1. I note from your blog that you had your first commission in 1993 after leaving college. How did you persuade the art director to take on an unknown illustrator?
MMM, I DON;T THINK IT WAS A CASE OF ME PERSUADING THEM. I JUST WENT AROUND WITH MY FOLIO AND HOPED SOMEONE WOULD COMMISSION ME! NOT VERY BUSINESS-LIKE , I KNOW.
LUCKILY, I THINK I HAD A STYLE THAT WAS A BIT FLEXIBLE (WITHOUT BEING TOO JACK OF ALL TRADES) SO ART DIRECTOR'S LIKED THAT AND GAVE ME A CHANCE. IT GOT MY FOOT IN THE DOOR ANYWAY.
2. At the start, did you have to juggle being an illustrator with other unrelated paid employment, in order to survive?
OH YES INDEED! I WAS LUCKILY STAYING WITH MY SISTER WHO JUST MADE ME DO ALL THE COOKING WITH NO RENT TO PAY, BUT I HAD 2 PART TIME JOBS ASWELL...IT WAS ALL A BIT LIKE DUCKING AND DIVING TRYING TO MAKE ENDS MEET! I LOVED IT THOUGH AND NEVER REGRETTED BASING MYSELF IN EDINBURGH RATHER THAN HEADING TO LONDON.
3. How long do you think it took you to become established in illustration? What do you think makes the difference between success and failure when trying to establish yourself as an illustrator?
GOOD QUESTION. I REALLY WORKED AT GOING TO SEE DESIGNERS UP HERE IN SCOTLAND, ESTABLISHING RELATIONSHIPS THAT STILL STAND ME IN GOOD STEAD TODAY (16 YEARS LATER!!). I ALSO ENTERED COMPETITIONS LIKE IMAGES AND SUCH. I THINK IT TOOK ME ABOUT A YEAR AND A BIT TO GET KNOWN UP HERE IN SCOTLAND...UK-WISE IT WASN'T UNTIL 1997, BECAUSE I STARTED TO GET EDITORIAL COMMISSIONS FROM THE GUARDIAN, THE TELEGRAPH ETC AND THAT REALLY GOT MY WORK SEEN. I ALSO GOT A UK AGENT IN 1997 TOO AND THAT MADE A BIT OF A DIFFERENCE.
YOUR SECOND QUESTION IS ALSO GOOD - AND I WOULD SAY THAT YOU HAVE TO REALLY LOVE/ADORE/BE CRAZY IN LOVE WITH ILLUSTRATION AND PRINT AND DESIGN - BE REALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT IT, SO NO OTHER JOB WILL TEMPT YOU AWAY! YOU HAVE TO BE DETERMINED TO SUCCEED (WHATEVER YOUR VERSION OF SUCCESS IS) AND BE AWARE THAT BEING A FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR CAN BE A VERY UP AND DOWN CAREER - AND ACCEPT THAT TO SOME EXTENT. YOU SOON GET USED TO THE INSECURITY OF IT BUT LOVE THE FLEXIBILITY OF BEING FREELANCE TOO.
I THINK YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO GET OUT THERE AND MEET PEOPLE AND NETWORK AND MAYE DO SOME JOBS FOR FREEBIES OR WHATEVER. I THINK YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO DO SOME CRAPPY, NOT VERY CREATIVE OR INSPIRING WORK SOMETIMES TO GET BREAD AND BUTTER MONEY (AND REMEMBER THAT THE DESIGNER COMMISSIONING YOU IS PROBABLY THINKING THE SAME THING, BUT YOU MIGHT GET A JUICY JOB FROM THEM THE NEXT TIME ROUND!)
I ALSO THINK THAT YOU HAVE TO FOREGT YOUR DEGREE MARK - FIRST OR FAIL - AND JUST START AFRESH. NOBODY BUT NOBODY ASKS YOU WHAT DEGREE YOU GOT - IF THEY LIKE IT AND CAN USE YOUR WORK IN AN AD CAMPAIGN OR EDITORIAL, THEN THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS TO THEM.
4. Do you have any other advice to give a new graduate on how to get started?
JUST GET OUT THERE WITH A FANTASTIC FOLIO, SOME POSTCARDS OR OTHER PROMO MATERIAL WITH YOUR NAME AND CONTACT DETAILS CLEARLY WRITTEN/PRINTED ON THEM. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE FOLIO WEBSITES AND NETWORKING EVENTS AND MAKE AS MANY CONTACTS AS POSSIBLE. BE PATIENT, IGNORE YOUR PARENTS ASKING YOU WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO START EARNING PROPER MONEY.
BE PRO-ACTIVE: ORGANISE EXHIBITIONS, STALLS AT FESTIVALS ETC AND INVITE LOADS OF DESIGNERS - JUST DO IT, AS NIKE SAYS! OH AND YOU DO NEED TO SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY TOO - IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO REALISE THAT, BUT SOMETIMES TAKING THE RISK OF HEADING OFF TO NEW YORK TO SEE SOME MUCH ADMIRED DESIGNERS CAN REALLY PAY OFF, WORKWISE - AND CONFIDENCE WISE TOO.
5. I understand you have been with Friends and Johnson for a few years. Do you think it is vital to have an agent to get into the illustration market abroad?
NOT VITAL BUT MAKES IT EASIER. FRIEND AND JOHNSON GET ME NORTH AMERICAN WORK AND ARE HAPPY TO NEGOTIATE ON MY BEHALF FOR ANY BIG JOBS IN EUROPE, SUCH AS ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
THE EUROPEAN ILLUSTRATION COMMUNITY IS VERY EXCITING AT THE MOMENT AND YOU JUST HAVE TO TAP INTO THAT TO GET YOUR WORK SEEN AND TO MEET THE RIGHT PEOPLE - THINGS LIKE FREISTIL, ILLUSTRATIVE BERLIN, EUROPEAN DESIGN AWARDS, BOLOGNA BOOK FAIR ETC ETC.
6. Have you found there are any other particular advantages to having an agent? Have you ever been represented by any other agents in the UK?
AGENTS CAN GET YOU MORE MONEY FOR A JOB, IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ONE! THEY ARE A STEP REMOVED FROM YOUR ARTWORK SO CAN BE VERY GOOD AT TELLING YOU WHERE AND WHEN YOU NEED TO MARKET YOUR WORK.
SAYING THAT, THERE ARE SOME LESS ABLE AGENTS, WHO NEVER COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR ARTISTS AND JUST DON'T BRING THE WORK IN - JUST LOOK AT THE AOI DISCUSSION BOARD FOR EVIDENCE OF CONFUSED AND GRUMPY ILLUSTRATORS!
I WAS REPPED BY EASTWING IN THE UK FOR A WHILE, AND GOT SOME GOOD WORK FROM THEM BUT I WANTED TO DO MY OWN THING IN THE UK IN THE END. THEY ARE STILL A GOOD AGENT THOUGH.
7. Have you found The ispot, Flickr, 741 Illustration Collective, your website and your blog to all be very important for marketing your illustrations?
ALL MARKETING IS GOOD! IT IS EXTREMELY VITAL TO HAVE A GOOD WEBSITE THOUGH - EASY TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO UPDATE YOURSELF (MINE NEEDS RE-DOING AGAIN - THAT SIDE OF THINGS NEVER ENDS)
I AM ON SEVERAL OTHER WEBSITES TOO AND AM LINKED TO BY OTHER BLOGS AND WEBSITES.
HAVING A STRONG WEB PRESENCE IS VERY IMPORTANT NOW - MAKE YOURSELF EASY TO FIND - GOOGLE YOUR OWN NAME AND SEE WHERE IT COMES IN THE LISTINGS - IT SHOULD BE TOP. YOU MIGHT SURPRISE YOURSELF TO SEE WHO ELSE IS TALKING ABOUT YOUR WORK ONLINE TOO! SO FAR MY WORK HAS BEEN BLOGGED IN ITALY, AUSTRALIA, FRANCE, USA, CANADA AND CZECH REPUBLIC!
8. What other marketing do you find particularly effective? Do you send out regular mailings too and who do you target?
EMAIL MARKETING - QUICK, EFFECTIVE AND CHEAPER THAN POST. YOU CAN TRACK WHO CLICKS THROUGH TO YOUR WEBSITE AND SEE WHERE THEY GO AND WHAT THEY LOOK AT TOO.
I DO SEND OUT POSTCARDS OR WEE HANDMADE THINGS OCCASSIONALLY - SHOULD DO IT MORE AND AM PLANNING ON IT THIS YEAR.
NOTHING BEATS A VISIT WITH THE FOLIO THOUGH AND WORD OF MOUTH - SO NETWORKING IS STILL IMPORTANT.
At Stockport College we each have an illustration blog. Would you be happy for me to post your responses on my blog for others to see? My blogspot is annavioletillustration.blogspot.com.
BUT OF COURSE.
Many thanks for your help and I look forward to your reply.
GOOD LUCK - AND DON'T LET THE RECESSION STOP YOU FROM BECOMING AN ILLUSTRATOR.