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Questions for An Illustrator

AUGUST 10, 2006
Several times a year I get e-mails from illustration students who are trying to get some information about the business, wondering what it's like to be an illustrator, and want to know more about what I do in general. I respond to each one carefully, and have noticed that my recent answers are more optimistic than those from a few years ago.  Answering these questions gives me a chance to have a reality check - sort of like taking my blood pressure and pulse. Here's the text from an email I responded to today:

a) how did you get into illustration?

By chance; I had been working as a printmaker when I moved to NYC. A friend had been working as an illustrator for several years already. I liked his lifestyle - working as an artist at home, having a flexible schedule, more or less being the master of his own time, being published in newspapers and magazines. I decided I wanted to do it, too.

b) where do you feel illustrators are mostly required?

I"m a conceptual illustrator, and my market is still mostly magazines and newspapers. The web, children's books, CD covers, character development for animated TV shows, the gaming industry and licensing for products like ceramics and clothing are all options. There are a lot of outlets for illustration work.

c) do you need to supplement your work?

With other sources of income? No. With other creative passions/hobbies? Yes. I play music and make paintings for myself.

e) have you had difficulties with contracts and deciphering what clients specifically want?

Occasionally, when I first started working, though not anymore. I've seen a lot of contracts and know what to expect at this point. More difficult is determining what I should charge when asked to bid on certain types of jobs (what a client's budget will bear), and what I want to get out of a contract. Fortunately I knew how important it was to keep the copyright to and ownership of my work when I started my career.  I'm glad I caught on to this early on now that licensing my stock of illustrations has become a greater part of my income.