Play (whatever)
posted: February 15, 2006
The Play Illlustration Source Book from Serbin was supposed to promote people who design interactive games, design for games, stuff like that. I do that kind of stuff for money these days, so I thought I'd buy a page.

Today, Play Illustration launched it's website, which is unfortunately just another online mishmash of jumbled confusion that allegedly does good things for folks like me. What I got is basically an unfindable page among hundreds of others that I can't control, can't make the way I want, can't actually run the games I'm designing on, and basically just sucks large. Reality check: I know I can't draw that good but in the big scheme of things I can at least entertain folks for a spell

The first on the scene with online illustrator promoting, as far as I recall was, from the amazing Gerald Rapp. I like Gerald - I'm down with the guy because he's cool and I dig him, but when he showed me I said "This is lame" - "it's a jumbled ball of confusion" and I thought to myself those many years ago, that there has to be a better way for illustrators to get a message out online in a way that doesn't suck. Lots of time has passed and theispot still seems to be the standard - Click a whole bunch of check boxes, like humor, animals, children, and you get a few hundred talents to browse through. Not only do these various online talent systems seem screwed up, they ain't cheap either. They're making serious dollars and what do they deliver? I'm not sure...

I tried out (sexy animated chick on the homepage probably got me...) - but it delivers zero traffic to my site - the search at is the same as Gerald Rapp created at theispot in the late 90's - click a bunch of boxes and get several hundred results to browse through.

I have a feeling it doesn't have to be this way, but I'll also admit that I'm not sure what the best answer is yet. One online high note is the amazing blog at - comes up at number five in a Google for Illustration search and maybe there's an answer there... somewhere.. . . . .
Mark Matcho February 16, 2006
Thanks for that inneresting and informative report- I'd been halfheartedly considering doing something Play-related for awhile now, especially considering the more-or-less weekly tickler calls and e-mails I've been getting from J. Miller, the last coupla years. ("Gee, she must really like me, to be calling so often!") I haven't ever gotten one iota of interest from anybody out there in the, er, gaming field; thought it might be a burgeoning market worth checking out, but maybe I'll hold off on that, for now- Interesting to hear that you went the route- I was rather aggressively pursued by some fellow of the Canadian persuasion over there a year or two ago; seemed like a decent deal on the phone; the guy promised this and that, but the animated spokesladybot on their page kinda soured me on the deal- just seemed kinda gimmicky and I passed on the offer, resulting in a surprisingly heated conversation with the gent who'd formerly been so complimentary. Gotta check out the site you mentioned- I've got my head in the sand about 95% of the time when it comes to promotion; need to get out there more. Anyway, thanks for a great read- As always, Your loving cousin Merkel
David Gothard February 16, 2006
Also agressively pursued by same said gent (, killing me with kindness each call, me politely declining each time, until a moment of vulnerability and I relented. I'm a slacker at self promo so can fall easy prey to the high pressure call...knowing all along that self flagellation would be an easier (and cheaper) was to alleviate the guilt. Needless to say, no work ever resulted from it...just another site...lost in the shuffle. Ditto on their home page digilady. Was an early one to climb aboard theispot. With each successive year, as the ranks of artists swelled, I received fewer calls/jobs, finally jumping ship. Now I am on their stock site but found the upload/naming,categorizing process all a bit time consuming. Seems they should have a better user friendly system in place. DG
Michael Sloan February 16, 2006
That's interesting about Play; they were really pushing it as the next big thing. Advertising used to seem so cut and dry to me - there were a few sourcebooks, try to get into the annuals, do some small scale promo things of my own, and that was it. Now it's like a three ring circus, with all the alternatives. I've really lost faith in source books - their power seems so diluted. Does American Showcase even exist anymore? I hated that I'd submit my source book ad, and by the time it came out nearly a year later, it felt like old work. Mailing out all the reprints was a hassle, too. I still have some ads from 4 years ago down in my basement. Now I just rely on postcards that I print up myself and mail out a few times a year. It's certainly more immediate. I also took a keen dislike to the gimmiky girl on the site and eventually told them to stop calling me. Something about her hairstyle and her come hither manner bothered me. She also had some male sidekicks in other parts of the site who I thought were equally as bad. I just didn't want to associate my work with them.
Robert Saunders February 16, 2006
You are batting out articles like there's no tomorrow, Zimm. Where do you get the time, the energy, the passion? Anyhoo, I don't know nothing about Play, but when you mentioned, I just had to chime in. They are SO lame, and my favorite whipping boy, deservedly so. Okay that sounds dogmatic, but they are a real bait-and-switch act. They upped my number of free-posted images from five to twenty-five, and a year went by with no bites from prospects, then they called and said, okay, we're quitting the free service now; you gotta pay. At that point I bailed. The navigation was terrible, and what's more, that corny splash page up front with the Tide logo? And didn't they have a robot chick or something? Eeee-uuuww... Nothing replaces the hard work of individual mailings for me now. Showcase blew the last three years I advertised in them. Workbook seems a yeoman book, and I've wanted to give Bob Pastore some business for ages now, so it is something I'm considering this year. Thought I'd starte out with those Art Cards in that nice neat pak. OK, gotta run.
David Bamundo February 16, 2006
in regards to, next to gin and absinthe smoothies, it is my greatest source of inspirado....
Mark Matcho February 18, 2006
>>Now I am on their stock site but found the upload/naming,categorizing process all a bit time consuming. Seems they should have a better user friendly system in place.<< Yeah, not to go off on a tangent, but that is the straight-up truth, David...I did a sorta "All-You-Can-Eat"-type deal with them where I had a month or so to upload as many images as I could, but I crapped out after like a week; just couldn't do it anymore. Such a long-winded, tedious process; I'd think, "If I can upload four images in like, an hour, then I'll go take a nap." I really wanted to do it, too, and I envy people who've taken full advantage of that deal, but the whole process of getting your stuff on their site just kinda seemed like the sort of empty, meaningless job like the one John Hurt had, in 1984.
Leo Espinosa February 19, 2006
Here's my two cents: I ended up advertising in Play but not because I bought the idea of "this is the next big thing" but because I partnered with my wife, who is a graphic designer, to do some licensing with some ideas we had and she got a call from the people from Play (who happen to be really nice folks) and got very enthusiastic about doing a spread in the book. Since my self-promo has been mainly through the Rapp group, I said we could give it a shot and perhaps break into the toy world with the new structure of our studio. Well, I saw Play at Toy Fair in NYC, and neither the book or the event made me feel that I'm going to get a lot of jobs from the toy people. Both are packed with hundreds of airbrushed dragons, shopping teens, screaming kids faces and girls with guns. Yes, there's a few pages and there where a few booths worth seeing but it's always sad to see the quality of stuff that kids get these days. My point is, going back to Play, that I've realized that today source books won't bring you a lot of jobs, but rather create a presence for who you are as an artist, otherwise you can easily disappear from people's minds. They are just one more place where you can say: hey, I'm still here doing my thing, I have not given up, I love what I do and creatively I'm always exploring and trying to keep my doodles fresh. Self promo can be as simple as postcards and a good portfolio online but what you show in there IS the answer to getting more work. I think the idea of Drawger is brilliant (thank you Zimm), and I hope it grows to what it is meant to be. Not too long ago the guys from wrote a very kind note about my work and that got a job and a bunch of nice e-mails. It just shows that we can get a lot from our community without having to depend on the same old ways to promote our work.
Luc Latulippe March 15, 2006
I couldn't agree more about the online portfolios. And I must confess, with tremendous embarrassment, that I'm the guy who drew that digi-girl from Ugh. Every time I see her (and that god-awful colour scheme!) I wanna crawl into a hole. I totally did it for the money. They gave me a free page too, but who cares. Zero work comes from it. I brought this up in theispot's message boards a while back, regarding how "1990" their site looks, the crap homepage, how they don't even provide RSS feeds yet, and how frustratingly slow it is to upload work, but was basically dismissed with polite kid gloves. Not only is their site, like all others, just a jumbled ball of confusion, but the whole format has proven not to work. And everyone keeps at it without making any improvements. (At least's site doesn't totally assault the senses upon visiting, and they have a less passive homepage) Frankly, Flickr does a far, FAR better job than all the portfolio sites put together, and it was never meant to be that! And for self-promotion, for me the best way so far has still been the absolute cheapest: cold calling old and new clients, and ask them if they need any work done. Better than postcards, online portfolios, and sourcebooks combined. I think Drawger is a brilliant idea Robert, and I also think that it could potentially supplant all those portfolio sites in the future.
Edel Rodriguez April 20, 2007
Hey, I just came across this article from a year ago, it's great. Wonderful and insightful comments. It should be read by all the recent Drawgers, lots of info about promotion in here. Also, the first hint of the future in Zimm's mind. Pretty cool!