Oliver Wetter’s New Client Guide To Illustration

©Leo Acadia

©Leo Acadia

by Oliver Wetter

Before billions of users occupied the Internet, illustration was a specific business. That term only rung a bell if you were an art director, editor or a publisher.

Today entrepreneurs and independent publishers can be anyone and this leads to certain problems.

If you need an artist to get something done, please read this post and pass it along.

Never Assume An Artist Reads A Book Before He Can Do A Cover Illustration

©Lorenzo Gritti

©Lorenzo Gritti

A myth in self-publishing circles:

Artists needs to read a book before they can make a cover illustration.

No, that is not necessary at all!  We never get paid to read a book.  This is a personal joy that can help, but, more than a blurb about the story is often not necessary.

A Word About Visual References

Archive Fantasio / Warren Louw / Lady Morgana

Most agencies and art directors know this and hence approach artists with references.  But yet, with the rise of self publishing, new problems have developed.  Many authors approach illustrators for book cover art, without providing the necessary visual references.

Artists are visual people and therefore need references to create images.

I for my part, am willing to go through written descriptions.  But I can not speak for all illustrators here.  Some prefer just stock photographs, others prefer a more strict guideline.

A helpful tool to gather reference images is Pinterest.  This site allows you to create visual pinboards.  It also has a great pool of visual imagery to describe your story.

No, We Are Not Able To Change The Artwork As You Change Your Mind (Without Cost)

"Crowd Funding" for CFO Magazine

©Ken Orvidas


Another common misconception seems to be changes in the artwork  while in process. I have especially experienced this with musicians. Best to communicate extra costs for changes beforehand.

There might be artists who are willing to work on major changes in the middle of a project,  but I feel a lot initial enthusiam towards a projects gets lost with too many changes. The best money can not buy intrinsic motivation.

Yes, We Need Guidelines And A Concrete Idea

Lara Odell - Writer (hand)

©Lara Odell

Sure there are artists who only do their thing. But even those are open to work with you if the budget is right. Especially from paying clients it is vital to have guidelines and concrete ideas.  Every artist likes to have a certain amount of artistic liberty.  You approach an artist mainly because of a certain type style.  That choice is part of the artistic liberty.

A concrete explanation of your idea is important for two reasons:

  • It reflects your credibility
  • It shows that you are not going to change your mind too soon.

It is helpful for both sides of the table to have this conversation upfront.

If You Don´t Know Exactly What You Want

Take the necessary time to think your goals through.

Mind mapping is helpful to get this in place.

Often it is possible to arrange a development phase for your project.  Regardless of the agency or freelancer, this can be an expensive adventure.

In most agencies or studios, the hourly rates for conception and development are high. Compared to the regular cost of an illustration, it can be twice as much.

Don´t Hold Back With Your Need For Regular Art Upfront

Speak with the artist.  It might be possible to get a discount on commissions when clients commit to creating a series.  Building a style in a series is easier when this point is clear upfront.

Convenient Communication

©Daniel Bejar

©Daniel Bejar


A convenient way to approach an artist is the way you would like to start a conversation.

I had people asking me connect through Whatsapp or a Skype chat.  To be honest, that is not the best way for me, however, it might be for you.  We are talking about personal style.  It definitely says something about the value the work has for the proposing client.

When it comes to communication, like it or not, there is no way around email.

Email is a to-do list.  It helps to reread an email conversation to recall the details.  Many things that can be overlooked in the sketch phase become important later on.

Skype or phone-calls fall short in that regard as well. It is nice for a personal chat,  get to know each other better.  The real important information gets lost between the lines, and sometimes hard to remember later on.  This can lead to unnecessary questions during the process.

Do We Need A Contract?

Yes we do.  At least a simple agreement. It is the only respectful way of saying that you have read and understood all of the above and agree with it. That is what an agreement does – nothing more and nothing less.  If you want to skip that important step, there is no reason for me to value your project.

No We Can Not Do A Sketch Or A Sample For Free

In a professional environment we would not need to talk about work for free.

Even professionals can be black sheep.  If they approach an artist asking for a sample – it is a generally scam.

The best intentions won’t help an artist to create a Facebook banner (for example) for free. The artist could certainly do that and many do, especially for friends. However, in the long run it does not help either party.   The vicious cycle of doing free sketches can end up disastrously. Not asking for payment on work may lead to the worst case scenario, not being able to make a living and  giving up on a possible fruitful career in the arts.

Contributing illustrators: Oliver Wetter, Leo Acadia, Lorenzo Gritti, Ken Orvidas, Lara Odell, and Daniel Bejar.

Posted in Art, Design, Illustrations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shooting Out West :: George Kamper’s Personal Project

©George Kamper

©George Kamper

by George Kamper

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York and working in the heart of New York City at the age of 14, left me with a comfort zone being around people, the streets of NY and the intense pace of life in the city. I began my career working for my Mom at Nathan’s Famous on 43rd and Broadway in New York City. Traveling into the city after school and on weekends by bus and subway and walking up and down 42nd street to get to the bus terminal (prior to 42nd St. being sanitized) was eye-opening for a 14-year-old.  I’ve always loved observing and there was no better place to watch and document the world go by than New York City. I remember “borrowing” with my Dad’s Argus camera and returning it to its place before he’d get home.

©George Kamper

©George Kamper

I’ve had a fascination with the West for years and have been seeking and creating opportunities to create personal work in that environment.

The West inspires me. I’ve lived in cities my entire life, so it’s a huge visual treat to be in such beautiful open territory. I suppose it’s a combination of the color palette, the light and the vast openness. I admire the life of cowboys and the connection they have with their horses. It’s kind of like the connection I have with my Harley on a road trip.

Shooting this type of personal project allows me to capture an inspired authenticity in the moment, I don’t project myself into the scene or direct. It’s inspiring to forget about everything else and become the lens for a few moments.

©George Kamper

©George Kamper

The Tanque Verde Ranch Personal Project came together when I found out  that EQ Magazine, where I am the photography director, had been invited to come out to Arizona to attend  a press junket for a  couple  of days along with several other editors. I reached out to our Editor and requested to go along for the ride and they accepted. I was fortunate to have most of my expenses covered by the gracious folks at Tanque Verde, and I picked up my incidental travel and meal expenses.

Since I now had a dual role of producing images for the magazine as well as for myself, I decided to shoot my personal work early in the mornings before the group gathered for their first scheduled event.

©George Kamper

©George Kamper

I approach my personal work and client work a little differently in that I take the “fly on the wall” approach to personal work and impose myself very little, versus directing and controlling my commercial work to guarantee the client comes away with what they need. Both approaches have treated me well, and I’m hoping more clients can appreciate the “Let’s get out there and see what transpires” approach.

©George Kamper

©George Kamper

I post most of personal projects on Facebook, Instagram, Behance, Workbook, Tumblr, Altpick.com etc..  Every once in a while I’ll post a commercial gig. I also submit my work to various blogs.  I’ve been fortunate that clients appreciate my personal work and refer to it when discussing an assignment.

The Tanque Verde shoot took on it’s own life at EQ, as the editor and publisher decided to run a featured multi page gallery of my personal images in the magazine and the EQ Website. They also had a separate story that included images I shot for the editorial.

Tanque Verde Gallery (Assignment Images)

©George Kamper

©George Kamper

See more of George Kamper’s work on his website and Altpick.com page.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Photographer Zave Smith Has The Cure

©Zave Smith

©Zave Smith

by Zave Smith

I love making people smile.  My photographs have a strong element of energy and fun to them. This year, my New Year’s resolution was not to loose weight but to return to direct mail.  I remember walking into Art Producer’s offices and seeing postcards and posters plastering the walls and overflowing from the cabinets onto the floors.  Today, I see a lot of empty space on those walls. Why should I not help fill those walls with some fun and beauty?

©Zave Smith

©Zave Smith

I wanted to create a direct mail promotion that would enhance my photographic brand of images that are full of fun, energy and life.  I also wanted to create a mailer that would share my potential client’s office space for a while and maybe bring a smile into their busy days.

4-The Cure

©Zave Smith

“The Cure” is a beautiful  8oz blue glass bottle with a silver cap that contains miniature M&Ms. These bottles are wrapped in a silver label that reads, “The Cure: To cure creative block take two and call, Zave”.  This bottle sits on top of a tri-fold brochure of my images.  The bottle and brochure are then nested in white crinkle paper and packaged in an attractive box with “The Cure” stamped on it.

©Zave Smith

©Zave Smith

I also created a social media component by taking photographs of the “Cure” bottle in various environs like Joshua Tree National Park and in the casinos of Atlantic City. I then posted one of these photos each week during our mailing cycle on social media.  I mailed 40 boxes each week over five weeks. Each week’s recipients received an email stating that, “several lucky people will find “The Cure” in their mailbox this week.  Might one of them be you”?

©Zave Smith

©Zave Smith

It is hard to know the impact of a promotion this soon.  We have received many “Thank You” emails and suddenly people are answering the phone when we call.

©Zave Smith

©Zave Smith

We artists get hired for our vision.  Vision alone in today’s crowded market will not grow business if potential clients are not aware of one’s work or struggle to remember who created that wonderful photo they recently saw.  We hope that our “Cure” helps Art Producers remember our name and our images.  We hope our “Cure” will bring a smile to our brand.

©Zave Smith

©Zave Smith

To see more of Zave Smith’s work go to his website and Altpick.com page.

Posted in Branding, Design, Photography | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Neale Osborne’s ‘The Castle of Desires’

©Neale Osborne

©Neale Osborne

In a storm-swept tavern in a village of yore, Cornelius, the secretive sorcerer’s apprentice, gives the unsuspecting Professor Gast a key – one with the power to unlock the doors of the magical Castle of Desires. Within its chambers are all that any man could wish for: wealth, leisure, servants, lovers – and, if he so desires, he may even summon up a military empire …

On the eve of Hallowe’en, 1937, Maximilian Richter arrives at the cartoon studios of Pineville, an isolated gated community in the sun-kissed Californian hills. As a bit-part actor in early talkies – as gangster, tough guy, hired muscle, hoodlum – every scene Max had been in had simmered with sin. And now, within the walls of Pineville, Max is free to cheat and sweet-talk his way into the affections of the unsuspecting community, stirring up a secret storm of seduction, vice and violence.

©Neale Osborne

©Neale Osborne

Neale Osborne’s allegorical novel, a story-mirrored-within-a story, is a unique period piece set on the edge of historical Hollywood … and deep in the chambers of a mythical fortress.
The tale can also be seen as a homage to the pioneering greats of film animation: Georges Méliès, Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen & Ladislav Starewicz…and even features a recreation of the Carthay Circle Theatre premiere of Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’

‘The Castle of Desires’ is out now in paperback, with four signed copies available in a Goodreads giveaway (for readers in the USA, Canada, and UK, until the 5th of April.)

To see more of Neale’s illustration work go to his website and Altpick.com page.


Posted in Design, Illustrations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ryan Ketterman’s VAC CON Poster Series Tells Their Story

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

Photographer Ryan Ketterman’s recent assignment was to highlight the VAC CON story of “Employee Owned”.  The story told through photography was mobilized into an engaging poster series to celebrate and reward VAC CON’s incredible employees.

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

©Ryan Ketterman

Client: Vac•con

Agency: Anton West Advertising http://antonwest.com/

Executive Creative Director: Jefferson Rall

Senior Art Director: Andy Gosendi

Art Director: Colin Barnes

To see more of Ryan Ketterman’s work go to his website and Altpick page.

Posted in Altpick, Branding, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cade Martin Photographs Giving NBA Stars

©Cade Martin

Photographer, Cade Martin, recently attended the “Behind the Bench” (the NBA Wives Association) black tie event “Touching A Life Gala” to benefit the American Cancer Society.  Cade photographed several of the celebrities in attendance to create a portrait of the NBA All Star Weekend ambience, which was used in a Huffington Post piece that week in February.

“Carlos Boozer (above image) is a Duke Graduate, Olympic Gold Medalist, and Two-time NBA All Star. He was also one of the nicest folks at the event that night”, says Martin.

It was an eclectic group of stars, including NBA players, athletes from other sports, and a dash of Hollywood, too. They all gathered for the greater good, focused on giving back to society, particularly children who are suffering. Dr. Jackqueline Mclean-Marks won an award for fighting childhood leukemia and Amber and MLB Star C.C. Sabathia (images below) won an award for their efforts benefitting underprivileged children.

©Cade Martin

CC Sabatnia

NBA Big Man Marcus Camby made his career with New York Knicks, and then the Denver Nuggets. He was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He was also the NCAA College Player of the Year in 1996 with UMass.

Marcus CambyKevin Willis is a retired NBA player known for playing with the Atlanta Hawks. He is a 7-foot power forward/center. Willis ended his playing career after the 2007 season, returning to his clothing business, Willis & Walker.

Kevin WillisA charitable citizen of Baltimore, Rock Blackwell is the WBU’s Light Heavyweight champion.

Rock BlackwellShannon Lanier is the cohost of Arise 360, delivering the newest & hottest stories in American entertainment & culture.

Shannon LanierBritish journalist Sharon Carpenter is a reporter and host for REVOLT TV, an innovative new cable network by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs.

Sharon Carpenter

Sharon Carpenter Former New York Jet and current Arizona Cardinal Antonio Cromartie is credited with making the longest play in NFL history, returning a missed Ryan Longwell field goal 109 yards for a touchdown.

Antonio Cromartie

To see more of Cade Martin’s work, go to his website and Altpick page.

Posted in Altpick, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jon Blacker Hits the Road with Video

As Photographer Jon Blacker branches out into video, Altpick Connects is there to ask some pertinent questions about his next career move.

Altpick Connects: As a photographer what is your interest in pursuing video?

Jon Blacker: Having been a photographer now for well over 20 years, shooting video opens up an entire new client market to and adds an entirely new dimension to my story telling both for the client and for me.  It’s an incredibly refreshing new tool for me and I’m very much enjoying the process, both technically and aesthetically.  Varying statistics indicate that there’s a significant tipping point right now in media where, particularly online, viewers want to see video.  From large corporations all the way down to one-man shops, businesses are seeing this trend and are embracing this method of telling their stories be that on their web sites or their social media streams and that trend in turn presents a great opportunity for visual storytellers.

AC: Were there any stumbling blocks in the transition from photography to shooting a documentary?

JB: The single biggest stumbling block relative to this documentary project in particular, is securing funding.  With editorial or corporate work, either still or video, the funding is provided by the client; it’s commerce.  Making a documentary film is an entirely different ballgame and through a number of sources including friends and a number of businesses, getting the money to be able to take this 12-week road trip and shoot this film has been extremely challenging.  I have set up an Indiegogo campaign (http://bitly.com/15V9DHQ) that’s now down to it’s last few days (ends March 4) and has not done nearly as well as hoped despite a significant social media presence.  The three-month autism awareness tour leaves on March 21, so it’s really coming down to the wire.

AC: There is a great public interest in craftsman and the artisan creativity.  What is the topic of your first story?

JB: I was contacted by a luthier who builds incredible custom acoustic guitars (he’s built for the likes of Sammy Hagar, Alex Lifeson and Zakk Wylde among others) and also offers hands on courses in guitar building.  He was looking to have a video created that showed what goes into building one of his guitars, so over the course of three shooting sessions, we followed the entire process from thickness sanding the wood for the top of the guitar body, to the completed instrument being placed into its case.  It was a great project to shoot and really shows the incredible artistry and craftsmanship that go into his work.

AC: It seems that your focus is not only the human-interest factor, but also bringing awareness to the mainstream.  What was your interest and driving force on the autism documentary?

JB: I have an uncle who is mentally challenged.  With his parents having passed over 15 years ago now and with his sister (my mother) having passed in 2011, I am in contact with him every week.  He lives in a nursing home in the city where he grew up and has lived since he was born (about 3 1/2 hours north of Toronto) and is doing really well.  Having been around him my entire life, I’ve seen the stigma and misconception attached to what people think being mentally challenged is; there is a huge knee-jerk tendency to allow the condition to define the person, which quite gets my back up.  I know for example that my uncle loves sports, particularly hockey and is an encyclopedia of facts and statistics.  He’s not retarded, he is James.  Similarly, when I learned of 15-year-old Austin’s story, I felt it a great opportunity to explore that concept further.  Austin is an absolute marvel on the go-kart track, having been racing for just 8 seasons; he is already a three-time champ.  He faces significant challenges at school and has fine motor control concerns (he can’t tie his shoes, or write is the name for example) but when he’s behind the wheel of his kart, he’s like any other 15-year-old.  In his own words, he’s said that what he loves most about racing is that it makes him feel free.  In addition to the human interest component and telling Austin’s story, one of my main goals in making this film is to show what autism is, but perhaps more importantly, to show what autism is not.

To see more of Jon’s work go to his website and Altpick page.

Posted in Altpick, Art, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Nose Studio Honors Chris Buzelli

©Red Nose Studio

©Red Nose Studio

I was recently asked by Chris Buzelli to create his portrait for the Society of Illustrators 57th annual. As many of you know, he just wrapped up his year as the annual chairman.

I will be the first to admit that I am not a portrait illustrator, but being that Chris and I go back many years I felt that I couldn’t say no.

His paintings are synonymous with warm, glowing light, his long time role as a teacher at RISD shows that he is willing to share his light with others and the bug wings were just too cool to not include.


©Red Nose Studio



©Red Nose Studio


–Chris Sickles | Red Nose Studio

Red Nose Studio Website | Magnet RepsAltpick page | Red Nose Studio Blog

Posted in Art, Design, Illustrations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Week’s Featured Artists: Robert Wilson, Dermot Flynn, Michael Wylot and Andy Mahr

©Robert Wilson

©Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson has been commissioned for editorial and advertising projects by clientsbased throughout Europe and the U.S. and undertakes commissions for many of the top advertising agencies. Of note are his many sports and portrait campaigns for clients that include Peroni, Adidas, Nike, Asics, O2, BMW, Guiness, Credit Suisse, Gillette, HSBC, Camel Active, The U.S. Marines, Anglo American Mining, Siemens and The Old Vic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Born in Ireland, Dermot Flynn studied at the NCAD, Dublin and the University of Brighton, and has been working as an illustrator in London since 2003.  He has worked for a variety of clients in Europe, Japan and the United States including Conde Nast, Pentagram, Littlebrown, Vodafone, Penguin, The Guardian, The Irish Times, Canongate, Winkreative, Vodafone, Target, Custo Barcelona, Mothercare, Adidas, GQ, TimeOut, Dentsu Japan, Orange, EMI, StudioAKA and Mother.

©Dermot Flynn

©Dermot Flynn

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Michael Wylot Photography is a Philadelphia based photographer who specializes in Fashion & Beauty, Fine Art Figure, Music, Editorial, Event, Landscape and Product Still Life.  his work can be viewed in books, magazines, catalogs, billboards and ads all over the world.

©Michael Wylot

©Michael Wylot

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Andy Mahr was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and received his BFA in Graphic Design from Colorado State University in 1994.  Andy then attended The Portfolio Center and received a degree in Advertising Art Direction and worked as an art director and creative director for the next 13 years.  He made the full transition from art direction to photography 8 years ago and has never looked back.  He  developed his own unique and distinctive style, look and aesthetic by paying attention not only to the way things look and sound, but also the theories and concepts that surround our lives, both from artistic and business standpoints.

©Andy Mahr

©Andy Mahr

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


To see more work of the artists’ work go to Altpick.com.


Posted in Altpick, Design, Illustrations, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Year Ahead with Artist Gayle Kabaker and Astrologer Susan Miller


When Susan Miller contacted  Gayle Kabaker last year asking to illustrate her 2015 calendar, Gayle quickly realized that this was a great honor. “I sent her many of my favorite illustrations to choose from and we narrowed it down to what became a selection of some of my absolute favorites,” said Kabaker.  Gayle was going to add or change the color on a few and add edges on some to make them work for the horizontal format.   But Susan was adamant that Gayle never compromise her art with cropping or color changes.  What an unusual treat as an illustrator who is used to compromises being part of the terrain! Gayle’s ‘old school’ style, is a mixture of acryla gouache and water-color that she scans and creates collages in Photoshop.  


Internationally known author, columnist, TV personality and founder of the website Astrology Zone, Susan Miller,  finds Gayle Kabaker an enormously talented fine art painter and illustrator.  “I fell in love with her sophisticated portfolio at first glance, and I was not surprised to hear that Gayle had been chosen to do work for The New Yorker magazine.”


Susan continues to say, “My annual calendars, this year called The Year Ahead 2015, are eagerly awaited by style makers in the publishing, advertising and consumer market, so my choice of artist is very important.  The artist’s work would be found in literally hundreds of offices in the US and overseas, as we do a thorough press mailing. (My astrological calendar is unusual in that I write advice on the most important days of the year so that it’s easy to see the best days for initiations.)”


“Gayle and I collaborated so well with that the project was a joy from start to finish. I had ideas, and so did Gayle, and my creative director, Jackie Meyer, former Creative Director of Warner Books, loved the flow of the work. It was important to me to link the paintings to the mood of the seasons, and they did, quite beautifully. My 2015 calendars have shipped and are continuing to sell, and the response from readers on social media is highly enthusiastic. This project was a home run from the very beginning!”



az2015coverbuttonstring10Virgo was a painting that Gayle created for a gallery show, which later served as the base painting for her ‘June Brides’ New Yorker cover.

az2015coverbuttonstring12The Scorpio image was considered as a fall fashion New Yorker cover.

Leo was Susan Miller’s first consideration for the cover of the calendar.

Gayle created the Sagittarius art specially for the calendar.

In the end, Susan felt the Libra art was best for the cover. “I  am so happy with how this calendar turned out!”, says Kabaker.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prints are available of all the art – go to gkabaker.com to reach Gayle’s store.

To purchase the calendar go to:  https://www.americadirectbook.com/The_Year_Ahead_2015_Calendar

To see more of Gayle Kabaker’s work go to her website and Altpick page.

To go to Astrology Zone, click here.

Posted in Altpick, Art, Design, Illustrations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment