A few studio pics & dream-list of personal illustration projects

DoodlesI’ve been working on some lovely commissions lately including a new book cover for German publishers Rowohlt and a fun piece for Boots Health & Beauty magazine. I can’t share anything final yet but there’s a few sneak peeks in this post. Elsie in the studioI’ve also been thinking a lot about new work and things I would like to create and work on. For a couple of years I’ve been working on a little dream-list in my mind of all the things I want to do and new avenues to take my illustrations. So far my list is just getting longer and I haven’t set aside the time to work on it and actually get anything done because there’s been no sense of urgency or deadline so it’s just kinda oh yeah I’d love to do that but never actually getting round to doing any of it. Working on..After working on my little 8 loaves bread challenge I realised that if I set myself a task to do with a deadline in my mind, I’m much more productive. (Probably why I enjoy working as an illustrator…) I thought I’d finally get round to working on my dream-list of self initiated illustration projects and give myself a time-scale to complete it in. I’ve chosen three to complete (and two of them go hand in hand) and my deadline is by the end of this year. They’re all things I’ve been meaning to do for ages so now it’s time to get them done! I’ll be working on these projects in my spare time alongside finishing up a book project and working on any other commissioned work I might get.

1. Work on a large scale illustration drawn directly onto furniture

I love working on more unusual illustration briefs (like the egg for The Lindt Big Egg Hunt & the giant sketchbook for Make Believe) so I thought this time I’d set myself one. We have a kitchen table that I half painted and abandoned – we now always cover it with a tablecloth. I would like to dew directly onto it. I’ve chosen a theme of ’10 years,’ to celebrate mine & Christophe’s 10 year anniversary that was in June this year. The table will be covered in illustrations that mean something to us or represent things or moments that we’ve experienced together in the 10 years we’ve been together. I need to completely sand down the table and re-paint it white and I’d like to draw onto it with black fine line pens & markers. I’m hoping to work on a stop motion video of the illustration from start to finish with a friend of mine.Circus elephants

2. Create an illustrated fabric…

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. When I first thought about it I wanted to create fabric to be used to reupholster furniture. I would still like to do this one day but for now I think making little steps in the right direction is a good start. The above drawing is my starting point for the design and my aim is to create a circus themed pattern that will be digitally printed onto fabric.

3. ….to make into a dress (with the help of my mum – who used to be a dressmaker)

I’m a dress girl all the way so with my circus fabric I’d love to design and make a dress with the help of my talented mum. I love T dresses with empire lines so this is what I’d love to create with my circus fabric.

I’m also hoping that writing down my goals will help me to achieve them, it feels a bit more definite when it’s written in black and white. I’ll be sharing progress photo’s and sneak peeks as I go and hopefully the final products by the end of the year too!

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Diary of illustrating a cookbook – part four with unused sketches

Illustrating a cookbookIt’s been awhile since I wrote an entry in this series and this is the final one! Even though the title is part four I’m probably not quite there in terms of this project – there’s still a little bit more to work on but we’re definitely getting there! When I look back on my first entry the project has altered a bit from the list of illustrations I initially had. There’s been a few more added and my deadline has also been extended as final artwork was due to be complete in October and we’re now looking at December. This seems to be quite common (in my experience, so far) of working in publishing. There seems to be more flexibility with time which I would speculate is because of the line of communication and feedback needed from designers, editors, publishers and the author of course! On this particular project it’s also because the book is rather large (over 300 pages & lots of illustrations!)Nutella pull apart bread

An exciting email came through a few Fridays ago with some feedback on the interior illustrations I’ve been working on and a mock up PDF of the entire interior of the book. It’s so rewarding to see the process of how the book comes together in its more final stages. I love seeing how Ashley, the designer has laid out the pages and the colours, borders, fonts etc that have been chosen. I must say the colours for this book are beautiful and I can’t to see the finished book in all it’s glory!Popsicles

Once I’d seen the illustrations laid out there were a few things that I wanted to change alongside a few amendments from Ashley and the author. (Another good reason to see the interior at this stage.) Given the team effort I’m hoping the illustrations will look their very best! I’ve just finished drawing 14 new illustrations, the layout has to be approved by the editorial team and then colour, colour, colour! I’m quite excited about the colour element (can you tell?) I love how colour has the power to bring the illustrations to life!Smores

Within this post are a couple of the illustrations that aren’t being used in the end. I decided to add some colour to them and share them here, hope you like them!

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Diary of illustrating a cookbook part three – scheduling workload

Illustrating a cookbookHello! I’m back with my third instalment from my ‘diary of illustrating a cookbook,’ series. If you would like to read part one and two please click here.

I mentioned last month that I was in the process of illustrating the first round of sketches for the interior artwork and I was waiting upon the list of the remaining interior sketches. Right now I have completed the first set of illustrations and I’m currently making my way through the second list. The second list details 30 seasonal recipe illustrations.

Today I thought I’d share a little bit about how I schedule my work for this kind of project.  I’m mainly basing this on some things I practised on my last book project. These are the things I do to keep on top of my schedule:-

– Create a word document listing the illustrations needed and any detailed art direction. (Good for scribbling notes on top & highlighting important elements.)

– Use a whiteboard to create a chart listing all illustrations to be drawn, whether they’ve been scanned, emailed to client and what stage they are at: rough/final. Additional column for client feedback. I also sometimes create an excel spreadsheet for this too which is helpful as you can send a copy to the client to communicate progress.

– Count down from deadline with number of days compared to number of illustrations. I find this really helpful because you can break it down to see how many illustrations you need to complete each day to stay on top of your workload.

– Set a timer. I find this a useful way to keep a strict schedule (I don’t always do this, usually it’s when I’m a bit unfocused and need to really crack down.) I’ll set my alarm for every hour and make a list of illustrations for each time slot and when the hours over I’ll start the next illustration whether or not the previous drawing is finished. At the end of my list I’ll go back to the unfinished drawings which I find easier to add the finishing tweaks to rather than start the drawing from scratch.

– To stay on top of my schedule and to stay motivated I like to set up some background distraction. If I’m doing the same thing for a number of hours I need to have an outside distraction to keep me going and working productively. I’ve found putting a television series on in the background (that I’ve watched a couple of times before) really helpful to get me sucked into a story but also focused on my drawing. I also like audiobooks and podcasts but a TV series is good as it lasts longer so it’ll last the project with me.

What are your tips for keeping on top of your schedule? I’d love to hear them. Thanks for reading!

xx

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My first pencil business trip

Me & the Ultibro bookI mentioned a couple of weeks back that I was working on an exciting project involving a giant sketchbook and travelling to Munich so today I wanted to share my experience and some photo’s of the event. I had such a great time working with the team at Make believe on this project, it was challenging, scary and exhilarating at the same time. I’ve never tackled a live drawing before (besides the odd bit of location drawing) so it was a bit nerve wracking knowing that I would be drawing with a potential audience. I was also using fine line pens, a medium I really like but again, rarely use. There was no room for error in making mistakes on this one!Me drawingGiant sketchbookThe concept was a really interesting one… the giant sketchbook (and it’s 60kg of paper!) has travelled the world visiting America, Spain, France, Norway, Slovenia and more collecting stories on its’ travels. I worked with Make Believe (a story telling agency) who worked for Novartis a drug company to tell various stories all relating to a new drug called Ultibro that Novartis launched last year.

My task was to create an illustration involving lots of little stories of patients suffering with COPD and their dreams following either using an Ultibro inhaler or after using it. The team had travelled to Spain a few months previous to collect the stories. This illustration was drawn during the ERS international conference.Me drawing upside downDreaming of unchained livingI travelled to Munich on the Thursday and Friday was the day for drawing. I started at 8:30 and finished at 4:30 so it was a fun-filled day of drawing. I had a little area next to some woodcuts that Make Believe had also commissioned  for the project. There was a bit of concern on the Thursday night when we realised that reaching the top of the sketchbook would be a challenge with my little legs so I had a box to stand on for most of the day and a stool that I also used to sit,stand, squat & try my best to not fall onto the sketchbook! You can see a bit of the drawing was also done upside down! It’s all fun & games here.Historias de EspanaI had an absolute blast working on this and I was really pleased with the outcome and that I managed to finish it even though I still retained the detail I so love when drawing. A huge thanks to everyone at Make Believe for inviting me to come along and especially Martin. It was such an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to more drawing challenges in the future!Giant Ultibro book Live drawing in MunichA coincidence that whilst I was in Germany I also got commissioned to illustrate a German book cover (one that I had just finished listening to on audiobook!) life is crazy! I hope you enjoyed looking at the pics, I’m keeping my head down this week as there’s lots of drawing to be done, hope you have a lovely week!

xx

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Pros and cons of working from home

Working from home pros and consRecently I’ve struggled with working from home. I seem to go through different cycles of really enjoying it and then times when I find it really hard. At the moment we’re in the position of saving to buy our first home so I’m not in the market for a studio away from home as it’s an outgoing that I don’t want to spend. I think because I’ve said that to myself it’s made me resent working from home a little because I feel like it’s not a choice. It is a choice though because even if I did have the money to spend I’m not sure if I would 100% spend it on a shared studio…Working from homeThe reason for this post is I thought it would be fun to start a new series on the blog documenting some of my own struggles of being a work-at-home illustrator combined with the things I love about it, tips, inspirations and ideas to make the most of it and to enjoy it. If you would like to share your own experiences, advice or suggestions for future posts please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.Working from home livelovedraw.comDo you work from home, are about to quit your job to start freelancing from home or are considering your options? Lets look at the pro’s and con’s of working from home…(I do love a good list!)

Pro’s

  • Freedom to set your own working hours & schedule
  • No long commute/pay for transport to and from work
  • Option to take breaks/lunch/doctors appointments etc. whenever you like.
  • Save money on buying lunches/coffees etc. out
  • There’s no ‘boss’ to please/answer to
  • You can wear what you like (no uniform!)
  • You can have a dog without worrying about leaving them all day
  • Fewer interruptions from colleagues
  • You can work from anywhere in the world

Con’s

  • You have to be very self disciplined and motivated as there’s no one to encourage or dictate jobs that you have to do
  • Isolation: lack of human interaction/co-workers/team playing
  • Distractions such as doing the washing up/laundry/facebook/twitter
  • All of your time is spent at home/at work
  • You will have to dedicate a space/room in your home to work
  • It’s difficult to switch off from work if you know it’s in the next room
  • Lack of outside inspiration/no one to bounce ideas off/get opinions
  • You can end up working more hours then you would if you were in an office environment

What do you think? The grass is always greener on the other side but sometimes I think it’s easy to glamorise certain aspects of jobs. I’m not saying I don’t love working from home, at times I really do. But it can also be really difficult at times too and I think it’s important to share the reality of freelancing as well as all the good stuff. My main struggle is probably lack of human interaction so I’m always trying to think of ways to get a conversation with someone into my working day, even smiling at a stranger or saying two words really makes a difference to a day where you would otherwise not have that connection. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing about things that I do and have helped me so if this is something that interests you please stop by again! Thanks for reading :)

xx

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Diary of illustrating a cookbook part two

Illustrating a cookbookHello! I’m back with a new diary entry, if you like you can read my entry for part one here. This month I received feedback on the four cover concepts I’d worked on. The feedback was slightly delayed due to a change of editor so I had a little gap in between. The team had made a decision on the cover they preferred out of the four. Unfortunately it was the cover I liked the least! This seems to happen a lot with me but I put full trust in the team behind producing the book – they know best what works (and what sells.) In a way I was pleased it was the concept I liked least as it gave me a challenge of improving it and making it the best I could. I was given some great feedback to work on and the task in hand was to re-sketch the cover for early the next week. I’m not sure if I mentioned the client I’m working with for this project is based in the US, I love working to a different timezone as it often feels like there’s more time (there obviously isn’t!) but it can be quite good in regard to deadlines as you have that extra bit of time to work each day if you need to work later in the day.

I decided to do some further research as the chosen cover is strongly influenced by pattern. I printed off the notes from the designer alongside a copy of the roughly sketched concept so I could make notes directly on the sketch. I sat outside because the weather was sunny (perks of working from home!) and sketched lots of new thumbnail roughs in my A2 sketchbook re-working the designs I liked best. This took the best part of a day. Afterwards I went back to my studio and using a light-box I experimented drawing directly on top of the rough sketches (a bit more neatly) and began scanning elements in and laying them out in Photoshop.

When I’m working in Photoshop I scan individual elements in to build the picture. For book covers I create a layer with the bleed on (the area that will be trimmed off) in grey and lock this layer so I know the space I have to work in. I spend a lot of time scanning in small images to build a larger picture and moving them around until I feel satisfied with the composition. I did get a bit bogged down with this stage as I was looking at the same thing for a long time, I started to lose perspective and the ability to make creative decisions. I had to take a few breaks to try and give myself some space and clarity!

Once I felt I’d made enough progress to share with the client I sent two alternative versions off for review alongside a colour experiment. At this stage I hadn’t received direction for colour but I had a bit of a play anyway. It was quite good to switch up from designing the composition to playing around with colour ways. The team had a meeting on the Monday and I got feedback on the Tuesday, super quick! They were really happy with the progress and I was given a few little tweaks adding & taking away a few elements but nothing major at all. I was also given direction on colour and some design examples that inspired the team, this was really helpful. Next job was to work on colouring the main bulk of the design, the background and type. Colouring is one of my favourite parts of the process! :) I listen to audiobooks, podcasts and sometimes I’ll have something from Netflix on in the background.

The colouring went well and I loved mixing up different combinations of colour with background  and type. I sent off 6 colour way options and was chuffed to hear that my favourite designs were also theirs. Alongside feedback on the cover I also receievd round 1 of the interior illustrations to get started on.

I’ll be getting round 2: the full list of interior artwork very soon so at the moment I’m knee deep in drawing and sketching the interior illustrations, there’s a lot to be done. It’s full steam ahead now and I’m loving it!

xx

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Diary of illustrating a cookbook part one

Illustrating a cookbook I enjoy learning more about the process of how other illustrators work. I also think it can be quite hard when you’re starting out and maybe have never experienced a certain type of job or aren’t sure how the process works. There is a limited amount of information on how to approach certain assignments to be found in books and online but less so from a personal perspective. It can feel a bit overwhelming.

I thought it might be fun to document the process of my latest commission and share the steps in real-life time as I experience them. I’ve mentioned a few times here that I’m currently illustrating a family orientated cookbook that also contains crafts. It will be difficult to share images (because of course it’s top secret at the moment!) but I thought it might be interesting to record the process and share how the project is evolving.

I’ve been working as an illustrator with The Artworks since 2011. I’ve only started working in publishing in the last year or so. Before that I’ve worked mostly in Editorial but I’ve also done some design work and packaging. For me the most challenging aspect of working on a book project is time – having more of it! I mean this in respect of longer deadlines (of course it’s also more work.) There are a few more team members added into the mix (editors, authors & design team) so communication has to go through all ports. My favourite aspect is getting really immersed in the project and seeing it develop from beginning to end over time (and seeing the final book!) I really love working in publishing.

Back to the project in hand… I initially started this commission in December 2013 but unfortunately it was put on hold due to a sales/marketing decision. It was a bit disappointing at the time as I was really excited about it but their reasons made complete sense in the long run. I got another email last month that the project was back on, yay! After finishing up another book project it was perfect timing – a rare occurrence when freelancing. I was given a rough manuscript and direction/brainstorm ideas from the team to get started with.

My first task was to create three concepts for the book cover and a sample spread for a recipe illustration. I printed off the manuscript (all 300+ pages) and email correspondence from the designer I’m working with. I highlighted, made notes and gathered sheets of relevant images & inspiration. I worked on an A2 sheet creating lots of thumbnail sketches varying the size & style of type, layout, composition and number of images. I worked up the three strongest ideas and scanned them in increasing the size to the cover dimensions and then using a light box transforming the roughs to a more clean and finished image.

I had a month to complete the ideas and sketches, which I finished last week (just before my computer crashed, it’s now in the apple shop being fixed!) I’m currently waiting for feedback from the designer on what concept they’d like and then I will be finalising the book cover illustration for the end of this month ready to share with the sales team.

The complete project to do list includes illustrations for a full colour cover, 4 seasons, 12 months, 7 large and 35 small how-to’s, 7 crafts and 30 recipes. The sketches are due in August and the final artwork in October. (I’m hoping to share a monthly update here.)

I’m really excited about this project as I’ve mentioned I love food (who doesn’t!?) and I love crafts so it really is a dream assignment. I’ve stocked up on audio books, got a fan for my studio (so humid!) and my computer is being cared for in the shop ready to return in a hopefully perfect state to get back to business once the feedback lands in my inbox.

Are you currently working on anything fun? Please feel free to share links to your latest projects/blog/website (click leave a reply above I’d love to take a look.)

xx

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Working from home

There are lots of different articles online and in publications that offer tips on ‘working from home,’ I always enjoy reading other peoples advice on the matter as I’m still learning how to create a good work/life balance and make working from home work for me.Working from homeToday I thought I’d share some of the things that do and don’t work for me. I’ve had lots of different work situations over the last few years where I’ve juggled freelancing and working in various part-time jobs. At the moment I currently work solely as a freelance illustrator and I’m able to do so because I live in my parents’ garden. I sometimes still live month to month in terms of financially but it’s gradually getting better as I’m taking on longer and bigger projects where I get paid a larger sum that I can pay myself in wages per month, which helps to create a more stable income. It’s taken a good few years (so don’t despair if you’re starting out!) but it improves bit by bit and I get better at managing my money as I go too.Working from home livelovedraw.comHere are some of the things I’ve struggled with and learnt about working from home over the last few years:

Dealing with feelings of guilt 

In my experience guilt is a constant part of working from home/being self-employed and it affects work/life balance. I feel like it’s down to the fact that when you work for yourself it is your responsibility to get your tasks done and no one else will do it for you. This can create an unhealthy habit of wanting to work all the time or not be able to relax or switch off. It’s really important to me to make sure that I don’t neglect friends or family when a lot of my concentration is focused on work. I think it’s always going to be a bit of a challenge but my advice would be to set yourself work tasks and once you’ve achieved them allow yourself your social time, try to put work out of your head and enjoy your downtime. I try to break up work time into achievable goals that once I’ve completed I get rewarded (with a night/weekend off/time spent away from my studio etc) this helps me maintain a good balance. (Of course there are lots of times when this doesn’t quite work but we’re aiming for an ideal situation here!)

Establishing a healthy Routine and re-evaluating it regularly

This is the most crucial point for me personally. I’ve worked in lots of different ways in the past, the things that don’t work for me are: Waking up naturally (without an alarm,) working in my PJs, not making much effort to get ‘ready,’ showering etc, sitting in the same room in the same spot in the same air(!) all day, working different hours everyday and not talking to very many people during the day. Some of these admissions are quite embarrassing (but also quite true) it’s amazing how easy it is to slip into really bad habits when working from home. I turned all of these bad habits upside down to create a better (and healthier routine) by: setting an alarm for the same time everyday, having a regular morning routine – coffee, shower, breakfast, internet browsing and work, getting some fresh air and exercise early afternoon by walking Elsie and working set hours everyday with the same lunch break. These things might seem insignificant but evaluating and changing my routine has helped me SO much when working from home. I still struggle with getting enough exercise and movement in my daily life but it’s something I’m aware of and trying to work on.

Creating (and maintaining) a good level of organisation

Another really important factor to working from home is organisation. You may be lucky enough to have a studio space but if not it’s even more important to keep all work related items separate in their own place. (Even if you start off small with a box/container or two.) There are so many components to running your own business that keeping up to date and on top of everything is crucial and you can’t do it without being organised. I’m an avid list maker and I’m always making notes. I keep calendars for home, work for month, work for week and (now also) an editorial plan for this blog. I have a ledger for jotting down my finances and also keep a spreadsheet for each tax year detailing and recording my income. I have an address book (old school!) with clients contact details and business cards paper clipped inside. I also have drawers, files, folders etc. organising various paperwork/drawings/briefs. My advice would be to create a system that works for you whether it’s the old fashioned method of pen and paper, digital files/spreadsheets or both and use the resources open to you. I don’t really take advantage of apps and programs but I know there are lots out there. If organisation is something you struggle with perhaps research some tools that could assist you and fit with your way of working. If you know of any good ones or find any whilst researching let me know what you come up with!Working from home things I'm learningWorking from home is always going to be a learning experience for me I find it really difficult sometimes and love it at other times. There are so many pros and cons. My main goal is to create a sustainable and healthy work life where I feel good in body and mind and I think taking little steps towards this goal and constantly re-evaluating things that do and don’t work is important.

Let me know if you have any helpful tips or things that have or haven’t worked for you. My comments section only seems to be working intermittently (which I’m trying to fix) so if you would like to connect please drop me a line on Facebook or twitter, I’d love to hear about your own experience of working from home. Thanks for letting me share; I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Have a lovely weekend!

xx

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How I approach working on an editorial brief

As part of the Pencil adventures series on the blog I thought I’d share some info on how I approach working to different briefs. You can read how I got my first commission after graduating here and how I got an illustration agent here. How I approach working on an editorial briefToday I wanted to share a little about how I approach working to an editorial brief. I really enjoy the fast pace of editorial and the variety of projects and topics that you can be asked to work on. It could be anything!

Typically, I get a call from Alex or Steph my agents at The Artworks to let me know about a potential commission with info on who it’s for – which newspaper/magazine, when it’s due, the fee and some initial information on what’s required for the illustration.

I check my availability and confirm on the phone. Once the agency get the go ahead that I’m free to do the job they pass on my details to the client and forward any relevant info to me. I then have direct contact with the client usually by telephone or email where they give me a brief run down of the project: what the job is for/the article, things they want to include or focus on in the illustration and anything else that is important to the image or publication. After this there’s usually a period of emailing to and fro, the client will confirm what we discussed on the telephone and send a list of subjects highlighting the important things that must be included.

From there it is my job to research the subject – I really like this part as you learn different things about topics you might not have read about had you not been in the position where you have had to research it. I’ve had to research everything from politics to waxing backlash and have created illustrations for articles ranging from geopolitics and time travel to marketing illustrations for tampons. It’s certainly varied! After the research period it’s time to start brainstorming ideas and putting pen to paper. I usually create my roughs with either a biro or a thick pencil (things I would never use to create a final illustration) these materials help me to work quickly and not focus too much on details or decorative elements that aren’t essential at this time. I’ll send over the rough sketches checking in with the client that these are along the lines of what they were thinking of. There will be a bit of to and fro here depending on time frame discussing the ideas with the client and emphasising certain areas or taking things away. During the rough stage I’ll think about the overall space I have to work in, scale, shape and composition and this will inform the final illustration alongside colour considerations and other critique from the art director.Pencil adventures How I approach working on an editorial briefAfter the roughs have been ok’d it’s time to start the final. I work in Photoshop in layers and most of my client commissions are built up of individual pencil drawings scanned in and then layered in Photoshop alongside colour and texture. I use this process, as it’s easier to make changes if for example the client wants a different colour or an area of the illustration moved to the right instead of the left. Occasionally after the final is sent there may be a few alterations to be made (hopefully not too many.) Once the final artwork is approved it’s wine time (especially if you were working to a tight editorial deadline!) As I mentioned above one of my favourite things about editorial illustrations is the fast pace of the job which also means you get to see the published article quicker (which is good for impatient illustrators like me.)Pencil adventures How I approach working on an editorial brief2I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my process and how I approach editorial commissions! There can be a lot of variety within editorial not just in regards to topics but also with the timescale you have to complete the illustration, art direction – is the brief quite open or specific? The size, number of illustrations and lots more. Time is probably the most stressful component of an editorial illustration, the juggle between creating something that conveys the message with your illustrative stamp on and with something that looks rushed and ill thought out is challenging. The more editorial commissions you take on the easier it is to achieve something you’re proud of. I thrive on stress a lot of the time so I quite like the pressure of a fast turnaround. That being said my work isn’t the quickest to produce so it can be a challenge in some situations. I found setting myself self-initiated projects with deadlines that have to be met a really beneficial habit to get into. I can’t do anything without a deadline now! Good luck and have fun with it!

I hope you’re finding these posts helpful, if you have any questions or a particular area you would like to find out more about please feel free to leave me a comment (at the top by ‘leave a reply’) and I will try my best to answer any questions! Thanks for letting me share.

xx

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How I got an illustration agent

I sometimes get asked about how I got an illustration agent so I wanted to share my story with you. I’m by no means an expert this is just my own experience and what I’ve learnt along the way.How I got an illustration agent

Steps I took:

  1. Looked online at agencies that I liked and thought my work would fit.
  2. Created a spreadsheet of these agencies with their contact details and submission guidelines and additional info like if they were connected with another agency or if they were particularly nice or approachable to me.
  3. Contacted the agencies according to their submission process. If I hadn’t heard anything I called the agencies a few weeks after to try and gain feedback.
  4. Made a date to resend portfolio in 3 months time to the agencies that seemed positive about my work.

Some of the responses I got were:

– Like my work, can’t offer representation at the moment

– Will make a concerted effort to look at my portfolio

– Don’t have any positions open for my style of work

– Only represent artists from that country

– Only get back to artists that they’re interested in

– They have already taken on new artists recently

Pencil-Adventures-How-I-got-an-agentDuring this time I was also creating new work for my portfolio, working on a new website and attending portfolio meetings with art buyers. I found people to contact through bikini lists, an online database of creative buyers from around the world. I saw each portfolio meeting as an opportunity to learn from the art directors and buyers and soak up as much information as possible. At the beginning in my eagerness to show my work to as many people as possible I sent out promotional campaigns to advertising agencies (something in hindsight I feel a bit silly for doing for two reasons 1. I had no experience in being commissioned for illustration or working with art directors and 2. If I had been commissioned for a job within an ad agency at such an early point in my career I think the pressure would have been immense. Not to say I don’t think I would have done it well…who knows…but I’d definitely recommend starting with contacting smaller publications to gain experience.) Having said all of that I definitely don’t regret visiting the agencies, I learnt so much from listening and talking to the art buyers about my work and the industry.

On one particular portfolio meeting I went into an advertising agency in London and had a meeting with two creative’s. They chatted through my portfolio and mentioned their senior art buyer would be interested to have a look but they thought she might be busy in meetings, they went off to find her and a couple of minutes later she returned to have a quick look. It was a fleeting moment but I was really grateful she took a few minutes to check out my work.

The next day I sent a few emails to thank the clients individually for their time and feedback. I sent an email to the senior art buyer thanking her for having a quick look at my book and asking her if she thought my work would be applicable to the campaigns they worked on and if she had any feedback. She replied quickly after saying that she’d been late for a meeting and when she popped back up to see me again I’d already gone. She was very complimentary of my work and asked me if I was looking for representation and that she might be able to help with an introduction on that score. We emailed back and forth for a few weeks and I was overwhelmed by her kindness – she contacted a couple of agencies and forwarded me their correspondence. The Artworks had just taken on their startworks artists for the year but they agreed to have a look at my website and give me some advice. A few weeks later I hadn’t heard anything so I called them and spoke to Alex. She was so lovely and friendly on the phone and took the time to answer my questions and advise me and promised to check out my site.

The next day Alex emailed me to say they’d had a look at my website and thought there were certain pieces that showed potential and invited me to come in with my portfolio to have a chat. I was so excited!

The day I went to visit Steph and Alex at The Artworks I was full of nervous excitement. I got to London early and went to Café Nero in Tottenham Court Road and sat drinking a peppermint tea and listing the things I loved about the agency and why I wanted to be a part of it. I think it’s important to establish why you like the agency you’re contacting and why you might need an agent, what they do and why they represent the illustrators they represent. The thing that drew me to The Artworks is the handmade quality of the work their illustrators produce and their supportive role in guiding and developing the work of graduates. After chatting to them and showing my portfolio and the new website I was working on (that was in development stages) and discovering more about what they do and how we could work together they offered me representation and I took it! I suppose most people would probably advise to take some time to think about your decision but I’m quite impulsive and led by heart, I just felt good about the situation and decision (and still do) so that’s how it went.

When accepting representation it’s crucial to ask questions. Some things to consider are: finding out about their promotional/marketing campaigns, how the client artist relationship works within their agency environment, are they willing to offer critique and feedback, their commission and artist payment scheme. You will get a contract that clearly details the most important aspects of these.Pencil-Adventures-How-I-got-an-agent2Here are some things I learnt along the way:

- Research illustration agencies online that you like and think your work would be a good fit for. Create a list of agencies and be selective, this saves your time and theirs. It’s pointless to target agencies that don’t suit your aesthetic or business goals.

- Check to see the status of the agencies, do they only represent illustrators from their country of residence? Have they recently taken on new artists? If so consider contacting them in a few months.

- Keep a spreadsheet of communication and progress to remind you of when you contacted them, their feedback and when you could consider contacting them again.

- Follow up. Agencies are very busy places and emails can often be overlooked. If you’re really keen and you’ve left a certain period of time for a response and you haven’t had one, chase them (in a friendly way.) Just because there’s no response doesn’t mean there’s no hope and I found speaking to agents on the phone boosted me, even if they said no it was good to break the silence of not hearing anything. You have to be politely persistent.

- Share your portfolio constantly. As you read above I found representation through a recommendation after going to a portfolio meeting. See each meeting as an opportunity to learn and gain insight from industry professionals.

- Research and read. Illustration business books, blogs, articles, interviews. Some illustration business books I love are: Breaking into freelance illustration by Holly DeWolf, How to be an illustrator by Darrel Rees and Becoming a successful illustrator by Derek Brazell & Jo Davies

I hope this may have been helpful for you if you’re currently thinking about gaining artist representation. Please feel free to leave me a comment if you have any further questions. Good luck!

xx

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