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Jodie Snow (also known as Kit Jo Yuki), is a successful illustrator and artist based in the South of England. As well as working on visual effects for Hollywood blockbusters, she's started her own illustration business and launched an art book through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Pretty darned impressive! She's kindly taken the time to share her arty wisdom with Wraptious, and her top tips when it comes to pricing work, attending conventions, and creating art digitally. What a star!
1) So, Jodie - what steps did you take after university to launch your career?
After graduating from a Film and TV Production course, I went head-first into the film industry. I worked on the sets of feature films (mostly running around for stroppy actors) and a few TV shows for a year or so before landing a job at a major visual effects company in central London. Whilst I hadn't dabbled in this area during my course, they took me on board specifically because of my artwork and ability to paint digitally. I began painting with Photoshop in 2008 and continued painting in my spare time whilst I was at uni, so by the time I graduated I had (without realising it) gained and honed a valuable skill which gave me an edge in the film industry. After realising that my life's dream wasn't all it was cracked up to be (seeing your name in 3D in the credits of a Hollywood film really doesn't have much impact when you remember the countless hours spent tweaking shots and not getting paid for your many hours of overtime), I left London and landed a manager role at a printing company. I've been there for two and a half years now, and it's pretty much the best job ever. I get to work with lots of talented, established artists (as well as up-and-coming amateurs), bringing their work into new formats such as greeting cards or art prints, as well as putting my Photoshop knowledge to good use by editing images and preparing them for print.
2) At what point did you decide to push forward with your art?
Art has always been a hobby for me – something I can do for fun around my day job. I started going to conventions in 2010, selling prints of my artwork just for fun to see if anyone was interested. I was a bit bewildered when people began queuing to get my signature on the posters they'd bought from me. People became increasingly enthusiastic about my work, and I'd often sell out of stock before the event had ended. Over time I painted more pictures, printed more prints, and it slowly dawned on me that perhaps this was what I really wanted to do – paint nice things and present them to the world. Selling at events is unique in that you don't have to work to someone else's specifications (e.g as you would with a commission) to earn money, you can literally set up and sell whatever your heart desires. There are so many events popping up around the UK for artists that a lot of us 'tour' together, some earning very decent livings from events alone, so it's worth looking into if you're determined to succeed and don't like your day job!
3) Which artists have inspired the way you draw?
A lot of the time people say my work is very 'Disney', but actually, I don't find Disney particularly inspiring so I can safely say it was my adventure into anime and manga that started me on my artistic journey. My early artwork is very typical manga style – large eyes, bright colours, pointy chins – but when I began working at the film studio in London my mind was blown when I saw all of the wonderful paintings in the National Gallery. Suddenly manga style was incredibly inferior, I wanted to paint with dramatic lighting and interesting subjects like the old Master painters, particularly the Pre-Raphaelites. So, my work started to evolve (and is still evolving), and now it's a strange mix of manga style and semi-realism. Recently I've found I massively enjoy painting landscapes and backgrounds, particularly forest scenes, and can draw inspiration from a wealth of traditional painters
4) How do you go about creating an image? What's the process?
Digital art is a very new medium, so I'm frustrated when I hear the comment "Oh, so the computer does it for you?" A computer is a tool, like a paintbrush is a tool. Every artistic decision (lighting, colour palette, composition) still needs to be made, every stroke of colour is still laid down by hand, and I take pride in the fact that my working method is pretty much identical to that of the old Masters who worked in oils. I usually begin the painting with a very rough sketch, which is refined until it becomes something I like. Then I block out the main underpainting with greys to get a feeling for lighting and contrast, and depending on how much time I have I might paint the entire image in greyscale to begin with before touching with any kind of colour. Once I'm happy with the underpainting, I put layers of colour over the base layer until I've built up the entire colour scheme for the picture. At this point the image is still usually a bit messy, so once the colour base is done I go in with different textured brushes to enhance areas, paint details, and clean up any messy brushwork from earlier. Right at the end I tweak the colour balance. Depending on the complexity of the painting, it can take anywhere from 4-20 hours to complete, but usually in one hour sittings (I can't sit and paint for too long!)
5) Have there been any interesting books, websites or programmes that have helped you along the way?
There are loads of tutorials over on Deviantart.com they have a whole selection dedicated to them so it's great. Youtube is another great place for tutorials, I particularly love sumi-e (Japanese brush painting) and calligraphy videos. Aside from that I love watching documentaries about businesses on TV - shows like Dragon's Den, the Hotel Inspector, Antiques Roadshow etc can all have valuable insights into buying and selling successfully. There are loads of lessons to be learned from shows like these that can bolster our understanding of marketing and selling your own work. For example, it's useful to listen about finances and ways of increasing profit margins, even if the subject is bedroom rates at a hotel. Seeing why certain antique paintings are worth more than others is fascinating, and can give you a great insight into how the public react to certain subjects in art. Sky Arts 'Portrait Artist of the Year' was a great programme too - it's really interesting watching artists at work.
6) How did you go about turning your art into a job? How did you promote your work, and what practical advice can you give other artists?
I don't really have much time to promote myself online, but with conventions in particular just having a nice display will often get you noticed. I made the rookie mistake of just laying my prints down flat on the table at my first event, but five years on my display is often now referred to as 'the fort' because it's essentially a massive wall of art. Picking your events is important too, my staple ones are usually MCM Comic Cons as they pull over 50,000 people per weekend, a large percentage of whom like manga and fantasy so it's a no-brainer! But big craft fairs are great for any kind of traditional artist, and you can usually tell if an event will pull the crowds by how much they're charging for tables (always do your research though). The average table price for a well-attended event seems to be around £200 for a weekend. Make sure to bring enough stock to cover your costs, and over time you'll see which things sell better, which in turn will give you an idea of what to make next. Don't undervalue your work if it doesn't sell- it just means the right person wasn't there to buy it at the time. A part of my dies inside when I see great paintings sold for criminally low prices. Your skill and time are worth the price tag! People are more likely to take you seriously as an artist if you charge serious prices for your work. Of course, as a digital print artist I have no "original" paintings to sell so my work is always quite affordable, but I try to price my prints accordingly to account for the time taken, printing cost, and final quality of the work.
7) What's been the most challenging aspect of starting your own illustration business?
There are so many projects and not enough hours in the day! Learning to critique is a massive (and painful!) step. I think it's important to be as open minded to other mediums/styles/opinions as possible and accept that some people won't like your work, or will try to put your work down, but being able to shrug these things off will make you stronger! Always listen to what people have to say, good or bad. Fellow artists may be able to help pin point flaws in your work, or things that could be improved, so don't be afraid to ask them for their opinions - even if they're harsh!
8) What about the Kickstarter book "Threads?" How did you get the idea for that, and how much did you raise?
A friend and I basically decided we'd like to create a big art book full of cool fantasy pictures and helpful tutorials for artists. We gathered fellow artists and in the end launched a Kickstarter to get the book printed, which went online in November 2014. We ended up raising around £14,000 in total. In April this year the book was completed and printed, and is currently being sold at conventions and online (most recently Japan Expo in Paris). Seeing your book project come to life is great, and it's even better when loads of people sign up to buy it! Even if you have to sacrifice an entire room of your house to boxes of books...
9) What are your plans for the future?
I'd like to do art full time with my own printing equipment. I'm currently saving to buy a house so that I can finally have space for a home studio, and once that's all set up I'm hoping I can travel to more conventions (there are loads in the USA) publish more books and travel the world a bit. I have a graphic novel in the works which I'm dying to get off the ground too!
10) Where can we find your art?
You can see most of my paintings on my website www.laternaworks.co.uk. I don't sell my stock online, but feel free to drop me an email if there's a print you'd like! I sell most designs in A3 and A4. You can also find a list of all the events I'm attending this year on my front page - I often draw custom sketches at events and lots of my arty friends exhibit too, so come and visit us if you can!
11) And finally, what three things could you not live without?
1-Tea (because even in summer, everyone needs tea)
2- My drawing hand - I'd be devastated if I couldn't write or draw!
3 - My big brother, who is endlessly supportive and helps me out by carrying stock at all my shows
If you fancy seeing more of Jodie's work, check out her facebook page. To have a look at her awesome Kickstarter book 'THREADS,' head over to her Tumblr page which also has a link to the online store!