Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 04 Nov 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Alex Screen

I am a 22 year old recent graduate of Falmouth University now living in Stafford (in the West Midlands). As an professional freelancer, I’ve had experience of working on commissions over the past couple of years.

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When did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator?
I’ve wanted to be an illustrator for a really long time – when I was a kid I was always drawing stuff based on what I read in books or saw on TV and films. It wasn’t until I was about 13 when I realised that you could actually do those things as a career

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Absolutely! I would say that my experience in studying a foundation diploma at Stafford College and later my degree at Falmouth University were both really pivotal in my development as an illustrator. With the foundation degree in particular I learned the value of experimenting with different media and mark-making techniques. I further applied and refined those basic skills in university, where I got to grips with the practice of illustration, which I absolutely love. University really helped me understand where my strengths lie as an artist.


How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
It’s still early days yet as I’ve just graduated. I haven’t yet got to the point where I can make a full-time living as an illustrator.

Could you describe your typical day?
I usually save the mornings for completing small tasks and running errands, generally making sure I have all my equipment ready and workspace cleared so I can get started. I tend to start illustration work at mid-day and work through the afternoon. I usually organise my tasks by using an egg timer to work in 25 minute bursts with a 5-10 minute break in between until the task is done. I like to listen to music a lot when I’m working, usually I pick a particular type of music which I feel has the spirit of whatever it is that I’m trying to communicate visually and try to see if I can capture that kind of atmosphere in my work. I’ll finish working around 6 o’clock, then spend the rest of the evening chilling out at home or spending time with friends.


What do wish you’d known when you first started out?
It’s hard to say really; I realised early on that being a freelance illustrator isn’t the easiest career to have, that being said, there’s really nothing else I’d rather be. I tend to keep myself occupied with various tasks like sending stuff out to publishers and working on creative projects. I take onboard any advice I can find from freelancers about starting out and how to make a living out of it and I do as much I can – it’s still an ongoing process.

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
The best thing about being an illustrator is being able to do something you love. I also enjoy the surprising places it can take you creatively. The wonderful thing about illustration is that often you’re responding to something outside your own sphere of experience, so you always learn something new in the process of researching and creating artwork. Another great thing about being an illustrator is the different ways in which your artwork can be used – last year one of my illustrations was used by Moa Brewing Company in New Zealand as a part of a promotional facebook game app – they animated my artwork and made it so it would move and make all these crazy sounds when you clicked on it. I was really happy about that.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Sometimes you can get work from clients where they don’t really understand what an illustrator does and give you all these tasks which doesn’t have much to do creating artwork. There was this one time I was working on a brief where I was being asked to put all this mass of text on an A4 poster, there was no room for any imagery whatsoever and I was told that they just wanted the text on there, I didn’t understand why they needed me at all.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I would probably like to do something within the study of people and the way they behave, maybe along the lines of anthropology or psychology.

Any tips you could share?
Do whatever it is that makes you happy and not what you think will sell better. Always be willing to try new things and step into the unknown. Keep creating things and always ALWAYS have fun whilst doing it.

Insane on the airplane

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