Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reminder of this weekends charity events!

We are less then an hour away from the start of the Get Your ♥ On Benefit here in Tallahassee benefiting the Spread the Love charity. It will be going on from 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm (EST) come rain or shine. You can get all the details HERE.

There will a live art auction which I will have work in. You are welcome to call in a bid using this temporary phone number: (850) *** - ****. You can get all additional info as well as see some of the available art for sale HERE.

Lastly my ebay auction featuring original drawings I did for the Dreamblade miniature game concludes tomorrow. This is the first time I am selling any of my professional work, don't miss out on the historic opportunity! You can get more info about the auction and drawings HERE or you can head right over to the EBAY AUCTION.

I greatly appreciate any and all contributions you can make toward this cause.

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Friday, January 29, 2010

Get Your ♥ On Benefit & Art Auctions

You might have notice this week that I have been talking a lot about the Spread the Love charity that is benefiting a friend of mine with terminal cancer. Tomorrow, January 30 from 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm (EST) there will be the Get Your ♥ On Benefit here in Tallahassee. If you have the Facebooks you can get more information HERE. There will be food, music and many events raising money for the Spread the Love charity. Even if you do not live anywhere near Tallahassee there are still ways for you to take part in the event!

A temporary phone number: (850) *** - **** has been set up so that you can bid on the art that is available in the art auction tomorrow! I will have several pieces in the show and there are many other local and not so local artists taking part too. Here are the pieces I will have available tomorrow:
Tiny Mouse - 11 x 14 - Marker and Pencil

Totem Lord - 20 x 10 - Digital Print (comes with the miniature from the Dreamblade game!)

Deja Voodoo Derby Poster - 11 x 17 - Digital Print (there will be 5 available)

I was able to involve Chelsea Conlin as well and she has this great piece available tomorrow!

Unidane - 9 x 12 - Digital Print

Lee Bretschneider will have prints available too! You can see some of the prints that he will have HERE, but he will have many others currently not available anywhere else.

If you are interested in bidding on any of this art tomorrow just call the phone number that has been set up for the event: (850) 408-9239 There will be FREE SHIPPING (Thanks Chad!) for folks that win the auction using this number. Good luck and I hope you can win some art and help out the charity!

My other auction on ebay is still going! Only a couple more days to go, don't miss your chance to bid on original drawings from the Dreamblade miniatures game!

I will be back on Monday with a recap on how things went and hopefully some new work to show you later in the week. Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Warforged Armor Designs #1

Today I bring you the first installment of Warforged armor that I designed for the Dungeons and Dragons Character Visualizer. This is the last of the armor I designed for the Visualizer and it is in many ways the most different.

Since the Warforged are living constructs with bodies made out of metal and wood all the armor had to be attached to the bodies surface rather then worn. I tried to work mounting plates and bolts into the designs to feel both functional and decorative. The cloth and wizard attires are more clothing-like, but do take in account for their mechanical bodies, allowing room for unhindered knee and arm movement. The armor is also unisex since the Warforged are genderless.

© 2008 Wizards of the Coast LLC

© 2008 Wizards of the Coast LLC

I was looking through all my Warforged files this morning and I will be sure to bring you my sketches after I post all the sets. For the most part all the sketches go though the same sequence: too much like worn armor, too elaborate, just right.

Don't forget my CHARITY ART AUCTION is still going on! Head over to EBAY to bid on my art and help out my friend.

I will have more information on Friday regarding other events happening this weekend that you all can take part in to help the cause. Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spine Bug - charity art auction - NOW LIVE

My previously mentioned charity art auction of one my Dreamblade turnarounds is NOW LIVE! You can find the auction of the Spine Bug turnaround on ebay, HERE.

Spine Bug Turnaround (scanned images of the drawings)
© 2005 Wizards of the Coast LLC

All proceeds from this auction are going to the Spread the Love Charity benefiting Stephanie Little. Not only is this the first time I am selling any of my work from the Dreamblade game, but this is also the first time I am selling any of my professional work to the public.

Spine Bug drawings: Prismacolor black pencil on 9 x 12 sheet of Bienfang Graphics 360 marker paper

This auction is for all three views of the Spine Bug

All are signed on the front with product info and date on the backs

I hope you will take this opportunity to help out my friend as well as get three pieces of my art. Please pass this along to anyone you might find this of interest. All I ask is that you use ebay to ask any questions regarding this auction. Good luck to all bidders, I hope these drawings find a good home and that we can raise some money for Stephanie!

I will be taking part in another live action event this Saturday, January 30th, here is Tallahassee, Florida. Proceeds from this are also going to the Spread the Love Charity. I will be auctioning off a personal piece. There will be a way for individuals outside the Tallahassee area to bid in this auction. I will have more details about this auction later in the week.

Thanks in advance to everyone that can take part in these auction. Your financial contribution is GREATLY appreciated. I will have updates and more information as the week progresses. Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hulking Brute - Dreamblade

Imagine that, a quick Friday post AND it involves a Dreamblade miniature. What are the odds? Today I bring you the Hulking Brute from the Anvilborn expansion. The art order had me at 'hulking'. I really enjoy big lumbering creatures so I got right to work and submitted this for my first pass...

Hulking Brute (version 1)
© 2006 Wizards of the Coast LLC

The second after I sent this version off I realized I should have done more with it. I hate the tunnel vision I sometime get on a piece, but that is just one of the reason art directors are so important. Thankfully the AD and I were on the same wave length and he suggested more crazy lumpiness and veins, work to make him more gross. This is something I got completely covered. He also suggested to liven up the club as well as raise it up a bit to help with the molding/casting end of things. Some quick revisions later we had a good looking brute...

Hulking Brute
© 2006 Wizards of the Coast LLC

This second version hit the mark and I was given the okay to move forward on the rest of the turnaround...

Hulking Brute
© 2006 Wizards of the Coast LLC

You can see how the Hulking Brute turned out in it's final production miniature form, HERE.

As a reminder, I will be taking part in a charity art auction next week as well as selling (for the first time) some Dreamblade art starting in the next couple days on ebay. I will keep you all up to date and how you can take part in the auctions!

Also, two books from Paizo that I contributed to are hitting shelves as we speak. As soon as I have confirmation that they are out I will share my work with you! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

W.I.P. Podcast Episode 10

I was recently contacted by the good folks of W.I.P. to be on their podcast to talk about my 'Getting Serious' blog posts (Part 1 & Part2). This past Friday I had the privilege to speak with them and the episode went live yesterday.

Don't walk, RUN! to listen to W.I.P. Podcast Episode 10. The episode covers the topics of Artrage, the Spectrum deadline, crowd-sourcing and looking back at 2009. There is also an interview with yours truly sounding only slightly like a robot. Do I really sound like that?? ;)

A special thanks to Jeff & Caroline Himmelman and Peter & Anna Mohrbacher for having me on and being so gracious. I guess this also means I will need to get my butt in gear for Gen Con in August!

2010 is already looking like it will be an exciting an full year. Let's hope so! See you all on Friday, until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Monday, January 18, 2010

Things coming down the pipeline

Stopping by quickly today to let you all know about some things to keep an eye out for in the coming week(s) and month(s).

In two weeks I will be taking part in a charity art auction for the Spread the Love Charity benefiting Stephanie Little. The art auction is on January 30th in Tallahassee, Florida. I will have at least one piece in this auction. I will also be selling on ebay a full set of turnarounds for a miniature I designed for Dreamblade, with all proceeds going to the charity. This will be the first time I have sold any of my original work produced for Dreamblade. The auction will be going up next Sunday or Monday. I will be keeping you all up to date as this progresses. I hope everyone interested in owning some of my original art work will take this opportunity to win some art and to help Stephanie.

In the coming months I will also be showing work at the new location of Bacon & Bakin'. They will be moving soon and will be able to take part in the local First Friday events. They have asked me if I would care to show work in their business in March or April. I look forward to doing this and hope that if you are in the Tallahassee area that you will come out. I will update you on this as I know more. If you are curious to the types of cool things Bacon & Bakin' makes, check out these cool Cthulhu cupcakes I got to have at my birthday this past October. Ancient God yummy goodness!

You will go mad at the sight of these tasty treats!

Beware the Deep Ones!

Eyes of the Beholders! RAWR!

I will continue to update you on these events as I know more. I will be back on Wednesday at my normal posting time. Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Friday, January 15, 2010

Monster Car Revisions

Back in December I shared with you some elements I created for a monster car video clip for the Florida Department of Transportation. Turns out... they didn't want a monster car after all. Who knew?

RAWR! Remember me? I am Monster Car!
© 2009 Florida Department of Transportation

There apparently was a hiccup in the communication at some point and they had wanted a happy car. Something akin to the cars in the Pixar film, Cars. Back to the computer for me and soon we had a brand new car with a rosier outlook on life.
Decidedly NOT Monster Car
© 2009 Florida Department of Transportation

But fear not for Monster Car! The client was so happy with how Monster Car turned out that they decided to use both cars. Using both better illustrates the misperception of cars by children. They are not your anthropomorphic friend but are really a one ton bringer of death. Or something close to it.

Monster Car, child and Happy Car all together all together at last!
© 2009 Florida Department of Transportation

A few edits and replaced graphics later we have our new video clip with all the old and new elements. Please pay no attention to the very beginning, Blogger's compression on the video is doing something weird to it. Enjoy...


RAWR!
© 2009 Florida Department of Transportation

I will be back next week with more thrilling posts. Not sure what Monday will involve since it is a holiday and I will be laying low and out of sight of the internet. I will try and find something quick and fun if possible! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ArtOrder Biker Gang - Revisited

If you haven't heard, Jon Schindehette is putting together a Best of ArtOrder book from all the work created in 2009 for his blog. To make the book even better, you are allowed to go back and revisit, repaint, touch up, tweak, and otherwise right your wrongs with pieces you had submitted. I decided it was time to finish up a piece that I really enjoyed doing for the Biker Gang Challenge. You might remember the piece I did for this challenge way back in June, if not, you can refresh your memory, HERE. A little painting later and we now have:

Biker Gang (RAWR!)
© 2010 Christopher Burdett

This also is my first finished painting of 2010, beating out a piece I am doing for a job by just a couple of days. I hope it makes it into the book, crossing my fingers! I should know by the end of the month if any of my work made it in.

See you back here on Friday when I share with you some client revisions and additions. Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Monday, January 11, 2010

GameMastery Guide Preview

Over on the Paizo blog they have a preview up for their GameMastery Guide that is coming out later his year. It just so happens that the preview also contains a piece I did for the book!

Mimic (RAWR!!!!)
© 2009 Paizo Publishing, LLC

I did quite a few pieces for this book and look forward to sharing them with you. The GameMastery Guide also allowed me the chance to work on a piece that I feel I was born to model for. You will just have to be patient to see what the heck I am talking about. If you have a chance head over and check out what is in store for the GameMastery Guide!

On Wednesday I will be bringing you the first piece of 2010 that I have finished up! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Friday, January 8, 2010

Many Thanks! and Ninja Mountain #46 - Critique That!

First off, I just want to thank everybody that stopped by this week and read my Getting Serious Posts. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the comments you left me on my blog, Facebook, Twitter and Deviantart. I never imagined that so many of you would respond in such a positive way. If I didn't respond you directly, I am sorry, I didn't expect so many and I tried to keep up with them all. Like I said, I was a bit worried that I was over sharing and putting myself out on the internet to become a target. One must only look to the comments on Youtube to know what I am taking about. Again, thank you very much, I am just happy I can give back to the community in this way after so many of you have helped me this past year. Let us hope for an amazing 2010 for all of us!

Secondly, (I am a week behind on this) the good folks at the Ninja Mountain put out a call for artist to submit pieces to be critiqued on their Podcast. A critique by your peers is always something to be sought out so I jumped at the opportunity. Last week they critiqued a piece I did for the Dragon Magazine article, Barbarian Essentials. It was a great critique, they pointed out some things I had already heard about the piece as well as some new areas I should address in future work. The newest Ninja to join their ranks, Drew Baker, went that extra mile and gave me some additional notes and did a paint over of the piece to show me what he meant. Now that is a critique! Many thanks to Drew, Patrick, Jeremy, and Socar for taking the time to help me with my work. I look forward to taking giving the piece a little more love and sharing it with everyone. You can hear my critique, as well as four others on Ninja Mountain #46.

Dragon Rage Barbarian
© 2009 Wizards of the Coast LLC

Lastly, I have been popping up elsewhere on the web this week and I wanted to show you how that relates to some of the things I talked about in my Getting Serious post. If you missed it, Jon Schindehette mentioned my Getting Serious posts on Wednesday's Artorder, Trying to get inspired. Again on Thursday, Jon mentioned me on a post about Standing out. This time around he was talking about this years holiday card that I sent out. Both times he was kind enough to link to my blog and or website.

I did send him an email letting him know that I had put up my posts that mentioned him and Artorder. The mention of the card was out of the blue and very appreciated. Please do not take this as an open endorsement to spam Jon with everything you do. That would fall under the areas of not acting professional around the client and being an asshole. I just want to show how these kind of additional promotions online can affect your traffic.

Blog traffic from 1/1/2010 through 1/8/2010 (as of 8:00 am EST)

(a) Friday through Sunday: I made no attempts to promote my blog. I was taking a break from my work and the internet as well as it was a holiday. The traffic I was receiving was from random searches and from people catching up on their blog. These days were below average for my blog.

(b) Monday: Getting serious part 1 posted. I promoted on Twitter and Facebook. I had several retweets and some additional promotion on the web by others. This day was above average for a day I post on my blog.

(c) Tuesday: No promotion. This is a completely average day. I did see some traffic coming in from others posts regarding Monday.

(d) Wednesday: Getting serious part 2 posted. Promoted on Twitter and Facebook. Was mentioned on Artorder. I was heavily retweeted and had much more additional promotion and posting on others blogs and Deviantart journal entries. I had a lot of correspondence with people, which was really cool. I even had some art directors that I work with drop me notes to tell me they enjoyed the posts. This was an exceptional day for traffic. I can't ask for a better day.

(e) Thursday: Promoted posts on my Deviantart page. Was mentioned again on Artorder. Saw a lot of residual traffic coming to the Getting Serious post from many other blogs, journals and twitter accounts. A really good day for traffic.

(f) Friday: Still early but already off to a good start. Will be prompting this post on Twitter and Facebook once it goes live.

What does all this equate to? Still learning. I hopefully helped some folks in my own way, which was the goal. I know a lot of people came to my blog and my website, which is usually good. I hope this at least shows how the pieces begin to work together. How the internet and lines of communications can benefit all of us.

I think that is enough for one week. I will be back next week with some art and images, until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 - The year I got serious

Part Two - Getting serious

Last time I shared with you the main events of my career that led to the beginning of 2009. At the beginning of 2009 I was faced with the decision to either give up freelance fantasy art or really knuckle down and get my hands dirty taking an active roll in my career. It is hard to explain just how lost and useless I felt a year ago. I had experience and skill but not the foggiest of ideas of how to even begin looking for work. To be honest I didn't even know what my options were when it came to other gaming companies. As I said last time, to me, the gaming industry was Wizards of the Coast. I wasn't completely clueless, but the rest of the industry was hidden in a thick fog. Beyond not knowing who to approach for work I didn't really know how to approach them. I had a website and I knew how to write a professional email but self promotion was never a strong point. I consider myself VERY lucky when it comes to the job opportunities in my life. I am very aware of my skill at being at the right place at the right time... maybe that is my super power.

I will try to put all this in some sort of order, but it might not necessarily be chronological to what I did... but close to it. Starting small and working out from there, even though I might not have realized some of the small stuff till recently.

Full disclosure

To be up front I am a part time freelance artist. I have my day job that I am happy with and have no plans of leaving. I have worked as a full time freelancer before and it was not for me. I have nothing but deepest respect and admiration for anyone that makes a living as full time freelancer. I understand I give up a great deal of my "free time" to pursue the freelance work on top of my 40 hour a week job but it is something I do willingly. Having worked as both a salary and a freelance employee I know that the uncertainty of being full time freelance causes a certain amount of additional stress and anxiety that threatens the quality of my work. The monsters help satisfy me creatively in a way the day job can't so I work two jobs and that is my decision.

All this aside, I feel the steps I took should be helpful no matter where you see yourself in the industry.

The basics

  • Know what you want to do and do it. If you just want to work on monsters... JUST WORK ON MONSTERS. I have gotten a lot of feedback from many different people on this topic. Some say that you need to have a diverse and varied portfolio showing that you can do anything. If you want to do anything and everything then do it. On the other hand if you HATE to paint elf chicks and just want to paint cool monsters then you better not give ADs the impression you can and will paint the elf chick with the same skill and passion as you would the nine-faced tentacle beast. I have had artists and ADs on good authority tell me that artist MUST make the art you want to make and put that in your portfolio. There is lots of work out there and if you can do one aspect better then the next artist you will be the artist that gets the work.

Arise
I like monsters RAWR!
© 2009 Christopher Burdett

I like monsters and I try to make sure I get onto projects that involve making monsters. It was a really hard decision to try to just work on monsters... and I have not always been able to stick to it. I received a lot of mixed advice about this and in the end more people that I really trust said specialization was okay. I know I get better results when I am dealing with just monsters. I will gladly do more then just monsters but monsters are my passion. This is something I will be trying to better address in 2010.

  • Know how long it takes and how much that time is worth to you. This is a big issue and needs to be one of the first things you address. This is where I made some of my biggest mistakes this year. You NEED to have an idea of what your time is worth, I can not stress this enough. I got myself in way over my head trying to figure out this stuff on the fly and not having a game plan when clients started asking my rates. I under sold myself on projects and took on work that in the end was a lot more headache then the payment compensated for. We are artists and our skills and talents are worth something. Do not give your time and talents away. I will be upfront, I did in fact work on unpaid projects this past year. I did so willingly and enjoyed it, but I made the choice to do so as favors and for the chance to work with a particular person. Will I do so in 2010? Hard to say, but as of right now, no. To be honest the jobs that paid very little were a lot more frustrating and in the end unrewarding. I learned a great deal from this. I learned my time is worth a certain amount (you need to find your amount) and if the project won't pay your rate, learn to pass on it. It is very hard for me to say no, but I am learning it is one of my choices. I am not saying to be inflexible when taking work, but know your worth and make sure you get a fair wage.
  • Managing your time. Yet another huge issue and something I am still addressing in my own career. We can't do every job and all work and no play makes an artist GO CRAZY. I hit the wall myself a few weeks back. I did not manage my time well and was completely burnt out. You and your work both suffer. You need to make sure you have time for yourself, your family, your other interests, and like me, your other job. This goes hand in hand with knowing what your time is worth. Is the toll on your body and mind worth taking on an extra two trading cards? Are the late nights worth what you are being paid? Can your time be spent better elsewhere? These are questions you can only answer yourself and need to be addressed before you take on that first job. I made the mistake of going into projects blind, without taking these issues into concern. I survived, but I would have done much better having given it all some forethought.
  • And lastly, if you will pardon my French, don't be an asshole. If you think you might be an asshole you might want to reevaluate your life choices. I have heard on more then one occasion from art directors and artists that if you are a jerk you will not make it. The AD will not contact you again and other artist will not suggest your name to ADs. Sounds simple, right? You might be surprised. Does it really take any more energy to be nice?

The portfolio

This is your first and last chance to prove how awesome you are. FACT: You will be judged by the worst piece in your portfolio. FACT: All your work will be viewed as if you had all the time in the world to refine, tweak, noodle and otherwise make it perfect. Your portfolio needs to be clean, clear and well organized. All your work should be aligned the same way so there is no rotating back and forth from horizontal to vertical. One of my portfolios this year switched back and forth... big mistake, which has now been resolved. And yes, I have had several portfolios this year. You should keep it up to date with the work that best illustrates your direction, focus and skill level. The portfolio should say who you are as an artist and what you like and want to do. You are telling the story of who you are as an artist, not just showing off your newest pieces. Again, this is something that I have spent the year working on. The number of pieces is one of the big debates. I have my portfolio separated into two unique portfolios. I consider them each to be stand alone portfolios. Each are about 10-11 pieces plus a resume. One is my color illustration and the other consists of my black and white miniature and armor turnarounds.

Sample page from my current portfolio
© 2008 Wizards of the Coast

All of this translates to an online portfolio. Ease of navigation is a must and it is okay not to have a bunch of bells and whistles. You definitely have the opportunity to show more work online, but remember, all the above criteria are still in effect.

Website and blog

One of the first things I did was completely retool my website. I am actually in the early stages of retooling it completely again. I immediately took a lot of work down. Less is more, especially a year ago. This made sure that the best of the best was up and it gave me the incentive to get to work making newer, better work that would illustrate my direction, focus and skill level. Your website is the manifestation of you as an artist online. The website might be all that a client looks at before deciding if you are in fact right for a job. The website needs to covey who you are, what you do and most of all, HAVE A WAY TO GET A HOLD OF YOU. Email, phone number, something, ANYTHING. If the AD can't quickly and easily navigate your website, look at your galleries and then send you an email you need to reevaluate your website. This website is not for your mother or your friends, it is for the AD or other interested parties. If you want to cater to fans (if you are lucky enough to have some) that is fine too, but that should be secondary to the needs of the overworked, short of time, constantly bombarded art directors.

The blog is a different creature all together, for me at least. While my website is 100% professional and streamline my blog is more relaxed and looser in format. Starting my blog was step three or four in the scheme of things. I use the blog as a beachhead if you will for making contact. The blog allows me to take about and show off work that would not necessarily fit into my portfolio or would be redundant. I may have designed 74 miniatures for Dreamblade but I don't need to show all 74 on my websites' portfolio, but my blog is the perfect place to do so. I can also talk about my work and have conversation in a way that wouldn't be appropriate on my website (in my opinion at least). A blog is also a great way to meet other artist and fans of your work.

Custom Derby Helmet
Good for the blog, not so good for the website
© 2009 Christopher Burdett

The one key piece to all this is that you need to update regularly. I had an art director tell me that when looking at an artists' work they make a point to look for a blog and to see how often they update. If it has been six months since an update that tells the AD that the artist is not very busy with work. Needless to say constant updating can be a tough one. Luckily I have been working for a number of years and never shared a lot of my work in a public manor so I have work to pull from when I get into a pinch. I have been posting (most of the time) three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Will I be able to keep this up forever? No. But it does give me motivation to keep working and thinking about things I can share. I even share work from the day job, which is in some ways the antithesis of the monster work, but still valid in the bigger picture of my life as an artist. Not relevant to the website, but relevant to the blog.

One thing I can suggest, make sure to clearly name all image files and tag your blog posts. I am amazed at the amount to web traffic I get to my blog from people searching things like, "Dragonborn", "armor" or "Dreamblade art". More eyes looking at your work it never a bad things. Don't forget those ownership and copyright notations.

Friends, communities and networking

The big ones. Up until about 10 months ago I didn't really know anyone else that worked in the fantasy genre. I felt like I lived in a cave all by myself and there was no one out there that shared the same feelings, thoughts, ambitions and fears. Boy, was I wrong. Getting out of my cave was one of this most important things I did this year. Knowing that there are other like minded people in the world going through all the same trials and tribulations was so important to me. I was not alone after all and in fact I was in really good company. 99.99999% of fantasy gaming artists are some of the nicest people you can meet. For me, it all started with a little blog you may have heard of, called Artorder. I have given Jon Schindehette and Artorder a lot of praise over the past year for being there when I needed some direction and guidance. Jon just happened to be talking all about self promotion and getting your name out right when I needed advice. Artorder also provided me with some great art challenges to take part and some awesome free exposure. The weekly Artorder challenges really offered me the chance to have some fun and stay focused on making art all the time. Artorder was where I first started meeting other artists and realizing it is a small world after all. I have met so many great and creative people this year and I don't think I would still be at this if I had not. So get out of your cave and send someone an email to say "Hi".

D&D Biker Gang
One of the pieces I did this year for an Artorder Challenge
© 2009 Christopher Burdett

Networking is a powerful tool and with the products of the 21st century like Twitter and Facebook it has gotten even easier. There are also scores of other websites, forums, online galleries, and podcasts that offer great environments to meet other artist, share useful information and maybe even get a fresh pair of eyes to look at a new piece of work. This past year I shifted my usage of Myspace (which I am considering deleting soon) to Facebook, started a Twitter account, a Deviantart account, a Conceptart account and started following the Ninja Mountain Podcast and the WIP Podcast. I began finding many of the same people in all of these locals and I realized I was joining an established artist community out on the web. How cool is that? Side note, I wish so much that I had discovered WIP podcast sooner then I did, so helpful, and all those associated with the Ninja Mountain podcast have been a joy to meet and very helpful with their sage advice.

All of these elements can then begin to work together to help generate your presence online. You post something new to your blog, tweet about it, have the Twitter application on Facebook post your tweet, have the Blogger application on Facebook post a link to your blog, post the image to Deviantart and then blog there about it. Make sure you have some sort of stat tracker set up so you can watch the numbers. I am still amazed how this all works. The power of the internet is impressive.

Is all of this necessary? That is for you to decide. I have met so many cool people through my postings and presence on the web. I feel it has allowed me to be more in touch with the industry as well as be more a part of it. I have met people who are not artists but fans of the games I have worked on and it has been a joy to share with them unreleased designed that never made it into the game. Does this get me jobs? Is all that we do just about getting work? Or is it about an expression of who we are as artist? That is for you to decide for yourself. I enjoy blogging and meeting new artists and making new friendships. It can't hurt and it has definitely given me motivation to keep working and getting better.

There wouldn't be the saying, "It is not what you know, but WHO you know" if it wasn't true.

The client and you or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Self Promotion

You might notice I have yet to really talk about actually getting work. That is because I was starting fresh at the beginning of 2009, I was building everything from the ground up. I did all (or I should have done all) of the above before really looking for work. I did however test the waters in controlled situations to try out the wording of emails or the selected work I would send out as samples. A lot of these trials I did through leads I found on the Conceptart forums. This is also where I made a lot of mistakes and learned some valuable lessons (review the stuff under The basics).

Here is a big secret of mine, I am sure I am not the first, but I figured this one out on my own. There is a monthly publication called Game Trade Magazine, or GTM. Most gaming or comic book stores should carry it or have access to it. GTM advertises the gaming products that are going to be coming out in a couple of months, like Previews for comics. It is a magazine that lists all the gaming companies currently producing products. Once I had a copy of the GTM I went through it and marked off perspective companies and then looked at their websites to see if I was right for them and then got their contact information and submission guidelines. Most companies that are on the up and up should have easy to locate submission procedures and information. If they don't pass them by. I made a text document of all the companies I tracked down including address, contact names, phone number, etc for my records. I also used this document to record on what date I submitted work to them (but that comes a little later). I generated a pretty solid list of companies that I thought I would be well suited for.

Starting in January I began working on new updated work. In February I started a blog and began making friends and becoming more active in online communities. In March I expanded to sites like Deviantart and continued networking and compiling potential contacts. When April came around I made the "Big Push", April 1st to be exact. I updated my blog and website with all the new work I had been doing and sent out emails to all the potential clients I had gathered. This emailing was staggered over a couple of days with the companies I was more confident with going out first. I set up a temporary page on my website that featured just the new work and directed perspective clients to it. I also included a link to my main website, my blog and my gallery on Deviantart that featured my miniature turnarounds (I am always looking for more turnaround work *wink wink*). I tried to be professional with the emails by stating who I am, why I was contacting them, a brief history of my working experience, what I was interested in from them, links to my various galleries and finally an open ended invitation for them to contact me when they can use me. This was then followed by the most important part of the email, which is at the bottom of most of my emails:

Christopher Burdett
chris@christopherburdett.com

www.christopherburdett.com
www.christopherburdett.blogspot.com
www.christopherburdett.deviantart.com
850-459-8546

If they can't get ahold of you then you have wasted everybody's time. I sent out all the emails and held my breath. I got some follow ups right away thanking me for the submissions, some out right rejections, some inquires about my rates and a whole heaping bag of silence from most that I contacted. We all get rejected, it is a part of life, we must push through it and move past it, if we were not rejected the jobs we land would not taste as sweet. I say that for me more then you. What did I do wrong? Did I do anything Wrong? Was my work not up to their standards? Was my work not what they needed at the time? Did I email the wrong person? Did the email got lost in the tubes of the internet? Or maybe, get this, the art directors are busy and don't get around to contacting you until they have work available... For me that was May and June. I had to sit around and stew in my head pondering what I had done wrong just long enough to wonder if I have wasted 5 months of work and struggle. Patience is easy to talk about and hard to learn. I debated sending followup emails, but I didn't feel enough time had passed to warrant it yet.

Basilisk - Card art from Talisman
One of the first projects that rolled in from the "Big Push"
© 2009 Fantasy Flight Games

Promoting yourself to others is a tough one. In many ways I think I got a lot of practice by promoting myself to my friends. Learning what worked, what didn't. It is a lot of trial and error. Start small and work your way up. I had to go from 0 to 60 this year and it all started with trying to get people to go to my blog.

Where the cool kids are

As part of my big push this year I made sure to attend the San Diego Comic Con in July and Illuxcon in November. Of these I will be attending Illuxcon for sure this year. I found both to be very important to attend and I had a great time. I might not have locked in work necessarily from going but I met a ton of great people. Having your portfolio critiqued by the leading names in the industry is priceless. That alone is worth the price of admission. If you have the chance to go to a convention that has a high volume of artist, art directors or both make sure you attend at least once. I posted at length my adventures at both Comic Con and Illuxcon here on this blog if you were wondering about them.

Usagi Yojimbo
I made this piece for the 2009 San Diego souvenir brochure. It was prominently featured in the brochure.
© Stan Sakai / Dark Horse Comics

The convention scene is a good time to talk about business cards and leave behinds. When I was making new cards this year I looked back at what I had done preciously and was HORRIFIED. We all learn and grow. This year I decided to forgo a fancy or bulky leave behind and decided to go with a simple two sided postcard. There was a lot of discussion about leave behinds this year and I decided less was more and something smaller was less likely to end up in the garbage. There are many options and many companies to choose from, you just need to figure out what is best for you.

Everything else
  • Do the best job you can every time.
  • Know your limits and don't take too much work. Err on the side of less rather then more.
  • Maintain a certain level of professionalism until you have established a more familiar relationship with the client.
  • Make the changes you are asked to make (within reason).
  • We are all in this together.
Wrap up

I hope this has all made sense in the end and that you see some of the interconnectedness that I saw developing as I wrote all this. Most of this I put together this year with the help of many many people. Many of you are reading this right now, so I think you all for your time, critiques, help, and advice. I made a lot of mistakes this year but I also worked with more clients then I ever had to date. I won't work with some of them again, but I had to figure out that for myself. I even had a client bounce a payment check with me, but I am pretty sure it has been resolved. I had to find my limits and figure out the conditions I consider workable. I have found some companies this year I really enjoy working for and hope that our relationship continues.

If you have any questions or would like me to clarify, let me know. I hope this has been useful to you.

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 - The year I got serious

Part One - A little about myself

A year ago I was contemplating ending my career as a freelance artist. This was something I didn't come to easily or happily. I have been working as an artist for the past 10 years, either on staff or as a freelancer. In the end I made the decision to keep at this thing called art. To much surprise, after a great deal of thinking and planning, some helpful encouragement and sage advice and a lot of dumb luck I ended up having myself an amazing year. I wanted to share what I did and what I learned from this past year because I made a lot of mistakes and learned some valuable lessons. Looking back now, a lot seems like no brainers, but hindsight is 20/20 and I sure didn't know much of this stuff 365 days ago. I will do my best to keep it short and to the point and to keep it interesting, but no promises. I figured this first post should be some back story about who I am and how I got to were I was a year ago. Just so you know where I am coming from and why I made the decisions I made. I am a bit reluctant to share so much of myself and hope I don't over share. I am hoping it all makes sense in the end.

College Days

I attended Florida State University from 1997 - 1999. I was in the Bachelors of Fine Arts program. Like many others I found myself in an environment not suited to address the genre and style of art that I created. It was not all bad, but for the most part I had to be self taught and self motivated, having to fight tooth and nail to be taken seriously. On too many occasions I was told I am making "aRT" and not "ART" (hence the mention in the name of this blog). During one semester review I was actually failed for doing too MUCH work... that's right, I did so much work one semester I was failed by an instructor (no worries, the two other instructors passed me). To this day I still have no idea on the rationale of his decision.

Print Rats - Etching - 1998
One of my few self portraits.

Durning my time in the BFA program I concentrated on printmaking and the fabrication of monster suits and puppets. I had an excellent printmaking professor and produced a great many etchings, linoleum cuts, and lithographs. One of my long term goals is to get back to some printmaking... if I ever have the time. The monster suits and puppets mostly involved loads of trial and error and late nights figuring things out myself. The faculty were no help there.

E'Lad Monster - Fabricated Suit - 1997
On the next performance of this suit I fell twisting my right knee. I can still make that knee pop.

Close to my last year I had had just about enough of the professors and their negative comments towards the subject matter of my work. Let me be clear here, if the faculty had addressed my craft, skill level or techniques and tried to helped me become a better artist that would have been one thing. As a whole, they would take one look at my subject matter: monsters, dragons, fantasy, etc, and discredit the work out right and offer no assistance. I had had enough. I started doing huge abstracted drawing of Star Wars action figures to get back at them. Making "Star Wars art" was something I was frequently accused of but in fact never did... until I decided to mess with my professors. I received much praise and many accolades for finally making "ART". You should have seen their expressions when I told them what the drawing's were actually of...

Color Study 2 - Cattle marker drawing on 6' x 4' paper - 1998 / 1999
Shown with reference photo used for the drawing.

I have talked with so many other artists that look back at their college days with a certain amount of regret and dissatisfaction. Please, don't let me paint too negative of a view on those halcyon days of college, in the end I had a lot of fun and learned to defend my work to others, which is a very useful skill. Also, for me at least, the road to Hollywood goes through Tallahassee, Florida.

When Hollywood comes to you

The summer of 1999 I was but one semester away from graduating and beginning to feel a certain degree of panic as the real world loomed nearer every day. I knew I wanted to work in the movies or in video games but had not one clue as to how to make that happen. The world was a very different place 10 years ago, unlike today where companies and information is just a click away, the internet was still getting it's legs underneath itself. On one rather panic filled day I was leaving the computer lab and noticed a hand made poster on the wall. There was an open call for people to work on a low budget vampire movie being filmed in Tallahassee later in the summer and they needed artist and other talented folks to help with makeup effects and story boarding. Faster then you can say "PICK ME PICK ME!" I was making phone calls and was soon in touch with a special effects makeup artist in Los Angeles who would be coming out to work on this film.

I threw myself headlong into the filming and gave 125% to everything I did. I learned more in a few weeks of working on set then I had in all my time at FSU. I took my first step into a larger world. I knew then what I wanted to do after leaving school. I played my cards right and was offered a position at a real Los Angles special makeup effects studio when I graduated at the end of 1999. You need to know when the opportunities present themselves and you need to grab hold and not let go. I finished up my time at FSU and before the end of 1999 I was living in Los Angeles working on television shows and movies. I had the time of my life though it was hard going at best. I was working freelance at the shop and work was sporadic. I quickly learned the phrase, "Feast or Famine". Since a lot of what were doing was low budget I had the opportunity to get in front of the camera as well as behind. Fun fact, I played three separate characters in The Bogus Witch Project (Bigfoot, Leatherface, and 'acid burned hand guy' - all uncredited I think).

Demon from The Doorway - Design and performance.

I lived the dream just short of a year. When the Internet bubble pooped in 2000 it hit the entertainment industry pretty hard - at least from where I was standing. I decided it would be best if I headed back to Florida and reevaluated what I wanted to do next.

Bigfoot from The Bogus Witch Project - Designed, sculpted and painted the makeup as well as performed the character.

In the lair of the mad scientist

I had heady dreams of living as a starving artist and building up my portfolio when I returned to Florida. Surprisingly, within days (literally) I found myself working for a scientist making 3D models. I had some 3D experience from college so acclimating to the new software was a smooth process. With all my jobs I try to do the best I can and try to make them my own by finding aspects to challenge myself or to push myself to the next level. Over the next two years I made a lot of 3D models of microscopes and science related graphics... A LOT.

Olympus STM6-LM
© 1995-2010 by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University

I also worked a lot of hours. It was not uncommon for me to work 6 sometimes 7 days a week. It was also a rarity for me to only work an eight hour shift. My boss worked 7 days a week through all holidays and really expected no less from all the employees. Needless to say I had little time for my own work during this time. I would like to think I learned a valuable lesson from this.

Olympus CK-40
© 1995-2010 by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University

I am proud of the work I did during my two years with the scientist though it has little use in my portfolio today. The best thing about returning to Florida for these two years is that I met my wife and five days after proposing to her I got the call from Hollywood again.

There and back again

As I said before, know when the opportunities present themselves and grab on. Things were much improved or my former employer in LA and he wanted to share his good fortune. Three days after the wedding my wife and I were on the road to LA. Boy was I in over my head. A lot had happened in the two years I was away from LA and my skills had dulled due to inactivity. I had to really get my game up to speed quickly. As always I tired to make the best of it and learn and grow as fast as I could. We were working on some high profile productions and I had many opportunities to do some really fun work. If I had to pick the one thing I miss most about working in LA I would have to say being on set. The vibe and excitement of actually "making movies" is hard to replicate and always so much fun. You can't beat craft service either - which might explain why I was 3 sizes bigger when I lived out there. I designed a lot of monsters and painted even more of the makeup applications, masks and suits. When the opportunities arose I relished to get back in front of the camera.

Demon makeups - Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel - Design and paint.

The great part about living and working in LA is being able to meet and interact with other working artists. I had the chance to work with some really talented folks. Nothing beats one on one demonstrations and critiques from established working artists. I learned so much by simply being out there in the thick of it. You can't put a price on that kind of experience. I am the artist I am today because of this time in LA.

Background masks - Angel - Design, fabrication and paint.

Work was good and steady and the feast lasted for good while, but the famine did return. We made the best of it but I was only ever able to get work with the shop I had moved out to LA to work for. I can come up with any number of reasons and excuses but when it came down to it I was really bad at promoting myself. We took on managing the apartment complex that we lived in to help make ends meet during the lean times. Managing 40 apartments was again a very important learning experience. We learned a lot about the many peoples of the world that lived all together at those apartments. We also learned taking on the job as manager was a mistake. To this day if our doorbell rings we jump. We enjoyed a thrilling three years in LA and miss it still to this day. In the end though, life has shown us time and time again that leaving was the best thing for us.

Bloated Choppers Zombie - All Souls Day - Deign, paint and performance.

The long view

At the beginning of 2005 we were about at wits end with LA. It had gotten harder and harder to endure the apartment situation and I was having some issues with work. I was approached by some folks I knew back in Florida about a possible art position at Florida State University. They were reluctant to even offer it to me since they figured I would never take it. What it lacked in "excitement" it made up in stability. Every day I am thankful for my current job as a graphic designer, illustrator and animator. I do my best to make every job better then the last. It might not be as exciting as LA but it has allowed my wife and I many opportunities we just didn't have in LA. Many people questioned our choice to leave but I stand by it. I have decided to think about the long term and that meant leaving LA.

What about the monsters?

While I was in LA I had several opportunities to attend the San Diego Comic Con. Each time I tried to take advantage of the portfolio reviews and critiques to possible find additional work within the related industries. I wanted to get into gaming art and at the time there was only one company that made gaming art (no really, that is how I thought) and that was Wizards of the Coast. In July of 2004 I had the chance to interview with an art director from Wizards of the Coast. They had Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars titles. Why look anywhere else? I thought the interview went well and hoped to keep up with the AD as I made new work.

Bloated Parasite - Dreamblade
This was one of the pieces I sent along to the AD between 2004 and 2005 that was later acquired for the Dreamblade miniature game.
© 2005 Wizards of the Coast

2005 roles around and we leave LA. I was leaving my job making monsters but promised myself that I would continue to keep up my passion of making them, even if it was just for myself. Which I did. Much to my surprise in the summer of 2005 I get an email out of the blue from the AD at Wizards wanting to know my availability to work on a new miniatures project. Though I was filled with much trepidation and fear that I was not good enough I grabbed hold of the opportunity and didn't let go. Life was really good. I had the stability of the day job and I had the excitement of the freelance monsters. I worked a lot but I enjoyed every moment. The AD kept me plenty busy and I had no complaints. This all lasted until near the end of 2008 when the AD I had been almost exclusively working with was laid off. All at once I found myself rather lost.

Dragon Ambassador
© 2006 Wizards of the Coast

I realized I had done nothing in the previous three year to prepare for this set back. I had simply sat on my butt and let others do all the heavy lifting when it came to me working. I hope by now you see a certain pattern to my jobs and the choices I made in response to the jobs. I was faced with two options, give up or fight. The only problem was I didn't even know how to throw the first punch.

So, one year ago I was faced with a hard choice, to get serious about what I consider my passion or give up. A year ago I decided to get serious and in my next post I will discuss how I went about it.

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com