Thursday, March 29, 2018

Illustrator Tips: 5 Ways to Keep Organised

Second in my series of tips for illustrators, we have 'Staying Organised'. Freelance life can be extremely overwhelming, and if you don't stay on top of things you're going to fall in a heap of missed deadlines and confusion. And none of us want that!

So, without further ado: 5 Ways to Stay Organised as an Illustrator

1. Get a To Do App. 

I use Things from Cultured Code. It's a Mac and iOS app, so that's no help for all you Windows and Android users out there, but I'm going to tell you about it so you can see how I use it.

Here's a look at my to-do list for today. Yeah. I had a busy weekend and I'm paying for it now.

You'll note I have everything organised by area. Right at the top are miscellaneous items that crop up during the day. They need to be done, but don't belong anywhere specific, so I just bung 'em up there. Then I have my Home area, which is usually full of recurring items I've set up - piano practice daily, vacuuming twice a week, my turns to cook dinner, when the dog needs her flea treatment... all that stuff.

And after that, we have business items. Firstly, miscellaneous items - social media, blogging, finances. And after that, items organised by job. I have three jobs on now, plus my website redesign. I create a project for each, and fill that with the various things that need to be done. Every day I check through and move everything that needs to be done today to my 'Today' screen, because that's where I spend most of my time. I don't want to be flicking through different projects, I want everything together in the one place. So anything ongoing is in there (I don't really think I'm going to get the final illustrations for a whole picture book done in one day, I just have it there so I know that is ongoing) and anything that needs to be done today, and anything that crops up throughout the day - maybe I got an email before I got up, or really late at night, and I don't want to reply until I've finished my morning up of tea. I'll put it in there so I don't forget I need to attend to it.

I also use Things to keep track of my invoices. When I send off an invoice, I'll put in a reminder in Things, and set it to pop up in Today on the day it is due. When it does, I can check my cashbook, and if it's been paid, I can just mark it off. If it hasn't been, well, time to send a friendly reminder!

2. Utilise your calendar.

Here's a look at my calendar from a random week, from about midday to midnight. As you can see, I colour-code it. Green is work, blue is everything that isn't work. This way I can see at a glance if I've been managing to get a decent amount of work done or not. If there is too much blue in my calendar, I'm in trouble and need to work harder.

I also code every project with a reference code. I use it in my invoices, my database, my calendar, my folders, my to-do list, everything. If I want to find something I can just search for the code. As numbers and I are not the best of friends, I start each code with the initials of the client, followed by the number of projects I have done with that set of initials. It's unlikely that I'll have two clients with the exact same initials at one and the same time, which means I can tell at a glance which project is which just by this code.

3. Create a project database

I use Tap Forms as my database. I used to use Filemaker's Bento, but they killed it off, so I had to find a replacement.

I keep all relevant information about each project in the database. The code, the project name, the commissioner - everything I need to know. When the project is finished I enter in the final fee and mark off when I have been paid, along with adding a picture to represent the project. You can see the job marked [ST2] has no picture yet, as it's a long project that isn't yet finished. No picture until I'm completely finished, so I don't accidentally think it's all been done! In the sidebar, I can see at a glance which projects are finished, which are paid, etc.

4. Create illustration checklists

For each job I have that is more than just one illustration, I create a checklist. I make a table with every illustration in, and check boxes for thumbnails, (approval), draft, edits, (approval), finals, edits (approval) and typesetting (if required). Then, as I complete each stage, I fill in the box. This way I can see at a glance where I am in a project, and it doesn't feel so overwhelming.

5. Get a yearly planner. 

This, I do not do. I just don't have the wall space to put one up, otherwise I would. They're a great way to get an overview of the whole year and see where you are.

These are just my tips. There are lots of ways to stay organised, and not all of them work for everyone. Do you have any tips for staying organised? Let me know in the comments if you do!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Jivin' Through the Jungle

I got a bit carried away with Colour Collective's 'Tomato' prompt. I was expecting work to materialise (the client is running a bit late) and so I didn't start anything important, and just noodled away at this CC. Not, perhaps, the best use of my time, but I'm always unsettled when I can't do what I've scheduled in... anyone else find that?

This is a redo of a (very) old Colour Collective, which I never actually finished. This time it's been completely redrawn. Here's the original (and didn't I just end up down the wormhole of my twitter trying to find it. I don't remember a good 80% of the things I draw, I swear o.O)

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro (the first one was Photoshop CC2016 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, if you need the full deets.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Late Bloomers...

Or, 'The Swimming Lesson'

I put this little illo together for the first Colour Collective of 2018. The prompt was 'Cinnebar Green' and I thought frogs:

I had fun with all those eyeballs!

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Happy Lunar New Year

Colour Collective's 'Boto Pink' prompt came along when I was completely snowed under with deadlines (14 illustrations in 5 days, anyone?). But I don't like to miss CC, and I also didn't want to miss posting something for Chinese New Year... so I took an old Myrna illustration I did for Colour Collective some time back, and updated it (very quickly) to suit both themes. Under the circumstances, it was the best I could do!

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Charlotte Brontë

For International Women's Day I coloured up this colouring page of Charlotte Brontë that is included in my Literary Romance Colouring Book. Charlotte Brontë is definitely one of the women of the past who paved the way for us today, even if she originally had to do so under a male pseudonym. 

She's sitting on the Brontë chair, a natural rock formation near her home.

If you'd like to colour this too, it's in my colouring book, along with 32 other pages - portraits of Austen and Gaskell, and illustrations from Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Wives and Daughters and North and South. Buy it here! (there is a trailer for the Austen section of the book on my website)

And as I did the colouring in in Procreate on the iPad Pro (using only the standard 6B pencil brush) here is a timelapse. For maximum size I've embedded my Instagram post (blogger uploaded it very tiny), so you'll need to click to the second image, the first is just the illustration itself.

A post shared by Alison Mutton ( on


We watched the movie version of Roald Dahl's Matilda, so naturally I got my copy of the book off the shelf and did a little sketch:

I had fun drawing some 80s clothes. Matilda was published the year after I was born so I can juuuuust about remember people dressing like this.

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Misc Sketches

Here are some miscellaneous sketches I've done this year:

Katia, the protagonist in the picture book I did for my honours project in Uni. I'm fond of her, every now and then I dust her off:

I don't know if this girl is hiding or discovering something. It's up to you:

There are more below the cut!


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