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...

I'm a Salesman. Not a Psychic...

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 Artist Valuation

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 ...

Never in My Life...

... 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)