1. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I loved drawing as a kid… I just kept drawing through high school, put together a portfolio to get into college, trained for a few years, then started to look for work! I was hired at a greeting card manufacturer as a designer, and that really jump started my career. By the time I left I had introduced illustrating on site to the team, and had illustrated a couple hundred greeting cards, gaining some wonderful experience in print. One job lead to another, and now looking back I’m amazed at how many opportunities I’ve had to work on illustration projects for great clients.
2. Did you go to school for illustration?
Yes, I studied in Canada. I went to the Alberta College of Art and Design for a year, then transferred over to Capilano College in B.C. for their Graphic Design & Illustration Program (now the IDEA program)which I loved as it was down to earth and gave me lots of practical experience. I was with the same 22 students for three years, we all had our own drafting tables, and the teachers came to us… we were there 9-5, so it felt like a real work day.
3. When did you know that you wanted to be an artist (illustrator) ?
Drawing and painting was something I’ve always wanted to do, illustration just seemed a natural avenue for pursuing that desire. When I was in the third grade I won a contest for writing and illustrating a story, and got to meet Robert Munsch with other winners from other elementary schools. I just thought it would be the coolest thing to illustrate kids books. After my first published children’s book, I was able to meet Mr. Munsch again and told him the story of how he inspired me and how I’d met him when I was only 8 years old… he promptly smacked his hand on his forehead and said “Oh, it’s YOU!” having no recollection at all of having met me :) A very funny guy.
4. How did you get and what was your first job as an illustrator?
I did some small jobs in high school, but my first freelance job out of college was the cover and a few interior illustrations for a university promotional magazine. I did characitures of the teachers that course was promoting, spent about a month working on the project altogether. I was between homes & moves at the time, so actually painted all those illustrations on an aisle propped up over the bathroom toilet at my husband’s apartment, as I was using oils and that part of the house offered the best ventilation!
5. Where do you get the ideas for your characters?
I take a lot of inspiration from family and friends for facial features and characteristics, and often will incorporate my favourite clothing and accessories in as well. But overall I just start drawing a character, and you “know” when one doesn’t look right… so I keep drawing new ones until I get one that feels alive and real.
6. What is a typical work day like?
When I was working full time as an illustrator at my home studio, after my morning routine I’d start up the Mac, and go through my emails, responding to anything that was either urgent or quick to respond to. I’ve rarely actually met with a client during the work process, as I work with clients in other countries… so email is the clearest and easiest way to correspond. Once the email was all caught up on, I’d get cracking on whatever project was due first, and alternate between it and other projects. Often because you’re waiting on feedback from clients you can work projects in tandem. And on those quiet days, I would work on my portfolio online, update my resume and website, get distracted blogging, work on mail out promos, and look for work on freelance sites.
Now that I’m a full-time mum and part-time illustrator, I basically do the same thing on a much smaller scale, a couple hours here and there during afternoon naps or in the evening watching tv with my husband.
7. What mediums do you work in?
I’m an old school illustrator, so love to work hands on with watercolours, oils, acrylics, pencil, pen, and paper to name a few. I also have a style I enjoy where I draw the illustrations in plain old pencil, then tint it digitally with colour in Photoshop afterwards.
8. What do you think about the affects of TV/Computer/Internet on children?
I know first hand that if the TV is on, my toddler zones out! What was shocking is how if the tv was on when she was a year old, she would be very quiet… and as soon as it was off she would start babbling, talking, climbing on things… it made me realize I couldn’t leave it on long for her as she wasn’t developing as quickly as if it was off. So, I try to save the tv as a treat for after lunch before naps, or right before dinner, that way my daughter has to find other ways to entertain herself… mainly reading picture books or playing.
But while I think that tv can definitely slow a child’s development, I think it’s a great form of entertainment… my husband & I love the tv, movies & internet! So we just try to use it in moderation. We record our shows and watch them when we feel like it so that our day doesn’t revolve around when shows come on… this is especially helpful with our toddler, as I don’t want her day revolving around when the cartoons are on. I think the key is being involved and knowing what your kids are exposed to on tv and the internet.
9. Do you think that illustration as a profession has changed over the years?
Yes, as a profession I think illustration has changed… My instructors would tell us horror stories of using Letrasets, spray glue, and other out of date design tools… makes me appreciate having the amazing computer software we have now for design and illustration. And take even just the digital movement, I’d venture to say most illustrators illustrate directly on the computer now. The whole computer game & animation industry has opened up many new avenues for illustrators. Also, I think the fact that you often do entire projects via the email & phone, never having met your client in person is very different to how illustration started out.
10. What advice do you have for someone who want to start being illustrators now?
I tell want-to-be-illustrators that being an illustrator isn’t all about drawing things you like… it’s accepting that you’re going to be on a perpetual job hunt for the duration of your career :) It’s a very competitive industry, so those who keep their skills keen, and market themselves effectively are going to do the best. Marketing yourself doesn’t mean throwing heaps of money at illustration source books or expensive online portfolios… just use some common sense and really target your promotional materials to companies who your style of artwork suits. My first marketing techniques involved a simple printed sample and a stamp on an envelope… and that landed me work.
Hope this helps! I’ve put a lot of marketing tips on my Illustrators Tips page on my blog, I hope those may be helpful for you, too.