Tips from 3D Graphics Artist & Digital Painter Elizabeth McGlasson

Elizabeth McGlasson (a.k.a Red Sangre) has been working with digital art since 2000 and presently specializes in 3D graphics art and digital painting. Focusing currently on commissions work (much of which comes from her fan base on DeviantART), Elizabeth also sells her art through several online outlets.

In the interview below, Elizabeth shares her thoughts and tips on training as an artist, finding clients, choosing online sales platforms, finding support from fellow artists online, setting rates and prices, and making a living.

How did you train as an artist? Do you think that one needs formal schooling to become a pro (and if one does not go to art school, what should one do to develop the qualifications of a professional artist)?

Red Sangre aka Elizabeth M I am completely self trained and I think this is a completely viable option for anyone who wants to express themselves artistically. One of the beautiful things about the internet is it is flooded with people willing and ready to help you learn - the concept of achieving knowledge has been blown out of brick and mortar schools - so if you are willing to seek it out, the materials and resources are there.

Through which channel do you get most of your work as a 3D graphics artist and digital painter (DeviantART, personal referral networks, previous clients, etc.)? What would you recommend to aspiring artists who would like to build up a client base?

My work is nearly exclusively commissions now and it comes from sources all over. I have a strong and loyal fan base from DeviantART which has proven time and time again to be invaluable to me through out the years. In regards to building up a client base, word of mouth is essential. Set the foundation with good work handed over in a timely fashion and be willing to make changes. Compromise is a well-learned word.

How did you decide on a place to sell your work online? If you sell through multiple channels, which have been the most lucrative over time?

I sell my art in several places; allowing people to purchase it in multiple formats - from a post card to a framed screen print to sneakers. The best advice I could give anyone regarding this is research your market carefully. There are plenty of 'art houses' that will print and mail your work directly to your customer, but give you little to no say over quality control. Check feedback from customers regarding shipping and packing. The company through which you sell is representing you to the world - you need to know how you're going to be viewed by choosing to associate with it. Also keep in mind that most websites charge a listing fee or a commission fee for every item sold, so price accordingly. In my experience, Zazzle.com has been the most consistently successful sales platform.

You have been on DeviantART for over nine years. Why stick around? What are the biggest benefits that DeviantART provides?

I have made life long friends by working with and showcasing my works DeviantART. I can't imagine being half the artist I am now without their support as a community and as fellow artists. The benefits are immeasurable, which certainly sounds over dramatic, but it's true. If you are looking for a place to meet people of an alike mindset - that is a perfect place to start.

Where do you go to sharpen your skills as an artist? Are there any particularly good online resources that you would recommend?

You should never stop learning as an artist, so I do strive to challenge myself. For a digital painter or 3D artist, I suggest 3dartistonline.com and Renderosity.com as well as DeviantART. In addition to lots of inspiration, these sites offer loads of tutorials and step-by-step how tos.

How do you determine what you will charge for individual pieces of work and for projects/commissions for clients?

My prices are based on the amount of work that will be involved. I made the mistake of charging at one point by the SIZE of the art and that isn't realistic at all. Sometimes the small pieces require more time and refinement. For me, the trick was determining what I felt I was worth on a hourly basis and building from there. Learning not to undervalue your work is extremely important!

What is your primary source of income from the art you produce- merchandise sales, the sale of original pieces, commissions, freelance work, or something else entirely?

Right now it is the sale of commissions or original pieces, but that changes. I can not have a print sell for months and then, suddenly, 50 of the same piece will sell overnight.

How feasible do you think it would be for a fledgling digital artist to support oneself entirely from artistic work? Do most of your colleagues utilize part time jobs to supplement their more variable income as artists and designers, or are there tactics one might employ that make it possible to be a new artist (full time) and still support oneself?

Almost every artist I know - fledgling or otherwise -  has the dreaded other job to stay afloat so they can keep doing what they love. You create because you HAVE to create and you work because you HAVE to live. Unless you're able to secure a job in an artistic field, you might be slinging coffee during the week so you can paint on the weekends. Just surround yourself with good people who are encouraging and kind and get involved with the artistic community of your choice. Eventually things will click into gear for you.