Grace Catherine Hohnstadt

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Our second child, Grace Catherine, was born yesterday at 6:28pm, 6lb. 11oz, 18-3/4 inches long. Mother and daughter are doing fine. She’s a sweet little girl—and a nice last-minute tax deduction for her freelancing dad.

Regular blogging will resume again soon. Happy new year to one and all!

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Merry Christmas

People celebrate Christmas for all sorts of reasons. For me it’s not just about the presents or the time with family or even the little manger scene on the mantel. It’s also about why Jesus was born: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Since I’m definitely a sinner, that’s good news.  I tried to hint at that theme in this illustration.

This was intended to be my Christmas card promo. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get it finished in time to mail out to my clients. I was so busy meeting other clients’ deadlines that I missed my own. So I sent it out as a Christmas email instead.

Warmest Christmas wishes to all you blog readers and your families.

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Blogging Break

I’m afraid I’m going to have to go light on the blogging for a while. My wife is very pregnant with our second baby, so much so that she has been put on strict bed rest (doctor’s orders). In other words she’s supposed to stay in bed 24-7 for the next few weeks until the baby comes (mid-January, maybe sooner). It’s not too serious—more of a precaution than anything—but it means in addition to working full-time I’ll be handling our toddler, doing all the house work, running all the errands, and helping my wife to keep from going crazy from boredom lying in bed all day. With the Christmas season kicking into high gear that’s going to make things extra-crazy. And those of you who are parents know that once a new baby comes the craziness doesn’t immediately go away.

I may do some blogging here and there if for no other reason than to take a break and attempt to connect with the outside world. However, the posts will probably be few and far between for the next few weeks. Once life stabilizes for us I look forward to things getting back to normal. Until then, thanks for your patience.

Pros and Cons of Sending Christmas Gifts to Clients

For the last two years I’ve sent Christmas packages to many of the clients I’ve worked with during that year. Now I’m debating whether or not to send anything this year.

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Two years ago I sent out a fairly elaborate package (pictured). I bought giant-sized Hershey’s Symphony chocolate bars, removed the labels and replaced them with labels illustrated by me. I then put each candy bar in a cardboard box filled with green-and-red shredded paper, along with a couple of candy canes, a Christmas card also illustrated by me, and everything sealed up with a sticker also illustrated by me.

Last year I bought fancy tins filled with Life Savers (didn’t replace the label), reused the last year’s Christmas card, and left out the sticker.

This year I’m illustrating a new card and that’s probably all I’ll send. (Provided I can get them printed in time.)

Whether or not to send gifts to clients is an important question. Based on my own experience and after reading a few blog posts on the subject, here’s some of the thinking behind why you should or shouldn’t send Christmas gifts to your clients:

WHY YOU SHOULD

1. It lets the client know how grateful you are for their business.

2. It sends a personal message that you appreciate them as a person and not just as a way to get a paycheck.

3. It’s a great way to self-promote. In theory, the receiver of the gift will be more likely to think of you for their next project.

4. It’s also a fun opportunity to show off your creative skills (i.e. designing a Christmas card, or a candy label, or the wrapping paper, etc.)

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T

1. Everyone else is doing it, making it harder for you to stand out. Some clients may even start to resent all the gifts. “Oh great, more Chirstmas junk food. That will help my diet!” Same goes for cheezy gifts, cheap gifts, and unoriginal gifts. (“Oh goody, another mug.”)

2. Some say you shouldn’t need to send out gifts to get business. Your doctor, your accountant, and your plumber don’t send you gifts and yet you still do business with them. And you are just as much a professional as they are.

3. Some clients (especially those with whom you have a close working relationship) may feel obligated to send something back in return. No one likes to be put in the position of thinking “Gee, I didn’t get you anything”.

4. Sending Christmas gifts is expensive and takes a great deal of effort. There may be easier and more effective ways to invest your advertising dollars.

What do you think? Do you send Christmas gifts to clients? Why or why not? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Give Your Poses Clarity and Interest

I have a confession to make: Lately I’ve been getting lazy in my drawings. When designing a character I’ve been so focused on the overall design that I’ve completely neglected the importance of good posing. My designs have been improving in recent months but my characters wind up mostly just standing around (at least in the concept phase of a design project). That’s a missed opportunity because a good pose can say a lot about a character’s personality.

Recently while watching some classic Popeye cartoons on DVD (Amazon.com link) I was reminded of the importance of adding interest and clarity to my poses. So I went through one of the cartoons (“Flies Ain’t Human”, 1941) and made screen grabs of each of Popeye’s major poses so I could study them and get inspired. Continue reading

Even More John K on Character Design

A while back I posted several links to artist John K’s observations on character design (here and here). Yesterday Mr. K posted even more thoughts on the topic, complete as always with many examples. This time he tries to analyze that elusive and magical quality called “appeal”:

Disney Principles and Appeal

John gives a lot of thought to the topics he posts about and his blog is always great reading.