So, NYCC has come and went. I shared a booth with several friends, and even did my first panel, which turned out better then I hoped. It was at 6:30 Saturday, we walked over around 6, and got there 15 minutes early. There was a large crowd waiting to get in. We asked if they were here for the panel, and they were, and I got nervous. It was a lot of people. So many in fact, it became standing room only, and people got turned away.

But everything turned out great, and I got some good laughs, and after people said I was really funny and did a great job.

I had decent sales for the show. Last year, which was actually in February of 2009, I sold more books in less time. I made the cost of being in the con back and then some. So another good thing.

A person who works for Diamond distributors asked if I had any thing more then Kool Aid, because she thought my sense of humor was really great and wicked, but that mini's are a hard sell for them. Which I totally understand. She gave me her card and said when I have something ready, to get in contact with them.

I didn't get to go to the Marvel party for freelancers, it was invite only, and I didn't know the people you had to talk to personally to get an invite. Besides, having only done one 8-page story, I might have felt like a gate crasher, with more experienced freelancers there.

The week after the con has been good too. I got several direct orders for Kool Aid, one of which was because it was reviewed on Pop Candy. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the orders where because of that site, since they all came on the same day, the day the review hit. I will send her a thank you, as it's important to let people know what they did had an impact.

I also got another re-order from a store for Kool Aid. I love reorders, it means the store feels they can keep selling them.

And then X Magazine asked if they could get a copy of KAGF to review in their magazine. I said sure, and asked if a PDF would be better, which they said yes, because it helps them with tight deadlines. So wooosh! Off goes the PDF. Note to people, have a decent but manageable file size PDF of your work that you can send for just such a thing.

I would have been happy to send a printed copy, I do set so many aside just for that. But I always offer a PDF. One it makes it them not have to wait for the actual book, there is no postage, and if they want to run art, they can use the actual PDF for some decent printable art.

So if you don't know how to make PDFs, I suggest finding a friend or person that can, and asking them for help, and then offer a little something, because setting it up correctly and all that, takes time.

I do love doing these shows, to see what comes out from them, other then sales. If you are doing these shows to make money, prepared to be disappointed much of the time. If you do them for fun, or a little vacation if you travel far, then whatever you get out of them is a bonus.

How you see yourself

Recently I went to GenCon, the best 4 days in gaming! It's a total nerd-fest of gamers, and is a lot of fun. I went for the fun, but also to help out my friend Marc Scheff who had his first booth in Artist Alley. With us was Jeff and Caroline Himmelman, and Aaron Miller.

I sat there amongst all these awesome fantasy art illustrators. I was a little apprehensive at first. But that didn't stop me from talking to them. Marc, Jeff and Aaron all introduced me as their friend and as fellow illustrator.

More then anything, that meant a lot. I've been calling myself an illustrator for the past two years, with confidence. No, I'm not fully supporting myself yet doing just illustrations. That's probably several years off. It's actually how I see myself these days.

When I got to meet other artists and talk with them, I was able to talk with them on the same level, a professional illustrator, and all that goes with being an illustrator, getting work, where to look for work, how to deal with clients. When you are a commercial illustrator, there are lots of area that are common, regardless of what kind of illustration you do. And I was able to say, I do editorial illustration and that was cool with everyone, there wasn't any sense of "oh your not a fantasy illustrator..."

I gave out several copies of Kool Aid Gets Fired, and got a really great response towards it. Saturday, I got a text from fellow cartoonist Monica Gallagher, saying "Dude, I'm in a comic book store right now and this guy is totally gushing over Kool Aid!". Then about a hour later, and email from someone that picked up Kool Aid from Midtown comics, telling me how much he enjoyed it (and how sad it was at the same time).

I left GenCon feeling really energized, and I wasn't even there to promote myself or get work, though I did leave my comic with several art directors. You never know when a game company does a silly game and needs whimsical illustrations.

It also reinforced that being an illustrator is something you have to pursue actively. Marc was there to get his work seen, and hopefully sell some prints, which he did. For a first GenCon, I think he did pretty well. He got great reactions from people to his art. In particular to his animal prints. Sales are always great, but sometimes feedback is better, even though it doesn't have any bankable value. Feedback guides you to make better choices.

Marc got to talk to lots of art directors, getting direction and possibly some work. We both got to talk shop with each other, and other artists, and it felt great. Actually it felt amazing to be honest. For me the moment that stood out most was one night (I can't remember which night), before going to sleep. Marc, Aaron and I shared a room. It was late and we were just sitting around talking, and it wasn't about art, just guys sitting around being guys (I'll spare the guy talk details). But under that we shared the bond of having the same struggle and goals.

While a lot of the time was socializing, hanging out, watching Marc take his first nerd steps (He's totally into Magic, the card game, thanks to Jeremy Jarvis), it was still networking.

Now, here is a list of the awesome artists that I got to meet and talk to besides the ones mentioned above.

Chris Seaman, check out his new book, inkBloom with the talented Jim Pavelec.

The Mohrbachers, Ania and Pete. They traded a very nice print for a signed copy of Kool Aid.

John Stanko, Eric Deschamps, Paul (the Prof) Herbet, Chris Burdett (rawr, I'm a monster!) and Grant Cooley were just some of the many artists there, but I actually got to talk to them the most.

While sitting at Marc's table, I did some drawings, so here is a couple of them.

Kool Aid Goes to GenCon

Rascal Pile up at the dice bins

Starting out

When I started out trying to make money off my talents, I was very unprepared and lacked a whole world of knowledge. I’ve learned so much in the short time I’ve been in New York, and most importantly having networked with other illustrators.

So I feel I have to pass that information on when others starting out ask for it. I try and tell them what I would have needed to know when I was starting out.

Make one. Really. Any way you can. The simple fact is that people are hired based on what they have done. Even the best art director is looking for some one that can already create the art they want.

A portfolio contains completed successful pieces. I think the key words are completed and successful. The project should clearly be finished. Not a sketch or missing elements. And it should be successful. It doesn’t have to be something you did for pay, only that it works as a final piece.

For years I never had an organized portfolio. If anyone came to me asking to see it, I would have to scramble to get something together. And I would always have to put in pieces that were not complete or that I wasn’t entirely happy with. And I’m sure it came across. I’m sure it also stopped me from getting work.

All the illustrations I did for Son of Kool Aid were done for myself. Each one is complete and successful. I feel I can show any one of them as part of my portfolio and feel it stands up on it’s own. They never fail to get a good reaction from people when I show them.

When you finish a piece, consider if it’s portfolio worthy or not. A piece might be successful and just what the client wanted, but it might not always be something you want to show to other prospective clients. I do a lot of maps for a boating magazine, to show the different locations of places one might visit in the area. I don’t put them in my portfolio because they don’t represent what I am as an artists. I’m not embarrassed or anything, they just don’t work as portfolio pieces.

I’ve got what I call my general portfolio, that I show for people coming to see what I can do. I then have other pieces that are my second wave. All of these are as good as anything in my general portfolio. If a potential client wants to see more, I know I can show them more, and not worry it doesn’t measure up.

Or if someone asks me to send examples of work, I can customize what I want to show them. Perhaps they use more painterly illustrations. Maybe they like simpler drawings.

This doesn’t mean you need hundreds of pieces. But around 15 would be a good start. If you don’t have those, Get to work. One idea is to take illustrated work, and ask yourself how you would have handled the illustration.

Get feedback. And accept it. If someone says you have some weak pieces, find out which ones, and why they seem weak. I suggest finding other artists or art directors. Your friends will probably just feed your ego over giving you honest feedback. And don’t be discouraged. Once I had an illustrator who I really liked suggest that I would make a better designer then illustrator. It hurt, but I didn’t take it to heart.

Feedback should guide you to making better choices, but not change your direction.

Talent is not enough

I used to think that talent alone would be the major factor in how successful you were as a freelancer. But I also had a more ridged idea of what was good art, what was great art, and what was decoration. I've shed those ideas over the years.

Talent is were we all start, and each of us have different amounts of talent.

We take our talent and develop skills.
Skills allow us to create pieces of finished art.
Finished art is what we show to get work.
Work sharpen our skills with practical applications
Which in turn generates more work.

The amount of talent you have, and the direction you want to go in, factor into how much skill you need to develop. If the type of art you want to do involves the figure, you naturally would take figure drawing classes. But you would also probably study color theory, perspective, composition and much more.

Art isn't just talent. Surprisingly there are "rules" to art. However art is one of the few disciplines where you can achieve success by breaking the rules. Break the rules of science and they are scrapping bits and pieces off the ceiling, or hunting down mutant rats.  Breaking the rules of art pushes the boundary of what art can do and be.

Talent allows me to draw the form of the figure, skills tells me how what kind of line to make, what to leave in, and to leave out.

Skill and talent overlap in a way that it's impossible to completely separate.

For me, and I think a lot of people starting out, the first step is the biggest stumbling block. How do you develop the skills needed? I don't think it's anything you can teach in a simple step by step course. Technique's can certainly help. I advocate drawing every day to sharpen your skills. I'm certainly always looking for new tips and tricks for the computer programs I use.

My skill as a production artists has given me a knowledge of how the entire Adobe Creative Suite works and how those programs integrate. If I want something like a tiled floor, it's going to be faster if I put something together in Illustrator and bring that into the art as a guide, then try and work it out in Painter.

Ultimately, I think skill is a unique mental process for each person. Your progression in developing skills is a mixture of your intelligence and how much hard work you are willing to put into it. To me, learning to draw means learning to control your hand to create the line you want. Just like you learned to make your letters as a child, you would sit and write them over and over. Drawing is somewhat similar. You have to actually draw to get better. The more you draw, the better you get.That's increasing your talent.

The more you learn, the better your art is. That's increasing your skills. I think this is harder, since it involves seeking out information, breaking it down to understand it, and then using what you learned and applying it. Being able to think past the examples you studied. It's one thing to learn the rules of perspective, it's another to apply them in practices. Color theory is just that until you try it.

This is the kind of work I find a lot of people try and skip. So did I for years. Not to make excuses, all the teachers I've ever had, always stressed exploration over training. But the two really go hand in hand. Teach me the rules of perspective, and then let me explore what I can do, knowing those rules. Teach me the human figure, and then I can explore how to make that work for what I want.

And there was never any discourse about the work of making art. I often heard the same concerns I had from other students, I want to know the rules, I want knowledge, I want to learn. If I understand perspective, my environments get better. If I understand light and shadow, my art becomes more alive. If I understand color theory, I can control the emotions in my art.

James Gurney, the artist and author of the Dinotopia books often writes about the techniques behind art, such as how colors look in moonlight rather then sunlight, or the Fibonacci sequence. Such information is really valuable to an artist.

With a low work load this week, I'm dedicating part of this week to working through some of the Gnomon DvDs I've had waiting to be watched.

My book!

KOOL AID GETS FIRED is back in stock, and ready for ordering.
Now with an extra story, Son of Kool Aid.

Ordering details below.

Kool Aid Gets Fired follows the misadventures of the Kool Aid Man, after he is fired from his job of 55 years, promoting the kool-aid soft drink. However, years of leading a sheltered life as a corporate spokesperson has left our hero without skills to make it in the bigger world.

Underneath, Kool Aid Gets Fired pokes at large corporations that only look at doing business, not people, and how companies often have more rights then people do.

Kool Aid Gets Fired started out with a simple drawing of the Kool Aid man having a small exestential crisis moment of questioning who he is. From there I wondered what his life would be like if he had to live like a regular person, how would people react to him. Would they think that he was the person they saw in the TV commercials? How would they act around someone who's been the center of several scandles recently? And how would Kool Aid handle having to deal with the every day issues most of us deal with?

KAGF was written and drawn under the dead line of having it ready for the MoCCA festival. There were parts that I had to leave out, to make it in time. One choice about the comic that I think was particularly effective was the choice to make only the corporate mascots the only ones to have color.

Here are some early sketches and color samples I did.


Below are pages from KAGF.


Son of Kool Aid

Originally, the book was self published by running it off on a high end color proofing copier. I lost access to those copiers when I moved to NY, so decided to get the book professionally printed and to mark that occassion, I decided to include a short story about Kool Aids bastard child. I did it full color and as a children book. It's nine pages long, each page has a full page color illustration.

I've been asked a lot if I planned on doing more Kool Aid stories or a squeal. I don't think a squeal would work, based on the ending of the story. But while writing KAGF, I had ideas that got shortened or left out to get the book done in time for a convention. But I did have Kool Aid related ideas, one of them being a story about his offspring. There are a few others as well I have in mind. And I've always thought it would be interesting to go back and flesh out the original story, or write short stories that fit within the time frame of the story.

Either way, I'm probably not done with Kool aid, and there are other stories I am working on.


How to Order Kool Aid Gets Fired

You can order KAGF directly from me. Simply send payment of $6.00, (for US residents, out of country extra postage as needed) which includes shipping costs to me via paypal or in the mail. I generally sign and draw a little picture of Kool Aid being vulgar or rude. If you have something specific you want, let me know, or if you want a pristine copy, not all doodled over.

Via Paypal please use the following email:
Make sure to include your name and mailing address.

If you want to experience the sweet pleasure of the postal service, send a check or money order to:

Tim Piotrowski
28 Sickles Street B17
New York NY, 10040

Being Professional

To me, being professional is never letting someone know what you really think, when you are at odds with them.

When everything is going fine, you can just be yourself. If you are an outrageous person, perhaps be a lite version of yourself, unless you really know the client well.

But what about when you are odds with some one? For me, that's when I have to go into professional mode.

I was working on a map for the boating magazine. These are general maps, not nautical maps for areas of interest for boaters. I work a little with the author of these port of call stories, to get all the locations from the story. I'm given a list of all the places they would like to see on the map.

This time around, there were about 5 places that no matter how much I searched I couldn't get a good location for them.

So I laid a grid down over the rough of the map, which had the locations I could find, and sent a jpeg to the author, asking for the following: to check the current placed locations, a grid coordinate for the 5 locations I couldn't find, and the correct way to spell a couple of them, because I was finding two different spellings.

It took nine emails, instead of two, for me to get what I needed. The author, who is not a professional writer, couldn't just give me the information. She had to question what I was doing with the map, and give me her thoughts on how I should do the map, and want to know who makes the choices about the maps.

So I had to take time to answer her questions before she would give me the information. She wasn't holding out till I answered, you could just tell she was the type that when asked a question, has questions, often unrelated, that she wants answered first.

These types drive me crazy. I've dealt with them a lot in corporation. It's more annoying when your question is direct and simple. You can ask a yes/no question like "Are you going to turn over the manuscript today?" and your answer is, "Did we change the color blue for the cover of the book?"  Nothing short of playing 20 questions will work.

So for several emails, I played her 20 questions, having to ask the correct way to spell some locations twice. And then finding mistakes she missed. I cut an paste her text from her emails into the map, so that way I don't introduce spelling mistakes from typing.

The editor has asked in the past how was working with her. I say it's fine. I know you might be thinking, but that's not true, she's holding you up, she's questioning your work. Yes, but I got my information, I'm not missing my deadline. So in the end, I was annoyed, I had to play 20 questions, when I could have sent off the map on Tuesday, it's now going Thursday.

Telling the editor that she can be a game of 20 questions, isn't going to do anything. If the editor said to the author, "Hey, can you just answer his questions without asking your own" it will probably offend her. As it stands, the editor thinks I'm awesome. If the author ever says anything (unlikely), the editor, who seems already to have issues with the author will think it's just her.

Sure, I could try asking the author why she needs to knows. With this type of person, that's just going to open more questions, which frankly I don't want to answer. I've been down that road, and I've learned to spot those people who given a too much information, become more annoying.

So I did the professional act, I answered her questions, trying to not give her any openings. When she didn't give me all the information I needed, thanked her for what she did provide, and politely asked for the information she missed. I didn't point out the mistakes she missed, included in her original email I worked from. And I won't tell the editor any of this.

Get Involved, some how

I can credit part of my freelance work because I got involved with a figure drawing group. I came to the group when a friend asked me to go with her to a Meetup group that met in Central Park to draw. I looked through the other members profiles, to get a sense of the people in the group. I found a couple figure drawing groups, so I signed up for those. I have to admit, I was nervous about going to my first session. The guy who started it was running it from his in home studio, and is a pretty amazing artist.

I went, drew and felt good about it, even though I knew my skills were pretty rusty. I think it was also a right-time thing. I had been let go from my job in March, and had decided I would make sure that my unemployment, was FUNemployment, and really de-rust my skills and build them up. I talk a lot about goals. At that time it was improve my drawing skills. I know in the year since then I've achieved both those skills. If I hadn't gotten involved with something outside of myself, I don't know where I would have ended up.

I'm a firm believer that drawing is the base skills for most art. I also have a very open mind to what a successful drawing is. Looking "right" is subjective. However, the ability to convey your idea's visually, and to work them out is really what going to the figure drawing group is about for me.

At first it was every other week, then we moved to a bigger space and it was every week, thanks to Kristen who worked with the artists who owned the studio. The owner went to China or Europe for a few months, so we found a new place. Jeff who had been coming to the group, offered his place. But after a few months, we outgrew that. One of the people coming (Liam) started organizing Saturday meetings, every other week. This week, Marc and I went shopping for stuff we need for the new stage the group has taken on. A professional space we are paying for. The money comes from the people who attend, it covers the cost of the models and space.

Around this time, I was reading a book, My So Called Freelance Life, by Michelle Goodman, which was recommended to me by a fellow cartoonists, Monica Gallagher. The book is more about changing the way you think about freelancing, rather then what you should be doing as a freelancer, such as mailings. One of the things it talks about, which I've written about, networking. Basically just finding people who want to do what you do.

Getting involved in the drawing group got me several new friends, who want to do the same thing as me, making a living off our creativity. We are all at various stages of that. So any of us can ask someone for advice or give advice. We formed our own network.

You don't have to get as involved as I did. But doing something art related can't hurt. I recommend groups more geared towards professionals. Don't worry if you don't see yourself as a pro yet. If your goal is to make a living as an artists of some sort, get in there with them. You also don't have to find a group that does specifically what you do. If you want to be a cartoonist, you don't have to find a cartoon drawing group. Chances are you aren't going to find that.

Our group says we are for professionals and people serious about improving their life drawing skills. I've been asked how we determine that. We really don't make any judgment about that. People come, if they feel it's a good fit, they keep coming back, if they don't, they find a group they like better. We are a fun group, but we are serious about what we do, and I think both come across during the sessions.

If you are worried about someone looking at you and saying your not a professional, only a real jerk is going to do that, and who wants to be around those people? If you are worried about people thinking you aren't that good, going will soon change their mind as you get better. Like I said, when I first went, I was rusty and was worried what people would think.

Doing art is often a solitary act. But as artists it's so important to interact with other artists. From going to this group I would say I've gotten the following out of it:

Better Drawing Skills
A network of fellow artists
Self Confidence to be a freelancer
More resources
New friends

There was some good timing and maybe a little bit of luck involved. I signed up for two figure drawing groups, both being run by talented artists. I only made it to one of the groups. What if I had went to the other one, and it clicked as well as this one did?

There is another factor that had nothing to do with timing or luck, which came from me, and that was my willingness to get involved, and following through. Looking back, some of what I did, seemed very natural to me, even though it wasn't anything I had done before. But also looking back, I can see why in the past it had trouble trying to be a freelancer, be an artists and be the person I knew I was.

If you find yourself struggling and maybe a little isolated, get involved.

Kool Aid and family

I have just uploaded the PDF files for Kool Aid Gets Fired to the printer. Included in it is a short story called Son of Kool Aid. It's a 9 page story, done like a children book, each page having a full page color illustration to go with the text. The image to the left is the fake book cover I came up with to separate the two stories.

I added this, since this is my first book I've done that I'm sending to a professional printer, rather then printing it off myself. I felt that I should do something special for that, to mark this step forward in my work. Also, the printer said if I could up the page rate to 40, it would make it cheaper. So more pages, better per unit price, fin with me.

I had the idea for Son of Kool Aid when I was writing KAGF, and when I sold out of all the copies I had, I decided to do the story, and include it. I spent the last few days (7) doing all the illustrations. It was very intense, and wonderful. I would wake up, sit down, and get to work.

While I had written out the text many months ago, it wasn't sold on every word that I had used, and the ideas for each page. And honestly I didn't have the final page written or even what it would be. So I started with the pages I knew were right. As I worked, I kept thinking about the pages that weren't quite right, and the final page.

I rewrote a couple of pages, and finally came up with the ending. This was how I worked for KAGF. I outlined the pages, then  write the page, then plan it out, then draw it. Generally I would be planning out the next few pages while working on the current page. Since I had a roadmap of where I needed to end up, this method worked.

I find that I can have some really good inspirations when working under a deadline. I also think these inspirations happen because my mind is so active during this time.

The book arrives around April 2nd, a week before MoCCA, the following weekend. The book will be available to order through my website,, with payments acceptable via paypal, or checks send to me. The price will be $5.oo  plus shipping and will come signed and a drawing of Kool Aid (Not for retail orders, unless asked).

A special thanks and love to the following people, Tim Howard, Tim Fish, Monica Gallagher and Marc Scheff.

Son of Kool Aid, sneak peeks
So, here are some sneak peeks of a page I worked on today for Son of Kool Aid. Enjoy.

That's all for now.


A couple of illustrations I recently did.

I'm very happy how they came out.



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