Questioning Creatives

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This article was written on 24 Apr 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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George Bletsis

My name is George Bletsis, I’m 29 and I’m an illustrator based in Hampshire, England. I have a degree in Animation, but have since realised that I’m much more interested in the design process and creating still images. I’ve been freelancing for around 7 years now.

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When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
I’ve always wanted to draw for a living since I was really very young, but I never really knew what I wanted to be drawing. In my teens I wanted to be a comic book artist, so I used to spend hours and hours drawing over the top muscular people in ridiculous poses. Whilst studying animation at Uni it started to become clear to me that I enjoyed designing the locations and characters much more than the actual animation part. I worked on a few projects as an animator once I graduated, but I wasn’t getting the fulfilment out of the work that I felt I should have been – so I decided to go back to square one and study illustration in my own time, gradually building up a presentable portfolio and taking on assignments here and there.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
This is a hard one actually, I think it depends on the individual and their choice of school. My university provided next to no tuition and felt much more like just having access to equipment. I feel that the most important lessons I have learnt have come through independent study, and hours of trial and error working on personal projects. Having said that, Uni did teach my lots about managing my time effectively, meeting a deadline, and introduced me to some pretty cool likeminded people – so there are lots of pros and cons that you have to weigh up.

How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
It took quite a long time actually, I wanted to travel while I had few commitments so I decided to subsidise my meagre freelance earnings at the time with a part-time job in a shop.

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Could you describe your typical day?
I typically wake up quite early and read a book with my breakfast to get the imagination going, and try to get in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. Then I go to the computer and check out my RSS feeds/tumblr and other arty stuff.

Work really starts when I go to my inbox, and I spend a large part of the morning answering emails and sorting the more businessy side of things out.

After that I pretty much just draw and paint for the whole rest of the day, taking small breaks here and there and making sure I run a good few miles before lunch.

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
I would probably have liked to know that all illustrators have brief lulls between jobs, despite seeming ridiculously busy 24/7. I used to feel horrendously guilty working on personal projects during down time in the very beginning!

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What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
There are loads of great things about being a freelance illustrator. You’re always working on something different, so you feel like your job is always challenging and changing – which is a really great feeling. Being your own boss is also a real plus, it’s nice to feel in control of your career and as if you’re building something up from scratch.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
For me the worst thing is not knowing that I have a set wage coming in without fail every month, so it can feel quite scary sometimes. It’s also quite a solitary job, so not really suitable for everyone – though once you build up a network of peers online it can take the edge off a little.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I like cooking a lot, so I’ve always thought I’d like to work with food if I wasn’t an illustrator. When I was much younger I wanted to be an Indiana Jones sort of figure, but that looks much less viable now!

Any other tips you could share?
Nothing specific I’m afraid! Always work on honing your craft, push yourself harder and work on things that are the furthest from your comfort zone – that’s where I feel I have learnt the most.

This one sounds stupid, but keep your eyes open. I don’t mean literally of course, but it is all too easy to wander around in our day-to-day lives as if we’re on autopilot, not really taking in and thinking about everything that is going on around us. If you really look at the small details in everything around you, it really helps feed your imagination and trigger ideas that may not have occurred to you. It also helps build a kind of mental database of people, places and things, as an illustrator you’re expected to be able to draw anything and everything, and having observed from life makes that job much easier!

www.monstertree.co.uk

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