Here are a few FAQs I receive from artists curious about a career in illustration. If you have a question that isn’t answered below or just want to say hi, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to hear from you!!
Side note: If you’re an artist setting up your portfolio and have any questions on how to make it presentable and well rounded for clients and agents, I’m happy to take a look and give you my opinion! Submit your work HERE.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Tempe, Arizona. I was the kid doodling in my notebook when all the other kids were out playing (mostly because it’s about a million degrees in Phoenix and being outside will kill you). Also, I grew up in the 90s (Lisa Frank, anyone?) and didn’t have a phone or iPad to keep me zombified so was forced to do real things. I feel extremely grateful for this as I believe having this “unplugged” childhood forced me to exercise my imagination and communication skills that play a huge roll in my work.
I was awarded a George Lucas scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and ended up a fashion school dropout as I could not wrap my head around textiles and garment construction. I switched majors to Visual Communications and loved it! After graduation, I worked in a PR office for a while, then landed a job at a lifestyle company in Manhattan Beach, working as an Art Director, Set Stylist, and Storyboard Artist.
How did you get started in Illustration?
I’ve always had a curiosity for telling stories visually and found that illustration was a great tool to do just that. For months, I worked into the late hours of the night drawing, watching tutorials, reading articles on the industry, drinking way too much coffee at midnight.. and eventually found a niche in the market that hadn’t really been tapped into at the time, culinary illustration. Which worked out great as I am a huge geek for drawing food. I then created several passion projects featuring my favorite restaurants and chefs and sent them my work with a thank you letter for being an inspiration. To my surprise, I was contacted by several of them and commissioned to create more work! A few months later, I had built up a well rounded portfolio and client list and was signed on to work with Illustration Ltd.
Why did you want to pursue an illustration career?
Before illustrating full time, I spent years working in the creative industry and I’ve completely fallen in love with the process of turning a blank space into a livable scene for photography and video. Illustration involves the same process and it’s the most exciting part about the job. I get to take an idea, play with it, shape it, break it into a thousand pieces and reconstruct it into something someone else can understand in a single image. I get to work with amazing clients on incredible campaigns and help them establish a lasting connection with their audience through creativity and powerful visuals. Also, when you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.. I know this sounds cliche but it’s so true.
What type of training do you have?
I’m mostly self taught. I’ve taken classes in styling and composition, which play a huge roll in my work, but my actual illustration and Photoshop skills I learned through online tutorials and many hours of practice.
What advice would you give to someone starting a creative career?
Put your phone down and look at the world around you. Every day we are hit from all sides with other people’s views of the world and the most powerful tool I believe any artist can have is the ability to tell their own story through their work. I’ve been traveling for several years now and I know this has played a major role in my success as an illustrator, but you don’t have to book a flight to be inspired. Just unplug, go for a walk, go to a museum, or cafe, or library, and make a point to find materials that other artists maybe haven’t found yet. If you’re only looking at Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration, you’re looking at the same photos everyone else has already used. Being able to tell your own story is your gift as an artist and the world is craving your authenticity.
Also, leave your ego at the door. Trust me. That job that might feel “below you” will probably land you a better job, and then an even better job.. so do the work and make sure to put everything you’ve got into every project. I promise you if you keep pushing yourself to be better, it will pay off in a major way.
Lastly, STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. I’ve seen this kill many creative careers. If competition is a driving force for you, as it is for me, compare yourself today to yourself yesterday, or make sure every project is somehow better than the last.
WHERE DO YOU FIND your inspiration?
Although I live on the road and am constantly seeing new worlds and trying new foods and activities, I am most inspired by the things I hear or read. Usually an idea will spark from a conversation I’m having with a friend, or an audiobook, or a song I love… It’s crucial to have a well balanced diet of sources that inspire you and I’ve created a life designed specifically to live in a state of exploration every single day. If you’re interested, I’ve created a list below of sources where I find most inspiration for my work.
Music : Anything that puts me in a state of curiosity, usually movie scores, piano, tribal, folk.. Sometimes if I am struggling to finish a project, I’ll put the same song on repeat for hours and won’t change it until I’ve completed the project. This tactic either pushes me to work harder because the song is making me crazy, or puts my mind in a meditative state to open up to creative ideas. It’s a strange practice but it works.
Audiobooks : Any title by Jonathan L. Howard, Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Element by my favorite person Sir Ken Robinson, Mary Renault’s work, Oscar Wilde, Madeline Miller is amazing, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.. honestly I could go on for hours.
Podcasts : The Creative Pep Talk, Design Matters, The Accidental Creative, Say Something Worth Stealing, Vince Frost Design Your Life, Arrest All Mimics, Overshare, Art Curious