Monday, January 22, 2018

Save Money & Make Art

I did a post a little while ago about using the right tools for creating art. In this I talked about how you should use better tools rather than inexpensive ones. Using better tools will save you a lot of frustration and may actually save you money. This post will be about things you can do that will save you even more money (hopefully enough to justify those expensive supplies).

While typing this I realize that this post is going to be quite long, so this will be a 30 part series (or less -- likely 2 or 3 parts 😊).

Tiny art brought to you by scrap paper and sale priced
Daniel Smith watercolors!

Saving Money When Making Art

1. Buy Things On Sale 

I know you're thinking, "Well, duh!" This isn't always what happens, though. I'm the kind of person who loves a good sale. It's probably been 3 years since I've made the effort to buy supplies on sale. I usually wait until I urgently need supplies! This is not a good idea. It's better to wait until there is a sale (when possible) to buy your supplies!

BUYER BEWARE: Sometimes a sale item isn't cheaper/better. For example: I got a 50% off any one item at a craft store. I needed paper, but all the paper was damaged. I went to another store and found the same paper for half the price of the other store (and in better condition). This was the stores regular price and it made me very wary about buying supplies from this craft store again.

Be sure to compare prices at local stores and online. Sometimes you can save a lot of money by ordering online. When I lived in the States I loved but shipping charges here in Canada make buying from the USA (and sometimes even Canada) expensive! I can order things from places like and they will deliver free if I spend a certain amount of money. Both these companies have excellent customer service!

2. Never, Ever, Ever, Throw Things Out!

Made from a scrap sheet of Arches Paper.
Each of those squares is 1 inch. 

Okay, you can throw things out -- especially that stinky trash bag. There are art supplies, however, that you should never just pitch! One thing is expensive paper. I have several 22" x 30" pieces of Arches paper that I cut up. I cut out four pieces of paper out of this that were 11" x 13" (8" x 10" with a 1.5" border). I now have several pieces of paper that are too small for the images I want to create, but the extra paper could use to create smaller images, art cards, or be used as test sheets when I just want to try something out.

If your scrap paper is too small to paint or draw on, it could still be used for collage. As could wrinkled paper, or even sketches/painting that just aren't up to snuff. If you are really good you could use your old paper to create new paper. It's a craft that needs to be learned, but the paper you get can be more interesting than the paper that you can buy in st

It's not just paper that can be saved and used again. Watercolor paint once dry is still good even if it's a rock in your tube. Useless colored pencils can be turned into a brush jar

3. Trade it With Your Friends!

Most art supplies tend to go down in price rather than up. You may have trouble selling a half used tube of paint, but you might be able to trade it to your friends. I don't know about you but I have TONS of art supplies that I never use. I may use them some day, but there are many things (like tubes of paint) that have a limited shelf life. Watercolors usually can be used later, but oils and acrylics separate over time. Why not trade these things for items you can use. Don't have friends in the area who have art supplies? Maybe use meetup or craigslist to plan a get together at a coffee house and trade away those supplies you aren't using. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

My 2018 Goals

Here is a list of (at least some) of my 2018 goals!

1. Finish the WIPs for my Portfolio 

I need to finish the illustrations I started for my portfolio. The goal is to replace the work that's older than 2017 with all new work.

2. Complete at Least 5 Challenges

 I hoping this year to complete several challenges. The ones I'm hoping to complete are: Tara Lazar's Storystorm, Julie Hedlund's 12x12, Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30, Becky Fyfe's Chapter Book Challenge and Dani Duck's Smart Dummies

3. Send Out My Illustration Portfolio to at Least 12 Art Reps/Agents/Editors

This is contingent on my completion of # 1.

4. Find at least 12 Places to Approach for Freelance Work

Submitting work to magazines is included in this.

5. Complete at Least 3 Submission Ready Picture Book Dummies 

6. Send Dummies to at least 12 Agents/Editors

This is contingent on my completion of # 5.

7.  Keep up on my Instagram Accounts

I'm going to attempt to post on these several times a week!

8. Do at Least 1 Creative Project with my Kids Every Week

This can be big or small.

I may not be able to complete all of these, but at least I have my goals mapped out. I'm not worried about failure as much as not trying!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

What are Your Goals for 2018?

A few years ago I stopped making New Year's Resolutions and started making New Year's Goals. I'm making some new goals to help me through the year. I try not to do this on the first day of the year because I'm not making resolutions but goals.

I like to make my goals as specific and attainable as possible. Since I don't have a picture book published making my goal "Getting Published" or "Getting an Agent" isn't going to work. I make goals that I can make happen. I can't force someone to publish my work, or be my agent, but I can make myself polish manuscripts, create dummies and send out a certain number of query letters in a year.

Before I start listing my new goals I'll do a recap on my 2017 goals:

1. Win Storystorm I'm happy to report that I won Storystorm last year! I get so many ideas from this event every year. I'm taking part in it again this year! You can sign up here until January 9th!

2. Win the 12x12 Challenge 2017 was the first year that I was able to complete the 12x12 Challenge. I have learned so much being a part of this group. I now have a wonderful critique group that started in 2017 and will continue throughout this year as well. I can't have 2017 without this group in my life. Registration for new members starts January 9th:

3. Look for Freelance Illustration Work I did get some illustration work in 2017, but nothing that I went out and looked for. I will need to start looking for new sources of inspiration this year. 

4. Finish 2-3 Picture Book Dummies I was not able to finish any dummies last year. I focused my energies on other things. Maybe I can make this a goal this year.

5. Submit at Least 6 Different Manuscripts to Editors/Agents I wasn't happy with my work enough to send it out as is last year, so I did not do any submissions last year.

6. Spend More Focused Time on Social Media I started two instagram accounts this year, so that's progress. My personal illustrator's account: Where I post my artwork and different things about my artist life. And my Smart Dummies Challenge account: This is where I post blog posts, kidlit events and pictures from illustrators, writers and other people in (or that can be related to) the kidlit field. The tag for this is #smartdummieschallenge. The tag is to help me see your work so I can share it. I found I needed two accounts so my personal work didn't get buried in someone else's work.

7. Spend More Time With Family I did not have any freelance jobs around Christmas and I admit that it felt good. I was able to spend more time with my family and it was a crazy time. It was absolutely wonderful and I hope that future Christmases are mostly busy with family things.

SO that was my last year. How did your year go? What are your goals for 2018? Let me know in the comments! 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Challenge Yourself in 2018

Here are different writing and art events you can use to challenge yourself this year!
Challenges are Writers (W), Artists (A.), or both (B.) Start planning out your year now.

Did I miss any great challenges? Let me know in the comments below! I believe all these challenges are still running.


W. Storystorm by Tara Lazar starts (previously PiBoIdMo). Get 30 book ideas in 30 days. Sign up late December - early January).

A. #kidlitart on Twitter starts it's PB Dummy Challenge. Challenge lasts 6 months. Last year they mixed things up and did the Build a Portfolio Challenge instead (#BAPC) and also did an Kidlitart Art Challenge (#kidlitart28). Join #kidart on Twitter Thursday nights at 9pm EST for more information!

B. Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 sign up starts and runs through February. Finish 12 picture books in 12 months. Lots of great webinars, prizes and support. Gold members can submit their work directly to editors and agents.


A. Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 starts. Normally this challenge runs in January. This year it runs February 1st - March 2nd. 


W. Chapter Book Challenge (ChaBooCha) runs this month. Hosted by Becky Fyfe. Finish your chapter book in 30 days.

W. Janice Hardy's Revise Your Novel in 30 Days  Get your novel edited in 30 days.

B. Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) Sign up starts February 15th. Read books to improve your own writing!

W. 50 Precious Words Runs March 2nd - 6th. Hosted by Vivian Kirkfield. Write a 50 word story with a beginning, middle and end.


W. Angie Karchers Rhyme Revolution For the month of April Angie posts a different writing challenge every day. Challenges must be completed daily and posts commented on to win prizes.


W. National Picture Book Writing Week: Write seven picture book manuscripts in one week. Hosted by Paula Yoo.


A. Daisy Yellow Index Card A Day Challenge. In this two month challenge your create one piece of
artwork every day for 61 days.


A. World Watercolor Month  Create 31 Watercolor Paintings in 31 Days. Hosted by the World Watercolor Group founded by Charlie O'Shields.


I couldn't find a challenge that's still running for this month!


A. Smart Dummies starts! Create a Picture Book Dummy in 30 days. Sign up in August 15th through the first week of September. Hosted by yours truly (Dani Duck).

A. Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 catch this one if you missed it in February!


A. Inktober starts (#inktober on Instagram and Twitter). Create 30 inked drawings in 30 days! Created by Jake Parker


W. National Novel Writing Month. Get your Novel written in 30 days!


A. December Watercolor Challenge Hosted by the World Watercolor Group founded by Charlie O'Shields.

Other Challenges

A. Doodle Day This is the challenge that never ends! Started in May 2013 this was meant to be a month long daily drawing challenge. Alison K. Hertz started this not knowing what it was. Now she'll continue hosting this forever just because!

A. Illustration Friday A weekly art challenge. No official sign up needed.

A. Draw This! A monthly challenge (due on the 20th of every month). Hosted by the SCBWI. Participants must be current SCBWI members to win.

B. Sub Six A challenge to submit 6 picture books in a year. Most people submit far more, so it's mostly a support group. Need permission from Alayne Kay Christian, Stacy Stenberg Jensen, or Debbie Bernstein LaCroix to join the Facebook group.

A. 52-Week Illustration Challenge by Nicky Johnston. Create 1 illustration a week for 52 weeks. Participants post their current week's illustrations in the facebook group.

W. Inky Girl's Daily Words Debbie Ridpath Ohi hosts. This is to help writers short on time come up with a regular regiment for writing. There are great badges you can put on your blog for writing as little as 100 or for 15 minutes a day. There is no formal sign up. 

A. Color Collective A weekly art challenge on Twitter based on color.

Want a reading or blogging challenge? Feed Your Fiction Addiction has a huge list of reading challenges as does I'm sure several of the challenges repeat on these, so if you can't find what you are looking for on one the other likely has it!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Right Tools

I was getting my haircut the other day and my hairdresser (Diane) and I got into a discussion about the tools we use.  I was fascinated by her insight on this, because what we do is so different. Fundamentally hairdressing and art is the same in many ways. You need to have better tools for better results.

These are a few of my favorite brushes!
I generally just use the tallest one (angled)
and the big round brush on the left.
Buying Higher Quality Tools Can Cost Less Overall. This seems counter intuitive. How can I possibly justify spending $100 over $25 on the exact same colors of watercolor paint and paper? The paint tubes may have less in them, and the paper may be the exact same size, but they are not the same! Quality matters over quantity.

1. The Frustration Factor

In my conversation with Diane, I said it might be okay to buy cheaper supplies when starting out. Diane corrected me right there. She said that it doesn't make sense to start out with cheap supplies because if you become frustrated with the limitations of the tools then you won't continue creating art. I know that this is 100% true.

I had some older acrylics that I was attempting to paint with, but unfortunately I was just becoming frustrated with them because they were old and the binder had separated from the colors. I could not get the paints to move across the canvas like I knew they should. It wasn't until I bought new paints that I felt like I could paint. With the frustration gone I was able to create work faster and better.

2. Better Paints Paint Better
One of my paintings that I had trouble with. The darker colors just wouldn't stay on the paper. 

When I first started using Daniel Smith watercolors I just bought one tube of red paint. I didn't have the money to be messing around. What I found was not only did the color flow across the page better, but I was using less of it to cover the page. Since I'm using less paint I'm actually paying less to paint!

3. Substrate is Everything

Okay you get these fancy colors, but you are actually wasting money if you are putting them on cheap paper. I bought a brand that I thought was going to give me good results. I think there was a problem with the sizing on the paper, and this could have been a factory problem, so I'm not going to name the particular brand I used. The problem was the paper got to the point where the paint wasn't soaking into the paper anymore. I wasn't able to add any more color to certain areas! The company I bought it from was able to replace the paper (I paid for the upgrade), but this doesn't make up for the amount of work that went into paintings that aren't usable anymore!

4. Acid Free Isn't Archival

One thing that you might not think about when you're illustrating is how long is your work going to last. You may just want to make work that you create and you don't care what happens after that. If you are buying acid free, know that that it is likely a limited time deal. I've made the decision to use archival for most of my illustrations now because I want them to last a long time after I'm gone. Also the paper I'm going to use most often, because it works so well (Arches), is archival.
My favorite pens!

5. Time is Money

One thing that you need to remember is your time matters. When you are creating something to sell this is so important to consider. Say you paid $10 for your supplies, so selling your work at $20 may seem like a fair price. Well, what if that item took you five hours to create? You are making $2 an hour when you sell your item. I don't know about you, but my time is worth more than $2. Working retail at $7-12 an hour seems like a better deal to me. If your supplies cause you to spend 2-3 times the amount of time on a project than you should spend, then those cheap supplies could be costing you money!


I'm hoping this is something you will consider when buying art supplies! Buying more expensive supplies may just not work for you and that's okay. This is something I want people to consider because it will end up saving you money in the end.

I will make a post about where you can cut on expenses. There is so much in this post already I feel like I've got a lot in this one post. Please ask me questions and remember to enjoy making your art!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Smart Instagram Madness Dummies

If you missed it in the Smart Dummies group: I started an Instagram page for Smart Dummies! The name is @smart_dummies_challenge. If you are already connected through my personal page @dani_duck_art you can get to it there or go to:

I will be taking images from people who are following me on Instagram/have participated in the Smart Dummies Challenge. Use the tag #smartdummieschallenge so I can find you! To get it started I'm looking at all my followers/following to get things started, but hope to switch to the hastag later!  You do not have to be an artist to be featured. You will be tagged so people can find you.  

The main purpose of this is to spread awareness for Smart Dummies. I'm also hoping it can also be used as a way to share tips and techniques. More people are going to look at this than my personal profile because people can submit and get their artwork shared. 

I'm going to try to be very picky for art so everyone gets their best work out there. It has been a bit more than 24 hours and I've gotten 24 followers so far!  Maybe it's not a ton but It happened in a day, so not too bad! I hope we can grow the Smart Dummies event together. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2018 For All it's Worth!

I know it's early to think about 2018 now, but really it's never to early to plan especially when it has to do with spending! I'm assuming you have a limited budget for what you can do in 2018 so consider these options carefully. Prices are subject to change and are in USD. Normally I wouldn't post prices, but these are to give you a chance to budget for 2018.

Mira Reisberg and the Children's Book Academy offers lots of different options for courses! It doesn't matter if you are a writer or illustrator there is a course here for you. Courses start at under $100! The bigger courses cost a bit more, but offer tons of extras to help you get published. Have you heard of the Chapter Book Alchemist course? It starts at under $250 and offers everything you need to get started writing chapter books. Also the Middle Grade Mastery (which also includes chapter books) course starts soon, so be sure to check that out! 

Mark G. Mitchell offers Group Guest Critiques! Every month you can get your illustration work critiqued by a professional and learn from their experience. Mark has a new person every month and it includes people like Giuseppe Castellano, Nichole Tugeau, and Mira Reisberg (where have I heard this name before? 😊)  These courses are under $30 each, but if you subscribe for the whole year, they are only about $9 a class!

Julie Hedlund offers the 12 x 12 Challenge every year. The challenge is to write 12 picture books in 12 months. This is open to both illustrators and writers. There are webinars and lots of interaction from the community. It's $167 to join. I've been a part of this community for 4 years and couldn't do without it. Want a free pass to get your work past the slush pile and into the hands of real agents and editors? Join the Gold for a bit more and get the opportunity to submit your work to some great professionals! Registration for new members starts in January. Julie also offers some great courses under "Shop" so you can check those out while you wait.

The Picture Book Summit happens every year in October. Miss it this year? Go to the website and sign up for updates: This conference was founded by Katie Davis, Julie Hedlund,  Laura Backes, Emma Walton Hamilton and Jon Bard. It's like a regular writing conference but with a few differences. 1. You do not have to pay for airfare. 2. You do not have to pay for a hotel. 3. You don't have to get dressed in the morning to attend. Otherwise it's just like a full scale writing conference. Last year they had Tomie Depaola, Carole Boston Weatherford and Adam Rex! This for the same price you would pay for a small writer's conference! Sign up now to receive updates for the course and other goodies!

Write On Con This started as a free online conference. It's a bit more than free, but still a wonderful event. Will Taylor, Kat Zhang and Clarissa Wong are a few of the kidlit people at this conference. It's a bit like the event above, but I find that it's not quite as cohesive. Sometimes it's just text on Facebook pages and many of the events are scheduled too close together. It's worth the money, but I'd pay a lot more if all the events were in one place. There is still great information here, and for $5 you can attend the live sessions which is not bad. The link is to the fundraiser page where there are a bunch of options for you to view!

These are just some ideas for you to look forward to next year. I wish I could post more, but it's just so many great things out there. I think I'll do a post later for a lot of challenges in 2018. 

Where are you going to invest your money this year? Anything that I haven't mentioned? Which Courses/Events above have you joined?