How to make it as an artist in 2015

From finding your audience to learning what directors really want: industry experts reveal how to hit new heights with your art this year.

It may already be February, but that doesn't mean it's too late for New Years Resolutions. Get the ball rolling now, and by this time next year you might very well have achieved that far away goal!

Now: Start that personal project

substrata book cover

The art of Substrata was released n the summer of 2014

Vigil Games, the team behind the Darksiders franchise, closed suddenly in 2013. But former employee Paul Richards had an idea: the concept artist wanted the old Vigil team to create an ambitious new video game, Substrata. They knew the game would never be released, so they did it for fun, and Paul encourages you to do the same.

substrata art

Helen Rusovich was one of 82 artists who contributed to the Substrata project

"The world is replete with beauty and works of art that reflect it. And, still, something is missing. Something you'd die to have, but which, until this glorious moment, you've been deprived of.

"Your unconscious self has always known what that is. Satiate it, and let the rest be damned. Don't make something so casual as a "project". Make an imperative. If you don't scratch this itch, who will?" See more of Subtrata's rich art here.

April: Find an audience

noah bradley works

A shadowy figure stalks the land in Noah's artwork

Noah Bradley says there are just two things you need to do to have a successful career in concept art and illustration: "You have to make amazing work. And then you have to show it to people. A lot of focus is put on the former, but many forget about the latter."

The US artist, whose online Art Camp promises to "show you how to be a better artist," has the following advice for finding your audience: "Put out your work on every social media site you can imagine. Every art website. You never know who's going to see your work and where they're gonna see it. Stop browsing content, and put out some content of your own."

Sign up to Noah’s Art Camp here and click here for his top tips on why not to waste your money on art school!

May: Try something new

mark roosien

An example of Mark Roosien's SketchUp art

Back in 2007, Mark Roosien tried SketchUp. The Dutchman was so impressed with the 3D modelling software, he jumped full-time from traditional to digital media and built a successful career as a freelance concept artist.

"A good friend of mine persuaded me to give SketchUp a try," he says, "and I've been in love with the program ever since. It truly helped me develop my skills.

mark roosien art 2

SketchUp convinced Mark Roosien to turn to digital

Try it out yourself in 2015 and discover how it will aid your development as an artist. SketchUp will help you in your traditional work, for example, by setting up perspectives in record time. More importantly, though, it'll provide you with an entirely new, fresh-smelling 3D canvas. Explore new possibilities." You can download a free version of SketchUp here.

June: Improve your self-promo

thomas babbey 2

Watts Atelier teacher Thomas Babbey's traditional work explores, "Art, wildlife and fantasy"

You've created cool art. You've found an audience. How do you build on that? Thomas Babbey advises sharing WIPS as well as finished pieces: "It helps people notice your work online," the US artist says. "Art enthusiasts like to see what's behind the curtain. Showing them your process can help make a connection with followers who are looking to achieve the same results you achieve."

thomas babbey 1

Share sketches and unfinished art to demonstrate your artistic process

Thomas teaches at and helps promotes Watts Atelier of the Arts in California. "Going beyond internet and social media, I'd recommend attending conventions, both as an exhibitor and an attendee. You'll get to know the people working in your industry, and they'll get to know you.

"Art directors are always looking at the calibre of your work, but they also want to get to know you as a person. They need to know if you're someone they click with, and someone who seems consistent and reliable." Learn more about what art courses Watts organises via the website.

July: Make the most of cons

trojan horse con

Trojan Horse limits its numbers of attendees to the low hundreds

Andre Luis hosted the first Trojan Horse Was A Unicorn in 2013, and made a loss of some €500,000. Yet the convention for artists of every discipline returned in 2014 – bigger, better and with a reputation as one of the best new art events in the world.

This year, Andre, promises that it'll be better still. The artist has the following advice on making the most of your time at conventions: "Ask questions," he says. "Find your favourite artists and ask, 'How do you…?' Events are all about networking. So take your iPad so you can show companies and fellow artists what you can do. Don't be shy. Talk to everyone, invite everyone for drinks and, most importantly, have fun!"

Aug/Sept: Target art directors

orbit book

Mélanie Delon's art on one of Orbit's publications

"What art directors really want," Lauren Panepinto says, "is for you to put yourself in our shoes. Make it easy for us to find and commission you. Take a look at your web presence: is your work easy to find on a dedicated site or is it buried in a blog format or community site like deviantART?"

Lauren is creative director at sci-fi and fantasy book publisher Orbit. She wants to see more sites she can simply navigate, with as few clicks as possible to access portfolio pieces. Once there, she wants to see your best work – and lots of it. "Make sure we can easily download images from your site to our files so we can route them for review in-house.

Put yourself in the shoes of art directors, and make it easy for us to find and commission you

"Put subtle watermarks on the bottom of your images so we always know whose piece is whose. Also, make sure your email is on your site, not behind a contact form. Artists would be horrified to know how many commissions they miss because of these roadblocks."

Oct/Nov: Land your dream job

Mikael Bergkvist

Mikael says it's important to know who you are talking to and what they are looking for

In just four years, comic book artist Mikael Bergkvist went from barely being able to afford materials, to collaborating on a sold-out comic with iconic artist Neal Adams. "You meet people by calling them and specifically asking to meet," the Swede says. "Tell them why you want to meet. Be polite, respectful and direct."

Be direct, know who you are talking to and what they are looking for

Mikael says it's important to know who you're talking to and what they're looking for. "Neal doesn’t have a standard portfolio. He never did. He creates a targeted portfolio, specifically for the job that he wants. You show them the willingness to collaborate if you target your material for them from the start. If you're turned down, take it gracefully, because they might need someone like you later, and then they will remember that you exist."

December: Carve out your own niche

the dude designs

The Dude Designs is inspired by a love of b-movie art

Tom Hodge, better known as the Dude Designs, is a digital artist who loves traditional B-movie art. He's carved out a career combining the two: "You find a niche by doing what you love," he says, "finding what truly inspires you and following that passion – passion is what will get you through, passion and putting your neck on the block. Give your work some individuality and character, also attention to detail."

the dude designs 2

Passion will get you through, says Tom Hodge

Tom says it wasn't easy getting where he is now, creating poster for the likes of 20th Century Fox, but it's worth it. "Lots of sacrifices will need to be made, so respect yourself and charge a fair rate. You wouldn't get accountants working for free, so why should you?"

Words: Gary Evans

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