loish.net |
Digital art
1.1 General information
1.1.1 How/where did I learn to draw
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.
1.1.2 Inspiration
People often ask me where I find my inspiration. I am often inspired by other artwork that I find on the internet, through DeviantArt or browsing websites. I watch a lot of movies and animated films which are sources of inspiration too. I also have a lot of friends who draw or animate, and being in a creative environment is very motivating. 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, particularly the things I see when I go on walks. I often use pictures I take myself as a starting point for an illustration or study.
1.1.3 Artistic Influences
When I was 15, I was inspired by japanese drawing styles (animé and manga), as well as 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. My DeviantArt favorites (a collection of images on the site which are my personal favorites) gives a pretty good idea of the type of artwork that inspires me, as well as this "influence map": [link]
1.1.4 Developing my own style
Developing my own style wasn’t really a conscious decision I made, nor do I have any specific methods for it. Looking back, drawing a lot, being self-taught, and developing my own methods of handling software had a lot to do with it. As for suggestions, 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.
1.1.5 Old artwork and layouts
I've upoaded almost all of my old artwork (both digital and traditional) to Google, including traditional art, digital art, oekakis (?), and old website layouts.
1.2 Approach
1.2.1 How often do I draw
When I started out drawing digitally, I made something like 2 – 5 small drawings a day and basically spent most of my free time drawing. Nowadays, I draw all the time because it is my job, so I guess it's reasonable to say that I draw every weekday for a few hours at the very least. I don't try to hold myself to any specific drawing schedule, however, and sometimes take long breaks from drawing altogether, such as summer vacations.
1.2.2 Using reference
In my work as a concept artist, reference material is an essential part of creating a clear and concise creative vision. 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 create direct copies. These reference images are almost always photographs, either taken by myself or found on stock resources such as the Deviantart stock photo section. 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, I feel it is important to use photo reference as a starting point or guide rather than to depend heavily on it for every detail, as I personally prefer stylized work that feels like a unified whole, which I have difficulty achieving when I depend too heavily on reference photos.
1.2.3 Learning anatomy
For me, learning how to draw anatomy was the result of tons of practice, drawing both from memory and from reference. I don't have any specific books or tutorials that I can recommmend, since I have never depended heavily on any to learn how to draw, but I find that the Deviantart stock photo section has many great images to reference from. I took some life drawing classes in college, but they were not intensive and were only given once a week for one semester. Although I really enjoyed them, they didn’t have a gigantic impact on my drawing style or technique due to their short duration. For those struggling to learn anatomy, I recommend drawing from reference and doing speed sketches. Try to capture the overall shape and movement before going into detail.
1.2.4 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.
1.2.5 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. 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 lagging or becoming too slow to work fast and intuitively.
1.3 Tools
1.3.1 Software
I use Adobe Photoshop for practically everything. I am currently using the latest version of Photoshop CC. In the past I have used Painter, Opencanvas or OekakiBBS.
1.3.2 Hardware
Most of my work is created on my workstation, which consists of:
  • A Cintiq 27QHD
  • A Dell Ultrasharp U2410 screen
  • A self-assembled PC with an i7 processor, running on Windows 7
Alternatively, I sometimes use:
  • A Dell XPS 15 9550
  • A Cintiq 24HD
  • A Wacom Intuos4 Large
  • A Cintiq Companion (first version)
Unfortunately I have no tips or information about Apple products or tablet computers (besides the Cintiq Companion), since I have no experience with these! As for wacom tablets, I personally really love working on tablets where you draw directly on the screen because it is very intuitive and fast, but find that any Wacom tablet tends to work great for creating digital art.
1.3.3 Photoshop Brushes
I use very few brushes and like to choose one and stick with it 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. You can download my brushes, which consist of some standard Photoshop brushes as well as a few brushes from other artists' brushsets, here.
1.4 Techniques
1.4.1 Sketching
Sketching is a very important way for me to practice and improve my skills. 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 can be filled in later. This approach reduces stiffness in the final drawing. I often sketch digitally using Photoshop, although sometimes I also sketch using pencil. For examples of how I sketch, please see the following links: [link] [link] [link] [link]
1.4.2 Lines
Lately I'm not big on lineart, preferring instead to paint over a very rough sketch and just wing it from there. When I do create 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. As for digital lineart, I tend to draw it freehand on a large scale and downsize later, which helps smooth out the lines.
1.4.3 Choosing colors
Choosing colors, for me, is largely an intuitive process. I just slap really rough 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. Another method I use is to add textures early on in the process, which can add colors, depth and interesting effects to the colored sketch (for more info on textures, skip ahead to 1.4.5 - textures). For examples of my coloring process, please see the following links: [link] [link] [link] [link]
1.4.4 Blending colors
As I explained in the previous section, I like to start out with a messy, rough version of the drawing. As soon as I like what I see, I start blending the colors more. I usually lower the opacity quite a lot (this applies to basically any brush I'm using) and just start painting in the details. A useful shortcut for this is alt+click, which makes the eyedropper tool temporarily appear. This allows me to pick colors off of the canvas and paint with them, which is why it's so useful to start out with a rough color version before adding details.
1.4.5 Layers
Nowadays I almost always use one layer to paint, adding extra layers for small tweaks and adjustments throughout the painting process but merging them with the main layer frequently. Especially when I’m painting in the details, I like to use one coloring layer and add layers only when I add textures or other details, which I end up merging into one layer after a while. 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, so I prefer to keep it simple. I do like to use layers as a way to track the process of the drawing, which I do by duplicating the layer and working on 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 you to double check whether it's heading in the right direction.
1.5 Resources
1.5.1 Tutorials
For tutorials and tips, the best resource I can recommend is my own artbook, The Art of Loish, published by 3Dtotal. It contains process shots of my work, two detailed tutorials, and a variety of useful tips for digital art and drawing: Besides my artbook, there are various resources available online and through a number of publications.

List of online resources:

List of published tutorials: Please note: if you're interested in obtaining any of these publications or magazine issues, please contact the publisher for information on their availability!
1.5.2 Video interviews
List of interviews I've done:
  • A webcam interview with Sycra: [link]
  • An audio interview with Chris Oatley: [link] 
  • A webcam interview with Bobby Chiu: [link]
  • For Dutch speakers, an interview on the podcast Geekers op je Speakers: [link]
1.5.3 Resources I use
People often ask me for links to good tutorials, but I don’t use tutorials myself so I can’t really give any tips on that. The only resource I really make a lot of use of are the texture site cgtextures.com, as well as the stock photo section of deviantart for occasional model reference.
Other activities
2.1 Traditional art
2.1.1 Pencils
The pencils I use are just good old mechanical pencils – the kind where you click on the back and more pencil comes out the front. I don’t have a specific type of mechanical pencil that I use – just whatever’s lying around!
2.1.2 Other tools
The other tools I have lying around are Pantone Tria markers and Van Gogh colored pencils, plus artline pens for inking. I don’t use these much. Since I scan the lineart into the computer, the paper type is usually just standard printer a4 sheets. My sketchbook is an A4 sized moleskine sketchbook.
2.2 Animation
2.2.1 Links to my animation work
Besides here on loish.net, my animation work can be found on my vimeo page.
2.2.2 Animation programs
I use TVPaint for frame-by-frame animation, a useful program which offers good digital drawing tools and a timeline. 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. Sadly I do not have much experience in 3D programs or compositing traditional pencil-drawn or cel animation, although I plan on changing that in the future.
2.3 Web related
2.3.1 loish.net
I used to code loish.net using notepad, having learned some basic html and css from various resources online. I moved on to Dreamweaver eventually, coding most of the website myself and using Simpleviewer for the galleries, but am now using Indexhibit with the styling and graphics made by me (and some jquery help from my boyfriend Arjen Klaverstijn). loish.net is hosted at Dreamhost.com.
2.3.2 Learning how to code
The best way to learn how to make your own website is search (with, for example, Google) for tutorials, websites, and so on. I learned by starting simple, learning how to make a basic html page and then finding ways to expand on this basic knowledge. However, my skills are far from professional! If you want a strong website and have no coding skills, it’s best to just have your site made for you by a professional.
2.3.3 Social media following
I've been very active with posting my artwork on the internet ever since I started drawing digitally in 2003. 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, instagram, facebook, and twitter. Much of my online following is the result of actively promoting my work online for 15 years now, which has resulted in a snowball effect - a small following 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 it was easier to get your work noticed, due to a smaller number of users on the site.
2.3.4 My online presence
Social networks that I am currently active on are: I sell my artwork exclusively on: Any accounts besides the ones above claming to be me are most likely impostors or people selling my art without my permission!
Education and work
3.1 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 chose animation because I thought it would be a good way to expand on my drawing skills.
3.2 Current work
I've been working as a freelance animator/illustrator in the Netherlands ever since I graduated in August 2009. I do mostly character design at the moment. I’m also working on producing two animated shorts which I am financing myself (for more info visit the Trichrome website).
3.3 Future plans
I have the long term ambition of being able to live purely off of my own artistic ventures, but for the time being I am really enjoying the commercial work I am doing and the learning experiences it offers! Next to these freelance projects, I want to release an artbook and finish my personal animation project, which is forever at the end of my to-do list but I am very determined to finish them nonetheless.
3.4 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 personally am able to live off of my art, and I know a lot of other people who are also living off of their art. However, this is no guarantee that every person who wants to pursue a career as an artist will succeed. Your ability to live off of your art depends enormously on what you do, where you live, and what your options are. I am able to live off of my art because of the exposure my work gets on the internet, the possiblity of being able to work from home, the fact that it's relatively easy to register oneself as a freelancer in Holland, and the fact that I generate income off of a variety of different sources, including royalties from book sales, print and merchandise, and client work.
3.5 Getting started as a freelancer
When I started my freelance career, I had been posting my work online and building a following for about 6 years. Potential clients had already been contacting me during my student years. By the time I was ready to accept freelance work, I already had some interesting requests for projects lined up, so getting started was quite easy for me personally. This is why I feel that gaining a following on social media is a very important step for freelance artists. However, in the beginning, the work I did varied enormously. Some of it was very low-paid or not a good fit with 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 was only after about 5 years of working as a freelancer that I was able to say that I had 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 abilities as a freelancer, and continuing to post my artwork 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.
Tips & Advice
4.1 Learning process
4.1.1 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. Personally, I have never made heavy use of tutorials. I started by just messing around in Photoshop and other digital programs, 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!
4.1.2 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.
4.1.3 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 and animation 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, if I were still doing that, I would either be suffering from a burnout or I would be totally sick of art and drawing. Accepting a slower, more steady pace of improvement and inspiration has helped me to move past artblocks, as well as just keeping at it – eventually you'll make a drawing you're happy with and feel motivated again! 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.

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!

4.1.4 Drawing every day
There exists a belief that an artist must draw every day in order to improve. As someone who struggles with a repetitive stress injury from drawing too much, 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 most 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 drawing 3-4 times a week is a better idea than drawing every single day, in my opinion.
4.2 Hardware & technique
4.2.1 Tablet advice
Sometimes people approach me for advice on which tablet to buy. I would suggest buying a Wacom tablet, purely because I am completely unfamiliar with any other brand! As for which make and size, it depends on your needs and budget. I started out with the cheapest, smallest tablet available at the time (a Wacom Volito) and gradually upgraded to bigger and more expensive ones whenever I could afford it. In my experience, larger tablets are not necessarily better than smaller ones, and the more expensive the Wacom tablet is, the better it is likely to be when it comes to things like pressure sensitivity and responsiveness. I believe that a small, cheap tablet can yield the same artistic results as an incredibly expensive tablet, and that the main difference is that bigger, more expensive tablets allow you to work faster and more efficiently. If working fast is a priority (which it is in my case, as a freelance artist), then the Cintiq is the best option out there. Any other info can of course be found on the Wacom site!
4.2.2 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 this is something I've had to deal with numerous times. For a detailed account of my experience, please read my blog post here: [link]. Ever since publicly sharing my story, I've been blown away by the number of artists who also experience such injuries in some form or other. My tips to anyone struggling with this is first of all to do what most artists have a hard time doing: slow down, take breaks, and even stop drawing completely if necessary. You must take into account the long term ramifications of damaging your arm, and realize that any short term goals you may have are completely irrelevant compared to the need to maintain long-term use of your arm. Here are some things that I found helpful in dealing with my injury:

  • Trigger point therapy: this helps the muscle to relax and reduces tightness. If you're not afraid of needles, you could try dry needling - I personally haven't tried this yet, because I find that massage does the trick as well.
  • Sleeping position: Avoid sleeping on the side with the injured arm. This can obstruct bloodflow to the injured area while it heals at night. Sleep on your back or on the other side.
  • Sleep with a wrist brace: Without realizing it, we often bend our wrists into unnatural positions while we sleep, which can strain it and prevents proper healing. Try wearing a wrist brace at night that keeps your elbow in a straight position.
  • Ice: I've found that this helps relieve pain in my elbow area.
  • 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.
  • 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.

And most importantly: speak to a doctor or physical therapist. It is absolutely worth it to get professional advice and get the problem diagnosed properly!

4.3 Education
4.3.1 Necessity of formal art education
As a self-taught digital artist, I can confirm that a formal education is not an absolute necessity in obtaining 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. I do not believe that art school is required to have a career in art but I also don't believe art school is without important benefits that are very difficult to obtain outside of that setting. However, if you are doubting whether to attend art school, you must do what works best for you and your style of learning!
4.3.2 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. The system in Holland is different than many other colleges (we don’t work with majors and minors, for example), and as mentioned before, the creative industry is also different, which of course has a large influence on your decision of what to study. 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.
4.3.3 Studying in the Netherlands
Here in the Netherlands, I can only give advice on the animation course at the Utrecht School of the Arts, and even this is based on my experiences between 2005-2009, and may not reflect any changes that have been implemented since that time. At this particular school they focus a lot on training students to work in projects with a tight deadline, many of them interdiscplinary (working with filmmakers, game designers, and other students at the school). The focus is more on getting these projects done than on training the students in animation techniques and skills. I really enjoyed my time at the Utrecht School of the Arts but found it to be a very flexible school where you can make or break your experience depending on how much effort you are willing to put into it. I sometimes found the learning environment to be chaotic and lacking structure, but I personally enjoyed that freedom and found it a good environment to thrive in, especially as a self-taught artist. However, if you are someone who needs lots of structure, the HKU might not be your best option. Information for international students can be found here: [link]
4.3 Work related
4.3.1 Commission tips
Commissions are paid requests, usually non-commercial in nature (meaning, they are intended for personal use by the client). Commissions are commonly offered on art community sites like Deviantart. 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 back as a professional freelance artist, I have to say that most of the commission prices I see on Deviantart 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 on the web, 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 is completely unacceptable. Be aware of the fact that there is a difference between the price of a product – such as an art print – and the price of design, such as an original drawing made in your own style. Design is always much more valuable and therefore more expensive. 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.
4.3.2 Finding work
A common question I get is: how do I find work as a freelancer? I find work primarily through social media exposure. 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.

4.3.3 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.

4.3.4 "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. I also recommend letting people know on your social media channels that your work has been stolen - this prevents people from mistakenly believing that the products are yours, and you will most likely find that others are willing to help you out in spreading the word about the theft!

4.4 Social Media
4.4.1 What platform to use
There are a huge number of platforms available to post your work on as an artist. If you're just getting started with posting your art, I recommend a platform like Instagram. Instagram has a really active community and the focus is on images, so it's ideal for artists. It's also quite a flexible platform - if you use hashtags and take the time to interact with other users, people will find your work more easily than on other platforms. Facebook is a more difficult platform to find exposure for your art, since they tend to cut the reach of your posts - basically it means that fewer people see your posts because they want you to pay for a larger reach through advertisements. Twitter and tumblr are good platforms to share your work on because of the reblogging/retweeting option - your work is shared not only on your own channel but also on the channel of everyone who reposts your art.
4.4.2 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 most social media platforms are heavily saturated with users, including artists, and it's hard to stand out and 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.
4.4.3 Making money through social media
It is possible to make money through social media by doing sponsored posts, or placing ads. I personally don't do this, but I do use social media to generate income. I do this by promoting my own products on my social media channels, such as my prints and my artbook. I also use social media as a way to find work, since I have found that the more exposure my art has,the more I am approached by clients to work on various projects. If you are an artist who sells products, commissions, or are seeking clients, I definitely recommend investing time into your social media channels as a way to boost sales and gain exposure for your work, next to the more traditional approach of sending your portfolio and personally contacting clients.
4.4.4 Crowdfunding
My artbook, The Art of Loish, was originally funded with a successful Kickstarter campaign. Because of this, people often approach me 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.
5.1 Licensing artwork
If you're interested in licensing my artwork for commercial use, please contact me at info@loish.net. 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!
5.2 Layouts
I only allow my artwork to be used in layouts if my website link (loish.net) is visible on the image being used. Please e-mail me (info@loish.net) before using my artwork in a website layout so that I can indicate whether I approve of its use or not.
5.3 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. On facebook, please include my name and loish.net in the image description. On a forum, please include a credit line in your signature. If there is no way to credit me for the image, please refrain from using it as your profile picture.
5.4 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 (with a link to loish.net). Also, I would love to see the artwork you created with my work as reference!
5.5 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. (Some cool photos of loish tattoos I've received in the past: [link] and [link] )
5.6 Personal use
Using my image as your desktop 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.
5.7 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. Feel free to send a link to the feature at info@loish.net if you like; However, please do not demand that I share the link on my social networks - If you are only featuring my work as a way to get a shout-out on my social media channels, please do not feature my work on your site. I only share links on my social media on my own intiative.
Contacting me about...
6.1 Art related
6.1.1 Commissions
While I used to take commissions a few times a year, nowadays my schedule is often too full to accept commissions. If I do have time, I announce the opening of commission slots in my Deviantart Journal, so keep an eye on it if you are on Deviantart. Otherwise, you can always feel free to send your request over to info@loish.net, although the odds that I am available for work is very low! Because I am never sure when my schedule will clear up, I do not keep a waiting list of any kind.
6.1.2 Requests + art trades
I don’t do requests or trades, sorry!
6.1.3 Free artwork
Sometimes I am approached to do artwork for free, in the context of projects such as games, comics, and animations. At this point in time I don’t do any artwork free of cost.
6.1.4 Buying prints and merchandise
Right now, prints of my work are available through the DeviantArt prints shop as well as Society6, and INPRNT. For each of these sites, I am not personally involved with the creation of the prints, which are all shipped from the U.S. If you are interested in a signed print, please contact me at info@loish.net, although please be aware that the further you live from The Netherlands, the higher the cost of the print will be due to additional shipping costs.
6.1.5 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!
6.2 Information and feedback
6.2.1 Interviews
If you’d like to interview me for a blog feature or any kind of publication (online or other), please contact me to inquire as to whether my schedule allows! However, I no longer do interviews for school projects or personal use, since I get a lot of them and, taken as a whole, are VERY time consuming. 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.
6.2.2 Reviewing artwork & mentoring
I sometimes get requests from artists to review their artwork, give opinions and tips, and sometimes even mentor people in their artistic development (sometimes in the context of someone's schooling, sometimes not). At this moment I get too many messages like these and have too little time to actually fulfill all of these requests. Sorry!
6.3 Social Media
6.3.1 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 and I am not open to using my social networks as an advertising space, paid or otherwise.
6.3.2 Shout-outs
My rule for sponsored posts applies also to shout-outs. Please do not ask me to promote your kickstarter or personal project on my social media channels. It is fine if you want to share your project with me - I love discovering new art and have funded many kickstarters - but please do not contact me with the express purpose of asking me to promote your project.
6.4 Art Theft
6.4.1 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! Any help is appreciated.
6.4.2 "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. It is unlikely that I will have a problem with such a situation, and I would like to request that you please refrain from harassing or publicly calling out artists who do this as this can be a very destructive and damaging course of action. For more information about style and copyright law, please check out the following: [link].
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 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!


most recent update: March 2017