FAQ

Digital Art

In this section, you’ll find information relating to my digital artwork and techniques.

General Info

How/where did I learn to draw

This is often the first question people ask me! The short answer is that I am a self-taught artist. I’ve been drawing my entire life, literally since before I can remember. It was always something I enjoyed doing and invested a lot of time into, which helped me to develop my skills gradually. I took a few art classes in elementary school which taught me a lot about drawing from reference, but after that my art education was limited to school electives and lots of practice in my free time. I started drawing digitally with a mouse when I was 15 and got my first tablet when I was 16, after which I spent a sizeable portion of my free time drawing digitally, teaching myself almost everything I know about digital software and using a tablet. When I was 18, I decided to study animation after high school. At these schools, I learned to animate and apply my drawing skills to a variety of school assignments, but learning to paint digitally and developing the style I have now was something I did on my own.

Inspiration

I spend a lot of time on social media, and follow a lot of artists online. Seeing their work in my feed is a constant source of inspiration. I watch a lot of movies and animated films which are sources of inspiration too. The things which most often inspire me are colors or color combinations, which usually give me ideas for a drawing and motivate the drawing process. One of my biggest sources of inspiration is nature, either in real life or through photographs. I often use pictures I take myself as a starting point for an illustration or study.

Artistic Influences

When I was 15 and first developing my style, my main influences were japanese drawing styles (animé and manga), various french comic artists (particularly the work of Aurore BlackCat) and Art Nouveau (particularly Alfonse Mucha). Another huge inspiration of mine are the disney films I grew up watching, particularly The Little Mermaid. After joining DeviantArt I became very inspired by a wide range of other artwork on the site, mostly digital paintings, and I continue to be inspired by a wide range of artists whose work I follow online. Here is an influence map that gives a general idea of the different artists and people who influenced my style.

Developing my own style

My style developed naturally from mixing different influences that I discovered when I first started drawing digitally. It wasn’t really a conscious decision I made, but rather something that appeared organically and that others noticed before I did. Looking back, drawing a lot, being self-taught, and developing my own methods of handling software helped me to find my own unique creative solutions for the art I was trying to make, and thus helped me develop my own style. For artists searching for their own style, I think it’s important to draw inspiration from the styles that inspire you most, and to draw inspiration from a variety of sources rather than just one or two. I think working intuitively is also very important: try to draw what feels good to you, instead of getting too technical or over-thinking the drawing process. This makes it easier to develop your own unique approach to drawing!

Approach

How long do I take

I spend on average between 10 to 20 hours to make a detailed digital piece. Sometimes I take longer and sometimes shorter. On quicker speed sketches, I spend between 1 to 3 hours.

Learning anatomy

For me, learning how to draw anatomy was the result of practicing a lot, drawing both from memory and from reference. I frequently switched between the two so that my style would be a mix of realistic and cartoony. Unfortunately I can’t recommend any books for learning anatomy, since I never used these kinds of resources myself, but I definitely recommend doing gesture sketches from reference and from life whenever possible as a way to improve your anatomy skills. Speed sketches are a great way to learn: try to capture the overall shape and movement before going into detail, since this give your drawings more life.

Using reference

I often use reference, and it’s a really important part of any creative process! I gather reference material for the majority of my artwork, although I use it as inspiration and guidance for adding complex details that I can’t entirely pull off from memory, rather than to create direct copies. I search for reference of specific subject matter I want to convey, or if I’m struggling with the anatomy, I look for stock photos or take pictures of myself. I often use go-to websites like Google and Pinterest. For stock photos, my favorite source of reference material is SenshiStock. Using reference images for artwork is fairly essential, helping you notice things that wouldn’t otherwise occur to you if you were only using your imagination. However, for my own process, I prefer to use photo reference as a starting point or guide rather than to depend heavily on it for every detail. This is because I have difficulty achieving a stylized look when I depend too heavily on reference photos.

How often do I draw?

I draw quite regularly because art is my source of income, so it’s a requirement of my job to draw frequently. However, I think it is incredibly important to take breaks and limit drawing hours to avoid strain injuries and burning out creatively. On average, I draw every weekday for 2-5 hours and try to avoid drawing in the evenings or weekends unless I have a lot of energy and motivation for it. Each artist has their own limits and ways of working: some are able to draw every day, some aren’t. I’m only able to draw regularly if I don’t push myself past my limits. If you’re trying to figure out how often you should draw, try to find what works best for you, but do not push yourself to draw every day if it doesn’t feel right. Daily drawing is not a requirement to improve your skills or be an artist!

Original size of the images

When drawing digitally it’s important to start at a large resolution, and downsize later for viewing on the web. This is essential to being able to make high-quality prints of digital work, and also ensures that the brush strokes don’t look pixellated. I often start with a canvas that is at least A3 format (300DPI) or larger, which is around 3500 x 5000 pixels. My suggestion to digital artists is to work at the maximum possible size that your computer can handle, without it lagging or slowing down the computer.

Techniques

Sketching

Sketching is a very important way for me to practice and improve my skills, and a way for me to have fun drawing without having to commit to creating a finished piece from it. Because of that, regular sketching is one of the main ways that I keep my creativity going as an artist. I sketch in my sketchbook as well as digitally in Photoshop or Procreate. For sketches, I try to put more emphasis on flow and expression than on anatomical precision. Shapes, movement and direction are more important than details, which I add at a later point. This is to ensure that my art has movement and energy.

Lines

I used to spend a lot of time making detailed and clean lineart, but at some point I started skipping that stage and going from the rough sketch straight into the painting phase. For me, clean linework just felt too tedious to create. When I do make lineart, I usually do the coloring on a separate layer, and then eventually merge the color and lineart layer, which allows me to paint over the lineart in some parts and really blend it into the coloring.

Choosing colors

Choosing colors, for me, is largely an intuitive process. I just put some colors onto the image and mess around with it until I like what I see. Using color editing controls plays a huge role in this process – hue/saturation, color balance, and selective color are the options I use most. I learned how to use these simply by playing around with the sliders and observing the results. When I’m happy with the colors I see in front of me, I start adding more details. A useful tip is to avoid using shadows or highlights which are simply lighter or darker versions of your base color. Try using a different color for the shadows or highlights to give more dimension and life to your picture. I made a detailed tutorial on this topic, which can be accessed exclusively through my Patreon.

Blending colors

When making digital paintings, I like to start out with a messy, rough version of the drawing. In this rough version, I’ve worked out the overall composition and colors, but just need to ‘clean it up’ to bring it to a finished level. I start by blending the colors with a technique that I call ‘sculpting with color.’ Basically, that means that the colors I need are already there, and all I need to do is use the eyedropper shortcut to smooth out and clean up the painting. A general tip for blending in a semi-realistic style is to have a mix of soft blending and hard shadows, which helps emphasize the shapes without over-blending.

Layers

I try to work on a minimal amount of layers in my digital art, to keep my process as streamlined and intuitive as possible. I usually start with my line layer and my color layers, and then merge it all together once I have settled on my color scheme. Throughout the painting process I sometimes add some tweaks or effects on separate layers, but make sure to merge them together with the base layer frequently. The reason for this is that it is very difficult for me to modify the colors and paint intuitively when I have too many layers. Searching through my layers or keeping them organized takes me out of the flow of drawing. I do use layers as a way to track the progress of the drawing, which I do by duplicating the layer and working from the new one at various points in the process. This way, the layer below shows the image at an earlier point in the process, allowing me to double check whether it’s heading in the right direction.

Tools

Software

I use Adobe Photoshop for practically everything. It’s the software I learned to make digital art with, so it feels most natural for me to use. I am currently using the latest version of Photoshop CC. I also sometimes use Procreate when I want to draw on the couch or while travelling. In the past I have used PainterOpencanvas and OekakiBBS.

Hardware

Most of my work is created on my workstation which I have assembled from various parts. It consists of:

  • A Cintiq 27QHD
  • An Asus PA329Q screen
  • A self-assembled PC with an i7 processor, running on Windows 10

Alternatively, I sometimes use:

  • A Dell XPS 15 7590
  • An iPad Pro with Procreate and 2nd generation Apple Pencil

I tend to stay in my comfort zone with hardware. I’ve been using some combination of a Cintiq and a Windows PC since 2012. I know that there are many competing tablets which work great, and lots of artists who do professional work on the iPad. There’s so many options out there these days, so if you’re looking for new hardware, take the time to research which options best fit your budget and needs!

Photoshop Brushes

I’m not very adventurous when it comes to digital brushes, and prefer to stick with one brush from the beginning to end of the drawing process. I find that switching brushes during the drawing process can really take me out of my drawing flow. I put together a free Photoshop brush set, which consists of some standard Photoshop brushes as well as a few brushes from other artists’ brushsets. You can download it from my Cubebrush account. As for Procreate brushes, my preferred brush sets are MaxPacks Gouache and RazumInc pro II.

Resources

Resources I use

I’m not an avid user of art tutorials, since I prefer to take the self-taught route as much as I can. I do use textures from time to time, and for that I mainly use the texture site cgtextures.com. For stock photo reference, my favorite resource is SenshiStock.

Other Activities

Sometimes I draw with traditional tools, animate, and design websites. Here you’ll find information about those topics.

Online

Loish.net

I’ve had this website since 2004! I used to code it myself using notepad, having learned some basic html and css from my little sister and online tutorials. I moved on to Dreamweaver eventually, coding most of the website myself. If you want to see some of the previous website designs, check out this google album. Sadly, my limited knowledge of coding is no longer sufficient to make a website on my own. Luckily Arjen Klaverstijn came to my rescue and made this version of the site in WordPress.

Social media following

People often ask how I built up my social media following. I’ve been very active with posting my artwork online ever since I started drawing digitally in 2003, so that’s where it started for me. Besides drawing on oekaki boards, I posted all my work to Deviantart and maintained a personal website. Over the years, I kept doing these things as well as branching out to tumblr, and soon after that, instagramfacebook, and twitter. By posting consistently for such a long timeframe, what started as a small follower base grew gradually larger and larger over time. The platform that has had the biggest impact on my following is Deviantart, which I used very actively at a time where most artists were concentrated on this platform.

Animation

Links to my animation work

Although I do mostly digital painting and concept art, I studied animation and have worked on various animation projects in the past! You can find an overview of some of the animation work I did in the animation section of my portfolio.

Animation software

When I create 2D animation, I use TVPaint, a useful program which offers good digital drawing tools and a timeline. Similar functionality is now built in to Photoshop and Procreate as well. I usually make the backgrounds for my animations in Photoshop and composite my animations in Adobe After Effects, as well as animate with it. I sometimes edit my animations with Adobe Premiere Pro.

Traditional art

inktober

To create my Inktober artwork, I use a mix of different tools. The most important are a colored pencil for the base sketch, fineliners to ink, and moleskine paper which doesn’t bleed through. You can find an overview of all of the tools I use for Inktober on my Amazon affiliate page.

Pencils

When creating pencil sketches, my only requirement is that the pencil I use is a mechanical pencil. For the last few years I’ve been using a bunch of free pencils that I picked up at a Novotel once. I like mechancial pencils because they have a nice sharp tip!

Paper

I usually sketch in my sketchbook, which is an A4 sized moleskine sketchbook. This is my favorite type of sketchbook because the paper is nice and thick! My other art is usually drawn on sheets of A4 printer paper.

Education and Work

In this section, you’ll find information about where I studied and my career.

Current work

I’ve been working as a freelance artist in the Netherlands ever since I graduated in August 2009. I do mostly character design work at the moment, as well as generating income from Patreon and selling my art as books, prints and merch.

Where I studied

I studied animation for one year in Ghent, Belgium (at the Hogeschool Gent), and for four years in Hilversum, the Netherlands (at the Utrecht School of the Arts), obtaining a European Media Master of Arts and a Bachelor in Design. I decided to study animation because I thought it would be a good way to expand on my drawing skills, since animators learn a wide range of skills – storyboarding, backgrounds, character design, etc – in order to work in the industry. For tips and advice on art education, check out the section about education under tips & advice in this FAQ!

Making a living off of art

I often get asked whether it is possible to make a living off of art, usually from people who are about to choose that direction in life and are worried about their future. I can attest that it is definitely possible! I personally am able to make a living from my art, and I know a lot of other people who do the same. However, it’s not a guarantee for everyone, and can be complicated depending on what you do, where you live, and what your options are. For me, having an online presence and living in The Netherlands, which is relatively easygoing for freelancers, has made things a lot easier. I also generate income from various sources, like client work, book sales, teaching workshops, and more. If one of these sources falls away, I can try to compensate by focusing on other areas of income. If you want to make a career off of your art, do not put too much pressure on yourself to succeed immediately, but give yourself time to find out which path works for your situation.

Getting started as a freelancer

When I first became a freelancer, I had already been posting my work online and building a following for about 6 years. By the time I was ready to accept freelance work, I already had some interesting requests for projects lined up, so I could instantly start working. However, in the beginning, the work I did varied enormously and was not always the best fit. Some of it was very low-paid or didn’t match my skillset, and sporadic in nature – sometimes I had numerous offers, sometimes my schedule was empty for a few months. I filled those gaps by doing commissions. It took about 5 years to get a steady stream of client work that was a good fit with my abilities. Getting there was really a question of building work experience, gaining confidence in my skills, and continuing to make and post personal art in order to expand my online exposure. Almost all of my clients approach me because they have seen my work on the internet, so for me, it’s been essential to keep sharing my art on social media in order to find work. For artists just starting out, my main tip is to give yourself lots of time to find your footing and figure out how you want to approach networking. There are many options out there, so find out what suits you best!

Education

Where I studied

I studied animation for one year in Ghent, Belgium (at the Hogeschool Gent), and for four years in Hilversum, the Netherlands (at the Utrecht School of the Arts), obtaining a European Media Master of Arts and a Bachelor in Design. I decided to study animation because I thought it would be a good way to expand on my drawing skills, since animators learn a wide range of skills – storyboarding, backgrounds, character design, etc – in order to work in the industry. For tips and advice on art education, check out the section about education under tips & advice in this FAQ!

Work & Career

Current work

I’ve been working as a freelance artist in the Netherlands ever since I graduated in August 2009. I do mostly character design work at the moment, as well as generating income from Patreon and selling my art as books, prints and merch.

Making a living off of art

I often get asked whether it is possible to make a living off of art, usually from people who are about to choose that direction in life and are worried about their future. I can attest that it is definitely possible! I personally am able to make a living from my art, and I know a lot of other people who do the same. However, it’s not a guarantee for everyone, and can be complicated depending on what you do, where you live, and what your options are. For me, having an online presence and living in The Netherlands, which is relatively easygoing for freelancers, has made things a lot easier. I also generate income from various sources, like client work, book sales, teaching workshops, and more. If one of these sources falls away, I can try to compensate by focusing on other areas of income. If you want to make a career off of your art, do not put too much pressure on yourself to succeed immediately, but give yourself time to find out which path works for your situation.

Getting started as a freelancer

When I first became a freelancer, I had already been posting my work online and building a following for about 6 years. By the time I was ready to accept freelance work, I already had some interesting requests for projects lined up, so I could instantly start working. However, in the beginning, the work I did varied enormously and was not always the best fit. Some of it was very low-paid or didn’t match my skillset, and sporadic in nature – sometimes I had numerous offers, sometimes my schedule was empty for a few months. I filled those gaps by doing commissions. It took about 5 years to get a steady stream of client work that was a good fit with my abilities. Getting there was really a question of building work experience, gaining confidence in my skills, and continuing to make and post personal art in order to expand my online exposure. Almost all of my clients approach me because they have seen my work on the internet, so for me, it’s been essential to keep sharing my art on social media in order to find work. For artists just starting out, my main tip is to give yourself lots of time to find your footing and figure out how you want to approach networking. There are many options out there, so find out what suits you best!

Tips & advice

This section has tips and advice based on my personal experiences and perspective.

Learning process

Getting started with digital art

I’ve been asked by people who are just beginning to draw digitally for tips on where to begin the learning process. I started by just messing around in Photoshop and other digital programs, experimenting and not expecting too grandiose of an outcome. My first drawings in Photoshop were simple, drawn with a mouse and blended with the smudge tool (something I don’t really recommend, but it worked for me at the time!). It’s good to slowly familiarize yourself with the digital drawing process, so that you’re comfortable with the tools and options, before you start drawing elaborate and detailed pieces. I created a lot of smaller drawings in a day, rather than putting a lot of my time into larger, more elaborate pieces. My work became more detailed as my skills improved. I think one of the best things you can do to get the hang of digital art is to practice sketching and speedpaints, since it prevents you from getting hung up on details and allows you to become comfortable with the tools you have. Keep it simple and practice as much as you can!

When is it too late to learn

Many artists pick up digital art later in their life, having started with traditional tools. Next to that, there are many people who pick up drawing as a whole later in their life. I’ve been approached by a few people who are afraid that it is too late for them to make this change and develop a career in this area. I personally don’t believe there is any point where it is ‘too late’ to learn something new, although whether you can build a career as an artist depends entirely on what field of art you’re looking to enter and your location. Some directions and areas may be more restrictive than others. In my personal experience as a freelance animator and concept artist working in the Netherlands, the content of your portfolio and whether your clients trust you to deliver the materials is the most important factor. This has a lot to do with the impression you make, your style of communicating, and also your experience (which in turn affects what kind of impression you make). I believe that this can be cultivated at any point in one’s life and that it is never too late! Most importantly, being a self-taught digital artist, I believe that it’s possible to get the hang of digital media at any age if that is what you want to do. Just be sure to develop your knowledge at your own pace and find what works best for you, rather than feeling the pressure to learn every single trick in the book. For more information on finding your career later in life, check out this conversation between me and my friend Iris Compiet, who found her career path in her late 30’s.

Drawing every day

From time to time, I’ve heard people say that an artist must draw every day in order to improve. However, I personally do not recommend drawing every day. I do believe that there are some artists out there who benefit from a good dose of self-discipline and would learn a lot from drawing daily, but for many artists, this is a lot of pressure to put on oneself. On top of that, I don’t think that it’s a requirement for improving your skills. You can improve your skills in other ways as well: finding inspiration in your surroundings or in other artists, or giving your brain some time to come up with new ideas and motivation. But to those who are considering drawing daily, also take into consideration the need for your mind and body to get rest and recover from the drawing process! Having said that, I do think that drawing regularly is a good idea, but if you feel that daily drawing is burning you out, it’s definitely ok to draw less frequently.

Setbacks

Drawing-related injuries

Drawing-related injuries refers to RSIs, carpal tunnel, wrist pain, or any other type of injury that results from repetitive use of the arm muscles needed to draw. Unfortunately I’ve experienced some strain from drawing in the past, but managed to overcome it by making changes to my workflow, mindset, and routine. My tip to anyone struggling with this is first of all to do what most artists have a hard time doing: slow down, take breaks, and give yourself time to rest and recover. Take a moment to realize that whatever urgent task you are doing is completely irrelevant compared to the need to maintain long-term use of your arm. Prioritize your health above all else! Here are some things that I found helpful in dealing with my injury:

  • Mindset: The main thing that’s helped me is to become aware of thought patterns that intensify stress and lead to bad posture and squeezing of the pen. Through mindfulness techniques and forcing breaks, I’ve learned to realize when this is happening and force myself to relax and step away from what I’m doing.
  • Sleeping position: If your arm is hurting, don’t sleep on it at night. This can obstruct bloodflow to the injured area while it heals at night. Sleep on your back or on the other side. Also, make sure you don’t bend your wrist into a sharp angle while you sleep.
  • Frequent breaks: I use workrave, which forces me to take frequent micro-breaks and also longer breaks throughout the day.
  • Stretches: be sure to stretch your arm, shoulders and neck throughout your workday. This not only helps soothe the muscles, but soothes the mind as well!
  • Workspace: try to configure your workspace in such a way that it reduces as much strain as possible. Things like a good chair and desk, the height of your screen, and the angle of the screen have a huge impact on how much strain you’re putting on yourself while working.
  • Routine & structure: Keep a steady daily routine where you plan your drawing hours ahead of time. This will prevent you from getting stuck in an activity that causes strain. If you can, try to include workouts or yoga in the routine, as well as rest and calm activities. Implementing a healthier routine in my life has been the main solution to being more productive!

And most importantly: speak to a doctor or physical therapist if you’re feeling pain, rather than ‘power through’ it. An expert can identify the problem and give specific solutions that will help you!

Staying motivated / dealing with artblock

A few people have approached me with the question of how I stay creative and motivated when I’m in an artblock (which is a phase where you feel unable to draw). Personally, since creating artwork is my profession, in many ways I have no choice but to keep going. I went through something which seems to be common amongst many artists: a phase of rapid improvement and high motivation (for me, this occurred in the last two years of high school), which gradually slowed down and sometimes felt like an artblock, because my enthusiasm wasn’t as great as before. Although I craved the feeling I had when I was in my more productive phase, it’s better to accept the change and to search for new ways to find motivation and develop artistically. In my most productive phase, I really loved drawing 4-5 pictures a day and spending every free minute I had behind the computer screen. However, this is just something I wouldn’t have the motivation for today. Accepting a slower, more steady pace of improvement and inspiration has helped me to move past artblocks, as well as taking breaks and giving myself time to recharge. It also helps to find a starting point for your artwork to kickstart your creativity, such as drawing from life, doing a commission, or participating in forums that choose random subjects for people to sketch. Coming up with your own ideas from scratch all the time can be draining.

Most importantly, it helps to cut yourself some slack and stop being really hard on yourself and your drawing skills. Artblock is often the result of a fear of failure and low confidence in your abilities, but the irony is that these feelings result in a reduced ability to enjoy the drawing process and blocking your opportunities to grow and practice as an artist, keeping you trapped in a negative cycle. If you have these feelings, idenfity them and realize they are the root of the problem, not your drawing skills. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and give yourself the room you need to develop at your own pace!

Education

Necessity of formal art education

As a self-taught digital artist, I can confirm that a formal education is not required to obtain the skills needed to work as an artist. I know of many artists who have chosen to make use of the resources available on the web and managed to build a career without going to art school. The areas in which I currently find the most work are areas in which I am self-taught. However, art school had many important benefits to me. I learned how to take on a variety of different projects and work with deadlines, as well as work in larger teams. I learned how to explain my creative process and put it in a greater context, as well as how to justify and elaborate on my creative choices. Most importantly, I laid the foundations for the network of people that now form my colleagues and friends. Art school was helpful to me in many ways, but I could have learned the same things in a different way. If you are doubting whether to attend art school, try to figure out what fits you best and know that you are not obligated to do it.

Where to study

A lot of people from all over the world ask me for tips on choosing something to study and finding the right college for it. I feel bad, but there is little advice I can give! I don’t know anything about colleges outside of the Netherlands, and it’s been a long time since I graduated from art school so I’m no longer up to speed on the quality of art education here. Also, each college has a different view on what your portfolio should look like, so if you need help on what kind of work you should have, please consult someone at the college you’d like to go to – they can most likely provide tips and guidance.

Studying in the Netherlands

Here in the Netherlands, I can only comment on my own experience at the Utrecht School of the Arts. It’s based on my experiences between 2005-2009, and may not reflect any changes that have been implemented since that time. The overall experience was chaotic, with lots of assignments being thrown at us and very little training in how to tackle them. I was disappointed by the lack of techniques and skills we learned. However, I got a lot of freedom as a student and this allowed me to thrive, because I like to manage my own projects and create personal art, which I had lots of time for. All in all, I wouldn’t really recommend this school to anyone who wants to become a skilled animator there.

Work related

Commission tips

Commissions are paid requests to draw something or someone, usually non-commercial in nature (meaning, they are intended for personal use by the client). I’ve frequently been asked for tips on how to price them by people who want to start offering commissions. Personally, I started out offering very cheap commissions and then gradually raised the price as the demand for my artwork grew. But looking at commissions through the lens of a professional artist, I find that many commission prices are absurdly cheap, and far below industry standard – including the ones I used to offer before I became aware of how art is priced in the professional world. However, due to the wide availability of cheap commissions, many people have come to expect and even demand these very low prices. If you decide to offer commissions, do not let anyone convince you that your price is too high – this happens a lot and you’re better off ignoring them and moving on. The best way to approach your pricing is to estimate how many hours would go into each piece, and to figure out how much money you feel an hour of your time is worth, and then do the math. For the rest, I would advise you to:

  • Agree on the deadline in advance, and stick to it.
  • Ask for your payment in advance, and if you can, use Paypal as the payment method.
  • Agree on what your payment will be if the commission is cancelled halfway through the process.
  • Show your client the rough sketch and a rough color version before proceeding to the next step, to ensure that the client is happy with where the image is going.
  • Establish with your client how many modifications can be made to the artwork based on the client’s feedback, in order to avoid a situation in which you might have to completely re-do your image.
  • Be dependable and communicate well with your client. Your reputation as an artist is incredibly important!
  • Stick to the agreements made before starting, and do not let yourself be manipulated into taking on a much larger workload, or smaller compensation, than initially agreed upon.

Finding work

A common question I get is: how do I find work as a freelancer? I find work primarily through my online presence. I try to make sure that my work is seen by as many people as possible, and so has a greater chance of also being seen by potential clients. I’ve also noticed that many of the clients who approach me have been following my work for a long time, and when they initially discovered my work, they were still students or just starting out in the industry. So I believe that maintaining my online presence over a long period of time has been crucial in finding work as a freelancer. If you are considering using social media as a way to generate exposure for your art, try sharing a combination of finished pieces and rough work. Also, be sure to show your process for creating your art. This way, you not only share your art, but also your way of working. If a potential client sees your work, they can get a sense of your process and can choose from different levels of finish; Sometimes clients, especially those in the concept art field, prefer to see rough work over finished work.

There are also many other options, like being active in smaller communities such as discords, being present at comic cons and industry events, and approaching clients personally. All of these are perfectly valid ways of finding work!

Pricing

Many freelancers starting out are unsure of how to price their work. It’s totally up to you what you want to charge, so it’s important to look at your own specific situation first. The most important thing is that you need to be able to make a living off of your work, which is more complicated than it sounds. Besides being able to pay the bills, this also means you should factor in the cost of any student debts you might be paying back, and materials you need to run your business. You should also charge for your expertise as an artist. Remember: just because you’re an artist, doesn’t mean that you should be scraping by for your entire life – you should be able to grow and invest in your business, so you should be making more than just what you need to survive. I recommend first figuring out what you need to cover all your monthly costs, and then take into consideration the fact that most freelancers don’t do paid work full-time. They also do a lot of unpaid work in the form of updating social media, answering e-mails, managing finances, etc. If you spend about 50% of your hours doing paid client work, make sure your fee also covers the unpaid hours in which you manage your business.

It also helps to make friends in the industry and ask them what their going rates are, so that you can adapt your rate to what is customary in your field. However, NEVER charge less than you need to survive! When negotiating your fee, keep in mind that you can always bargain downwards, but clients are very unlikely to ever accept a higher fee after you’ve suggested a lower one, so it’s better to err on the side of a higher fee. Also, don’t let yourself be emotionally manipulated by clients who suggest your work is worth less than what you ask. Many of them are just using manipulation tactics to get you to lower your price, so don’t take it personally and just move on to a client that is willing to pay your fee. Also, never work for ‘exposure’ – the kind of work that has given me the most exposure has been my own personal illustrations and sketches, so if you’re considering doing free or low-paid work because you want to expand your portfolio, consider a personal project rather than work for a client.

“Art theft” or copyright breach

I’ve had my work ‘stolen’ (that is to say: my copyright breached) numerous times. A good example of a copyright breach is having your original artwork printed on apparel and sold for profit without your permission or knowledge. (Note: art theft does not include ‘style borrowing’ or ‘style theft’ – styles are not copyrighted!) Fortunately, with help from my fanbase, I’ve usually managed to have such items removed from circulation without having to take legal action. I’ve also sent out many DMCA takedown notices, and sent out cease-and-desist letters, which helped to remove the stolen work. People have asked me what can be done to prevent such things from happening. My personal opinion is that there is no solution that completely guarantees that your art will never be stolen, except for one thing: Never showing your art to anyone. This has the disadvantage of your art never gaining positive exposure of any kind, so I don’t recommend it. Any preventative measures you take should be weighed against the greater benefits you may receive from sharing your work. For example, I chose to avoid using large watermarks on my artwork because I find that disruptive. For every art thief who no longer has to bother with photoshopping out the watermark, there are numerous other people who enjoy the experience of seeing my work as it was intended and share it with others, which in the long term brings me exposure, clients and income.

One important thing you can do is avoid sharing high resolution versions of your work in any way, shape or form unless it is with a trusted client or business partner. If you find your copyright breached, contact the people who are doing it and inform them of the breach in a professional and straightforward manner. If they are not willing to remove the item or discuss the problem, contact someone with legal experience and, if you can, join forces with a lawyer, who can assist you in sending a case-and-desist letter.

Social Media

What platform to use

There are a huge number of platforms available to post your work on as an artist, and many of them are saturated with artists. If you’re just getting started with posting your art, I recommend choosing 2-3 platforms that you will regularly post on. Try to figure out which one feels most intuitive and enjoyable to you and make that one your area of focus. You can get the most out of a platform when you understand how it works and what kind of content works best there, which is something you learn by using it. I personally use instagram the most, but I find it to be quite oversaturated and difficult for newer artists to get noticed there. Twitter also has a great artist community. If you are finding it difficult to get your work seen on bigger platforms, try joining smaller communities, like forums or discord servers. In general, I recommend posting on a few different platforms to cover your bases, but don’t spread yourself too thin.

Gaining a following

Getting people to follow your work on social media is a complex process. There’s no guarantee that a certain approach or type of post will definitely get you followers, so it’s mostly a question of posting as often as possible and finding out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. If you’re just starting out, it can be discouraging, because it’s hard to get noticed. Despite this, it’s good to just keep posting and trying to observe long-term results rather than expecting instant success. I recommend posting as regularly and as often as possible. Try to post a mixture of finished and rough work – people like to see the process behind a drawing. Try to share knowledge and tips with others so that they can learn from your work. Most importantly, try to be an active member of a community – get to know other users, respond to comments, and follow other accounts. You’ll gain followers from these interactions and you can also learn a lot from how other people handle their social media accounts.

Crowdfunding

My artbooks were originally funded with a successful Kickstarter campaign. Because of this, I sometimes get approached for advice on crowdfunding, specifically using crowdfunding to fund a book project. However, in my case, much of the complicated work was done by my publisher, 3DTotal. They set up the kickstarter, created the layouts for the book, and arranged the printing, packaging, delivery and customer service. For any questions regarding those aspects of a kickstarter project, I unfortunately cannot provide any insights. I can provide the following tips:

  • Do research: Crowdfunding is a way to test whether there is interest in a product. Before launching, to some research into whether people are interested in the product you offer, perhaps by asking around in your own circle of friends or on your social media channels. Try to see your crowdfunding campaign as a way to test whether your product can be successful, rather than a guarantee for success.
  • Set a clear goal: Formulate your goal as clearly and concisely as possible. People usually don’t have a lot of time read through lengthy descriptions and information before deciding to back a project, so make sure that you clearly state what backers are paying for, and do so near the top of your kickstarter page.
  • Be realistic about time: Many kickstarters fail to deliver their product within the time frame that they promised. Make sure that you think realistically about the amount of time that goes into a project, including packaging, contact with your backers, replacing lost packages, etc. Also, take into consideration the possible scenario of going over your funding goal, so that you’re not blindsided with a massive amount of work without any kind of backup plan.
  • Make a schedule: Make a realistic time schedule that includes some wiggle room, so that you can be sure you will meet the deadlines you promise to your backers.
  • Simplify your prizes: Don’t overcomplicate the different tiers you offer your backers. If you are offering 15 different tiers with minor differences beteween them, you will make it more difficult for backers to choose a prize, so consider fewer tiers with clear descriptions.

Permission

Here you’ll find information on whether my images can be used for tattoos, layouts, and more.

Profile pictures, avatars and icons

You can use my art for your profile picture, avatar, or icon, but only if there is some way to clearly credit my work. Please credit the image with “Art by Loish – www.loish.net” in the description. If there is no way to credit me for the image, please refrain from using it as your profile picture.

Licensing artwork

If you’re interested in licensing my artwork for commercial use, please contact me at business@loish.net with more information about why and how you want to license it. However, I am not interested in having my artwork licensed for use in signature tags or any other stock usage, so please do not contact me about those!

Reference

Using my artwork as a reference for your own is not a problem. This applies to referencing specific parts of my art as well as ‘style borrowing’ or trying out elements of my digital painting approach. All I ask is for you to link to the image you used as a reference and provide proper credit by linking back to my social media accounts or website.

Tattoos

No need to ask my permission to have my art tattooed on you. Go right ahead! All I ask in return is for you to send me a photo of your tattoo when you have had it done, and if you like, you can support me on Patreon!

Personal use

Using my image as your phone wallpaper, printing out a small version for yourself, or any other small-scale personal use is perfectly fine. Please just don’t sell my art or claim it as your own!

Website or blog features

I am always happy to have my artwork featured on your journal, blog or website. There is no need to ask permission beforehand, and I am very grateful to anyone who wants to share my artwork! Please post my images with a link back to loish.net.

Personal Use

Reference

Using my artwork as a reference for your own is not a problem. This applies to referencing specific parts of my art as well as ‘style borrowing’ or trying out elements of my digital painting approach. All I ask is for you to link to the image you used as a reference and provide proper credit by linking back to my social media accounts or website.

Tattoos

No need to ask my permission to have my art tattooed on you. Go right ahead! All I ask in return is for you to send me a photo of your tattoo when you have had it done, and if you like, you can support me on Patreon!

Personal use

Using my image as your phone wallpaper, printing out a small version for yourself, or any other small-scale personal use is perfectly fine. Please just don’t sell my art or claim it as your own!

Website or blog features

I am always happy to have my artwork featured on your journal, blog or website. There is no need to ask permission beforehand, and I am very grateful to anyone who wants to share my artwork! Please post my images with a link back to loish.net.

Commercial Use

Profile pictures, avatars and icons

You can use my art for your profile picture, avatar, or icon, but only if there is some way to clearly credit my work. Please credit the image with “Art by Loish – www.loish.net” in the description. If there is no way to credit me for the image, please refrain from using it as your profile picture.

Licensing artwork

If you’re interested in licensing my artwork for commercial use, please contact me at business@loish.net with more information about why and how you want to license it. However, I am not interested in having my artwork licensed for use in signature tags or any other stock usage, so please do not contact me about those!

Contacting me about

If you want to contact me about something, this section has info on the best way to do that.

Art related

Commissions

I am no longer accepting personal commissions for the time being! My schedule is often filled with client work and personal projects, leaving little to no time for commissions. Because I am never sure when my schedule will clear up, I do not keep a waiting list of any kind. Sorry about that!

Buying prints and merchandise

Right now, you can buy my work through INPRNT and Society6. These are on-demand printing services, which means that they are printed upon request and shipped from the U.S. I do not handle them personally! If you are interested in a signed print, please contact me at info@loish.net, although please be aware that shipping from The Netherlands is relatively expensive.

Fan Art

I occasionally draw fan art – that is, drawings of popular characters such as The Little Mermaid or Wonder Woman. However, I don’t offer these works for sale in any way, shape or form. It is a personal rule of mine that I do not make money directly off of fan art, so unfortunately, prints of these works are not available!

Information and feedback

Interviews

If you’d like to interview me, please contact me to inquire as to whether my schedule allows! However, I am not able to do interviews for school projects. I get too many requests for these and I just don’t have the time to do them all! In these situations, I hope my FAQ is a sufficient source of information. If there is anything which is not dealt with here and is very urgent, you can always e-mail me at info@loish.net.

Reviewing artwork & mentoring

I sometimes get requests to give portfolio reviews or mentor artists. I’m not able to do these due to a lack of time, sorry about that! I do offer tips, advice, and tutorials through my Patreon.

Social Media

Sponsored posts

I currently do not accept any requests to promote projects, artists, or products of any kind on my social networks. Any promotions or shout-outs that you’ll find on my social networks are purely out of personal interest. Please do not ask me to promote your product, personal project, or brand on my social media!

Art Theft

Reporting art theft

If you find my artwork being used in a way that you suspect is illegal, please do not hestitate to contact me at info@loish.net. Thanks to people’s willingness to contact me, I’ve been notified of many copyright breaches that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise and am able to file DMCA takedowns to handle the issue! Any help is appreciated.

“Style theft”

Please do not contact me to report an artist who is imitating my style. Please be aware that a certain degree of similarity to my own artwork is not a copyright breach and therefore not illegal, even though it is heavily frowned upon in the digital art community. Please also refrain from harassing artists who do this.

Last but not Least

Unanswered questions

If you have any questions about me or my artwork which are not answered in this FAQ, please do not hesitate to ask. You can do so by filling in the contact form or by sending an e-mail to info@loish.net. However, I will not answer questions that have already been answered in this FAQ, so please be sure to read through this page before typing your question! Thank you so much for reading ❤

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