Jim Shute of ProActive Performance sends his cards to clients for the Thanksgiving holiday – he feels it’s a perfectly appropriate time to send his thanks to customers for their support all year, and also he knows this way his card will arrive on his clients’ desks well before the Christmas card rush and stand out a bit. Jim always gives me some themes and buzzwords that are current in his business, and together we create a concept & caption. This year’s gag involved an economic term set to the scene of the first Thanksgiving:
I do a New Year’s postcard for Mary Lennon of Lennon’s Small Jobs, and have drawn penguin gags for her company for a number of years. The gag always refers to one of the many common tasks she is called to do in her home maintenance business.
It’s a nice way to remind her customers that is is open for business, and the postcard format makes it easy for her clients to tape it to the refrigerator so her phone number is always handy. And black/white postcards are relatively inexpensive to print, so it makes an affordable and effective promotional item.
I illustrated New Year’s cards for two businesses to mail to their clients, and both asked for caricatures of their staff in the artwork. These businesses feel it is a nice way for their customers to put a face to the voice they hear on the phone when they call; and since the cards are drawn, they are a bit more fun and even whimsical than a photo would be. (I’ve also gotten comments that my drawings make people look younger than they are in real life, which everybody likes!)
The first was for LifeTime Asset Management in Raleigh, NC. They wanted their staff toasting the New Year at a party, so i first pencilled in a rough composition of the 9 figures raiding glasses.
I tightened that up and drew specific faces in, and the company logo on the balloons, for a better rough.
I printed off a copy of that & colored it in roughly for the color comp, which I sent them for approval.
Once I got the ok I traced the drawing onto illustration board and started painting it in – I snapped this photo below while I was still laying in the basic colors.
And here is the completed art, with celebratory confetti added in, which appeared on the front of their card.
The second New Years card was for Kohlhepp Investment Advisors here in PA. They are a family-run business and everyone has a great sense of humor – if you look at past Kohlhepp cards on my blog you’ll see they’ve had me draw the team in many funny, unique situations. This year did not disappoint – with the bullish economy they decided on the great concept of the whole team running with the bulls! I sent them two very rough sketches, asking if the two women in the firm want to be right in there with the bulls or not – they answered of course they do!
I tightened up the drawing –
and did a rough color sketch
They requested Ed Sr. to have a more active pose on the bull, so I changed that, then drew it on illustration board in prisma pencil, painted in acrylic washes, and added some dust clouds in chalk, for the finished art.
The 2nd annual Bucks County Book Fest will take place in lovely Doylestown, the county seat, this Saturday and Sunday Oct. 12 and 13, and I’m happy to say my artwork will be seen in a few publications there.
The Bucks County Writers Workshop‘s inaugural issue of its historical and literary magazine Neshaminy will be sold at the open-air book market on Sunday from noon to 4 pm. It features short stories and poems that revolve around our area’s rich history and famous residents, including pieces about Dorothy Parker, Oscar Hammerstein, Pearl S. Buck and a never-before-published interview with James Michener. I was happy to be commissioned by the BCWW to illustrate the articles about Michener and Parker, and contribute a frontispiece illustration of the Neshaminy Creek, with a subtle reference to the Lenape tribes that lived by its banks.
You can see my pieces below – click to enlarge.
Some of my illustrations for children’s books will also be at the Book Fest, courtesy of author Chrysa Smith, for whom I have illustrated The Upside-Down Gardener, Once Upon a Poodle, and a series of children’s books called The Adventures of the Poodle Posse. Chrysa will also be at the open-air book market Sunday, and I’m sure she’d love book lovers to stop by and to buy local [books]!
A few of my illustrations for Chrysa are below – click to enlarge.
I’ll be around the market too! I’m not sure what I’ll be hawking yet, but probably some of my Christmas cards (you can see some here) and my notecards for birthdays or any occasion when you are giving a book as a gift –
Hope to see you at the Book Fest! There are many other events both Saturday and Sunday – a Lit Crawl, readings for children, a writer’s workshop and an illustrator’s workshop – check out all the events at their site here.
It’s not too early to think about the holidays – I’m already working on three clients’ holiday cards for their businesses
Because of this, I’ve recently added a Christmas card to my listings on Etsy – one I drew last year for my family, in the classic New Yorker black & white style, not long after my first cartoon appeared in the New Yorker. If you’ve ever seen this iconic tree you never forget its overwhelming presence!
I drew this cartoon in black prisma pencil and painted it in ink washes. (Closeups of the art are on my Etsy page) It shows the legendary tree at Rockefeller Center, which about 100 million people visit each year, teeming with lights but with one small dark area; a small child looking up comments, “They missed a spot.”
Inside the card is the message “May your Christmas be filled with Peace and Joy and a thousand twinkling lights!”
Single cards are available on my Etsy shop HERE and boxes of 8 cards are available on my website store HERE.If you’d like more than 8 cards, or would like to use this card for your company holiday card, email me and we’ll work out the details. And if you live near me in the Central Bucks area and want to avoid postage charges, simply email me what you’d like to order and you can pay when you pick up the cards from me.
About a year ago I wrote a post on my own experiences selling my original illustrations and cards on two online platforms, Etsy and Zazzle. It is a post that gets hits almost every day from readers – I presume, mostly artists like me. Then Zazzle changed their policies for the worse, and I deleted my account there. Now Etsy is also changing its policies, also for the worse for small business artists, so I’m updating this post to explain the new unfortunate wrinkle in Etsy’s policies.
Here is my initial post’s review of the two platforms:
My experience of ‘opening a shop on Etsy’ to display my Eagle Scout congratulations cards has been a very good one so far. I would recommend Etsy to other artists, and I’ll explain why for me it is a better fit than another popular platform for selling product art, Zazzle.
At Zazzle you can also open a ‘shop’ page, but a big difference is that Zazzle actually does the production work on your items – whether you wish to sell your art printed on cards, t-shirts, mugs, etc. So when someone orders your Zazzle item, it ships directly from Zazzle and you don’t see the finished product – therefore you cannot judge the quality of the print job. Because Zazzle does the heavy lifting of production and distribution, you, the artist, receive a very small percentage of the asking price.
With Etsy the artist herself has to have the products made and in stock, so she gets to monitor and approve the print quality – I like this aspect better even though it means I have to do the production myself. (I have a terrific printing partner in Cortineo Creative, here in my hometown of Doylestown.) When a buyer orders my cards, I receive the full asking price that I list on my shop page. Etsy also estimates, from a form I filled out on the dimensions & weight of my product, what the postage will be on the package, and that is added onto my asking price so the buyer pays that postage as well. Etsy provides a customized shipping label and packing slip that I can print out and put on the package; when Etsy deposits my earnings, they deduct the cost of the postage from my total earnings, since the buyer initially paid that postage cost to me.
The tradeoff in payment between the two is this: I can list my products on Zazzle for free; with Etsy there is a charge for each item in my shop. The charge is 20 cents per item per quarter of a year. So I do pay 80 cents per year for each individual card on Etsy – so far this seems like a good tradeoff, since I am being paid the full price of my cards. Another disparity is, Zazzle has a threshold you must pass before they will send you your earnings – I believe it is $50 – and it takes a number of sales to accrue that amount since you are making a small percentage of the payment on each purchase. Etsy, on the other hand, deposits your earnings into your associated bank account once a week.
One other detail, on Zazzle, there is an option to allow your buying customers to ‘customize’ the item they are purchasing. These custom changes range from changing the color of the t-shirt and ink color, to adding their own words to your design. While this may be attractive to buyers who want the item for a very specific purpose, as an artist I hesitate to let others adjust and modify my designs. I have complete control with my Etsy products since I do the production. On Etsy, if I offer one item in two or three different colors or other characteristics, I CAN list the variations as an ‘option’ under the main description of the product – but again, I myself have to maintain ALL the varieties of the options in stock, so I can fulfill orders quickly when they come in.
Also important, is, I have done no advertising at all – until this post – to promote my cards on Etsy and yet I’ve made a number of sales, and have received great reviews from my customers, without even soliciting reviews.
Update 01/03/19: When I learned about 2 other options with payment for Zazzle:
Under your payment settings and the PayPal option at the top (in very small print) it says Note: For PayPal there is a minimum threshold of $50 to be paid automatically. If you have less than $50 balance after one month of sales, we will hold your funds for future use, or you may request a PayPal payment for a $2.50 fee. Payment will be made within 45 days.
And if you are purchasing an item from another Zazzle store, you may use your account’s “Cleared Earnings” against the cost of the item you are purchasing, sort of like a store credit.
So those are two ways to ‘use’ your Zazzle earnings, other than waiting for a check when you reach the threshold.
Update 04/17/19: When Zazzle made an unfortunate change
I have now deleted my Zazzle store, mainly because they announced “accounts that have been non-contributing (that is, haven’t either (1) published a public product, or (2) had a Referral Sale attributed to that account) for the previous 15 month period will be charged a “Non-Contributing Account Fee.” I don’t make enough through Zazzle to incur another fee, so I’ve cancelled
Etsy now has announced as follows: “Starting on July 30, 2019, items that ship free and shops that guarantee free shipping to buyers in the US on orders $35 and above will get priority placement in US search results. Shoppers in the US will primarily see items that ship free and shops that offer free shipping on orders of $35 in the top, most visible rows of search. We’ll also begin to prioritize these items wherever Etsy advertises in the US—in email marketing, social media, and television ads.”
Why am I very unhappy with Etsy’s policy change? Consider that currently Etsy takes 3.5% off the top of the selling price (which does not including the shipping fee) of each sale I make – this is their fee, which is a fair commission for the service they provide. If I bundle my shipping fee into my product cost (which would almost double the selling price of my cards) and offer ‘free shipping,’ obviously Etsy will make a bigger commission on each of my sales.
So Etsy wants to make more money off my sales – that’s not a crime, but this is the wrong way to do it. Right now when my customers are about to make a purchase they see exactly what I charge for my items and exactly what they’ll pay in postage, and that kind of transparency is ideal for seller/buyer relationships. I would prefer Etsy be honest and just increase its commission percentage instead of squeezing small artisanal businesses to behave like Amazon, with ‘Free Shipping” as one of their big selling points. Etsy’s brand has never been ‘discount rates’, it has been ‘unique and handcrafted items’ which most buyers accept usually comes with a shipping fee.
Many other Etsy sellers have complained about the difficulty of estimating how much to bundle into their prices, to accommodate selling fees that vary wildly across the US, depending on whether the buyer is in an easily accessible city or out in a rural delivery address. If you notice some Etsy prices jumping up soon, but offering “free shipping,” you’ll know they are bundling in the shipping cost to get a better location on their search pages.
With my narrow margins I can’t afford to absorb shipping costs for my cards. If I bundle my shipping into my product price, my prices will look absurdly high and I’ll certainly lose customers. And if I don’t, my products will be buried under lots of pages of ‘free shipping’ sellers. It’s a lose-lose for me and other sellers who like to be up-front with their customers.
Etsy really has been an excellent platform, but this change is really a step down for the buyer-customer relationship. For now I am keeping my AchillesPortfolio products and prices the same and customers can clearly see what their shipping cost will be before they click to finalize their order, though I might be more difficult to find on the site.
I’m very pleased to say I have joined the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, a rousingly active organization of business people who are productively involved in every aspect of the Bucks County community. My good friend Debbie Wagner, who owns and runs the outstanding graphic design firm The Graphic Edge, described to me the CBCC’s great benefits to local business owners, and I felt it would enhance my work and connections to join.
Once a year the chamber hosts a business expo, and I welcome the chance to display my work and meet other business owners, so you will find me at my booth there. The CBCC Business Expo will be Tuesday, May 14, from 2 pm to 7 pm at the Student Center Exhibition Hall, Delaware Valley University. The University is at 700 E. Butler Avenue, Doylestown, PA. I designed the postcard below, featuring my illustration work, to hand out. The back has a few of my gag cartoons, and I’ve created a slideshow of my gag cartoons to run on my laptop throughout the expo.
In addition to meeting and learning about your local business owners, you can also enjoy some goodies from generous CBCC members, including Annie’s Water Ice, Tru-Brew Coffee and food from Applebee’s. Also, Fine Art Appraiser Lauren Travis will do free verbal approximations of value for a Fine or Decorative Art item from 2 pm to 5 pm.
Capping off the day will be the Chamber’s Largest Business Card Exchange of the Year – from 5 to 7 pm, in between networking with new colleagues, all can enjoy complimentary food courtesy of Chambers 19 Bistro & Bar with wine courtesy of Buckingham Valley Vineyards. Major event sponsors include Provident Bank, USI Affinity, My Benefit Advisor, NJM Insurance, and Delaware Valley University. This entire event is free and open to the public – I hope you stop by to see me!