Dominique Lane has been the An Inspired Mess artist since the website’s creation – and she’s behind every piece of Jack Hansard artwork you’ve come across. If you follow my Facebook or Twitter channels then you’ll have seen all the previews, behind-the-scenes, and extra illustrations that she’s created. Right now, Dom is working on the book cover design for Season 1 of The Jack Hansard Series. (Yup, we’re publishing.)
So it’s about time that she had a proper introduction, don’t you think?
Dom and I go waaaay back. We met in high school and were both the right kind of weird. We split to different ends of the country for university, but our weird followed us around and made sure we were never too far from each other in spirit. She studied Computer Animation and Special Effects to get a formal qualification to tell the world that she was able to do the thing she has always been able to do: make art like a badass. She now lives the happy (but poor) life of a freelance artist. Let’s ask her what that’s like…
1. Hey Dom, what’s it like being a poor freelance artist?
“Honestly? It can sometimes suck! It takes a lot of hard work and the ability to meet tight deadlines. But if you’re very organised and confident, I think you might be able to turn it into a steady job. My first freelance work came to me out of pure luck, but those opening jobs turned into repeat customers. Getting that initial experience can be the hardest – but most important – part.
Not that there’s a long line of people knocking on my door with projects, by the way. I enjoy having a lot of free time, but that isn’t very ‘adult’. And I don’t have quite the same freedom I wish I could have with a big bank account…”
2. What’s your favourite project been so far?
The Jack Hansard Series of course ;D
3. All right, suck up. Favourite paid project?
It’s difficult to say what my favourite job has been. I’ve done quite a lot of storyboard projects that illustrate how a concept would work in practice – and there have been a couple I was quite excited to work on because I’m a big fan of the franchise. I was super excited to storyboard a project that was related to Halo 5 early on in my career.
One of the most enjoyable was a project that asked me to design two playable characters for a phone app – which is now live in Dubai. I’m particularly proud of that one!
4. What’s your biggest artistic influence?
Ha, that’s a bit of a difficult question. I don’t think there’s a single name that I’d pick out above others.
Back in school I was really into anime (you’ll know this, Georgina) so that was one major influence on my art while growing up. I started by mimicking Sailor Moon to – well, every other anime out there? By college I’d developed different cartoony art styles which continued into university. It wasn’t until I started to really push myself out of my own comfort zone that I began to improve.
Since then I’ve drawn inspiration from countless artists and works – if I encounter a new, even completely unknown artist that inspires me, I try to learn from their style. It’s not about copying, as I used to at school. It’s about understanding how they draw and learning to evolve my style to match.
5. Do you have a favourite style or medium to work in?
I’m not sure about a favourite style: I certainly have one I’m comfortable in that I tend to drift back into when I’m doing super rough sketches. These days I try to push myself towards a more realistic art style. All about pushing out of that comfort zone, y’know?
I usually work with Photoshop, mainly because it’s quicker. I’d like to spend a lot more time doing watercolours though. I find even if a watercolour is done terribly, it still somehow looks lovely!
6. What advice would you give to other aspiring artists?
The same advice that I ignored for ages! Suck at cars? Draw some cars. Suck at faces? Draw the hell out of dem profiles and 3/4 views!
Seriously, push yourself out of your comfort zone. When I finally made the effort, I improved leaps and bounds in skill. It also improved my confidence – which is the main thing that often holds me back.
I’m still far from perfect; I still have a lot to improve on. It SUCKS that it’s a slow process, but it’s worth it to build yourself up to a level you can be proud of.
Also, be kind to yourself. If you want to get yourself out there, join some online communities for support. And don’t get discouraged if you’re not becoming famous in a few months, it takes a bit longer than that ;D
All images in this post belong to Dominique Lane. If you want to see more of Dom’s work, check out her portfolio and her recently opened shop!
A while ago I quizzed an author friend of mine on his experiences self-publishing for the first time. For this blog post, I’ve coerced an artist friend to share her own experiences of ‘self-publishing’. Bear with me here.
With the rise of self-publishing a plethora of companies have sprung up to help authors realise their publishing dreams. Services offered by sites such as CreateSpace,Lulu and Smashwords will allow you to manage the design process while they take care of the manufacturing, distribution, and shipping of your book – and in return, they get a cut of the profits. The artsy equivalent is offered by companies like Zazzle, CafePress, and Society6 which allow artists to transfer their designs onto a variety of products, and then sit back as the company handles the rest.
Liz started her art blog, Foxes and Tea, back in 2012. Last year, in March 2015, she decided to take the leap and set up an account with Society6. Here she shares an insider’s thoughts on the service, and her experiences of her first year running an online shop.
1. Hi Liz. What made you decide to sell your art through Society6?
“I saw that other artists were doing it, and I liked the range of products that Society6 offers. And I’ve always enjoyed designing t-shirts – even when I first started messing around with Photoshop at 14, I’d be like “yes, this will make the coolest shirt.” (Spoilers: none of those early designs were very cool at all.)
I was also attracted to the fact that Society6 is quite simple, in that I just have to upload the image files and not mess about with shipping and handling or any sort of customer service.”
2. What’s the user-experience like?
“For the most part, it’s pretty easy to use, other than it keeps deleting my wishlist. But that’s more of an issue for me as a consumer, rather than as a seller.
In general I’ve found they offer the right tools for me to edit my designs when adding them to items, although they don’t have an option on the website to crop/edit images. But that’s a minor inconvenience at most.
I like the fact that you get an immediate preview for what the product looks like. I also like that I don’t have to deal with the shipping, or with things going wrong. Society6 has its own customer service department for stuff like that, and when I’ve spoken to them they’ve been really prompt, and really friendly.”
3. Which product seems to have sold best for you, so far?
“It’s mugs, hands down.
Which might be because they’re some of the cheaper products, or because mugs are amazing.”
4. What challenges do you face by selling through Society6?
“Some people can be put off by the price – it definitely isn’t cheap. I’d always wait for a sale to be on before buying anything. (I’d really like to get one of their throw blankets, but they’re all a bit too expensive for me to justify it.)
In terms of profit, you potentially get a smaller cut than if you were producing and selling the same items independently. But I don’t mind this, because I can just upload my designs and then forget about it. It would be different if I was trying to make those sales my primary income.
Another downside is that your artwork is only included in the general search if the customer has previously looked at it in your shop. It won’t automatically be included in the site-wide Society6 shop, so you have to provide direct links to make sure the customer sees things in your personal shop-front first.”
5. Would you recommend using a shop like Society6 to an artist in a similar position to yourself?
“Well, you haven’t really got anything to lose by doing it.
It’s not going to make you rich over night (unless maybe you’re selling the world’s most amazing fan art, and it’s coming up to Christmas) but it also requires no investment, apart from time.”
6. What advice would you give to someone setting up their own shop?
“First of all, tag your art, so people will actually find it. (But don’t put like twenty billion tags on it, cause that’s just silly.)
Secondly, make all the image files for products you’ll want to sell in one go OR take care to keep the original file, in case you want to add more products later. Remember that different products need different file dimensions (e.g. shirts have to be 3300 x 5100 pixels, whereas mugs are 4600 x 2000). Nothing is more annoying than if you want to add say, a mug, but the only file you have is 1000 x 1000, and you just end up with loads of white space on the product.
This also seems like a good time to plug Mischief, which is AMAZING for scalable vectors (and cheap/free with limited features).”
7. As well as your Society6 shop, I know you also sell art commissions independently – how does that compare to shop sales?
“I sell fewer commissions than shop products, but tend to receive more money for them. A small Society6 print and a commission might actually cost the same, but I receive a bigger cut from the commission. A lot of the time I also charge slightly less than Society6 prices and still receive a larger profit.
I might not be able to make the same products as Society6 by myself, but I still do a fair range. I’ve done some traditional art (a painted book cover, watercolours, pencil drawings) and I’ve done digital stuff (RP characters, portraits). The advantage of commissions is that you can talk to the buyer and give them exactly what they want.”
8. You’ve said already that this isn’t your primary income. It’s important to be realistic when diving into an endeavour like this, so can you give us an idea of how your art sales fit into your wider earnings?
“Well, I’m a scummy PhD student, so I support myself with the occasional temp job, whatever money the university deigns to give me, and my parents if they’re feeling charitable.
My art goes into what I call my lard fund. I might buy a treat for myself with it, pay for a conference fee, or make up money if I really can’t afford a bill.
I also quite like my degree, and would defo like to work in some related field. If I could combine art with my degree, and become some sort of mad painting professor, that’d be ideal.”
Thanks for the insight, Liz. To sum up what you’ve said about using services provided by a company such as Society6 . . .
Easy to use
Takes manufacturing, shipping, and customer service out of your hands
A large variety of products to put your designs on
No money required upfront
Expensive base prices set by the company
Smaller profit margin than if you sold independently
May be difficult to get discovered by new customers
There are certainly people out there who shout about their success using shops like this – Zazzle’s forum has a few threads from people who claim to have quit their day job and run a shop full-time – but it’s important to understand that these are the exception to the rule. If you’re determined to use something like this as your springboard, then you need to accept that you’ll start out very small and it takes a huge amount of work and persistent marketing to build up to anywhere near the ‘full-time’ kind of success.
If ‘full-time’ is what you’re after, then you might be better off setting up your own independent online shop. If you have the time, and perhaps more importantly the money to manufacture your products independently, then you may be more likely to see a better return on your investment if you go it alone, and you can have true control over all aspects of your business.
But if you’re someone without the time to pour into managing a host of product manufacturers, website maintenance, sales contracts, worldwide shipping, and all the customer service issues that come with running your own business . . . or if, like Liz, you’re a passionate artist after a lard fund or rent top-up . . . then a shop like Society6 might be for you.
We hope you found this helpful. Do you run a shop like Liz’s? How does your experience compare? Any tips for others? Let us know in the comments!