Sema Martin, artist, author, and COLORED PENCIL Magazine Q&A columnist takes the time to answer your tough questions in this real-time event held on our Facebook page on November 18, 2021. Learn more in the back issues of COLORED PENCIL Magazine and on her website at www.artismycareer.com.
Let’s get started!
Q: How do you price your portraits? – Linda Brewer
Sema Martin: At the start I used to price my work according to the size, now that I am further along and have been honing my skills as an artist I price based on the time taken. You can learn more about pricing your artwork here: https://www.artismycareer.com/pricing-calculator/
Q: Hello SemaWhich colored pencil brand do you use over your pan pastel layer? – Laurie Sénacq Portraitiste
Sema Martin: Hello! I mostly use Caran d’Ache Luminance over the pastel and then my Polychromos, but there isn’t really a right or wrong way of doing it. Try it on the paper you use and see what works best.
Q: You achieve the realism I would like to get, that’s why it’s interesting to know how you proceed. I tried with Luminance but I think the look it’s not the same as on just the paper. The pencil don’t hook well on the pastel and there are lots of tiny holes on the pencil strokes. Do you experience that too and how you overcome it? – Laurie Sénacq Portraitiste
Sema Martin: I use very smooth paper so there is less texture to start with. I have links to all the products I use here.. It is worth trying smooth paper if this is the technique you wish to use. https://www.semamartin.com/blog/must-have-paper-pencils-for-colour-pencil-portraits
Q: Can we learn the beginning steps to proceed with our career? It’s baby steps to learning how to do online stuff. I’m not too savvy on computers. LOL – Carla Franklin
Sema Martin: Well you don’t necessarily need to be reliant on a computer in order to have a good art career. There are a few things you can start with such as having an online presence, Instagram and Facebook account, etc. but that isn’t the only thing you can do. You can start locally, put up posters, have a stall at an event, give out your business cards in the local cafe, ask for your work to be hung in the local cafe! There are plenty more ideas here which should help you out!: https://www.artismycareer.com/marketing/build-awareness/
Q: Do you have a favorite medium like colored pencils, pastels? Do you have a favorite subject? – Nicola Gutteridge
Sema Martin Nicola Gutteridge Yes at the moment I love colored pencils but in the next year, I hope to branch out and try more mediums like oil and acrylic. I also love animals because I love the details of drawing fur. But I would like to try flower petals next. It would be the complete opposite of animal fur.
Q: I’ve seen lots of your animal work, it’s amazing and very inspiring. I recently saw your landscape work, I would love to be able to draw such detail and realism that you achieve. I’ve only ever really tried wildlife drawing in colored pencil – Nicola Gutteridge
Sema Martin: Aww thank you so much!! You should definitely try landscapes, they are so much fun and a nice change from animals.
Q: It’s fantastic. Do you ever run workshops or teach techniques – Nicola Gutteridge
Q: What’s your favorite paper? – Nicola Gutteridge
Sema Martin: I love to use Windsor and Newton Super Smooth bristol board paper. I know smooth paper isn’t regularly used for colored pencils, but I love that it keeps my colors bright and because it is smooth I don’t need as many layers to cover the paper texture.
You can find a link to the one I use here: https://www.semamartin.com/blog/must-have-paper-pencils-for-colour-pencil-portraits
Q: How did you make the leap from hobby to a career with your art? – Lynn T
Sema Martin: Hello! Well, it was a process of doing commissions on the side of my day job, much like many other artists. I decided to quit my job and go full-time as an artist when I had a month worth of money for my rent and bills and 3 months of commissions waiting for me. I had proven the concept of my business and I felt it was the right time to go full-time. You can read more about my story here: https://www.semamartin.com/blog/engineering-or-art
Q: Do you ever start a piece and feel so overwhelmed by it that it feels like you temporarily forget everything you know, like techniques? – Emily Ryan
Sema Martin: Haha yes sometimes, but in that case, I try and take the image apart and just do it little by little. Like starting with eyes first.
Q: When you have a line-up for commissions, how do you stay in order without getting overwhelmed? – Karissa
Sema Martin: I plan my commissions on a first come first serve basis and get my customers to pay upfront so I know they are serious. So if they haven’t paid they are not on my waiting list. I like to organize my commissions in a spreadsheet but I have recently designed a logbook which is now available for purchase. Something you can write in to keep track of everything. And then just work through the list one at a time, I get a little overwhelmed when my list is longer than 6 months but that is where I then have the option to close commissions until I work through my list a little more. https://www.artismycareer.com/product/the-commission-logbook-for-artists/
Q: Do you have a sketchbook or sketch regularly or do you focus on fine art only? – Karissa
Sema Martin: I currently don’t sketch because I have had a long Christmas commission waiting list to get through, but normally I like to do a little sketch or an abstract painting in the morning before doing any fine detailed work. I find it helps me get into the creative zone and it is a bit of fun for me.
Q: Hi, Sema. I have a question regarding first-time art book publications. What are your recommendations regarding self-publishing vs. finding a trusted publisher? – Oksana Burr
Sema Martin: It is easier to self-publish, especially with Amazon now printing your book on-demand but I would make sure you hire a proper editor to edit your book before you publish. You don’t want your reputation to be ruined because your book wasn’t properly edited. In terms of a publisher, it can be harder to get someone to take on your book but they will do all the work for you so you won’t have to worry about marketing it. But then you will get less money per book, like having a gallery sell your work instead of you selling it yourself. It depends on how much time you have to put into marketing.
Q: What type of images did start with your drawings? – Elizabeth Gillard
Sema Martin: I usually draw from my tablet screen rather than printouts. I find it easier to then zoom in on the details that I am drawing.
Q: How long does it take to do some of your colored drawings? – Elizabeth Gillard
Sema Martin: It completely depends on the size and how detailed they are so it can take me anywhere from one day to two weeks to complete.
Q: What is your favorite paper to work on? – Marilyn Hansen
Sema Martin: I love to use Windsor and Newton Super Smooth bristol board paper. I know smooth paper isn’t regularly used for colored pencils but I love that it keeps my colors bright and because it is smooth I don’t need as many layers to cover the paper texture.
Q: My first colored pencil buy was Prisma color. Do you think that blending Derwent with them creates richer color? – Susan Priest
Sema Martin: I personally have never tried Prisma colors but I have heard they are a lot like Luminance colors. use them as a base coat for layering with my Polychromos so I don’t see why they wouldn’t have the same effect with Derwent.
Q: I have a question. Our social media is saturated literally with animal portraits. It doesn’t matter how well you draw. There are thousands of people who are great at them. Which is awesome. But How do I get known? How do people find you? It’s becoming a real challenge. I draw animals and people portraits. Very hard to get noticed. – Carla Franklin
Sema Martin: This is where your story and your style comes in. People choose you over someone else because they would relate to you somehow or like the style and medium you use. That is why it is important to be authentic and share a bit about your life, about you as a person, not just posting pictures of your art. Let people get to know the artist behind the art. Also, make sure you are using relevant hashtags if you are posting online, take your portraits locally, and use public relations to get into magazines, blogs, and podcasts that your target customer will be using. You can learn about getting noticed here: https://www.artismycareer.com/marketing/story-driven-marketing-for-artists-and-creatives/
Q: While most artists may have color-calibrated monitors, many clients do not which could cause a problem. Have you ever had an issue where you sent a client a finished piece and had them tell you that the color is wrong, despite having sent them a photo of the finished piece in advance for approval? Thanks! – Dorothy Lee
Sema Martin: Fortunately I haven’t had this issue with a client but I have when it comes to having prints made. I usually use my phone and tablet to draw the portrait and then scan the final image so I am not reliant on what one screen is telling me the colors are. If you have had this issue I would first try changing the screen settings but also use your phone or another device to take pictures and send them to the client to make sure.
Q: Do you worry that making your art your career will cause you to lose the love for it? – Diane Schwoerer
Sema Martin: Well it has been my career for the last 5 years now and I still love it. There have definitely been times where I have felt tired of it but then I think, ‘what would I rather be doing instead?’…. nothing! So I carry on. I love working for myself because it gives me the flexibility I need, but I also love the fact that I can create something with my hands, sell it, and provide for my family.
Q: Backgrounds are challenging for me- any tips? – Pamela Mitroff
Sema Martin Pamela Mitroff I like to start my background first in case they don’t work out, lol but also take your time and maybe draw from one side to the other. Break up the background into sections and work your way through it.
Q: Can you post some examples with animals as the focal point – Pamela Mitroff
Sema Martin: Sure!
You can find all my portraits here: https://www.semamartin.com/colour-pencil-gallery
Q: What is your favorite thing to draw? People, animals, florals, etc. – Gloria Ann
Sema Martin: I love animals but I am interested to try more plants and flowers!
Great answer with good information seeing getting a book published is a lot of work and you want the best after putting so much work into your publications. Thank you for all the info you’re providing us today. – Gloria Ann
Q: Have you ever had artist block or a long period of lack of motivation to create art, and if so how did you manage to overcome this? – Rochelle Dunn
Sema Martin: Yes, there are times when I feel unmotivated to create but because most of my artwork are commissions I have to do them anyway, the client is waiting! So I don’t let myself be reliant on motivation, I would never get anything done! LOL, I rely on discipline and having a schedule. It’s the only way I have grown my business as much as I have. Whether I feel like it or not I just sit myself at my drawing board, put on a tv show, and draw. Even if it is for 5 mins it is better than doing nothing.
Rochelle Dunn was also our random winner of “Art is My Career”!