This one is for agents, travel magazines, brands and tourist boards

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

I’ve received my own copies of the Gudrun Sjödén sketch diary, and they’re lovely. I hope customers have enjoyed them too.

Myfanwy Tristram: printed Stockholm diaires for Gudrun Sjoden

I really enjoy creating this type of work, so I’m going to actively seek more of it. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be approaching agents, brands and tourist boards with this message:

I can create a sketch diary for you.

What’s more, as an introductory offer, if you are the first tourist board to approach me, I will do it in return for my travel expenses and accommodation.

Get in touch and we can discuss the fine details. Meanwhile, here are some examples of my previous work (click to see them bigger):

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary: see the whole diary here.

 

p14 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Madrid sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Stockholm Diary p4 Myfanwy Tristram

Stockholm sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Frome sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Frome sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Bristol and Frome sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

p15completefor web

Santiago sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Bath diary page 3

Bath sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Not exactly what you’re looking for? Don’t worry, I can adapt to your needs — let’s talk.

Things you should know about me

  •  I’m a vegetarian, I don’t drive, and I tend towards the eco side of things. So I’m probably not a good fit for an off-the-beaten-track villa, a Mongolian raw meat restaurant, or that “Jeremy Clarkson meets climate change deniers” event you had planned (although, now you mention it, that does sound like the basis for rather a good comic strip…).
  • On the other hand, if you want to promote your craft retreats, veggie festivals, train rides across Europe, walkable city, or cycling tours, I am all over that.
  • But I will consider anything, so don’t be afraid to ask!
  • You’ll get the ‘real me’: that’s what makes my sketch diaries unique, and what (according to their comments) readers find most compelling. I record the ups and downs of any trip, but of course, I’ll never do so to the detriment of your brand. Unless I find out you are actually sacrificing baby chinchillas on altars made in a sweatshop. Then I’ll sever our agreement and sell my sketch diary to the press instead.
  • I have a husband and an 11 year old kid. If they’re also included in the trip, you’ll get some child-focused content too. And maybe some hilarious marital spats.
  • My main interests are drawing (well duh), design, visiting museums and galleries, shopping (especially at second hand shops and markets), running, cycling, and seeking out the things that make places a bit different from home.
  • Brands I really like include: Marimekko, Seasalt, Braintree, Fitbit, Asics, Nike, Lush, Bravissimo, Doc Martens, Birkenstocks and, obviously, Gudrun Sjödén.
  • I’m pretty good at drawing fashion, people, shopping and buildings. I haven’t drawn, but would certainly like to tackle: factories, industry, ships, manufacturing processes.
  • I’m based in Brighton, UK, but am prepared to travel almost anywhere by public transport. Brighton is close to Gatwick Airport for international travel, and most parts of the U.K. can be easily reached by train.
  • I’m especially interested in Scandi countries, the Scottish Isles, Iceland and Japan. But I am up for visiting pretty much anywhere.
  • Typically, I work on my return, from photographs I take during my trip. While a 2 or 4-pager can be turned around in a couple of weeks, longer sketch diaries may be completed up to 6 weeks after my return (depending on its length and complexity, and my other commitments).
  • Images will be delivered as high resolution jpegs for you to use as you wish – printing and distribution, or adding to your website will be your responsibility.
  • I would also love to work on longer projects. Artists like Wendy Macnaughton, Julia Rothman and my all-time favourite Miroslav Sasek give me hope that there’s a market for this kind of book.

 

Graphic Brighton: Drawing in the Margins

On Friday night and all of Saturday, I was at Graphic Brighton, a conference about graphic novels and comics creation.

The overarching theme of the conference was “Drawing in the Margins”, and it brought together practitioners who represent some form of minority or marginalised group.

Brighton living up to its name

“I’m going out to a discussion on gay manga” may be the kind of archetypical Brighton sentence that makes most of the country mock us mercilessly, but it was very interesting, and I say that as someone with very little knowledge of the form.

mangapanel2sfwNote: I think I got Inko and Chie mixed up in this picture – apologies

There was quite a bit of talk about Yaoi, comics about gay men, usually drawn by women and aimed at a female readership.

One apparent contradiction I found very interesting: it was said that these comics grew from the longstanding cultural repression of women in Japan, and represent women taking control of their own fantasies.

I asked whether women who drew these comics would be frowned upon, but I was assured that that’s not the case; on the contrary, they are celebrated. The comics are available everywhere, even in corner shops.

And yet, I was told, although ‘everyone reads them, no-one talks about it’. I think there’s something cultural there that I haven’t entirely understood.

Difficult lives make good comics

After the panel, there were five-minute talks by 14 different cartoonists. These also acted as a series of enticing previews of comics I’d like to read (I’ve pinned many of the comics mentioned throughout the event on Pinterest, if you’re interested in doing the same).

5mintalkssfw

Subjects here included working with people with learning difficulties (Brighton’s own Joe Decie); having a child with Down Syndrome (Henny Beaumont, of whom more later); being brought up by a single mum (Wallis Eates); working with the elderly as a doctor (Ian Williams), and motherhood and birthing (kudos to Kate Evans for pointing out that this is not really a minority pursuit, although one can certainly see the case for calling aspects of motherhood marginalised).

fivemintalks2sfw

There was only one downside to listening to people talk about all these fascinating, human-interest topics for their work, and that was being left feeling that my own life isn’t troubled enough to base a graphic novel on!

karrieFreesmansfw

Hustling

The next morning, I met up with my friend (and super-talented illustrator herself) Zara for the luxury of another full day of comics chat.

This began with Karrie Fransman in conversation with Tim Pilcher. Most relevant to the topic was Karrie’s cartoon about a refugee, Over Under Sideways Down, but I also really want to read her The House That Groaned and Death of the Artist now.

I did find Fransman’s approach to getting work interesting: it could basically be summed up the single word, “hustle”. She describes sending her cartoons (which she says, in retrospect, were just scrawls in biro) to every national newspaper in the country, then following up with an email a week later. This bagged her a strip in the Guardian.

She also tried pitching for comic versions of newspaper standbys such as book reviews and articles, but found that papers didn’t want to pay any more than they would a written-word journalist, so that was a non-goer in the end. Pilcher also pointed out that these days, we’re used to a much quicker turnaround on a news story than an artist can provide.

Cartoons by the elderly, about the elderly, and for everyone

Next up was a sessions about the representation of old age in comics, with Corinne Pearlman (a cartoonist herself, and also Creative Director at Myriad Editions), Julian Hanshaw (The Art of Pho, mentioned in a previous blog entry) and Muna Al Jawad, who works as a Consultant in Elderly Medicine (the new word for Geriatrics?) and uses comics to educate both colleagues and the wider world about associated issues.

Books I’d like to check out following Corinne’s talk include Paco Roca’s Wrinkles and Roz Chast’s best-seller Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

“Ageing is the new black”, said Corinne, and made the point that a generation of comics artists is entering old age, having become used to chronicling every other stage of life. Meanwhile, Hanshaw pointed out that the subject need not have a limited audience: we middle-aged readers are happy to read comics from younger makers, and there’s no reason that that shouldn’t go both ways.

The Yes! project

yes projectsfw

After lunch, Laura Malacart and Dan Locke talked about a project they’d collaborated on. As you can see from the image above, I found Malacart’s look (and especially her hair) really beguiling to draw, but I just could not quite get it down on paper!

Malacart was commissioned to make a film about a real-life case of a non-verbal person with autism who was found to be able to vocalise through singing.

After filming the footage, she decided that actually, film wasn’t the right format. That’s when she found Locke and they worked together, instead, on a graphic novel, which can be read online at the Yes! project website.

 Challenging the motherhood narrative

motherhood panelsfw

In the final presentation of the day, three women came together to talk about representing motherhood in comics.

Henny Beaumont will shortly have a book out which tells her story of having a child with Down Syndrome. From the excerpts she read and showed in this session and on Friday night, it looks very funny as well as beautifully-rendered.

Beaumont used the Brushes app on her iPad to draw much of the book. Previously, she has worked as a portrait artist, and this showed. There were times when she was standing in front of one of her pictures of herself on the screen, and the posture, face and expression were identical.

This book, like the one about autism, has an interesting side-purpose in that it will inform medical practitioners about how better to approach such scenarios.

Evans (who, I ought to mention, I know from way back when, when we both lived in a Brighton housing co-operative) and Cassavetti both had a similar point to make, really, and that is that motherhood/parenthood can be a massive shock, a time of extreme worry, and an opportunity for everyone to prescribe the One True Way of birthing a baby, keeping them safe, and getting them to sleep through the night.

Given the harsh realities of everything from morning sickness to poopy nappies, it does seem extraordinary, they pointed out, that mainstream publishers still insist on selling us the image of motherhood as a constant source of delight. I have to say, if I’d read Bump instead of Gina Ford, Jools Oliver et al, I might have side-stepped a lot of misery and self-flagellation about the fact that my daughter barely went to sleep for about three years after she was born.

The day ended with a wrapping-up session (plus the question of what topic people might like next year – ‘war’ being mooted), and then I made Kate and Zara come home with me to eat cake and meet the kitten. These being modern times, I knew that the pair of them had hit it off when they followed one another on Twitter.

I could easily have sat through another full day of talks, but it’s probably a good thing that the event ended where it did, as this blog post is already probably longer than anyone will read all the way through.

An evening in Lewes

 

Lewes Children's Book Group by Myfanwy Tristram

[Click to see bigger]

An evening featuring five children’s book illustrators and writers in conversation lured me onto a train to our neighbouring town on a dark and cold evening last week.

I was already aware of Miriam Moss and Leigh Hodgkinson: the former has written some excellent children’s picturebooks, including Scritch Scratch, a book about headlice (illustrated by the fab Delphine Durand) while the latter has an enviable and eclectic track record that includes working on Tiger Aspect’s TV adaptation of Charlie and Lola, as well as writing and illustrating her own books. She also does laser cut pictures, one of which is on the wall right in front of me as I type.

The others were new to me: writers Julia Lee, Jon Walter, and Dawn Casey. Between them they spanned writing for a wide age range, from toddler picturebooks to almost young adult fiction.

No doubt many were there to gather pearls of wisdom about breaking into children’s books themselves. I did not keep comprehensive notes of everything said, but here are a couple of points that stood out for me:

Writing for children means being true to yourself. It’s not ‘pretending’ to be a child. We were all children once; some of us still are, to a greater or lesser extent; you need to find that part of yourself.

Write something that makes you feel excited and alive. But then the craft comes in containing that passion and pulling it into a coherent form that works as a book.

There were also some amusing differences in approach: while for a couple of the writers, characters’ names were the very first thing to emerge, with stories unfolding from there, Jon Walter said that he used his writers’ software to generate names, has been known to change them for the final draft, and would be hard pressed to tell you the surname of some of his central protagonists.

Casey, who has worked in a publishing house, gave a rather depressing view of the slush pile: ploughed through only by interns, and unlikely to yield the next big thing. Her advice was that you can get the competitive advantage by having won a competition or been previously published in some form or other: that way, you’ll be on the commissioning editor’s (smaller) pile rather than on the gargantuan slush mountain.

As always with these evenings, you felt there was good advice, but that they could really only explore the tip of the iceberg within the short time allowed. All the same, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Lewes Children’s Book Group: it was a really interesting evening.

 

What happens when your New Year’s resolution is “Draw More”?

Santiago sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

My new year’s resolution for 2014 was a fairly complex one, but in essence it boiled down to two words:

draw more.

…and it has felt like I’ve drawn a lot this year. Not as much as someone who doesn’t have a day-job and a child, of course, but a steady stream of stuff nonetheless.

Some of it I was pleased with. Some of it I was not – and I’ve learned to call that stuff part of the learning process, rather than a failure.

January

It was my husband’s birthday and I made him this card:

Dude birthday by Myfanwy Tristram

February

February first is Hourly Comics Day! I entered into the spirit of things, and tried not to care about putting out unpolished work – after all, that’s what it’s all about.

MyfanwyTristram_Hour3_2014

I’m quite looking forward to the next one already – and let’s face it, February is not usually a month to look forward to.

March

I made another collage in my series of birds’ eye views, this time featuring lots of very small roofs made of stamps:

Birds island by Myfanwy Tristram

April

In April, I really enjoyed doing some life drawing.

Life drawing by Myfanwy TristramThis was also the month that we went to Bath for our family holiday, and I made a holiday sketch diary. Of course, sketch diaries are another form where, if you share them, you have to put out the pages you’re pleased with as well as the ones that didn’t work out quite so well.

Tree by Myfanwy Tristram

May

Straight after we got back from Bath, work sent me to Santiago in Chile! I was working, so keeping up a sketch diary was a bit more of a challenge, and I finished a good bit of it after I got home.

Myfanwy Tristram Santiago sketch diary

July

It looks like I had a month off from drawing in June! In fact, I was starting work on my 4-page graphic short story for the Cape/Comica/Observer competition: you have to start early if your time is limited.

In July, though, I started a series of pictures of the plants that grow alongside Brighton beach, where I go running and also spend a lot of time with my daughter:

Seaplants by Myfanwy Tristram

There are more plant drawings here and here.

August

Those sunny days seem far away now – hard to believe I was sitting drawing on the Level (our local playground) while my daughter mucked about in the fountains.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

The weather turned, naturally, right before our week in Jersey – fortunately there was plenty to do there anyway. Not least,  drawing another sketch diary:

Toop and the telescope by Myfanwy Tristram

September

I shared my graphic short story competition entry:

Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_page3I’d entered it, all the while knowing it wasn’t quite the right thing to get placed – not polished enough (but I was very pleased, later on, to discover that my friend Beth had been awarded runner-up prize).

October

Never mind, I waded straight into another comic strip, this time based on recent experiences with a community archaeological dig:

GreenLadyHill_by Myfanwy Tristram – and, at very short notice indeed, I threw together a collage for the Association of Illustrators competition:

Fly Across London by Myfanwy TristramThat was also the month I created the Hashtag Underdog strip. October must have been the peak of my productivity! I should scrutinise what the prevailing conditions were, and try to bottle them.

Underdog by Myfanwy TristramNovember

I didn’t do Clovember but I did paint my daughter in her lovely bright clothes – right at the prescient moment, it turns out, as she’s recently announced a desire to wear only black:

Tabs watercolour by Myfanwy Tristram

I also made a short comic strip about working from home:

Working from Home by Myfanwy TristramDecember

Close friends and family had one of my linocuts bestowed upon them:

IMG_0757

– and I moaned a bit about how long they had taken to make. I must say though, that everyone has been very nice about them, which is what every homemade card creator really wants – so it was all worth it. :D

Clearly, the effort of all that lino-printing has taken it out of me because, other than a couple of sketches of my daughter and husband, I have not drawn since.

Next year

I’m hoping that a similar resolution for 2015 will result in just as much artwork – but I need to do some careful thinking as well, about just what I want out of all this endeavour.

This year brought a couple of commissions. I find these quite stressful, and it made me wonder whether to refuse all commissions from now on (on the other hand, that means relying only on my own inspirations to drive me forward, a situation which, of course, many artists would be envious of, but which may well narrow my horizons).

This was also the first year that I’ve sold my prints online, as well as in Brighton’s Open Houses. While this was not stressful, it did bring home to me how narrow the margins are – at the scale I was operating, and with the time I have to dedicate, you can’t earn much. It can only really be done as an exercise in spreading your name about a bit.

And as for that – spreading my name about – well, I haven’t done as much as I hoped. Reader numbers on this blog are pretty low (though boosted greatly every time someone tweets or shares the link on Pinterest or Facebook, so thank you very much to everyone who did that).

In 2015, I think I will have an additional resolution to get some strips published in existing comics: that means that someone else is doing the distribution and the marketing, and probably doing so far better than I would have time to do myself.

Sounds like a plan…

Everything I know about running an online shop, or, what size envelopes fit Moo cards

Like any right-thinking business person, I’m going to head up this post by telling you that I have opened an online shop, and right now you can buy my designs on lovely, high quality greetings cards and postcards.

Whoop whoop, release the balloons, throw the ticker tape, dance like nobody’s watching, etc.

Here it is (or you can just use the ‘shop’ link in the menu at the top of my site).

Myfanwy Tristram shop

But *unlike* a proper business person, I’m also going to talk a little bit about the learning process I went through in setting up this shop, in case it’s interesting or useful for others.

Getting cards printed

It almost feels like stating the obvious to say that I got my cards printed at Moo.com. Is there anyone left on the planet who doesn’t know that they make it really easy to upload your images, and they produce lovely high-quality stock?

Moo have got it right, from the online interface, which is both fun and easy to use, to their email communications, from their referral discount system, to – most importantly – the products themselves. It’s the sort of thing that you think must have been effortless, until you explore other options, and you see how much harder other printers’ websites make it.

There’s one thing that makes Moo extra suitable for illustrators’ needs, and that is that you can order a batch of cards at a set price, and include as many designs as you like. So, for example, you might order 50 cards, and include 10 designs – you’ll get 5 of each. You can even get 50 different designs printed, and just get one of each.

I guess it’s their online automated interface that allows them to do this; I can’t imagine strolling into my local print shop with 50 images on a USB stick and asking them to print one of each. With Moo, you are actually doing much of the hard work yourself, uploading your images and making sure they fit the template.

Only one thing concerns me about Moo, and that is my preference for small, local suppliers. Moo certainly seem like the good guys – or should I say, their copywriter is as adept at creating that impression as their developers clearly are at automating the order process – but nothing beats putting your money into the local economy.

Envelopes and cellophane

Moo greetings cards come with evelopes, but they don’t come with the cellophane sleeves you might expect to cover them in for sales (first lesson for me – they tend to be called ‘cellos’ and they come in a bewildering number of different sizes and thicknesses).

I wanted cellophane wrappers, and I wanted nice paper bags for my postcards. Also, I needed to find large enough envelopes to send them out to customers in – those needed to be slightly larger than the cards themselves, of course, especially when someone might be ordering five or six.

I was surprised to discover that Moo’s card sizes don’t seem to be a standard, at least here in the UK. Their greetings cards are 4 by 6″ and while you can find cellophane sleeves that size, you have to look quite hard. Lots of shops just don’t stock that size at all. Then in some shops, 4″ by 6″ is called C5, while in others that seems to be a completely different size. So check your dimensions!

You know, if I sold cello bags, I’d definitely stick up a big page saying ‘these fit Moo cards’ because presumably everyone in my situation would just breathe a sigh of relief and buy them.

I eventually bought from Crafts In Mind: I hadn’t heard of them before but they were fine.

For envelopes, I went through a similar arc. I figured out that I wanted 17.5cm by 12.5cm envelopes, and these are called G6 (again, check the measurements on the site you choose; this seems to mean different sizes to different stockists). I wanted something nice and colourful, but I didn’t want to shell out so much extra for them that it ate away my already fine profit margins.

This time it was ColourEnvelopes.co.uk to the rescue – you can pick your colours; just like Moo, you can have a whole selection of different colours within an order, if you want – and they’re just 8p each.

Finally, I found nice paper bags for postcards on eBay.

Choosing an online shop

Like every happy Moo customer, I received my package of greetings cards, postcards and business cards with its pink YAY sticker, and was delighted. But what now?

My main purpose in having these printed up was for the open house I’ll be participating in this year – I’ll have prints on sale, but I wanted something smaller for those who only want to spend a couple of quid.

But I also wanted to try out selling online, for a couple of reasons. First, it seems like a good test ground for pricing, and seeing which cards are most popular, and second, I get a small but regular number of requests from online acquaintances who would like to buy my stuff.

Prints may be a different matter, but when you’re selling postcards and greetings cards, profits will be small. For that reason, I wanted to find free shop software. Maybe eventually, I’ll look at Etsy or one of the UK equivalents (notonthehighstreet or Folksy, I guess). I do understand their benefits – massive potential customer base, for starters, and seller protection – but right now, I’m thinking small.

So – free shop software. You have to wonder what’s in it for the providers. Just like anyone else would, I Googled ‘free online shop’ and took a look at the options. Most of them seem to operate on a ‘freemium’ basis – that is, basic services are free, and you can upgrade if you want either extra features or more stock, etc. That model benefits people like me who just want a basic storefront.

I would like to say I made a full examination of all offerings and then went with the one that fulfilled all my business aims – but in the end I went for Tictail because I liked its designs best, and its freemium model seemed unlikely to bite me in the bum. The basic shop is free, and you can buy ‘apps’ on a monthly basis. They’re stuff like analytics and the ability to email people who have abandoned their carts – stuff I can see the benefits of, but which my kitchen-table business doesn’t need yet.

You can tell Tictail’s built by desginers first and foremost. The choice of shop skins is stunning, and the whole interface, including the admin back-end, is a delight to use. The apps are created by a community – I’m not a technical person  so I just skimmed over this bit. I can’t tell for sure whether they’re open source, which’d be extra brownie points, but everything kind of has that feel. Recent tweets and job ads seem to indicate that they’re certainly moving in that direction.

So what’s the downside? I’d spent a couple of hours setting up my shop before I found out (and honestly? It’s a free shop. I don’t feel that qualified to quibble). The basics all work beautifully, but there are things you can’t do. For example, you can only set one shipping price across your shop, no matter how many items somebody buys, and no matter what those items are.

OK, so suppose someone buys one postcard, the site will apply the one shipping rate I have. Now suppose they buy 99 postcards – same shipping rate (hm, maybe that’s fine, as I’ll be so grateful they’ve spent so much I can waive shipping…).

Right, but NOW suppose I add prints to my shop. The cost of sending an A3, unbendable piece of artwork is categorically not the same as the cost of sending a single postcard.

It’s clear that Tictail are a small organisation and they don’t have time to be constantly innovating. I’m not the only one to have come across this irritant – and as someone who responds to support mail in my day-job, I can only sympathise with the Tictail representative in that thread, as she tries to suggest workarounds, all the time saying they can’t commit to a definite date when the issue will be fixed.

Perhaps bizarrely, Tictail *have* nailed different shipping rates for different countries. You can also offer to waive shipping over a certain spend. I feel like they’ll eventually fix this one issue, I just don’t know when.

Another thing that didn’t quite fit my needs was that you can’t have multiple variants of a single item. So, in my case, I have one illustration and I offer it as a card or a postcard. I have to create two listings, rather than being able to just show the design and offer the formatting options. Equally, users can’t currently buy more than one of each item – until they reach their shopping cart, when they can tweak the amounts in there. It feels a bit like the whole system has been set up with a sector in mind, something like fashion, where you’d typically just buy one of a thing.

Maybe one day, I’ll want to be able to offer discount codes, or do something more fancy with my store. When that day comes, I might decide it’s worth spending a bit with Tictail because they’ve already done so much for me. Or maybe it’ll be time to bite the bullet and go down the Etsy route. Maybe Tictail won’t be around any more – who knows? Sad to say, I’ve seen great online services, which have only small teams behind them, fold.

Maybe with this blog post I’m doing my own bit to bring them a few more customers? They are definitely worth a try.

Promoting an online shop

Now, as I say, my ambitions are modest, but that’s not to say I don’t want anyone to find my shop. So far, I’ve mentioned it on all my habitual social media channels: Pinterest, InstagramTwitter. Oh and also Facebook and my personal blog, neither of which are currently public.

None of these is a dedicated marketing channel for me. Rather, they are places where I have personal accounts and have forged personal friendships – so I don’t want to blow my own trumpet on there too frequently. Perhaps the next step will be thinking about having accounts just for my illustration work, although of course that means starting from scratch on the followers front..

In the meantime, every repin, regram, retweet, blog or Facebook mention is *very welcome*. You just don’t know how much I appreciate it!

Plus – if you have thoughts and experiences with online selling, please do comment below. I’m all ears.