Conversations with a fishy Alaskan artist

Well, go figure.  Thanks to some free flights, a book illustrating gig and two friends who are generous with their living space, I’ve found an excuse to park myself in Homer, Alaska.

Alaska is home to glaciers, volcanoes, wildlife of all shapes and sizes, and a handful of people, many of which have beards. One of these people happens to be Ray Troll, one of my very favorite artists, and probably the only illustrator whose work alone is capable of making me laugh aloud in public places. Coming to Alaska has given me a handy reason to resume dialogue with him, and he has been more than generous in answering my questions and offering me every tidbit of advice that a young illustrator could want. So, for the other budding illustrators out there, here’s some advice from Ray Troll himself:

Q: I’d really like to add more humor to my work, but critics (mostly my peers) weed it out of my portfolio because they don’t want it to get in the way of my “serious” science illustration. Do you have any advice on that front?

A: Just follow your muse. If you’re really interested in something keep digging, keep doing work about it, but pay attention to the bottom line when you need to. If humor also ‘floats your boat’ then have a separate section of your website dedicated to it… or consider assuming an alternate identity… a pen name for that side of your work. Just an idea.

Q: Where do I find more freelance work?

A: …keep on networking. Ask for links wherever and whenever you can… You can also collaborate with other artists, or more established ones. Do some great BIG paintings/murals in your local neighborhood for fun. Get your name known. I’d also say start following your scientific muse. If sea turtles and jellies pique your interest (or paleo stuff.. or.. Costa Rican fish, etc.) then start hanging out with the scientists that are working on them. You’ll become known in that circle of researchers and can start to get work for their papers, exhibits, etc.

Q: I’m thinking of having some postcards of my work printed.

A: My mantra is usually ‘fill up someone else’s garage and have them send you royalties’. Self publishing can be a real bitch and you quickly find yourself running out of room and storage space if you don’t publish something that sells quickly.

That said I’ve found that self publishing postcards or greeting cards of your work is a way to get your name and your images out there. Think of them as business cards that other people pay for. Not a lot of $ can be made from it BUT it’s a promo thing. You’ll also quickly find out what people respond to and like about your work.

For more about the Fin art of Ray Troll, check out his website. His current show, “Cruising the Fossil Freeway” can be found at the Academy of Natural Sciences, in Philadelphia PA, this fall.

For more about the book (Stories from Water) and my trip to Alaska, stay tuned!

11/9/2010:

UPDATE – Ray Troll came to Moss Landing!

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