Extinction portraits

Earlier this year, the Northern White Rhino was declared functionally exinct after the death of Sudan, the last male of the species. Unless another male is found – perhaps misclassified as another species – the remaining two females will be the last of their kind.

And that’s tragic beyond words. As a kid, I assumed that species that went extinct in the past did so because we didn’t know better, or didn’t care about animals and the environment. I figured that, now we do know better and now we do care, we’d do better at preserving species. As a kid, I never thought about funding, or that governments might be unable, or unwilling, to do something to help. I never thought that people would hunt endangered species because they were endangered. I never thought that conservation is as much luck and hope as science and that, despite all your best efforts, you might still fail.

In my naivety, I honestly never thought I’d see an extinction in my lifetime, but the Northern White Rhino isn’t the first and, unless a miracle occurs, it won’t be that last. I wanted to do something to mark the passing of a species –  the loss of a branch of our extended family – and to do something to help me grok that we will never see these animals again.

So I’m doing extinction portraits. A wreath, a halo, the sun setting on another unique species we’ve lost forever. I’m researching conservation charities and I’m going to be selling prints and giving the profits to organisations that are working to save species on the brink.

Maybe, that way, some good can come out of this.

How not to launch a Patreon

Launching a successful Patreon is quite an endeavour. From building an audience and gathering a mailing list to setting pledge levels and arranging rewards, there’s so much to do and it all has to be done right and in the right order. Happily, flubbing a Patreon launch is so much easier!
This simple, six-step process will have you with a desolate Patreon and a looming, yet vague, feeling of obligation to hypothetical future patrons in no time!

  1. Make a Patreon account – Obviously, you’ll want to reserve a good URL. Only jerks URL squat, but you’ve got a brand to protect, so it’s okay.
  2. Set up your page, using to best pictures you have to hand, despite a less-than stellar portfolio – You can work on the content later, when people are giving you money based on your promises and obvious potential!
  3. Create some posts – It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can figure it out as you go but, for now, just create some content. Patrons can read through old content while they wait for you to upload new stuff.
  4. Launch the page! – You don’t need a big launch, just moxy, grit and a can-do attitude.
  5. Make something, anything – Things you could post include advance access to blog posts. Maybe it’ll give you the impetus to write more often!
  6. Give it a few months, then tell people you have a Patreon using a click-bait blog post.

For more articles on learning to be a professional artist, support me on Patreon.

Seriously, though. I’d been umming and ahhing over making a Patreon page for a long time and decided to have a look at what it is and how it works. I accidentally launched the page while editing it and couldn’t find a way to un-launch it.
I’d been listening to the Fizzle show podcast and got concerned that, without a large social media following and a sizeable mailing list, I’d blown my chance of a successful launch and damned myself to abject failure. Fortunately, a few months later, I was accepted into the Tiny Dragons artbook and was able to piggyback off that success to tell people I had the blasted thing:

I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing with Patreon, but I’m getting there.

That link again: https://www.patreon.com/cheerfulomelette

Because I’m not super awkward about self-promotion or anything.

BUCK 2014 aftermath

I’m back from BUCK and running to catch up with the commissions I took, but I should write the con up before I forget what I learned.

Observations

Pre-con

Although I got the pictures finished early enough, despite having to drop five of the planned designs (this is a good thing. More on that later), getting them printed was a farce. Pro Print were amazing and I’ll definitely use them again. They seem to specialise in doing proper prints rather than posters, though, and the proofs look beautiful in matte with a white border.

Travelling up to Manchester, I should have prepared food and water for the journey. It was a hot day and if the journey had been the other way around (five hours, change, one hour), I’d have been in serious trouble.

The con itself

About half-way through the con, I realised that I’d committed a cardinal sin: bringing prints of my OCs to sell at a convention. Almost nobody cared and only a handful who did actually recognised the characters. I ended up giving posters away with commissions just to get rid of them, but still have loads left over.

The colouring pages were very well received by other artists, but here were fewer children there than I’d anticipated, so many of the colouring pages came home with me. Like the prints, I expect they’d have gone down better if they’d featured canon characters. They were probably overpriced – they should have been free or thereabouts – and grouped into packs rather than divided by image.

My price list was subject to change throughout the convention, partly due to bad phrasing on my part (‘Buy one get one free’ is less direct than ‘two for £x’) but mostly due to changes in price (commissions were massively under-priced at the start) and focus (commissions rather than prints).

Despite raising my prices significantly, I took a huge number of commissions. I don’t consider this a problem, but I should have timeboxed each painting and informed customers how long they had to wait. This will come with practice, but I have been left with about a dozen prints to finish and post out after the con.

Daniel (with whom I shared a table) was offering ‘pay what you want’ commissions and did very well while I struggled to build momentum. When given the choice of payment, it seems that people will err on the higher end of payments for larger but less detailed commissions. While this frustrated me early on, my smaller commissions were still very popular.

To prevent customers coming back to check on the progress of their commission, I should have taken phone numbers and sent a text when the picture was ready to be picked up.

The tooth of the cold-pressed paper is more pronounced than I’d like it to be when mixing watercolours with coloured pencils; hot-pressed watercolour paper will probably be more effective, although this will undoubtedly have an effect on the painting in some other fashion.
Dropped into my suitcase at the last minute, the caffeine tablets were a godsend. I’m pretty sure they’re all that kept me upright on Sunday.

Post-con

After the convention, I was so unbelievably tired that I let myself be talked into leaving before I could clear up my space. This was massively unprofessional and I should have been keeping my space tidy throughout the con instead of rushing to tidy up at the end.

It turned out that I had no time or pressing need to bring my tablet or keyboard. No digital commissions were asked for (and why would they be, when physical objects are far more desirable?), I had no time to myself in the evenings and no motivation to do anything art-related on the way home.

Notes for next time

  • Pack food and water in hand luggage
  • Bring saleable prints (read: prints featuring characters from the show or fandom)
  • Colouring pages should be cheap and pre-bagged
  • BADGES! (and other low-priced tangible merch)
  • Take customer’s phone numbers and text when the prints are ready
  • Try using HOT watercolour paper for mixed media
  • Keep track of my watercolours. Having to buy a new set three days after buying the first one was painful.
  • Bring a bag to use as a bin and keep the space clean as I go
  • Leave tablet at home
  • Bring caffeine tablets