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Old 05-04-2003, 09:06 PM
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Question Question: What does it take to become an illustrator?

I was thinking about this forum the other day, and realized something: I might not be able to contribute much in terms of answering questions or posting cool illustrations, but what I can do is ask questions!

So, here's a question for all you illustrators (professional or not) out there:
What does it take to become an illustrator?
Say, a highschool kid were to come up to you and say: "I want to be an illustrator, what do I need to learn?", what would you tell them?
And as an extension to that question: How did you become an illustrator, i.e. how did you learn the things you can do now?
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Old 05-05-2003, 11:24 AM
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amo,

This is very good question! I hope that other's will jump in and give their knowledge on this subject. It bears some input.

From my standpoint, there are alot of avenues that you can take to become an illustrator. Of course there is the college route. Go into a small community college and see what you can take there as far as classes that would help you in getting started. There you will probably be getting into alot of side courses that will help you flesh out your talent and understanding of being an illustrator.

That's one way, and it's not the path that I took. Obsevation is a key point to illustration. See what others are doing in the field. Study what they do and try to emulate that. It's a trial and error method, but it can get you some learning experience by just doing. I have looked at what was successful with business's (for logo designs and such) and tried keeping up to date with colors and layout. That is a must. Be current with your work. Innovative and exciting!

If you are doing illustrations for books or magazines, it's basically the same thing. See what is being done already, and see what you can do to improve on that.


This is just a sample of what you can do. Given more time I would go into more of what I have done to get to this point in my career.


Terry
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Old 05-05-2003, 01:54 PM
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lols knowing other illustrators who are much more advanced than you really helps (wink wink lol) I have met a few friends who are very pro-illustrator and they are always quick to tell me when i'm about to mess up and what i should probably bne doing. They've already walked the path i am on, and so they have much wisdome, and are usually willing to let me in on few of their tricks They have a lot of great colleges and stuff with emphesis' on illustration tho, too.
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Old 05-05-2003, 06:54 PM
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I think the only difference between fine art and illustration is...intent.
If you draw a picture of...oh....a horse, because you want to draw a picture of a horse, then it's art. If someone in the horse business hires you to draw a picture of a horse for the front of their brochure, it's illustration. The methods and materials are identical...an illustration can be sketched, drawn, painted in any medium, digital...whatever.

So, in answer to your question "What does it take to become an illustrator?" I'd say...become an artist. Then, instead of targeting galleries, target industry.
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Old 05-05-2003, 07:31 PM
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i think i am a illustrator (almost) or yet i would like to become one .. but i just havent targetted anyone yet, i find all of the illustrator directory type sites require that you pay to be listed .....

does anyone have any tips for getting that first job ?
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Old 05-06-2003, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sanne
i think i am a illustrator (almost) or yet i would like to become one .. but i just havent targetted anyone yet, i find all of the illustrator directory type sites require that you pay to be listed .....

does anyone have any tips for getting that first job ?



First off create a portfolio of your best work. Once you have that done, and you are confident that you have your best foot forward, then you need to get that portfolio out to as many companies or buisnesses that you can. The artist/ illustrators market guide is worth checking into. I will give you a list of people to send your work to, plus give you very valuable information on how to best present your work, plus teach you some of the business aspects of the career.

Hope that helps.


Terry
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Old 05-06-2003, 10:41 AM
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What's it take? Honestly? A lot of luck is often what it takes. Often it's not what ya know but who you know. Catching an AD at a crucial moment when they need someone for a job is luck.
Some illustrators go to school while some don't...it really is your work that needs to stand out. You have to be artist, marketing director, accountant and janitor all in one package. I think that often Illustrators are farther trained than fine artists...we need to know the process of printing to exact details as our work is reproduced, and also are trained in graphic applications like Photoshop.
Study is what it takes. Knowing what market you want to be in is what it takes, and knowing whom to target with self promotions is what it takes. Being able to work under heavy deadlines and realizing during those you will have no life is also what it takes. It takes intensity, tenacity and some damn good drawings and concepts.
Buy as many books as you can on Illustration and read them over and over. Try to take the plunge and advertise in one of the big directories to get your name and samples out there. It really is a business and you MUST be business savy, because when you are not, you will lose that business. You have to be dedicated inw hat you want and what yoy believe in. Strive to be the next Peter Helck or Winslow Homer, but strive regardless to be your very best.
Take rejections is what it takes cause there will be hundreds along the way. As Ed Roth once told me "Kid, you have to work your ass off in this bizz if ya wanna make it! It is a dog eat dog world! Now get drawing!" Those are words to live by......and very solid advice.
Start small but think HUGE. Start at a local level...in your town then expand. Don't try to gun for Scholastic right off the band, gun for your local newspaper first. See how it all works out, the process of illustrating assignments. Get used to it and then you are comfortable.
Join email list where like minded people think alike...I have found them personally invaluable. As a matter of fact, I think i have learned as much on them as I did in college. Keep up to date with changes, especially now. Things are moving VERY fast these days. Was only 6 years ago that Rubylith and Amberlith were used, these are now basically extinct.
Research reasearch and reasearch. Learn as much as you can...about drawing, about coloring about style, about shading and about printing and papers and about ILLUSTRATION!
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Old 05-06-2003, 07:10 PM
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Wow, guys- some great responses here, thanks!

Quote:
I think the only difference between fine art and illustration is...intent.
So, in answer to your question "What does it take to become an illustrator?" I'd say...become an artist. Then, instead of targeting galleries, target industry.

I thought as much- it's good to know I'm on the right track!

Quote:
I think that often Illustrators are farther trained than fine artists...

I quite agree, from what I've seen so far.
As a "fine" artist you can pretty well do anything, so long as it looks good and "expresses" something- you can just fling paint, and it can be a good piece of work. But an illustration has to say something to the viewer- it's got to tell a story, or illustrate a point, and has to be understood by ordinary people, not just highbrow art critics. So you really have to be skilled at what you're doing.
That's why I've been kind of puzzled by the attitude I've heard coming from "highbrow types", implicating that illustration is some kind of second-rate art. To my thinking, it's harder than "just painting"!

Quote:
You have to be artist, marketing director, accountant and janitor all in one package.


Janitor?

Quote:
Buy as many books as you can on Illustration and read them over and over.


Like, which ones? Any suggestions as to titles/authors?

Quote:
Things are moving VERY fast these days. Was only 6 years ago that Rubylith and Amberlith were used, these are now basically extinct.


I've never even heard of them- what are (were) they?
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Old 05-07-2003, 08:02 AM
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About a month ago I spoke at my old high school for career day. I had put together a handout containing observations I have made dealing with what I observed and had experienced in my own quest to become a fulltime illustrator. I broke them down and listed them in three fundamental categories. In actuality, they apply to just about any career choice, which only goes to show how, in the grand view, it's not that much different than any other career endeavor. Out of the three categories, I'd say you need to be very good at least two, though I've meant a few who were fair at two, but excelled at one.

I can't stress enough that you work has to be more than "good", it has to be of a professional quality. At a recent convention I was moderating a panel, about being an art editor, on which was the art director from Tor Books. She stated that one factor she looked for were artists who had a firm grip on his/her style and was consistent with that style. In other words, she wanted an illustrator who wasn't still searching for "a look", and that there would be no surprises when the assigned piece was completed.

When meeting a potential client, dress like a professional and not an art poser. While other artist understand the "need to be me", clients are looking for someone who exudes a professional demeanor. When paying out hundreds or thousands of dollars for art work, or just for the publishing rights, the client wants to be assured that they are not hiring a flake who can't meet a deadline.

No matter what the assignment, met the deadline. If there's any reputation you don't want to obtain is that of someone who isn't able to met a deadline. It a sure career killer. Always be honest if you can't meet the deadline when asked about taking on an assignment. Once you establish a name and have success, you could from time to time ask for an extension, but when establishing a career, you can't fudge the time your given.

There are no secrets. The only thing close to one would be contacts, and you make them as you build your career, no doubt the only shortcut established artists have, is their reputation and their Rolodex.

Here the handout:

Three Elements for Success


A) Networking:


1. Make connections with people who work in the field of your interest.

2. Locate and attend industry conferences, conventions and/or trade shows.

3. Find what it is you can do or offers others to help them do their job.

4. Look into guilds or clubs who membership is made-up of the peers in the industry of interest.



B) Marketing:


1. Investigate the various means of self-promotion that are available in your field of interest.

2. Read the industry’s most important and/or popular trade publications.

3. Dress for success.

4. Locate the various outlets which list job openings and employment agencies.



C) Skills:


1. Learn the tools of the trade.

2. Strive for excellence.

3. Be knowledgeable of the profession’s history.

4. Always work on improving one’s craft.


BTW, in any creative endevour, talent outs. If your abilities far exceed that of others, you'll succeed. Extrodinary talent cannot be ignored. Paint like Bouguereau, draw like Di Vinci, sing like Sinatra, act like Olivier, direct like Spielburg and success is nearly assured.

Last edited by JoeB : 05-07-2003 at 08:06 AM.
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Old 05-07-2003, 11:35 PM
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These are all really good tips and good insight to knowing whether you have what it takes

Thankyou to everyone
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Old 05-08-2003, 07:12 AM
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By "looking professional," Do you mean you have to wear a monkey suit?

BTW, I wanna be an illustrator too!
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Old 05-08-2003, 08:50 AM
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If I was going to a book publisher for a meeting, then I'd have on a jacket and tie. Obviously, in less formal settings there's no need to go that far. When I attend literary conventions you can tell who are the artists, writers and publishers. They are the ones dressed "normal". If anyone is dressed "odd" it's the fans of the literature. One of the most successful sci-fi illustrators today is Donato Giancola and I've never seen him without a jacket on. Most writers will be in at least a jacket. There's a reason for this. I've yet to see a successful and established artist or writer dressing in a strange or overly casual manner, not saying that there isn't one out there who does, it's just that I've never seen them. Dressing respectfully is never be seen as a bad thing, I can't guarantee that if your wearing a t-shirt and cut-offs or if your hair is died green.
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Old 05-08-2003, 10:56 AM
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Now this is good stuff! I just wanted to come back and say that it's threads like these that help those in need. I agree with the majority of responses that were posted here, and I have to say without a doubt that if you follow these advices that have been given, then you are on the right track!

To add to some of what was said: Know your talent. Don't be shy, be confident! Don't brag, just state the facts. Your work should do the 'bragging' for you. I live in a rural community, but that doesn't stop me from being as professional as I can with the clients that I encounter. It is a daily struggle to do your job well, and to keep those clients happy!

And as pointed out earlier by others, be on time! Make each client feel as though they are the only ones that you are working for, and prove it by keeping your deadlines!

As far as books to read to help you out, there are countless books out there, just do the research, and get use to doing that, because you will do research more now than ever!

Well, keep those posts comming in! This is getting very interesting to read!

Terry
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Old 05-08-2003, 01:12 PM
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Quote:
As far as books to read to help you out, there are countless books out there, just do the research, and get use to doing that, because you will do research more now than ever!


Actually, the problem I've had with finding books on illustration is that when I search for "illustrating" or "illustrator" or similar terms in library or bookstore catalogues, it usually only turns up books on "Adobe Illustrator", or else some kind of complete unrelated, but "illustrated" book (like: "Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak"), which is not precisely helpful.
So, it would be good to get some precise titles or authors of books that others have found useful. JoeB already mentioned "The Illustrator's Bible", which I shall be looking for. Any other good ones anyone else knows of?
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Old 05-08-2003, 07:14 PM
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"Starting Your Career as a Freelance Illustrator or Graphic Designer" by Michael Fleishman is extremely detailed. I saw it at the library. What do you guys think of this book?

By the way, I wasn't impressed with the cover illustration at all. If I thought that was representative of my competition, I would laugh.

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