Monday, May 4, 2020
About a month ago, I received a call from Vermont Public Radio asking if I would be interested in illustrating a number of coloring pages for their international podcast, “But Why.” They received my name from another incredible individual and illustrator Ginny Joyner. You never know where work will come from.
I jumped at the opportunity and upon request recommended other local illustrators, including some of my graduates and students to also help with the project. It has been a joy to work on.
“But Why” is a podcast that take s all types of curious children's questions from all around the world and then spends about a half asking experts to answer the questions.
The two above are for the episodes “Are Unicorns Real?” and “Why Do Elephants Have Trunks, and Why do Giraffes Have Purple Tongues?” I will be positing more over the coming weeks. I still have three episodes to finish. Many of them are now available to be down loaded and colored at their blog here. In the future they will be available at the actual site of the pod cast.
I will be coloring them myself soon.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
I have posted a new item for sale on my website and my Zazzle Store.
This is a delightful series of illustrations depicting an awkward elephant dancing gracefully across your mug or your wall.
The Mug can be found at my Zazzle Store.
A 3.5 x 17 limited edition print can be purchased here.
Monday, March 23, 2020
Within one week I was to take years of course development and put them online. On top of this I started homeschooling my children, I continued to try to get illustration work, and my books published, received more rejections and I, with so many others, are doing our best to navigate a world pandemic.
That can all be rather overwhelming.
I have many things I do to stay calm in situations like this. I pray a lot. I am slowing down and spending more time with my family. I try to help others by reaching out to others to lift them up.
I also make time to work on personal projects. One of the benefits of working on personal projects is they are stress relieving. There is no purpose for these illustrations, other than to have fun and explore the challenge of fitting things into a square. When I finish each one I just feel happy.
Releasing stress and finding joy is just one of the benefits of working on personal projects regularly.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
I just completed a series of mixed media drawings of a dancing Blue-Footed Booby for the 2x2 exhibit in the Quimby Gallery. I also put them on a mug that can be purchased at my Zazzle Store
The original 7 drawings are available for purchase at my store on my website or you can purchase a limited edition print of all of them together.
The Blue-Footed Booby can be found along the western coasts of Central and South America from the Gulf of California to Peru. Many can be found nesting on the Galapagos Islands.
Friday, February 28, 2020
I recently finished this illustration and design for the Cabot Community Theaters production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. All my time and work was donated to the theater to help them. This included the above design and a black and white version for t-shirts.
I believe that as an artist, I should get paid for the work I do. Generally, when someone asks if I can do free work, my response is no. I also believe in giving to others. There are many organizations out there that just don’t have the finances to hire a good designer or illustrator, but they can benefit from the work we do.
The pro bono work that I do is mostly for not-for-profit organizations that are doing something that I can support. To date this has been largely for children’s theaters. They are trying to do so much good for so many with so little. These organizations need all the help they can get.
One friend of mine said that doing pro bono work for not for profits was what lead him to start his own design business. The not-for-profit organizations all had board members that worked for other for profit companies. When they needed work, they were already familiar with what he did. He was then hired and paid and continued to get repeat customers.
Although this would be a nice benefit to my donating my work, it is not the reason why I do pro bono work.
There are a few times I have needed to make sure I am not taken advantage. In these situations, I have found that reminding people how much the work would be if I was not donating my time and skills to them would be has been effective.
I value the opportunity to do pro bono work for the following reasons.
• I know they are in need.
• I get to work on really fun projects with little art direction.
• When I am not busy with other paid work, it gives me a deadline to do something more for my portfolio.
• I have a higher level of creative freedom.
• It gives me an opportunity to explore process, medium and style.
• I like to help others out.
• I love the organizations I help (I really love theater).
• Did I mention it is fun.
Friday, February 21, 2020
I hit another low point this week. Monday was great. I was focused and got things moving along. When Wednesday hit it was quite a different story. I had the day planned out like I usually do, but then it all fell apart. Instead of working on illustration and marketing like I planned, I spent the day driving around for various appointments. I got more and more frustrated as the day progressed.
The most common thoughts that ran through my head was “why do I even try? What is the point of all of this?” Other things seem to constantly demand my time making it impossible for me to do what I want to do and what I need to do in order to get my illustration business going stronger. With these thoughts running through my head, I spiraled down to “I have been working on this for so long with no one wanting to hire me for illustration work.“ I began to question if I was any good at what I was doing. Again, the thought keep coming, “What is the point? I should just give up and do something else.” I was demoralized, discouraged and angry. I felt like everyone, my job, my family, everyone was intent on holding me back from my dream.
This is a common feeling for me. It is something that crops up on a semi regular basis. Sometimes it last for days, other times it is just a few moments of self-doubt. As I questioned my attempts to get more illustration work this week, one message was also consistent. It was a still small voice that kept recurring to me. “Keep on the track you are going on. Just keep going.” As I held on to this other thoughts started to come.
First, “adjust your expectations.” Part of the frustration I am having is that I keep thinking that I should be where I want to be now. This is a deadline I have imposed on myself based on what others are doing and what I think should be happening. I have to remind myself that there is no set or specific tie as to when everything will work out.
Second, (I have said this before and I say it often to my students.) Be patient. The difference between those that are successful in the visual arts and those that are not comes down to sticking with it and not giving up. One needs grit, diligence, and determination.
Third, I needed to recognize that what I was doing on Wednesday was far more important that what I had planned. I needed to put things in the proper priority. I was helping my children, my family, and I was helping other people. This coupled with adjusting my expectations helps me to realize that sending out a number of portfolios to potential clients can wait a day or two.
Fourth, help someone else. At the end of the day, I had the opportunity to be of service to others. Although I was still frustrated with my lack of time when I started helping, by the end I was in a better mindset. I was able to get out of my focus on myself and focus on others. This further helped me put things into perspective. I was able to think more clearly and move forward in a more positive manner.
I also pray a lot for help.
I am doing better.
Now I am just continuing to move in the direction I have been going, even though it is so much slower than I expected.
Saturday, February 15, 2020
Friday, February 7, 2020
You can now see my work in the Directory of Illustration!
One of the challenges of being an independent artist is finding people to buy your work or to hire you to do work for them. Any artist should have a website. I have received a number of jobs from clients finding me on social media as well. But this is not enough. Similar to my comments about diversifying what you offer to build a solid table you need to diversify how you get seen by potential clients.
Last year I took a big leap and purchased ad space in the Directory of Illustration. To date nothing has come from it. Despite the lack of work, I do not see this as a negative thing. This is a learning process; I cannot expect that clients will be knocking down my door immediately. I have been impressed with the sales reps at DI. They have been very good at giving me pointers and helping me refine my web portfolio through them.
Regularly, I tell my students that they cannot expect to get work immediately upon graduation. The difference between those that are successful in the visual arts and those that are not, comes down to sticking with it and not giving up. One needs grit, diligence, determination, and patience. There will be more on patience in future posts I am sure.
I have had many moments of discouragement, but I keep reminding myself, like I remind my students that it takes time to build a business. It takes time to find clients.
You can see my Directory of Illustration page here. You can also see many more talented illustrators at the site.
Friday, January 31, 2020
For years I struggled with my art. I saw so many people that I thought were better artists than me. I wanted to draw like so and so, or paint like someone else. Try as I might, I could never rise to their ability. A few years after graduating from college, I started my MA in Illustration at Syracuse University. Here I was able to study under some great illustrators like Murray Tinkelman (1933-2016), C.F. Payne, and Bunny Carter. I learned so much there, but the work I produced was not good.
Around 7 years later, I applied for the MFA program at The University of Hartford, Hartford Art School. I was again able to study under the direction of Murray. One day while working, He came by my desk, looked at my work, and said “Barclay, what happened? The work you were doing at Syracuse was horrible. This stuff is good!”
I responded that I had been reflecting on the work I do in my sketchbook and realized that this was what and how I enjoyed drawing.
He responded “Well keep it up!”
I had been keeping a sketch book and drawing in it regularly since I graduated from high school. I drew what I wanted to draw in it and how I felt like drawing. But for whatever reason, until that point at Hartford, I didn’t look at what was in my sketchbook as anything of value. I thought everyone expected me to be like other artists – to draw their way. Kimon Nicolades in his book, The Natural Way to Draw said “There is only one right way to draw and that is a perfectly natural way.” I had found my natural way to draw.
Drawing daily, drawing without pressure from the outside world, and drawing free of criticism and judgement can help you discover your own artistic voice and help you realize your own right way to draw and create art.
I am still influenced by other’s work. I still strive to be better, but now I learn from other artists and apply it to the right way to draw – my way to draw. I have years of sketchbooks and a few incredible instructors that have allowed me the freedom to recognize this.
For more information on the University of Hartford, Hartford Art school's limited residency Illustration MFA you can visit here.
You can also see Murray Tinkelman, and C.F. Payne illustrations.
Monday, January 27, 2020
This year the Quimby Gallery at Northern Vermont University - Lyndon is hosting 2x2 a Community Art Event. Any one can submit artwork that is 2x2 inches to the gallery until March 17th.
It is a great event seeing the art work come in from all over and watching the art increase daily as we hang it.
Art work can be sent to:
Northern Vermont University-Lyndon
1001 College Road
Lyndonville, VT 05851
Friday, January 24, 2020
My grandfather often said, “Don’t get so busy making a living, that you forget what you’re living for.”
In talking with a number of other artists, I have found a number of illustrators that spend so much time working on illustrating for others, that they lose joy in the creation of their art. It becomes a job and they forget the delight they once found in the creation process. I see this often with students as well. They get burned out with all the assignments that we as professors give them. It is no longer fun.
Many do not spend time exploring and having fun with drawing because they are too busy with the work. They work, and their art is their work. They do not draw for fun anymore. It is their job and that is all. I believe, that in order to maintain the joy of creating art one must set aside time to draw or practice their art daily. This needs to be free of others expectations and demands.
For me, I try to fill at least a page in my sketchbook 6 days a week. This daily drawing is a free draw for me to explore, have fun, be creative without boundaries, or to practice drawing whatever I want to improve on. I have found that this drawing time generates ideas for personal projects that keeps me going through more difficult jobs and deal with some of my more stressful moments.
This is not easy. Often the clamor of work, putting out fires, and other pressures cause me to sacrifice this drawing time. In order to combat this, I have started scheduling 15 minutes a day to just draw. Although this does not solve the problem of competing demands, it has helped me draw more.
Recently, I have discovered again the joy of drawing guinea fowl. They, along with other creatures, like aliens, robots, and observational sketches, keep populating my sketchbook.
I am happier when I make the time to draw regularly.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
A few years ago, I set a goal to read all of William Shakespeare's plays and do an illustration for each.
In Henry VI part II act 2 scene 3, after Gloucester is found dead, Suffolk is accused without evidence. The Earl of Warwick gives the following reason:
Who finds the partridge in the puttocks nest
But may imagine how the bird was dead,
although the kite soar with unbloodied beak?
Even so suspicious is this tragedy.
This image of the kite hovering over a nest struck me. It seemed to say so much more than just the murder of Gloucester. I replaced the puttock's nest (a bird of prey like a kite) with the crown to emphasize the idea of the impending coup. I chose the black-winged kite because of the blood red eyes gave the illustration a more menacing foreboding appearance.
To date I have read King John through Henry VI part II in order of the sequence of their action. It wasn't until reading this one that I came up with my first image. I think I will have to go back and review the others again for more ideas.