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Freelance methods from a TACDC graduate

April 9, 2010

Recently I had the pleasure of working on a fantastic freelance project for author LeAnn Neal Reilly. The project involved the creation of pendant to be used on the cover of her novel “The Mermaid’s Pendant”. I wanted to take this time today to illustrate my process in handling a freelance project. Now before I do, I want to stress that this is not the ONLY way to handle freelance projects. This is my method and it works really well for me; however, with any project, whether it’s freelance or in a studio, make sure you clarify your duties and keep communications clear and simple. This way, misunderstandings are kept to a minimum and everyone is happy. With that said, let’s dive in.

LeAnn provides a photo that she would like manipulated.


The diamond pendant will be removed and the digitally painted pendant will need to be added. Before I can get started drawing the new pendant, I have to get info on the client needs. In this case, LeAnn would like the pendant designed with the following traits;

1. the pendant is a wire-wrapped blue moonstone, cabochon shape
2. the wire-wrapping is silver 
3. needs to suggest a fertility Goddess figure with wire arms embracing the moonstone as if its a pregnant belly
4. a wire spiral in the middle to suggest a belly button
5. wire legs bent in a sitting position

Once I have this info, I send LeAnn a detailed email, illustrating what I will accomplish and the time frame in which this will take place. I let her know that if she has any questions, she can contact me at any time. With the instructions above, and a TON of reference material I find on the internet, I come up with the following 12 designs.

These designs are quick and loose with no color. As a professional artist I have no particular devotion to either design, and give LeAnn the choice of mixing some of the elements together to get a pendant she’s happy with. After making her choice, and some small changes, I come up with color breaks for the moonstone.


She loves the color breaks and makes a few more changes. I send a final rough before I begin work on the main picture.


First I remove the diamond from the picture and begin painting the new pendant at an angle. Unfortunately, I really got into the groove on this one and was done before I realized it, so I don’t have any pictures of my process. Doh!


But that’s okay, because once LeAnn sees the final she realizes she needs a front view of the pendant for promotional purposes. So I take the original design and refine it. The process can be seen below.


Viola! We’re finished. LeAnn was a true pleasure to work with and we kept in constant contact with one another to ensure that project stayed on course. It took two days from acceptance of the job to final product. LeAnn provided a web version of the book cover below, and her novel will be available for order in bookstores nationwide this June and is currently available for sale online at Amazon. Information about the book can be found on her website. Check it out!

Emmett- AN

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kat permalink
    April 10, 2010 7:33 AM

    Fascinating! Terrific job Emmett, both in design and in explanation :)

  2. J. Hall permalink
    April 10, 2010 9:15 PM

    Again, Emmett, very well done. The process images were most insightful. …one shadowed chain link at a time… great job.

    • April 26, 2010 5:31 PM

      Thanks Jared! I would really love to see your process posted up here some time soon. It’s always nice to see how other Illustrators approach a piece.

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