What You Can Learn From My 2018 Journey As A Freelance Illustrator

February 3, 2019

(Written in January, Edited & Published in February 2019)

 

Happy New Year!
January marks a full year since I started working on my goals for 2018. Now, it's time to evaluate my progress before I embark on a new journey. Check out my blog for 2018 Goals to get an idea of where I was. Then have a look at my 6-month report

 

ACCOMPLISHED GOALS

 

1. 2017 Best 9 VS 2018 Best 9

In 2017, almost all of my best 9 images were fan art pieces, and several were created traditionally. Not good for business! 

 

A few important goals that I set for myself for 2018 were:

  • practice traditionally

  • create more digital portfolio pieces.

  • create little to no fan art pieces and only use fan art as a marketing tool not as the main body of my portfolio.

 

In 2018 best 9, all the pieces were digital and a couple are my own concepts. "Mediterranean Beauty" is a character I caricatured and designed based on a photo, and "Curiosity and Fear: First Day of Day Care" was a concept I created from A to Z. 

 

I created a variety of emotions and facial expressions, something that was less visible in my 2017 best 9. 

 

I also noticed I got more likes for less posts. 

 

 

Read more about my new and improved digital painting technique in this blog

 

 

2. Best 9 Inktober 2018: First Sequential Art

I did the Inktober challenge in 2017, but there was no theme. In 2018, I challenged myself to tell a story for the first time, based on the random official Inktober 2018 prompt list, and without adding any text to the illustrations! gotta raise the bar! 

I had no sequential art in my portfolio, so this seemed like a great opportunity to showcase what I learned so far, from gesture to extrapolation and from composition to storyboarding. I even designed the characters and I will start coloring these puppies as soon as I can.

 

They were posted in September, so towards the end of the year, and of course didn't get as many likes as the ones posted towards the beginning of last year.

 

9 panels from the story of 'Didi & Fluffy'
 

I spent September thumb-nailing and designing the characters. I initially created "20. Breakable" and "21. drained" separately but put them together for impact. I then turned all 30 illustrations into 1 video with sound effects for your pleasure! 

 

You can view the illustrations as a video here. Leave a comment to let me know what you think of the project.

 

Storyboard, Illustration and something similar to animatics all with 1 stone! 

I was asked to create more stories with several characters from this story. The story got some heartwarming reactions as it developed over the month of October. :D 

I'll be sharing more details about the project of 'Didi & Fluffy' in future blog posts.

 

 

3. Best 9: Traditional

Even though the plan was to focus on digital art for work, I'm still not abandoning traditional art. It's a great way to practice and have fun without having to be at my computer all 24/7! the same principles apply. 

These are value studies in watercolors based on the series Vikings. Working traditionally means you practice your art skills as well as your photography skills! Another reason why I love this photo, is that it shows how much I've grown as a photographer since 2016. Scroll through my Instagram gallery to see where I was and where I am now! No laughing xD ok you can laugh a little :P

 

ARE YOU ON INSTAGRAM? I will write a separate blog solely for Instagram tips so stay tuned! Let me know in the comments if this is something you'll be interested in reading. 

 

 

4. I Understand Myself Better

I may need to write about this separately but for now, I just want to say that at the end of 2017 I found something that made my interests, choices and hobbies all make sense! Have you heard about Third Culture Kids? Are you one? Let me know in the comments.

 

Understanding myself better, started to pay off with creating more art I love, and purposefully joining activities and groups that I find interesting. Trying to find a balance was/is tricky but I do what I can to get enough doses of everything I like/need. When you know what you want and you know you're not getting enough of it, you start to understand that artistic funks are not really so, they're burnouts and all you need to do is recharge by doing more of the stuff you love.

 

This new understanding led me to try and find a balance between work, improving old skills, learning new ones, health and hobbies. This is the simple list I created in the beginning of 2018:  

 

  • Eat healthier, start with "5 a day" 

    • some of the time! I feel healthier.

  • Level up within 6 months

    • done. There are projects that I didn't get to finish, or finished but didn't get to share so you'll be seeing some of those when I get around to them.

  • Learn z brush:

    • postponed. 

  • Update my portfolio:

    • Done and is an ongoing project

  • Update my whole website:  

    • Text: done

    • visuals. done

  • Start recording videos for Youtube (ideally once a week)

    • created more videos but mostly of process images, not regularly. Still find it heavy to record audio.

  • Write 1 blog every month for my website.

    • 11 out of 12 blogs. not bad!

  • Work on my Spanish:

    •  I am self-taught on Spanish. I continue to study and practice. Finished watching whole series and also shows. 

 

5. Clearer Artistic Styles

I updated my website so my services have 3 main digital styles:

 

a) Realistic and Painterly digital painting

 

 

 

b) Cartoony

 

 

c) A hybrid where the lines are cartoony while the rendering is painterly.

Several happy highlights of 2018:

Hard work pays off, especially when you get noticed by the right people:

  • Reached 1800+ Facebook page followers. Thank you so much :D 

  • 2500+ Instagram followers of my art. Really appreciate it <3

  • Biz.me featured my business on their website

  • I got interviewed by ICC Magazine

  • Joined an Egyptian group called 'El Lakta' or the Shot, to create more art outdoors. (more about this later)

  • Improved the quality of my photos, still working on a consistent identity. 

  • Quadrupled my fees. What I used to make in a month, became what I make in a week.

  • First sequential art/story great reactions (people hooked and loving the characters) plan to making a book out of it.

  • Created more expressive work/acting/character design

  • CRM: created a list of emails of my clients and leads to keep everything organized on my website. I'm not sending emails out yet. can't ignore the marketing side.

  • I came up with my slogan: 'Visual Storytelling Through Light and Color

  • My Schoolism subscription is up. I learned a lot, practiced some, didn't share enough with you. Some projects are still incomplete. I'll continue to study and create art using what I learned. 

  • Clearer view of what I want to create, shows in the services as opposed to the portfolio on my website

On a personal level:

  • Joined more online communities to balance work and other interests (TCK, ASMR, Art, languages, politics and history, religion)

  • Finally got hold of a very dear online friend that I lost touch with for years! :D 

  • Studying history online on Khan Academy as well as other resources. 

  • Made more Spanish-Speaking friends online and in person :D 

 

Blog for recommended online courses and books

 

 

NEW GOALS FOR 2019

  • Share more of my art practice "circuits" on the social media so you can tag along.

  • Share what I learned in my Facebook Group, You're welcome to join for free to share your art and receive feedback.  

  • Continue to practice traditionally, reserving digital art for work and commissions.

  • Finish my Inktober project as a colored story book.

  • Spend less time on marketing but make it laser sharp on what gets me the most leads to avoid stretching myself too thin.

 

My new year resolutions are less of a life changing decisions, and more of an adjustment of my previous path, which is to balance my interests and stay healthy. 

What are your plans for 2019?

 

 

Heidi Ahmad  (@heidiGFX)

Digital Illustrator & Colorist

Telling Stories Through Light & Color

Bachelor of Fine Arts

Third Culture Kid (TCK)

Freelance Writer/Translator - Design Guide Magazine

Facebook Page Instagram | Contact Me

 

 

 

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