7 Steps to Becoming an Illustrator

27th April, 2020 | 16 Comments
7 Steps to Becoming an Illustrator

I received an email a while back from another artist who was just starting out. He had a great portfolio of work but was unsure about how to launch off into the illustration world. Looking back almost 10 years now when I started out as a professional illustrator, I was a little naive and wasted a lot of time, money and emotion working things out.

First off, to be a freelance illustrator you do not need a qualification. In over 10 years of being hired to create artwork for clients not once have I been asked if I have a degree or if I’m qualified, nor did I state I had one. These points will help you avoid some of the pillow punching I went through, and ultimately streamline your journey toward making a career as an artist.

you do not need a qualification

The following is my personal take on what I consider the bare essentials required to becoming an illustrator. There are many other little clumps of clay to slap on top but I think everything else builds on the foundation of these seven.

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Pandora’s Head and Artistic Licence

12th November, 2018 | No Comments

Pandora’s head is not here.

Pandora's head

Yet.

In my latest video (below), I finally give Pandora the head she deserves. She’s been waiting over a decade.

You may know that I often go out sketching and end up with unfinished drawings. This can be for a multitude of reasons; the person I’m drawing inconsiderately decides to leave, or I simply need to run away because they’ve finally found me. Regardless, I end up completing the sketches much later, usually after I’ve forgotten about them.

This often allows me to attack them with fresh eyes, and new perspectives.

Ignorance is bliss before

Before

Ignorance is bliss after

After

Are you getting at something here?

When we are creating anything for ourselves, for our own enjoyment, we have artistic licence. That essentially means you can give a man tentacle arms if you want. Rules don’t control us, not any more.

Ol' tentacle arms

Tentacle arms is an obvious example of artistic licence, because I’m yet to witness a successful octoplasty in real life. The science just isn’t there yet. But artistic licence can be used in more subtle ways.

An example would be drawing a scene of a building that has no people in it, and deciding to add people to give it a story or some warmth. Or maybe deciding to add shadow to a scene you’re painting which is completely different to the shadow in the real scene in front of you. Why? Because it might make a better picture.

Lady standing in Water

Was there an umbrella and torrential rain, or did she leave before I could finish her feet?

You can choose to paint the picture as it is or you can choose not to. Some people like to replicate what they’re painting or drawing as close to reality as possible because they might see virtue in presenting it exactly as it was. Others might alter that representation of reality because they think the end result would be better. Neither is right or wrong. Just know that you’re probably not going to go to prison if what you’re portraying isn’t perfect or exactly as it is in reality. You have the licence.

New nose

Was he looking at an iPad or looking into a mirror at his new nose?

Back to Pandora

So here I am completing Pandora over a decade later. I don’t have the original source I drew it from so I am using, you guessed it, artistic licence. Enjoy…

As always I’d love to hear from you. Have any thoughts or questions? Let me know in the comments!

Some recommendations…

1st March, 2016 | 5 Comments
Some recommendations…

Well in case you were wondering I am still here. For the last few months I’ve been working on a few jobs, enjoying a bit of a relaxy time and ultimately battling the resistance to write a new post. If you’re reading this then I won the battle and I’m back baby!

I’ve been mulling over writing a post about personal recommendations for books and other media I refer to for creativity, motivation AND productivity.

I’ll just get on with it shall I…

BOOKS

Anatomy & Figure Drawing: Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life by George B. Bridgman

bridgman1bridgman2

Admittedly I haven’t really checked out other books on anatomy/figure drawing but then after having owned this I’ve never needed to. It was recommended to me by my animator friend years ago during art school. (more…)

Improving Your Artwork with the right Questions…

28th September, 2015 | 4 Comments

Hey there sports fans! And/or art fans. I’ve been locked away the past few weeks working on a few things, mainly a new series of illustrations of the tennis Big Four. For those that don’t know The Big Four are top tennis players Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Some of you may have seen versions of Djokovic and Nadal which is where the idea for this series began. As I posted them around on different sites a lot of people were requesting that I do the other two and create a series of the four.

Djoker

The popularity inspired the idea to do my first art launch of limited edition prints. With that in mind I decided each illustration will need to be worthy of print.

As it has been a long while since I originally created the illustration of Nadal I thought he needed freshening up. I noticed a lot of flaws in the original design and I thought it would be helpful to share a bit of the process I go through when analysing and improving my artwork.

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Live Painting & New Challenges

3rd July, 2015 | 4 Comments
Live Painting & New Challenges

I was recently hired through my agency The Drawing Arm to do a spot of live painting for the perfume brand Jo Malone London. It was hands down the nicest smelling job I’ve ever had.

This was a job where I had to step out of my comfort zone, literally and figuratively. Three days of live painting in a large department store. I’d never done this before, and wasn’t sure what to expect…

brush image

The job involved painting London landmarks on Jo Malone perfume boxes which were available for customers to buy over the Mother’s Day weekend. When I arrived I was directed to a cosy little table at one side of the department, covered in a mountain of boxes.

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Background Designs à la Japanese Anime

24th June, 2015 | 2 Comments
Background Designs à la Japanese Anime

Welcome back! In my previous post I mentioned I was hired to produce some background and character designs for an animation studio — the wonderful London based Picnic Studio. It was a bitter-sweet job, a dream opportunity that got snatched away too soon, though through no fault of the studio I must say!

The studio had been hired by a big sports brand to produce an animated TV advert in the style of a black and white Japanese anime. They had seen my work* and liked my style, asking if I’d be interested in producing character designs and backgrounds for the animation.

Attached in there email was a PDF file explaining the style they were going for along with visual references to Akira and Katsuhiro Otomo, at which point I started to salivate.

YES MAN

It sounded like a big responsibility, but it was an opportunity to produce work in such a wonderful style and with the potential prospects the job could bring it was too much to turn down.  I also felt flattered that they sought me out and consider me to undertake what would be a big contribution to the look of the whole animation.

With pretty much most jobs offers that sound good to me I will always tell the client “Sure, I can do that for you, no problem.” I feel confident enough at this stage in my career, with the success of past jobs and the creative challenges I’ve faced that if I just say “Yes” I can find a way to get it done.

COver

In the early days I used to over-think things and question my abilities; “Am I good enough to produce what they’re asking for?”. But my past successes have taught me to stop that sort of thinking, now I just slap myself and say “C’mon man! You’ve done it before, you can do it again! And you’re even better now than the “you” that did it before!” 

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