Muddy Colors is not just a blog, it’s a community, and it’s been wonderful to see how many voices here are sharing their comfort, practical advice, and encouragement in this weird and scary time. Make sure you check them out:

Greg Manchess: Surviving Freelance Illustration

Greg Ruth: Art in the Age of Quarantine

Ron Lemen: Retooling for the Future

I have no doubt there are more to come in the coming weeks’ columns, and I’ll add them here.

I’m going to address some things from under my hat as Creative Director of a Publishing Division, and then as an Art Business Educator.

First: as Lauren Panepinto, Creative Director, Orbit Books

I’ve been getting a lot of frightened emails from worried artists. They’re wondering if publishing is going to be able to keep going in this time of store shutdowns and amazon pushing book deliveries back. To respond, I sent my artist list (which includes artists I have worked with, am currently working with, and some that I haven’t worked with yet but are on my shortlist) this email, which I copy here for everyone, in the hopes that it helps. I don’t know exactly what the world is going to bring, but this is what I can say, from the inside of a publishing house, right now.

Hi Everyone,

Forgive me, I hate sending out a mass email but I didn’t want to wait too long to reach you all. This email is going out to what I consider the bigger art family of Orbit Books. Artists that we’ve worked with, are working with, and/or hope to work with soon. You’re spread all over the world, and different parts of the world are in varying stages of pandemic, so also forgive me for being a bit general in this update. If you are on a project with me right now, please feel free to ask any questions you have. If I owe you feedback, you’ll be getting it soon. If you have invoiced for payment and it’s overdue, please let me know. All invoices/paperwork that I have received has been submitted.

I hope all of you are keeping as safe as possible and all of your loved ones are healthy. As of right now, Orbit US & UK are safe, healthy, and continuing to do business. Our books are progressing and, as some artists have been humorously noting on social media, art feedback is coming quicker than ever before. Editors and other approvers are a captive audience right now, and we’re all being interrupted much less by pesky meetings. Digital routing has been set up and is working quite well. I wanted to let you know we don’t anticipate any interruption in commissions or work to give out in the future. People are still reading, and reading more, so we’re going to keep making books.

If you are on a job with me now, or if I email you for a job while all this is going on, I just want to stress that communication, as always, is key. If you are having health issues, or someone you care for is having health issues, or if you’re just feeling overwhelmed and concerned about your ability to get the work done, please let me know. Don’t be worried about looking like you don’t have it together, I will never hold it against you. We’re all just trying to keep it together. We will work together to figure it out. I know some of you will be more in demand during this time and some of you will see work become harder. I wish I had 10x more covers to give out right now, but remember, illustrations can happen in quarantine — a lot of other content can’t. And I think media is going to realize that very quickly, and the illustration community as a whole will see more work coming in. If you have been hit hard by productions shutting down (thinking of anyone in film) and are in need of work from projects cancelling, please feel free to reach out. I might not have something for you, but ADs continue to share info as always and we’ll pass the word along discreetly.

Meanwhile, there are many organizations trying to assist artists and creators in need. Let me take off my Orbit hat for a moment and say over at Drawn + Drafted (@drawnanddrafted on twitter and Instagram) our team of ADs is trying to share as much info as possible and give as much support as possible. We’ll be rolling more out soon.

That’s it for now, I just wanted to make sure you all knew I was thinking about you all, and I hope we work together soon. If you have any great Work From Home tips, feel free to share, and feel a deep sense of schadenfreude that all your art directors are suddenly struggling with to figure out what most of you have been experts at for years!

Stay healthy & safe!

I wanted to share that with you because not everything is grim. What you should take away from that is that after a week of holy-sh*t-we-need-to-set-up-everything-to-work-virtually and another week of putting out fires, most of publishing has adapted. And not just publishing. Many industries have transitioned to working virtually and carrying on. Video games. Magazines. Newspapers. Animation, Comics. A lot of these industries are going to see a giant uptick in business, even in an economic downturn. Some are going to have a harder time. Film projects are figuring out how to move forward in a world where you can’t gather enough people together for a film set. But streaming services are booming, so they’ll be moving ahead with everything they can as soon as they reconfigure a little more.

For those of you that do not depend on professional commissions, things may seem a lot more uncertain. I’m still seeing a lot of Kickstarters run successfully, especially with smaller entry price points. Many artists are reporting an uptick in their Patreons as their fans realize artists are going to have a tough year. It’s going to be hard for many of you to make up the income that conventions usually bring, but I have faith that there are alternate avenues to stay afloat. To that end let me switch hats…

Now: as Lauren Panepinto, Art Business Educator, Drawn + Drafted

I’ve written here before about the Art Business Bootcamps that Marc Scheff & I run. First we did them at cons and then we got them online. It’s never been about profit for us, but we have to charge to keep the online platform going. We’ve taken a hard look at the numbers, and we can keep it afloat if we drop the cost 90% for the next 3 months. We’ve also recently moved out very supportive Art Business Bootcamp group off Facebook this year and onto Slack, which has many more features and much better searching and organization. It’s usually $10 a month and we’re able to make it free for the next 3 months.

You can access these discounts via the Drawn + Drafted Gumroad page

Along with these resources are our usual free/pay what you wish content:

Dear Art Director, where you can ask any question you want anonymously and real Art Directors and Pro artists answer (if you have some free time now there’s 5 years of back answers to read through)

Then there’s our Art Business Bootcamp OneSheet PDFs that you can also download on gumroad

And you can also watch a ton of seminars and interviews we have recorded and put on our Crowdcast page for free anytime. We just did a seminar last week on best practices for working from home:

And then we have 2 Intensives, which we’re not going to discount because the profits go to the teachers, who are also freelancers: Stephanie Law’s Kickstarter Intensive and Mallory O’Meara’s Intensive on how to Pitch Creative Projects.


We’ll also be rolling out many more projects that have been in the works soon (since we’re stuck in the house with a lot more time) so sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss out on anything.

In closing, I want to stress something. It’s ok to not feel ok. This kind of crisis is unprecedented in our lifetimes. Sometimes we will deal by doing things that make us feel productive (like taking advantage of the resources above) and sometimes we need to take a break and watch a movie and try to escape a bit. Also many people have children home and they don’t ave the free time to focus on work right now. I’m not putting these resources there for anyone to feel any guilt whatsoever. They are there if and when you are ready to use them, and we’ve tried to make them as accessible as possible. Do what you can to stay sane and healthy.

Stay in, check in on your loved ones virtually, and keep washing your hands!