Every other post or so, I like to discuss a bit about this biz we're in. There are so many new illustrators trying to find their way. They have so many questions, that trying to answer them all individually often eats away enormous amounts of my drawing time. Yet, remembering how it felt to be the new kid in town, makes me inclined to do my best to try and help. So here goes kids....everybody paying attention?
Quantity vs. Quality - Where to Begin
There are thousands of talented illustrators, but successful ones have something more than talent, they have tenacity and perseverance. Here's a few things I recommend to help you get started.
- Find your own style. You don't have to be the best illustrator in the world, but you must be original. It's okay (and smart) to learn several techniques, but stay true to yourself and don't attempt to copy someone else. Do your best to be your best, and your own unique look will emerge on it's own. Although this generation is leaning towards the production of more computer generated images than ever before, the children's publishing industry still seems to prefer "traditional" illustration techniques. Don't be shocked if you're asked to do illustrations in oils! You'll consider it if you want the job bad enough!
- Keep working at improving your work. Hone your skills and look for ways to get the desired results faster. Once you start getting assignments, you'll find it much easier if you can knuckle down and work quickly.
- Do your homework; keep on top of industry trends.
- Build connections in every way possible. Network with other professionals. Learn to recognize who they are by asking questions like, do they have a great website?
Have they been published? Are they getting the assignments you're only dreaming of ?
- Be careful how you spend your time. Don't fall into the trap of giving away the farm. Your time is precious and must be protected. Once you're off and running, people come out of the woodwork looking for guidance. Helping newbies can be very rewarding, as it reinforces what you know...but it can be creatively draining as well. Decide how much time you can afford to spend "giving back" and then stick to it.
- Join critique groups on line and in person. Listen to the feedback from other professionals. Critique groups make you accountable for creating new work everyday, and they are a great source of inspiration.
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Drop those who aren't. If you can't, re-evaluate what you are getting from the relationship. Are you sabotaging your own success?
- Join the SCBWI. It is THE best resource available!
- Build a diverse portfolio before you build a website. I've seen too many websites that contained every piece of work the illustrator has....all six of them! Either that, or they have a huge body of work, many of which should not be on the website. Your website portfolio should be a statement. It should say to the world, "This is who I am and what I am capable of doing for you." It should contain your BEST work to date, not every piece you've done since high school! A great portfolio should contain images that editors and art directors are begging to see. It's not about showing off your work to friends or your Aunt Martha. It should contain images of children and animals, scenes with diverse backgrounds, outdoor & indoor scenes, close ups and interesting perspectives, etc. AND, it should have black & white illustration samples as well as color.
Okay class, that's it for today. Next posting, we'll discuss "Self Promotion", so if you haven't got a clue where to start... stay tuned!