Below are a list of most frequently asked questions people have asked me over the past couple of years. I have compiled a list of questions and I hope you’ll find it interesting as to how I started out as well as any tips and info on running your own business. Enjoy!
What did you study and what made you interested in illustration? How did it all start?
I studied Foundation Art and Design at college as I wasn’t too sure what I was going to do afterwards. It was only until my friend had mentioned illustration I looked into it. I spent quite a lot of time at the library going through design books, illustration agency books, magazines and that was really the turning point for me. I remember seeing Julie Verhoeven and Deanne Cheuk’s work and it changed the way I viewed image making. I loved the versatility of illustration which suited the way I worked at the time.
After college, I went the university and did a BA in Illustration. It was fun for the first year or so, but honestly, the Art Foundation course at Doncaster was probably much more inspiring and my tutors really pushed me to experiment with different mediums. Even today after all these years, I feel very grateful that somehow I crossed paths with my tutors at college. I remember my life drawing tutor (thanks Jeremy!!) literally said I could not paint! No offence taken, he said I should try other ways of making images. I problem solved it myself by making collages and hand drawn images, it really went from there after that. I don’t think I would be doing this if it wasn’t for my tutors.
What’s your work process and how does it change?
I’ve always enjoyed working in a variety of mediums because I love design in general! So I think that this influences the way I work and how I approach projects. I always start with hand drawn images and then I either paint over them or use loads of stickers and different types of paper. Then I’ll scan all the separate pieces into Photoshop and I’ll finish off the image from there.
Who/what inspires your work?
To name a few: CY Twombly, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, Julie Verhoeven, Fiona Rae, Rob Ryan, Pomme Chan, Deanne Cheuk, and Sarah Beetson.
When I’m working I love listening to NTS Radio or I’ll stick on a soundtrack- it’ll either be along the lines of Akira, Ghost in the Shell or Studio Ghibli.
Would you have done anything differently after your graduation, if you could do it again? Anything you wish you had known back then? And in general, any advice/tips about degree show and life after that?
If I’d have known that it was going to be tough I would have done some more internships during my time at university or learnt other practical skills such as photography, graphic design or basic coding skills. My advice would be not to get too bombed out with your final year (getting stressed out with deadlines) but spend your time honing your style and producing the best quality of work.
Go to shows and start networking with people, pop along to craft markets or open studios and have a chat with other practitioners as it’s always an eye-opener to see what others do. I’ve learnt so much since I graduated so try and take the opportunity and utilise your experience as much as possible.
How do you approach a contract, being a freelance illustrator?
First things first, read up about the business side of illustration either online or buy a book (there’s a few good ones online.) I learnt about writing up contracts not through university but from doing my own research. My course wasn’t so great because my tutors were more focused on making sure we did all of our work than giving us any helpful advice about being a freelance illustrator.
I recommend going to HMRC and booking yourself a free workshop as they will tell you how to write up a contract. Also decide on your hourly rate. Just make sure you have all the correct information in written form otherwise you don’t want the client to go back on their words. Then you have nothing to prove if it turns out to be a dispute.
Does it ever happen that you look at your own work and start having second thoughts or feelings about it? What do you do when/if that happens?
Yes it does! Whenever I have one of those days I take a step back and do something different for a few hours. I think when you start to question yourself whether your work is good enough and then you compare your style with other illustrators you can get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts. So having a break from it all whether it’s going for a walk etc. can really help. Talk to a friend who might give you some feedback, whether it positive or critical I do think it’s healthy if you have an objective opinion.
Now with the prevalence of Facebook and Twitter, sometimes it’s almost a hindrance in that it’s so easy to scroll through other people’s works and compare yourself to other artists. But there’s a big online community out there who offer lots of support and virtual high fives e.g. In Colourful Company, so you’re not alone as it seems to be a very common feeling with artists and creatives.
How do you promote yourself and has using social networks helped you as an artist? If so, how?
I spend some time updating my Instagram, Facebook Fan Page and Twitter pages. In some ways it’s helped me connect with a wider audience, especially when you become involved with online projects such as Inktober. In saying that though, it sort of goes to what I said previously. It can make you uncomfortable and doubt your profession; you think of social networks being a 24/7 outlet with no defined ‘start’ and ‘finished’ to it. The endless scrolling, jumping from one account to another it can really play with your mind. That’s why I’ve started to limit myself from it as I realised I was developing a very unhealthy relationship with my confidence and self-esteem. I no longer care whether my products aren’t ‘beautifully’ styled with a pink filter over the photo- I do my best and I make myself happy, not trying to please other people. I show my products with what means I have in my home studio. I develop and find ways of taking my own photos rather trying to imitate others.
So my answer would be, yes, its helped me with my work and my online presence. But I’m now not chasing after the ‘likes’ anymore, rather, I’m happy with myself and that I show my support to other artists and creatives out there.