Congratulations, you’ve decided you want to turn your love of drawing into a career in illustration!
You dove down into the rabbit hole to see how deep it goes, and in your pursuit of excellence, you’ve gone pro—harnessing those hours spent doing something else to make a living, transferring them into your skills. The only problem: quitting your day job suddenly means the weight of your income rests squarely on illustration’s shoulders, and it’s rare to make a decent wage as a beginner.
The good news is that no time spent in your craft is wasted, so even while you’re hustling and just barely making it, you can build some really valuable resources that will provide immense payoffs later.
Read on for a modest proposal of what to do when the wider world doesn’t yet recognize the value of your work!
It’s hard to believe it’s already been over 10 years since we set up our first office in the 2nd bedroom of our apartment in the big house at the top of the hill on German Street in Shepherdstown, WV. There have been a lot of highs (our Target gift card, recently published books), a lot of lows, and a lot of cups of coffee and tea in between!
One thing has been consistent so far: ya gotta just keep pursuing good quality work, no matter what job you’re on or how much you’re getting paid.
That’s a big part of this now-famous art school graduation speech by Neil Gaiman, which we want to share with you in case you’ve never heard it! We discovered it in 2013 and still look to it for inspiration. This 20 minutes of advice for artists is just as relevant today as it was 7 years ago, and it’ll stay relevant for the next 77 years!
(We’ve included a full transcript after the jump in case you’ve watched it 50+ times like us and want a fresh way of taking it in…)
Hey guys! Today we’re featuring a handful of whimsical illustrations from a beginner piano exercise book in our inspiration collection. This is one of those pieces that would have completely flown under the art radar during its time, but now is a fantastic resource in nearly 50 pages of spot illustrations and 1/4–1/2 page scenes.
There’s no publication date in the book, but the student’s certificate is dated March 1970, so the credited illustrator Ernest Kurt Barth would have completed the work towards the end of the 60’s. There’s plenty of detail to admire in the ornamented cartoony execution, but look beyond the linework and you’ll notice some really pleasing, well-balanced shapes.
(By the way, she did finish the course and get her certificate. Go Kathy!)
Old vinyl records are an absolutely fantastic resource for illustration and lettering inspiration! We recently culled our collection down to the essentials, and though we’ve never actually listened to this particular album, it made the cut because of the illustration on the cover. (Come on, surely we’re not the only ones who do this!)
A couple of notes on why it’s awesome:
• The regional symbols are beautifully stylized: 2–3 colors, simple shapes. The choices are interesting, too! Some agriculture, some natural landmarks, and one building for the NY area.
• The map shapes are so much fun! They’re drawn with just enough accuracy to be recognizable, but the outlines have been smoothed over and skewed. Especially check out the curves and points of the southern border of Texas, combined with that drop shadow—YUM.
• The cut-and-paste map is a really nice way of breaking up the standard layout and creating dynamic shapes. It makes you look twice, whereas a normal map is so familiar that it would only get a quick once-over.
We’ve always been big fan of listening to music in the studio, especially while drawing. There’s something nice about having your favorite tunes playing in the background to help you get in the zone.
We have a lot of music loaded up on our studio computer, compiled from the last 15 or so years, but more often than not these days we play albums directly on Spotify (even the free service is fantastic, despite the occasional ads—that’s what the mute button is for!) and occasionally Pandora.
Here are our four main categories of music to play in the studio, with some of our favorite examples… Read more
Do a quick internet search of “client chase” and you’ll come up with scores of articles exhorting, instructing, and sometimes downright pleading with you to stop trying to go to potential clients and to start getting them to come to you.
In theory, that’s great advice. It saves you a lot of time, it insures that you’re only working with people that truly want to work with you, and it gives artists the ability to negotiate the terms of the deal.
But it’s much easier said than done. What if your website is completely new, so it has terrible traffic? What if you live far away from the biggest creative hubs of NYC, LA, SF, London… or any larger city, for that matter? What if you didn’t graduate from an art program that not only granted you a degree, but also access to the larger network of working professionals in your field? (All hypothetical situations, of course.)
In short, how do you stand out in a massive crowd?
Apart from finding your niche and hoping people notice, which can take years, here’s the stupidly obvious answer:
Go look for the work.
It takes a lot of effort and discipline, but it’s stupidly simple. Here’s how we do it:
(Image via Cartoon Brew)
Judging from the amount of process videos that go up on social media, I think it’s safe to say that artists love watching other artists. Ashley and I are no different; if you were to sit next to us while I watched a drawing tutorial, our reactions are so intense you’d think we were engrossed in some kind of sports event or action movie.
“Did she really just use that brush?”
“NO WAY, I never use that layer blending option!!!”
And so on.
It’s something that we really don’t take the time to immerse ourselves in, but we benefit in inspiration and technique every time we let ourselves do it.
For your viewing pleasure today, let’s check out some videos of the great Glen Keane doing his thing. There’s so much more to animation than drawing—great drafting skills are only the basic prerequisite to a good performance, after all—but we illustrators can learn a thing or two from our animator cousins!
Thanks so much for stopping by! We’re so excited to have you here, and hopefully in the coming months we’ll be putting up stuff on this blog to make you excited to come back.
We’re passionate about illustration. We love studying it and talking about it, we love illustrators, and most of all, we just love illustrating. This blog will be devoted solely to everything we can possibly pack in about illustration. We’re going to talk about the industry, our process, our favorite illustrators, and more.
We hope to pass along nuggets of wisdom and information on to you, and hopefully learn a little from you as well in the comments section!
Stay tuned for more!