"In terms of approaching illustration agencies don't make the mistake of waiting because you don't think you're ready or your work is not good enough yet, let them be the judge of that, just call them! Most agencies are very excited about seeing new work and are ready to give you some super useful advice as to where they think you might fit in to the mix."
I recently had the utmost privilege of asking three exceptionally talented Australian illustrators some questions about the industry and their own work. The last of these three interviews is Melbourne illustrator and graphic designer Andrea Innocent.
First of all, you are Vice President for Illustrators Australia – a not for profit community of illustrators that includes access to events and online portfolio sharing. How does an organisation such as Illustrators Australia assist in helping illustrators with their career?
I joined Illustrators Australia in 2008, a month after I joined I got my first job via my portfolio page on the IA website, it paid for my membership fee and more. IA is well respected amongst art directors and designers in Australia, being a part of the IA community means being seen as a professional illustrator. It's like being represented by an agent in a way however you have the ability to have a real say in how IA is run. IA also is a terrific resource for information, pricing and contract examples can be downloaded from the site and there are lots of other illustrators available to chat to about all sorts of things to do with illustration as a career.
Does having an illustration agent greatly assist in helping emerging illustrators find work? And if so, do you have any advice on how to approach illustration agencies for representation?
Clients who use illustration agents are serious about illustration, this also usually means they have serious money, thus the jobs are good for your portfolio as well as well paid. Surviving on your own and working freelance is definitely possible but it requires lots of work and marketing by yourself, whereas an agent can promote you as well as put you forward for jobs that suit your style and voice. In terms of approaching illustration agencies don't make the mistake of waiting because you don't think you're ready or your work is not good enough yet, let them be the judge of that, just call them! Most agencies are very excited about seeing new work and are ready to give you some super useful advice as to where they think you might fit in to the mix.
Where do you think the main opportunities for emerging illustrators lie? Is it a matter of creating your own work or do you think collaboration is key?
Media has become very screen centric, the rise of smart phones and tablets has meant there are a lot more opportunities to create visual assets for them. Digital story telling is becoming the main vehicle through which companies are promoting their products and services, digital story boarding, character design, games design, there are so many ways an illustrator can draw tomorrow!
Within design agencies are illustrators sourced regularly or is this usually an in-house job?
In my experience it's a little of both, the jobs that have short deadlines and less money are usually done in house, jobs that need a higher skill set or style are farmed out... that said I have recently been getting lots of the former jobs too.
Do you have advice for approaching design agencies as an illustrator?
Find out the art directors name and send an email with a link to your work, follow this up with a postcard. Make a mailing list gradually, send out 5 - 10 a week, keep a record and make sure you check back now and then. Most art directors I know are always really happy to hear from illustrators, it gives them something to work with when sourcing visuals for a client.
How did you start your own illustration career? Did you study or was it a matter of self learning through experience?
I would say a little of both...
I started my design career in Fashion Design, I then ran my own business in fashion with a focus on textile design. I decided to return to school sometime later and studied my Masters of Multimedia, I then travelled to Japan and started drawing everyday. One thing led to another and I ended up illustrating, my first job was for a film festival in Canada, they had found me via a blog called drawn.ca.
What challenges do you think Illustrators face in a contemporary market place?
Pricing and marketing are the two main challenges. Marketing became free and easy for everyone via the internet, this is great but it has also led to an unending source of visuals online that each and every illustrator and artist must compete with to be seen, the real art is now in getting noticed, hopefully for all the right reasons. Prices for illustrations are also dropping dramatically, with an abundance of people online willing to work for low prices or exposure' which makes it difficult to work for a liveable wage. Having a particular style or technique that makes you unique can give you an edge and hopefully you will be able to command higher prices for your work. It helps to also be a really nice person to work for;-)
Do you think the digital age has made it easier for illustrators to get their work out there?
Yes, see above.
What do you think the future of illustrative print publications might be? Is it a shrinking medium due to the computer age or do you think that printed works are in fact becoming more treasured pieces?
Print is both a shrinking medium and becoming a treasured, this is a good thing, maybe we can go back to hard cover books with foil embossing and specially printed illustrations. I am of the opinion that illustrators should not sit and wait and guess what will happen in the future but instead go out there and make it happen, we have the power to create some amazing work, like I always say 'let's be making happy pictures!'.
You can check out Andrea's beautiful and thought provoking work via her page on Jacky Winter: Andrea Innocent portfolio as well as her webpage: Andrea Innocent
All images in this blog post belong to Andrea Innocent.