Dilation Exercise 107

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

The idea of shooting a flaming arrow into the heavens to rekindle the waning moon was considered a primitive one, not to be taken seriously by modern science

When confronted with the disaster of the the first manned mission to the moon, the Chief Scientist of NASA pointed out that the moon had not in fact caught fire.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

If you like Alan M. Clark’s artwork, please try his writing in both short fiction and novels.

Artwork: “Flaming Arrows” copyright © 2000 Alan M. Clark. Cover illustration for Flaming Arrows by Bruce Holland Rogers – IFD Publishing.

Dilation Exercise 106

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises. Special thanks to Karl Fischer and Cameron Pierce for their assistence with this exercise.

At the 2093 Ultimate Bizarro Showdown, everyone thought the aliens would have the upper hand because they were by definition bizarre to us.

But to win first place, all Alister had to do was to stand before the judges and read the epitaph from Karl Fischer’s tomb while feeding a swarm of tiny, tiny blackbirds.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

If you like Alan M. Clark’s artwork, please try his writing in both short fiction and novels.

Artwork: “Fat Power” copyright © 1995 Alan M. Clark. Illustration for “Fat Power” by Sherry Briggs – Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Mid-Dec 1995.

Alan M. Clark’s Advice for Aspiring Illustrators, Part 3

Perceived Value

A key issue when trying to sell your artwork and artistic abilities is PERCEIVED VALUE. (On this issue, I will at first speak the obvious, but bear with me, please.) Artwork has no monetary value until someone gives it value. The one who produces a piece of artwork most often assigns the value, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Often, the value of a piece of art is arrived at only when someone agrees with the artist on a price and pays it. Still, that price may not be agreeable to another, and therefore the artwork is not a good investment for possible future sale. Artists like to think their artwork is sold to people who buy it because they like it, not as an investment, and while it is true that most people do buy what they like, frequently, often wrongly, the buyer also thinks that the piece carries a particular value they might need to cash in on in the future.

Perceived value is the collective response to your work by an audience, big or small, generally a community of some size, a fan base; those who attend a venue or enjoy a genre or a particular type of product in which or with which your artwork is associated and seen. You know your abilities are valuable, but there are people all around us with their very own valuable artistic skills and in order for yours to have high value, they must stand out in some way. The more people who see your work as having high value, the more you will be paid for it.

Exposure helps. Get your work out there. Early in your career it may cost you something to do that, but think of it as an investment in the perceived value of your work. Show samples to buyers, whether commercial or private, take part in art shows, competitions, etc…

The buying public, whether it is a company or individual, wants to know that you’re consistent and reliable at what you do. A one hit wonder, or someone who occasionally squirts out a little artistic genius on their own time will not earn the kind of respect that garners ongoing success. Work for people while working for yourself. Be prolific. Reinvent yourself regularly, but don’t drop the old you when doing so. Strive for distinctiveness in your work so that you are not replaceable. Hook up with those who are putting out products or events that are highly regarded or involve other highly regarded artists, writers, and products, for the high perceived value of those colleagues and products will rub off a little on you and your work. Strive to knock the socks off of your clients and their/your audience even if it takes more effort than you’re getting paid for. Sell your original work, as the sale of your work speaks volumes to others about the desirability of it. When you’re just starting out, lower the prices you’re willing to take, sometimes to ridiculously low levels, just to make the sale. Again, consider this an investment in the perceived value of your work.

The image with this post is an acrylic painting I did in 1985, the first year I was a full-time freelance illustrator. Not much really—an afternoon’s worth of work, maybe six inches tall, by twelve wide—it was one of umpteen quick, small pieces I did to show and sell cheap at science fiction conventions that year. Just starting out in freelance illustration at the time, I was struggling to get work and exposure, so I would entered this piece, and many others like it, in the convention art shows’ silent auctions with a minimum bid of twenty-five dollars. My hope was that it would get a couple of bids, and therefore have to go to the voice auction where artwork was paraded around by runners who showed the pieces to those bidding. That way, my piece of art would get more exposure. It may have gone up in price during the voice auction or it may have sold for twenty-five dollars in the art show’s silent auction—I don’t remember. My goal was to have the highest profile sales of my artwork at as many conventions in as many cities as I could, with the hope that by the next year, folks would know me and my artwork a bit. I sold sixty-four pieces of art at conventions all over the country that year and my income was pitiful, but by the next year, my artwork was commanding higher prices and people were talking about my work.

Artwork: “Adolescent Spacecraft” copyright © 1985 Alan M. Clark

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Alan M. Clark’s Advice for Aspiring Illustrators, Part 2


If there is a company you want to work for, try to make an appointment with the art director (in some cases this will be an editor or even the publisher) and go see that person so they can look you in the eye and see that you are the sort of person who can get the job done. Make sure before going to all this trouble that you are the sort of person who can get the job done.

If you can’t go see an art director or their submission policies don’t allow it, send samples, either digital files via email or hard copy—read their submission guidelines to find out what they allow or communicate with the art director and ask. For magazines, guidelines are usually in the first few pages. For books, you can find guidelines in books like The Artist’s Market and The Literary Market Place or on the publisher’s website.

If you get in to see an art director, don’t run your mouth. Be patient. Let the artwork speak for you. Make sure your artwork can speak for you.

And that reminds me—there are other things that speak volumes about us, like the way we act, the way we look, and conduct business. Be dependable, punctual, responsible. Always meet deadlines or at the very least let your client know when you might be a little late. Don’t take work you can’t get done by the deadline. Try to take all work that comes your way—you might never see any again. Take a chance on trying things you never thought you’d do—it’s just a job and you’ll survive it—and you might find your way into something new and different for which your personality and skills are perfectly suited. (This takes a non-begrudging, generous mind set. Those who enjoy feeling sorry for themselves need not apply.)

I was one with a heaping helping of self-pity, a slob, a drunk, a procrastinator, but fear of working in a convenience market or, say, the men’s department at J. C. Penney or on an assembly line somewhere forced me to change and helped me to get organized.

The image with this post is one I created for the first portfolio I showed to art directors in New York in 1985. Fantastic Planet Books picked it up this year for the cover of One and Wonder, edited by Piers Anthony.

Artwork: “A View of Enverlez” copyright © 1984 Alan M. Clark

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Alan M. Clark’s Advice for Aspiring Illustrators, Part 1


This is the first of a series of articles I’ll offer on advice for finding illustration work. The advice I’ll offer is largely based on advice given to me that worked. I’m not an authority. I am talking about my experience. Everyone’s experience is going to be different. I’ve been a freelance illustrator for almost thirty years now. These articles will include the sort of advice I’d give myself if I had a time machine and could go back and talk to the Alan Clark who was just starting out thirty years ago. Since then the landscape of the illustration field has changed a lot, but I will talk a bit about what I believe still works.

My education is in fine art, so to learn about the illustration business, I went to science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions and spoke to the professional illustrators who were guests of the conventions. Illustrators are generally very generous with information about the business. I learned how to prepare a portfolio, who to try to see and how to approach them. I learned of work that was being assigned and how artists were chosen for the assignments. I learned about the difficulties of getting work without having had work—artists are notoriously flaky so art directors have all been bitten more than twice. I learned how to be the sort of artist an art director might take a chance on. I learned how illustrators made sure art directors and editor knew about them, their availability and dependability, and how to maintain a presence to avoid being forgotten. These days an art director might be a publisher, editor or even the author of a book.

Portfolios
There’s a lot of good advice out there for building a portfolio. But here I’ll give somewhat unusual but valuable advice given to me about preparing a portfolio:

1) Don’t include samples of anything that you won’t want to be hired regularly to do.
2) Six to ten examples of your art should do the trick. This few signals confidence in your ability to get your skills across to someone. Make sure the pieces you choose do this.
3) Make sure that the work chosen suits the format of the work you’re going after, that it’s tailored to the market you are showing the work to. If you are wanting book cover work, produce samples that look like book covers, ones that are the right shape and have a low contrast area where text might be placed. Don’t put text on the images. The low contrast area should not be one of no interest, but instead an area where text would look comfortable and where whatever was underneath the text would not look awkward.
4) If you produce work that is generic in nature, it might be purchase by an art directorto be used on something for which it is appropriate. For instance, in science fiction novels that include space ships, the ships are often not describe vividly, so a painting with a space ship in it would make a good cover. A novel with Vampires in it could use a generic vampire image. A fantasy with a dragon could use a dragon image and so on. Don’t put lots of extra subject matter in these pieces or they will begin to tell stories that might argue with the novel for which they might be purchased. Although these pieces are generic, they should be produced with distinctive style, strong compositions and incredible color. With tear sheets from these sales, a portfolio looks like it belongs to an artist an art director trusted with an assignment, getting you past the problem of not being able to get work unless you’ve had work. Art directors seeing the work in the portfolio do not know that the work wasn’t done on assignment. This is how I got in the door.

The image with this post is my first paperback book cover, a generic space ship piece bought from my portfolio by Tor Books for Le. E. Modesitt’s The Silent Warrior. I had been working full time in illustration for three years when the book came out, but had had little success in getting work with any consistency until after this. I got the advice for doing generic covers from David Hartwell.

Artwork: “Trilobite Returns to Helvoran” copyright © 1986 Alan M. Clark

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 58

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

I awakened during surgery to the sound of the doctors laughing while they made jokes and wagers about my condition; however, the anesthesiologist caught me, and I fell into unconsciousness again before I got my odds from the betting.


Later, in the recovery room, I knew that unless I moaned my own business, bled to myself, and took pains to appear recovered, I’d never make it out those double doors.

Artwork: “A Chorus of Moans” copyright © 1994 Alan M. Clark. Interior illustration for The Pain Doctors of Suture Self General, by the Bovine Smoke Society, published by Arts Nova Press, and Pain and Other Petty Plots to Keep You in Stitches, by Alan M. Clark, Troy Guinn, Randy Fox, Mark Edwards, and Jeremy Robert Johnson, published by IFD Publishing.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 57

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

The Earth exploding in the distance, the debris severing his hand, and his blood boiling from the stump and freezing in the vacuum of space had taken an eternity compared to the following sixteen million years he spent trapped in a nearly frozen realization.


He’d just finished the thought that the end of all mankind had come when the aliens found him and the process of humanity’s restoration began.

Artwork: “Violent Decompression” copyright © 1981 Alan M. Clark. Cover art and interior illustration for IMAGINATION FULLY DILATED: SCIENCE FICTION, THE LITERATED ARTWORK OF ALAN M. CLARK, edited by Robert Kruger and Patrick Swenson, published by Fairwood Press and Electric Story.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 55

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

Alister’s new reality TV series was a hit, but when the crew started catching Cthulhu’s minions and the great old one awoke, the young man had a choice to make.


He could try to make it right and hope the god went back to sleep, or he could film the mayhem, gain glory through ratings and hope at the end of the first season there would be enough world left to cash in on his success.

Artwork: “Catch of the Day” copyright © 2006 Alan M. Clark.
Interior illustration for Deeper by James A. Moore – Necessary Evil Press.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 52

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires a story, please say something about it in a comment. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

Saint %$&@#, the patron of free speech, had lain dormant for almost seventy years, her sleep made fitful only periodically by events among human kind.

Strange that in the information age she would awaken with a start and begin to struggle against her bonds.

Artwork: “Censorship” copyright © 2000 Alan M. Clark.
Interior illustration for “Pain and Other Petty Plots” by Alan M. Clark and Randy Fox, which appeared in Pain and Other Petty Plots to Keep You in Stitches – IFD Publishing.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 45

Below you’ll find the weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires a story, please say something about it in a comment. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

While surrounded by his followers at the convention, if I had merely pointed to him and called him out for the evil, alien creature I knew him to be, no one would have believed me and I would have been ostracized by a group I had come to know and love, but during my painting demonstration that day, I seized upon a plan he would not suspect or recognize until it was too late.

I used my skills to render him, as apparently only I could see him, and offered the painting to him as a gift in a gesture of friendship before many witnesses at the event, knowing that with time my depiction of his bald head, mutton chops, and beady, little eyes would inevitably seep into the consciousness of all who saw it and register a disquieting match with the visage he had been showing us all for so long.

Artwork: “Carlton Stars as THE EGG MAN” copyright © 2011 Alan M. Clark.
Unpublished painting created during a Controlled Accident demonstration at BizarroCon 2011.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon