My 2013 Roadmap

Update: See how I did in this recap of 2013

So it’s December 31st, and time to look ahead to another year. I’m not much for making resolutions. When I do, it’s usually the same old thing: lose some weight, draw more, spend time with family, etc. All good things, but resolutions aren’t a plan. So this year, I’ve decided to to create one; a roadmap, you might say. I’ve always just taken things as they’ve come and that’s been okay. But I’m 40 now, and I can’t continue to just wing it and allow things to fall into place. 

What follows is my plan for 2013. It likely won’t work out exactly this way, and things are bound to change here and there, but these are the things I really want to accomplish. Also, these are my professional goals, not personal. I already know what those are, and they’re fairly unchanged from years past. 

So here we go…

roadmap-goonies.jpg

What I’m Doing in 2013

A New Sketch Card Set

Last year, I was thrilled to have been invited to be a sketch card artist on Cryptozoic’s “Superman: The Legend” trading card set. I did 40 hand-drawn cards depicting various heroes and villains from the Superman universe. It was stressful at times, but a great experience. I still don’t know how many will be approved by DC Comics to go into the set, but shouldn’t be too much longer until I can show some of the artwork.

roadmap-superman.jpg

Right as the Superman set was wrapping up, Cryptozoic invited me to “try out” for a brand new set. I was unsure if I wanted to jump right into another set so soon, but the subject matter was one that I simply couldn’t pass up. I drew four cards for my audition and I got in! As usual, I can’t divulge the property yet, but I already have my blank cards and will be diving in shortly. The 50-card set is due back to Cryptozoic February 28th, so I’ve got to be really disciplined in getting these things whipped out quickly.

My First Printed Book

I have a problem with sketching in a sketchbook. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the drawing part that is the problem. The problem lies in a combination of my insecurities with my art, coupled with being a perfectionist. Often I’ll open a sketchbook and just be paralyzed by the blank pages. I have no idea what to draw and will agonize forever trying to think up a good subject. Sometimes I give up there, but if I can break through that barrier, sometimes I still don’t start a sketch, much less finish it. I put too much pressure on myself for it to be great, which misses the entire point of maintaining a sketch book. 

So this year, I’m vowing to make myself sketch more, with a clear goal in mind. By the end of 2013, I want to have enough original pieces done that I can create and publish my very first book of sketches. This will be extra challenging for me, as I can’t just lean on a bunch of drawings of Batman. The art has to be original. I’ve been so inspired by the sketchbooks from the likes of the guys at CreatureBox and Skottie Young, that I think I can do this. And I’m giving myself the entire year to accomplish it, so there are no excuses.

Some sketches from 2012:

I’ll also continue to take sketch commissions and offer up certain originals for sale in my store, and hopefully some of those can be part of the compilation as well. So, ordering something from me will help me towards this goal ;)

Artist Commissions Website

In the past year or two, I’ve observed something interesting about how other artists, especially those that I’d consider successful with their art, take and manage commissions. It’s kind of a train wreck. Some artists on DeviantArt will post a journal message saying they’re open for commissions and they have so many “slots” available to fill. They outline what kind of commissions they’re offering (color or black-and-white, head shots, traditional or digital, etc) along with costs and delivery info. And usually they’ll just tell people to “message” them to book a slot. Then the artist is constantly managing this journal entry to keep updating it with remaining slots, answering questions etc. Not to mention the inefficiencies of working out payment via DA’s messaging system. 

I’ve also seen artists do a very similar process on Facebook, which seems even worse. There’s no way for customers to know if there are slots left, check on the status of their piece, etc. It’s such a hassle for everyone involved. 

I do have a page for commissions on DeviantArt, but I then direct people over to my Etsy store, where I’ve created commission entries as if they were products. This works, but still isn’t ideal, as Etsy really isn’t optimized for that kind of thing. 

Since I’m a professional web developer by day, I started thinking I could try to solve this problem, both for myself and other artists. I’ve registered openforcommissions.com and once I’m finished with my current sketch card commitment, I’ll start to build this new web service.

Some commissions from 2012:

The idea itself is pretty straightforward. An artist will be able to create a product type, such as “Sketch Card Commission”. From there, they can specify options, along with associated price differences. So a customer could order a sketch card commission, specify they want it in color and they want one additional character included, which could be an additional cost increase of the artist’s choosing. They can then set their inventory, or how many “slots” they’re opening up for this round of commissions. Once those slots are filled, it’s very clear to other customers that the artist has booked them all. 

When a customer orders, they’ll be able to specify all the details about what they want drawn, as well as provide links or upload images for photo reference. 

Another feature of this service is integrated announcements, which allow customers to get email alerts when certain artists they follow have opened up for commissions.

A lot of this is still just ideas floating around in my brain, but I’m convinced this would be a very useful, powerful tool for artists that regularly do commission work. At first, I’m going to build the minimum amount of features necessary for the site to fulfill my own needs. Then it will be open to a select few “beta tester” artists to help me work out kinks and help me refine features and functionality. 

The ultimate goal is to have a full-blown service where any artist can sign up and start taking commissions for a low, flat monthly fee (I’m thinking $5 to start). This sounds kind of ambitious, but I’m prepared to take it slow. If I can even be in the beta phase by year’s end, I’ll be happy. This one is a marathon, not a sprint, as this could be the start of something big.

If you'd like to receive email updates on the progress of the site, click here to sign up.

Adjusted Pricing

One other thing I’m doing for 2013 is putting a higher valuation on my work. While I’m not yet at Skottie Young’s level, who can produce a sketch and sell it for $200 that day, I’ve realized I’m not charging enough. So I’ve raised rates across the board, both on commission work and pre-drawn pieces. They aren’t drastic increases, and for the most part, I’m still working for minimum wage, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Personal sketch cards done in 2012

Commissions

  • Sketch cards: $15 for a color 2.5” x 3.5” card featuring one character
  • Black and white sketch commission: $20 for 9” x 12” inked sketch, one character
  • Color sketch commission: $30 for 9” x 12” inked sketch, colored with marker, one character
  • Digital art: I’m still working out pricing and details, but this would be a high-resolution digitally inked and colored piece. The customer would get a print and/or the digital file for their own use. I’m thinking this will start at $50 and go up, depending on number of characters and complexity.

For pieces that I do on my own and offer for sale, here are the baseline prices:

  • Sketch cards: $7.50 (likely to increase to $10 soon)
  • Black and white sketches: $20 and up (there are still a few $15 bargains in the store, though)
  • Color sketches: $25 and up

Like I said, these aren’t huge increases, but it will help make the effort feel a little more worthwhile. Order now before rates go up again in 2014 :)

Click here to visit the store.

Websites and Social Media

Right now, I’m all over the place on the web, as I lamented in an previous post. I’m definitely not going to be signing up for any hot new social services this year, as I want to keep it obvious where I can be found and they types of content are in each location.

  • AtlantaJones.com: This is my main “hub” site, and I’ll be working on ways to make it easier for folks to see just the stuff they want, whether they only want to read my art-related posts, or just stuff on web development. 
  • DeviantArt: My primary portfolio will continue to be at atlantajones.deviantart.com
  • Facebook: New artwork, announcements and general art-related musings will appear on my “fan page” at www.facebook.com/AtlantaJones
  • Instagram: I mostly use Instagram to post work in-progress and random geeky stuff (with the occasional pic of my little girl). I’m at instagram.com/atlantajones
  • Tumblr: This is a basic blog dedicated to my artwork, and for the most part mirrors most of what I post on Instagram. It’s at andrewjonesdraws.com and occasionally features longer articles, although those mostly will be posted on atlantajones.com. There may be a time this year when that domain just gets folded into the art category on my main blog. Not sure yet.
  • Twitter: This is somewhat of a free-for-all. You’ll see posts about art, web development, technology, movies, music, pop culture, weird dreams…anything that pops into my brain. I'm @AtlantaJones.

I really haven’t posted many web development related things in a while, mostly because that’s stuff that I do all day at my “real” job, and after I get home, that’s often not what I want to focus on. But I hope to write a few more articles and tutorials this year.

One last thing. I am also going to try to post more to my dormant site and companion Twitter account called Myths & Nonsense. This is where I post views on topics like religion, pseudo-science, gun control, bigfoot, UFO’s and all manner of other controversial topics. Feel free to visit, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What I’m NOT doing in 2013

With all this stuff planned, obviously something has to give. I can’t pack everything I want to do into a single year, and so some things are getting pushed and others sacrificed.

Avatar Commission Hiatus

I’ve decided to take a brief hiatus from taking cartoon avatar commissions. I like doing them, but orders have a habit of coming in at the exact worst time and they end up feeling more like work than anything else. I’m afraid they may only serve as speed bumps to my other plans for this year, so the site is now offline, but you can sign up to be notified when it’s back. Most likely, the next incarnation will include more avatar style choices like caricatures and zombies, so it should be worth the wait.

Trading Card Game

If you followed the Avengers poster project I completed in 2012, you’ll know that I’ve said I wanted to create a trading card game based on that same concept. Essentially it would be a playable card game where players do battle with the forces of C.A.N.C.E.R. and the “Lesion of Doom”. I feel very strongly about this project and have every intention of making it happen. But, again, I had to look at this list and weigh the risk/benefit factor of each and I decided building the artist commission site first was the best way forward. 

That’s not to say I won’t continue to gather research and collect ideas for the game. I’ll be doing that all year long, especially as I’m starting a game night at work and will be playing a lot more games. You know, for the sake of “research”. The ultimate goal would be to actually start working on the mechanics of the game in early 2014 and get it all the way through play testing. Once it’s ready to produce, I might create a Kickstarter campaign to fund physical production and fulfillment. I’d also want there to be a charity component to this, maybe with a portion of proceeds going to children’s hospitals. I haven’t thought it out much further. 

But the bottom line is, the card game WILL get made and I’m just as excited about it as I was 8 months ago.

Maybe in 2013??

The one wildcard for this year is whether to restart a regularly-updated web comic strip. I’ve desperately wanted to get back to it, but there are always obstacles, free time being the biggest. The other issue is that I’ve never had time to spend really developing characters or even settling on a style. The current archives bounce around all over the place. 

My best bet for now is probably just to post one-off gag strips as I think of good ideas, but not let myself get too stressed about not posting anything. One day I will have a regular comic strip. There’s just no way for me to stay away from it forever. I just have to get a few other things accomplished first. 

Conclusion

Well, that’s it. That’s my plan for 2013. Will I make it all happen? I’m confident that I will, now that I have a plan. Had I just let all these ideas percolate and battle for attention in my brain all year, I don’t think I’d get much done. It’s hard to have to push things into next year, but I’ve got time and patience.

…and a LOT of drawing to do.

Update, 1/19/13: Looks like I already need to amend the road map with something I forgot about. I was just invited back to provide a painting for the Chuck Jones Red Dot Auction in May. This will be my third year! Here's the post I did about last year's contribution.

Update: See how I did in this recap of 2013