working artist Tag

I’m coming to Los Angeles for Unique Markets!

Hey folks, I’m on my way to Los Angeles this weekend for the 15th annual Spring Unique Markets! This is a BIG 2 day market in downtown LA featuring local artisans selling art, jewelry, pottery, clothes, plants, and more. I’ll have books, prints, stickers, etc there. Bring you and your family to the event to shop local or just say hi. I hope to see you there. More info here.

You can visit Unique Markets on Instagram to see some photos and videos from the event.

Here’s an interview with the founder of the markets…

Here are some fotos from the market over the years to get an idea of the vibe.

Dig this? Check out these photos of my booth set up from the Craneway Craft Fair

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. 

1500 in sales= 30% discount from my shop


Juiced-My shop just crossed the #1500 mark in sales and I want to offer a thank you to all of you who have supported me. Along with many hustles, I survive with sales from this shop so I appreciate you if you’ve purchased anything from me in the past. If you’ve never gotten anything but wanted to, now’s your chance. From now until this Friday (January 20th) use the code “GREATEST3” to get 30% off from my shop. 
Here’s my shop link: GO 
Dig this post? Check out this one where I talk about how I made it to 1000 sales. When I get to 2000 sales I’m going to make a video about elaborating on how I got this far.

Etsy Strike April 11th-18th 2022


 Vid link
In case you haven’t heard there is a strike by Etsy Sellers against a fee increase by the company on individual sellers. Check out the above interview from the strike organizer/
video link
Ijeoma Eleazu (Etsy Conversations Podcast) is also hosting a live call in where you can voice your opinion about it on her podcast which interviews 100’s of Etsy shop owners about their shops and how we as individual sellers make a living through e-commerce.
I joined the strike in solidarity w/ the over 12k shops who are also striking (my shop). I know some folks cannot do this. I make my $ from a variety of avenues and e-commerce is one of them. I have been on the platform since 2008, I wrote this piece about making 1000 sales on Etsy,  and I’ve sat back during many times when sellers voiced their anger about the company going corporate. Some of the changes have been great for sellers and some of hurt sellers. We are not mini corporations, we are people with families and lives. 
I don’t like the fee increase to keep it real; especially when the company saw record profits in 2020 and 2021. I gained sales in the last two years as well. But, a lot of that came from joining the Black Owned Etsy group, the increase in the number of pandemic shoppers, earned media coverage, and the fact that George Floyd was murdered and folks made an intentional effort to support Black owned shops. I will say I have been highlighted by the company and I very much appreciate that-but folks have been pushing Etsy and companies like it to feature and highlight Shops owned by Black, Indigenous, POC folks for a long time! Like I said, I’ve been on the site since 2008.
I will say I love Etsy and appreciate the efforts they’ve made to bring in more people to the site-I see that work. But, your sellers are the backbone of the company, when they start organizing against you-you’ve got a problem that you need to take notice of. If they don’t act, the number of folks organizing will increase. Shout out to the hundreds of shop owners I’ve met through SF Etsy, The Black Owned Etsy Shops, and the formerly active Etsy Shop owners of color. I will be back on Etsy, but wanted to support the organizing efforts. If any corporation puts up Black squares during protests for Black Lives or pretends to be down for issues everyday people are organizing about such as climate change, Lgbtq rights, etc they should understand. These are their values.
I shared info about the strike to on social media. If you’d like more information about it please go to to read more. 

Sign the petition (over 75k signatures so far) if you agree as a buyer or seller too if you can. LINK

Etsy Black History Month Market


Hey fam my shop got picked to be a part of this months Etsy Black History Month Market. Please check out the stuff from all of the amazing shop owners. I’m on pg 16.


Yo, if you missed it, this is the Black Owned Etsy Shops market from last summer: LINK

Old Art 4 – Treadmill


Here’s a throwback from this old show in Brooklyn. I feel like the treadmill is not at quite as steep an incline, but still there. This is when I was heavy getting into ink. So much of what we go through in this country as working people is about keeping capitalism going and fighting for the almighty dollar. Sometimes it makes me imagine what would I do if I (we) didn’t have to live this way.
If you missed the previous Old Art post, here it is: Big Daddy Kane
Here’s an old ink drawing I did of an Afro Pick.

Children’s Portrait 58 – Aissa

Yo, excited to share this latest portrait of Aissa. Shes a beautiful little one mixed with Black, Mexican, Argentinian, and Armenian. She loves the color pink so thts what I included here. A few years back I painted her big sister Niara! Big thanks to their momma for commissioning.
If you’d like to commission an original portrait you can do so HERE. Thank you for supporting a working artist and one of a kind hand made art vs corporate art.
Check out the last portrait of Walker here. And some process art below.

Children’s Portrait 57 – Walker

Here is the latest children’s portrait. This one for my good friends Melinh and Malik. This young man is Malik’s son and Melinh’s step-son. He’s in college now and a man. It was really fun painting him, trying to capture his smile and warmth. Love his wild hair!
Did you catch the last children’s portraits of Cinthya’s kids? See it HERE
If you would like to commission a portrait of a child or children please reach out and cop one from my store. Thanks so much for supporting one of a kind, unique, handmade art and for supporting an artist vs a corporation.
Here’s some process art below.

Freelance Chronicles 4- Improve your merch table

My merch table 2011 vs 2019
Recently, I’ve seen people post 10 year comparisons and it inspired me to post about my merch (merchandise)  table in the past 7-8 years. Ok so I have been selling artwork at events for well over 15 years. But it hasn’t been until the past five years that I really started to understand how to make money and make something I like. A few points of contrast below.

And while you’re here: Did you see the previous post about the tech I use? CLICK HERE

1. Original Art?
Ok so let’s talk about art collecting. If you are like most people you like art but you don’t typically buy a piece that is over $40-50 unless it is for a very special occasion like a commissioned portrait. The majority of my table 10 years ago was original artwork that would be considered too expensive for regular working class folks. For art collectors, it would appear too cheap. Point is, its been tough for me to sell original pieces. If you want to sell original artwork over $100 you should try presenting it in a gallery that regularly sells artwork. How do you know? Ask! Do your research. I’ll do a post about making your own gallery show one day.
Oh So Lovely Vintage
2. Focus
I really got into kids books because I was inspired by my son and I wanted to service the little child in me. Through that I found that I was providing a service to lots of other kids. So a lot more of my artwork has been literacy or narrative focused. I think its important to figure out how to make your set up cohesive. Make it look like it all belongs together. Like a collection, an album, or a curated wardrobe.
3. Presentation

Another important aspect of my merch table has been working on presentation. A flat table is boring to me. And I started to notice who was buying from me (women). What do they like? So I asked my wife and she gave some great advice about having varying levels on my table. Not all flat. It looks more interesting to me. And I started to look at craft people, jewelry artists, candle makers, etc to take notes on how they set up their tables. I make sure to have a nice large table cloth that is pleasing color wise, but also covers the majority of my table. And I try to make the display interesting. If it’s not working , I move things and experiment.

4. Salesperson
It is not too hard to sell when you really like what you do. But, one of the key things I’ve learned about selling is that if you work on your presentation people will come to you. They want to see what you got and they want to be engaged. So, I usually turn off my phone, make eye contact, smile, and I ask them about their day, complement their cool scarf, etc. 
I have found that going into a story about me, my prices, or what I make can turn people off. So I try to engage them in conversation about them. It doesn’t always lead to a sale, but it definitely helps me get to know more about the people who stop at my table. At some point, people intentionally started seeking my table out telling me they came to see me :). But I think making it about your customer or supporter is key at first. When they’re interested, they’ll ask you questions.
Hawaii record fair
5. The location
You might sell a bunch of wu-tang clan pins at a knitting conference or get a lot of signatures for the police academy at a Black Panther Party reunion. But, if you don’t do research about where an event takes place and who will be there you’re doing a disservice to your business. For me, this has meant going to that event to see how many attendees are there, if the crowd is diverse, if my stuff fits in, if there are 20 people selling there that do exactly what I do, etc before I sell there. This means really thinking intentionally about what you’re going to present that caters to that specific crowd. Location is also paying attention to the weather report, how far you have to lug your stuff, if you’ve over saturated that event (ie-they already bought all your stuff), or if this is a new event hungry for what you do. 
Melody Ehsani

6. Art that can be sold 1000x times
I have been making artwork for a very long time. I have sold tiny things, big framed pieces, books, all kinds of things. And if it was thing I’ve learned recently with having Furqan’s First, it is that you can make some really great artwork and also figure out how to reproduce it so you can sell it hundreds maybe even a thousand times. This can be a shirt, print, or piece of jewelry. The point is, make something you love, figure out how to serve your customer/supporters needs, make it affordable, quality, and make it easily accessible through in person events and online sales. 
Beat Junkies

7. Branding
Branding might sound corny or corporate. But to me it means making your stuff easy to find, readable, and consistent. There are certain items like soft drinks, bed’s, or tires that make you think about an image or story when you think about them. Why? They made sure their name was on it. and they told you their story many times. This does not require thousands of dollars. It just requires spreading the word about your stuff. For my art prints, book, business card, postcard, website, I use the same type, symbols, color, and illustrations. And through seeing this in different places people  say “you’re work is everywhere” when really I have just worked on trying to make it all feel consistent. And if I get tired of an image or style, I change it. And don’t worry, you’re not bragging. You’re taking pride in your appearance and letting people know you’re a working artist who is passionate about what they do.
Dance Africa at Bam

8. Capture Info / Stay in contact
Ok, you’ve finished an event, made a little bit of money and saw a bunch of cool people. Some of them are homies but many you just met. How do you keep in touch with them? Sure, social media is an option but most platforms now use algorithms. As a result, only 20-25% who follow you actually see your stuff. And there are homies that have left social media all together. Your friends would love to hear what’s new with you. The new folks definitely need to get to know you. Both might buy your new work IF they know about the new (insert merch). How? Good old addresses and email newsletters. I know, it sounds old school but everyone is posting on-line. Not everyone is using tools like Constant contact/Mailchimp or the good ole postcard. Get people’s info at your next event with a sign up sheet or your phone. Follow up with them in the new year and compare your sales and engagement with folks at the end of the year. Just a thought.

Busy Bee by Joe Conzo

9. Shout outs
I want to give a big a shout out to Nidhi Chanani who I learned so much from on how to make my work more presentable. Go check out her work here and follow her Instagram to see some of her past set ups at events.

Big shout out to the following events who helped shape who  I am as an artist and vendor: The Berkeley Flea Market, Malcom X Jazz Fest, Life is Living, Carnival in SF, Dia de los Muertos in the Fruitvale, SF Etsy, Renegade Craft Fair, Patchwork, Unique Markets, Zine Fests, Dance Africa at BAM, Afro Punk, and the Alternative Press Expo.

If you’ve read this far, thanks! I’m still learning and growing as an artist and business owner. I’m asking questions, reading this, listening to that, and failing a lot. Hopefully some of this will help you fail less. Leave a comment if this helped or if you have a tip to share.

Here’s the previous post about the tech that enables me to be a working artist and vendor!