We’d like to introduce our newest background, created for us by the very talented Emily Hare. We love Emily’s artwork and thought that one of her paintings could work really well with the site, so after discussing what was needed for of our backgrounds, we left it in Emily’s capable hands to come up with some ideas.
Here’s the first attempt and the work in process illustrations…
At this point Emily decided to go in a different direction, something a bit more cuddly. Although we did really like the previous image and were advising on direction, we gave full creative control over to Emily and we trusted her to complete the task at hand.
And here is the final piece…
We think Emily did a brilliant job and we love our new background! Please note: Emily may have already given the dragons names, but we’ve decided to call them Myrtle and Xaddrarth. 🙂
Right! Time to get you up-to-date with all of our recent improvements. It was long overdue, but our entire website (including the administration area) is now accessed via https rather than http. Along with making the site more secure, it puts us fully in line with what the public and search engines expect these days. All old links will automatically redirect, but feel free to update any links you have from your websites or social pages to include that all important S.
This is a list of the things that illustrators sometimes do that they really shouldn’t – or in some cases that they don’t do. Generally, it’s the really simple stuff that tends to be overlooked and for the life of me I have no idea how it happens half of the time. What freelancers sometimes forget is that they’re running a business and they need to present themselves as such. Uploading your artwork to the internet for your own satisfaction is a far cry from landing the client you’ve always wanted or being hired for a private commission. For a viewer to become a client, they need to get from A to Z with as few obstacles as possible. Shall we begin…
Not having a personal website with a custom domain name. Building a custom website is fun and can enable you to really show off your work and talent, but if that’s not for you, it’s OK to use a platform that uses templates where you just insert your own content. All of those systems allow you to have a custom domain name, whether you buy it through them or a 3rd party, so there’s no excuse not to have one. In the digital world, it’s the difference between having a business card or scribbling your contact details on a napkin . Show you’re a professional by having a custom domain name for your portfolio. It can take as little as 5 minutes to set one up and cost less than a couple caffè macchiatos each year.
Not having your name on your website or using too many different names. Or using a business name, but not telling the client the name of the person to address their email to. This one is a pet hate! It’s less common these days, but there was a trend for a while for illustrators’ websites not to display the artist’s name, full stop. I don’t know if this was an oversight or not in some cases, but if you ever had to get in contact with any of these illustrators and their name wasn’t in their URL or email address, you could feel the annoyance in their reply when you’ve addressed them with just ‘Hey’. Tell people what your name is! Don’t make the client feel uncomfortable before they’ve even got in contact with you.
Not showing your email address or any alternative contact method. You’ve created a beautiful website to showcase your amazing artwork and then you reveal no way for a client to contact you. Why?!
Keeping your social networks more up-to-date than your own website. Social networks may be easier to update, but this just looks lazy and like you don’t actually care about your personal brand. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
Having broken links to your social pages on your website where the URLs have changed when you’ve faffed around with your usernames. It’s like moving home; make sure a redirection is in place and everyone knows about your new address including your website. If you don’t, users are going to get lost and become irritated. It’s the little things like that which can put clients off when they’re on the fence as to whether to approach you for a quote or not.
Showing work of varying quality: either be crap or amazing, not both! You need to make sure you’re showing your best work and the quality of your portfolio isn’t being dragged down by including work that isn’t your best. Sometimes it’s better to show too little work than bulking it out with older work or pieces that should have been archived in a private corner of your hard drive and become a distant memory. Be proud of everything you produce, but also be aware of what works and what doesn’t. Quality over quantity and don’t listen to your mum.
Not having a consistent style or not showing a degree of separation between your different styles. This one has some similarities to number six. If you’re a jack of all trades and you’re approached by a client, there will always be a concern in the back of their head as to what to expect from you when you deliver an illustration. If you have more than one style, you want the client to be able to say before they commission you that they like your children’s illustration, or your pointillism artwork, or your horror pieces. But you need to have shown these in their own sections on your website and the styles need to have not cross-pollinated between the sections. Don’t make it difficult for the client to tell you want they want based on what you do. Keep it simple! Get them from A to Z as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
There are many more things an illustrator should do to optimise their operations and workflow than the list above, but we just wanted to highlight the most common mistakes we’ve seen in the wild over the years in relation to illustrators’ websites. Please feel free to leave your pet hates and advice in the comments below. We’ll add the best ones to the article.
Following on from the recent redesign and rejuvenation of our website, we’ve continued to make modifications as the dust has settled and we’ve seen what worked and what needed to be changed. Our first stop was a small modification to our search criteria that should have a big impact on usability. When the redesign was launched we suddenly allowed all of our members to select a job title from a predetermined list and this was then searchable on our search pages. This didn’t work as the majority decided they want to just be called an illustrator, so now the job title is no longer searchable, but is displayed in their portfolios next to their name. What has been added to replace the search aspect are two searchable job descriptions. This should allow members to add the terms that help people find them without feeling they need to keep their options open by not committing to a specific title. This change in the options available to our members and within search system inspired a blog post I wrote about job titles for the LCS a few days ago. Read: Finding your niche as an illustrator!
As a side note: Since the redesign had been a longtime coming, I decided early on I would try to remove as much of the 9 years worth of bloat as possible. I may have gone a bit too far. Information about our postcard printing and mailers has now been re-added to the members’ administration along with a viewable archive of all the previous member-only updates. A new addition though is a series of downloadable and useful content that should be in every freelance illustrators’ digital toolbox. If you’re a member, login and have a look. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
After doing a limited soft launch of our new website last Monday, everything seems to have gone well. So, today we’re rolling out our new site to everyone! Our new site includes improved portfolios and search options, plus we’ve gone fully responsive. Which means all of you who’ve struggled to use our site on your mobiles need struggle no longer. One of the biggest improvements to the site is that it’s now blazing fast; we’ve utilised all of the latest technology to make it as fast as humanly possible.
For our members, our dated administration has also had an overhaul to make it easier than ever to manage your profile and add new work. You may have also noticed we’ve increased the sizes of your images too.
To top off the launching of the new website, we’ve also got a new logo. It’s not a million miles from our old logo as there’s no need to change something if it works. We’ve just had it fine-tuned and embraced what it means to be an illustrator.
We’re planning on moving to a bigger and better server, so if you’ve tried to log into your profile and have been redirected to this blog post we’re in the process of migrating at the moment. It should only take an hour or two to make the move and once complete you’ll have full access to your profile again to make changes and submit news.
It’s always a worry moving from one system to another, as you know if you’ve ever done it yourself. We’ve moved servers several times over the last few years as we’ve out grown old machines, or new technologies have become available. Moving a small site is easy-peasy, but when you’re looking at moving the equivalent of 300-400 small sites in one go with hundreds of clients relying on you as part of their business, there’s no shortage of pressure to make sure everything runs smoothy with minimal downtime. Although the tech industry would like you to believe everything is just point and click these days, doing a server migration just isn’t that simple and requires a lot of prep work.
We’re really excited about the new system, we’re going to get a bump in RAM to make everything more spritely. Plus we’re getting super-fancy Solid State Drives to replace our old fashion HDs, again this should give us another bump in speed.
Image by Emory Allen for the Pacific Standard (September 2014).
We’re always making updates on the site and with the service for members of Hire an Illustrator, but when it comes to adding or removing the categories our illustrators use to define themselves on the site it’s actually quite a big deal. We never add new categories lightly and normally only when there’s enough demand from clients for them. Over the last 12 months we’ve found there have been more and more job requests asking for the following three areas:
Dark & Otherworldly or Surreal
Anime & Manga
Retro, Vintage & Antique
So from today, our illustrators can add themselves to one of these categories if that’s what their artwork fits into and clients can now do searches based on those areas.
We’re excited to announce that the LCS Showcase 100 project in partnership with hai now has it’s very own website! You can learn more about the project and exhibition, find out how you can get involved, and see some of the entries we’ve received so far at http://sc100.co.uk/
Once the judges have made their final decisions we’ll be adding the selected artists and artwork to the site, and of course, we’ll be making updates with more details about the show and book nearer the time.
A while ago when we asked Elise Martinson if she would create a new background for hai we were super excited when she said yes. Have you seen the work Elise did for the Perth Mint? It’s absolutely gorgeous.
The process when creating a background is pretty much the same each time and this one was no exception. We make sure the artists understand the dimensions and how the background would work with the site, but apart from that we give them free rein to come up with something unique that reflects their style and look. Another thing we also give them is no deadline; I never know if this is a good or a bad thing, but I guess it depends on the illustrator really.
Last October Elise got in contact to show us some very cool sketches. I personally love checking out the sketches and pencil work. We had talked about a Christmas background, but I think it was decided it should be less specific to any particular event.
This one got rejected, but was still an interesting idea.
I think it was a little bit too “environmentalist”… (It was penguins chasing colourful pegs and other plastic junk that look like schools of fish). Above is a super rough draft. I realised it was quite a negative theme even though my intention was to render it so that you have to look twice to realise the plastic. – Elise Martinson
Pencil sketch with the site overlaid. Idea two.
After seeing the lovely sketches above, we asked Elise to proceed as the direction was exactly what we were looking for… Heaps of snow-camouflaged animals!
The sketches were then followed in January 2014 with a coloured version of the sketch with the website overlaid to show how it would work.
Idea two in colour.
A close up of the coloured sketch.
From there Elise went ahead and started cleaning up the sketches. As you can see they look great!
This is the one we went with. 🙂
Close up one.
Close up two.
After the sketch was approved, it was time for Elise to do her thing and here is the progress in chronological order with incremental changes and adjustments.
First colour rendering.
Did you notice the detail added to the snow and the addition of some birds?
Big changes with lots of refinements. Some elements are gone and a couple have been added.
This is the final image and we absolutely love it! You probably can’t see it in these images, but comparing this to the last one, there’s so much more detail.
Close up of the final.
Close up of the final.
Elise Martinson was a pleasure to work with. She was very quick to understand what we wanted and stayed in constant communication with updates and roughs. Then, when it came to the final image she was able to produce the exact files I needed for inserting into the site. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Elise again in the future. You can check out Elise Martinson’s Winter Wonderland live on the site and see more of her work via her hai portfolio or personal website.
We’ve upgraded to a new server, doubling our capacity and power. In real terms that won’t double the speed of our website, but it should make it a lot more sprightly! We had a couple small issue with the upgrade, but everything has been sorted now and the site should be running at full capacity.