Shop Forum More Submit  Join Login
Hey guys! I'm part of a collective art book called 1001 Knights. It's a beautiful, 3-volume, hardback, cloth-bound set containing ONE THOUSAND AND ONE DRAWINGS OF KNIGHTS from over 250 artists, as well as comics, poems and stories. I have two drawings in the books! The project is now on Kickstarter and is totally blowing up! Check it out, and please spend the word:
Hey guys! I just started a new Tumblr called "Anyone Can Improve at Drawing." (Or ACID for short, so I can make jokes about artists being on acid.) On this Tumblr artists can compare their old and new drawings to show how much they've improved. I started this to inspire young artists, and to show that drawing skill comes from years of hard work and practice, not from magic! Check it out here! Everyone is welcome to submit.

Hey guys, I'm new to Tumblr, still figuring it out. If you have any tips, please let me know!

When you're a self-published author, you have to wear a lot of hats - editor, designer, marketer - sometimes 
all the hats! That includes being your own art director and communicating with illustrators. As an illustrator, sometimes emails from self-published authors can be, at best clueless, at worst downright insulting. If you want to work with a professional illustrator, sending a solid inquiry email is essential. Here's how to increase your chances of making a good first impression.

  1. Don't begin by talking about how tight your budget is. Imagine if someone burst into your office and the first words out of their mouth were, "I can't pay you very much!" Would your response be "tell me more!"? Illustrators receive a lot of requests for cheap or even free artwork. We don't expect everyone to be made of money, especially self-publishers, but nothing will elicit an eyeroll more than bringing up a lack of funds right off the bat.
  2. Don't try to downplay the amount of artwork. Illustrators understand the phrase "just a few quick sketches" to be code language for "I can't pay you very much and I want you to feel ok about that."
  3. Don't gush about how your project is exciting, special, a guaranteed bestseller, an instant classic, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You don't have to "pitch" the illustrator your concept like you would with an editor. The artist's first concerns are the type of artwork involved, the deadline and the budget. You don't have to convince them that your project is the next big thing, and you only risk coming off as pretentious and possibly delusional.
  4. Don't ask the illustrator to imitate another artist's style. What the illustrator hears is "I want to hire this other illustrator but I couldn't afford them, so I'm using you as a cheap knockoff." What you see in the illustrator's portfolio is what you're going to get - so if that's not what you want, don't hire them.
  5. Don't mention "exposure." People bring this up so often, illustrators like to joke that "you can die of exposure." To us it's another coded message meaning "I'm trying to make up for the fact that I can't pay you very much." An illustrator can judge from the type of project you're proposing how much exposure they're likely to receive. You don't need to bring it up.
  1. Start the email with a compliment, a mention of how you found the artist, and which of their images made you think they would be a good fit for your project. A little flattery never hurts, and being specific distinguishes your email from a generic spam message sent to hundreds of other artists. Also, use their name.
  2. Describe your project succinctly and simply. For example, "I'm writing a collection of poems about California wildlife," or "I'm working on a middle-grade novel about a boy who goes on a mission trip to Mexico." You're a writer, you can do this. I believe in you.
  3. Describe exactly the amount and type of artwork you will need: the number and size of the pieces, color or black-and-white, what it will be used for. For example, "I need 12 black-and-white spot illustrations of California plants and animals, for use as chapter headers," or "I need a color cover featuring the main character standing outside a small church in Mexico." If you don't know how to describe what you need, try asking other authors for some basic illustration terminology.
  4. Mention the deadline. Asking the artist if they are "available" means nothing without some sort of time frame. If you're flexible on the deadline, ask the artist how much time they think they would need. The more time you can give them, the better. Remember that many illustrators work on multiple projects; if you need your art in a hurry then they may have to turn down other paying work in order to get it done on time. But if you have a long deadline, they can work on your project around other paying work.
  5. If you have a pre-determined budget, say it without apologies or excuses. If not, ask the illustrator how much they would charge for this project, or if they need more information in order to make that determination.

Here's an example of a fictional, well-written inquiry to an illustrator:
Hello Kelley,
I found your portfolio on Deviantart and really enjoy your use of color and sense of humor, especially the piece "Dragonflower." I am looking for an illustrator to create a cover and fifteen b&w interior spot illustrations for my self-published middle-grade novel about a lobster who becomes a famous K-POP star. I would need this cover by mid-August. As far as budget goes, I'm not sure what the going rate is for something like this, so I am open to suggestions for a fair price for a project of this size. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for your time!
It's short, polite, and hits all the major points: type of artwork, budget, deadline. There's no excessive flattery or groveling, or promises of "exposure" and future riches from this "guaranteed bestseller." (By the way, feel free to steal my lobster idea, and please send me a copy of the book once you've written it.)

Many illustrators are happy to hear from self-published authors who can communicate clearly and respectfully. Now that you have this information, go and approach illustrators with confidence!
Hey guys! I'm going to be a part of quite a few collaborative art books this year, and the first one is available now! It's called "Inspiration," and it's a collaboration of professional fantasy artists, put together by John Schindehette (previous art director of Wizards of the Coast.) If you like dark fantasy, or surreal/edgy art, or mythology, I think you'd really like this. It's currently only $25 and all the artists get a cut of the profits.

This is my piece in the book:
The Messenger by kelleybean86

Later this year I'm also going to be a part of the Ladies of Literature zine, and the 1001 Knights art book, both of which plan to run Kickstarters. It's going to be a fun year!

Don't forget that you can also follow me on Twitter: @kelleymcmorris , and at my blog: , both of which I update more often than Deviantart. 
There are a lot of things I love about digital painting, and I will defend it against anyone who suggests that it's "cheating" or "not real painting." However, if you are just starting to learn how to draw, I don't recommend starting with digital painting.

The only way to get better at drawing is to draw a lot. Artists like to say that everyone has to create 10,000 bad drawings before they can start creating good ones. While this is an oversimplification, it's also very helpful to keep in mind.

If you're just starting out, you'll probably make a lot of bad drawings and it will be frustrating, and you'll start looking for ways to avoid that frustration. This is natural, but it also leaves you vulnerable to the siren song of digital painting, which promises easy answers and quick fixes. Here's why I don't think you should leap into digital right away:

1. Learning the programs will distract you from drawing. Photoshop and Illustrator have a lot of little buttons to learn about, and keeping track of your layers and preserve transparency settings takes some getting used to. If you're also learning the basics of drawing, it can all be overwhelming - and possibly make your drawings worse.

2. Fancy brushes and textures can be a crutch. Many digital beginners place way, way too much emphasis on different kinds of brushes and textures. These texture brushes can come in handy, especially if you're a concept artist who needs to render things quickly. But they can't replace drawing skill, and it's easy to spot an artist who relies on them too heavily. (See Chris Oatley's post on "the Texture Monster.") Don't think that using a tree texture brush is the same as learning to draw trees.

3. You'll want to buy the most expensive equipment. Trust me, it's only a matter of time before you meet a Cintiq evangelist and start drooling over that $3,000 piece of equipment. You'll start to tell yourself that your drawings would be so much better if you had the really good stuff. Yes, it's important to have decent equipment, but don't think that fancier hardware will save you from having to get through those 10,000 bad drawings. As an analogy, think of a person who wants to lose weight and get in shape, but keeps fretting over having the perfect running shoes or the best treadmill.

If you're just beginning to learn to draw, keep it simple: get a pencil and some paper, and start drawing. If you can go to some life drawing classes, that's great, but don't fret too much over buying the right books or watching the right tutorials or buying the right Wacom tablet. Just draw.

All you need is to wrap your hand around a pencil and draw.

Note - if you are already doing digital and you enjoy it, don't stop. I would never tell someone to stop drawing in a way that they enjoy. But make sure that you're practicing traditionally too.
APE, the Alternative Press Expo, is a large art and comics show taking place this October in San Francisco. I'll have a table there with some friends. If you're attending the show, I hope you'll stop by and say hi to me!
Hi everyone! My illustration Dragonflower is on the cover of Cricket magazine this month. 
Dragonflower by kelleybean86
You can buy copies at Barnes & Noble. Some process pics and stuff at my blog:…
Hi everybody! I'm going to be exhibiting my art at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live in Kansas City, during May 10-11. I'll be selling some art books and postcards and things. If you'll be in the Kansas City area, I hope you'll stop by and see me! The show is going to be filled with a lot of amazing fantasy art. 
Hi guys! A new interview with me has been posted at Alex Hurst's blog, Illustrious. It's pretty cool! Check it out here:…
One of my oldest digital illustrations, "Imagination," has also been one of my most popular. In fact it was turned into a Facebook meme and shared and liked tens of thousands of times - but I was never credited for the art. I wrote a blog post about it here:…

Regarding copyright and the internet: On one Facebook thread, people started debating whether I'm right to ask for credit for my own work, and whether content put on the internet is "copywrite" or "copywright." (FYI, it's copyright, people.) People automatically own the copyright to what they create. Filing for copyright with the US government grants additional legal protections. Just because someone posts something online, that doesn't mean that it's "public domain" or that they've given up their copyright. If you share an artist's work online, ask their permission first and/or credit them somewhere with a link back to their website. Most artists are fine with that.
I received this email a few weeks ago with the subject line "employing illustrators":
We are a publishing house situated in France “Paris”. We are specialized in the production of educational products forchildren, such as books, books with CD, puzzles, cards, posters and different other products. We have a large daily needs in terms of illustrations, since we have many projects under development.
we are looking for illustrators to illustrate for small children under the age of 9 years old.
Please try to respond as soon as possible on in order to have an agreement and to start a long work relationship with us.
We are looking forward for your soon reply.
Best regards.
I recognized it as a scam and ignored it. Later, I saw other people on Deviantart who had also received this email and were wondering about it. Here's how you know it's a scam:

  1. They don't address me by name, meaning that this is probably a template email they've sent to many illustrators, trying to get anyone they can. Reputable publishing houses don't mass email illustrators.
  2. Spelling and grammar errors. France "Paris". Products forchildren. Your soon reply.
  3. If they're located in France, why are they contacting me instead of French illustrators?
  4. The sender never names their company.
  5. They want illustrations for small children under 9, although my style is more suited for older children.
  6. Their email address uses gmail, rather than a professional address.
  7. They're already talking about starting a "long work relationship."
  8. They're vague about what they want.
It's just like any other spam email: poor spelling, vague wording, premature promises. None of these on their own are a proof of a scam, but altogether they raise a lot of red flags. I Googled the email address and found that they have been posting comments on various art and design blogs with this message. In another variation on their email, they quote absurdly low rates - $10 to $20 for "simple level of illustration."

I didn't respond, so I don't know what these people are trying to gather - money, personal info, who knows. It's just particularly mean to prey on the hopes of aspiring illustrators.

Professional publishers don't talk like this. They won't be vague or evasive or have questionable English skills or send emails from gmail accounts. When you get a legitimate email from a publisher, you'll know. When you get an email that feels like a scam, it's probably a scam.
Hi guys! The video game I am working on with my husband is on a special sale today for only $5! Pick up a copy and let me know what you think of it. The game is still in beta so we're open to suggestions and ideas.…

Also, if you have a Steam account, it would mean a LOT to me if you would vote for Crea on Greenlight:…

Thanks a bunch! You guys are the best!
Practicing figure drawing is one of the best ways to improve your art. If you're enrolled in a local figure drawing class, that's awesome. If not, try using this free online figure drawing tool:
It will show you a timed slideshow of images to draw. I usually set the timer to 60 seconds. Drawing quickly helps you get in a large quantity of work, strengthens your ability to draw poses, and keeps you from having too much emotional attachment to your drawings. Here's some tips for getting the most out of these quick poses:

  1. Relax. No one is going to see these drawings, so it doesn't matter if they're bad. You can throw them all away if you want to. So don't get frustrated - what matters is that you're drawing!
  2. Draw small. When drawing quick poses, I find that it helps to keep your drawings on the smaller side. I can usually fit about six figures on one page.
  3. Don't worry about details. Your goal is to capture the overall balance and flow of the pose. Don't worry about the face, the fingers or the costume. Just draw an oval for the head.
  4. Start with the head and shoulders, then move to the hips. Get the angles for those parts right, and it will help inform the rest of the figure.
  5. Keep your eye moving all over the figure.  (This is the hardest part!) Don't get stuck looking at one part, trying to get it just right. If you struggle with this, try drawing with a ballpoint pen, so you can't go back and erase things. Also, don't lean in too close to the paper. 
For examples, you can see some of my figure drawing sketches here:… See how simple and quick they are? 

Keep drawing!
Hi everyone! For the last year my husband and I have been working on a video game called Crea. We just posted it on Greenlight, so if you have a Steam account, please vote for us!…

Also check out the video, I made it myself! :) AND we made a new website for our game and I did all the graphics for it! .

Thanks a bunch you guys! We've been working on this Greenlight thing all day for the last three days. >.<
Hi guys. One of my favorite artists, Charlie Bowater, ( is teaching an online character design class through Skillshare. It's basically a self-taught class, with four videos and a place for students to post their work. Best of all, it's only $10 to enroll if it's your first time. I've never used Skillshare before, so I'll post about my experience here once the class is finished, and I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts as well. If you're interested in the class, check it out using this link:

If you sign up through this link, I get credits to take more Skillshare classes in the future. :)
Sometimes people ask me if they can post my art on their blog or tumblr, etc. The answer is YES, as long as you link back to my deviantart page or my website, .

If you have some cool art on your computer, but you can't remember where it came from, don't just share it on your site saying "artist unknown." Here are some ways to find the name of the artist:

1. Type the image file name into Google images. Be sure to type it exactly as it is in the file, even if the name is a nonsensical stream of letters and numbers. Unless you renamed the file yourself, this should work.

2. Use Google Reverse Image Search. Go to Google images, and in the search bar click the little camera icon. Upload the file from your computer, and Google will tell you where that file can be found on the web.

3. If neither of those work, try describing the image in Google Images. For example, if it's a drawing of Kaylee from Firefly, do an image search for "Kaylee Firefly fanart." This is kind of a long shot, but it might work.

Remember, everything on the internet was created by someone. When you download images from the internet, rename the file with the name of the artist, so you always remember where it came from. And if you're an artist, write your website address or deviantart username on all your artwork!
As much as I love my school, Academy of Art University, it's not necessary to attend a special art school in order to learn about art. Because of the internet, there are plenty of resources available for those who are self-motivated and eager to learn.

I'll start with some of the cheapest resources, ending with more expensive ones:

1. Blogs, podcasts and livestreams. Most professional artists keep blogs, and these things are free treasure troves of information. The best blogs don't only show off art, they also give tips about the business of art and introduce you to new resources. Try starting with Muddy Colors, a super informative blog run by several professional painters and sculptors:  For podcasts, check out Chris Oatley's artcast:… Also check out the Awesome Horse Studios livestream:

2. Online tutorials and videos. I basically taught myself digital painting by combining techniques I found in tutorials here on Deivantart. Not all tutorials are created equal, but I recommend studying a bunch by your favorite artists and taking whatever you find helpful from them.

3. Online figure drawing tool: use this website for an hour twice a week, and you've basically got yourself a free figure drawing class:

4. Books. Go check out your library's store of art books. My recommendations are two books by James Gurney: "Color and Light" and "Imaginative Realism." These books are jam-packed with knowledge, beautiful paintings, and some fun stuff about designing vehicles and creatures.

5. Magazines. Whether you're using traditional mediums (International Artist magazine) or digital (ImagineFX magazine), there's a magazine out there for you. These magazines often feature step-by-step tutorials, but the drawback is that the tutorials focus on very specific things, such as "how to paint a romantic sunset scene." They're good for inspiration and staying on top of trends and new artists; they're not so good for learning basics.

6. Community College. Sure, they probably don't offer advanced concept art courses, but community colleges are good for basic drawing and painting, plus they're dirt cheap. This is a good way to get in some live figure drawing.

7. Online Art Schools. I haven't personally used these yet, but they're worth looking into. Although the prices are definitely higher than a community college, it's still cheaper than going to a private art university. Many of these online schools boast some pretty well-known teachers. A recently launched online school, the Lamppost Guild, has an inexpensive Introduction to Illustration class taught by Justin Gerard.  Kevin Keele and Stephen Silver teach at Schoolism CG Master Academy is more concept-art oriented. (Note: although my school, Academy of Art University, offers classes online, I don't recommend them because the tuition is so high.)

8. Mentorship. This is kind of a new thing that artists are doing online. It varies from person to person, but basically it's private art tutoring. As you might expect, it's quite expensive and is best for intermediate artists rather than beginners. But if your favorite artist is offering mentorship, it might be worth saving up for. Check out Noah Bradley's online mentorship:…  or Charlie Bowater:…

None of these resources can teach you everything – it's important to use a combination of these to get a well-rounded skill set. And remember, there is no replacement for pure quantity of time spent drawing. Don't let yourself get stuck on trying to learn the "right" way to draw - just keep drawing!!
Chaos Magazine, an online fashion and art mag, did a little interview with me here:…
What art schools cannot do:

Art school cannot take you from complete beginner to professional in a few years.
Art school cannot motivate you.
Art school cannot guarantee you a career.
Art school cannot make you enjoy drawing.

What a good art school can do:

Art school can take intermediate drawing skills and develop those into an industry-relevant portfolio.
Art school can introduce you to other artists who will help and encourage you.
Art school can give you advice on developing a portfolio, opportunities to show your work and introduce you to helpful books, blogs and websites.
Art school can give you invaluable experience in meeting deadlines, accepting critiques, and meeting a client's needs.

Basically, what good art schools do is take a gem and polish it. If you aren't passionate about drawing, if you've never drawn before in your life, if you just want to have fun in college or if you're not sure what you want to do with your life, art school will only massively waste your time and money.

Look at it this way: an art degree is not some magical object that will turn you into a great artist and bring you a job. An art degree means you had a few years of opportunity to work hard and improve your drawing skills.

That's it.