Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going Pro: Name files for Google searches

This is my last post inspired by Kalliopi Monoyios' amazing Symbiartic post. This tip is one I've been doing for years now, but I thought it'd be just as good a time as any to share it.

Something I've noticed many people don't do, is use their picture file names as optimally as they could (I'm not stalking people or anything. I just get sent a lot of artwork for galleries is all :P). Instead of just saving the final version of your piece with a simple name, think about instead cramming it full of as many Googlable key words as you can.
Zealandia Dinosaurs by myself (Craig Dylke)
Though in reality as far as search engines are concerned its name is
Zealandia Dinosaurs New Zealand Dinosaur fossil fossils ornithopod Sauropod titanosaur ankylosaur minmi Craig Dylke 2012
The Internet is a funny beast. Search engines such as Yahoo and Google don't care what name or typing you put around a picture file. They will outright search the file's name itself first (though the wording around the picture can also play a part). Meaning if you type every possible related search word into your piece's file name, you've increased Google's odds of grabbing it that much more. When I name a file I'll only use these sorts of key words, and not bother with its fancy title.

The important thing is to pick realistic search words normal people are going to use, not just technically correct terms only an expert would use. A couple technical terms sure to maybe put you apart from the crowd, but you want as much exposure as you can. Unseen work won't sell or get used, and even better the more search engine hits you get the higher up list you appear in future searches!

The only problem I've ever had with these key words is that most software will only let you use about 15-20 words in a file name, so you do have to choose them a little carefully.

My formula is roughly:
  1. The genus' and any possible variants of the genus name, such as the plural or dropping letters from the end (ex. Tyrannosaurus, Tyrannosaur, Tyrannosaurs or Iguanodon and Iguanodons) I personally don't use species names, as 99% of people probably aren't going to search for it (but you can include it if you have the space)
  2. Any similar genus to the one you've depicted (especially if yours is obscure, but the other one is more popular ex. Triceratops to go with Pentaceratops) 
  3. The family name up to order (ex. Tyrannosaur + Theropod + Dinosaur. Wolf = Canid + Mammal)
  4. The time period depicted (especially when you've done a palaeo-environment)
  5. The words fossil and fossils
  6. The geographic region or palaeo-region when it is likely to be unique or of interest to someone on the web
  7. A generic description of the creatures eating habits (meat eating, plant eating) When combined with the family or order name above, you've covered a common Google search many lay people use to describe animals (meat eating Dinosaurs)
  8. Any popular names or nicknames for the critter (Dromaeosaurs = Raptors, Hadrosaurs = Duckbills)
  9. Any relevant or related pop cultural connections to your piece. This is a cheap, but sadly extremely effective trick. Two of my most popular images are popular simply due to hits from their pop culture names (This one due to Jurassic Park, and this one due to "Sea monster")
  10. Your name in case someone searches for you personal!
  11. The date as it is only four characters
Give this a shot. I know in my case it has done me wonders (both my museum gigs were secured through their finding me in Google searches for specific topics). This versatility of search terms can see your piece appear in nearly any search for such animals, and is especially effective for more obscure animals (good luck ever getting high up on the popular subjects, in particular Tyrannosaurus Rex). 

The best part is the more hits a piece gets from any term the higher up it will appear on that specific search engine. Meaning hits to something silly like "meat eating marine reptile" can get you higher up the much more competitive "Tylosaurus" list.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Going Pro: Think about a Logo

This post now exits my tribute (aka ripping off) of Kalliopi Monoyios amazing post on Symbiartic from last year. This and the next post are both bits of knowledge I gleamed myself. However I mention Kalliopi and her post again, as I never would have thought of this logo idea without the wake up call that post gave me.

My current claim to palaeo-art fame is my renditions of the extinct Squalodon dolphin. Two museums are now using them in their exhibits, and the images are 2 of my 3 most viewed pieces of art (losing out only to this silly one from Traumador). In fact I'm starting to get a minor reputation as the "Squalodon guy" (in fairness I've only been referred to as this by one potential client, but as I've only ever seriously dealt with 5 of those I think it is fair I might have a nickname/reputation in the making).

As I've been further focusing on branding my art, something that some people on the net, and my wife (with a degree in marketing) have all said is thinking about creating a logo.

I suggest this as something you consider for your work too. It's not something that will immediately make an impact on your success. However I think in the long term it could have a cumulative effect.

My logo to commemorate/celebrate the subject of my first successful palaeo-art.
There are two difficulties in creating a logo. The first is picking an image that you want to visual represent yourself and art for a really long time (ideally, my wife tells me, your whole "career", given you are not a company with massive exposure. Switching your logo defeats the purpose). The second is composing the logo.

Now for me the choice as to my logo was made easy. The instant I got that email referring to me as the "Squalodon guy" I figured I might as well embrace the title and run with it. So one way or another I really will be the Squalodon guy for the rest of my palaeo-art career.

When choosing your own logo there are a lot of considerations to make. I think one of the biggest is picking something distinctive and memorable. Tyrannosaur skulls, rock hammers, thigh bones, Archeopteryx, and Trilobites while very iconic are also cliched nearly to death in palaeo logos. I'd say find something a lot more unique, or have your own distinct twist on the topic (like Glendon's Flying Trilobite). Above all else make sure that it jives and emphasizes your art and artistic style. A lot easier said than done I found out.

By myself (Craig Dylke)
Here is my logo with its inspiration. I think they go well together.

When refining the final look of my logo I followed this general philosophy (though at the time my wife was reading it out of one of her uni text books). In a nutshell keep the logo simple, memorable, and versatile.

Simple is talking about the use of lines and details. Less of these is more in a logo. The rule goes the simpler the better. Admittedly mine won't be winning awards, but I'm not a major corporation or ad firm.

Memorable hopefully is explanatory. Again avoid the above list of palaeo-cliches would be my only real suggestion (Tyrannosaur skulls, rock hammers, thigh bones, Archeopteryx, and/or Trilobites)

Versatile means you've designed your logo to go anywhere anyhow. Does it look good in both small and big formats? Does it look good in different colour combinations? It is suggested in various places you design it in black and white, and worry about colour later (if at all).

Beyond that there really isn't much to say.

Good luck and have fun creating your logo should you choose to give it a shot!

Going Pro: Over sign your work

Last year Kalliopi Monoyios put up this amazing post on Symbiartic, that forever changed my approach to marketing my art. Go read it, but I wanted to expand on it with a few twists of my own (which have seen me now land two museum exhibits).

Kalliopi had a great section on how to put your signature on a piece. I've not only followed her to the letter, I've expanded on her technique a bit.

Kalliopi insisted you:
  1. Sign your full name
  2. Put it somewhere that it can not be easily cropped
Great advice. I'm adding two more (for online use material):
  1. Always put your web address somewhere on the piece
  2. Include two signatures, one obvious, and one subtle but difficult to remove

Purpose of a Signature

This might seem obvious at first, but it never hurts to repeat and remind. We all the know the purpose of a signature is to identify a piece as your own, but there are two direct but different purposes to this.

Property- Right away a signature denotes not only the creator of the work, but additionally who the owner of it as well.

Promotion- If a signature is obvious it can work as an excellent part of your promotion when the art is first looked at by an interested party.

How not to sign your work...

There are a ton of different ways to sign your work, but here are some ways work that don't use the signature to its full advantages.

Can you find the signature in this piece?
It's not much help if no one knows it's there...
This is an example of how I was signing my work as of the summer of 2011. The idea was a minimalistic stamp that denoted the work was mine (in the case of attempted theft or misuse), but otherwise didn't ruin the overall piece. The problem being of course any interested people would never find my name without a very exhaustive search for the nearly invisible signature (it is in the wood paneling below the Dinos belly). Meaning I'm missing out on promotion from the piece itself.

This has a clear signature, but it has a clear problem. Who the Hades is Prehistoric Insanity?!?
Another silly one I used to do (back in the Traumador days) was signing everything with one of my online aliases. This is just confusing and unprofessional. Don't repeat my mistake, just sign with your (full) name! No one is going to take an alias as seriously as you being yourself.

This is definitely signed... a hundred times more than it needs to be
Now I've never signed my work like this, but I've hit several professional palaeo-artists who do. The idea here is your name is really out there, and it is obscuring the piece (so no one else uses I think is the theory).

In my opinion though this is not a good idea (especially if you aren't a big name pro yet). It ruins your art (enough said really). When I hit pieces like this, even if they are brilliant, my attitude/opinion of them gets a little tainted. I can't fully appreciate the art on its own merits, as I have to waste so much effort trying to see "past" the signature.

Instead of obscuring the art with a signature, if you're worried about misuse, instead just post a really low resolution version of the picture instead (400X400ish). That way people get a real feel for the aesthetics and look of the piece, without being able to do more than that (you can't do anything useful with that small a pic).

The only golden rule for digital signatures...

The only thing I am going to say about any signature you add via a computer is make all your signatures somewhat transparent. If they don't bleed into the piece the add distracting visual information for the viewer. Taking the edge off the writing with a bit of transparency makes the signature a bit more a part of the piece, and thus doesn't compete with your imagery as much.

If you sign your stuff in a non-digital medium ignore me, as you already know that being the same medium as the piece it'll just blend on its own...

How I sign my work

Now there are a million options on how you can sign your work, and don't feel I'm saying this is the only way. If anything my signing process has been evolving the past year, so go play with yours yourself. I just offer this as a starting point.

I do one big "in your face" signature (my website), and one subtle but still visible signature (my name and the year). I figure the web address is the important information I want people to get from my pieces about me, if they've found the picture elsewhere on the web.

I place the address in the least important corner of the piece so it doesn't take away from the visual or the narrative. Yes this puts it at the risk of cropping by a misuser, but that is why my subtle signature is in there, as a backup.

The subtle signature is a tip right out of Kalliopi's post, and so I merely restate here. The idea is that you put your full name somewhere important, so it won't be cropped, but not big enough or harsh enough to distract from the piece. On critters I tend to put it somewhere near the rear limbs/tail.

Good luck signing your own stuff, this is me signing off... pun intended :P

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Plates vs. Armour the poll is up!

So please, please understand I really did try two weeks ago to make this vote simple. However Blogger out right refused to allow anyone to create a poll widget on AE until today (granted I haven't tried in 2 days).

However after much mucking about, toying with people's keenness, and scattering votes across four posts I finally got a working poll up on the sidebar.

May the best Dinosaurs win...

The Plates!

The Armour!

Remember to come back here for the results in the first week of October...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Going Pro: Don't Portfolio Here...

If you ask me what the most influential blog post of last year was, I'd have to say this amazing post by Kalliopi Monoyios of Symbiartic. In it she hits on three major mistakes many of us artists make online, and it is a must read for anyone hoping to have their work break out...

I wanted to expand a bit more on some of her points over the next little while. Today we look at how NOT to get a central online portfolio up and running. There are many options for us artists to post our work online, but in the past year I've been finding some that are not as promising as they might seem.

Getting a clear and central online presence for your art is key these days if you want to be discovered. Up until this time last year, I was myself without a clear Craig Dylke's art site, and this I think can be directly tied to my lack of success up until Kalliopi posted getting me to rethink this strategy. I put up a proper portfolio blog, and within a month I was contacted by an author interested in some of my NZ Dinosaurs (it was just a bite sadly, but more than I'd ever gotten before). Since then I've had two museum commission my stuff, and fans order prints.

The form your portfolio takes on is up to you, there is no one solution. Rather a happy spectrum of workable venues ranging from free blog sites to custom URL websites. I'm not an expert in these, and won't waste your time speculating about does work (I just went the lazy route and setup a standard blog for this purpose).

What I have gotten a grip on in the past 5 or so years are sites that are not your best bet for being your art flagship. I highly recommend not putting your main hopes and dreams into the following sites. Do feel free to disagree in the comment section, and I'd love to entertain debate and discussion.


 Kalliopi hits on some of the problems she's had with DeviantArt in her post, but I am going to go further. She suggests against it, I tell you straight up don't set up your main portfolio on DeviantArt (there are uses for the site mind you, and I'll emphasis that at the end of this post, but serving as your  main portfolio is not one of them).

DeviantArt is not a user friendly laid out site. Getting around it is not clear if you've never used it before, and you should never make a potential client work to look at your stuff. While these days I can mostly get around, I still recall the days when looking around DeviantArt drove me up the wall, and I still don't like it. This is not me telling you this due to an inflated sense of my importance. If even just one person like me doesn't like using DeviantArt, that is one less person who'll find your stuff.

Worse the inbuilt DeviantArt search engine is terrible, and even when looking for posts you know exists on the site it is damn near impossible to find them. I've done searches to try and find a John Conway post many of his annoyed fans insisted I needed to read... They claimed I'd been an idiot for not finding it in my Googling his stuff. Not only did it not turn up on Google, but it didn't turn up in DeviantArt when I typed in everything from the key words all the way to the exact title in the Deviant search engine!!! That is not a site or search engine you want to count on as your main artisitc base of operations!

A lesser, but still important thing to remember is that DeviantArt (and the other sites I'm going to look at in a moment) is that it is a uniform community site. This means that overall you're corner of DeviantArt won't make you stick out as an individual, and in all likelihood won't leave any impression with a visitor other than "they're just another DeviantArt user".

Finally DeviantArt is covered in ads. It is never good to having someone else's ad competing with your work. Additionally some people are instantly turned off by the sight of an ad, and this could easily effect their option/take on your work.


Is much like DeviantArt only it is even less popular. It is not the easiest site to navigate, it's internal search engine is nearly useless (unless you are looking to buy 3D model files... which unless this is what you're trying to sell isn't much help), accounts display identically to each other making you just another user, and it is covered in ads (and as most of these are internal ads, they end up being for 3D models of nearly naked girls... not a good initial impression for a potential client).

The format of the site is a hold over to the site's origins in the late 90's, and it still feels like a bit of a 90's site in places. This also adds navigation and use problems for more modern net users.

The biggest reason not use Renderocity as your central portfolio is that pieces from this site do not readily show up in Google searches!!! Nuff said really.


If I had to pick Flickr or DeviantArt I'd go (and have) with Flickr. It is a much friendlier to navigate site than DeviantArt for new users, its account display is much cleaner than DeviantArt, and it doesn't have ads. All this said don't use it as your main portfolio!

While easier to get around intuitively than DeviantArt, Flickr still suffers some navigation problems. These are mostly due to bell and whistle options on the sidebar. Flickr gives too many options that have the potential to send your visitors away from work and even worse possibly to other peoples work!

Flickr also really suffers the uniformity problem. Your account displays exactly the same to a visitor as every other Flickr user's.

I've had a flickr account for 5 years now, and I've gotten no action off it other than that Alien archeology show wanting to use my stuff... for free no less GRRRRRR!!!

ART Evolved (or any other joint community blog)

I've got to be honest, we here at AE are not a good option as a central portfolio (I tried it). Here you are competing with everyone else on the blog, and while we provide an individual flair from other palaeo-blogs, we can't do so for our individual members within the site. While we label all the work on this site, if a visitor isn't paying close attention they might miss who the artist of an individual piece was.

Best again to get your own site or blog, and use us as an auxiliary form of advertisement for it.

These sites do have their uses though!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying never use these or similar site (especially ART Evolved :P) at all. They all definitely serve purposes a dedicated portfolio site never could.

They are all great means of networking with other artists (DeviantArt and AE in particular). There certainly can be no replacement for the feedback, idea sharing, and inspiration of discussing art with like minded peers on venues like these.

They are definitely a good secondary advertising and promotion location. In fact when it comes to getting soft hits on your portfolio and main site all the above are great places to have a secondary galleries up and running. Just make sure you link back to your main site on all of them.

All I'm saying is that when it comes to getting yourself out, make sure it is just you you're putting out there! Start up your very own site...

 Use all the sites I listed here as backups and/or supplementary tools in promoting your art. Just remember if you want to stand out, you typically need to stand alone.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Plates or Armour Vote post

As many have noticed we have still yet to get up the Plates and Armour poll. Well despite our best efforts Blogger refuses to let us create a poll at moment. After dozens of attempts (I'm really sick of typing it all out for the record!) we just can not get this rather vaguely identified error to go away (it claims we haven't completed the poll form... which every time we have!).

So rather than make you all wait, we are going to set up this official vote post. Sorry to everyone who cast a vote elsewhere, but could we please get you to recast your vote here. At moment votes are spread over at least three different posts, and we don't want anyone's choice to get lost. So if you could please cast your vote again here in this post's comment section.

For those of you how missed it, the topic of this vote is whether our next gallery should be Plates or Armour?

Plates- The Stegosaurs

Armour- The Ankylosaurs

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rare Marine Treat on Symbiartic

For the month of September over on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the Scientific American Blog Network, my co-blogger and I decided to present a different example of science-art every day.

Today is Craig Dylke's beautiful, quiet, floating-in-blue, A Rare Marine Treat.

© Craig Dylke

Head over, Like on Facebook and comment!  And you can find all of the SciArt of the Day so far here, and follow us on Twitter @symbiartic.

(Thanks Craig for being game to appear on Symbiartic!)

-Glendon Mellow

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Submssions to Pop Culture

We've had a few late submissions to the Pop Culture Gallery 2. Be sure to pop in and check out the new pieces!!!

Also be sure to vote in our Plates or Armour poll (on the sidebar) to determine the next gallery's theme...

Vote on the winter gallery: Armour or Plates

Myself and Peter have hit a brickwall on the topic for the next gallery. We were thinking it is time for another Dinosaur theme. This brought us to groups we haven't done before, and two prominent leaders came to the forefront:
The Stegosaurs
and the Ankylosaurs

Both are fun, different, but yet similar. So rather than make the choice ourselves we thought we'd have one of our ever popular polls.

So please pick whether you want plates or armour for the next gallery on the sidebar...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dave Hone on Palaeo-art

Dr. Dave Hone has put up a great little post about palaeo-art on the Guardians website. It also includes the art of long time ART Evolved friend Matt van Rooijen. While I suggest reading the whole thing, I grabbed a small snippet that I thought was of particular relevance to people on this site.

Dave Hone discussing his take on how people can get into palaeo-art. A very honest, and I think accurate assessment.

As for how people get into the field, well this naturally varies. I know of artists who were working as technical illustrators for scientists and were in a position to have a go at the odd life reconstruction and things went from there, there have been wildlife illustrators who were drafted in because they could do animals properly, "normal" artists who found a flair for it or drove themselves into the field, and those who simply got a call out of the blue and asked if they fancied trying their hand at dinosaurs.

Increasingly though, thanks to the internet we're seeing ever more people being able to gather information on palaeoart and prehistoric animals, get feedback from researchers and push their art in front of those who might pay for it. Where even 10 years ago it was probably hard to get anyone outside of the ranks of publishers and researchers to have heard of you, or seen what you can do, it's becoming ever easier to mail prospective clients and send them a link to your online portfolio and have people share that information.

This is great for those wanting to break into the field, but naturally it has brought tension too. Most researchers have enough on their plates without having to deal with detailed requests for help on tyrannosaur or abelisaur anatomy and while I know of few researchers who would turn such a request down flat, one does occasionally get most unreasonable requests. Moreover, there are now dozens, perhaps hundreds, of budding artists working out their dinosaurs and mammoths and trilobites online and offering their services to researchers and museums just for the chance to have something of theirs used.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The 2nd Pop Culture Gallery

Happy September everyone! 
After our first three-month gap between galleries, we bring you the next gathering of stunning artwork - all about the fusion of prehistoric critters and pop culture!  We had so much fun the first go around, it's time for our 2nd Pop Culture Gallery!

 If you would like to add your art to these talented folk, simply send Art Evolved your work and we will add it to this gallery!  Our address is

Without further ado, ART Evolved's 2nd Pop Culture Gallery.

PLEASE Click on each to ENLARGE them:

 Alien Raptor by Yul AltolaguirreZancajo
--> The Raptor Alien, also known as the Raptor Xenomorph, is a Xenomorph spawned from theropod dinosaurs like the dromaeosaurids.

 The Eleventh Doctor Riding a Brachylophosaurus by Harrison Cooper

 Tweet Tweet by the Doctor Smnt2000

Not all canaries are pretty... Starring Teratophoenus as Tweety's grandpa

 Andrewsarchus Does Everyone A Favour! by James Appleby

 Claws of War by Craig Dylke

 Dapper Raptor by Peter Bond
Revision of Disney's Dinosaur... by Trish Arnold
Perry the Castorocauda by Albertonykus
Did I just reference Dinosaur Revolution and Phineas and Ferb at the same time? Yes, yes I did.

For those unfamiliar with one or both of the references, the song is a parody of Perry the Platypus's theme song from Phineas and Ferb. The events depicted are modified from a sequence from the Discovery Channel documentary-drama-comedy-thing show Dinosaur Revolution where the near-mammal Castorocauda escapes from a pair of the basal tyrannosauroid Guanlong after spraying them with (entirely speculative) skunk-like musk.

Also, this will probably make more sense now.
My Little Maniraptor by Albertonykus
I'll deny everything.

First though, some assorted observations I noted while doing this:
-Plausible explanation for eyelashes: ground hornbills have them.

-Isn't it ironic for a small ceratopsian to have a crush on an oviraptorosaur?

-Applejack is farming a close Mesozoic relative of modern custard apples.

-I figured that dresses would be pretty superfluous for sapient maniraptors when you already have candy-colored feathers growing out of your hands and tail. Here Rarity is instead an expert on feather maintenance. Her mannequins have detachable feathers that can be replaced, so she can do designs based on the many different color schemes of her customers. She probably does design some clothing as well, but I suspect sapient maniraptors wouldn't wear anything much more extravagant than a cloak, like Trixie does.

-How do you show a female maniraptor is a tomboy? She's (the most) colorful. Incidentally, her color scheme appears to suggest that she leaves a triple quadruple(!) rainbow in her wake at top speed.

-I couldn't find a way to fit a crown on Celestia's head. I suppose if you have a huge crest on your head a crown becomes superfluous.
A revisit to"The Planet of the Dinosaurs" by Santino Mazzei
 "Elvisaurus" by Santino Mazzei
We hope you have enjoyed our second go round with pop culture creatures!  If you want to join in the fun, send your work to

Stay tuned for our announcement of the next gallery in December (which will be quite dinosaurian in topic! :)