FOUR MUSTS FOR YOUR FABRIC COLLECTION  - BY AN INDUSTRY EXPERT

You may know I’ve launched my brand new course Create Collections.

So many of you have already signed up but the cart is open until April 22nd - so there’s still time. See details here.

Before the course begins, I want to tell you about a fantastic development.

David Sweet of Dashwood Studios is very interested in looking at the finished artwork from the course! There are no guarantees but this is an incredible opportunity for you to get your work seen by an industry leader.

(I’m thrilled for you but not totally surprised - I’m always in awe and super proud of the extraordinarily high level of artwork that my students create).

Dashwood studios produce some of the most modern, sophisticated, beautifully conceived fabric collections available, always with stunning colour palettes. He works with super-talented artists.

Check out the mouthwatering collections on their Instagram feed - dashwoodstudio.

David kindly offered to tell me what he looks for in a collection of designs. This is super helpful and relevant advice from the frontline and I want to share it with you!  

So here you go;

  1. Originality/something that stands out from the crowd - I need to see the artist’s hand - for me, it’s the most important thing when I look for new talent. I always look for hand drawing skills.

  2. A unique theme or a twist on a favourite - eg, if you are doing woodland make it different by adding a twist.

  3. A variety of prints, scales, ground colours. Also design pace - some packed, some spaced, some directional, some tossed.

  4. Every print deserves its place - lots of interest and perceived value.

I hope you find that as informative as I did. These are such valid points and I’ll be addressing each of them in further detail in my course.

If you want to learn more about working in collections (and not just for fabric but for all markets) sign up now!

PAINTING FLORALS - DID YOU GET THAT FLOWER FROM YOUR HEAD, YOUR GARDEN OR YOUR IPAD?

In a few weeks, I’ll be teaching a floral painting workshop in New York, along with the incredibly talented artists Helen Dardik, Carolyn Gavin and Monika Forsberg. One of the aspects of floral art we’ll be looking at is painting from imagination vs. painting from life.

It’s an interesting topic because for every floral artist, there’s a completely different way of approaching the subject matter.

Some meticulously depict the real thing, some abstract the basic shapes and colours from nature, and some build fantastical floral worlds, straight from their imagination.

I fall somewhere between. I probably couldn’t identify more than a handful of real flowers but I love the variety of shapes and colours found in the natural world and I know what’s pretty. I also think nature has a better imagination than me! My florals tend to be a hybrid of direct observation and abstraction.

So I’d answer my question by saying - all three!

Where do you get your flowers from?

Book yourself the treat of a lifetime and come and join us in a gorgeous loft-space in Brooklyn, New York for an unforgettable day of painting, chatting, eating, sipping wine, and learning - a lot of learning!

More details and sign up here!

NO. 1 MISTAKE WHEN CREATING COLLECTIONS. HAVE YOU EVER DONE THIS? (I HAVE.)

I work in collections. There are many reasons why and I’ll go into them in depth in my upcoming course, Create Collections

If you take the course, you’ll learn why it makes sense to work that way (short answer - you’ll increase your selling potential across all markets), and how to do it effectively - in a way that takes into account your unique taste, and helps solidify your style.

Make sure you’ve signed up for my newsletter because I’ll be announcing dates very soon!

In the meantime, here’s a story about the biggest DON’T when it comes to collections - and you may well have done it (like I did - even after years of experience).

A few years ago, I was exhibiting at a trade show and one of my favourite clients came to my stand. They leafed enthusiastically through my work and selected seven pieces to buy outright. I was thrilled. As I was writing up the invoice, I noticed one of the pieces was this…

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Which made me stop and think.

Because it was a coordinate based on these four placements.

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Can you see what I saw?

I didn’t protest. I didn’t want to stall the momentum and lose my jackpot sale.But by selling the coordinate I made the entire rest of the collection redundant.

Arrggh.  

If you can’t see why, I’ll explain.

When, working in collections, every single new piece of art must have new, original key motifs. You can’t sell them twice.

Your client doesn’t want to see his original, purchased art on a competitor’s products. And if you’re licensing (rather than selling outright as I did ), you can’t relicense the same images to the same product category twice - for the same reason. Either way, it doesn’t pay to repeat your key imagery across designs.  

You may well ask why I even did the coordinate, after years of working as an artist and knowing full well that you can’t repeat motifs. I don’t know. I just thought they looked cute together, and it was so easy to pull them over in Illustrator into a new file. It was tempting and I wasn’t thinking about the risks. Ever had a similar lapse in judgement?

So now my baby jungle animals are languishing in Dropbox forever more.

And the moral of the story is…don’t do THAT! Create new key motifs for EVERY design.

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Talking of collections, are you following my INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE.

I’m running it in conjunction with #the100dayproject which started today.

The idea is to create an unpolished, experimental sketch of either a bird, butterfly or flower, every day for a hundred days.  

Over the course of three months, you’ll build up a huge image bank (a hundred piece collection!) of top selling imagery - these three motifs always sell. (See my last blog post for more details.)

Please join me (us).

Tag @victoriajohnsondesign #birdsbutterfliesandblooms

(HINT - if you take my Create Collections course, these sketches will come in handy.)

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Have you signed up for my FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS. Hundreds of artists have and here’s just some of the feedback.

‘Just a quick note to say thanks very much for this fabulous & incredibly useful & reassuring guide - much appreciated! I was a purchasing director for 15 years (in hotels not art) so know that buyers are (mostly) human but have still been utterly terrified to approach anyone & am sitting on a pile of unpolished & unseen work just as you say in the document! This is such a useful guide & really breaks everything down into manageable non scary bitesize pieces. Thanks again for your generosity and I can’t wait for "Create Collections.'

‘What a helpful guide to getting organized to get clients! I have had in the back of my mind what I needed to do, but it was all a jumble.You spelled it out so beautifully! I really appreciate it!’

‘Just wanted to say thank you so much Victoria. This guide is a brilliant confidence booster! It will really help me prioritise as I come to a point where I'm ready to share my work. Lots of work to do - but having some focus and must-dos is such a great start. Thank you thank you thank you!!!’

‘Thank you so much for your very succinct and useful guide. It's so kind of you to share your experience in this way. I'm just starting out on my creative journey so I'm a little way off selling anything just yet but was keen to get an idea of what's involved.’

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Sign up for your FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS here!

Share the link below with your fellow artists!

https://mailchi.mp/victoriajohnsoncreateexplore/signupfreeguide

THREE THINGS TO DRAW THAT ALWAYS SELL

Have you ever sat down to a blank page, ready to create something wonderful - then ground to a halt?

Did you have a zillion ideas and couldn’t decide which one to choose, or was your mind as empty as that page and wouldn’t come up with anything?

Or was there a great idea in your head - but the minute you sat down, pen in hand, it seemed a bit obscure and you convinced yourself no-one would want to buy it?

I imagine you don’t have the luxury of time to sit there for an hour pondering. You’re trying to earn a living at this and need to draw something.

So what sells? What can you count on?

Birds, butterflies and flowers.

They’re about as commercial as it gets. Year in year out, they feature in designs for just about every product you can think of.

If you know anything about my artwork, you’ll know I do them over and over again. Not because I’m an avid nature enthusiast (I can barely name a species), but because they sell.

They’re also beautiful, offering endless possibilities for exploring colour and form. When I want to try out something, they’re perfect vehicles for a new technique. They’re versatile and can stand alone as the primary focal point in a design, or be used as decorative elements for other subject matter.

So when I’m faced with that blank page and a small window of time, I design a bird, butterfly or flower. Over time I’ve built up a bank of imagery that I pull from whenever I need it. I’ve also strengthened my style a lot, by repetition.

I’m setting myself a challenge to create a single bird, butterfly or bloom every day. I’ll be posting to IG stories. Please join me!

Tag @victoriajohnsondesign and #birdsbutterfliesandblooms

(Since #the100dayproject is running simultaneously, why not do it as part of that too - it’s great motivation for all of us!!)

Think small - nothing fancy or polished. Try something new on a scrap of paper. Do it while you’re watching telly. Humble beginnings often lead to interesting outcomes.

To see what I mean, have a look at these sketches. I drew these birds while sat in a deck chair watching my kids swim - and had no idea they’d become Editor’s Picks in the Minted West/ Elm competition the following year.

The little, scrappy butterfly sketches were the basis of some of my best selling designs ever. They became a fabric collection and numerous cards.

I hope you’ll join me. I’d love to see what you do!

(HINT - if you’re interested in my courses you might find this comes in handy for the next one!!)

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Have you signed up for my FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS. Hundreds of artists have and here’s just some of the feedback.

‘Just a quick note to say thanks very much for this fabulous & incredibly useful & reassuring guide - much appreciated! I was a purchasing director for 15 years (in hotels not art) so know that buyers are (mostly) human but have still been utterly terrified to approach anyone & am sitting on a pile of unpolished & unseen work just as you say in the document! This is such a useful guide & really breaks everything down into manageable non scary bitesize pieces. Thanks again for your generosity and I can’t wait for "Create Collections.'

‘What a helpful guide to getting organized to get clients! I have had in the back of my mind what I needed to do, but it was all a jumble.You spelled it out so beautifully! I really appreciate it!’

‘Just wanted to say thank you so much Victoria. This guide is a brilliant confidence booster! It will really help me prioritise as I come to a point where I'm ready to share my work. Lots of work to do - but having some focus and must-dos is such a great start. Thank you thank you thank you!!!’

‘Thank you so much for your very succinct and useful guide. It's so kind of you to share your experience in this way. I'm just starting out on my creative journey so I'm a little way off selling anything just yet but was keen to get an idea of what's involved.’

Sign up for your FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS here!

Share the link below with your fellow artists!

https://mailchi.mp/victoriajohnsoncreateexplore/signupfreeguide

AM I READY TO SEND OUT MY ARTWORK TO CLIENTS?

Recently, I offered a FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS, in which I laid out a strategy for assembling a client list and sending your work out. You can get yours here.

However, you may be wondering whether you’re actually ready for that step. To help you decide, I wrote this blog post (then promptly got sick, so sorry for the delay!).

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AM I READY TO SEND OUT MY ARTWORK TO CLIENTS?

If you’re venturing into the world of commercial art, you’re working towards a particular goal - to get your work seen by the people that count - the ones who will pay you for what you’re doing and turn your passion into a living.

Perhaps you’ve created print on demand products and are thrilled with the results (that cushion looks stunning on your sofa and everyone you know wants one!), maybe you’ve won challenges and competitions and got some well-deserved recognition, or you’re already working with clients but feel you should be reaching more of them.

On a good day, you feel you’ve got what it takes and you’re imagining your designs on cards, wall art, and dinnerware in your favourite stores. On a bad day you’re filled with anxiety and self doubt and think you just need a bit more time. The worst days find you on Instagram looking at everyone else’s work and thinking it’s hopeless.

At the root of this emotional pendulum is the fear of being rejected. We all experience the cycle - I’m great, I’m rubbish, give up, soldier on. 

It’s very tiring and you know you’re supposed to combat the fear by just going for it. But are you actually ready?

Truthfully, there are a few basic criteria you should aim to meet before taking the leap - and some important questions to ask yourself.


DO I HAVE ENOUGH WORK?

Is there a magic number?? What’s the exact number of designs that’s acceptable?? You’d love to know the answer to this - but there isn’t one.

You just need enough to make an impact. 

Some people will make an impact with fifteen super cohesive, brilliantly conceived pieces that convey a rock solid style. Others will make an impact with sixty pieces that cover every commercial theme in the book - from Halloween to Hannukah. You might have twenty painted floral placements, or fifty vector patterns of dinosaurs and trucks, or vice versa. 

The main thing to consider is whether the designs are strong, consistent and cohesive.


IS MY PORTFOLIO COHESIVE? WHAT’S MY STYLE?

We’re all on a quest for style. But the quest can be made less daunting by thinking in terms of creating cohesiveness and consistency, instead of ‘finding’ your style. One is you taking control, making something happen, the other is something happening to you - as you inadvertently stumble upon it!

This is a huge topic for a tiny section of a blog post but start by asking yourself this - when you look at your work as a whole, does it look like the work of one person, or five people? 

If it looks scattered and disjointed you probably should tighten it up before sending it out.

Your work can hang together by a number of common themes, including subject matter, technique, and colour.

I’m going to go into this in far greater detail in my upcoming course, Create Collections - but for now, here’s a tip.

The hands down, quickest fix for a disjointed portfolio is the application of a unified colour theme. 

It can be a massive spectrum of colours or a limited selection of just a few - but whatever the palette is, it needs to be consistent. This will instantly help your work look tighter and make a greater impact.

Have a look at my designs on the cards by Pigment below (currently sold in Paperchase, UK). Each piece came from a different collection. They were already unified by a common style but I adjusted the colours to make them super cohesive. See how impactful a tight palette can be!


DO I HAVE A BASIC ONLINE PRESENCE?

Speaking of making an impact - your chances of doing that are very much diminished if you don’t have a basic online presence. You need a clean, organised website, where your art is the star of the show (Squarespace is great), and an Instagram account. 

These two things are the fundamentals of looking professional. You can base your entire career on only these but they are inescapably important. 

Art directors do look at Instagram and a strong feed (not necessarily with a huge following but with a consistent, carefully planned input) shows that you are serious.

Since Facebook and Instagram are so interconnected and you can shoot Instagram posts to Facebook, why not have a Facebook page too? I have great engagement on my Facebook page even though I have one tenth of my Instagram following on there!

With a body of cohesive work, displayed clearly on a clean website and a well curated Instagram page, you can feel confident about sending your work out, knowing that you look professional and serious about selling your work.

I hope this helps!

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Hundreds of artists have signed up for my FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS. Here’s just some of the feedback.

‘Just a quick note to say thanks very much for this fabulous & incredibly useful & reassuring guide - much appreciated! I was a purchasing director for 15 years (in hotels not art) so know that buyers are (mostly) human but have still been utterly terrified to approach anyone & am sitting on a pile of unpolished & unseen work just as you say in the document! This is such a useful guide & really breaks everything down into manageable non scary bitesize pieces. Thanks again for your generosity and I can’t wait for "Create Collections.'

‘What a helpful guide to getting organized to get clients! I have had in the back of my mind what I needed to do, but it was all a jumble.You spelled it out so beautifully! I really appreciate it!’ 

‘Just wanted to say thank you so much Victoria. This guide is a brilliant confidence booster! It will really help me prioritise as I come to a point where I'm ready to share my work. Lots of work to do - but having some focus and must-dos is such a great start. Thank you thank you thank you!!!’

‘Thank you so much for your very succinct and useful guide. It's so kind of you to share your experience in this way. I'm just starting out on my creative journey so I'm a little way off selling anything just yet but was keen to get an idea of what's involved.’

dot line pink.jpg

Sign up for your FREE STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR ARTWORK IN FRONT OF CLIENTS here!

Share the link below with your fellow artists!

https://mailchi.mp/victoriajohnsoncreateexplore/signupfreeguide

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Gift Cards!

In the past, a few students have been given their course registration as a gift from a friend or family member. I thought it was a lovely idea, to offer a memorable and useful learning experience as a gift, so I’ve introduced Create Explore Gift Cards. You can use them towards the cost of any Create Explore course and they don’t expire. I thought they’d make lovely Christmas gifts - especially for anyone interested in taking Create Christmas! Ask for one for yourself or buy one for someone you love! Visit the Create Christmas Sign Up page to get one now!

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Create Christmas Registration Open - course starting Mon, Nov 26th, 2018.

It’s been almost year since I ventured into the world of online courses with Create Christmas. I was absolutely thrilled by it’s popularity and by the end of it felt hugely rewarded by the sense that it was genuinely helpful to many designers and artists.

Throughout the year, I’ve been asked repeatedly if I’ll run it again and the answer was always a definite yes. I’m delighted to announce that registration is now open and there will be ALL NEW briefs! You can sign up here! Don’t forget that the best way to stay up-to-date with info about new classes is by signing up for my newsletter here.