Illustrator Jack Hoyle About Freelancing & His Process

freelancing as an illustrator
freelancing as an illustrator

By Jack Hoyle


Owner of T-Rex Studios

The Creative Process

Please introduce yourself

I am Jack Hoyle, a.k.a. T-rex Studios and I have been a professional illustrator for about 5 years now. After graduating college with a BA with a concentration in illustration, I started working at the family business (where it was safe). During that time I took art jobs on the side while the day job paid the bills. After doing this for about 10 years I took the leap into the freelance art world. The change from part time freelancer to full time freelancer wasn’t as easy as I would’ve liked to have been. It is worth pointing out that I did marry well, and her job still paid the bills while I was getting started. In the beginning I did some pro bono work for some authors and clients just to build my portfolio and get my name out there. I would research like crazy all the different publisher websites, big and small, and find out who the art directors were and would then email them. I would also do this for other genres like gaming, advertising, etc. At first before I had much experience I would rarely hear back from anyone, but as my portfolio grew I would get replies from more and more art directors. I still do this now, I set aside time each week to try and contact new potential clients and also send out an update of what I am working on now to people I have contacted in the past. This is the life of a freelancer, fishing for clients constantly, sending out emails hoping for an art director to bite.

How and with who have you worked?

I have worked with independent authors, publishers, and gaming companies over the past 5 years. I started out working traditionally, (pencil, acrylic, ink) but eventually moved on to digital work. I mostly work digitally now using Photoshop as my go to program. Moving from traditional media to digital was not a life changing move for me. I had always been interested in Photoshop so I knew how to operate the program. I applied my painting technique (which is lots of layering) to Photoshop, where I would layer color on top of color until I got what I wanted. The biggest challenge for me was learning how to draw on a different surface. I have a Wacom Cintique (which I love) so I can draw right on the screen which is nice, but I found the slick surface of the screen hard to get used to after years of drawing on paper. Eventually I got the hang of it, but I still prefer to work out my thumbnails and rough drawings on paper.

What are some of your inspirations?

As a child I was heavily influenced by comic books, and comic art, and thought that was what I wanted to do for a long time. After dipping my toes in the comic book industry I found out that wasn’t for me. Then I focused on my other love, fantasy art. I loved Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta, as well as Drew Struzan. My style is influenced by those guys, but I also think the comic book style of my earlier days shows threw to.
My studio, located in my basement, is full of toys, comics and my art making junk. One shelf in my studio is dedicated to nothing but dinosaurs. Something about dinos awakens my inner child and gets my creative juices going. Beside the shelf is my computer that is connected to my Wacom tablet and secondary screen. I use the second screen to put reference photos on, or search the internet, or maybe just watch a movie while I’m working. Next to that is my drawing table/painting easel. It’s really just a drawing table that can tilt up. When I paint I clamp my board down to the table and tilt it up and paint on it. I also have a table set up strictly for framing art and prints. And mixed in between all of this you can find random art books, comics, toys, or any other nerdy kind of stuff laying around.

Let’s see some of your works!

Freelancing as an illustrator

This past year I took a online class with Smart School IMC. During this class under instructor Dan Dos Santos I created this art piece which depicts a vampire (my wife) and her familiar. For me this piece was an exploration into different color schemes. During the process I experimented with lots of different colors and settings, trying out new ways to render a painting.

freelancing as an illustrator

‘Pael’ is a book cover commissioned by independent author M.R. Mathias for his book series “The WardStone Trilogy”. I created all three book covers, and this is book one. The author sent me a description of the wizard and the dragon that he wanted on the cover. Using Photoshop I created this for him. I also recorded the process of creating this piece with a program called Snag It, watch the video above.

‘Cold’ was a big milestone for me in my art career as it marks the first time I actually attempted to create a fully rendered painting in Photoshop. There was lots of trial and error and lots of looking on the internet and YouTube on how to do certain things, but I finally got there. I learned more while creating this painting than I did in most classes.

Give us a walk through of your favorite project

One of my latest projects was a book cover for author M.R. Mathias. It ended up being one of my favorite pieces. The only direction I had form him was “It’s Science Fiction Horror, so create something cool.” I have worked with him on several projects and he knew what I could do and had faith in me to create something awesome.
So the First thing I did was create some thumbnails to flesh out some ideas I had in my head. After about 8 thumbnails I had at least three that I liked, and then proceeded to draw them out a little better, (still a rough drawing at this stage).

freelancing as an illustrator

I presented them to the author and he picked the one he liked the most. The next step was to create a final drawing. So the next couple of days were spent finding reference material, which included taking photos of myself, lots of Google image searches, and watching some old Sci-fi movies. I then created the final drawing and submitted it to the author again just to make sure. He approved and it was time to move on to the next step.

freelancing as an illustrator

The next thing I wanted to work out was lighting and value studies. I came up with a few lighting studies and how I thought what color the light might be and how it would affect the scene.

freelancing as an illustrator

Once I was satisfied with that it was time to start coloring. I started with the flat, neutral colors and filled everything in. I then worked on the background, rendering it out throughout and behind the main character in case things needed to be adjusted later.

freelancing as an illustrator

When I was happy with that I moved on to the main character. Coloring in lights first, then shadow, I would add more light or more shadow during each pass I made over the figure. The last thing I did before fine tuning was the main doors and the creature tentacles. I tried to make them a little darker with a few bright purple spots to help them stand out. After that it was all about fine tuning. Zooming in and checking lines, adjusting colors, and cleaning up boo boos. The client was ecstatic about the finished product and my job was done.

freelancing as an illustrator

Final thoughts

I have found out that working as a freelance illustrator can be quite tough at times and very rewarding at others. Finding work this day and age has never been easier and harder all at the same time. With access to the internet and a little research I can reach out to art directors all over the world and they can see my work with a click of a button, but so can your competition. So you have to stay on top of your game and always try to improve your art. I try to practice every day in between jobs and I take art classes online or local, because there is always more to learn.
For anyone who is thinking about becoming a freelance illustrator I would like them to know that it is very rewarding and very demanding. Don’t be afraid to take chances, and be ready for some rejection. I was rejected and told no many times, and it still happens. That doesn’t make me want to quit, it makes me want to do better. So keep working at it and practicing while you are looking for work. And when you do get work, even if it is a small job, you have to do your best. Put your best foot forward every time because you never know who might see it and want to know who created it classes online or local, because there is always more to learn.

If you would like to see more of my work visit my website.
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