I got a Facebook message from a friend the other day. She has two AMAZINGLY talented daughters who will be entering their freshman year at a university this fall as art majors. Her question was, what would I recommend for them to do to gain some experience in art and illustration. Well I had a lot of ideas, with a couple caviats. While they, like everyone else, could use some money, their mom was more interested in them gaining experience and building their portfolios. I had a few suggestions:

1. Coloring books: They don’t pay a lot but they are fairly easy to draw, and you learn things like building on a theme, creating puzzles and activities, and you can end up creating a lot of things and having a nice published piece when you’re done.

2. Local Businesses: There is one in particular in our area that goes through a lot of art, but many small businesses could use a logo or a sign and those are the kinds of real world things that will put you a little further ahead than people who have only done class work, plus they get a young artist experience at working with a client, compromising your vision and some other things we are reticent to do do as artists, but that are crucial to landing a pay check.

3. Craig’s List and online writer’s groups: There’s always a struggling children’s book author on these sites needing an illustrator. I probably would never recommend these to someone who depends on getting work for their livelihood as they are notoriously low paying, if they pay at all, and because most publishing companies hire the illustrator themselves, but the girls are interested in being illustrators so there is always the possibility of getting a nice portfolio piece out of a project like this.

4. IllustrationFriday.com: If you just need a creative challenge that helps you think outside the box, it’s hard to beat IllustrationFriday.com.
And if you need a good portfolio piece, this is a great place to start, plus there is a community where you can see what everyone else came up with and there’s a new challenge every Friday.

5. Subscribe to the Artist’s Market Online: It’s a great way to find real world projects and even make a little money.

Of course there are many more, but I also wanted to make sure I told them the reality that being an artist is about getting your name and your work out there. I believe it’s imperative to develop an online presence and a platform as early as possible. In this business, we have to get creative and make our own breaks. They already have this in place… Well done! Here are a few other ways to get your work out there and maybe even sell something.

6. Zazzle.com: Design your own T-shirts and other items and post them free on their online store. You earn a percentage of the proceeds.

7. Set up a gallery on DeviantArt.com:
Not only does this give you an easily accessible portfolio, but people who like your work can buy prints right on the site.

8. CreateSpace.com: Why wait til you can find an author to write a book and then a publisher to pick it up. Do it yourself and publish it for free with CreateSpace.com. Not only that, but you can then take your book and put it on the largest retailer on earth… Amazon.com

Friends, this is just scratching the surface. Probably none of these will make you rich (though some have), but it will help you get experience, portfolio pieces and a sense of the opportunities to create your own opportunities. Blog, write, and create, create, create. The more you let people know about what you do, the quicker you will find the audience that wants what you have.


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