We’re starting a new series, featuring some of our best Twine creatives right here on our blog! To kick it off, we spoke to Boston-based illustrator of the week Paul Weiner about his career, art and his best tips for succeeding when working for clients.
Paul describes himself as a fun-loving, musically hip illustrator, who designs illustrations for magazines, design studios and the children’s educational market. On top of that, he’s worked as a digital instructor at Montserrat College of Art and Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. Plus, he’s a talented musician too, who loves relaxing and playing music with his band Harmony Gritz (although he’s quite sure his accordion playing is scaring the neighbours’ pets).
Well-versed in his field, Paul has worked professionally as an illustrator for ten years. Getting started is always a challenge as a creative, so at first he just accepted whatever design or illustration assignments he was offered: “Clients want to know you have the experience to complete their projects on time. My first project was for a small printing company working on design boards and mounting paste-ups including images and photographs.”
Now he’s more established, his favourite projects to work on are those which give him full creative freedom, with a client who pays a professional fee. He really enjoys creating amusing cartoon type images that are colourful and appeal to the inner child in everyone.
You can check out some of Paul’s work on his Twine portfolio, as well as his Instagram. He makes a variety of different artworks; some like this yeti holiday card are promotion pieces for conventions and his social media:
“The idea for the yeti just came to me, as I wanted something different from the standard holiday icon,” he explains.
He also does a lot of work for his client Star-Brite Learning Program, a children’s educational publisher: “I am responsible for creating illustrations for an educational pre-school poster calendar for children. The theme for each month differs with my inventive creative colourful style.”
Illustrations like these usually start with some rough sketches and Paul will work on several drafts before submitting them to the client: “The client selects what they like, and I scan the draft into Photoshop.” Paul also uses Illustrator and Manga Studio 5 to work on the finished artwork: “I complete a grayscale or colour image depending on the client’s needs. “Working in Photoshop with layers is a popular tip. I create two layers and place line art on the bottom layer and a layer above and set to multiply. The colour layer above shows the line art below without disturbing the line art.” Finally, Paul colour proofs on his Epson Workforce and when everything’s looking good, he sends it over to the client!
He also shared his technique for creating custom texture brushes in Photoshop (if you’re sick of the default selection!): “I start with a scan of a favourite texture and save at 2500 pixels within Photoshop. Then, convert the texture to grayscale. Black areas will be dark and grey areas will be transparent. You can use the level’s feature to adjust grey areas for a texture brush. Go to your presets to find your new textured brush and start using it.”
As for finding work? Paul explains that, for creatives, marketing yourself has never been more important: “There is a lot of competition so market yourself wisely. When I first graduated from art school, setting up appointments for interviews was the standard to meet clients. In this new age, online portfolios and social media are the new marketing strategy. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are my main outlets. I ask questions and help anyone in need. Don’t be obnoxious or speak negatively about anyone. We are all in this together, be polite and help where it is possible.”
Over time, he’s learned that it’s also really important to know the interview process. Part of this involves just knowing what clients are looking for in a freelancer: “They want to know you’re a professional who can get the work done on time. You also don’t want to make the art director or head designer look bad, or you’ll never hear from them again.” Above all else, it’s crucial to be professional. “Word travels fast if you’re not professional as an illustrator. So you’ve got to take it seriously as a career. There are lots of talented illustrators who want to work, but not enough work to go around. So there’s always someone else who wants the job. But if you do your best, your attitude and work effort will show.”
When Paul first started out, it wasn’t easy and clients took advantage of him, especially with people “who don’t feel they should pay a fair amount for a professional.” He recommends reading the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook on Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. And, of course, the age-old (but very important) advice: “Always use a contract when working with freelance clients, as it’ll weed out clients who are not trustworthy or serious about hiring. By accepting a project, you’re always turning down someone else’s job – so don’t start until your contract has been signed and you’ve been paid a deposit!”
That all said, Paul isn’t an alarmist. As he says, “there’s a lot of nice professionals in the field too!”