Monday, September 30, 2013

Water Nymph V.2

-By Tim Bruckner

Some years ago I created a piece I called Water Nymph. She was a way from me to explore several areas I’d been interested in, both aesthetical and materially. As with everything I’ve done, some parts worked and some I wished worked better. But she was done and deadlines loomed. Recently, I discovered a set of castings I completely forgotten I’d produced. A full set! It was almost like I’d planned it. Its not often I get a second chance. But here it was.

She’s made of up three parts; the main body unit and arms. Her water dress is made up from seven clear cast pieces. Each water dress element was given several coats of gloss varnish to increase its transparency.

With this version I wanted to go for more of a beauty make-up as opposed to an alien paint application. I started off with a light peach/cream color and base coated her, using cel vinyl. I really wanted her eyes to be a focal point so spent a lot of time shading and contouring her eyes. To pupil or not to pupil, that was the question. No pupil. I gave her a coat of Lusterless Flat sealing varnish and then added high gloss to her lips, satin varnished her hair and painted in a couple of coats of iridescent green on her eyes over which I added a high gloss varnish.

I painted blush onto her shoulders, elbows, biceps at the arm band, hips, collar bone, breasts and butt to bring some warmth to her skin. One of the things that bothered me about the first version of Water Nymph was a sense of visual clutter. I went for a simple silver/chrome treatment for her arms bands. And carried that to the nails on her little fingers. To break up the flatness of her arms/hands, I gave her hands a light coat of semi-gloss spray varnish.
She has three tattoos. The tattoos on her wrists are symbols of Water and Mother Earth. The tattoo at the base of her spine is a signature I designed years ago that contains the first initials of the four members of my family.

I wanted to give her some kind of a base. Something to give her a little lift without adding weight. I cast it in a translucent pale green resin and suspended a blue orb in its center then finished it with a frosted glass treatment.

Water Nymph Two will be seen with some of my other work at the third annual Maleficium Dark Art Exhibition a Kosart Studios and Gallery, November 2nd through the 30th, in Westmont, Il.

Top: Water Nymph V.1,  Bottom: Water Nymph V.2

SiDEBAR Interview with Bill Carman

I've been traveling so much lately due to conventions, that I've fallen way behind on my regular podcasts. I was particularly surprised to see that I missed this wonderful SiDEBAR interview with friend, and occasional Muddy Colors contributor, Bill Carman.

You can listen to the interview HERE.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Progression of Beauty

Artist, Greg Spalenka, recently shared installment of #6 of an ongoing series he is working on, called 'Progressions'.

'Progressions' are pieces of art which Greg continually works on, sharing the progress of each step, until someone stops the process by purchasing it. In essence, the art keeps evolving until a patron steps in, declaring the piece completed, and thereby becoming part of the creative process.

It's a pretty neat idea, which is made better by the fact that the current piece in question is absolutely stunning.

Above is his latest piece, called "Beauty". It is 18″x20″ made with charcoal, graphite, acrylic/house/oil paint, transparencies, gold leaf, tape, newsprint, adhesive, on board.

Greg has shared his process for this piece all along the way, and each time I see it, I think it looks great. Then a few weeks later, I see a completely different, and somehow more beautiful version of it. Below are some of the previous incarnations of the piece.

If you are interested in learning more about Greg's work, or even purchasing this piece (which I believe is still available), visit Greg's blog HERE.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Artist of the Month: Rauschenberg

by William O’Connor

This month I had the great experience of spending time with Dan Dos Santos at Illuxcon.  We had a fun conversation in the bar one night talking about Muddy Colors and I admitted that the Artist of the Month blogs that I’ve filed on modern painters had created a bit of an outcry amoungst the more ardent traditionalists.  We got to talking and I joked that I had been wanting to do a blog on Robert Rauschenberg, but was afraid that I would get lynched by the fans.  Much to my pleasure and delight, Dan lit up, and admitted that he was a huge Rauschenberg fan, and he encouraged me to write this blog!

When I was an art student, I was not an illustrator.  In fact, my school didn't even offer illustration. I was a full-on, post modern artist, focusing on assemblage works in the vein of Motherwell, Keifer, Schnabel and one of my favorites, Robert Rauschenberg (1925 - 2008).

Mixed Media
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Rauschenberg was an archivist of New York.  His assemblage and collages of his period are relics of the time.  Living in lower Manhattan in the 1960’s he would often wander the streets and pick up found objects from his neighborhood and work them into his “paintings” calling them Combines, because he was combining found objects into a single work.  They became time capsules of the world around him.  His Combines are considered modern master pieces, and if you ever have the opportunity to see them in person, its a unique experience. 

I became enamored of Raushenberg as a student, and loved his use of texture and found objects to create depth and volume to his paintings, with breath taking compositions.  Dumspter diving and skulking through junk shops became a favorite pastime to find some unique object to add to my work.

Mixed Media
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Later, as a novice illustrator, I would often utilize what I had learned from Rauschenberg in my illustrations by incorporating collage and objects into my paintings.  (Why render a facsimile of leaves when you could just attach actual leaves into the image?) Quickly, I began to realize that art directors did not appreciate paintings arriving in their office with sticks, dirt and broken glass collaged into the illustrations, so I eventually removed all of those elements for a purely painted smooth surface that could be reproduced easily on a drum or flatbed scanner.

More than a decade later  I had begun to adopt the digital medium and immediately became re-inspired by Rauschenberg.  Digital painting aloud me to scan found objects and photos and layer them into my work in a way that was almost identical to my student assemblage work.  Broken glass, crumpled newspapers, concrete, metal, text, wood, leaves, everything was now available as a medium and perfectly reproducible to a commercial client. Many people who look at my digital work are often surprised by the texture and depth I'm able to achieve, and I explain to them that its because there are often dozens of layers of texture and elements combined into the image that produce that effect.  Every time you find a cool texture file or photo online and combine it onto your painting, you're channeling Rauschenberg. 

Rauschenberg is one of the most inspirational and influential artists in my career.  If you look closely at some on my digital work you can see pieces of assemblage and collage peeking through, thanks to Mr. Rauschenberg.  Today, as I evolve back into oil painting, I am deeply inspired to re-connect with my roots and begin to incorporate assemblage into my traditional fantasy work.

Go Forth and Learn!


For an interesting intro lecture on Rauschenberg and his contemporaries view:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sneak Peeks

by Donato

With far too many of my current projects under NDA's ( Non-Disclosure Agreements), I haven't much to share with you except a few glimpses of what is to come. Between multiple conventions, a museum exhibit of my work later this Fall and teaching weekly courses with the SmArt School and the School of Visual Arts I am at a loss for words and the time to clarify my thoughts.  Apologies to you long time readers, but I will move into substantial content by the end of the year.  As I always say, I would rather be painting than typing...

So, to let art speak for me:

Eragon: 10th Anniversary Edition  novel by Christopher Paolini   18" x 24"  pencil and chalk on paper

Hephaestus   16" x 20 " Pencil and chalk on paper

The Hidden Kingdom     46" x 33"   Oil on Panel

Huor and Hurin Approaching Gondolin     detail of a painting 112" x 73"  oil on linen

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It´s All For Nothing

By Jesper Ejsing

I have a very good friend and fellow artist. His name is Emil Landgreen. He has unfortunately left our studio a while back to work in the gaming industry. I have been sniffing up that tree for the better part of a year now too. We got together a month ago and, as so many times before, the talk landed on what is it all for and where is this going to lead us. I am not talking money, more artistically.

"Are you still gonna do charging monsters when you are 70, Jesper"? Emil asked me with obvious doubt in his voice.

"Hmm, yeah I could", I answered knowing it might be untrue.

Pushing the subject further Emil asked, "This day in 20 years from now. What is the illustration you are doing. Where do you envision yourself?

"Easy. I am sitting in the forest painting an old Oak tree in oil, perhaps sipping a red wine"

"Me too",  Emil said. After a long pause. "Why is it exactly, that we are waiting 20 years"?

This was the beginning of something fantastic. We started arranging small pools of painting time during Sundays, were we drag the paint out and start dotting down strokes. What is really beautiful about this is that as soon as we begin, I realised I haven't been painting for no one in many many years.

Everything I do is for a product, a game a book or something. When I paint an old tree out there in the forest for a couple of hours there is no one I have to impress or satisfy. It is only a matter of spending time together having fun while painting. And it has made me realise how much I miss that part, the pure undiluted joy of painting. I am not even gonna post pictures of the actual paintings since what matters is the act of it and certainly not the outcome.

We paint for ourself and thus are not getting paid, so you might say it is for nothing. But the reward is so much more. It is for the passion and pleasure of creating for the craftsmanship and the feeling of being at one with a piece of art. Being present in the moment and living the brushstroke...

It is not for nothing; it is for everything. It makes me remember why I love doing art.


'Box' explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping onto moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Studio Equipment: Peddler

-By Dan dos Santos

This is probably the most mundane piece of studio equipment I will share here, yet it's probably one of the most important.

One of the major problems with working from home (in a small studio), is that you don't get a whole lot of exercise unless you specifically go out of your way to do so. I used to drive to my studio, walk up four flights of stairs, roam around a spacious studio, walk to the cafe to get lunch, etc. All of that little walking added up and kept me fairly fit.

But for the past 6 years, I've worked from home, and I have undoubtedly felt the ill-effects of it. Now my exercise consists solely of swiveling my chair from my easel to my computer.

I know I'm should get out, go for a walk, and take a break every 30 minutes to stretch... but who really does that? The sad truth is, when you freelance 70 hours a week and have kids, stuff like 'going for walks' just doesn't happen like it should.

After years of sitting at the easel, I started to develop really bad knee and ankle problems. My tendons started to atrophy, and then when I did go out for a jog or something, I would end up injuring myself. Initially, I tried standing while I work to alleviate this, but my floor is concrete and that wreaks havoc on my body in a whole different way.

The solution that finally helped me is this silly contraption.

I keep this under my computer desk, and whenever I'm doing something that doesn't require a delicate touch (like writing this blog post, for instance), I just pedal away. It's great! It's actually pretty fun, and I find myself doing it quite regularly.

If you have a really low desk, you'll probably bang your knees beneath it. So I just slide back a bit, and pull my keyboard out.

I know it's essentially the human version of a hamster wheel, but boy does it help!

The device is only about $30 on Amazon, and is money well spent in my opinion.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Revenue Streams

-by Arnie Fenner

'Scrooge McDuck', by Carl Barks

I bring up the topic of "income" every so often. While we can talk about philosophy or technique or aesthetics or the purity of expression, the bottom line is that artists have to eat. Unless you're an heir of Bill Gates or have a significant other who is very supportive (and has a well-paying job), you have to make your art work for you if you want to pursue a career in art.

And let's be frank: these days it isn't easy. Competition is incredibly stiff and increases everyday. The internet, with its access to "free" content (whether legitimately offered or surreptitiously loaded), has contributed to a basic devaluation of the creative process while ironically increasing demand: people want more, they just don't want to have to pay for it. Changes in the marketplace—in publishing, in advertising, in manufacturing, in retail—has altered the economic landscape for artists, whether they're on staff or freelance. Assumptions and expectations based on how things "used to work" or "should be" can be pitfalls because the market changes quickly, popular styles are hot one minute and stone cold the next. Well-paying commissions come and go; the Flavor of the Month can go out of fashion in a heartbeat.

Clients tend to want more for less these days, some because they can get it, but others because of those marketplace changes I mentioned. Work For Hire is a common aspect of the entertainment and comics industries: that model is not going to change. Artists can legitimately complain about stagnate rates, but should also understand that with the growing shift to digital media and entertainment...stuff in general doesn't sell as much as it once did. And if stuff isn't selling like it used to  it's often pretty difficult for a client to justify rate increases. When I hire illustrators I routinely pay them the maximum amount the project budget allows (which doesn't necessarily make my boss happy): the amount hasn't changed in a decade though it probably should have.

It probably should have gone down, considering softening sales of various titles and the overall increase in operating expenses and in overall manufacturing and distribution costs. Many clients are in the same economic boat...which means that as much as we, as art directors, might like to pay more for commissioned work, in most circumstances the budget won't allow it. If a publisher approaches you to do a cover for the new Stephen King novel, you've got some negotiating room; if the commission is the cover for Joe Dokes' first book...the fee offered is most likely all that's allowed.

No one is irreplaceable: just as there are many qualified people who would be delighted to have my job, there are many qualified artists that will gladly take the jobs others turn down. I receive multiple samples from illustrators and reps every day looking for work and I can only use about 2% of them. Not because the art isn't good but only because there's only so much work I can assign.

And when it comes to the gallery/fine art's the same. The economy always has an impact on the arts as it does with any other "luxury" item. Sales wax and wane, galleries open and close, and even though there are regularly news stories about sales records being set for one artwork or another, they tend to be the exceptions when times are tight, not the rule.

It's important to try to understand the marketplace (as best anyone can) and be adaptable to change when it comes. Which means always exploring new opportunities, to network with your fellow artists and clients whenever possible, to promote your work aggressively and regularly.

You may primarily want to create book covers or draw comics or work in advertising or design for films or produce gallery art...why not be open to doing it all? People delight in compartmentalizing artists, but that doesn't mean you have to let them. Do not expect opportunities to fall into your lap: actively seek out new clients and new challenges. Work with a wide variety of businesses and try your hand with a host of subjects.

When it comes to the advertising arena, freelancers should consider signing on with an artist rep. Sure, they take their percentage (just as galleries do), but the benefit is that they have contacts with the most lucrative clients and can make the connections that translate into long-term and substantial earnings.

Likewise you can utilize an artist rep for gallery contacts. Click here for an interesting pros and cons article.

Above: Frank Frazetta's "Sea Witch" started out as a cover for Eerie magazine and continued to earn Frank an income through the years as a poster sold via his wife Ellie's business and as a licensed piece of stock art for book and album covers and as the basis of a collectible figurine. The funny thing about this is that Frank never really owned the copyright: James Warren always did. But Warren had such respect for Frazetta that he turned a blind eye to Frank's licensing the art. Another publisher might not have been quite so magnanimous.

If you retain the copyright to your art, create a digital archive and let visitors to your website know that you can license your work for secondary use applications as well as for stock art purchase. The argument can be (and often has been) made that stock art undermines original commissions, but it's here to stay. And again a sales rep can be an asset, not only in seeking out clients but in negotiating contracts and collecting fees and royalties.

But you can also create your own revenue stream by nurturing a fan base and offering original art, prints, and merchandise for sale. Have a store on your website with a secure gateway to take orders; establish an estsy or some other web store separate from your own site so that more people can find you.

Exhibit at conventions or art shows to help establish or maintain your "brand," grow your audience's awareness, and, yes, make money. I'll refer you back to my earlier post about working a show, but will also point out that shows are an investment or time and the pay-off isn't always immediate. And while no one can do them all (the art has to get done some time, right?), you should plan on doing more than one a year, again as a step toward increasing your audience. Anyone who insists that making a wad of cash at any particular show is a "sure thing" is either misinformed, naive, or a dirty fibber, I don't care which event they name. Regardless of the size or location, there are always good years and lean ones; there will always be those that make a lot and those that don't and there's no way to predict who will be who. But giving up after one or two or five disappointing shows is a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot: everything takes time. There certainly are benefits to setting up at shows, personally, professionally, and ultimately financially, especially if you think of it as an, again, long-term investment.

That's the key: working in multiple ways to sustain an art career by recognizing the challenges and devising ways to turn them to your advantage. And above all, to not put all of your eggs in one basket.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Syd Mead, Online Gallery

Here is a great little gallery of some of Syd Mead's works, scanned in high resolution. Most of the paintings are old pieces of his, so they were created traditionally using gouache paints.

Syd Mead was a bit of an 'acquired taste' for me, and it took longer than I'd like to admit to catch on to just how talented this man is. So take a look, take your time, and if you like what you see, consider getting one of his many fantastic art books.

View the gallery here:

Friday, September 20, 2013

New Works by Dorian Vallejo

-By Dan dos Santos

Like many of you, I just got back from IlluXcon, and one of the truest highlights of my weekend was seeing new works by Dorian Vallejo.

Dorian has had a pretty eclectic career. Following in his father Boris' footsteps, he quickly rose to the top of the illustration game in the mid 90's. Growing bored with the genre, he moved past it, and into the far more lucrative field of portraiture. But recently, Dorian has turned his eye toward fine arts. And like most things he chooses to pursue, he excels at it.

Dorian debuted 5 large scale works at IlluXcon this past weekend. The pieces ranged from just a few feet across, to widths greater than 7 feet. They were so large, in fact, that Dorian easily filled the entire room just a few pieces. By contrast, I fit all 6 of my works in a space smaller than a single one of his paintings. And yes, I know what they say, but in this case, size DOES matter!

Because of their scale, you couldn't help but to feel immersed in the image. Some of the figures were painted life size, which creates an odd sense of empathy when you look at them.

I regret not having a better camera with me, as I was only able to grab a few horribly grainy cellphone shots of Dorian's work. Believe me when I say, these photos do not begin to communicate just how beautiful these paintings were in person. I can only hope that Dorian has an exhibition soon so that I can drool over them once again.

You can visit Dorian's website for more info. And if you like his work, I highly recommend his book, Drawings: Inspired By Life, which I honestly consider one of the finest books in my collection.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Physical vs. Virtual Networking

-By Lauren Panepinto

As many of you have seen across various social media channels, Illuxcon was this weekend (and was the best one yet, in my opinion), and it's a really great opportunity to talk about the importance of networking, and the differences between physical and virtual networking.

By physical networking I mean going to conventions, having your portfolio reviewed, office visits, going to lectures, sketch nights, gallery openings, really any events, including just hanging out and socializing informally with peers. By virtual networking I'm talking about emailing and social media—mostly facebook and twitter because those have the most interaction. 

Art Directors don't bite, I promise! Stewart Craig escaped unscathed.
This is going to come as a surprise to no one: In today's world you must put time and effort into virtual networking. You must make your work available online, even if it's via the most basic website. You have to target clients and Art Directors by email and keep them updated every so often of your new work and your website. I'll even go out on a limb and say you must be on facebook, even if just an artist fan page rather than a personal account. I think you can take or leave twitter as an artist, since it's not a visual medium, but there's an interaction style on twitter that is really different from facebook and works well for some people. You all know by now that I love instagram and pinterest, but we'll consider them bonus activity for this post, along with Behance, DeviantArt, CGHub and all the art-specific networking sites. You don't have to be everywhere, but pick sites that mesh with how you work and the devices you use most, and then keep them updated. Third-party manager apps like are amazing, just remember the idea is to not make the auto-posting feel like a robot is running all your social media interaction.

Why is it so important to keep a steady presence online? Well, for one thing, most Art Directors spend a giant portion of their day online and on social media, keeping tabs on artists, keeping an eye on fresh talent, gossiping about artists (anyone who was just at Illuxcon will agree: ADs gossip like fishwives). Also, the art world is changing. There's a world of artist-as-entrepreneur opportunities online to sell your art and personal projects directly to fans via sites like etsy, society6, kickstarter, etc. Building an audience of people who love your art just because they love it and have no business motives is a lovely self-confidence (and financial) cushion when that evil AD keeps not calling you for commissions. Look at artists like Tara McPherson, who was fabulous enough to come to Spectrum this year and talk about how to diversify your art career and audience. She sells prints and merch, does gallery work, and still takes commissions for bands, comics, book covers.

While online, just remember the rules from the Approaching Art Directors post: no tagging people in your artwork just so they look at it. No posting your work on ADs pages. No facebook-messenger-stalking or twitter-stalking. Just be as polite online as you would be in person and you'll be fine.

Ok, now let's go on to the harder of the two: Physical Networking. It's more expensive, it's more work, and it's potentially very uncomfortable.

There were so many artists and ADs in that one restaurant it was ridiculous.
Artists ask me all the time, how important is living in NYC (publishing & editorial) or CA/WA (film & games)? Is it mandatory to go to cons? Do you have to meet Art Directors in person? 

No, physical networking is not mandatory. I work with a lot of artists I've never met. I know a lot of artists who don't go to cons and who live in remote places—thanks to hi-speed internet. And while I think it is critical that you establish a network of people who can give you honest critiques, yes, that can be a virtual network. 

Relieved? Well, let me add this caveat: One hour of physical networking is worth 100 hours of virtual networking. I'm not exaggerating. In fact, I'm probably underestimating. I underlined it just so you know I'm serious. There is no real substitution for meeting someone and having a conversation with them. As a human being you take in so much subconscious information about a person when you meet them that it makes an impact you just can't replicate virtually. Skype and Online classes come close but not close enough. Meeting someone is a giant leap towards trusting them and starting a relationship with them. And as an Art Director, you're asked to put your job in someone else's hands every time you hire an artist—the more trust you have for a person, the more you feel like you know them, the less risky that feels. Again, you can establish strong connections virtually, but it's like walking while physical networking is driving a ferrari.

You know that world-famous artist you've admired since before you ever picked up a wacom pad? At a con you can walk right up and meet them and show them your work and get feedback. You know that Art Director who never answers the phone and doesn't have time to answer every email from artists they don't know? At a lot of industry events you can sign up for a portfolio review with them, and if you miss that you can walk right up to them and ask them to look at your work. (Just remember the no bathroom solicitation rule.*) At sketch nites and gallery openings and lectures you can meet other artists up, down, and at the same place on the career ladder as you are, and get an infinite amount of perspectives on your art and the business of art. These kinds of interactions only happen in person. There's just no replicating them virtually. Late night ichat conversations and facebook posts just aren't the same as being up until 4:30am debating art with other artists in a Holiday Inn lobby* or a dark bar somewhere.

Did someone say world-famous artists?
So why do many artists find physical networking so hard? (Besides the fact that living in NYC as well and/or traveling to cons costs a lot of money, of course.)

There's a pervasive stereotype that artists (especially SciFi/Fantasy artists) are weird introverts that do all their work at night, chain smoke cigarettes, and don't venture into the light of day.* Now while there's certainly the cases that prove the sterotype, in fact artists are some of the most social animals I've ever met. So let's go back to the actual definitions of extravert and introvert. It's not as simple as shy or not. These are terms created by Carl Jung and further codified after him by Myers & Briggs. If you look these personality types up on the Myers-Briggs chart you'll find these profiles:

Extravert (outward-turning): "I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say."

Introvert (inward-turning): "I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing." 
You don't even have to make conversation, you can just stand and watch an artist's process,
in this case Travis Lewis's crazy pencil skills.

We all have aspects of both in our personalities in different amounts, and that gives us a greater leaning towards one or the other. Think of it this way: You go to a con. You spend the entire day introducing yourself to strangers, showing your work to strangers, having random conversations with strangers. When you retire back to your hotel room (or bathtub*) that nite (or morning*), do you feel relieved that you have some time to yourself to recharge (introvert), or do you feel recharged by having had those interactions (extravert)?

I think most artists swing radically back and forth between extravert and introvert, I don't think you can create without having introverted periods, but the truth of the matter is, it's the extravert side that you really have to activate when it's networking time. I definitely fall on the extravert side of the scale naturally, and that's why you find me running around cons talking to everyone. I enjoy random conversations with people I don't know so much that I subconsciously gravitate to wearing things (like Lord of the Rings leggings, or tentacle necklaces, for example) that are easy conversation-starters. I love networking. But I learned to love it. A lot of people find networking in person really stressful and awkward. You might be shy, you might be an introvert by nature, or you might just be a young artist just overwhelmed and nervous in the presence of a crowd of people more accomplished than you.

Clearly introverted.
I realize I'm at an advantage because I am naturally an extravert, and I'm also an Art Director now, which means people are more willing to overlook the times when I'm awkward and weird and consider it a job quirk, but I wasn't always this confident in a crowd. Here's some advice:

• Fake it till you make it. This is a public speaking trick that seems trite but actually helps a great deal. If you aren't comfortable starting up random conversations with people, or walking up to an artist you admire and asking for advice, then spend a few moments before you enter the room visualizing a new character for yourself. You are confident, you have interesting things to contribute to conversations, you have no reason to be shy. (Bathroom breaks are great for self-coaching sessions.) Eventually you will automatically adopt this more confident persona in social settings without thinking about it.

• Practice opening lines. The hardest part of networking is starting a conversation with someone you have decided you want to talk to (Art Director, Famous Artist, Cute Girl, etc.) Once a conversation gets past the first 10 seconds it usually takes care of itself. Try to have a few lines ready for each of the type of people you want to talk to:

Art Director: "Excuse me, Lauren, I really love the books Orbit publishes and I would love to work with you. If you have some free time now or later would you be able to look at my work?"

Artist: "Hello, Boris, I've admired your work for a long time, and I was wondering if you minded telling me a bit about your technique for painting lighting effects."

You're on your own for the Cute Girls. This is an art blog, not a dating advice column, ha.

Clearly my scary Art Director face didn't faze Andrew Cefalu. (Makeup demo by J. Anthony Kosar.)
• Power through the awkward. Everyone is awkward sometimes. A joke falls flat, you freeze up, the conversation feel the awkwardness level, and tension, and stress ratchet up ten degrees. Just ignore it. Awkward moments happen. Push past it and either keep talking or make a joke or excuse yourself politely and everyone else will be more than happy to ignore it because they were as much responsible for the awkward moment as you were. Do not retreat back to your hotel room to hide. Do not replay the awkward moment the whole way home on the train.

• People are judging you less than you think they are. Most people who are networking at a social event are so concerned with not looking like an idiot themselves they don't have time to notice your hands are trembling and you're sweating through your old spice.

• Networking events are the easiest places to network. Cons are big and crowded but people are there purposely for networking. That means ADs are expecting you to awkwardly break into their conversations. Other artists are expecting you to walk up and gush at them and push your book at them. If they hated doing these things they would not go to a con at all. Thus, the atmosphere is much more forgiving. (Just remember the golden rule. No networking in the bathroom.)

Physical networking can be exhausting. Just ask Cynthia Sheppard and Noah Bradley.
Whether you're an extravert or introvert, virtual networking is easy and necessary, and physical networking is harder and more expensive. But it's also a hell of a lot of fun. Don't rob yourself of the joy that can only come from con-induced sleep deprivation.

And see you at Spectrum in May?

*You know who you are.