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Would you like to have some tea?

Tea time with me in Singapore!

I’ll be at The Workroom in Singapore on Saturday, the 3rd of May 2014 – where we’ll spend an afternoon drinking tea, munching on some delightful stuff that goes with tea, and draw! So if you’ve ever wondered what to do with your creative talent, or if you’d just like to add some zing to your weekend; come on over to the informal workshop and let’s sit down and chat!

You can register for a spot over at The Happy Shop (but hurry, there’s only very limited space because we’re keeping it small & tight!)


from Would you like to have some tea?

Q+A: 6 tips on how to get your first freelance illustration job

Hi Amy, I just read your Q&A on landing your first job. I’m currently an illustration student but have no idea on how to get my first illustration job once I put together a portfolio. Any tips on how to get work as a freelance illustrator? Thanks in advance.

~ Stefanie (via email)

Hi Stefanie!

In my experience, a lot of first-time commissions come from word of mouth! When I first got started, I made sure to put the word out there that I was freelancing, and that if anyone needed a hand they can give me a call (or contact me via email.) But besides that, I find that being proactive about finding freelance work goes a long way – especially when you realize that those connections might take 2-3 years to fully materialize. It’s what has happened in my situation, and for many others too.

So here are few steps that you can do right now:

1. Tell as many people as you can about what you do.

Spread the word that you’re freelancing around, to family, friends, even the neighbours. You may find at first that this will land you some pretty weird jobs and questions – stuff like “can you teach my kid how to draw?” It’s totally up to you to take it on, or not. I always say that it’s no harm at all, especially when you have nothing better to do – so why not flex your creative muscles and do your best – even if it’s something that you whipped up for the neighbourhood kindergarten?

2. Get your portfolio on different websites

The thing with illustration and art is that it’s hard to be found visually. And what that means is that people don’t go to Google, type in a few strings of words that describe what you do, and then be able to see your artwork among other artists (well the famous ones do, but only because they’ve built up a really big following!) So the next best thing is to put your work up in front of people who are already looking. And that means in places where they go to look. Places like Behance and Dribble. On Instagram (with the appropriate hashtags – not one made up by you!)

The caveat is that it might take some time for others to notice you, especially with all the great work out there; but it pays to be persistent. There might be a few art directors and clients who might be checking you out on those websites, but the timing is not right just yet.

3. Don’t just hang out with your illustration buddies from college or uni – make an effort!

Spread your wings out a little and go to where you’ve never been before! There is more to you than just your ability to draw – what other stuff do you like doing? What’s your other hobbies? Do you love reading? Join a book club! Do you love cooking? Join a community cook-out! The more people you reach out to that’s outside of your normal comfort zones, the better your chances of making new connections, which will ultimately help spread your name far and wide.

4. Constantly add new work to your portfolio

Slapping on a couple of pictures from your school days or previous college assignment does not mean that your portfolio is complete! Unless your work back then was really good, or it showcased what you are capable of right now, I’d suggest to leave it out. First impressions mean a lot, and if what you’re putting out there can only illicit a “meh”, it’s time for you to think of self-initiated projects that you can add to your portfolio. That’s right – there is no client involved (unless it’s imaginary, in which case it’s totally fine), no cheque waiting for you at the other end, and no assurance that it will amount to anything – not just yet. Do your best, take pride in your work and pick up that pencil because you want to better yourself, not just because there’s someone on the other end counting on you to do so.

5. Send an email to your favorite blogger

Back in the day, I get a lot of emails from graduating students and illustrators who were just starting out. And if their work catches my eye, I post it up on the Pikaland blog (though I rarely do this anymore because better platforms exist for that these days – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) What I found out was that other blogs were checking out my blog to get news on the latest talent, and they picked up these artists too and featured them in their blog and magazines, which then helped these emerging artists gain a lot more buzz. So it couldn’t help to try – especially if you can identify with the audience of the blogger, and it’s a place where your work wouldn’t look out of place. Here’s a tip: don’t just aim for the big blogs – go for smaller, niche blogs too!

6. Be super nice to everyone and anyone

You’d think that being nice to people was a natural instinct – but sadly it isn’t! I’ve met my fair share of nasty and rude folks, but they’re thankfully far and few in-between. What I’m talking about is going above minding your P’s (please) and Q’s (thank you). Be genuinely interested in other people – listening to them, asking them helpful questions, thanking them for their time, etc – if you think that these gestures are unnecessary in the days of 140 character tweets, think again. If anything, it only serves to show how attentive you are, especially when others aren’t doing it.

And there you have it! These are the things that I’ve personally done to get my name out there – and they’re virtually painless. All it takes is a bit of effort in the beginning, but when you’ve got your ball rolling, you’ll be able to see results very soon. Good luck Stefanie!

SHARE WITH US:

Do you have any tips you’d like to offer Stefanie that has worked for you in the past? Let us know in the comments below! Also, if you’d like to send me a question, get in touch with me right here!


from Q+A: 6 tips on how to get your first freelance illustration job

How to draw Calvin & Hobbes

Calvin & Hobbes

The short answer is: You can’t.

You know why? I did. I tried when I was 13 years old. And boy did I try.

When I heard the news that Bill Watterson  would be retiring, I took it really hard. I felt my heart sank and it just wasn’t something that I could stomach. So I acted out – I bought the remaining anthologies of his book needed to complete my collection, and waited in eager anticipation of his last book. I cut out all the comic strips that was in the paper (because I wasn’t sure it would be collected in book form later on, so I had to hedge my bets – it was the era before the internet, after all).

And then I decided that the series should continue, with or without Mr. Watterson.

I would have to do it.

I began right away – I got my supplies ready. Ink, check. Brush, check. Drawing pad, check. It took me more than 6 months of drawing everyday to get Calvin’s hair almost right. But it never was. Hobbes hands would never look as slender, nor would his expression give off the charm that only he had – my version was always shorter and fatter, with none of the proud look of a tiger doll. The only time it looked almost similar to what Mr. Watterson drew was when I traced over his comics. Yes, I was a shameless copycat – but it was all in the name of learning, and I was just 13.

Those drawings never saw the light of day because they didn’t look right. I had dozens of notebooks with sketches of Calvin (I was obsessed with that hair!) and Hobbes (the only thing that came close to looking good was his tail) – most of them half-drawn and abandoned when I felt that it wasn’t turning out the way that I was expecting them to. I didn’t use an eraser because I thought those were for wimps (how hardcore was I?!) and I felt that there was something Mr Watterson wasn’t letting on about his process. I was frustrated. I felt like my hand wasn’t listening to what my brain was saying. Move here! Hit the curve right there! Darn it! I wished that I had a transmogrifier so that I can turn myself into someone who spewed out perfect C&H comics.

I gave up about a year in. I drew my version of Hobbes mainly on birthday cards for my parents – but that was about it. I didn’t get rich, and I certainly wasn’t able to convince my mom and dad that I was the next comic genius or one who could succeed Mr. Watterson in continuing the lineage of the Calvin & Hobbes series.

But what I did learn from the experience was that it’s super hard to copy someone else.

Even with all that effort (a year’s worth of time, ink, and lots of paper), I didn’t make a dent in the universe. I did try, but I was just making a really bad replica of someone else’s work (Mr. Watterson wasn’t just someone, IMHO, but I’m digressing) and I more importantly, I was always a step behind.

I was living in someone else’s shadow.

If you’re copying because you’re still learning, carry on. That’s what I advise students who don’t know how to get started, and I always end with a caveat: just don’t put it online! Now, if you’re done – how about you step away from the shadows so that you can shine bright on your own accord?

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Pssst. Hankering for Calvin & Hobbes? You can read the comics right here. And also Bill Watterson’s interview with Mental Floss in 2013.

The stuff I say on other people’s blogs

Contrary to what you see here, Jeff doesn’t always get a seat on my desk. Only when it’s time to do a quick photo shoot, and it’s also so you’ll concentrate on him rather than my clutter. Shhhh! If you want to see more of them though – head over to my Instagram!

I realize that sometimes I don’t talk enough about my own experiences on this here blog – but honestly, it’s hard to talk about stuff that happened to me when I’m the one starting the conversation (true fact: I love asking people questions and I love it even more when they do more of the talking). So when I was given the opportunity to talk a bit more about myself to real people, I thought “why not?” Aside from the fact that it makes me look a lot less crazy (at least that’s what I think when I talk about myself too much here on the internet), it also gives me a chance to be on the other side of the table for a change!

And so this week, I wanted to share 3 interviews that featured little ol’ me and Pikaland:

» Talkshop with Pikaland at the New Forward

I sat down with Keat Leong and Aizyl – 2 very fun, young, passionate guys who are going all out in the Malaysian scene and talking to creators old and new about entrepreneurship.

 I work for free sometimes. I do work for charities, designing logos and t-shirts, just to help out. I make money from somewhere else. But some artists are so hard up on the money. When people aren’t using your work, your work doesn’t get out there. It’s just sitting there. When you think about the cost of it, it’s giving your work for free and gaining publicity, versus letting your work just sit there and still not make money out of it. I know that people say publicity doesn’t put food on the table but neither does keeping your work at home. Click here to read more!

» Happy Happy Art Collective

The amazing Lauren Minco of Happy Happy Art Collective asked if I would like to talk more about Pikaland and the work I do at Work/Art/Play, and I was thrilled to do it!

 Being an illustrator is no longer about just holding a brush and waiting for people to push ideas for you to execute. It’s time for you to execute your ideas! Click here to read more!

» Enormous Tiny Art: Guest Curator

Deb, the founder of one my favorite original art sites asked me if I’d like to be a guest curator and pick out 12 pieces from their amazing roster of artists and I jumped at the opportunity! She asked a few great questions too to go along with my selection and I thought you might enjoy it as much as I did picking out art and answering her fun Q’s!

 I left my stable job not because I was convinced that I could earn a better living at showing up on Pikaland full time, but it was just something that made me excited to wake up to everyday. Click here to read more!

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Ok, I think that’s enough of me for the week! If you haven’t entered our fun book giveaway, I suggest you hop over there right now and do it (it ends this Thursday!) And what if you’ve already have? Well I think it will do you a lot of good if you checked out our interview with Frane Lessac (which will help loads in flushing me out of your brain!)


from The stuff I say on other people’s blogs

Review: Low Tech Print & Walk the Line [GIVEAWAY!]

Low Tech Print

Low Tech Print

Low Tech Print

LOW TECH PRINT

By Caspar Williamson / Softcover / 224 pages

There is always something intangible that jumps right out at you when you’re looking at something that’s printed by hand – and I’m not talking about the results of moving one’s cursor across the screen through the mouse. No. I’m talking about those that need an apron to keep the stains away, where paint gets deep under your fingernail and where the term “registration” isn’t about signing up for something online.

Low Tech Printscours the studios, artists and designers who are currently making contemporary hand-made printing hip again. The book captures the subtleties offered by printmaking in its full glory through generous spreads that contain not just the finished products, but also the process that goes behind them.

Divided into four different sections: screenprinting, letterpress, relief printing and other printing methods, the book is a visual feast of hand printed goodness of the best kind. Not only does it introduce you to lots of inspiring work done by current top designers and studios – it invites you to join in, first through its history and then a simplified guide to each printing process. Available on Amazon.

Walk the Line

Walk the Line

Walk the Line

WALK THE LINE – THE ART OF DRAWING

Ana Ibarra & Marc Valli / Hardcover / 320 pages

To tell you the truth, I’ve always been a little skeptical of the pencil. I think it has something to do with looking at a large amount of student work who uses the medium as a starting point, but never quite venturing very far with it. Heck, I’m guilty of that myself! But a flip through Walk the Line has changed my mind – and my perception – of what a pencil and an artist that wields it can do.

The book is an interesting mix and match of styles and techniques – whether it’s exploration of skills through pencil or charcoal, or how some of the artists have managed to turn other mediums (like watercolor and even chalk) to resemble works made by another medium; it’s an interesting browse into the subject of drawing. What I loved too was the brief but insightful interviews with each individual artists that sheds a light onto their processes and technique.

The subject of realism is touched upon here too – as a lot of drawing tends to stem towards capturing the essence of “real” things. While I’m not a fan of realism, the drawings that did capture my attention were the ones that detailed out imaginary landscapes and creatures, of objects and stories – things that could have just stayed in an artist’s imagination – but instead were brought to life via drawings. It’s a great book for artists who’s obsessed about pencil! Available via Amazon.

PIKALAND X LAURENCE KING PUBLISHING GIVEAWAY

Pikaland x Laurence King Publishing giveaway!

Here comes the best part! Laurence King Publishing is giving away a copy each of the books above to two lucky Pikaland readers! All you have to do is to leave a comment on which book you’d like and why. Easy peasy! The giveaway is open from now till next week (3rd of April) so hop on over to the comments to join in!

Winners will be announced on this post and also be contacted via email.


from Review: Low Tech Print & Walk the Line [GIVEAWAY!]

AFCC Interview: Frané Lessac

In approximately 2 month’s time, I’ll be heading down to Singapore again to attend the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2014 – it’s a fantastic conference and workshop for writers and illustrators who are involved (or are looking to involve themselves) in creating works for the children/tweens/teen market. Actually, I think that for those who are keen to learn more about the industry as a whole would be able to learn a great deal just be attending the event. I was an attendee last year and I look forward to this year’s lineup!

As a way of showing my support to this incredibly enriching event, I’m so thrilled to introduce Frané Lessac to you, dear readers; and she’s an illustrator who will be conducting one of the masterclass sessions during the AFCC! I’ve wanted to cover topics that are more in depth on the blog through artist interviews, and the opportunity to chat with Frané via email was one that I couldn’t pass up! She’s published over 35 books for children and has won numerous awards for her illustrations, and I get to dig more into how she got started (she wrote and illustrated her very first book – and was turned down by 30 publishers before she met one who believed in her!)

I hope you’ll enjoy the interview!

Frané Lessac

Frané Lessac

Hi Frané! We know that you were born in 1954, and that you’re based in Australia at the moment. Could you tell me what you just had for breakfast, and perhaps you can share a random tidbit about yourself? :)

This morning I had peanut butter and jelly on toast. Very American, but normally I try and eat healthy by having plain yogurt with fresh blueberries. After breakfast, I move to my studio, which is located in the garden. Inside I’m surrounded by mementos from my travels, family photos and books. Bright flowers grow outside the windows and the walls are adorned with art painted by my friends.

Where did you learn how to draw? Did you study art at college/university, or are you a self-taught artist?

I always loved art and it was a dream to one day become an artist. When I was five years old, a neighbour started up art classes in their attic on Saturday afternoons. It was the first time I was able to work on one piece continuously over a period of time. I was the youngest participant and the instructor let me paint whatever I wanted. I remember my finished painting to this day. I took art as an elective in high school, but I was pretty useless and the teacher let me create whatever I wanted during the hour period. I believe this freedom was essential to finding my own style.

I read that you originally wanted to be a film-maker (you studied at a film school at California). How did that influence your decision to turn to illustrating children’s books? Do you see an overlap between the two?

I studied Ethnographic Film at the University of California in Los Angeles – this is a combination of anthropology and film. My interest was in producing documentaries about cultures from around the world. I cherished my studies and everything I learned I eventually incorporated into my paintings. When I moved to the island of Montserrat, it was difficult to work on films and realized I could share the same stories about people from around the world by using paper and paint. 
You love to travel – can you tell us how has traveling inspired your illustrations? 



One of my greatest passions is traveling.  Seeing new places, meeting new people and learning about their lives. I gather ideas that I think children would enjoy finding out more about. I try and view the world through a child’s eye: What intrigues me? What stories would I take home and share? There are so many stories that need to be told.  

When putting together a book, I choose topics that I’m passionate about. That passion hopefully shows in the words and the art and is contagious.  I like to add in lots of detail in my illustrations for children to discover as they read a book over and over again. Sometimes I use certain colours to convey subliminal messages.

Frané Lessac

Your first book, The Little Island (UK) was conceived while you were in Montserrat in 1981. In it, you illustrated and also wrote the book, which you’ve shopped around to 30 publishers before being accepted. In the children’s book market, usually the pairing of artists + writers are done by the publishers.

Since you were the writer and illustrator, was that the reason why you were rejected initially? How did you manage to convince the book’s publisher to take you on?

When I first approached publishers, all I had was an idea and a series of paintings of Montserrat.  A hard sell when you’ve never been published. I wasted a lot of time approaching the wrong publishing houses.  In the process of publishers passing on my concept, I gained invaluable knowledge and by the thirtieth publisher, I had a solid proposal. Having a face-to-face meeting with the publisher was helpful and I was able to plead my case when they hummed and hawed whether they’d publish my idea. Macmillan UK finally released it, and the following year by HarperCollins USA with a slightly different title – “My Little Island” which has now sold over 350,000 copies.

Could you tell us a little bit more about the process of illustrating a children’s book – from start to finish?

Story always comes first – whether one tells it in illustrations or words, or the collaboration of both in a children’s picture book. The initial spark to write or illustrate a story might be generated by a character or a setting. The publisher will send along a brief on the pagination, book’s dimensions and time frame for the delivery of a dummy book and final artwork. Many children’s picture books are 32 pages long and the first thing is to break down the text to fit into a 32-page book including title, dedication and imprint page. What I’ve learnt over the years was not only to sketch a first impulse, but also to explore how many different ways you can draw the same scene. Next, the publisher likes to see a dummy/mock up of the book. This helps show the flow of the story and is vital to see how the words and pictures work together. If all is well, then it’s onto the final art.

Frané Lessac

Frané Lessac
Between illustrating and writing your own book; and illustrating for other writers, can you share with us the difference between the roles? Is one more fulfilling than the other?

Many of the books I choose to illustrate, whether I write them or someone else, is all about the story. If I can visualize the story, I’m keen to paint the pictures of other people’s words. 
I haven’t met all of the authors of books I’ve illustrated. Some authors I know very well and in one case, I know the author very very well. My husband, Mark Greenwood, is a children’s author and we’ve created over a dozen books together AND two children. For my projects with Mark, he keeps me in mind when he writes. He predicts how I will use the text and knows that I will paint a lot of detail from his words.

How long does it take for you to finish illustrating for a children’s book? 

The majority of my projects take three to fours years from the original concept to the finished book. This includes traveling for research and then waiting for a finished manuscript. The actual paintings take three – four days for each spread and a whole book can take up to four months. Once I deliver all the art, it can take up to a year to get a copy in my hand.

What do you think of the children’s book market today? Are the themes very different from what you were working on before?

The children’s book publishing market has changed over the years. More styles of art are acceptable and many young art students are now creating art on the computer. The shelf life of books in shops are shorter and more people are self-publishing and selling online. The market competition is greater and with eBooks, changes are happening that will alter the way we interact with books in the future.  As far as themes, there’s a saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun, but the sun itself”. In other words, new ways to tell old stories will continue to happen.  What is different today, are books for older readers with complex issues never explored before in a picture book format.

Frané Lessac

 Reality check: You need a lot of books out in a lot of countries to make a living just as an illustrator.

While you were illustrating children’s books – were you also holding down other jobs to support yourself, or were the commissions enough to sustain you financially?

When I first started out I struggled to make a living but I was always optimistic and held onto the belief that I will get published and I will make art and illustrating a full time career. All along the way, I exhibited my art and made postcards and prints of my work to supplement my income. Reality check: You need a lot of books out in a lot of countries to make a living just as an illustrator.

What was your most challenging project to date?

Every project has its challenge and that what keeps it fresh and interesting. With every book you discover something new. This is why it’s a fabulous career, you’re always learning.

What advice or tips would you give to an aspiring children’s book illustrator?

Create a portfolio showing a diversity of work. Include animals, children, landscapes and anything else you love to draw.  Make sure it’s your best work. Send out sample postcards and/or A4 sample sheets with several images to editors and art directors. Update the images and resend at least once or twice a year. Research what’s appropriate for their lists. Don’t be a closet illustrator – share your ideas. Join organizations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It’s the best way to keep your finger on the children’s book publishing pulse. You’ll make firm friends and enjoy the generous support of a global network on your journey to getting your first book published.

Thanks so much Frané!

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Check out more about Frané’s work via her website, and come on down to Singapore in May 2014 for the AFCC to say hello! More info about the AFCC, including the whole conference schedule over at their website.


from AFCC Interview: Frané Lessac

Q+A: How to find the perfect part-time job

Send me your questions through my contact form!

Dear Amy,

I recently read your excellent blog post about why artists & illustrators should get job and wonder if you have any advice about finding the ideal part-time job to help one reach one’s goal.

In my own case, I really want to write and create graphic novels full-time but am at a loss to find a complementary job that pays well enough and fits my analytical personality. I am even considering going back to school to learn animation or going back to learn something high-tech. But I also know that I’d toss both away if I ever had the chance to write and illustrate full-time.

What are your thoughts?

~ Benjamin

Hi Benjamin!

Finding the ideal part-time job is definitely the way to go as you go experiment and take time to hone your craft and work! Having a part-time job does wonders in alleviating the stress of having to worry where your next meal will come from and to avoid that awkward moment of trying to fake not being around whenever your rent lady comes a-knocking.

Finding a part-time job involves a two main scenarios:

Scenario #1: You have many different skills – writing and illustrating and illustrating is just one of them

This is the sort of situation where you’re a multipotentialite. Not only do you have a talent for drawing and writing, but you might also be a good strategist, or a great chef. I think that deep down, we all have different skill sets. While they may not necessarily go together and culminate in one job (that’s a tough find); finding different outlets where you are able to flex your skills is a great way to make yourself happy.

Scenario #2: You have one main love – writing and illustrating – and it’s hard to imagine yourself doing anything else.

If this is the case, you’ll need to do a bit of sleuthing to find out what would be a good fit for you. For me, what has always worked is to find something that would help me balance between time, money, and interests. And this formula would change throughout the years. For example, when I was in university, I would work part time as a retail assistant at a clothing store. I didn’t have much time (because I was standing on my feet the whole day tending to customers), little money (because the pay was a mere RM3.40 (USD$1) per hour), and I wasn’t really interested in it so much.

So the equation would look something like this:

Retail assistant = Less time for myself + Little money + Low level of interest = on a scale of 1-10, this would be a 2/10

I learned to balance things out by finding jobs that would tip the scales to what I was looking for at a particular time. For my part-time writing positions a couple of years after I graduated, the equation looked like like this:

Freelance writer= Adequate time for myself (to work on Pikaland) + Adequate money (if you hustle enough) + High level of interest =  5/10

Currently, I want to free up my time and also up the money factor (what this means is that I want to add value to what I do, instead of having my hours count instead). So I have a few options here – find higher paying writing jobs, or find another interesting part time job that would pay me more money than what I currently do. I’ve done both before, and I’ve just accepted a job as a part-time creative director of a PR/digital strategy agency, and this is how my equation looks like now:

Part time creative director= Adequate time for myself + Good money + High level of interest = 7/10

It’s always about finding out what you need at a particular time in your career or life – whether you’re looking to have more time to spend on your interests, to want to find more money to supplement your income, and what you’re willing to put aside (your interests) in search of a part time work that works for you.

Now we move on to another point: How do you find the perfect part time job for you? I’ve broken it down into a few key strategies:

#1: Find out what your skill sets are.

When I first graduated from university, I avoided sending my resumes to landscape architecture firms. I had a 6-month experience with being in one before, and I wasn’t exactly looking forward for more. So I thought to myself – I’ve been submitting my writing to the local newspaper and magazines, so why not try to do more of that, and get paid too? So my first job was as an editorial assistant – there was a lot of writing, running around scrambling for photo shoots and also helping my editor manage a few editorial projects, all the while keeping a tight deadline.

A few years later, I was an editor myself. And then I left to run Pikaland full time to see where it could lead me. My past experiences made me realize that I am quite fond of writing. And I could organize and manage a team of people. I could manage projects. I loved solving problems. I am happy when I am able to take something complicated and make it simple. And so I took these skills that I have and I ran with it. Starting up Pikaland utilized those skill sets (apart from my love of drawing and writing). So did determining what sort of part-time job I could pursue to supplement my income.

#2: Do what you’re comfortable with (for starters!)

A lot of times, finding a part-time job is about extending what you’ve been doing in the past, but perhaps scaling it down to suit your lifestyle. I chose to continue writing because I was able to excel in it (at least I think so!) Writing for an architecture and design magazine was a comfortable setup that I could tap into. It also helped that I love meeting people within the field, and they felt that they were talking to someone who understood where they were coming from. It became second nature.

As I go along, I began to embrace experiences that made me move out of my comfort zone – like teaching. Pitching bigger projects to clients. And it opened up new possibilities for myself. Soon, I wasn’t just accepting job offers – I made my own.

#3: Count on your contacts.

A lot of my freelance jobs/part-time job inquiries came from my friends and contacts over the years. I’ve found that when I did good work, it would lead to more referrals. Personal recommendations and rave reviews from my contacts – especially when I’m dealing with new clients – has gained me an easy foot in the door; sometimes even without the need to for a portfolio viewing. My illustration jobs were commissioned this way too. It doesn’t hurt to put your ear to the ground and ask around if anyone needs a hand or two!

#4: Create a bigger circle.

In addition to counting on your contact list, one of the best things that I’ve done is to not be content with who or what I know. When I quit my full time job, it freed up a lot of time for me to explore other things and topics that I liked (as opposed to it being something I had to do). So I got myself involved with the local tech community (yes, I am a geek!), educators and also other female entrepreneurs. Aside from having fun from all these experiences, I gained lots of new friends – we throw ideas around, get feedback and lots of support as we go along our way. The beauty of being able to craft your own circle (as opposed to just hanging out at your usual ones) is that you get to learn about a lot of things from different people. I think that this is one of the most interesting and fulfilling aspect of working as a freelancer and a part-timer that is harder for me to accomplish if I had been working full-time.

Finding a part-time job that will be able to cater to your analytical side will take some time and experimentation to see what works for you. A lot of times it will be through a series of trials and errors! The important thing is to go out and try out different things, and see what sticks. You won’t know something for certain until you’ve tried; and by taking that leap, you may just be pleasantly surprised at where you’ll land.

So there you have it Benjamin – I hope this will help you in some way! If you have any experience, advice or tips you’d like to share with Benjamin, I’d love to hear from you! Just write in your thoughts in the comments below and I’m sure it would greatly help others who are in the same situation.

Do you have a burning question that you’d like to get to the bottom of? Whether it’s questions about your life, career or if you’d like to just vent out your frustrations – send me a note and I’d be happy to offer my thoughts! And if you haven’t gotten on our newsletter just yet (but love articles like these) – come over and join 5,000 other peeps who have subscribed so you won’t miss out on anything!

The Quintessential, Quirky, Compendium of Cats

Doodlers Anonymous: The Quintessential, Quirky, Compendium of Cats

Doodlers Anonymous: The Quintessential, Quirky, Compendium of Cats

Doodlers Anonymous is one of my favorite go-to site for fun discoveries, and I’m so thrilled to share the launch their mini colouring book called The Quintessential, Quirky, Compendium of Cats, which features the work of 28 artists. It’s available in their shop right now, and if you’re an animal lover, you’ll be happy to know is that DA is also the official ambassador for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and part of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go toward their cause.

P/S: I’ve already put in a request for a doggie-themed one for next year! :)

Interview: Damon Kowarsky

I’m so thrilled to share an interview I recently did with Damon Kowarsky – an artist who has exhibited regularly in Australia and abroad and worked as a scientific, courtroom, and archaeological illustrator. His latest exhibition is currently held from 7 – 30 March 2014, entitled “Life Along the River“, and is installed at the Aesop headquarters in Hong Kong while also being shown at the Odd One Out gallery.

Collaboration is the the focus of my interview this time – Damon has worked with Kyoko Imazu and Muhammad Atif Khan, and I dig a little deeper to find out more about how he works with others, how the collaboration with Aesop came about, and what advice he has for young artists.

Enjoy!

Damon Kowarsky

Hi Damon! Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and the work that you do? What is the primary medium that you work in?

I’m primarily a printmaker and make etchings from copper plates. It’s a very old technique – 500 years or so – and has evolved from a commercial process into one that is used exclusively for fine art. I tend to make images of people, places and things. These could be models from local life drawing classes, cityscapes of New York or Cairo, airplanes, plants or portraits of friends.

You’ve travelled intensively to South Asia, Europe and the Middle East – how has this influenced your work?

Hugely! Travel is when I do the research for all my images. There is nothing like being a stranger in a new place to force you to look around. I was fortunate to work on an archaeological dig in Egypt and study miniature painting in Pakistan. These experiences changed the way I make pictures and opened all sorts of unexpected doors.

What’s the core message behind what you do?

In terms of the meaning of the work I have no idea. I simply make images that I like to look at and say something about the places that inspired them. If there is a larger message it is that picture making is critically important, and that hand crafted images are even more essential in these days of everyone having a camera and access to everything you could ever have seen with a few clicks of a mouse.

You’ve done a lot of collaborations – most recently with Muhammad Atif Khan and Kyoko Imazu; how did that come about?

The collaboration with Kyoko began because we were both working in the open studio of Australian Print Workshop. One day Kyoko came up and said that she’d like to ‘vandalise’ my work. It was impossible to say no. This was in 2008 and we’ve been working together ever since.

A few years later Atif saw the work Kyoko and I made on the web and suggested doing a project with him. This was a great opportunity to get further involved with the country after having taught and studied there. Atif and I produced 20 prints for ‘Hybrid’ in 2012, and in the process become very good friends. We are working on part two of the project for when I return to Lahore in September.

Damon Kowarsky

Could you tell us a little bit more in detail about how you come up with collaborations, and what does it entail? (some details about who bears the cost, what happens when there’s a sale, etc)

With Kyoko I generally give her a drawing that she then modifies in some way. In the series ‘Along the River’ those drawings came from a 3m panorama that I made of Kyoto. Once we have both worked on the drawings and are happy with the results we process and print the copper plates together.

With Atif there is a bit more back and forth as we each take turns to provide the first drawing. Atif works mostly with found and appropriated images and I work mostly with drawing. In ‘Hybrid’ we tried to synthesise these two languages. We are sticking to a similar plan for ‘Hybrid II’ as we wanted the images rather than the process to be central focus.

With both collaborative projects we’ve been lucky to have support from partners including the Japan Foundation Sydney, Arts Victoria and the Australian High Commission Islamabad. We have also used our own resources to make sure things happen. Sales are divided equally between the artists.

Do you think collaborations are important for artists?

They can be. If you are lucky to find one that works that’s great. But there is no pressure to do so, and there are many artists for whom collaboration would just be a bad idea. Collaborating is like have a conversation. Some people are easy to talk to, others are not. And there are always times when you prefer to be alone with your thoughts for a while.

Damon Kowarsky

You are also a teacher – has it influenced your own work in some ways?

I teach very little really. Most of what I do is in Pakistan where there is a strong sense of responsibility between practicing artists and students. Even artists with enormously successful international careers [like Imran Qureshi who recently won the Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year Award] are still involved in the education system. I can’t imagine artists of equivalent stature teaching in Australia.

Teaching is demanding, but it is also fun. It is a chance to pass on what you were taught. For me many of those lessons came from Godwin Bradbeer during my time at RMIT. Godwin is a brilliant artist and educator, and has influenced generations of young artists in Melbourne.

I understand that you’re a part of Odd One Out – an artist agency based in Hong Kong.  For your latest exhibition with Kyoko Imazu that’s going to grace the walls of Aesop’s Head Office in Hong Kong, how did it all begin?
What role does Odd One Out play in the exhibition?

The collaborations with Aesop began in 2009. The Australian Print Workshop was then under renovation and I was doing a paste up of proofs [the trial copies and mistakes in any edition] on the hoarding outside the building.

Just as I was finishing a man asked if I’d like to do a paste up in his shop. Without asking who he was or which shop I said yes. The man turned out to be the founder of Aesop and the shop was their Gertrude Street store. Since then I have installed work in six Aesop stores in Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong. It’s been great to work with a company that has such a strong focus on contemporary art and design, and is keen to support it in concrete ways.

Odd One Out represents my work in Hong Kong. Phemie Chong, Odd One Out’s director, is extremely dynamic and is always looking for partners and opportunities to promote the gallery and the artists she represents. Phemie is also a lot of fun, and was happy to spend a day with her hands in wallpaper glue sticking proofs to Aesop’s walls.

Damon Kowarsky

Do you have any advice for young artists and illustrators out there?

Keep going! Too many people stop too soon after graduating. Say yes to stuff. The projects with Aesop happened because I was out on the street doing wacky things with old prints.

Be nice. Or failing that be damn good.

Read Paul Arden’s “Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite” and “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be” and take his advice. Especially the bits about working hard, setting your standards high, and showing an utter disregard for where you think your abilities end.

Listen to or read Neil Gaiman’s 2012 speech to the University of the Arts Philadelphia.

Keep going!

Work hard. Make the most beautiful things you can. Remember that beautiful is not always pretty. Or even nice.

Go out and look at the world. Draw from life. Travel. Visit museums and galleries but also listen to music and read books. Learn from the past but don’t be a slave to the present. Tell anyone who tells you it can’t be done to f*** off. And mean it by making those impossible things happen.

Work hard. Have fun, but work hard. Really hard. Really, really hard.

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Thanks so much Damon! Life Along the River is happening now in Hong Kong until 30th March 2014, and you can read more details about the exhibition here.

Pssst… have you signed up for our free newsletter yet? It’s a once-a-week update where I let you know what’s happening here at Pikaland (among many other exciting, inspiring news and projects!)

Melbourne Now


Today’s post is courtesy of Jaime Pih of The Bride Gene. Jaime posted up lots of pictures of Melbourne Now on her Facebook page and I was really inspired by the amazing work that was done by the artists. It’s an event that’s happening in Australia from 22 November 2013 to 23 March 2014 that celebrates the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex cultural landscape of creative Melbourne. I wasn’t able to head there, so I did the next best thing – I asked if she would be willing to share the pictures (and words alongside them) on Pikaland so that others may be able to experience it as well. And she said yes, hurrah! Enjoy! ~ Amy

#melbournenow by Jaime Pih

#melbournenow by Jaime Pih

#melbournenow by Jaime Pih—————————————————————-

*** NOTE: All text are taken from the exhibition, which includes the artist’s statement and/or an introduction to each artist’s work.

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You Me and The Flock, #melbournenow by Jaime Pih

You, Me and the Flock – Juan Ford, 2013

“The huge sky above us holds many secrets. I enjoy trying to understand how the natural world constantly changes and how we are a part of that process. I have often watched birds in flight, flocking and flying apart. It has made me think about how we do a similar thing but in a very different way.

Join in my experiment and add some birds to the flock. As you place each bird, think about the changing shape of the flock and the feeling of movement. Also think about what it might mean as the flock becomes populated with more and more birds over time.”

You Ask Me About That Country, #melbournenow by Jaime Pih

You Ask Me About That Country – Sangeeta Sandrasegar, 2012-13

Born to Malaysian and Australian parents, Sangeeta Sandrasegar lived in both countries before settling in Melbourne at the age of ten. Her work explores perceptions of homeland and diaspora, belonging and identity. These works form part of a series “You Ask Me About That Country” which takes its title from a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz about the effect of time on memories. Created following her return to Malaysia after twenty-five years, each suite of exquisitely detailed filigree paper-cuts comprises a self-portrait confronted by three other portraits representing different Malaysian cultural groups.

The beautiful patterns of flowers, leaves and butterflies that form her hair are inspired by traditional batik designs from Malaysia. Batik is an ancient art of making patterns using wax and coloured dyes on fabric that is found in many countries across Asia.

The shadows cast on the walls by the paper cut-outs are like an echo of the artist’s memories and suggest there are different ways we can think about who we are.

dontworry, #melbournenow by Jaime Pih

dontworry – Mark Hilton, 2013

Extending across nine intricately detailed wall-mounted panels, each corresponding to a formative event in Mark Hilton’s life, dontworry is a personal memoir exploring the complicated transition from childhood to adulthood. However this dark representation of events witnessed while growing up in suburban Melbourne, including violence committed by mobs of people and unnerving depictions of adolescent bad behaviour, also poses broader questions around “normal” codes of behaviour.

Co Workers, Hanging Sculpture, #melbournenow by Jaime Pih

Co Workers, Hanging Sculpture – Meredith Turnbull

When I am making sculpture and jewellery, I enjoy experimenting with different shapes, sizes, colour and texture. My work ranges from large scale sculptural installations to much smaller jewellery pieces. I often compare sculpture and jewellery and I wonder about the similarities and differences between them. When I make necklaces and bracelets I sometimes think of them as small wearable sculptures.
For Melbourne Now I have selected a range of wooden components, tube and laminated card for you to work with. You can also draw on these with coloured pencils. Think about the different ways you can arrange the colours, textures and shapes to create your own wearable sculpture.

For you, #melbournenow by Jaime Pih

For you – Darren Sylvester, 2013

Darren Sylvester’s multidisciplinary practice reflects upon the tropes and convention of consumer culture, advertising, pop music and cinema, appropriating international products as “readymades” as a way of considering how we are shaped and affected by branding. “For you” is an illuminated dance floor that appropriates current make-up palettes offered by Yves Saint Laurent, colours “proven” by market research to appear flattering on the widest cross-section of people. Shy-dancers should not fear – everyone looks good on this dance floor.

The Gallery of Air, #melbournenow by Jaime Pih

The Gallery of Air

Best experienced than captured on camera, this amazing gallery exhibited just about anything and everything that involved air – a remote control to an air-con unit, a book (Up In The Air by Walter Kirn), a vintage vinyl (Wind on the Water by Crosby and Nash), a Rhett Butler doll (Gone with the Wind), airplanes, a resuscitation doll, a shoe (Nike Air), Chinese foldable paper fans, and a print of a vintage hot air balloon, just to name a few. Ever wondered how so much of what we do, use and enjoy involves air?

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Melbourne Now is happening from 22 November 2013 – 23 March 2014 at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). If you’ve taken some pictures or have written about the event (or know of anyone who does), do drop your links below so that we can see more of the action happening over at Melbourne!

About Jaime
My name is Jaime Pih and I’m a Malaysian born multimedia design graduate living in the creative hub that is Melbourne, Australia. I love capturing moments and discovering the old and new of all things beautiful (cliche as it may sound) whether it be a delicious work of art on a plate, the story that went into every stitch of a vintage dress, the beauty and genius in the sculptures around us, learning something new, or creating a sanctuary in the space we call home. If it looks good, tastes good, feels good, and is for good, well…”that’s amore!”
Instagram: @thebridegene  |  Pinterest: http://ift.tt/1f1sJbJ  | Blog: thebridegene.com

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If you would like to share some of the recent events in your area – whether it’s an exhibition, an art event or a fun gallery, feel free to get in touch with me (Amy) and I’d love to put it up here on the blog to share with our readers!
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from Melbourne Now

LINE Creator’s Market


LINE Creator's Market

LINE screenshot

Apart from being a Whatsapp user, I also use LINE to keep in touch with my family through bursts of free short messaging. However, the big draw of using LINE over Whatsapp has got to be the availability of silly stickers among some other things too, like how I can have the same LINE account on my computer so I won’t have to use my phone to message my contacts (having a 5-year old iPhone 3GS will do that to you!)

So when I heard that the people at LINE are opening a Creator’s Market last week – I thought that it was a great idea! It basically opens up the opportunity for artists to create their very own line of stickers (40) to convey a wide range of emotions that can sell for 100 yen (or about USD1). You get to keep 50% and the rest goes to LINE.

From The Next Web:

 The Line Creators Market, a brand new platform launched today, will only start accepting submissions from April onwards. It is free for all users to register on the Line Creators Market. Creators can sell sets of 40 stickers at 100 yen (about $1) per set once the graphics are approved by Line, and they will receive 50 percent of the proceeds.

The possibilities for this is endless – think of the characters that you’ll be creating, and also the amount of new fans (and eyeballs) you’ll garner through LINE’s 360 million user base.

Ready, set, sketch!

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Finding unconventional methods of spreading your name out there is one of the exciting topics that make up the Work/Art/Play online class that I’m teaching this year – if you’re interested to know more, head on over to the website and sign up to be the first to know when the next class begins!

[second image via Scatopiene.it]

from LINE Creator’s Market

Celebrating our 6th year anniversary = unblocking your creativity!

Pikaland turns 6!

Pikaland turns 6 this month, and all I could think of was how amazing you guys are.

Forgive me for the bit of a soppy post, but I thought I should get stuff of my chest instead of holding it all in (I think I’m allowed to do so since I do this here blog!) So here it is: I wanted to thank you for following me on this personal, enlightening journey on Pikaland – and I hope that it has helped you in some ways too. When I first started this blog back in 2008, it was to serve as a personal “scrapbook” of sorts. Not knowing much about illustration, I decided to start a blog where I collected the artists and pieces that I love where I could access it in one place – a place where I could learn and hopefully to reveal what is it about illustrations that makes my heart beat a little faster, and my eyes a lot more sensitive to what’s being said. I learned so much through self-discovery, by putting it into practice, and by teaching others about what I’ve learned: how important it is to see beyond just images.

One of the most fulfilling projects I’ve started is the Good to Know project. It’s a series of zines that shares advice among creatives – artists, designers and illustrators on various subjects on creativity, business and life. It was started in 2009, and our first ever issue on creativity is one of my favorites. I’d like to share this with you as a free downloadable PDF (and viewable online too right below via Scribd!) I’m looking to expand on this project this year, and I’ll be making these older copies available to mailing list subscribers free of charge along the way (p/s: if you haven’t signed up yet, it’s never too late – you can do that by clicking here!)

I’ve started projects, and said goodbye to some. But the one thing that has stayed the same is that you aren’t alone in figuring all of this out. I’m still doing that too. And I’m glad that we’re going to do that together.

Without further ado, here’s the first zine that launched it all – the very first issue of the Good to Know zine series; one that documents the musings of over 40 artists on how they’ve unblocked their creativity.

I hope you enjoy the read, and I look forward to our journey together along this amazing road ahead. Let’s enjoy the ride, shall we?


from Celebrating our 6th year anniversary = unblocking your creativity!

Catch of the Day


I have to admit that I’m not adventurous with music. I like my playlists as they are, and any new music is one that I find through the radio, or through a recommendation through Spotify. The only way I’ll be able to accept new music if it’s been played at least 5 times – subliminal as it may sound.

BUT THEN.

I forgot about the days of MTV. And I realized how important images are when they go hand in hand with music – especially if the visuals are eye-catching illustrations that not only follow the beats of a sound, but enhances it too. I’m reminded of this through Catch of the Day music video; a song by Sally Seltmann and illustrated by Isobel Knowles who used stop-motion animation to produce the playful motions of the characters. And the catch? There was no brief.

From Dezeen:

“The animations are shot frame by frame using a camera and a light box,” Knowles told Dezeen. “I shot most of the elements separately and then composited them, changed colours and added effects digitally, layering up each scene from small parts.” 

It’s a beautiful work that warrants a watch – or 5. Happy Monday folks!


from Catch of the Day