Step 1

Step 1: Create something that other people want.


Making something that you want is a great place to start, but your work must please, engage or be useful to other people. If you are having trouble connecting to your goals, take step back and assess your work objectively. What do you think other people see?


  • If your work seems to be invisible to others, go back to step 1.


  • If you can’t find anyone to buy what you are selling, go back to step 1.


  • If you are having trouble getting a job, go back to step 1.


This week I finally got to start working on whatever I wanted. No commissions or classes, just me making art for me. But where to start? The conclusion was to make something for a project that I know people are interested in while using inspiration from my surroundings.


WiP via instagram

Shelegiel, Angel of Snow is going to be part of my upcoming Codex Angelarium book as well as a piece of merch for my store.


Saying 'no'

Unless you are willing to say ‘no’ you have no power to negotiate.


What about exposure?

What about experience?

What about money to pay bills?


Those can be totally legitimate reasons to take a contract with unfavorable terms. If exposure or experience are truly valuable to you (more valuable than money) then you should take a project, no matter how bad you are being exploited. But if you want to pay bills or own your work, you may need to be willing let some projects slip away.

It feels like a prisoners dilemma because you know that if you turn down a print on publication contract, there will be some other artist that’ll accept it instead. Art is a competitive field full of hungry and desperate up-and-comers who will sign anything if it means getting published. This can make it seem impossible to negotiate. Unfortunately, that feeling is not totally unwarranted.

Many clients cannot afford to pay more or offer better terms. Certainly, the AD you are working with doesn’t have all the power to conform to your needs. The ADs you are working with are gatekeepers but they aren’t gods. They have bosses and budgets that makes it impossible to offer the rates and terms they might want for you.


Visited the Legion of Honor in SF last week

Story time.

When I got engaged, I was still living with my parents. I had an ultimatum to make enough money to move out and support a family or the engagement wasn’t going to continue. That didn’t mean I needed to say ‘yes’ to more projects, it meant saying ‘no’ to all the ones that offered bad terms. It forced me to start looking for different types of work. In the end, I found a full time salary position that let me quit low paying freelance. Being in a position of need let me make the choices I wasn’t willing to make previously and I’ve never looked back.

Now that I’m unemployed again, I’m looking at my options. Beyond just the distastefulness of contacts that involve pay-on-pub I’m also growing to dislike work for hire jobs in general. Work for hire jobs require me to sacrifice more and more time if I need to make more money to support my family. I hate this idea. There is real value in owning the rights of my artwork and selling it outright is starting to look like a bad deal. I figure, if my work is valuable enough for a company to buy the rights to it, then it’s valuable enough to me to keep the rights to it. It’s a serious trade and I’m starting to think of it seriously. While this doesn’t mean I’m turning down projects yet, it does mean that things I own are first in line for my attention.

I guess we’ll see how that goes as it happens.




Saturday Morning - Fear is the Mind Killer


Okay, it’s not Saturday morning. In fact, I didn’t even do one last week while I was on the road. I’m going to blame this on moving and conventions, but I think I could probably stay on task if I turn this into a real thing.

So fear.

Fear is indeed the mind killer. It’s also the productivity killer, the income killer and the opportunity killer. The point is, fear is bad, okay.

Fear is the reason I didn’t show my portfolio to Wizards of the Coast two years before I actually ended up getting work on Magic.

Fear is what kept me from posting my Kickstarter back when I had a job.

Fear is what prevented me from drawing characters with real faces and feelings for nearly 10 years.

It’s like I’m looking at my shoes, asking my muse “hey, you wanna make some art sometime or whatever?” instead of just grabbing her by the hips and breaking into a tango. The fear of rejection and failure has the power to brutally argue against all my best instincts. But that’s okay. The fear isn’t going to go away. Instead, I’ve tried to use it to my advantage. When something makes me feel scared, I’ve been trying to lean into that thing rather than avoid it. Things worth doing, are scary. So the inverse must be, scary things have a pretty good chance of being worthwhile.

I guess we’ll see how that works out.

Under ideal circumstances, it’s easy to come up with excuses to not dig in on that project you’ve been dreaming of. But think, is it because you’re not in the mood? Or because deep down, you are afraid that it’s not going to come out right? I think Homer Simpson summed it up best…




Saturday Morning - Crowd Surfing

Instead of trying to get a new job, I’ve decided to leap off the steady platform of employment and try to land belly first on top of the crowd. My first kickstarter went live this week and thus my life of crowd surfing for fun and profit has begun.

Just like real crowd surfing, the experience has been exhilarating and scary.

It started by releasing an embarrassingly intimate video of me opening up on camera about my campaign. Oh boy, if you haven’t seen the video, go check it out. It’s easily the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever put on the internet. But that’s what I needed. The whole point of this thing was to recreate the circumstances of my face to face encounters with people at live events. So I needed to be present in the most human way possible. Which boiled down to me breaking down part of the way through the recording process to do the whole video in one final exuberant take.

“you're a nerd but your illustration is awesome and this kickstarter idea is awesome. you're awesome hope u keep doing more artwork like this”  - facebook commenter

I didn’t anticipate it but I discovered that the only thing scarier than asking strangers for help is asking your friends for help. When your new main source of income hangs on your friends hitting the ‘share’ button on FB, it’s easy to get bent out of shape. I’m going to do everything in my power to not ruminate on it, but I also know that some of my friends are more valuable than others when it comes to promoting content via social media. Man alive, that’s a brand new kind of hell. The idea of trying to be friends with someone and also actively ordering them in terms of their financial value is truly horrifying. I think that after this first kickstarter ends, I’m going to do my best to forget who helped and who didn’t and never ask again.

Thankfully, friends, strangers and old acquaintances have all reached out to help. It makes me feel connected in ways that rarely manifest in normal day to day life. Except, this might be my normal day to day life from now on.

I’ve got loose plans for 2 more campaigns next year and they are both VERY different. I can’t express how excited I am to see which ones are successes and where it all leads me.


See you next Saturday morning for another blog post!



Saturday Morning - Baking Bread

Every couple of years, I have some sort of career shakeup. This time around is a little different.


I got fired from my job at Kabam this week. There were more good times then bad and it was an experience that I relish. The perfect job for the perfect time. But man, I am glad it’s over.


So now what?


I guess I’m going to be a “freelancer”. But I’m not really looking for freelance work. I want something else.


It’s a wonderful feeling to make art. The process, the community and the sense of connection add so much happiness to my life, I don’t know what kind of person I’d be without it. I’ve been really lucky to be able to make it into a career.


You know that feeling of tearing off the crispy end of a freshly baked loaf of bread (yep, this post is about food now). There’s that smell, that texture, that taste. Imagine you worked to bake that bread. Damn, that sounds awesome. Think of that smell as you push your flowery hands through soft dough. Think of that relaxation in your shoulders as you bite into that warm flakey morsel that is your days work. That is the stuff!


All those hard hours of love put into your bread and now you are taking your experience to a successful factory. You manage a line of products, you have input in the recipes and you work with a good crew. You try to appreciate the ease of your station in life, but it sucks. It really sucks. Even though the bread you are making is better than the factory next door. Even though you get paid pretty well. Even though you are appreciated for the job you do. The bread keeps calling. And like the telltale heart, it’s driving you mad. You need to bake.


Back to reality.


So now I’m unemployed and I couldn’t be happier! I want to bake a lot of bread (metaphor bread) and share it with a lot of people (real people). Hopefully, this will open new doors to a more sustainable kind of success. If not, I’ll have to go find a job in a year or so.

With any diligence, I’m going to be able to push out a blog post every Saturday morning. So subscribe if you want to read more.