It was a very good year…

I’m not exactly a Sinatra fan, but I thougth this would make a striking title to my yearly retrospection post, haha! It has hardly been a very good year in many aspects, but I feel happy and humbled that the pandemic hasn’t hurt me or my business financially!

I started this year trying to get a foot between the door in the board game industry, I contacted a lot of companies during January and February. I was even asked for a quote for Christmas themed puzzles. I attended OBJECT with fellow BNO members and had my first and last convention on March 7th and 8th.

Don’t look at my sleepy head, I was a bit nervous tabling by myself again! Too bad the convention itself was not too exciting either; there were very little visitors.

And then everything closed down in this year’s first lockdown on March 17th.

Right then I was in the middle of starting to work on a game prototype with Roofkat – I had visited him in Zaandam in February, a good two-hour trip from my house. The lockdown forced us to work via Skype, but it would probably been the same without it.

A lot of my fellow convention artists weren’t as lucky as I was; they depended on the income of events like Comic Con Rotterdam. And one by one they were all cancelled. Some set up a online equivalent: Stay Home Comic Con. People could join the Discord channel, watch streams and there was a website with links to everyone’s webshops. I participated in the stream too (woo, first time!) and I had 60 watchers at one moment! I enjoyed doing it, so I considered streaming on a regular basis, but I haven’t really picked it up yet. Maybe because I’m secretly too nervous for it!

Spring passed and the first holiday I was going to spend with my boyfriend was cancelled. I spend the summer mostly working, trying to enjoy the ridiculous warm weather whenever I could. But with everything live going online, I was able to attend conventions and events I never would have attended live, being too far for me to travel too. I made a lot more international contacts, which might help me in the future. That’s definitely a good thing that this pandemic has brought me!

Some other highlights of this weird year:

  • I made a mural with friends of Draw Club Rotterdam at a local culture centre! We were almost finished halfway March but didn’t get the chance to add the final touches until August. It has become a Frankenstein’s monster of different styles, but I’m quite happy with my dragon’s head!
  • I was asked to jump in and create some map illustrations and icons right before Godhood’s launch. It was great to work on that game again after a few years, so much has changed since then.
  • The game VR Giants, where I did level concept art for, had a very succesful Kickstarter campaign! I was able to share some things I made for it, hopefully more soon!
  • I participated in three zines this year: A Pokémon Snap zine, one focused on character design and a monster girl zine. The two last ones had very similar timelines which made meeting the deadlines quite stressful. I hadn’t expected to get in them both! Can you guess which one I rushed?
  • I also participated in the Artstation Keyframe challenge, but should have made more time for it; I was unable to finish it before the deadline. :/
  • And other cool things I’m not allowed to share yet, unfortunately!

Looking back, I definitely want to have another go at trying to get into board games. I think I’m limiting my options too much only trying to do video games. After all, there are plenty of board games in need of fantasy art too and in the end I just want to paint and draw fantastic creatures.

Organising Notes and Ideas

When I made the switch back to Windows after five years of using a Macbook Pro, one of my concerns was migrating my notes.

I have an Iphone and I had totally grown used to creating notes for anything – resulting in over 250 notes of college lectures, recipes, freelance project notes and written thoughs. It was a total mess.

Notes to Evernote

A small impression of the notes I made for this world I was making up in my teenage years!

Time to dig up my old Evernote account. In my teens I had made an Evernote account to organize all my story ideas, species and characters I had made up and wrote comics about. I was quite obsessive about it creating a believable world for these characters – it was quite the trip down memory lane when I first logged in after three years, haha!

I enjoyed using Evernote as it allowed me to arrange notes in different categories and assign tags to them. As I was already used to working with it (albeit a bit rusty!), it seemed the perfect solution for keeping my thoughts organised.

Problem arised: how to get my notes from Apple’s native Notes app into Evernote without having to copy and paste them all by hand?

It’s clear that Apple doesn’t want you to use ever a different program than it’s native Notes app: migrating notes to another program, especially Evernote, is a pain. I tried multiple automation scripts, but none seemed to work for me, it would export the notes as .html files full of markup, or .txt files, both which Evernote can’t import.

So, in the end, I did copy and paste all 250+ notes by hand. It took an hour or so, but at least I got them where I wanted them!

Notion.so

Now some people have recommended Notion.so – and it looks pretty amazing so far!

Having used Notion.so for a few months now, I can heartly recommend it! I use it to collect notes about every part of my business, that means notes and feedback about projects, task lists for updating Etsy and social media post planning. And not the very least: Notion does support importing notes from Evernote!

My Notion ‘opening page’, with sub pages for each project to keep track of.

I also moved my complete CRM to Notion. I used to keep track of studios and people I reached out to in Excel, and I still miss the ability to color cells conditionally as you can in excel. What I got back in exchange, however, is the posibility to link databases – and that is really notion’s strength. I now can link companies to people, which makes it really easy to see whenever I contacted studio X and who I was in contact with, when, and what we talked about. Adding more info means of course also spending more time writing down all that data, but I still believe it helps!

Looking back on 2019

What a year it has been, both personally and career-wise! Back in January, I was busy adding the final touches to my graduation project. After that I took a short holiday and I started with my freelance career. Time for a review: what have I been doing this year?

Graduation: finally into the wild

I underestimated how hard it would be to find work in the illustration field, and that made me feel quite self-concious at times. On the other hand, I knew it would take years before I would make enough of my illustration business to quit my part time job, and I was trying everything I could to make it happen. I could feel stressed and sad for not doing enough, but I was already putting in all the effort I could.

I also realized that being alone all day working by myself is something that comes naturally to me. Of course I would start feeling lonely if I didn’t speak to another human being for a week – but I really enjoy being just with myself all day.

In the end I’m still proud to do what I always wished for in five months work: creating concept art for video games! Hope to be able to show you something from that soon!

Global Game Jam

A week after graduation I participated in the Global Game Jam, which was a blast! It reminded me how great it is to work in a team, meet new people and learn from each other in such a pressure-cooked environment.

We kept on working on the game that resulted from the jam, until we finally decided to pull the plug in August.

Although we decided not to continue, I look back upon this as a happy learning experience. Looking forward to the next Global Game Jam in two weeks already!

Heroes of the Ages: A Legend of Zelda Anthology Book

This was my very first collaborative illustration project for a so-called zine, and I naturally enjoyed working on it, being a tribute to a game series I absolutely love!

In February the Kickstarter launched and it seemed to go really well, until a few hours before it would end Kickstarter took the campaign down due copyright infringement. I was quite struck by this case of bad luck, my first dive into the zine community it seemed amazingly fruitful… I guess we became to large to go unoticed.

I’d love to have another try at these community projects, though I have to select them on being for profit. After all, art is my job now!

Conventions and Etsy

2019 has also been a year I had more tables at conventions, with varying results, of course. One cannot expect to do everything well at the first try!

Overall the experience is the same: I enjoy doing it, but I feel I neither a) have artwork that fits in the scene so that it serves the masses or b) have artwork that is original and niche so I can thrive while doing by own thing. In other words, I should critically review what I want to get from these conventions.

Opening an Etsy shop however has surely paid back its efforts: right from the start I was already making a few sales! Without any advertising! I still have to learn a lot about best practises and how to optimize my products, but I’m happy so far! Still, my thoughts about convention artwork also haunts my Etsy shop, especially as Etsy doesn’t allow fan art to be sold.

Art Summary 2019

Let’s end with on happy note. On DeviantART it used to be a kind of tradition for many artist to share a ‘art summary’ whenever a year turned over.

Creating these usually left me with a feeling of not creating enough, but now looking at it, I feel excited to start creating! On to a creative 2020!

Dutch Comic Con Winter Edition 2019

Ah, Dutch Comic Con. The largest comic convention of the Netherlands. Infamous for its visitor numbers and the outrageous prices of tables. To counter that, two friends of mine, Dewy and Sarah, decided to share two tables between the three of us. That way we would pay less and still be present on this large convention.

Was this approach a succes?

One thing we quickly noticed, two tables for three people is somewhat smallish. In fact, we could all just fit all our merchandise and prints in the space. Dewy, having the largest inventory of us all, couldn’t display all her products. Next convention it’ll be probably too small.

Nevertheless, we managed to get everything kinda in place and the rest of the weekend went pretty well. I sold all my Hollow Knight stickers because I forgot to take the last bit of stock with me on Sunday. Lesson learned!

On the other hand, I notice a trend between me and my table buddies – they sell a lot more items than I do. How come? First of all, they offer more products – Sarah has more poster designs and all posters are also available as postcards, while my poster artwork is only available as posters. Dewy has so much fandoms covered with her smart customisation options, that there were almost always people going through her button designs and often people were standing in line to see what’s on offer – standing before my stand.

While the obvious solution would be just to create more (fan) artwork, I don’t really want to go that route. I fear I end up with a lot of stock, spending a lot of money on prints of which I don’t know they will sell. Besides, I don’t feel so comfortable anymore with just creating pretty pictures of someone else’s intellectual property. I fear that they’ll come to get me for that someday, and I rather draw whatever I feel like drawing than to think hard about what’s popular at the moment.

I know a few artists that seem to get by creating whatever they like to do; Evaboneva makes prints of her own artwork that seem to sell quite well. The same goes for Nikki Smits or Ines Borba.

Thing is, they all have a very recognisable style, which I don’t really have? I think my work is pretty generic digital painting; though I like to go deep with my creature designs, they are not unique enough (yet) to really stand out?

Something to work on.

Starting an Etsy Shop

Ever since I started selling prints and other products at conventions, I played with the idea of opening an online shop. After all, why deny all my followers that aren’t able to visit me at conventions the possibility to buy my work? I first intended to host a website here on saskle.com for that, but after talking with some fellow convention goers, I decided to use Etsy instead.

Why Etsy? Being such a well-known shopping platform, customers just use the search bar to look for whatever products they’d like – if I had opened a shop on this website my traffic would depend completely on my own marketing and following on social media.

And I reaped the fruits of Etsy’s popularity quite quickly – I already sold one product, my shop being barely online for one month!

This illustration has proved to be very popular on Tumblr, so I’m more than happy that someone wanted to buy it too!

I do like to move the Etsy shop here to my own website in the future – simply because I don’t like to depend too much on third-party platforms. But for now all my prints, zines and other merchandise can be bought at my Etsy shop!

Plans for the near future

Now that I’ve graduated from WdkA and I’m back from my vacation, I can put all my energy in getting illustration jobs! I’m excited to start this new adventure, though a bit nervous juggling all the tasks that come with being a freelancer. Though I plan to do mostly commissioned work for studios, I also try to keep up with the comic conventions I’ve been doing.

Two weeks ago I shared a stand with Tosca Hamel at the Netherlands’ largest comic convention, Dutch Comic Con. It went pretty good, actually! We’ve made enough to pay for the table, met a lot of new people and had generally a good time. I sold the merchandise I still had from previous conventions, but I also had a few new prints made:

Contact me if you’re interested in any of them! The Zelda prints are A3 in size, Gabite and Grovyle both A5. I plan to open an Etsy shop in the near future, so all things I have for sale can be found easily together.

In other news, I’m hosting a giveaway on Instagram at the moment, ending April 16th! You can win three signed prints and a sketch drawing, please check it out if you’re interested!

Comic Con Amsterdam Recap

Last weekend my friend and I tried selling stuff at another con! The con itself was fun, though saleswise… it didn’t went as good. I actually made a loss at this con: I sold only one print and a few buttons. I do think I know why this happened, though. Firstly, almost all the things I sell are Zelda themed, and after talking with other artists, Zelda things just didn’t sell that well on this con. Perhaps there were just less people visiting this con who would like to have Zelda merchandise? It’s a thing I can’t control so I shouldn’t blame myself too much for it.. Except I better have not only Zelda prints with me next time! 

Another thing is the fact that my friend had actually printed quite some extra A5 and A3 prints for this con. I didn’t print anything extra as I still had so much stock from last con. Why spend another 50-60 euros on printing when I still have so much left? But that meant that there was more art of my friend on our table than there was mine. So perhaps we were unknowingly competing with each other for the attention of potential customers? Ultimately my friend sold wayyy more prints of her work than I did, and actually made a good profit. 

 This could be just because she sold quite some Overwatch fanart which was wildly popular during this con, and probably too because she offered prints in smaller sizes than just A2. A2 prints are maybe a little daunting for people to buy, they’re not really cheap and quite big, people might not have the space for such a print?

It makes me think whenever we should try to get two tables instead of one, so we both have our own. Everyone I talked to agrees that having your own table lets you sell much more than if you share a table with others.. Though of course the costs for standing at a con doubles, so you need to make more money to break even. :/

Or maybe I’m just too impatient, I mean: this is my second convention as a dealer and I already expect to make money out of this. 

If you’re interested in the products I sold, check out my Etsy shop!