My name is Kirbi (yes, that’s my real name!) I’m new to the business, a baby faced 22 year old. I’m from the Detroit area and studying illustration at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I graduate in less than 2 months…. I’m a bull behind the pen.
When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
I was always a creative and crafty kid. I knew I wanted to go to into art since I was a tween. I didn’t realize what I loved was illustration until visiting art schools. When I saw illustration on the walls I said, “that’s the kind of art I want to make.” Illustration went hand in hand with my love for stories. I was hooked.
Would you recommend studying at art school?
Art is a life long study. Art school can certainly accelerate your development. There aren’t many experiences that can compare to being surrounded by talented young creatives. I would recommend going to art school but schools are not all the same. Kendall was a great fit for me. If you are planning on attending art school find your right fit. You’ll have to be highly self-motivated to be successful at art school. In fact, you’ll have to be self-motivated to work as an artist. Art school can teach the basics and once you have those tools you can do anything with them. There are exceptions, I know of several folks who have healthy illustration careers without a degree. If you find yourself at art school – be a sponge, learn all you can but don’t be influenced to be someone your not. Go your own way.
How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Art is my primary income, though not necessarily through illustration. Teaching, portraiture and small graphic design jobs fill in the gap.
Could you describe your typical day
I’m most productive in the morning. Wake up. Lay in bed reading twitter and email on my phone. Get to the studio between 7:30-9am depending on the workload for that day. Lunch at 11:30, sometimes later if I’m in a good groove. Usually I spend it chatting with studio mates or on the phone. Then I take care of email and social media. Go back to working on art until 3 or 4. More email. Run errands, clean, have dinner, walk my pup, socialize or just relax. I pick up one or two more hours in the evening if needed. In bed at 10…ish. I try not work late at night… my eagerness for my work can keep me awake. I keep a small notebook next to my bed if late night ideas keep me from sleeping. A lot of my artist pals work at night… I find nothing about 3 a.m. inspiring.
What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
Ask me in 5 years.
What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Everyday has new, exciting challenges. I’m constantly learning how to creatively solve them. I make art everyday, usually in my PJs!
What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Email stinks and my “office” is in walking distance to the fridge. Sitting all day can be tough, I stretch a lot.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I’d probably write or cut hair.
Any other tips you could share?
A lot of advice from established illustrators are from folks who started out in a time where you could walk the streets of New York with a portfolio and knock on the office doors of art directors. It’s just not that way anymore. Rock social media.
Take breaks before you need a break. Most importantly, don’t work for free it devalues the entire illustration industry. FREElance ain’t free.