Monday, July 31, 2006

Thumbnails: Bruce Jensen

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Thumbnails: 30 Second Interviews

Bruce Jensen has been creating covers for science fiction books since the mid 80s. Even though he came into the field during an age of hyper-realistic "scene" illustration, Bruce's work was more abstract and conceptual. His current work harkens back to the great illustrators of the 60s -- Paul Lehr, Richard Powers, etc -- while maintaining a fresh and contemporary sensibility. Bruce has also worked as an artist for 60 Minutes, creating the backdrop graphics for news stories.

What is your favorite painting within the last year?

Neal Asher’s Brass Man. Or perhaps this (below) which is really a study for a series of paintings I hope to get started on soon, an alien menagerie.

A career highlight?

The cover assignment for Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep. I’m a huge fan of Philip K. Dick’s work, and Bladerunner is a favorite film of mine, despite it’s loose adaptation of Do Andriods Dream. Getting the chance to offer up my own interpretation when Del Rey Books decided to drop the film related artwork was a dream assignment. It just so happened that it was due on my birthday too.

Dream assignment?

Does anyone want to repackage all the P. K. Dick books?

What are you working on now?

Slan Hunter
, the now completed (by Kevin J. Anderson) sequel to A. E. van Vogt’s landmark novel Slan.

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Cover Talk

Interesting cover conversation going on at Lou Ander’s blog, Bowing To the Future.

Friday, July 28, 2006

John Jude Palencar

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John Jude Palencar has another calendar coming up. Yeah! John will be the Guest of Honor at this year's World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas. For anyone that has not seen John's work in person, this will be a real treat.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Art Out Loud: Painting Demos

Daniel Dos Santos and I have been hosting as series of painting demos held at the Society of Illustrators called Art Out Loud. Or next two events are scheduled for this Fall.

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Two fantasy/science fiction artists with similar sensibilities yet very different mediums. Oil painter Donato Giancola and digital painter Todd Lockwood
Saturday, October 7th • Noon - 4:00
$25.00 students & SoI Members • $35.00 non-members

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Three Hamilton King Award-winners, each with a very distinctive style from one another. Jame Bennett, Gary Kelley, Greg Manchess
Saturday, November 11th • Noon - 4:00
$25.00 students & SoI Members • $35.00 non-members

Both events will be held at:
Society of Illustrators
128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY 10021

For tickets contact: 212.838.2560 •
Space is limited - past events have sold out!

Scott Fischer Never Grows Up

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Scott M. Fischer created over 40 beautiful ink drawings for the US edition of the only authorized sequel to J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean. Why silhouettes? Scott said, "They were the perfect solution. They have a timeless look that will not be out of place with the first books and, more importantly, they leave a lot up to the imagination of the reader -- with an icon like Peter Pan, that's a great thing. Silhouettes are also a nod to Arthur Rackham, the coolest Pan illustrator of all! His Cinderella book was a true inspiration to me."

The book is due out October 5th from Simon and Schuster. I'm looking forward to posting more images once the book is released.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Comic Con: Sunday

The final day of Comic Con was full of a lot of last minute shopping and the sudden realization that, despite having spent five days there, you still hadn’t seen everything.

All in all, it was a great convention. It is always inspiring to be around people that are so passionate about what they do. It was wonderful to meet up with friends and colleagues that I only see once a year and to meet new artists coming into the field. I definitely came away with a few names that I’ll be keeping my eye on.

A number of us spent the final evening playing the most intense game of Pictionary. I must say, it was a little intimidating to be the only non-artist playing with the likes of George Pratt, Donato Giancola, Stephan Martiniere, Greg Manchess, and others. Luckily, thirty second drawings done with your wrong hand and eyes closed look pretty much the same no matter who draws them.
Martiniere’s “Speaking with Forked Tongue”

A little off-topic: I decided to take off Monday to decompress a bit before returning home and diving straight back into work. The San Diego Zoo is as amazing as its reputation claims. I’ve never seen a creature as graceful as this 6,000 pound hippo in water.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Comic Con: Saturday

Saturday! I made the mistake of trying to cross the took about an hour. But...

I learned that Stephan Martiniere has a 2007 calendar out, Futurescapes. I’m proud to say that six of the twelve months are Tor book covers.

Brom told me that he is hard at work on a new novel. He was not at liberty to reveal the title but, like The Plucker, it will be lavishly illustrated.

Dan Dos Santos' painting demo.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Comic Con: Friday

Greg Manchess did a well attended demo. Greg is exhibiting his Conan paintings from the Wandering Star/Del Rey edition of The Conquering Sword of Conan. The book features over 60 paintings. The Art Department will show an in depth step-by-step of one of Greg’s paintings in a few weeks.

More people spotting: James Jean talking to Arnie Fenner.

Comic Con: Thursday continued

The artists seem to be doing well. I see lots of “sold” signs on paintings. The crowds have been steady...but promise to be better (or worse, depending on your point of view) on Friday and Saturday.

It was a pleasure to meet David Apatoff. David runs one of my favorite illustration blogs, Illustration Art. He seems to be as gracious as his site implies he would be. We talked a bit with Charles Vess and Greg Manchess. Charles seems very excited about the upcoming film version of Stardust. He seems pleased that the film makers have remained true to the spirit of the book. Greg will be doing a demo on Friday -- more on that latter.

I ran into Theo Black, Holly Black, and Tony Diterlizzi, of Spiderwick fame.

ConceptArt freinds: Arkady “AmishCommy” Roytman and Tiffany “poise” Prothero.

What convetionis complete without Elvis Trooper.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Comic Con: Thursday

Jason Chan drawing in front of Dan Dos Santos’ booth. You may not know Jason’s name now, but you will soon. He’s just out of school and already doing amazing work...including some covers for Starscape. (I’ll get those posted soon.)

Razorbill was giving away advance copies of Black Tattoo. It’s sporting a beautiful John Jude Palencar painting. The marketing info on the back says that the final jacket will fold out into a poster. I’m very much looking forward to seeing that.

Dave Palumbo (in white) showing his portfolio to collectors.

Illustration House has a great collection of work on display, including this nice Jeff Jones painting.

Comic Con: Wednesday

Today went as expected -- a lot of rushing around and last minute set-up...and a lot of tired and travel weary artists. I spent most of the time just saying quick hellos to everyone.

The best news I heard was that Stephan Martiniere will have an art book out in December, Quantumscapes. He says that this one will cover his movie, gaming, and book cover art. (Quantum Dreams, his first book, is a beautiful collection of cover work.) I’ve often stated that Stephan is one of the most exciting artist working in the field today.

Kinuko Craft drawing in a fan’s sketchbook.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Comic Con: Prologue

Here’s the “before” shot. I spent most of the day traveling across the country but I was able to poke my head in and watch a few early birds setting up. I’m sure tomorrow’s set-up will be bedlam. The preview night is tomorrow. It’s well worth getting in early for that. Within a day, this place will be jammed packed, elbow to elbow!

Monday, July 17, 2006

"How do I get my work in front of an art director?"

In an earlier post, I was asked, "What's the best way to get your work in front of an art director?" This is a question that I get at just about every convention and school lecture. I wish I had a concise answer but I’m afraid that the truth is annoyingly vague.

Much of my time at work and after hours is spent thinking about who should do what covers. If I make the right match between artist and book, then the months ahead of me are smooth sailing. If I make the wrong can be months of wrestling with the artist, killing a budget on a book by having to create a second cover, or, worst of all, letting a book go out into the world to limp along with an inappropriate cover.

Note, inappropriate does not mean that the cover is just means that it is not the right cover for that particular book. There are plenty of covers that are not my favorites but they are right for that book, just as there are plenty of beautiful covers that may not suit a particular book.

These are hugely important to me -- mostly Spectrum and the Society of Illustrators. I keep stacks of them at my feet, within arm’s reach. I flip through them all the time -- to find new artists, to remind me of artists that I've wanted to work with but haven't yet, and to remind myself to look up new work from people I already know. (Keep website updated!) Annuals are juried, cleanly designed, neatly bound, and have all the contact information I need. Can't beat all that. The trouble for the artist is that they do not have control over whether they get into them or not.

I spend tons of time in bookstores. I flip open every book if I can’t tell artist by their style. I'm always curious who’s out there and who’s new. I also subscribe to Realms of Fantasy and Communication Arts. "Realms" not only uses lots of illustration throughout but they also have a feature on an artist in each issue.

I go to four or five conventions a year. Sometimes I'll find new talent there or I get to watch a young artist’s abilities grow throughout the years. I find it really helps the process when you actually get to meet the people you work with. Not essential by any means, but it's nice when there is some kind of connection. For the same reason, I go to all the Society of Illustrators openings.

I get tons of these every day. To be honest, most do end up in the garbage — they are either inappropriate for what we publish or they are not of the quality that we need. I do, however, keep files on the ones that I like.

Since websites and good quality home printers have taken over, I don't see many portfolios delivered to our office. However, we still get them from time to time, and we still look through them. Be sure include promo cards that the AD can keep. (Do not include original paintings.)


Talking to other artists or art directors will tip me off to people I have not worked with. Illustrators are a great lot, they always seem quick to point out other artists that they admire without feeling threatened.


They can help get your foot in the door but they are, by no means, necessary. There are a number of agents that I very much enjoy working with. Whenever they call, I'll look at what they have to show. But then easily half the people I work with don't have agents. Here you are better off talking to other artists to see if this is something you want to pursue.


These are costly and I'm not sure how effective they are for book cover

work. I do enjoy going through them but I tend to clip out the pages I like
and then trash the rest. (The annuals stay in tact.) However, I've heard that source books are good for getting some higher paying advertising jobs.


Increasingly, online communities have been a great place to discover artists. I most enjoy Drawn! and Concept Art.

Unfortunately, none of the above will work by itself. I usually come across someone's work and think, "interesting." Maybe six months later I'll see that artist in Spectrum....six months later I might see them at ComicCon...and six months after that I get a book that I haven't a clue what to do with and then suddenly I remember, "Wasn't there some new artist whose work looked rather interesting?" Then I go dig through all my resources and and decide whether it's a good match or not.

I picked a few random artists and tried to remember how I heard of them. (Hopefully they wont mind me sharing.) Some are new to me, others I've worked with for years. This is all very simplified. In all cases I looked up a ton of work once I thought I had a particular project that they might be right for.

Jon Foster: I met at a World Fantasy Convention and then saw his work in Spectrum and at the Society.

Dan Dos Santos: I met at Society of Illustrators and then he sent me a collection of promo cards.

Eric Fortune: I was following in Spectrum and received promo cards.

Donato Giancola: Donato had been working with Tor before I came along. I know he credits his agent for helping in the early years. (He has long since moved on from the agent.) His great work will keep him working for Tor as long as he's willing, but meeting him at conventions and at the Society has made it all the more fun to work with each other.

David Grove: Recommended by Greg Manchess. Then I looked up his work on the web.

Jason Chan: I saw him on ConceptArt. I was also reminded to keep looking at his stuff by Dos Santos. His new website helped a lot too.....I was able to pass that on to our editor.

David Bowers: Was following through Society annuals and then received promo card.

Stephan Martiniere: Met through an agent, although he quickly left that firm. It's fun to hang out with Stephan at ComicCon, but, of course, it's his mazing work that keeps me coming back for more.

Greg Manchess: Spectrum and the Society. Greg has also lead me to many other great artists.

Jon Foster Art Book!

I spent some time this weekend writing a closing statement for Jon Foster's new art book,
Revolution. Jon and his artwork amaze me. I'm very honored to be part of this publication. The book should hit the stands in October. If I ask nicely, the Fenner's might allow me to post some interior spreads just as the book is released.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Penguin Design

I just saw (thanks to a commentator on TheISpot) this interesting article by Alice Rawsthorn in The International Herald Tribune about the history of Penguin’s design and how they are meeting today’s publishing challenges by lookin’ good.

"Epics is the latest in a succession of beautifully designed new editions of Penguin Classics, which are as likely to be bought for their covers as for their content. It now makes commercial sense for Penguin to invest in design, as the company is facing fierce price competition from online retailers and the threat of digital publishing."

Be sure to check out the slide show listed on the left.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Hugos

John Scalzi makes a plea to vote for the Hugo. Let me just add, vote for your artists as well! Please take the time to consider each artist and what their contribution to the field has been throughout the year. The fact that just four artists have won the Hugo in the past 25+ years is a bit disconcerting. I do not wish to take anything away from those artist, they are well deserving of much recognition, but how so many other worthy artists have been overlooked is unfathomable to me.

Donato Giancola has been one of the most influential sf/f artist of the past twenty years and yet, he has never won the Hugo. No one can touch the sophistication and lyricism of Kinuko Craft -- never won a Hugo. John Jude Palencar has been creating images that haunt (and sometimes horrify) for decades -- no Hugo. Jon Foster has given covers more energy and emotion than we have seen in a long time. John Harris. John Berkey. All of these guys have deserved more recognition throughout the years than is apparent from the Hugos.

With everyone having a website these days, it's easier than ever to quickly research and learn more about the artist that have been nominated....and it's fun. Make the award more meaningful to everyone who has, and will, win by giving it the same consideration as the writer's categories.


I really don't mean for this blog to be so Tor-centric but...

Shriek just came into the office and I love what our senior designer, Peter Lutjen, did with this Jonathan Edwards photograph. The interior design department (which is oddly separate from the art department) created a great text layout for the book as well.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thumbnails: Daniel Dos Santos

Thumbnails: 30 Second Interviews

Daniel Dos Santos is one of the genre's rising stars. In just a few years he's gone from being a rookie to a steady stream of book covers and gaming cards. Above is his cover painting for Christopher Pike's young adult novel, The Yanti.

What is your dream assignment?
Fully painted adaptation of the comic, X-Men #1.

Your most embarrassing illustration moment?

Left my painting in front of a space heater to dry,
and burned it like a marshmallow!

A career highlight?
Playing Pictionary with Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell...and winning. ;)

Bob Eggleton & The Ant Bully

Bob Eggleton created a mind-boggling 300 drawings and paintings for the upcoming Warner Brothers movie, The Ant Bully. These two are charming as heck. I hope there is an "Art of..." book in the making. Bob got to team up with his "Jimmy Neutron" colleagues, Don Maitz and Fred Gambino. From Bob, "Seeing the whole thing through from start to finish, and creating art alongside so many talented, imaginative people is such an exciting thing and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Bob will be speaking, along with another artists and the director, at Comic Con: Thursday at 2:00

Soldier of Sidon

Tor will be publishing Soldier of Sidon, the next "Latro" novel by Gene Wolfe, in October. This made me very excited because I was able to hire David Grove to do a series a beautiful chapter drawings. We don't get a chance to do black and white imagery often enough.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

David Gallo

Okay, so I'm cheating by posting past news but my brother, David Gallo, won a Tony Award last month for set design on "The Drowsy Chaperone"....and I think that's immensely cool.

The Ugly Truth About Art Directors that they get to take credit for a lot of other people's hard work. And, when they are off doing fun things like going to meetings, their assistants become much better designers than they are. Here is one of my favorite Tor covers hitting the shelves now. This was done by our fantastic staff designer, Jamie Stafford-Hill.

A huge thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow. I got into work this morning and my wee blog was being picked up by everyone, via them. I had fully expected to be talking to myself for a long, long while. Thanks for the warm welcome!

Spectrum 13 Cover

Arnie Fenner let me have a preview of the Spectrum 13 cover. Arnie, who's normally quite reserved, has been teasing me all year about how good this new edition will be. It'll be a long summer waiting to see it.

The cover art, Prometheus by Donato Giancola, has an interesting story. It
was painted for an exhibit curated by Vincent Di Fate to hang in a Chelsea gallery. However, at 6.5'x9', it was too large to display! Donato put paying commissions aside for 6 weeks to paint it and no one was going to see it. Since then, it has appeared on the cover of Asimov's, gotten a gold medal from Spectrum, secured him a highly prestigious commission from the Untied Nations, and, finally, it is on displayed at the New York Hall of Science. From Donato, "If this isn't a great example of why you take chances, I cannot think of a better one."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Comic Con, July 19-23

I'll be wandering around Comic Con, using booth 5005 as my home-base. Stop on by and say "hi.'" Booth 5005 will be a collective of a number of outstanding cover artists.
Kinuko Craft

Daniel Dos Santos
Donato Giancola
Gregory Manchess

Greg will be doing a painting demo on Friday, noon-4:00.
Dan'll demo Saturday, noon-4:00.

Donato will have a signing on Saturday from noon-2:00

In response to the old question, "What do I put in my Portfolio?"

This is, of course, just my opinion. Smart people gather information from many sources and then make their own decisions. I'm sure there are things I forgot to mention here, but that is what the discussion is for.

Know who you are showing your work to. Don't show your still-lifes and say, "But what I REALLY want to do is fantasy book covers." If that's what you really want to do, then sit down and create a new portfolio. And don't offer to do a job on spec to prove that you can switch gears.
Create different portfolios for different clients. The presentation you show a card gaming company may be subtlety different than the presentation you show a book publisher.

The “Weakest Link” principle reigns supreme. Especially when looking at portfolios from young artists just out of school a couple of years. I need to know that you are in complete command of your craft. If you have seven paintings that you really like and three that you’re not fond of, sit down and paint three more pictures. An AD will always fear that they could get you on a bad day. ADs don’t want to take a chance on new talent, they want to feel comfortable and excited about working with new talent.

Remember that the day you graduate, artists like Donato Giancola, Todd Lockwood, Jon Foster are your competition. You need to give me a reason to hire you instead of those guys. I don’t say this to make it seem hopeless but, rather, to make younger artists realize that they really NEED to work hard to get their foot in the door. And they need to work smartly. Look at your work critically and constantly work to improve.

Figure drawing, figure drawing, figure drawing! The most important thing for a book publisher is figure drawing. You may get away with faking the rest (for a little while) but you need to have 100% solid figure drawing that does not look stiff and cartoonish. (“Poser” people tend to look weightless and artificial. Learn how to draw the figure.)
There are only a few artists who are willing to include more than one or two figures in a painting. If you can handle a crowd scene, it can go a long way to separating you from your competition.

I like how both Jon Foster and Donato Giancola veer away from the typical six-foot tall point of view here. Scott M. Fischer has a more subtle, but still very effective angle on his. All have effectively painted real individuals, not just cookie-cutter model types.

This is tough. Action often looks stiff or fake. The trick is getting good reference so that the pose is accurate and then deviating from it to give it some life. There are only a couple of people that I trust with real action...but when it works, it’s kick ass.

In Gregory Manchess’ painting we sense the heft of Conan’s body while feeling the split second of weightlessness between throwing his arm back and having it come crashing down on us.

Yes, we constantly show sexy, big-breasted babes on our covers. But, there is a fine line between sexy and freakish. If you are using Hustler for your reference, you're on the wrong side of that line. Along with sexy, they usually need to look like they can kick-ass. Slave girls don't impress art directors. Book publishing does not use pin-up. And breasts are NOT perfectly spherical.

Louis Royo.This figure is sexy, strong, and in command of the situation without being obviously posed strictly for titillation. Royo explores all kinds of dark and erotic themes in his personal work but, for his book covers he is able to pull back a bit for the more conservative book publishing market.

This applies more to artists that have been in the industry a decade or two but let this be a cautionary tale for young artists: It’s not a great idea to always use your girlfriend/wife in every painting. As people get older their sense of what is fashionable sometimes ends shortly after college. It’s slightly painful when I see a figure in the painting whose clothing and/or hair is clearly from the 80s. (Fantasy paintings are amuck in mullets!) Unless it’s a historical piece, costuming should attempt to be as timeless looking as possible. Looking “dated” is the kiss of death for an illustrator. (Men’s fashion doesn’t seem to be as identifiable so I don’t often see this problem in male figures.)

Too much detail in the background flattens the image out. Artists working in PhotoShop love to show every brick of the castle that is resting on the mountain across the valley. Not good.

Stephan Martiniere is a master at implying detail with abstract shapes. It keeps the image alive.
We don't need to see every leaf in Greg Manchess's painting to know that there is a jungle back there.

Book publishing (outside of gaming tie-ins) does not show many monsters. I know that games use tons of them and they look great, but a portfolio full of monsters isn't a help to me.
Showing an example or two of some classic mythic creatures is good - dragons, unicorns, trolls - but I don't need to see tons of it and they should not be of the twelve arm, five eyeball, gooey variety. Good anatomy on animals and creatures is critical. The people are still more important, but if you can also sell me on horses and dragons, you’re golden.

Tristan Elwell’s horse head is spot on. If it had fallen flat it would have distracted from the exquisite face he painted.
The light on Dan Dos Santo’s dragon is great but, as in the example above, the creature is in service to the human figure.

Not so interesting. Even horror books stay away from gore. Grit is fine, a little bit of subtle blood and grime is okay, but no Marketing Department will let an evisceration pass.

This detail from Donato Giancola’s painting is so effecting because he is showing the tragedy of war in how the characters are interacting, not because he is showing rivers of blood.

I don’t care if you have to stand on your head to make a good picture. Most likely, you’ll need reference. Use it. Don’t be a slave to it.

There’s never a second chance to make a first impression. Make people want to turn the page.

If you are showing off a portfolio you are asking a busy person to spend time looking at your best work in its best presentation. Never explain why the image didn't come out as well as you hoped or how bad the print looks. It will either make me nervous that you'll run into the same problems on my job or make me wonder why you are having me look at a portfolio that even you feel is not ready.
It's surprising but people do this all the time. The best artists can point out mistakes in their paintings...but they don't. Be professional and stand by your work.

I’ve had people get on their knees and beg for a chance. This kind of behavior embarrasses the art director and should embarrass the artist. Don’t chase an art director at inappropriate moments, such as an awards ceremony, while at dinner, etc.

If you are asking for constructive criticism, than be prepared to listen. You can ignore all of it, but don’t keep telling the AD why you didn’t do it that way in the first place. You’ve asked their opinion and they are giving it. You can decide whether it’s rubbish or not latter.
Not all situations warrant a “thank you” note, but, if you are lucky enough to get special attention from someone, or someone took extra time out for you, take a moment to say thanks. It’s the polite thing to do and it will remind them of you and your work.

These often do more harm than good. Anything that starts with "How art thou!" goes straight into the garbage. Anything that is trying too hard to sell themselves or that states that they "just happen" to have some free time coming up is a bad sign. If you are not going for a full time job, there is no need for these. It's all about the portfolio.

* If you want them back, include a SASE.
* Have your name and contact on EACH piece. It's easy for samples to get separated.
* Postcards are fine. If something is intriguing I'll go look up a website.
* A collection of a few 8x10s are fine.
* CDs are not looked at. If I already know you, I'll look at them. Otherwise, it takes too long to load them up. Also, work looks very different lit in RGB than it does printed in CMYK. I won’t hire someone solely by what I can see on my screen.
* Follow-ups about 3 times a year are good.
* Don't get too clever with the envelopes/packages. Don't send toys, candy, etc. (I hate it when they send candy...I SO much want to eat it but it's candy from STRANGERS!) Pros don't get cute with their presentations. It should look clean and let the work shine.
* If you are not a designer, keep all the type simple. Most art directors are designers. It won’t stop me from looking at the artwork but you don't want my first thought to be, "Uhg! Chrome, embossed, script lettering!"

Please. Especialy for anyone in their first decade or two of business. Your abilities are (hopefully) growing in leaps and bounds. It’s frustrating to know that someone is doing good work without being unable to show it to an editor...or being unable to remid myself of all that great work I saw from them at a convention last week.

Once you do get a job, do it well and do it on time. That is your best chance to getting a second job from the same client. Again, do it on time.


A lot of what was written here is common sense but many people, especially when nervous, can fall into what seem like obvious traps. The best advice is to act like a pro until you become one. Be confident without being cocky, never stop working while waiting for the phone to ring, get your work out into as many venues as possible, and find places to network and meet the people you are hoping to get hired by.

........Did I mention that figure drawing is important?