An Artists Simple Recipe for Success

Artists Recipe for Success

The fabulous Carlos Castellanos

I am a co-host on a site called Drawn by Success along with the great Carlos Castellanos. Not too long ago we got into a discussion about what it takes to actually make it in this crazy competitive world of art. Why are some so successful while others are still struggling. What do successful artists do that the rest of don’t? At Drawn By Success we have an opportunity to interview some pretty amazing people. The folks that make it onto the site and into the interviews are people who have done something really remarkable. They’ve achieved a remarkably high level of success. So what makes them so different from the rest of us? What is the formula for success for an artist or for that matter most any creative field?

 The successful people we’ve interviewed have three things in common even though they come from very different backgrounds. Sure, there are a lot of other factors that contribute to their success but the three they have in common are passion, taking action and following through.


Being passionate. All the people we interview are super passionate about what they do and it’s the first answer they give when we ask WHY they do what they do. They all share it and honestly it’s what attracted us to them in the first place.

Being passionate gives them the drive to move forward and believe in what they are doing. Passion helps them overcome their fears and doubts. It helps them gut out the long hours and never give up. Are you passionate about what you do? Without passion are you just going through the motions? Find something you are passionate about and I guarantee you’ll never be bored, burn out or loose interest in your work again.

 Taking Action

photo bob ostrom, drawn by successPassion is great. It’s what puts fire in our belly but unfortunately it’s not enough. Taking action is the difference between having a great idea and actually making something happen. Think of passion as the fuel and taking action as the engine. You can’t move forward without taking action. By taking action no matter how small it creates forward motion. Move forward, even an inch, and you’ve generated momentum. With forward momentum comes larger and larger gains. The importance of taking action can’t be understated. Without talking action an idea is just an idea.

Follow Through

There’s nothing glamorous about follow through. It’s the long hours, hard work and the determination to make something happen. How many ideas die on the drawing board or fizzle out before they’re finished? Taking action gets the ball rolling but follow through is what makes it happen. Seth Godin calls it shipping I call it follow through. You can call it whatever you like, without it your project fails.

So there you have it. Three simple steps. Follow them and you will follow a path to success. No more excuses. The plan itself is pretty simple. It’s sticking to the plan that presents the challenge. So how do we stick with it? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Even as the guy who’s edited the audio and listened to those interviews a thousand time I often listen again any time I need a little motivation or a kick in the pants. I’m not saying Drawn By Success is the final answer. What I’m saying is surround yourself by motivation. Surround yourself with whatever it takes to get you moving forward and taking the next step. For me it’s Drawn by Success and talking with other successful artists. What is it for you? If you’ve discovered other sites that get you get rolling or help you find your mo-jo please leave a link in the comment section. I’m always on the lookout for good motivational reading or listening.

eBook Illustration – Where are the Dinos?

eBook Illustration

Cartoon, dinosaur, artist, ostromHi readers this week and next I will be featuring art from my latest book Where are the Dinos ?, written by author Julia Dweck and published by Kite Reader. You can find it in the hot new release section over on the Amazons. So far it looks like we’re doing pretty well. Lots of very positive reviews. WHOOT!!!

Illustrating a children’s ebook is no small task. It takes lots of planning, an endless amount of sketches, roughs, layouts, revisions and many late nights at the drawing board. The amount of work that goes into producing just one book is staggering. It is truly a labor of love. Surrounding yourself with good people always makes things a little better. I’d like to give special thanks to my good friends artist Richard Carbajal, author Julia Dweck and all the kind folks at Kite Reader for making this look easy (trust me when I tell you it’s much harder than it looks). Here is just a small part of what we do…

rough sketch, dinosaurs, gym class, ostrom
Start with a rough sketch. How rough is rough? Just enough to get the idea down on paper.
dinosaurs, cartoon, sketch, bob ostrom
Once I have the idea down on paper it’s time to tighten up the sketch.
cartoon, dinosaur, gym, cartoon, art, childrens book illustration, ostrom
Every piece is reviewed several times before it goes to publishing.
dinosaur, cartoon, gym, childrens book illustration, ostrom
The final art with type in position.

Editing Video in Photoshop

Editing Video in Photoshop
Is there anything you can’t do with this program? I swear, it won’t be long until you can ask Photoshop to make you a cup of coffee and take the dog for a walk. This week I had a chance to sit down and actually learn how to edit and create video using Photoshop. I know, sounds crazy doesn’t it? One of the great parts about my job as an instructor is that it really gives me a chance to learn these Adobe programs from top to bottom. Before I began teaching I would just focus on a small part of the program, only the small part I needed to complete whatever illustration I was working on at the time. I wish I had known then what I know now….By taking just a little extra time to learn the program completely I could have saved myself hours of wasted time.

Most of the functions in Photoshop are not a huge stretch to learn. Admittedly though, they can sometimes appear a little intimidating. Editing video is one of those functions. When I first looked at it, it seemed overwhelming but after about an hour or so of research and working with the program I felt totally at ease. The learning curve is gradual and best of all it relies on many of the functions I’m already familiar. You’ll find everything pretty much right where you remember it to be. The time line interface is predicable and easy to use and adding audio is as easy as clicking a single button.

Up until now I had been using I’d been using Apple’s latest version of iMovie to edit my videos…ugh. Maybe because I’m familiar with the Adobe programs or maybe because I’m just not in love with iMovie, I feel like comparing these two programs almost seems unfair. While iMovie is clunky and counter intuitive Photoshop uses a platform I’m already comfortable with and allows me to do all the things I’m not able to do in iMovie. iMovie is great if you don’t mind using pre-fomatted functions. Photoshop really allowed me to create whatever I wanted to and whats more I feel like I’ve just started to scratch the surface. All in all it was a great experience and I can’t wait to see what else I can do with it. The only drawback I’ve run into so far is that it’s tends to be bit of a memory hog when working with it. File sizes however are still manageable so far. This file for instance is under 10mgs. If you’ve worked with video editing using Photoshop I’d love to hear about your experience and how it’s working out for you.
If you are interested in learning more about video editing here are some of the the resources I used.

I highly recommend:
Photoshop CS6 Classroom in a book – (Ok yeah, the cover’s a little creepy but it’s a great book)
YouTube video tutorial  – – Straight forward look at editing with Photoshop and how to get started. Walks you through from start to finish.

If you are interested in Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign and happen to live in the Raleigh area you are always welcome to join me in any of the locations where I teach-

Wake Tech community college
The State Personnel Development Center

How to add Keywords in Photoshop and Never Lose Another File Again.

Haunted House cartoon Cover Art - Bob OstromHow to add Keywords in Photoshop.

I’ve been looking for old Photoshop ans Illustrator files all morning and I can’t seem to find anything. I remember the images but when I search for them by name nothing comes up. The reason nothing comes up is because the files aren’t really lost I just happen to be using the wrong names when I search. My clients tend to name files very differently then I do and therefor when I search using a logical title nothing comes up. If only I’d known about tagging my images with keywords when I created them I wouldn’t be going through any of this now.

Adobe built this great little feature into it’s programs to help out guys like me who’s files are all over the place. Here’s how it works. Suppose you have a file like this one on the right. It’s name is something like ZRX_1357-22BRB.PSD. Great for the client not great for me. When I search for this image I would probably use a search term like Monsters, Haunted House, Halloween…. you get the idea. The problem is none of those words produce results. So how do we fix that? Simple we add keyword search terms right into the file.

Here’s how it works. Before saving the file we’ll add some tags to help us find it later. That way if the client needs a title full of letters and numbers we can still find it using simple search terms later. So here is my file. I happen to be working in Photoshop right now but this works for other Adobe programs too.

In Photoshop start by going to File > File Info

File info screen shot Adobe Photoshop - ostrom

A panel that looks like the one below should now be up on your screen.

You can add a title, author name, file description, key words etc. Let’s focus on the keywords. By tagging this image with common keywords I can easily find it in a search later by using any of those terms.

Tagging an image in photoshop with keywords - ostrom

Now when I go to find my art using my computer’s  search
my image will show up using any of the keywords I added.

Computer search - ostrom

If you can build this into your routine you will never lose another file again.

The great part about it is it’s never too late to add the search terms. Once you find your lost file open it add your keywords into the file at any time and then simply re-save.

•note – You can also use Adobe’s bridge to add keywords but that’s a story for anther day.



Cartooning Tutorial – Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

This is a little cartooning tutorial I wrote a few years back about creating an illustration using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. You’ll notice I begin my drawing in pencil, then move to illustrator for line work and finally Photoshop for color. Although the tutorial is a little old and the programs have advanced since then it’s still pretty useful and works just as well now as when I wrote it (assuming the you’re familiar with the basic functions of both programs). For more advanced students you may want to try adding actions to speed things up a bit.

If this tutorial is beyond your skill level take heart I’m working on a new series that will delve a little deeper focusing on individual tools, how they work and more importantly how to get them to work for you. Many of my first time students are tentative about using these programs to their full potential because they sometimes feel overwhelmed. My advice is always the same. Don’t let your inexperience dictate the scope of your project. Try things that are slightly out of reach and a little ABOVE your skill level. Step outside of your comfort zone and allow yourself to learn some of the tools you’ve been avoiding. If you get stuck don’t panic there are tons of resources available everywhere. The best places I’ve found for quick easy answers (in no particular order) are:

Using the help button built into the program
Posting a question on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn
Adobe website (if you have an account)

On the other hand if you’re just not the adventurous type and you really want to learn the program once and for all consider taking a course. It will cut your learning time in half. There are few substitutes for having a knowledgable instructor to help you gain a clear understanding and get you through those areas you don’t understand.

Bob Ostrom is a children’s book illustrator and instructor of Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop at Wake Tech Community College and the State Personnel Development Center in Raleigh NC.

Illustrating an eBook

ebook, dinosaur, dinos, bob ostrom, julia dweck, amazon

I’ve been working with author Julia Dweck on an eBook about dinosaurs. We’ve been having tons of fun with this book and it should be coming out any minute now. Here’s a quick behind the dino-scenes look at how to illustrate a dino-eBook.

Illustrating an eBook step 1:

This book is a based on a poem about dinosaurs.  The theme for this particular page was about a dino party at night. I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it so I sat down with my iPad and started sketching. As you can see my initial sketch is pretty rough but loosely blocking things in allows me play around, have some fun and not get too attached to the drawing. After trying a few different directions I decided to go with a dino-pool party.

Rough ipad dinosuar sketch by Bob Ostrom
Rough sketch done on the iPad

Illustrating an eBook step 2:

I was pretty happy with the rough so I printed out a version so I could trace and clean up. I work with super-cheap copy paper… mostly because it’s super cheap. Sometimes I go directly from the iPad to Illustrator but in this case I was having a little trouble getting the exact look I wanted. Whenever that happens I throw down a fresh piece of paper and grab a pencil. I guess I’m just an old school guy because pencil on paper never fails.

dinosaur pool party sketch by Bob Ostrom
The final sketch of the dinosaur pool party. Done it red pencil, scanned to photoshop and cleaned up a bit.

Illustrating an eBook step 3:

The next step is to drag everything into Adobe Illustrator and create the line art. It’s all done on layers because as you know there are about 37 different types of e-readers out there and they come in all shapes and sizes. That means we’ll probably need to shift things around to fill pages better when the proportions change. Having things on layers makes that A LOT easier.

Adobe Illustrator line art by Bob Ostrom Studio
Line art is created in Adobe Illustrator.

Illustrating an eBook step 4:

Once the line work is complete the illustration is colored in Illustrator and then assembled with text in InDesign. Even though I had roughed out the book in advance I thought this illustration looked better flopped. That’s the beauty of using tools like Illustrator and InDesign they are super flexible and allow you to make changes on the fly (of course depending how fussy you are that can be a double edged sword). You young whippersnappers out there with your fancy technology will not appreciate the magnitude but to us old timers being able to make changes as you go is something we used to only dream about. So that’s my story. From here it’s off to Julia for review then straight to production. If all goes well you’ll be hearing about the release of this book very soon. Thanks for reading.

dinosaur pool party illustration by Bob Ostrom
Flopping the final illustration using Adobe InDesign.