Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Who likes reading "failure-stories"? Everyone of ourse! It just so happens that I have one for you today. It could be titled “A Freelance Illustrator - My Ineffective Way to Financial Independence” (not very catchy, I know).
The story takes place about 5 years ago, when I earned a Master’s diploma in architecture and could finally start to develop my illustrator’s career. I had knowledge about design, drawing skills, tons of energy and... a business plan! What could go wrong? Well, pretty much everything.

My business plan looked more or less like this (don’t try this at home!):

1. An illustrator needs an online portfolio. But wait… I already have a well-developed portfolio on DeviantArt, hurray!

2. Writing a blog is a great way to present yourself to your watchers and potential clients. Naturally hundreds of people would wait impatiently for every new post (because they have absolutely nothing else to do) and I’d surely earn some money of it (there are many professional bloggers, right?).

3. Now the most important point: I should join a team of awesome, experienced and enterprising people. They would create a super-popular product (a game/book/music CD/whatsoever), and hire me for making illustrations. Well, “hire” may be not the most precise word, as I would have to work on a profit share basis, but that’s ok! This super project would surely be my springboard to success, make me recognizable and... bring me money.

4. And one more brilliant thought from me at that time: Even if I won’t be earning serious money, that’s fine, because I love drawing sooo much.
However, there were a few small bugs in my elaborate plan:

1. If you want to do something professionally, you have to make an impression of a professional. While DeviantArt is a great (and highly addictive) platform for social networking with other art lovers, it’s not the best place to show yourself and your works to potential clients. Let’s be honest, all these emoticons (which I love) and a little bit chaotic interface don’t make a great impression at first sight.

TIP: Make your own website and/or create an online portfolio on www.behance.net . Behance is a great place to present your projects and resume in a professional way and I got many good job offers from people who found my works there https://www.behance.net/ElwiraPawlikowska .

2. Most of the people earning money through blogs are those who write about… earning money through blogs. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but in case of illustrators it doesn’t really work anyway. However an idea of running a blog to let your watchers know you better is still fine! Who knows, maybe they will be keen to support you in your future endeavours?

3. I could write a whole dissertation about absurdity of working on a profit share basis (unless we’re talking about gigantic, well established publishers). First of all, if someone is unable to collect money for an illustrator, he/she won’t be able to run the project and the marketing process in order to make the product popular. Marketing a product requires strong entrepreneurial abilities and people with such abilities are able to gain some money to pay an illustrator for the job, trust me (or not, the choice is yours J )! So, by “working” on profit-share basis for a group of enthusiasts (yes, yes, it applies even to those super-experienced guys who have been developing discussed project since high school) you are going to achieve neither glory nor decent money. To discourage you even more  I’ll mention, that (based on my own experience) many such projects are NEVER EVER PUBLISHED. Eventually they are printed on demand and thus, they reach only friends and families of creators (which means no new fans, as your mom already knows that you’re brilliant J).

A SUPER IMPORTANT TIP: If you want to expand your portfolio, focus on your own projects. Illustrations attracting most clients to me are my personal works:

4. There is no rule saying that you are entitled to monetary compensation only if you hate your job. Unless you want to live with your parents for the rest of your (or their) life, you just have to earn money from what you’re doing. Good luck!

PS: Right now I'm doing fine J

If you found these reflections valuable somehow, you’re very welcome to share this article!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Steampunk Playing Cards part 3.

Ready for the third (and yet the last) post about "Steampunk Plaing Cards" made for a Polish playing card company "TREFL"? It took me about two months to prepare the whole deck, so regardless your answer let me present clubs and spades!

Just in case you missed the previous two parts of presentation, here they are: part1 and part2.

Clubs were meant to refer to technological and scientific aspects of Steampunk. Strange, exaggerated glasses and lences are such a typical feature of Steampunk styliscs, that I couldn't resist choosing observatory for a building representing the ace of clubs.

According to my own guidelines jacks should be robots, which are technological achievements itself. But the jack of clubs should express the scientific atmosphere even harder. That's why I designed him as a mix of a microscope, oscilloscope and... some other parts.

From the 'Did you know' series: in Poland clubs are colloquially called "żołędzie" which means "acorns". That's why the jack of clubs is examining an acorn.

And now, last but not least: spades. Spades are related with exploring secrets of the sea (a distant echo of Jules Verne's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea). These pirates obviously know many sea mysteries:

What about the rest of the cards? Let them remain a mystery... unless someone has a deck in his/her hands :)

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Frequently Asked Questions

“One is expected to show a bit of eccentricity to be interesting. Otherwise one is simply a sad old crone, and no one wants that, you know.” 
"The Ice Princess", Camilla Läckberg

Today I'm celebrating 50.000 views of my blog! I thought that it might be an occasion for you- dear readers and watchers- to "get to know" me a little better. So! Somewhere in the top left corner of your screens you can see me working hard. And below you can read Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions  (questions I've been asked by wonderfully inquiring people who stumbled upon my works or under interviews) along with my answers. Maybe you'll find them interesting or useful:

1. When did you start to be interested in illustrating?

Since childhood I've been surrounded by books about art (very classic, traditional art to be precise).  I really loved to browse through them. However it was a "passive" interest.

My "active" interest in making illustrations began when I came into contact with fantasy games and books in a high school.

2. Where and when did you learn drawing?

I began to learn drawing at the age of 18 (some of you may think that it's quite late). I was attending drawing classes to pass entrance exams for Warsaw Faculty of Architecture. Then, during studies I had a broad spectrum of art classes (drawing, painting, sculpting, study of colors, digital graphics etc). It was a valuable base for practicing at home. Even more important were classes from architectural design and history of architecture. These enabled me to draw detailed buildings and landscapes from imagination.

3. For how long have you been working as a freelance illustrator?

I'm a freelance illustrator since graduating from Faculty of Architecture (2011).

4. Which artists inspire you most?

Old masters:  L. da Vinci, A. Dürer and G. B. Piranesi. Their sketches brilliantly presented the whole process of "constructing" their works (the visible guide lines). On the other hand my favorite painter is Zdzisław Beksiński. He was able to create a mood which can be easily felt, even though it can be hardly described with words.

5. What are your other inspirations:

On the first place I'd say long walks. My thoughts flow the most freely when I'm walking. Moreover: dark and melodic music, fantasy books, historical buildings.

6. What techniques/tools do you use in creating your work?

-watercolor paper: yellowish Canson Colorline and white Daler-Rowney (300g)
- watercolors (in tubes and bars)

-a waterproof Faber-Castell's "PITT artist pen", size S

- Rotring's Artpens, various sizes. They're quite handy and allow to draw fine, stylish lines

- mechanical pencil, size 0.5

- After scanning I use Photoshop, mostly to set the colors/contrasts and add a text

7. What does your creative process look like? 

1. Usually the first step is "brainstorming". In a relatively short period of time I browse through plenty of photos and illustrations related somehow to my task. The purpose is being in the right creative mood, not searching particular references.

2. Then I make about dozen of thumbnail sketches just for myself. If it's a commission I often send about 3 more detailed sketches to the customer to get a better idea of his/her expectations.

 3. And then the whole fun begins. A delicate pencil sketch helps me to set the right composition. Then it's time for a more precise pen drawing and finally watercolors can be used.

4. Sometimes it happens that I'm not really satisfied with the color scheme and I need to redraw the whole work.

 5. If the original looks fine, it is scanned and edited digitally to prepare it for example for printing.

What can be said in few sentences may actually take me several days.

8. What are the biggest advantages of being a freelance illustrator?

1. The most important for me: continuous development of skills.

2. A very positive feedback from foreign people from various parts of the world. It's really motivating and uplifting.

3. Quite low level of stress.

4. Freedom in managing time.

9. What are the biggest disadvantages of being a freelance illustrator?

1. Uncertainty in economic matters. Very low earnings at the beginning (at least in case of the vast majority of cases).

2. Sporadic direct contact with other people. My contact with customers is usually limited to e-mails, less often to Skype talks.

Not so many after all :)

10. Did you always wanted to be an artist? What would you be doing if you weren't an illustrator?

For a short period of time I  wanted to be a garbage collector (big cars + working in the open air). Then I wanted to be an archeologist or paleontologist as I'm fascinated by the past.

If I weren't an illustrator, I'd be an architect as that's my learned profession.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Steampunk Playing Cards part 2.

Time for the second portion of Steampunk cards created in an old school, traditional way (ink and watercolors). Today I'll focus on the red suits - hearts and diamonds.

"Hearts" were meant to represent the cultural and elegant side of Steampunk. Top hats, victorian fans and lace should be a good fit here. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the Queen and the King of Hearts:


Now we are leaving salons to meet the darker side of Victorian era - decadence and pests especially decimating industrial areas. My favorite card - Jack of Diamonds as known as a "Pest Doctor" (in a steampunk style):

And which vehicle could represent this group better than a hearse? A steampunk hearse of course :D

I hope that these few illustrations managed to arouse your curiosity and that you'll be willing to see steampunk pirates and inventors in the next blog post!

The deck was created for a Polish playing card company "Trefl".