Lance T. Miller watching his Mentor: Ed Beard Jr. draw and explain anatomical structure of the skull. (2011) What is Mentorship?  Let&#...

Lance T. Miller watching his Mentor: Ed Beard Jr. draw and explain anatomical structure of the skull. (2011)

What is Mentorship? 
Let's start here. A lot of folks don't fully understand what mentorship entails. Simply put, A mentor is someone who has more experience or knowledge on a given topic than a less knowledgeable or less experienced individual. Age can be a factor, but it's not always an older mentor / younger apprentice model. For instance, one of my spiritual mentors when I lived in Nashville was around 8 years younger than me, but was certainly more well versed in a lot of the topics we broached together on my search for a more informed spiritual life. I work with people from many different industries and backgrounds and the number one thing I offer each person to consider enriching their lives and professional careers is Mentorship. The mentor / apprentice model of learning is something of a commodity but you find it more and more as you climb the ladder to success.

Interestingly enough: this isn't a new concept. It's been around since at least the time of the Greeks! Though it was predominantly engaged in specifically to pass a trade skill along to the next generation it eventually began being dismissed as more structured education models developed until it was all but a rare happenstance to be mentored by a "True Master" of a craft or trade. Eventually, mentorship started cropping back up around the 70's as a viable structure by which the older, more experienced artisans and trades people, trained specifically younger and less experienced people.

So what qualifies me to write about Mentorship?
My qualifications lie in the fact that I am engaged on both sides of the mentorship aspect, meaning I have people who mentor me, and I in turn mentor others.  Now it should be noted that I have about 6 mentors that speak into my life on anything from spirituality, to business, to art, magic (illusions) and even personal relationships. At the same time I also mentor about 6-10 people at a given time in anything from art, to business, to magic, and even personal relationships. See what happens there? This is known as a trickle effect. For each person who has reached a stage of being able to mentor, there are those that are still looking to begin the first stages of being mentored and sharing in the accumulated wealth of knowledge from those that are leading the way. In that way, (while I am not at the top of the ladder) I am able to introduce others to this awesome concept.

What can I expect from a Mentor?
 OK. Here's the thing, there's no hard and fast systematic approach to mentorship. Some of it can be hands on ("Here, let me show you how to do that."), some of it is a soft approach ("You know, if you read "The Four Hour Work Week" I'll bet you'll gain some insight into how you can begin to move yourself away from your day job and into something freelance.") and some of it is hypothetical, exploratory approach ("What if you tried doing....?"). The cool thing is, it's always a give and take relationship. You may not be aware of it, but you will also be giving something back to your mentor. For some it's the validation that they are sharing trusted techniques that will continue long after they are gone, and for others it's the joy of knowing their students will help spread a life long legacy that will change the way people live their lives. The primary thing here is to remember that they are people too!

The Magic!
Here's the gold nugget. When you enter into a mentor / apprentice relationship, you will grow! You will learn to appreciate things you'd taken for granted, you will learn the basics of your chosen path that you have skipped over or ignored in arrogance or misunderstanding. You will gain a friend and an ally in your personal growth, someone who cares deeply about helping you succeed because they see your potential to learn and succeed. You will discover pain unlike any other when you feel the sting of disappointment at missing a goal or a task that you scheduled or screw up a process that you've drilled on hundreds of times, but you'll find rapture in that approving nod or that voice telling you that you're getting the hang of something you once thought impossible to accomplish and seeing the fruit of your labors start to develop before your very eyes. Your brain will start to connect the dots with your desire to accomplish something and the skill sets and knowledge required to do so and you will absolutely receive motivation unlike you've ever felt compelled toward in the past. You will begin reaching for the stars and seeing them coalesce in your fingertips.

If you do not have a mentor yet, I highly recommend you start looking for at least one. Try to identify the best possible people who you believe can have the greatest impact on you and whom you greatly respect and admire for those qualities you wish to improve in yourself. Here's a hint:

Not all mentors will speak to every part of your personal life or career path. Some will only guide
you in one aspect where you might find others that influence multiple aspects of both.

Next week, we'll discuss how to find a mentor and some ways to start a mentor relationship on the right foot.

Lance T. Miller is a professional artist and designer in several mass product development fields. He consults with artists to lead them toward their goals in life and works with some of the top agencies in the Board Game Industry as well as the Magic Industry and his own line of consumer products.

Part 2 of 12 Things I've learned in the 12 years I've been Freelancing Being a freelance creative is a very passion driven path...

Part 2 of 12 Things I've learned in the 12 years I've been Freelancing

Being a freelance creative is a very passion driven path that certain people in life choose for themselves. If you have the right mentality in place, you can go far, and you can certainly work on the projects you greatly desire to work on, while making money doing so. If you struggle to find purpose in your creativity, or income, perhaps you are looking in the wrong places. We should all strive to bring our work and personal lives into cohesion and some of the points I'm offering for your consideration have allowed myself and several of my students to do just that. Without further ado let's get onto Part 2.

7. You can't rush greatness (Take your time with learning and with projects)
It's often said that energy is wasted on the youth. The younger an artist, the more they seem to rush headlong into big idea / personal projects hoping to achieve greatness. Only, most discover they don't have the "Innate Talent" they think they're supposed to have and then they give up and walk away. They could have been moments from a great breakthrough, but it all gets set aside to pursue more easily attainable life goals and instant gratification of a job well done. I'm not great. I think I could achieve greatness someday, and I desire to do so, but I keep a level head when I am feeling down about my work. Usually I've learned to turn it into a question. What does this say about my weaknesses as an artist / designer? Then I target that portion of my art or design skill and work on it feverishly.

8. Work through the doubt! (That's when it's time to art.)
 An artist friend of mine and I were having a conversation along the lines of both of us being in a seemingly constant state of depression regarding our work. We were both contemplating our life choices and why we've not "made it" as artists. Respectively he and I have both accomplished some radical stuff in our given industries, but at the time we were feeling less than adequate compared to some of our contemporaries. So here's what I said to him and it stuck with both of us so well, we remind each other of this very point when things start seeming bleak. 

"You'll never work harder than in those moments you are proving 
to yourself that you can and will keep going."

9. Study Many Subjects. (Be an expert in your field by studying others)
Here's a list of some of the things I actively study: Consumer Tech Trends, Vehicle Manufacturing Trends, Interior Design, Fashion, Color Theory, Legibility Standards, Printing Technology, Web Trends, Graphic Design Standards and Procedures, Classic Art, Music Production, Business and Personal Development. OK so why just list off a ton of stuff like that? It's to demonstrate a point, that while they are varied and yet also related, every major industry has a very significant impact on current graphic design and art trends. Sometimes you can get ahead of the design curve and lead the pack on a new trend, other times you could be playing catch up, but if you don't invest the time in understanding the world around you, you will fall behind as an artist or designer.

10.  Pick Your Projects. (You don't have to work on things you don't like.)
You can, and absolutely should, have a very direct capability to choose the projects you work on. If you take a gig because well, "it's money" but you don't like the project, you will do poorly on it. You may give up and, you could possibly even get fired because of taking too long to finish something that should have been able to be done with relative ease. I hear a lot of tired clients tell me they hired someone and they never get a response from their designers after a few months. Some of that could be due to the client's mannerisms in dealing with the designer, but often it comes down to the designer deciding they just don't like it and have no motivation to work. There are so many industries and companies of all types that are looking for designers. You should absolutely be comfortable targeting the industry you want to make projects for and go after it.

11. Work / Life Balance is an absolute must (Don't alienate yourself in favor of work)
Without the support of my wife, I'd not be sitting here writing this for you now. I'll raise my hand here and say I'm guilty of brushing her off and diving into a project or working beyond my normally established hours because I'm behind on a project. Let me tell you, that's not a good place to be but we both strive to make sure we live a balanced life. Despite her seemingly infinite patience, I've upset my wife on several occasions and while she forgives me and we move on, I definitely feel the sting of disappointment when I've ignored her because I was "In the zone". It's appropriate and highly recommended to set work/life boundaries, not just with a significant other, with your friends and family as well. Identify your most productive times and try to build a schedule that allows you to have hobbies and a personal life. If you're a pet lover, don't forget those lovely cuddly little balls of awesomeness either! Spend time with your loved ones. Take some time for yourself even. Go out and take a walk to center your mind and relax. If all you do is work and worry and you don't enjoy life, what are you doing it all for anyway?

12. Share your wisdom readily. (Become an excellent mentor / Pay it Forward)
If there is one thing I ask of my students in repayment for all I've taught them, it is this: Someday, some kid with bright eyes and a shine of hope and excitement in their expression will come to you and ask how you've gotten where you are, or how to do what it is that you do. This is your repayment. Teach them as I have taught you, to seek the life they desire to live, and share with them the ability to understand their true potential. Encourage them to begin with the foundations but show them how it applies to what they wish to create. By imparting that which we have learned, they will make it further than we've been able to do so. They will accomplish more with less, and will be able to change what it means to be an artist.

Lance T. Miller is a professional artist and designer in several mass product development fields. He consults with artists to lead them toward their goals in life and works with some of the top agencies in the Board Game Industry as well as the Magic Industry and his own line of consumer products.

It's interesting to look back and find those little nuggets of wisdom to share with the next generation of freelance creatives. Wh...

It's interesting to look back and find those little nuggets of wisdom to share with the next generation of freelance creatives. What seems so obvious to me now was just a statement of "Oh, that'll never happen to me." back then. Being young and full of life and energy, we all too often make the mistake of letting our pride take the wheel.

1. Learn the basics first (walk before you run)
Whether you paint, create graphics, music, stained glass, or any other creative pursuit, it's the basics that turn you into a master. When you are learning how to draw, you don't just sit down and bust out a full comic scene utilizing perfect perspective and spot on anatomy. Those things take planning and careful execution. People who learn the basics get farther, faster. Learning to understand color theory will allow you to execute subtle color palettes in your art which will literally drive the audience's emotions as the view your piece. Learning how to divide a canvas by the rule of thirds will allow you to create more aesthetically pleasing compositions.

2. Draw Small, Think Big (Thumbnails)
When you are starting a new piece, rather than getting out a piece of paper and working feverishly on one concept for hours, only to give up and throw it away in a rash of irrational self loathing, draw a crap ton of small squares and rectangles and explore the idea in as many different ways as you are able. I like to start new projects with a 20-in-20 exercise: Literally set a timer for 20 minutes and aim to get at least 20 concepts (very roughly) sketched out in order to get your creative juices flowing.

3. Leave Your Ego at the Door (It's what your client wants, not what you want, that matters)
You'd think this one would be self-explanatory, but I can't believe the number of artists and designers that complain when a portion of the project doesn't go the way they wanted it to. Your JOB is to create the artistic vision entrusted to you by your client. Your RESPONSIBILITY is to educate your client when a decision would otherwise hinder their brand integrity or public perception. However, if at the end of the day, the client still wants an angry unicorn shooting rainbow muffins out its ass, then by God, you deliver the best God damned muffin shitting unicorn anyone has ever seen.

4.  Master of at Least One Technique (One is good, three are better)
I began by learning how to remaster all of my terrible concepts in Adobe Illustrator. In the beginning of my career, vector art was barely even heard of let alone requested as a final product. By learning to master vectors in Adobe illustrator, I gained a profound knowledge base for how to approach digital art for commercial product development. I also mastered one interface and keyboard shortcut set that tied in with almost every other product Adobe makes. This saves time and money ;) Eventually I mastered Adobe inDesign and then finally Photoshop. From there, I branched back out into traditional art and applied all the theory and procedures I'd learned from working digitally. I'm by no means a master of traditional mediums, but I'm well on my way.

5. Never dismiss anyone (You never know who is on the opposite end of a handshake)
I have learned that making snap judgement about a person can be detrimental to both yourself and other parties. I've met folks that seem dressed in the shabbiest clothes who are happy go-lucky millionaires, and I've met people dressed to the nines who are more poor than some of the poorest people you can imagine. Regardless of wealth, or imagined, or actual status, there's still a person standing in front of you and your paths have crossed for a reason. Take time and talk to your fellow human, you never know what pearls of wisdom and learning opportunities await you both if you are quick to dismiss people. This doesn't just apply to potential clients, this applies to potential collectors, fans, mentors, students, and everything in between. You could be sitting in front of the opportunity to influence the next Van Gogh, or Monet, or even the opportunity for someone to teach you to become the aforementioned prodigal artist yourself.

6. Your art is not free. It is not a portfolio piece. It's not a contest (Do not work on spec)
Spec work is a dangerous topic to broach both in the field and out of the field, but let me posit a situation here: Imagine going to a mechanic's garage and telling them "I've never worked with you before, fix my car, and if I like how you've done it, I'll pay you". Or, better yet, imagine you have 3 mechanics and you tell them whoever does the best work out of the three will get a nominal amount of money and big acclaim, but the others won't get anything You'd get laughed right out of the building if not punched in the nose for such a ludicrous disrespect of someone else's livelihood. So why do we allow ourselves to go through this? For the sake of imagined respect and fame we'll acquire when we make the next Nike logo, or super amazing fantastical product that everyone has to buy. You know what, it rarely, if ever works out that way. Most times, you're left starving, anyone you work for, does tell others about you ( they mention that you work for free ) and you feel less fulfilled. Often you find yourself trying to find other gigs to fill the void and your soul dies a little more each time you give your art away and receive neither validation nor income.

Stay Tuned for Part 2.

Lance T. Miller is a professional artist and designer in several mass product development fields. He consults with artists to lead them toward their goals in life and works with some of the top agencies in the Board Game Industry as well as the Magic Industry and his own line of consumer products.

There's something you've been wanting to do, but don't have the time, money, skill, knowledge....insert reason here _____...

There's something you've been wanting to do, but don't have the time, money, skill, knowledge....insert reason here _________.

The question is, What are you waiting for?

For a lot of people, they just don't know where to start. They get excited about all of the potential of an idea, but then it breaks down because they get caught up in the uncertainty of details that are not currently relevant. I'm going to share a brief story with you. See if it sounds familiar.
A few years ago, my brother wanted to start a company and understood the potential of his efforts was going to require extra personnel at some point in time way down the road. It would be a service oriented business that would have a regular interval clientele with a very identifiable revenue stream that he'd already proven he was capable of earning, by working for someone else. We sat down and discussed his potential, his skills, and his local business opportunity. Then I did some research and shared what I had learned.
I told him all he needed to get moving was a license to offer the service he was planning on offering and customers that would utilize his skill. That's it! So we gathered resources sent him to a class out of state to get his license and he came home, license in hand, excited and ready to go. He was pumped! I indicated our next step would be to go find very specific local customers so we could maximize his potential for early income. He agreed and let me know he'd been thinking about exactly who to go after first and why.
Weeks went by and I never heard anything from him. When I asked him if he'd gone to the places we discussed, he looked at me and exhaustively said: "I don't even know how to do payroll." Immediately I asked, "What does that matter?" "Well" he says "If I'm going to have to hire people, I'm going to need to know how to do payroll."...
I was floored. I explained that he should not worry over that detail at the moment, because he needed to get a single gig that would pay him anything at all first to get him going. Then once everything got to the point he'd need to hire extra people, we'd hire an accountant to handle payroll and that would be that. So I sent him on his way to go make contact and again didn't hear from him for several weeks. When we crossed paths, I asked him if he had any gigs yet. "Man, I don't know how to do taxes" was his response this time.
I realized at that moment, he'd never start because he was too worried about the uncertainty of irrelevant matters for the current situation. I knew that he was worried about how things would unfold, but indicated that we'd take baby steps and I'd be there the entire way. I'd also written a business plan that covered most of these points and went over it with him before ever sending him off for that initial license. Sadly, anytime I talked to him, it would always turn to the things he didn't know how to do that would only be relevant once he got to a large enough scale that it would matter. Because of the frustration and uncertainty of things to come he wouldn't ever take the first step.
I love my brother to death, and truly want to see him be independent but he just couldn't get over his own worries and the uncertainty that the idea of potential success brings.
So my question to you again is: What are you waiting for?
My next question is, does it matter? Can you start yourself on your path with a phone call, sitting down and practicing a skill, or simply even just finishing that project that's been sitting around forever. Is there something you've put off because you got worried about something completely irrelevant based on a mental projection of success that revealed a roadblock you were unsure how you'd manage it?
If so, Do it. Start. Just start. It seems so simple a statement, but put all of the doubt and uncertainty aside for a moment, and just start. 
(This was originally posted on my LinkedIn)

Is it even necessary anymore? Why spend all that money just to come out confused and enter the workforce later than others who jumped...

Is it even necessary anymore?
Why spend all that money just to come out confused and enter the workforce later than others who jumped in right after high school?
I have been working with students at a local high school this year and they've been asking me these and other questions. Positing several "what if" statements and in the same breath pointing out the negative possible outcomes of attending college to share with me their reservations in pursuit of higher education.
I have mixed feelings on this. I went to an art school to acquire an art degree and the ability to be a creative in the video game industry. I had the wrong intentions and mindset going in for my degree. It was very often you could hear me arrogantly boast "I have more raw talent in my pinky than most of those people out there do in their degree!" I was half right, but I was oh so wrong and my pride cost me a lot more than that degree did.
At the time I began college, 3D animation was only just becoming a thing every school started building programs for, and I was advanced for what I'd known at the time. However, while I was busy telling everyone how awesome I was and playing video games during class, the rest of my classmates started studying more and more, and sitting down with the teachers and learning more. They’d practice into the wee hours of the night trying to learn and be the best they could. Before I knew it, I was so far behind, my wounded pride wouldn't allow me to admit my deficiency, and I graduated with far less skill and absolutely zero talent as compared to my fellow classmates.
I was so certain all I needed was a piece of paper, confirming what I had already convinced myself to be true, so I could run off and start the most epic studio of all time! A few friends and I were indeed working on building a studio during my sophomore year and continued well after I graduated and in all fairness I could get those guys to make some bad ass art as an art director for our studio. Sadly, my own artwork took a back seat in favor of trying to be the business guy, and I didn’t practice, and didn't admit that I was a terrible artist.
Even though I’d been told I shouldn't have a degree two days before graduation (Thank you Mr. Buffalo, I REALLY needed to hear that.), my young pride and self-assurance was so strong, that I wouldn't actually grow to begin to understand that statement and finally sit down to learn art until just three years prior to the publication of this article. Sure I worked my butt off learning program techniques, and filter setups, I could work from imagination and my composition was something I was naturally good at; What I was really good at was the “fake it til you make it” mentality.
A little too good…
You see, I openly blamed my school for my lack of understanding the principles of art and the inability to apply the core principles of animation that I had been taught. I haughtily threw my teachers under the bus and blamed them for my failure to draw the way I’d always wanted to. I trashed my school that I fought so hard to go to in the first place and tarnished the good names of some excellent instructors for the sake of my ego. Then slowly, over time, the arrogance started to fade, I started to see myself as I was: a dreamer with no discipline and no hope of actually making a life doing that which I’d longed for my entire life. The depression crept in and sat heavy on my chest as I toiled away in retail hell for five solid years.
In the meantime, I did practice, but only half-heartedly and I watched video tutorials and bought books assuming each next one would give me the key to unlock the creativity that burned so deeply inside of me. I took paying gigs knowing I did not know how I was going to create the art and would B.S. my way through the project citing and regurgitating the information I’d been consuming expecting that each new project would be the one. The one project that would launch my mega career and everyone would shower me with praise and job offers. It never happened, those moments that I convinced myself were just around the corner never came to pass.
It wasn't until I sat down and had an honest conversation with myself about who I was and what I wanted, faced my demons, and admitted that I was a confirmed and bona fide slacker, that I actually began to learn what my teachers sought to share with me 10 years ago.
This write up serves as a reminder to all who desire something in life. You can have it, if you believe it and go after it. You can learn if you practice obsessively. You can grow, if you listen well. Teachers have a gift they want to share with you. They see your potential and even though you throw on a mask of self-assurance and talent, they can see right through it and actually see your potential for greatness and your current soul crushing self-doubt. They look beyond what you are showing them to what potential you really have and that’s why they get angry and frustrated when you don’t settle down and listen.
It also serves as my apology to Alex Buffalo, Brian Immel, Richard Harrington, Christopher Reese, Patricia Kreup, Kay Christy, Michael Davidson, and Judith Desplechin who were among the more active teachers that were trying to get me to let my guard down in order to be able to learn what they wanted to share. They saw my potential and fought for me even though I would not fight for myself. Unfortunately I was a complete doorknob and missed the opportunity to truly learn from these amazing individuals. Not a day goes by that I don’t sit down to work and hear their encouraging words play in my ears.
The funny thing is, all these ten years later, I am just now beginning to understand what drove them to want to teach in the first place. I now have students of my own, for entrepreneurship, spirituality, and design and graphic principles. I see the vast potential that lies in our future generations and I want that. I don’t even care about my own success anymore. I only desire helping others to achieve their own and to discover personal freedom.
So, to the question of whether college is the place for you, I cannot answer that. You have to decide that for yourself. I can tell you, there are tons of free resources and information online, but at the end of the day nothing beats having a teacher who possesses the ability to open your mind. You have to approach it the right way, and admit that you may not know all that you think you know, but the sooner you let your guard down, the sooner you'll truly soar!
**TLDR: Wasted my time in college because I thought I was hot shit. Pissed teachers off that were actually trying to help me by ignoring them. Took forever to pull my head out of my ass only to realize what a huge opportunity I had missed. Now I'm becoming a teacher and am paying my dues in the same way. I can't answer the question about college for you, it was just meant to make you think and open your mind.**

(This was originally posted on my LinkedIn)

This actually used to be one of my lead-ins with new customers to take them off guard when they first walked into my commission based r...

This actually used to be one of my lead-ins with new customers to take them off guard when they first walked into my commission based retail store and asked. "Do you know what I need?"

"How should I know, I'm a salesman, not a psychic!"
It was sort of a play on the old Star Trek Dr. McCoy phrasing of "I'm a doctor, not a...". However it has come to mean something entirely different to me over the years. Originally it was a leading joke, something light hearted that would let customers know I was on their side, and that I didn't already have in mind what I was going to sell them. We'd all have a giggle and then I would help the customer empty their wallet on tons of things they didn't even know they needed, which had actually been picked out before they ever stepped foot in my store.
(I was still a salesman after all) ;)
That was a long time ago and I've no need to be that type of "non-psychic salesman" these days. In recent years However, I've found myself uttering those very same words, just in response to many different questions under entirely different circumstances.

  • How do I know what game to make?
  • What designs should I use on this product?
  • What product should I make my art for?
  • Do you think it'll actually sell?
  • Will my design still be in style by the time this gets printed?

We are called on to follow a process known as "futurecasting" formerly simply referred to as "market forecasting". We have to know what the mass market trends are, what emerging trends will be coming up, what trends are on their way out, and what trends are likely to stick around. We study what the general market trends currently are, look at advancements in technology, study color guides and past color trends. We look at everything from design in eras gone by and concept art from artists who dream of the future and then (usually pretty accurately) determine the next big trend before it ever even happens. A lot of us find ourselves on the same wave length and it's what actually ends up driving the trend!
Pretty spooky huh?
Project development spans months, and years sometimes. Think about one of the last movies you saw. How amazing were those special effects?! How awesome were those gadgets?! Every bit of that was planned YEARS in advance. Yet you didn't actually get to purchase it until the movie was released (around the same time of the commercial product release). Yet, there it was, a really cool tech piece that you want now, and you will likely go get to stay on top of the digital trend.
Those clothes in the movie...?, same thing. Someone futurecast those with the help of a clothing designer and several other futurecasting creatives. The looks then bleed out onto runways, and into commercial designs for everything from clothes, to cars, to gadgets, and furniture. It dictates way more than you even realize at first.
It's an amazing mix of intuition, research, and honed practice to sniff out the next big thing. Some call us psychic, some call us trendsetters, we know what's going on before it happens, we're the cutting edge. Sometimes you nail it on the head, Sometimes you miss. Either way, you ship it, and move onto the next big thing.

In reality, artists, game creators, entrepreneurs, art directors, web designers, commercial artists and others in commercial product development, are not called on to be psychics. It's not far from it though if you think about it.
So why am I sharing this and Why should you?
There are a lot of young artists, designers, creatives, technopreneurs, entrepreneurs, etc. all of whom are dreamers. They have big ideas but have no understanding of these concepts and so they flounder along until they finally discover them for themselves or it's taught to them by one of the bigger companies they eventually get to work for. I can personally say these concepts were never taught to me and college and if they had been, I'd have accelerated my understanding of commercial product development a lot sooner. I further believe It's our duty to inform those walking the path behind us and to empower them with the right types of tools and strategies that aim for growth in all of human existence.
(This was originally posted on my LinkedIn)

Understanding your perceived value can mean the difference between being an Artist or a starving artist. Often, younger and more inex...

Understanding your perceived value can mean the difference between being an Artist or a starvingartist. Often, younger and more inexperienced artists price their work solely on the cost of materials or a general guess of their print's value by looking at other artists and assuming they need to charge less due to inexperience or other presumed limiting factors. When doing what you love for a living leads you to cutting expenses and eating less food than normal, it's time to take some important steps in creating your artist valuation.
First (and probably most important): STOP UNDERSELLING YOURSELF!
If you and I were both to go to market with an equally appealing piece of art and you sold your art print for $15 while I sold mine for $35, who do you think would sell more at the end of the day? At first thought it would seem the lower price point would indicate more sales, but that is not the case. A $15 art print suggests to the potential buyer that you are not anyone of value and you are just there to hock prints. While a $35 dollar print indicates you believe in yourself and others should believe in you as well. It sends a message that your art is worth something and they'd do well to invest in one of your prints. Some artists sell prints for upwards of $90! If you are just starting out, $90 for a print may be a bit much to ask for. You need to find that sweet spot; Ask too much, and people will think you are narcissistic or over hyping yourself, ask too little and there will be a negative assumption of quality and it will haunt you. 
Second: Create valuation by limiting quantity
There is a general saying in business: People will pay more for what they can't have. Think about this for a moment and realize if you constantly sell the same print over and over, you are decreasing your valuation permanently. You are once again telling buyers it is not worthwhile to invest in your art or you as an artist because it will never be special. Conversely, if you sell a limited edition of a print where it is guaranteed that you will not release that print again for sale, you are creating a collectible market of your own work and telling your collectors and fans that you are going to be worth investing in. Your buyers will come back looking for your next limited edition and they will (most likely) tell others to invest in your prints as well.
Third: Boost valuation by utilizing your art in consumer product markets
When you think about some of the top artists out there today, the ones that come to mind are ones who are famous for having their artwork appear in consumer level products. They have a presence when their name is said, a certain mysterious quality comes to mind. This may be difficult to manage, but look for opportunities to align yourself with consumer markets with which you both identify and wish to participate. It makes no sense for me to make art for skateboards if I'm not a skater or don't know the market. By aligning yourself with consumer products, the public will start placing more value on your art. 
Fourth: Maintain valuation by selling originals and Giclée
If you work with a major game company and develop art for them using traditional media, often times, they will let you sell the original art to collectors. The same can be said for many other commercial art markets where it is not considered a work for hire project. When you do this, not only can you collect a little more money on the work you've done, but the market will begin seeing your other items as more valuable or at least as valuable as they've grown and you will maintain your ability to command a fair price for your work.
Giclée are super high quality prints that capture details traditional digital printers are incapable of. They cost more to produce but command higher prices from serious collectors who are not yet able to afford an original. If you are able to afford a limited run of Giclée prints they can earn you some pretty sweet income as well as further the valuation that you have been building with your earlier work.
Finally: Resist the urge to challenge the secondary market
It's not uncommon to see a secondary market marking up your initial prints or originals and reselling them for more. This is a good thing! This is building your perceived value. At first the reaction is to fight them and re-release your print so that people can buy your art at the prices you originally set forth. This is dangerous territory. You risk upsetting a lot of your most devoted collectors and plummeting your perceived valuation in a nose dive. 
Remember: "People will pay more for what they cannot have." If your work has entered the secondary market and is being sold, it proves that you are an artist of value. You are now able to raise your current prices and really make a living doing what you love. You will likely receive more requests for private commissions and, if you haven't previously, you may be presented opportunities in the consumer market. The secondary market is just important to building your valuation as the primary market, and you do not want to get on those folks' bad side either.
As with anything I tell my "Entrepreneurship for Artists" class participants: Don't take my words verbatim. Do your own research. Ask Mentors to help you understand some of these concepts if they go against your logic or morals and always do a gut check. There is a massive difference between being an artist, and making art for a living. You have to be able to see the bigger picture and think long term growth rather than short term gain. Let me know if this article helps. I love hearing from artists who are taking control of their art and making it a business.
(This was originally posted on my LinkedIn)

... have I been this disciplined in anything. I've tried and failed to build discipline in so many things over the years. My art, my ...

... have I been this disciplined in anything. I've tried and failed to build discipline in so many things over the years. My art, my guitar, drag racing, bowling, fishing, graphic design, business...etc. It's been so difficult to maintain focus between procrastination tendencies and fear of being judged by others that often times my attempts to build daily habits are over well before they even start. I'm writing this because I wanted to share a proud moment with you. One that I hope may inspire you to take action in your life and gain you a joy like you've never experienced.

I don't often display vulnerability because it can be considered a weakness in my business. However, the emotional nature of a journey like I've been on for just the past year cannot be ignored either. 

For the last year I've endeavored to do one thing every single day. Draw anything related to Fantasy art and become a better artist through the process. First I thought I'd come up with clever and unique story concepts and then illustrate them. It wasn't long until frustration settled in. I couldn't draw any of the things in my mind. (at least not to a level I was happy with)

I hated drawing because I was terrible and didn't see any growth happening! Add the words of one of my professors ringing out in my head over and over every time I sat down to draw: "Your anatomy sucks, your perspective is piss poor, and if you bring me anything you've drawn I can tear it to shreds in a matter of seconds! There is no way in hell you should be graduating with a degree." ... 

I'm gonna let that sink in for a moment...

Now try living with that thought every day for over 12 years and still trying to get better at art only to feel like you'll never measure up. I'm not trying to gain pity or sympathy, just simply setting the stage. Those words gave me fuel, and it took a long time for them to start burning, last year, I put my foot down. I'd been a professional in the gaming and independent product industry for over 5 years despite my inability to draw with correct proportion, perspective, or rendering skills.

I worked every day, and some days I wanted to give up. There were moments I felt I was actually regressing. Somedays I'd say wait, I drew better 3 days ago, what's happening? It was scary and I realized those were the days I had to work the hardest. I'm nowhere near where I want to be with my skill, but today I hit level 3 on, a site dedicated to structured gesture and figure drawing practice. It takes 70 hours to get that certificate and they only count 30 minutes per 24 hour period. To break that down:

To reach Level 3 (70h)

  • 30 mins / day - 140 days
  • 20 mins / day - 210 days (a challenge a day)
  • 10 mins / day - 420 days

So, OK... BIG deal! Why should you care? You should care, because YOU have the same capacity to do whatever it is that's burning in your soul. That thing you've given up on time and again. That thing that makes you sweat and fills you with excitement every time you think about how great it would be if you could do it. It's part of the growth cycle, and it shouldn't scare you. It should motivate you. The thing that you have bad days with and hate, if only briefly. Every bad day you encounter means you're one day closer to an awesome one where you are so invigorated that you can't think of anything else. 

Whatever you do, pick something you love and really want to be great at, then spend about 30 minutes a day working on it. It won't be long until that 30 minutes turns into 70 hours or more, but you gotta start! They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at just about anything. Clock's ticking. So, What are you going to become great at?

(This was originally posted on my LinkedIn)