Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Making Stickers

Like a copy of this sticker?
 I think my love of stickers goes back to my skateboarding days. Back in the late 80s, the stickers being offered in the display case my local skate-shop outnumbered the different brands, colors, and types of wheels in the same case. The art just seemed to call to me, and I knew that was something I wanted to do with my work.

 An appeal (no pun intended) of stickers is the affordability. For a few dollars, anyone can get long-lasting and functional copy of art. A sticker is more than a print that someone might frame and hang on their wall. A sticker can become a means for the buyer to express themselves to the world, allowing them to make whatever they place the sticker on more uniquely theirs. It is more than just cool art, it is a statement of expression that the buyer is encouraged to share.

 Producing your work as stickers has been made easy thanks to the Internet. Designers can now upload their creations to sites like Cafepress, Zazzle, and Society6 and place their work on not just stickers but also t-shirts, skateboard decks, coffee mugs… Even thongs if one is so inclined. The best of these sites for stickers, in my opinion, is Redbubble. While most of the other sites limit the size and shape of your sticker, Redbubble offers die-cut stickers and lets the buyer select from a range of sizes. This flexibility for both the designer and the buyer extends to their other products as well.

Get this sticker at my Etsy shop!
 While the price to the buyer is on par with retail outlets for these kinds of products (uploading your designs and creating a shop is usually free to the designers), the profit earned by the designer is a mere fraction of the total amount. This is because the fabricator is providing the means of fabrication, the materials, the ecommerce platform, and the marketplace. They print per order, which can be a costly process. They rely on the designers to drive traffic to their site (and often market their own designs to those patrons), but the bulk of the production cost is help by the fabricator. For a $6.00 sticker, the designer might get $0.20.

 There are means around this. Again, thanks to the Internet, bulk fabricators have become more accessible. Bulk fabricators fabricate in bulk. Instead of setting up to print one sticker at a time, they reduce the set-up cost by printing a minimum number, like 50. The larger the number in the order, the less expensive it is to print. Generally, they are not involved in marketing the product, leaving that to the designer. The result is that a designer that can afford to pay $100 for their product in advance can potentially see a return of 300% while often undercutting the price of similar products offered by retailers. It also means a higher-quality product for the buyer.

Copies of this sticker are still available!
 Normally, owning the means of production is always the most profitable way to go, but the expense is often outside the means of most independent designers. There are products on the market that suggest that you can print vinyl stickers from your ink-jet computer. While this may seem like a marvelous solution, the product is inferior to the print-per-order fabricators or the bulk-printers. Often, one can rub the ink right off a print-at-home sticker. Your designs and your reputation deserve better.

 Stickers can be an easy an inexpensive way to generate awareness of your work and make that work accessible to more people. One produced correctly, a vinyl sticker will often outlast high-quality prints. Stickers are also potentially seen by more people, as it is a product that buyers use to express themselves to the public. If selling your art at a variety of price-points is part of your marketing strategy, stickers can provide a base tier without seeming like a discount-option.

 And, it is very cool to see one of your sticker designs on someone’s skateboard, laptop, or car.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Recycling; Revisiting Older Design Concepts

 Leonardo da Vinci is said to have once said that "Art is never finished, only abandoned". The meaning I attribute to this statement is that if a concept is tantalizing enough to merit expression in art, then we will frequently return to that concept as our skills improve and our understanding of the concept evolves.  An artist never sees a piece as finished, only finished enough for display.

 It is not uncommon for me to return to older pieces and concepts that I have explored in the past and to revisit them.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of "finishing" the piece; moving it from one format to another or from a black-and-white illustration to color.  In some cases, the piece will remain virtually the same, but I will change the color or clean-up the drawing.  Some concepts, however, are revisited and re-expressed as entirely new pieces of art.

 There are a few concepts that I have found that I return to on an irregular basis (meaning that there is no particular rhyme or reason to when I will take-up a particular concept again. The Feminine Baphomet design is one such concept that I have explored repeatedly. Baphomet is an occult symbol that largely deal with the unification of opposites and the abandoning of dichotomy.  Traditionally, the Baphomet design has been expressed as neither overly feminine or masculine, and equally animalistic and human.  I recognize this concept as a symbol of the nature of reality itself, and see that reality as being more feminine or adrongynine than masculine, and treat its perception as human, in particular through the lens of the human mind.  Thus my Baphomet tend to be more feminine and human that others. As my exploration of the symbolism and concept continues, new iterations of the design are the result.

 "Hook" is a design that has inexplicably drawn my attention several times over the years.  The earliest design I created of the BDSM design was embarrassingly primitive.  I improved on that design a few years later, then explored it in another fashion, and then created a new piece incorporating a style and design elements I had developed.  The various versions of "Hook" demonstrate an evolution in style and technical finesse. I am already considering a more aggressive version of this concept in the near future.

 Another early BDSM-concept piece is "Romantic Candlelight. The original piece featured a figure in a compromising situation, chained to eye-ring screws on a wood floor, and in a great deal of distress. The latest version is more suggestive of a compliant, even self-indulgent figure setting a romantic scene in bed. The gulf between the technical skill used between the first and the current version demonstrates my development. The new design incorporates a variety of techniques, such as high contrast between black and white areas and stippling to create transitional tones.

 My final example of recycling is "Hell Mouth". This design is the most direct example of an execution of a design that when reviewed I felt almost immediately could be done better. Some of the most important changes are subtle. I adjusted the line weights to transition from thick-to-thin in order to create a greater sense of form on the figure. The expression of the face is slightly more aggressive. Line-work on both the body of the figure and the flames include more rounded shapes, with the over-all design becoming more oval than the original. I intentionally left the colors flat both as an aesthetic choice and to lend to the design more flexibility in shifting media.

 Recycling my design concepts gives me an opportunity to gauge my development as an artist, as well as the satisfaction of applying newly learned techniques to my favorite pieces. There is satisfaction also bringing up-to-date an idea that was tantalizing in the past, a good idea often bares repeating. No doubt, I will return to these concepts in years to come, always with an eye on improving.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tattoo Flash Set

Five sheets in...

 Most of my time lately has been focused on my Tattoo Flash Set, "The Dirty Dozen".  I put up a Kickstarter campaign to get the word out about it.  What?  You didn't hear about the Kickstarter campaign? I'll get to that in a moment.


 When I talk about a "tattoo flash set", most people just stare at me blankly until I explain that "flash" are the sheets of tattoo designs commonly see on the walls of some tattoo studios.  My theory as to why these designs are called "flash" (because that is the next question that gets asked) is that they are meant to be designs that can be transferred quickly as compared to custom work (done on a flash) and that they are the glitz that people come to expect in a tattoo studio (the flash potential customers are looking for.

 To date, this will be my third set of tattoo designs, possibly my fifth attempt at such a set, and easily my best set.  I won't even bother showing you the old stuff. Suffice it to say that when I did my first ten-page set, I knew nothing about tattooing.  I lovingly advertised the set as "the worst tattoo flash set-ever".  I managed to sell several, but if I could I would buy them all back.  Consider them collectors items, kids, because those pages will never again see the light of day.  
Nine sheets in...

 Creating tattoo flash is a fairly straight-forward process.  The industry standard size for a flash-sheet is 11X14".  Flash is best sold as a color or "finished" version along with a complimentary sheet of "line-art" that the tattooer uses as a stencil.  Sheets generally have five to seven designs each, though some may have just one design and others may contain dozens.  While not necessary, it seems preferable for the designs to relate in some way.

 Simple, yes?  The problem comes when you elect to create 13 sheets of designs.  "The Dirty Dozen" is a baker's dozen, and clients who purchase the complete set will get a bonus "secret sheet".  Actually, I will probably offer my Valentines' Day and Friday the 13th sheets as well, but the new set will have a total of 13 pages.  That said, I am up to sheet 11, just two more to go.  The first 11 sheets contain various bits drawn over the last couple of years with a few new pieces.  In total, I am 64 individual designs into the project.  I have rejected about two dozen designs as simply being not good enough, and I am struggling to come up with the next two sheets.
Ten sheets in...

 Creating flash sheets is fairly simple. Coming up with designs for 13 sheets is a marathon of creativity.

 They're coming, though, folks, and along with them additional new items such as stickers and t-shirts based on those designs.  Stay tuned.  I am hoping to have the line art finished by the end of July.  Then, it is just a matter of coloring all 13 sheets.

 Yep.  No problem.

 So, the Kickstarter campaign.  The thing is that at various times thare are more than a few tattooers and tattoo studios running campaigns of there own.  My goal was modest, and my intent was to make those tattoo-people aware of this marvelous new set that was about to become a real thing in the world.  The intent was not to hit the goal, because the product really doesn't cater to the masses.  The word got out, which was the point, and I now have several interested parties who want a sheet or a set when it is complete.

 So, stay-tuned.  Art is happening!



 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at sorrellart@gmail.com

Monday, May 9, 2016

The "ZILF!" Design

 I just returned home from the post office after shipping about three dozen copies of the ZILF! sticker to buyers all over the US and Europe.  While we aren't talking thousands, or even hundreds of dollars, for an artist basically running his business from his computer, selling two-thirds of your inventory within a week of receiving your stock is a big deal.  It is also evidence of much of the work I have put into my business over the years, slowly generating a largely passive income through my art.

 This is a conversation I often have with my friends and fellow artists.  Some get it, and some don't.  I love making art, that is why I do it.  I love being inspired or having a creative epiphany and seeing my thought manifest themselves.  I would make art even if there were no means to earn an income doing so.  That said, there is a means to earn an income doing so, and in our society you MUST earn an income in some manner to survive and thrive.  

 "Artist" is not a label I feel applies to myself at all times.  In my mind, "artist" is a profession, a way of making a living.  This may seem a very cynical way of defining things, but if you aren't earning a living through your art, then you are a hobbyist.  In fact, from this particular perspective (and I entertain numerous perspectives on the term "artist"), I don't feel a person qualifies as an artist unless art is the primary source of income.  Thus, though I do generate a great deal of material and I do earn money from my efforts, as long as art is not my primary means of income, I am technically not an artist, at least not in totality.

 I have been in the past and hope to again be so in the future, which kind of brings us to the point of this additional rant encapsulating the ZILF! design discussion.

 To be an artist you must earn an income from your art.  The "art-for-art-sakes" crowd is failing to address the reality of their situation.  We all must earn an income.  When we earn an income above and beyond our needs, we have funds with which to purchase materials and allow for the time to make our art.  If those engaged in found-object art need to purchase materials.  The initial reason for earning an income from your art is to pay for future projects.  This frees-up funds from your other income sources to make improvements in your lifestyle and could also increase the quality and quantity of materials purchased for art.  

 For most hobbyists, this is sufficient.  They sell a painting now-and-then and are satisfied with a small following.  There is nothing wrong with this, and it is a mark of success to regularly sell your work.  However, I see and strive for another tier from my art, that of a "passive income".  A passive income is earnings which require no further effort on your part to generate.  Investing is a form of passive income.  Thanks to the Internet, another form of passive income is the creation of content.  Our reality exists in symbiosis with the virtual-reality, and the need for content in the virtual reality has spurred the creation of sights for artists of all kinds to produce their work and earn money from various patrons and sources.  

 Over a dozen years ago, I made the point that I have found a way to make money in my sleep.  Now, the goal is to do so on a level that surpasses my other sources of income.  

 Which brings us to the following question; how many different ways can you sell one work of art?

 I created the ZILF! design in 2013.  I've always been inspired by the Cheesecake photography of the 1950s, lounge-culture of the same era, and the lowbrow art scene spawned in part by those two sources.  The original "ZILF!" design is on 11X14" bristol board in ink, featuring a zombie-girl pin-up, fez-wearing zombie oglers, and a smattering of items common to the lounge and strip-club scene from the '50s era.  The original is available for $500 on my Big Cartel site: https://creativeodditiesstudios.bigcartel.com.

 From there, the design has been expressed in several different iterations on my Cafe Press sales site: http://www.cafepress.com/creativeodditiesstudios.  Though Cafe Press has greatly improved over the years, I am now looking for ways to move away from print-by-piece sites like this one.  They are awesome for people who want to offer merchandise featuring their work and who cannot afford to buy a bulk order.  The downsides are that your profit margin is minimal if you hope to be competitive with similar offerings on the market, and the options regarding formatting are very limited. Through Cafe Press, Zazzle, and Arts Cow, the ZILF! design has been sold as stickers, t-shirts, skateboards, flip-top lighters, and other merchandise.

 The image is also used in publications.  The ZILF design appears in the "Jason Sorrell Coloring Book for Adults", available through Lulu.com, as well as the up-coming "Dirty Dozen" tattoo flash set.  To allow for the variation in design and format, it is important to save the design as it progresses through different stages; from line-drawings to full color image.

 Because of the limitations and small profit margins of the print-by-piece options, I have always wanted to move to the bulk production of my designs.  Crowd-funding has allowed me to potentially reduce the out-of-pocket costs of purchasing in bulk as well as the need to store the inventory by inviting patrons to pre-order at a discount through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundme.  Even if a campaign does not meet your goal, you can still gain invaluable insight about the market viability of a design based on the interest generated.  The result has been the first purchase of a bulk order of high quality, die-cut, vinyl stickers, available directly from me ($5 each, payable through Paypal to sorrellart@hotmail.com).  

 By offering a design through multiple venues and in a variety of formats, you can potentially earn several times the asking price if the original work.  This is how, as an artist and with the advantage of the Internet, you can earn money in your sleep.


 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at sorrellart@gmail.com

The Story So Far...

  I almost elected to launch right into an art post without introducing myself.  Jason Sorrell here, a man who manipulates various media to produce a variety of images and objects.  I'll accept the title of "artist" as long as there are no particular obligations of expectations associated with it.  I do things; draw, paint, sculpt, tattoo, write... And, while over the course of my life I feel I have been prolific in my production, I feel it is high-time I stepped-up and really took it seriously.

 For those of you who are just tuning in, I seem to go through this phase every couple of years.  I tweak my methods and re-arrange how my work is presented.  My first serious attempt at this art-business-thing was a collaborative effort dubbed "Primal Aesthetic".  The idea was that perhaps a group of new artists acting cooperatively would have more of an impact than working individually.  It worked for a bit, but eventually collapsed because not every person had the same level of investment.  

 The next iteration of this art marketing malady was "Creative Oddities Studios".  This had several versions over the course of at least a dozen years and is technically still a thing, though not really the thing I envisioned when I started.  It was "studios", in the plural, for two reasons.  First, because I do so many things it seemed to make sense to compartmentalize; tattooing over here and writing over there, and so on.  The second reason was because, once again, I thought it would be beneficial to be part of a collaborative effort.  Instead of trying to be equal, this time around I was the main-event, with everyone else expected to pull their own weight and follow my model.  It worked out for a while, but eventually just became to ponderous a thing, requiring a lot of maintenance for not a lot of return.  

 So, Creative Oddities Studios has been drawn back and regulated to one role; publication.  And, the publish only one thing; my work.  I've decided to step-up my game, and invest even more financially into the effort.  Moving forward, you are going to hear far more about Jason Sorrell, but that little red demon girl that has been the Creative Oddities Studios logo will be on frequent display in my efforts. 

 Now that you are up-to-speed, let me explain why there is this blog.  With the end of Creative Oddities Studios also came the end of the website where most of my work was displayed.  The next website to feature my work will be leaner, meaner, and designed to produce.  Again, this is where investment becomes involved, buying into some animated graphics, purchasing marketing information, etc.  In the meantime, I will be sharing my work and adventures here, in a forum and format that I know is both effective and productive.  

  I'm not exaggerating about the adventures part, but you will see.  Thanks for swinging by.  Bookmark the page and check in frequently, because I expect things will move kind of fast.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at sorrellart@gmail.com