The Artist’s Guide to Trello

Trello is an increasingly popular website for many freelancers, including artists. It’s an excellent way to keep track of commissions for both yourself and your clients! This post is just a simple guide on how I utilize Trello in my business, and how you can use it for your own.

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Trello in it’s most simple form is a bunch of cards which you can rearrange by dragging them around. It can be used for all sorts of purposes from flash cards to business, here we’re going to focus on using it for commission lists.

My commission list can be found here. (Beware, there are of course NSFW images on there too – I am not ashamed to say I do a large variety of NSFW artwork).

Trello is a very easy platform to sign up for and to begin learning, so instead of simply being a ‘how to’ post, this will instead be about how I use Trello specifically for tracking my commission work.


My Basic Layout

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This is the page I see when I log in to my account. You can see my two ‘starred’ boards are both commission boards – I have separate ones for my main commissions and my collaboration commissions with Pyropaws. The other boards are for my other projects, but we’ll leave those alone.

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This is the page which is public – my actually commission list. As you can see, it looks a bit messy but it works for me! On the furthest left column you’ll see general information related to my commissions. I make sure to constantly update the ‘Last updated’ card to show my clients that I am active on the board.

My commission opening dates are posted here too. I usually advertise them on FurAffinity and Twitter, but if I have a concrete date I’ll stick it on Trello too.

Underneath that is my planned absences. The little ‘=’ type symbol there means that there is text in that card. Upon clicking it, it opens this (which will look a bit different to someone else not logged in as me):

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Although I usually give a heads up on my twitter if I am going to be off that day, sometimes I forget and so this card acts as a public statement of my ‘pre-booked’ off days.

Under that is a link to my other commissions board, in case someone is looking for that. And below that is just… a photo of an opossum. Just something to personalize it!

Down a bit and you’ll find my label key! Labels are colour ‘tabs’ in which you can apply specific meanings. I don’t always remember to update them, but they are incredibly useful for letting your clients know where in their commission you are. Here is my current label key:

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Columns

I have a variety of columns on my trello, all of which often get renamed and rearranged.

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From left-right: 

Finished (Month/Year): I move cards which have been completed to this column every month before archiving it on the last day. This is mainly to show what I have been working on, as well as reminding me how much work I have been doing that particular month.

Working on: Cards will often move back and to between this column and ‘waiting list’. Commissions in this column are actively being worked on, whether I have my focus on that one at that particular moment or I’m doing bit by bit.

Waiting List: These are commissions I have taken but not yet started. Commissions where I waiting for client feedback also go on this list.

CFZ Badges: This was added this month and is just a separate list for conbadges I am completing for the UK convention Confuzzled. By keeping them separate from the other commissions I can see how much work I have at a glance. This also makes sure they don’t get mixed in with other commissions by accident and prevent me from missing the deadline. I will often put time-sensitive commissions in separate lists like this.

Personal Projects: This list is simply to keep track of personal projects I have going on. These are projects I work on outside of my work hours. As you can see, this currently contains a fursuit project, reference sheets for my characters and some cosplays.

Trades: I don’t often take art trades, but when I do they are listed here.


Cards:

Each individual card will usually hold at least the following info:

FurAffinity username/Twitter handle: I do not put real names on trello, due to privacy. If the commissioner requests a private commission then it gets added to another private list that is not publicly viewable.

Email: Email is the primary way I contact people! I used to use FA notes but their horrible lack of search function eventually ruled that one out for me.

General information: I use Google Forms for my commission slots, then I generally copy/paste any information I need for the commission into my trello for easy access. I will also copy/paste reference images here.

WIPs: I usually share work in progress images via my trello too. This is both for the client and for myself (to remind myself where I am in this commission).

An example of one of my cards containing a description, some WIPs and the finished resized version. This card will be moved to the Finished (Month/Year) column, before it gets archived. You can see the finished version of this commission here!


So this is how I use Trello! Lots of people use it nowadays as it’s simple to use and easy to update! Although not all artists use Trello, it is still essential to keep an updated commission list at all times.

Do you use Trello? How are you finding it? Maybe you use a different format to keep track of your work, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know either in the comments or by email.

I hope you enjoyed this post and have a lovely and productive day!

 

 

Pricing Yourself

“How much should I charge for my commissions?”

“How should I price myself?”

These are commonly asked questions in the furry fandom and the art industry in general. This post is designed to act as a simple guide to how to price your commission work!


Before you set your prices, there are a some factors you need to take into account. These are:

  • Full or part time?: Are commissions your only income, or do you have a side job? For everyone just starting out taking commissions I strongly advise having a part-time (or full-time) job to support yourself and pay the bills. It is very difficult to pay bills with commissions alone!
  • Set prices or hourly wage?: Are you planning on charging a flat fee per image? Or will you charge by the hour? I started with flat fees and this worked for me for a while! Now I charge per hour, but the bill is paid up front. You can see how I work out my prices further down the page.
  • Cost of materials: Consider any and all costs it takes to create your art. This includes art materials, paper, stationary and can even be extended to electrical usage, hardware, software subscriptions and paypal fees.
  • Competitors prices: Competitors are artists with similar artwork, prices and subject matters as yours. In such a vast market it can be very difficult to find and target competitors. Read further down for some advise regarding this!

Full or Part time?

The general rule of thumb is; if you are part-time as an artist you will most likely charge less for commissions than a full time artist. This is certainly not always the case though. However many part-time artists do not consider it a business and will charge ‘hobby’ prices, as oppose to full-time prices which are designed to help an artist pay living expenses.

Beware though – if you have a job and also receive money from part-time commissions, you will most likely need to a) register yourself as a business and b) produce a yearly tax return. It can depend on your country of residence, but before taking any paid work it is important to do your research. And of course, if you are full-time you will most certainly need to register as self-employed.


Set Prices or Hourly Wage?

A good way to set your prices is to consider how long it takes to produce a particular commission. Your time is money when producing artwork and it’s up to you to decide what your time is worth.

How to work with pre-set prices

To use set prices you can either set your prices similar to another artist (for instance an icon commission at a flat fee of £10, no matter the colouring method or detail), or you can estimate how long it will take you to do said icon, and charge accordingly. If you are charging set prices, you can then consider offering add-on fees for extra detail.

Example: Thingywolf wants an icon commission, but their character is super complicated. Therefore they qualify for the complex fee, meaning their icon will be £15 instead of the regular £10.

You will still need to work out how much you want to charge per hour in order to figure out your set prices. I would advise at starting at £10 an hour, no less. You certainly do not want to go below the minimum wage for the industry – you are not only hurting yourself and your business but also by undercutting other artists you are hurting the industry itself.


Example: AmazingFox wants a full colour, detailed commission with three characters. You have a fixed price of £60 for a full colour commission, and then 50% on top of this for each additional character: this gives you £90 (60 + 30 + 30).

Two of the characters have very detailed or complex designs, which you charge an additional £20 for, that’s another £40 = £130.

Finally, the client decides they want a very detailed background, which your flat fee is £40 for, leaving you with a total of £170.

How to work out your hourly wage

According to Payscale.com, the average hourly wage for a freelance artist is $37.50/hour (About £29.00) in the United States.

As a freelance artist, your hourly wage is completely up to you. You can base on it a number of factors including:

  • What similar artists to you are charging.
  • Your experience within the industry.
  • Your currency (i.e. you may need to take currency conversion into account)
  • Materials used
  • What you are happy to work for/what you feel your time is worth

I charge £15-20/hour for my work. This is based on similar artists, the time taken on commissions and what clients are willing to pay.

For instance, if I charge £15/hour for digital painting and I spend approximately 6 hours on a two character piece, I should charge at least £90.00 for that commission.

If I charge £20 an hour for a sketch that takes me 45 minutes, I would charge £15 for that sketch.

Example: I used to charge £30 for a one character digital painting. They sold very well. A year later I became unemployed and decided to hike my prices up to £45 for this. They still sold well. Now I charge £50 per single character digital painting and they still sell! Finding your prices is a mix of fiddling with set prices and making sure you have a fair hourly wage. Art is worth what people are willing to pay for it!

Hourly wages in the main illustration and graphic design industries are often calculated after the work has been done and the client is sent an invoice. However, there have been a lot of problems in the furry fandom with this – chargebacks and clients refusing to pay are common stories amongst artists.

It is strongly advised that you charge up front for all commission work. If your prices are high, offer payment installments but ensure you have a non-refundable deposit of sorts. I never start any work before I have been paid.

Tip: Always make sure clients send payments as ‘Goods and services’ and not ‘Family and friends‘ when using Paypal. The latter makes it impossible for you to have any payment protection!


Cost of Materials

Cost of materials is something you need to consider when taking commissions, especially when dealing with traditional artwork, crafts and other similar mediums.

Tip!: It is against Paypal’s terms of service to ask clients to pay paypal fees! Instead you must consider them into your overall price. You can also claim them as business expenses later!

Traditional costs: 

For traditional costs, the cost of materials should be added directly to your price. Items like coloured pencils, markers etc must have an estimated use. This is very hit and miss but it is the only way you can really figure it out. For example, say a black marker you own cost you £4.00. You know that in the past you have coloured around 30 commissions with it before it ran out, meaning the cost per commission is £0.13. It is good practice to estimate the costs for each of your art materials – factors can depend on how often you use them, the most popular colours and similar aspects.

Example: SnarkyFox commissions a painting of his character on A3 canvas. You work out the costs as the following:

Hourly wage: £40 (4 hours)

Canvas: £5.00
Paypal fees: £1.61
Estimated acrylic paint usage: £1.50
Estimated coloured pencil usage: £0.30
Postage and packaging: £6.00

Total cost of commission: £54.41

Therefore it would be a good idea to charge £55.00 for this commission to cover the hourly wage, fees and material costs. You could of course charge separately for the postage and packaging, especially if you are required to get a quote from a courier.

Tip!: It is never advised to charge JUST the material costs – you will not be earning any profit whatsoever!

Digital costs: 

Although costs may seem minuscule when charging for digital commissions, it is good practice to take into consideration software subscriptions, paypal fees and utility bills that are directly involved in the production of the piece.

Example: You are trying to figure out how much to charge for a one character, fully rendered digital piece. You want to charge the minimum of at least £10/hour and you know it will take you at least 4 hours.

Paypal fees in the UK are about 3.4% + £0.20 per sale. Therefore, a commission of £40.00 would be £41.61 with the added fees. This means if you were to charge only £40.00, you would receive £38.39, making a dent in your profits. There is an excellent paypal fees calculator here!

You can then consider the running costs of your PC, tablet or any other equipment you use to make. According to Npower, it costs approximately 6p/hour to run a standard PC. So since you’ll be working on this commission for 4 hours, that’s an additional fee of 24p, making the fees for this commission £1.85. Therefore you could charge £42 for this commission, instead of £40, or maybe round it up to £45, whatever feels best for you and what is affordable for your client.

Tip!: You may be able to claim some costs back if you use your PC for work-only or mostly work depending on your circumstances and country. If you have a dedicated office, you may also be able to claim costs for lighting and other appliances which are needed for you to complete your work.


Competitors

Looking for artists you deem competitors can be difficult – please don’t think of the term ‘competitor’ with a negative connotation either! Basically, look at artists who you feel are at a similar level as yourself and see what they charge. Of course bare in mind that these artists might have been working in the industry for a lot longer than you have and have a much larger client base.

Some factors you can take into consideration when searching for competitors:

  • Do they have a similar art style? What do they do that you don’t? What do you do that they don’t?
  • Do they appear to set their prices or charge an hourly wage? Can you work out their hourly wage by dividing up their prices?
  • Do they have an active commission list? Maybe they post it publicly. Are they seeming to struggle to get work or do they have people lining up at the door?
  • Make a list of their services and prices. Compare these to what you offer and charge – do you feel that you must lower or raise your prices?

When to Change Your Prices

Setting prices is very much a hit and miss game. You will need to play around with them for a long while, adjusting them to the market and your clients needs. It is advisable to keep an eye on your competitors prices as well as the fandom as a whole. Prices will rise and fall depending on many factors.

The market changes a lot – you will most likely be able to raise your prices after gaining more experience in the fandom, but then sometimes the economy as a whole takes a hit and it may become necessary to reduce your commissions. There will also be times where you need money fast – perhaps an emergency bill. Putting your art of sale in these instances can ensure that you still have an income stream. For instance – Iron artist commissions are a popular way of selling commissions. These are a set (usually 50 or 100) of commissions in which the artist will sell commissions of a certain type at a fixed price.

Make it a habit to revise your prices at least every quarter – yearly at the most. I generally look at my prices every quarter and might make small adjustments, as well as updating commission examples and such.

Another reason to change your prices might be if you find out that you have taken a much longer time on a commission than anticipated: For instance you charged only £30 for a commission that ended up taking you 10 hours – you are only receiving £3.00 an hour! Make sure to adjust your prices to reflect your real-life work times.

How to work out how long you spend on a commission:

The simple answer is time yourself! I highly recommend using the pomodoro method, in which you work for 25 minutes, then have a quick 5 minute break to stretch, stand up and/or get some water. I use 30 minute sets so that I can effectively round up my commission times – I use an app called tomighty.  You could also use a stopwatch or your phone to time yourself.

Make sure however to ONLY work on your commission during this time. I’d advise not to watch shows – music is fine. Anything that causes a distraction, no matter how minor, should be eliminated. Therefore you must refrain from going on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit during work time. You can use a distraction blocker such as ColdTurkey if you lack the self-restraint.

Just remember that being distracted during commission time will hurt your income as you’ll take longer on the commission. Also remember that the client is quite literally paying for your time!

If you can work on a commission whilst watching a show, that’s fine! I find myself working to documentaries very often as they often motivate me to work more. However, I do tend to work more, instead of working faster. My best and most focused work certainly comes from when I work when only listening to music or podcasts.


I sincerely hope this post helps you guys set your prices! There’s much more I could write – and I probably will update this post as I go! Below are also some resources I mentioned too, so please take a look if you’d like!

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section or by email!

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!


Resources:

Paypal Fees Calculator: http://www.clothnappytree.com/ppcalculator/

NPower applicances costs: https://blog.npower.com/2013/02/ever-wondered-how-much-your-appliances-cost-to-run/

ColdTurkey: https://getcoldturkey.com/

Tomighty: http://tomighty.org/

Setting Work/Life Boundaries – My Struggle

When you work from home it is more than easy to get absorbed into working almost every waking hour. However, a structured schedule is much healthier for your mental and physical health, as well as knowing when to let your clients know you are working on their commissions.

This is a bit about me and my struggle with this simple but amazingly difficult concept.

If you just want to skip ahead to the practical advise, don’t worry! I won’t be offended!


My Story

When I started taking commissions in 2003 I was still in college. When I moved to university I began to find it difficult to complete commissions in a timely manner, often taking over 6 months for an individual image! I struggled to balance my commission work with my university and my reputation in the fandom took some serious hits. Back then I was known as ‘Wingedwolf’, by the way!

This went on a couple of years until I finally finished university. Although I worked in a supermarket chain at that point, I continued to take commissions and started to catch up with my list. I rapidly improved my quality of art too, gaining more clients and being able to raise my prices. They were still not at a living wage, but it was good enough for me. I worked on them when I could, but not when I should.

After uni I went through a few jobs and left two because of bullying/discrimination (I was unaware there were transgender discrimination laws at this time) and another I got fired from for spending time on the internet cultivating my eBay and Etsy business at the time. I was also working on commissions almost every night, staying up until 4 or 5am to complete them. It was rough and I also had been dealing with un-diagnosed mental health problems, family arguments and relationship problems. Everything seemed to be closing in on me.

In 2012 finally got my butt into gear and began going at my art business full time. I’d been signed onto ESA (disability benefits) for due to my health taking a nose dive after all these job losses I deemed as failures and the aforementioned mental health. I was taking commissions but stuff was slow. I’d work on commissions at ridiculous hours, often until 3 or 4am just simply because of procrastination. However I had the right foundations in place – I created a business plan and proposed various schedules.

None of my schedules really worked and I would find myself working on artwork constantly, burning myself out, having a day off for illness and then burning myself out. Every time a client sent an email I would freak out, thinking it was a nasty message – I have had my fair amount of struggles with this in the past. This continued for many years – the only thing I knew was that I never wanted to work for someone else’s company ever again.

Now it’s 2017. I’ve been officially ‘open for business’ as a furry artist for 13 years and it’s been rough. It’s affected my physical, mental and spiritual health. It’s put me into debt and caused me many breakdowns. But I’m still here, and I’m still sticking at it.

This year I finally got it. I needed to treat my business as a business. I needed to set clear work/life boundaries. Although not all my clients seem to understand, me (the artist) is separate from me (the person) and I need to treat it as such.

I feel so much better, I get exhausted but I feel rewarded. My mind is much clearer and I can complete tasks much faster than before. I know where to put my focus at one time and I feel generally happier and more social than before. What did I do? Here, I’ll share it with you.


My 6 Tips For Separating Work and Life:

  1. Separate email accounts: It’s a good idea to have separate work and general emails. That way, at the end of your work day you can log out of your work email until the following day. It gets quite a bit of getting used to but the reality of it is that your clients shouldn’t be expecting you to reply at all hours, especially as a business.
  2. Set clear work hours: This is one I’ve been struggling with a LOT throughout my career. I find it incredibly hard to make a schedule and stick with it, but this one has been working for me the last few months. Of course I have off-days due to my chronic health conditions, but then I just pick up where I left off. My work hours are currently 9am – 5.30pm. After 5pm I put away my tablet, make sure all emails are replied to, work out my schedule for tomorrow and then leave anything work-related until the next day. If I have an approaching deadline I might break this schedule and work in the evening, but generally I stick to it.
  3. Take regular breaks: I take two breaks throughout my work day – one at 12 until 1 and one at 3 until 3.30. I also take occasional five minute breaks if I am working with the pomodoro technique. During my breaks I move away from my work and take a quick walk around the flat, make food or coffee, play with my cat or do chores. I find breaks necessary for separating my day into chunks, as well as letting me return to my work with fresh eyes. I might spot a mistake I didn’t notice before!
  4. Don’t use instant messengers or social media for commissions!: This is a hard one and I know a lot of people do this and work with it fine. However, I struggle a lot with keeping work and personal life separate when I use social media and easily fall into the trap of replying to clients late into the night – neglecting my free time and stressing myself out. Instead, I always use email for commission correspondences – it’s more professional and has the added benefit of being searchable in case you need to access the commission information.
  5. Keep a Distraction Journal: I talk about my work life spilling into my personal life, but the opposite often happens too. So I started a journal in which I write down my distractions throughout the day. This way I can keep working on my commissions whilst knowing I can check whatever I was thinking about in my next break or after work. If there is an urgent matter, I will attend to it and then go back to my work. If it requires me to go out, then the work day will be stopped and the matter attended to. But I will still write down what it was, when it happened, and then set my schedule for the next day. I also sometimes use distraction blockers to help me, specifically ColdTurkey.
  6. Keep a Schedule: A schedule, like work hours lets you know when you are to be working. However, it’s more focused on the actual task you’ll be working on. For instance, right now in my schedule it says ‘Write content for Neonpossum’ until 11am. So that is what I’m doing. At 11 I’ll stop, whether I’ve finished or not and will continue onto my next task (replying to emails, updating Trello and updating my website). Although it seems counter productive to leave tasks unended like this, I write down what I need to do in order to finish my task and will work on it during the next ‘blog’ slot. Think of it like high school – You wouldn’t finish your French classwork in maths class, would you? If this is confusing, I’ll make a full post relating to my schedule for you guys, just let me know!
  7. Separate Work and Personal Expenses: If you plan to go self-employed, it is very good practice to keep your receipts and separate business expenses from everything else. I won’t go into the details of this in this post as it changes with each country, but it will be very important no matter where you are for filling your taxes. I use MoneyDashboard to help me with this, as well as keeping any physical receipts, printing out my Paypal reports and bank statements.

 


So there you have it. A little insight into how I separate my work and personal life! I could go on for hours and write about business, it’s one of my passions! If you haven’t implemented these points into your life and you’re struggling with commission work, hopefully this will help! I know some people work fine with mixing things up and that’s fine! After all, this is just my approach and it works for me.

If you have any questions or comments please do let me know below, otherwise you can email me!

Resources for Learning Art

In my last post, I discussed why I felt that art university is detrimental to many artists, and I advised against it. Here are some resources for learning art online!

Online Education

There are many, many education courses online for aspiring artists. Below are my favourites!

aaron-blaiseAaron Blaise’s Courses
https://creatureartteacher.com

Aaron Blaise is an ex-Disney animator and director, character designer and wildlife artist who hosts a whole load of art lessons on his website. He also has a lot of free content on his Youtube so you can ‘try before you buy’. He teaches a variety of tutorials and lessons including animation, photoshop, charcoal, painting, wildlife art, anatomy and character design. As Aaron worked heavily on so many Disney movies including Brother Bear, his courses are a huge inspiration to furry artists and definately worth the money!

Each course is priced individually, or you can get access to EVERYTHING for only $199/year which is not only a huge saving but also massive value. I have personally purchased this and all I can say is WOW – if these courses were available before I went to uni, I simply wouldn’t have gone. This man teaches everything I learned there and much, much more.


London Art College

londonart

London Art College
https://www.londonartcollege.co.uk/

The London Art College is a distance learning college which sends you folders of the coursework through the mail. You are expected to produce the art traditionally and return it to them either through scanning it or mailing it.  The average cost per course is £360, payable in installments and they offer a range of courses taught by tutors including Pet portraits, Botanical drawing, Children’s Illustration, Digital Illustration, Comics and cartoons and much more.


Websites:

DrawaBox

drawabox

drawabox.com

DrawaBox is an amazing website which takes you through art fundamentals at their very core – drawing boxes and shapes in order to improve your art skills by going to the very basics – the basics which many of us miss out on. The content is FREE, but there is an option to support them via patreon.

Drawspace:

drawspace

https://www.drawspace.com

Drawspace is a website which hosts a large variety of art tutorials covering many different topics. Membership is free for some of the lessons, though a monthly subscription does come in when you want to take more lessons. Still, it’s worth looking at the free lessons for a good start.

ArtGraphica

graphica

http://www.artgraphica.net/

ArtGraphica has a number of FREE art courses avaliable, all sorted into sections. These include drawing and sketching, different mediums, art theory and more. They also host various public-domain art lesson books!


Books:

There are a LOT of books out there for learning to draw! However, I will narrow it down to the books I feel are most useful for furry and fandom artists!

The ‘Draw Furries’ Series:

At first glance, these books look like your typical ‘how to draw’ books (ugh, remember some of those ‘how to draw manga’ books, guys?). However, I was pleasantly suprised upon purchasing the second in the series on a whim (I have not purchased the first as the art really did not appeal to me as much). The art in ‘Draw more furries’ is lovely! The third book in the series, Furries Furever looks even better and has contributions by many popular furry artists including Katie Hofgad.

furries

These books teach human anatomy, types of anthro (chibi, digitigrade etc), structure of body parts and more. They are very good books and specialize in furry art!

Human Anatomy for Artists

human-anatomy-for-artists-szunyoghy

A bulky book full of drawn diagrams, this book is an anatomy bible. Even furry artists need a solid knowledge of human anatomy and proportions and this book shows science meeting art as the artist explores each and every part of the human body. This book is definately a teaching and practice book rather than ideas for poses and such, but the knowledge contained within is invaluable to any artist!

And right now it’s only £4.99 on Amazon!
Amazon USA

The Art of Animal Drawing: Construction, Action, Analysis, Caricature

51bpqCmLuNL

This book is a fantastic study of drawing animals both realistic and characterised. It starts with basic forms and moves on to dynamic poses, though I would suggest you have at least a basic knowledge of drawing animals before purchasing this book.

foxes

I received this as a gift and thought maybe it was just a generic ‘how to draw’ book. I was pleasantly surprised though, finding it incredibly useful – the drawings come to life, the illustrator explains how to draw multiple animals (though there is a large focus on horses) and the tips in here are practical. An excellent book!

Find it here on Amazon UK  or Amazon USA!

How to Draw Animals

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I’ve had this book ever since University and continue to use it as a reference guide! It starts at a more basic level than the above book ‘The Art of Drawing Animals’ using basic shapes to draw the animals form. It also goes into detail on posture, gaits and movement and is incredibly practical for beginners and professionals alike. Another great book!

Here on Amazon UK and Amazon USA!


This is just a quick glimpse into some of the resources available online for learning art and improving! If you have found something you love and you feel should be here, please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Do I Need to Go to Art University?

Hey everyone! This post is about my personal opinions on art universities and whether or not it is worth pursuing a degree. Please do remember that this is my opinion, and you may have a completely opposite view! If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Does an Art Degree have any value?

Many people will tell you how they attended CalArts, aced their class, or have a Bachelors degree in this that and everything. An art degree can be pretty impressive!

However, in my opinion, a degree in art is not needed at all to become a professional artist. If you specifically want to work with a company that demands you to have particular qualifications then yes, it would make sense to get those qualifications – otherwise being self-taught can be a much more rewarding (and much MUCH cheaper) alternative.

Going to University for art will not automatically mean you will magically gain all the art skills you could ever dream of. Nor will it ensure you a market to sell your art to. You may be taught the fundamentals of art, you might attend some events and gain some great contacts, but it is up to you to create those relationships. Art is a craft, it cannot be memorized on flash cards, it’s something that takes long hours and years of steady practice. In the end, university does not hold your hand through the whole course, it will dump you in the deep end and expect you to surface and keep yourself afloat for those three to five years.

When thinking of applying to university, think about what kind of art you want to sell. Since you’re here on my blog, I’m assuming you’d like to sell furry or fantasy artwork, maybe anime style and comics. Do you think a potential client will care if you have a BA (Hons) in whatever subject? Not really. They want to see that you can draw (and that you have previous examples and a strong portfolio), that you have a good turnaround time and that you are professional to work with.


“Why are you so bitter towards univerities, Neon? :(“

DID-A-UNI

Look at me. I’m so proud.

Okay, let me tell you a little story. I attended university from 2004-2007 in North Wales, studying Animation. It was a three year course and I was thrown in the deep end. For those years, I learned barely a single thing and struggled with many illnesses. Of course, the latter was not the university’s fault, but I digress.

Yes, I know the basics of animation. Yes, I can animate something. Do I like animation? Not anymore, well at least not doing it myself. Pursuing my passion through such a black and white way such as university really stubbed out my passion for animating. I faced the reality of keyframes, inbetweens and carpal tunnel. I went to many animation studios including talking to Dreamworks and Pixar at Bradford and Annecy Animation festivals. Surely they had some amazing information for a young 19-year-old animation student? Nah, they advised against going into animation altogether. They said the industry was tiny, concentrated to mainly accomodate CalArts students (or at least that was the case in 2005) and that most animation these days was being outsourced to Korea. And they’re not wrong.

Another problem I had was supporting myself through University. I started to take commissions through DeviantArt and FurAffinity, gaining a client list of around 100 individuals. In whatever time I wasn’t doing University work or working my part-time job, I was doing commission work. My tutors disapproved of me making money off of my art, even though that was my end goal.

Through my experience, and that of others I have spoken to, I strongly believe that going to an art university can be dangerous to an artist’s creativity and passion for art. Not to mention the colossal fees associated with it. In the UK, we have a loan which we then spend the rest of our lives paying off (though we only have to if we earn over £17,775 a year). In the USA, the loan must be paid back immediately – as far as I understand, correct me if I am wrong. Therefore we have a bunch of people in their early twenties unable to follow their passion and instead finding whatever means necessary to get out of crippling debt.


Some Cheaper Alternatives to University

Although I personally advise against going to university, there are other methods of art education available. For instance community colleges offer specialized courses on many aspects of art from life drawing to watercolours. These courses are often up to 10 times cheaper than university courses and will give you the practical experience needed to improve your skills.

There are also numerous online art colleges covering a variety of subjects, again much, much cheaper than going to University, and these are often distance-learning courses you can fit around your day job or even commission work.


So in my opinion (and only my opinion, if you disagree that is fine!): You don’t need to go to art university to become a professional artist. Though this may largely depend on your chosen career. It’s up to you to research what kind of qualifications your sector requires and to pursue them. To become a general fandom artist, furry artist, make comics or whatever, you do not need university. It will be a much more valuable use of your time to teach yourself everything you need to know.

Of course, how you educate yourself on art is completely up to you and don’t take what I say as fact. Some people have amazing experiences at university and through their course end up being employed in high end jobs. I’d estimate that’s most likely the 1% of the course though. Others made their way through university, only to find that companies wanted more from them than a simple certificate.


Do you agree with this post? Maybe you disagree? Perhaps you had an entirely different experience from me and would like to share?

Please comment below or email me to discuss this post or share your story if you would like!

Thanks so much for reading!

Welcome to my Blog!

Hey everyone! This is my first blog post here at Neonpossum.com! As you probably already know from my domain name, my online handle and artist name is Neonpossum! I’ve been working in the furry fandom selling artwork for over 15 years and have learned a lot throughout the years. This blog aims to be a reflection of my learning, as well as updates on my own progress as an artist.

New Canvas

One of my fursonas and my mascot, Neon! Art by me!

Some topics I aim to cover here:

Business advice: Not just for full-time artists, I aim to offer sensible and easy to understand advice to anyone working within a fandom, whether it’s the furry fandom, anime fandom or something else. Being a fandom artist is very much a separate gig from being a freelance illustrator or graphic designer, and so we have our own issues we need to consider. Throughout this blog I want to cover:

  • How to price your artwork
  • How to market yourself and to advertise effectively
  • How to manage your time and schedule work
  • How active should you be on social media? What platforms should you use?
  • Building a terms of service
  • How and where to sell your artwork online
  • How to keep records and do book keeping
  • How to write a business plan
  • Selling at conventions
  • Creating prints and other merchandise
  • Creating your own website
  • And more!

Art Tips: I’ve learned so much being a self-taught artist that I feel art tips is also something I should offer! These will include:

  • Tips on photo-referencing
  • A ‘how to draw’ animal series
  • SAI and photoshop tutorials
  • The difference between species (e.g. Wolves vs Coyotes vs Foxes)
  • Tips on drawing adult artwork
  • Designing characters and fursonas

There will also be one-off posts which will include interviews with artists, art product reviews, artist features, convention reports and more!

I hope that you enjoy reading my blog! I aim to keep it updated twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so please bookmark it if you want! I’ll also be creating a patreon, newsletter and YouTube in the near future to share the knowledge and spread the love!

Thanks for reading!