Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Q&A: Starting out as an illustrator.

Every once in a while I get questions from folks regarding what I do and how I do it. I can't stand gatekeepers who try and horde knowledge so they can be somehow "better" than others; I share it out every chance I can. I figure the cool kids need to stick together. There's plenty of work out there for people willing to hustle. Besides, it's great to see people develop their talents. Everyone needs a hand once in a while.

"John" Hey! Hope all is well. I'm beginning in the arts and I was wondering if you could answer a few questions? Thank you, -J

Me. You bet, anytime.

The Questions:
Great, thanks again! I'll try not to send too many at once, I know you're working.

1. What kind of schooling (if any) would you recommend?

2. Can you name some skills potential employers look for, ie., computer graphics, mixed media, writing, etc.?

3. How regular are freelance assignments?

4. Is it better to grow as an artist within a single company, or keep it mixed up?

I may have more, but I appreciate any pointers or advice you might give. I'm an aspiring writer as well, but I'm also finally pursuing my love of art (sketching at this point). Thanks again, -John

The Answers:
Schooling? Honestly, I'm self taught and only took (and failed) one high school art class. That said my best friend has a BA in Fine Art. Life drawing classes are good anytime you can get em.

Employers largely want to see a portfolio online more than anything else. There is an assumption that you should be able to produce images in a variety of file formats: JPG, PSD, TIF, PNG mainly. They want to see a variety of things:
1.Good proportion of characters. legs and arms being proportionate to the rest. (Skill)
2. Good control of the medium. Pencils should look sharp and clean. Inks the same. Good control of negative space (light dark balance). (Skill)
3. Greyscale and color work. (Variety)
4. Pin up work is easy, they want you to be able to do multiple people in a shot if possible and/ or scenic shots. Something with a full background. (Variety)
5. They want to know you can deliver on time, that you are easy to work with (not a pain in the butt or a douche) and that you are quick with your communications. (Dependability and Professionalism)

Regular? It varies a great deal. At first it'll be hard scoring a gig. As an unknown factor a lot of folks will be hesitant. You have to have a portfolio that sells you, and you have to be persistent.
At one point I'd range from maybe 5 quarter page gigs a month to maybe 10. That's $250 MAX in a whole month. Now, years later I range between maybe 10-30 images a month (size varies).

It's important to network and canvas the industry and try and keep the schedule as full as possible. Take extra on nights and weekends. Only a portion of these will become regulars. I have 3-4 publishers that I do a ton of work for. They keep me busy full-time. That said, I keep adding bits from all over so I can vary my work.
Working for the same guys all the time means likely the same styles of work every time. That means your portfolio will be filled with more or less the same sort of style. It's easy to end up in a rut duping a Tim Bradstreet style every day for the next year...which gets old. You've GOTTA branch out.

Get good with Google. Search out the various publishers and get their email addresses, and look for submissions requirements/ directions: follow them to the very letter (that is a sort of test with them). Get on forums. Get on mailing lists. Open calls come up all the time. The first step though is assembling a portfolio.

Maybe 10-20 pics, all your very best stuff. A good average is a dozen images.

***NOTE, this isn't "done" per se. I'm still answering questions, and the answers given are just a start, not "everything". I'm sure I'll come up with more as I go. This is just off the top of my head.

1 comment:

Louis Porter Jr. said...

This is great information for start-up freelance artists! Hope you do mre of this.