was already open and I was still setting up. Stressful!
Instead of being tucked away, now were were right at the entrance, no one could miss us! There were banners about the event too, it felt like a much larger event now. And The Big Draw is actually quite a big event with workshops and expositions all around the city! The Artist Alley is just one thing on the program.
Unfortunately though, I only sold one print and two stickers on Sunday, despite the weather being much better. In my experience Sunday is always more quiet than Saturday on two-day conventions, though, although I hoped differently now we had a better spot. It proves once more how much uncertainty is involved in this business.
The Big Draw is much more than just the Artist Alley and being part of an event about all things drawing is rewarding in itself too. I wish Rotterdam would get its own edition, so I could see more of the event myself instead having to leave early to travel back home.
If I sold one more sticker, I would have hit break even. Tables were free but traveling from Rotterdam to Nijmegen both ways is around 45 euros. That’s a shame, but on the other hand this is the cheapest convention I’ve attended, the location was great and there was even lunch and snacks provided at no costs. No way you get something like that at a regular convention. I probably would attend again if I got the chance!
Nevertheless I will take a break from conventions until I have more original prints and merchandise to sell. Tables were only 120 cm wide and I worried if I would be able to display all my prints, but in the end I had actually quite some spare space. It made me realize I actually don’t have that much to sell, and simple business sense tells me that I automatically will sell more if I simply have more to offer. Conventions take quite some time to prepare, so I think it isn’t a bad idea to step back once more and use that time to create more personal work. After all, I should do that more regardless of creating merchandise of it!
TomoFair Rotterdam Review
The first one-day convention I tabled at! I picked TomoFair Rotterdam as my sister @empoh expressed her wish to try to table at conventions too, so I looked for a small, affordable convention nearby. The sports hall it was organised was only 30 minutes from my home, perfect for a test of our joint venture!
We had a good space, on the corner near the entrace. Having a which enabled us to hang some prints on the side of our stand, which worked out nicely! I saw people walking by and pointing at the prints multiple times.
Like at many conventions, some products did very well and others didn’t sell at all. The Pokémon Snap print did quite well, just like Grovyle and the Hollow Knight stickers. My sister sold a lot of her Rayquaza prints and Snom stickers. I’m happily surprised I sold my Harpy Bonfire print twice, which has never happened before!
Using the Tikkie app for customers who didn’t have cash on hand was a genius tip of my boyfriend, if I didn’t have it installed we would have missed out on half of our sales. I’m still undecided whenever I should get a card reader: do the transaction costs hold up to more sales?
I have reasons to believe one of my Zinemadness zines was stolen from our stand. I counted all my stock before the convention and after, and one is missing despite I’m sure I didn’t sell one. It hasn’t happened to me before but I have heard stories of colleagues that this does happen at conventions sometimes. It is hard to prevent too, unfortunately: at times there are a lot of people before your stand and even with the two of us it is impossible to keep our eyes on all the things on the table. Still it is a shame people do such things.
All in all, I think we did good, although I hoped on a little better turnover. I sold a many stickers, but they’re only €3, so I didn’t make a lot of profit to be honest. And TomoFair itself is also not very cheap with stands starting at €119. But I might be inpatient again, expecting to have figured out this already! I think what I need is just more stuff to sell.
My sister and I both really enjoyed tabling together like this! I didn’t bring my largest prints, if I did the space might be too small for me, but this way it worked out nicely. There’s another TomoFair Rotterdam in december, we might do this again like this.
Next up: The Big Draw Nijmegen! A larger event with a different focus (all things drawing), so I’m excited to see how that will go. I’ll make sure to have some more prints for sale.
Reviewing My Social Media Strategy
With all the commotion around Instagram’s new features, I have been thinking whenever I feel happy being on the platform and if my time spend there is worthwhile.
Using social media is part of my marketing strategy as a business, how commercial that may sound – it is something to review every now and then. In a recent newsletter Rengin Tümer wrote how she analyzes her social media strategy every year and leaves platforms that don’t perform well. After all, being on social media takes a lot of time and that time cannot be spend on other things.
So let’s do a thourough analysis of my social media strategy and platforms I’m on! Let’s start with why I’m even spending time there: my goal is to gather a community of people interested in my (personal) work and be visible for freelance opportunities. It’s a twofold goal, which creates a problem: these two different target audiences may not be interested in the same content I share. Posting about tabling at a comic convention is interesting to fans of my work, but clients not so much. So for each platform, it is important to keep in mind which target audience is present and what content or information is most interesting to them.
|Social Media Platform||Followers (11th August)||Joined since||Inquiries||Engagement|
|504||December 2016||No inquiries whatsoever, only spam||Less and less (20 likes per post)|
|137||October 2020||2 inquiries, too little budget||Little (0-5 likes) unless #artshare posts or trending hashtags|
|6||June 2021||None||Around 8k views per month, 50 saves to boards|
|DeviantArt||577||May 2009||Two tattoo inquiries||Little, but ongoing likes on evergreens|
|Tumblr||155||July 2016||One unpaid inquiry, sold one zine||Very little, unless Etsy review (?) or random evergreen post|
|ArtStation||29||2019?||1 inquiry, too little budget||Very little (0-3 likes)|
|487||2017?||3 inquiries, 1 job||10-15 reactions on posts|
This table shows all the social media platforms I’m on, in order of active-ness. I use Instagram the most and LinkedIn the least. There are some patterns visible: the platforms I’m the longest on seem to have gathered more followers, which is understandable. But it also shows that engagement and followers do not always collerate, and some platforms are much better in showing my work to prospecting clients than others.
Let’s have a more in-depth look at each platform.
I check Instagram three to five times daily. Though looking at the table, it seems that freelance-wise, it is a waste of time to be on there. Though I have the second most followers on that platform, it never has led to a paid opportunity. All I got were scammy DMs telling me I was selected for a sponsor deal to promote jewelry or makeup, but I had to “react fast as there were only 3 places left!!!!”. Yeah, sure.
Thing is, I don’t know how much of the following I have on Instagram is part of the community I’m trying to build. So it might not generate leads, in business speak, but does it foster Etsy sales for example? Google Analytics and Etsy’s analytics also don’t seem to strenghten that hypothetis, unfortunately. And engagement wise, I get on average about 25 likes per post, which is less than the recommended 10% of your following count. And it keeps dwindling down.
So all in all, I could say I should either 1) improve my strategy for that platform, meaning I would have to post a lot more, and probably videos too. I don’t want that as videos are super time consuming to create, which leaves 2) leave the platform and focus my efforts somewhere else.
A lot of friends of mine use Instagram and no other platforms I use regularly, so I’m stuck on there if I want to see their updates. But I should think about putting my focus elsewhere.
Looking at the table, the follower count I gathered on Twitter in less than two years isn’t half bad, it took me way longer on Instagram to reach the same number. Follower count is not everything of course, I don’t have much engagement on my tweets (yet); still I had more conversations about tweets than I had on Instagram – there seems to be more community there.
Apart from that, people have found my work via Twitter, which is one of my reasons to be on social media in the first place. And additionally, I have found numerous opportunities through it’s search and in my feed through people I follow. That’s all making quite a strong case to start using Twitter more.
So far I’ve only used Pinterest to promoting my Etsy products. Many Etsy marketing Youtubers suggest its by far the best platform to promote your products on. Pinterest is very lifestyle focused, 80% of its user base is female and fashion, home design and crafts are top interests. I’m not sure how far I’ll get with my fantasy illustration and game art, but for Etsy I see traffic coming in through Pinterest, and I’m sure that I sold at least one product through Pinterest.
I think it would be worthwhile to try Pinterest for general interest in my work, not just products. Why? Because Pinterest is first and foremost a search engine. That means that content has a much longer lifespan than less search-centric platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. I rarely get likes on posts older than a month on Instagram, but on Pinterest my best performing pin is more than a year old. That means that in the long run, it’s less about being constantly active and more about creating a lot of content so you have more opportunities to be found. To paraphrase Kelsey Rodriguez: where Instagram is a grind to keep appearing in your follower’s feeds, every pin (like every Youtube video) adds to your collection of findable content.
And as Pinterest lets you link towards your own website or other platforms, I think it could work quite nicely in addition to other platforms.
DeviantArt I have mostly abandoned since 2018, but it was the first place on the internet I posted my art. A lot of the people I followed moved to other platforms and the community has changed since then. Now I’m not active at all and new posts get little engagement as a result.
Older work keeps getting found, though, as I have been contacted twice by people wanting to get this old Zelda piece I made in 2015 tattooed and that person was willing to pay for a licence fee. So I feel checking it every now and then doesn’t hurt.
I joined Tumblr when it was the first platform competing with DeviantArt, and many users started to move to Tumblr. I never gave it as much time and energy as DeviantArt, which is probably why it underperforms in terms of account age and follower count.
I also feel like I have never gotten the hang of Tumblr. New art posts never get much engagement, but posts about Etsy reviews always do. Is my following more interested in that? Or does a post with a link always better in terms of likes? Whatever the case, I was approached for an unpaid opportunity recently, and older posts sometimes get attention out of nowhere, which makes me wonder if it is more search-centric than I initially thought. There are also visitors on Etsy coming through Tumblr, but they are so little that I wonder if it actually is worth the effort. It won’t hurt to post new work on there, though I’m not expecting too much of it.
I rarely post work on ArtStation. To be honest, I don’t like the site very much. It is the celebrated art platform for the entertainment industry, and while they organise great contests and sponsor events and things, the site itself is still treated as a portfolio. I just don’t see how I can be active on there without posting non-portfolio work, which defeats the purpose of the website, doesn’t it? When people ask me if I have an ArtStation, I tell them “yes, but please follow me elsewhere too because I post three times a year there!”.
That said; I have a personal portfolio website, so I don’t have to keep ArtStation ‘clean’ of less-than-perfect work and studies (which everyone seems to post on there anyway). And yes, because it is the celebrated industry platform there will be relevant eyes on my work. I suppose it would be better to post more work on there.
One could discuss whenever this is a ‘social’ platform or whenever it belongs to the list, but as I have started to post on there since beginning of this year, I have to review it too. I check in every week or so and only post about project releases with my art or other ‘professional achievements’, so wouldn’t call myself active on the platform.
Freelance-wise, it has been the most fruitful: people have reached out to me three times, one of which I had met earlier during a network lunch (so she hasn’t found me through LinkedIn but I’m not sure if she had found my email without it). And it did lead to a paid opportunity! One opportunity I respectfully declined as I wasn’t the right person for it, and the other is still in limbo. All in all valuable leads so far, which is to be expected of a ‘professional’ platform.
As for ‘followers’, these are all people you actively connect with, which makes them much more valuable than followers on other social platforms. LinkedIn is quite search-centric too in design, so I will definitely keep posting about these ‘professional achievements’ and add projects I’m proud of so I keep appearing in search results!
Looking at my two goals; building a community around my work and being visible for freelance opportunities, it is clear that some platforms work for one goal but not for another. It is safe to say that clients find me through Twitter, Artstation and LinkedIn. Especially the latter two are valuable for being visible for opportunities.
When it comes to building a following, Instagram could work, but not for me. I’m putting my hopes up for Twitter and Pinterest, while occasionally posting on Tumblr and DeviantArt too. Overall, I’d like to focus on search-centric platforms more.
- Checking daily, posting multiple times a week: Twitter
- Post any new work but not checking daily: Instagram, DeviantArt, Tumblr
- Post new work when relevant: Artstation, LinkedIn
I want to end this article with a disclaimer that your mileage may vary. What works and doesn’t work for me is not the one-and-only way to use social media. I know plenty of illustrators getting a lot of opportunities through Instagram, for example. If you like creating videos, go for it. Still I hope my experience and attempts to measure succes in my social media strategy helps you weed down through the things that only cost time and focus on things that actually bring you something!