Cool, it’s me! You’d think a post about my work on tumbler might include a link to my tumblr, instead of a defunct blog, though, wouldn’t you?
I’m a freelance illustrator, which means I kinda float from job to job, taking on different opportunities to make money. It means that I have less stability than someone who works in-house for a company, though it also means I can keep my own schedule and generally be a little more flexible with my time. It’s what I prefer, but it’s not for everyone.
When I got out of school in 2009, I was working as an assistant to a comic book colorist, doing fairly menial work while I tried to scrounge up some freelance clients. I got that job because he was one of my instructors and I finished assignments early and so I had some extra time and showed that I could finish things professionally and on time. After a couple years, I was getting enough freelance editorial work (small illustrations for magazines, mostly), that I was able to quit my regular job and hop into freelance full time.
For about three years freelance editorial jobs were the bulk, almost the entirety of my pay. Magazines typically don’t have enormous budgets, so you have to do a lot of illustrations to make a decent living. Some illustrators have a natural affinity for this type of work, and are really good at it. I tend to do more narrative work with a fantasy slant, which means that, when working on something like a business or legal magazine, I would have to step outside of my comfort zone to finish the work. Sometimes that worked out well and sometimes it didn’t, but more often than not it wasn’t really taking advantage of my strengths as an artist or as a thinker. I did a couple advertising jobs here and there, which pay a lot more but are generally harder to get and have more stringent art direction. I made a lot of work on my own time and it got some attention online. I sent out postcards and emails to art directors, though the majority of the work I’ve gotten has been because some art director found my work online, or another artist pointed them to me, or something along those lines.
I’m still freelancing now, but I’ve gotten a few more regular clients that are in line with the kind of work that I like to do. I’m working more on books and in the animation industry (doing background drawings for Steven Universe), and I’m generally taking on fewer editorial jobs. Even though I’m not working in-house at Cartoon Network (they’re in Burbank, I’m in Baltimore and soon to be Brooklyn), I’m part of a team, and it’s nice to be involved with a community of artists working on one project. Books typically have longer timelines and larger budgets than editorial images, which means I can labor over drawings for longer - something I love doing. I also taught illustration classes for two years at the Maryland Institute College of Art, the school I attended as a student.
I also make money from making and selling my own products — prints, zines, that sort of thing.
The point is, there are lots of ways to make money with illustration, you just have to be flexible and take opportunities when they pop up, while keeping in mind the kind of work you want to make. At the beginning of your career, being enthusiastic, professional, and flexible are just as important as being good.
I get questions like this fairly often, and i figure I’d address it.
I reference basically everything on some level or another, whether it’s direct or just kind of an influence on whatever I’m currently drawing. I don’t use a ton of direct reference for the figure, and my figures aren’t perfect because of that, and that’s ok. I try to keep them loose and gestural, especially when I’m doing more cartooning. I LOVE seeing work that’s extremely technically proficient, it’s just not really what I’m interested in pursuing. I don’t think the quality of my work is really affected by whether my figures are bang-on perfect. If I have trouble drawing a specific pose or angle, I’ll use reference, obviously.
However, I do always try to reference faces and hands, which I think are the most important parts of the figure. Everything else I just kinda eyeball and try to build figures from pleasing shapes.
As far as costumes and props, those are a lot more heavily referenced. I have a pretty good memory, and once I’ve referenced something a couple of times, I can typically just file it away mentally and use it later. I have a ton of reference folders where I save interesting images, objects, costumes, etc, and I pull from those. All kinds of stuff. I have folders for costumes, armor, environments, faces, character design, etc. I try not to get bogged down with drawing a 1:1 representation of whatever I’m referencing, but rather piecing the final image together from multiple reference images. The reference just adds an extra layer of specificity and realness to the drawing. There are some things I’m confident I can draw convincingly straight from my head, but there is a much, MUCH longer list of things I cannot draw well without reference.
I’ve seen posts on tumblr that are like, “I admit it! I use photo reference!” like it’s some kind of dark secret and there’s something truer and more noble about being able to pull every last detail straight from your mind. That’s fucking bonkers. Reference is great. It’s the best! It makes drawing easier for me. There’s no difference between keeping a folder of reference images on your desktop or keeping a folder of reference images in your brain. Use whatever makes your work better.
A new piece for a very strange story over on Tor.com. The story deals with a world in which all species have evolved beyond humans and have adapted a system of universal cloning for reproduction, rather than sexual coupling. Humans remain the only species left with their natural urges, and are kept as pets by sophisticated animal masters. The main character is a slime-mold named Tim who works as a stock boy at Walmart.
It’s a very weird, very funny, kinda gross story.
I think the last sketch was my favorite, but we couldn’t get away with that one. Thanks to my terrific AD, Irene Gallo.
More little drawings from I posted on twitter.
rosenbergjordan asked: do you think you'd ever make a print of that girl walking her dog that you just posted? i'd totally buy it!
Sort of!! That’s super small, but it’s part of a bigger thing, though, which I still have to finish. :/
Been posting little snapshots on twitter for a little while. These are pretty tiny (a couple inches high each).
d2cm asked: Hi! Just curious - you said around May 13 that you should be shipping the Space Paladin prints by the end of that week. Did they all mail out already? I'm excited for mine to arrive! Thanks!
Hey! The larger ones have been shipped out, but I’ve been delayed in getting the smaller ones out (there were a LOT more of those to ship). Soon! Soon! I’m sorry!
Steven gets a hold of a magical time travel device and does what any kid would do - he uses it to make jokes. But toying with magic draws trouble to his sleepy beach town and Steven has to step up and save the day - with more jokes.
Go watch Steven Universe, guys! It’s great!
THIS WAS AWESOME. OMGOODNESS. ALL THE GEM GIRLS. SO AWESOME.
EVERYONE IS JUST DOING SUCH COOL THINGS
hehehehe i worked on this too.
P.S. We are expanding and refining everything from this short for the ongoing series. get hype!!!
I am doing backgrounds for this! None from this first episode, though! I’m mostly drawing *~magical temples~* !! It’s been really cool helping develop and define the look of the world.
anniedraws asked: Forgive me if you've been asked this before, but are your prints signed per chance? Thanks!
These ones are! Any that you buy through my webstore don’t get shipped from me, so unfortunately I don’t get a chance to sign those. I’m shipping these Space Paladin prints out myself, so yeah, they’ll have my scrawl.
Space Paladin Prints
Archival inks on 100% cotton rag paper. Printed with the help of the fine folks from INPRNT.com
-Open edition (4/21-4/28)
-12x18 - $30
Print sale ends this after this weekend!
Woo! Last day! Probably not gonna print these again, so if you want one, you’ve got until the end of the day to get it!
comicinkblood asked: Hi Sam! I really want one of your Space Paladin prints but Big Cartel sadly does not ship to the UK, if you're willing to ship internationally is there a way of arranging payment outside of Big Cartel? Hope to hear back from you soon, Benjamin
Yes! Just added an International shipping option. Shoulda had it on there in the first place —