How to be an illustrator

I’ve enjoyed reading the book, How to be an Illustrator, by Darrel Rees (2014). I was particularly tickled by the multiple references in the early chapters about how confusing things are while you are still in education, particularly with contradictory advice from tutors. It seems to be a universal problem with education, however the book advises growing a thick skin, as throughout your career some people will like your work and some will not.

I’m not sure if I want to be an illustrator, I’m certainly not very motivated to draw much, but I am drawn to the idea of the use of illustration to aid understanding or to communicate ideas in a more universal way. The book was really good in describing keep tips for university, through to getting your first job, to managing a freelance career.

Key bits were:

  • online portfolio is essential, and more experienced illustrators have a small reprinted physical portfolio
  • make the best use of the resources available at uni as you may not have the time or access to similar once graduated
  • when starting out its best to be where the most jobs are, eg London, New York, LA, Paris (mostly the capital city of the country), however, once you get more established most work can be done online and your website will sell you
  • network, chat to people ask them if you can pop by and show them your portfolio and get some advice
  • think about the best way to organise your work flow so you can achieve commissions with a quick turn around, or to give you some wiggle room if something urgent/personal comes up
  • ask friends to look at your portfolio and give you feedback – you’ve got to avoid judging your own work while you are quite inexperienced as you will pick things to showcase that mean something to you rather than making the best portfolio
  • be prepared for busy times and very quite times, a constant income is not to be expected
  • you do not have to draw to be an illustrator (hooray!)

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