freelance artist Tag

15 Tips from 15 Years as a Freelance Illustrator (PDF)


Check it out, this is a pdf with 15 tips that  I’ve learned from, failed at, or screwed up on as a freelance illustrator.  I started making art as a kid drawing for fun, doing graffiti, and then going to college to study and changing my major 3 times. After the second major change and becoming a dad I officially began freelancing, accepting money for my art and let me tell you it has been a bumpy road. 
Feel free to cop this for a young student who wishes to be a freelance artist who works for themself. I wrote the words, did the illustrations, and my lovely wife Joy did the design/layout for it.


Is this useful? Check out this post about why I still use business cards

Freelance Chronicles 8 – Five reasons why I still use business cards

Business cards by Robert Liu-Trujillo

Ok so I have been making business cards with my name, phone number, email, image, and services offered for about 15 years now. How old tech of me right? I get it, there are apps where you can just send someone your contact info, airdrop it, text it, or refer them to your IG I get it. But here are a few reasons why I still keep a business card for introductions. Note: I didn’t have a business card during the start of the pandemic because, well I was in the house :/

Hasan Minhaj via GIPHY

1. No phone:

You forgot your phone at home, it got broken, or you lost it. Damn. Sucks, you can tell the person you’re talking to your name or write it and your number or email on a napkin but a card might be handy. I’ve definitely had this happen before.

Brazilian singer Anitta 

2. Phone battery died: 

Have you ever missed a crucial opportunity to show someone your work, get their info, or exchange info but your phone battery died? Try keeping a business card as a back up 🙂 If you had a great conversation, they will want to talk to you again fam. People fake good work, and some put on a good show, but it’s harder to fake good vibes or energy. Or you can have them wait while you recharge your phone….

The one and only Prince 

3. Getting away from social media:

I’ve been on social media for almost 20 years and I have referred people to my (fill in the blank) but I’m getting kind of tired of it honestly. There are some great artists out there using it to the max but I don’t want it to become my life. And it started to feel like that a few years ago. These companies found ways to make us addicted and that is not healthy, for me. You?

Also, from experience, I know that these apps come and go. For a few years they’re hot, and then people are on to the next thing. And if you’re an artist with a smaller but dedicated following you have to build your audience again. So I still use it, but I keep my distance. If you want to step back a bit from social media I think that a curated website, blog, or page is a great place to refer folks to via biz card.

Tessa Thompson

4. Leave them impressed:

Ok, if designed properly with your information, a sample of your art on it, and a print quality that speaks to your esthetic your business card can leave the person holding wanting more. If I get a well made business card that communicates your taste by seeing it and/or touching it I’m going to remember you. It could be done with letterpress, with metal, or a bright color. The point is, leave the holder with a taste of how dope you are.

Tyler the Creator shot by Cam Hicks

5. Control the narrative:

On your card you can provide the basics like your number, email, etc. But, you can also provide them with coordinates to a location. Weird, right? You can put a QR code on it that when read sends them to a song. You could just have a link to a video. There are lots of ways you can control how the holder interacts with or gets to know you and your work. A well crafted and updated website featuring a portfolio of your work is still a tried and true way to do this. Just saying, show them your true self in your way…. 

Back of the business card (w/o my ph number 🙂

Dig this? Check out my post about how I got 1000 sales on Etsy as an illustrator/author who makes merch!

Who dis? What’s this? Hi, my name is Rob and I’m an artist/author from Northern California. Oakland to be specific. I have been working as a freelance artist for over 15 years. I’ve picked up a few tips on the way and “Freelance Chronicles” is one of the ways I share. Was this helpful? Please share and cop something from my shop. Adios. 

1400 sales = 20% off for you


This is me in Seattle at the Seattle Urban Book Expo and I’m writing to say thanks for supporting my books, art, merch, and shop. I just crossed the 1400 sales mark on Etsy and to show my. appreciation I’m sharing a special discount code FOR 20% off everything using “GREATESTSALE” as a thanks to you dear reader. You’ve got until Sunday night to use it or lose it. Peace!!


Dig this? Check out my most recent interview on the podcast Rightnowish and please share it w/ a friend.

Freelance chronicles 7- 1000 Sales on Etsy

Me vending, photo by Imelda Jimenez-LaMar

Yo yo yo yo (Stretch Armstrong voice), I just crossed the 1000 sales mark on Etsy which I’m very proud of. I know sellers who have less than 100 sales and folks with upwards of 20k. But, I plan to make more. Here’s some tips and things I did to make it this far. If you’re new to selling on Etsy, Shopify, Big Cartel, We Buy Black, or any online commerce site these might be helpful. Got suggestions? Questions? Leave a comment! Shout out to my wife who gave me so much energy, ideas, and feedback on how to make my work pop! If you have ever purchased a book or a sticker from me, THANK YOU.

via GIPHY (Fresh prince of Bel Air)

1. Get Specific

I like when I see sellers on Etsy create a niche. It doesn’t mean you sell something that no one has ever seen or made before only. It means you and your products have focus. If shoppers can see your story not only from your bio and product descriptions, but your over all store; it will help. Why? You want to get to specific people who like what you like. Not every single person. There are going to be a lot of people who don’t rock w/you because its not their thing and that’s ok. Trust me, if you LOVE it there are others out there who will. And your passion, expertise, and knowledge is infectious! So nail it down, and pivot if necessary.

Reverie performing, photo via 


2. Flow/ Rhythm

I’ve found that if there’s a regularity to my posts about my merch (merchandise) people not only come to expect whats new from me, the awareness that I make products grows. When I wasn’t making very many sales it was because I posted a product once here and there. Once I sat down and made a schedule each year including multiple series of products I began to see much more traction. Create a rhythm of when you release products. Could be 4 times a year, or 12. Create a schedule and try to stick to it.

Doc OG Lowrider painter (RIP)

3. Customize 

One way to set yourself apart from the crowd in terms of sales is to make custom items. The challenge with these is that they are time consuming and require skill to make them. As a result they will cost more, but if folks get to know you and they think what you make is unique and special they will buy them because they mean something. So, how can you flip what you’re making now to have a flair, color, tone, or message that is custom (your style) or customized for the individual. This way, folks can’t get it anywhere else but from you.

via GIPHY (In the heights)

4. Build Community

A great way to gain more knowledge and eventually more sales is to build community. How do you do that? Join an Etsy team if you’re on the platform. Make friends with other sellers like you. Reach out to people and ask for help, offer help, etc. By building friendships in this area of life you not only earn more money, but you can help your community of sellers by sharing what you know and you all grow together. This community can be virtual or in person. The point is to get out there and make genuine friendships, give, and receive. Support other sellers by buying stuff from them that you like, and they will do the same. Shout out to SF Etsy (Etsy Team), The Black Owned Etsy Shops, and my local community for having my back!

Vendor at Unique Markets via Forbes

5. Do events

Before Covid and after events in person will always be a great way to market your work, meet new people, to product test, and to drive future traffic to your shop. Events are not just for selling your stuff that day, sometimes retailers or shoppers will take note of your stuff and hit you up at a later date. If your immediate family already has everything you make its good to go to the other side of town and show em what you got. If you can talk about and share your products with people who stop by your table/booth you’ll be able to see real quick what people gravitate to and what they don’t. Test! If folks buy from you once make sure to leave them with a way to follow you, see more, or to share what they got with their friends. Business or postcards are great for this and you can also ask them to sign up for an email newsletter….

Tony Leung/ In the mood for love

6. Email newsletter 

I started doing email newsletters seriously over 3 years ago and it has done wonders for my regular sales and for connecting to my folks! Why? I can reach people at their personal emails and the majority of them actually see it and open my message. With social media it can be difficult to reach people because of algorithms, or the latest features a platform is highlighting. I started with one email a month, thats it. I do not spam people because that gets annoying. I make the newsletter short, to the point, and balanced with image, text, and sometimes video. If you have one consider making a website of your work with a pop up and having an actual paper form that people can fill out at events to get new sign ups. I use Mail Chimp but there are many such as Mad Mini, Constant Contact, Substack, etc.

via GIPHY (Marshawn Lynch)

7. Press 

Both paid and earned press is key. You sell at events, you post on social media, you email everyone. You tell all your family and friends. Folks support and then the sales slow down or stop. Don’t quit. It just means folks have bought all you have or they’re financially tapped out. You gotta reach new folks. How do you do that? Get eyes on your products who don’t know you at all. Maybe they support Black owned businesses, maybe they’re Queer friendly, maybe they’re a teacher, entertainer. Whatever it is, they’re looking for folks like you. Which blogs do they follow? What podcast do they listen to? Do they read newspapers? Make a note of these places (especially the ones you know your audience would love) and reach out. Sometimes you will have to pay, but I’ve heard its best to reach folks who write about work like yours and get it for free. You’re helping journalists and they’re helping you. This takes a lot of time, years even. But the more you prepare your information, links, and photos so it is easy to share with journalists the easier it will be to cover you and your work. You can see some press I’ve gotten for books or merch here. Shout out Papalodown who helped me tremendously with this.

Aaliyah / Romeo must die

8. Trial & Error

Some shit will pop and some will not get any traction at all. That is just how it is. Sometimes it takes awhile for things to gain traction too. There have been times where I made something and got it reproduced. It never really sold, and I was left with tons of products. A few times I just followed my gut and made something that sold really well! This to me means making what you want and thinking of what would best serve your audience and or supporters. There have been times where customers have told me what they liked, didn’t like, or what they wish I would make. If it made sense, I’d try it out. Sometimes they were right, sometimes not. Try new things related to your core passion. And take your time, because it takes time.

via GIPHY (Maitreyi/ Never have I ever)

9. Extras

Here are a few extra things I would highly suggest. 
-Get good photos of your merch. Either your study YouTube tutorials and figure it out or you hire someone like Sunset Shutterbug. A product photographer can help make your work shine! 
Brand your stuff and your social media. Meaning, use the same font, colors Key Words, logo, bio, typography, etc. That way when they look at your card, site, merch, social media it is all consistent and says something about you. I should note that a logo and an illustration are NOT the same thing. If they seem too similar or you don’t understand the difference, hire a graphic designer! 
-Search your app or selling service for help. Many of these platforms will have helpful articles, blogs, or videos to guide you. Take advantage!

Me and my youngest

Peace fam, my name is Robert Liu-Trujillo. I’m an artist from the Bay Area and I work in several fields (Kids books, Murals, Merchandise, Licensing, Illustration, Creative writing, etc). If you’re new to my blog, welcome. I share my personal and professional work here. Freelance chronicles is a series of blog posts about what has helped me succeed and the many experiences I’ve had along the way. I’ve been working as a freelance artist since 2006 officially. I have not worked a “day job” since 2014.  If you found this helpful you can support me by copping something from my shop or subscribing to my email newsletter! Feel free to share.

Previous Posts: 

Improve your merch table LINK

Business podcasts LINK

LAST NOTE: I started my Etsy shop in 2009/ 2010. I didn’t really start making full use of it until the past 5 years (I’m writing this in 2021). It takes time, be patient with yourself. Wherever you are in the process be open to growing.

Freelance Chronicles 3 – Tech I Use

(Photo: Me by Joy Liu-Trujillo)

When I first started out as an illustrator I was using tech but didn’t quite understand how I was using it. Even a brush that you buy in a store was high technology at one point. Now, I use tech everyday as an illustrator to make my business run efficiently. Here are some of the things I use. Some are free, some cost, but all are worth it in my opinion. These are mostly about the business side of things. If you’re an artist, what do you use to make your business run? Leave a comment and share if this helped you out in any way.

(Scene from Dead Presidents)

Getting paid:

Cash board: 
I just started using this company’s invoicing service and I have my wife to thank for the referral. It is great! I was using Microsoft Word for the past 6-7 years and I love the features on Cash board. For those unaware, when you are selling a product like a book (large quantity) or your services as an artist you need to put it in writing. That writing is an invoice! The invoice states what you’re doing, for whom, when it will begin and end, how much you will be paid, and when they need to pay you. You also want to put down your policy on revisions, rush fees, delivery of artwork, etc. This app is helpful because it allows me to do all of that and to keep track of who I’ve invoiced, if they’ve opened it, and it send them a reminder to pay me weekly until they pay. You can also keep a running list of clients to plug in when making a new invoice and you can duplicate previous invoices for a similar job or client. You can also plug in a discount, send people an estimate. its awesome.

Credit Union:
I use a credit union for my personal account because I’m tired of the huge banks using their money to poison folks. I still have some other accounts with the blood suckers, but the majority of my everyday business is run through a credit union. The feature that I love most about many credit unions (and banks) is that I can take a picture of a check from a client and deposit it without having to go to the bank!

Square is a great way to get paid and I carry a square reader with me everywhere I go. People always say at festivals, book events, or on the street that they would love to buy a piece of art or a book but don’t have cash. And after missing enough opportunities I got one (reader is free). Now, every time I see someone I can charge them at a restaurant, a game, a flea market, festival, wherever. Square takes a small cut, but the convenience and product interface is very easy to use.

(Steven Yeun)

Get the word out:
Ok, so most of you already are using social media. These are some of the ones I use.

Twitter is like the pulse of the people, cultivating a community, making lists, and keeping up with the news, creatives, and thinkers. You can take a poll of a question or art piece, you can make a list of your favorite illustrators, perspective clients, donut shops, etc.

Facebook + Messenger:
I know some people hate Facebook and left years ago, and I know many use it everyday. For me, it is a tool to make small groups of people with a specific interest like animation, children’s books, or DJing. The messenger app is what allows you to send messages to people on Facebook or chat without scrolling and getting lost.

IG is a ix of gallery and personal life for me. I use it to post some photos of my family and myself, but mostly I want to show my artwork there and what I’m working on. I now use the business function too which allows people t email me directly. If you’re a visual artist, comedian, filmmaker, photographer, dancer, it is very helpful to just post examples of what you’re best at. Some folks use it as a running blog of inspiration, meme’s, or brands as well.

Linked In:
LinkedIn is helpful when I want to find out who someone is professionally, where they are based, and what if any experience they have. Say I want to know who an art director or agent is, I look them up here. Never have really gotten work from here, but it’s nice to have an online resume and to be able to see others.

Tumblr is a great place to keep your work and your inspiration. If you are one of those artists who don’t have a website, you can make one there for free, it just takes a bit of research for the correct layout. You can post and reblog your favorite tidbits thereby filling your creative bank account.

When I want to talk to a client in another city, state, or country this is the way to go. You can also talk  and chat with multiple people at once with Skype. Invaluable communication tool.

Keeping track of things:

Gmail + Google docs+ Calendar:
I use gmail. I like gmail, been a user since 2008 i believe. I had hotmail, yahoo, etc but gmail offered the cool features, chat with friends, and sleek design. I have my website email run through my gmail, as well as personal emails. But the best feature for me is Google Docs! So you could make a piece of art, an invoice, estimate, spreadsheet, write down book/project ideas, keep important personal documents in an online cloud that only you and who you invite can access. This takes away the file cabinet in a way, because you can create a document or scan one and never have to worry about where it is. I also use the google spread sheets to keep track of all the books i sell, all the money i spend throughout the year, and all the money I make. Also, the calendar is super helpful because you can keep track of assignments, meetings, or events on your computer and your phone.

This is where I keep track of things that I like. I use this site to make boards of images. Before, i used to keep folders of images on my computer, but that takes up space. With Pinterest I can make a board for a specific client and keep all reference images for drawing there. I use it to make boards of inspiring stuff and to showcase my work a little bit.
I use because it sucks having to type out every website or link for my work. And because I upload hundreds of things a year I need to shorten the links so I can post them on places like twitter where the amount you type is limited, and i can keep track of how many clicks the link gets and who clicks it, from where, which country, etc. These analytics help when marketing your work.

This helps me blast new pieces of art or important events to several social media at once.

(Photo: Flea market)

Selling work:

Great place to sell artwork for a tiny fee. I sell prints, books, stickers, paintings, and more through Etsy and it helps with shipping, keeping track of who buys what, and has mechanisms for messaging,  buy supplies, sub-contract, and is like running a retail store. There are others like Shopify, Square (which i also use), etc.

I use Youtube to debut my book “Furqan’s First Flat Top”. I’m not a youtuber but I am aware of the huge power Youtube has in showcasing products, advice, tutorials, music, animation, film, tv, and so much more. You can find just about anything on there.

Blogger I’ve used since 2007. I did not know what it was for when I started, but I quickly fell in love with the format. Much like myspace, the blogger site allows you to customize how your blog looks in so many ways. And I like it as a running showcase of personal and client work, inspiration, and more. In the past I’ve had links to favorite artists, or inspiring blogs. Now I just use it to showcase my work and to write about things that interest me or help others. One of the greatest things about Blogger is that you can keep track of the statistics of your posts, that way you know what people are responding to, and where they’re finding it. This has been an invaluable tool and I have used it over the past 10 years to grow artistically and business wise.

( Photo: Me by Halline Overby)

Creating work:

Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator
I use Photoshop and illustrator to draw with. The majority of my illustration is done traditionally, but a huge step for my process is scanning art and cleaning it up. By cleaning I mean brightening art, or adjusting contrast. I also mean taking out dust speckles, or changing things. I use photoshop to draw with as well because it gets great colors, you can adjust the colors, and it saves steps for me to scan.

Ipad + Astro Pad:
So my wife got together with my family and bought me and Ipad pro and pencil, and now I use the “Astro Pad” app to draw directly onto the pad and photoshop the way you would on a Wacom tablet. Its great and saves me a lot of time when drawing thumbnails or comps for clients. I don’t have to scan anything and I have gotten some great brushes for painting that I plan to practice more and more in.

Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher:
I like tolisten to new music and podcasts while i work. Soundcloud is for new music, Spotify for classics, and Stitcher or the podcast app on my iphone is for listening to podcasts on business, marketing, manufacturing, culture, illustration, etc.

Other than that, the tools I use are an IPhone, Macbook (doesn’t matter which computer or phone you use though imo) pencils, paint brushes, colored pencils, erasers, and paper. So i started as a freelance illustrator over a decade ago. I didn’t know #$%^ back then and still feel like I’m just beginning in some ways. I’ve worked for newspapers, publishers, magazines, non profit organizations, small businesses, individuals, corporations, and some odd clients. But this is me just sharing some of what little I know. Please feel free to share it with students, folks making a career change, or people looking to run their business more smoothly. You can find me at or on Instagram and twitter.
-Robert Liu-Trujillo

Did you see my previous post about how I started in children’s books? Click HERE to see it.

Freelance Chronicles 2- Children’s books

(Photo: Collider, Muhammad Ali)

Get passionate: You can’t really do this unless
you feel deeply passionate about the medium, artform, genre, whatever you wanna
call it. I became both passionate and obsessed with children’s books around
Here are a few points to share how I got started in the children’s book community. There is no one way, and this is by no means a comprehensive list of points. Just my experience. Look out for more soon.
(Photo: My Son and I, Oakland 2005)

Read a lot: My son is the reason I got into kids
books. No joke. I was inspired by reading to him. There were artists who I
wanted to be like and there was no where near enough stories telling his story
or mine. So, I read to him every chance I got. And when he was able to read, we
read together. I felt better equipped after reading lots and lots of picture
books with prose, narrative, alphabets, long paragraphs, etc. He’s 12 now!

(Photo: Brentwood/Funtimes Guide, Barnes and Noble)
Book stores: When I could I would go to
bookstores and look through all the new children’s books. I started to write
down who was publishing what, who the illustrator or author was, what was there
on the shelves, and what was missing. As you can probably guess, I saw no books
about what it’s like to be Blasian (Black and Asian), or Korean American
(Korean Parents, American upbringing). I went to the stores with my son first,
then I started going on my own.

(Photo: Denise. A Diff World)
Reach out: I started making work. Mostly short
book proposals that were terrible at first. And then I started to reach out to
people and ask for advice. Mike Perry (Daniel’s Ride ,Turntable Timmy), Maya Gonzalez(Fiesta Femenina, Iguanas in the snow), Doug Cunningham( Turntable Timmy), GregChristie ( Bass Reeves, The Book Itch), Simon Silva and so many more were very generous with
their feedback. I also reached out to book industry people and let me tell you,
I learned a lot. Reach out, ask lots of smart and dumb questions.
(Photo: Scbwi)

Associations: I have mixed feeling about associations like ALA, Scbwi, and others, but I
mention them as a resource if you are beginning. It’s worth checking out because
there are lots of people there who can offer advice. There are also grants
there. I haven’t been a member for a long time, but see what you can learn. Some
members are open minded, some are part of the old guard. What I mean is that
when I pursued the old guard their aim was to get people to approach
traditional publishers only. The open minded ones looked for any avenue to make and share books. Especially books by and about people whose stories have not been told. Learn from both. 
(Photo: African Amer Animators past & present-Jackie Ormes)

Make shit and share it: Ok, so after I
attended Scbwi, ALA, and checked out a whole bunch of the “traditional” avenues I
realized three things. First, I didn’t fully understand all the parts that were
working together, for me, or against me. Two, I realized that there were way
too many people going the traditional (agents, publishers, writing seminars,
groups,etc) route and they were competing with each other. You have to work on
your craft. No short cuts about this. Write, draw, repeat, until you have
something you like. Then keep doing it. Then share it.
(photo: NY Daily News-Malcolm X)

Law of attraction: It sounds corny, but people helped me when I worked up the courage to ask for help. Or rather, they
began to send me children’s book related things because I kept mentioning it to
people in real life and online. And people will especially help if you are a
moving train. People want to be a part of something (a project, a film, a book,
whatever) that is happening with “passion”. A moving train is like dancing
whether people see you or not. The passion you have is infectious. And when you
show rather than tell, more people get hip to your dream and your skill.
(Photo: Mission SF branch library-Yuyi Morales)

Library: I hit the local library. Not just one
branch, but several. In fact, I would go to libraries in other nearby cities
just for fun. Why? To read more. To find out what libraries purchased and what
kids would sit down to read. I could take home a bunch of books to study them
further as well for little to no cost. I researched all kinds of business,
magazines, young adult novels, middle grade, comics, graphic novels, and lots
of picture books. This to me, was studying “storytelling” as an art form and it
was also learning intangible things about the readers I wanted to reach,
business, and so much more.
(Photo: Joy Liu-Trujillo, Me)

Kickstarter: My wife and I shot my kickstarter
at the library and at our home to self publish my third children’s book. I’m
not the biggest social media user ever, but I’m active on several platforms and
building a community with like-minded storytellers came in very handy when I
launched the kickstarter. After learning more about the industry, the
systematic racism (call it bias if that sounds less threatening), the gate-keepers,
sending out lots of work and getting no response, I decided to do it on my own.
And I wasn’t the only one. Both Janine Macbeth (Oh Oh Baby Boy, Blood Orange
Press) and Innosanto Nagara( A is for Activist, Counting on Community) had done
it and they inspired me. Kickstarter and Indiegogo combined with other crowd funders
are the biggest publishers of books, music, and film outside of the
“traditional” companies. It is NOT for everyone though.
(Gif: Make a Gif:Stranger Things)

Persistence: It took a lot of asking, sharing,
emailing, calling, reading, writing, redoing, editing, researching, breathing,
promoting, talking, and screwing up to get where I’m at now. And I feel like
I’m just beginning. To get anything good going, it takes time. I worked all
kinds of cool and very not cool jobs to pay the bills. I got help from family
members and my wife and I am still struggling. But, good gumbo takes time to
cook, I didn’t want to throw it in the microwave. Persistence to me, is letting
a “no” or “i’m sorry, but” or “no response” pass without stopping me. People
are going to say those things, but you must keep going because the next
milestone or jewel is right around the corner. And this is a marathon, not a
(Photo: Mi Vida Loca)

Give back: I’ve also helped out other
authors/illustrators with their books. And I have a few in the works. I’m still
learning, but I plan to share more information as I go. If you’ve read this
far, that means you want to make books too. Do not wait for acceptance or
permission, make your book (or film, or album, you get the point) and email me
if you have any sincere questions. There is no short cut. Once you get in , give back to the next generation.
(Illustration: Tony Purvear & Erika Alexander: Concrete Park)

POC/LGBTQ: When looking at the numbers for books
written AND illustrated by people of color/queer folks it can get depressing.
It feels like no one cares. But, as Fredrick Douglas said “power concedes nothing
without a demand”. We’re showing the “traditional” industry what we can do for
sure, but we’re also showing parents, librarians, caregivers, teachers, and
kids themselves what else is out there. And Mira Nair said “If we don’t tell
our stories, no one will”. The act of showing a child a beautiful story that
they can relate to, or of showing them the story of someone who is different
from them is revolutionary because there is so much mistrust, misunderstanding,
mis-education, and stories that are invisible or erased. So tell your story,
and do it with skill and quality.
(Photo: Halline Overby, Me)

Hello: My name is Robert Liu-Trujillo. I am an author
illustrator from Oakland California (Born and raised in the Bay Area). I
started my journey in children’s books 11 years ago. To date, I have
illustrated four picture books. In 2013 I began work on A bean and cheese tacobirthday, published by Arte Publico Press and written by Diane
. In 2013 I also began planning for Furqan’s First Flat Top a
book I self published with my wife (designer) Joy Liu-Trujillo (Come Bien Books)
translator Cinthya Munoz and a team of folks. The book came out in 2016. In
2014 I began work on I am Sausal Creek written and coordinated by Melissa
. It was later published by Nomadic Press and released in 2015. I began
work on “One of a kind, like me” published by Janine Macbeth’s Blood Orange
in 2015. The story was written by Laurin Mayeno and released in 2016. In 2018 I contributed to the book “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy” by Tony Medina. And in 2019 Sam!, a book I illustrated for writer Dani Gabriel came out. Both Sam! and Thirteen Ways were published by Penny Candy Books. Stay tuned for “Fresh Juice” written and illustrated by me and published by Lee & Low Books in 2021.

Want more info? You can purchase this PDF for some basics before you begin your journey into kids bks

Do me a favor, if you liked this, please share and request the books I’ve worked on at your local library, classroom, office, or store. Another great author who is doing it independently and talking about it worth checking is Zetta Elliott (Zetta made me feel understood, when I was losing my steam for the art)
Follow me on Instagram @Robert_Tres 
You can see another post I did about how I started out as a freelance artist HERE.

Freelance Chronicles 1- Starting out 2006

Wow, it has been 10 years so my LinkedIn says. It feels like
it has been a lot longer since I started doing this y’all, but I’m just
beginning to have some success. I would like to just speak on my journey thus
far as a freelance artist. This is for your new kids (18 or 58) starting careers in illustration art, whatever. In 2006 I had been painting, drawing, sketching, etc
for at least a decade for fun. In 2006 I was 26, uninterested in fame, the internet, or keeping
track of my expenses. 
What I take away from looking at this? It reminds me to draw, paint, and practice. Try lots of things. Reach out to cool people with like minds and give your art freely when learning. Form a crew-it could be two people or 20, but the more you work with other people, the faster you’ll learn, and the more your skills will be pushed. What does this have to do with freelancing as an illustrator? I learned to work with many different types of people. I learned o have a good attitude and be open to new experiences. I learned to really work on my craft. A lot of the stuff I did back then did not make its biggest impact via the internet. So different now. Oh, and let people know you are an artist for hire and sell your work. Here are some pieces/sketches from that time.
Starting from left to right, top to bottom: 1. All City Sacred! This was a group show that Trust Your Struggle did at the old Rock Paper Scissors in Oakland when the art murmur/first fridays was just beginning 2006.
2. Eric Sermon’s eye-one of my first watercolor paintings ever. At the time (pre 2005), I was coming from lots of marker drawing and decided to try something new. 
3. Onierokrites-A greek term for dream interpreters. At the time i thought it was Egyptian, but its not. The idea of having dream interpreters in ancient Egypt is true though. Pen, colored pencil.
4. Illustration for an organization I was working for called Coleman Advocates which does serious organizing for the rights of young people in San Francisco. They worked on securing budget for children, teens, and young people. Even then as a youth advocate interested in social justice, i was leaning towards the art. 
5. Dj Haylow‘s mix of Pete Rock songs, samples, and tracks. This was one of the first freelance art gigs that I ever had. Today me and Haylow/Halline are still friends and among his many talents (Design, DJing, Video Production, Photography) he’s sill busy doing his thing in LA.
6. Crown City Rockers– I actually volunteered to do this graphic for them because I was learning programs like illustrator and photoshop, I loved their music, and I wanted to experiment with people I liked. They all have done many individual projects, and are still making music individually!
7. Sketchbook- Always keep a sketchbook. If theres one thing that keeps me going over the years, its trying weird things, doodling, planning, and drawing in my sketchbook. Keep one. Paper first.
8. Big Daddy Kane-another of my early watercolor pieces.