Questioning Creatives

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This article was written on 24 Sep 2012, and is filled under illustrators.

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Mark Chambers

I’m 32 and I’ve been a professional scribbler since 2003. I’m represented by the Bright Agency in London and have been since I graduated from the University of Lincoln here in the Shire. I didn’t always want to be an illustrator however as I was looking to go down the professional golf route, but the pull towards a creative industry was too great and doodling was the way forward.

When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
I’d been scribbling since I was very young, drawing aliens and making up weird and wonderful machines so I’ve always been creative, but to choose illustration as a career only came about when I took a Foundation course in Art and decided to do a degree in illustration. The next three years taught me a lot about the industry and how to answer a brief properly with set deadlines and this paved the way to becoming a picture book illustrator.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
To become an illustrator you don’t have to go to art school, I wouldn’t put pressure on anyone to study at art college or to get a degree at University. However, studying an art course does give you the time and space to work up a portfolio and give you the chance to mix with other people the same age who want to do the same thing. This can be invaluable to develop ideas and your style. Art is very subjective and having an art degree on your CV will not guarantee you a job in this industry as inevitably it is down to how strong your portfolio is when showing it to clients.

How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
I worked on a farm for the first year after graduating, chasing cows around the yard and bagging up woodchip. I did this during the day and worked on my style sending bits of artwork into my agency on my days off and when I had a free moment. It took me around six months after finishing at University to come up with a portfolio of work that was at a publishable standard and I gained my first commission in April 2004, a very happy day! Ever since I’ve been working full-time and the amount of jobs have been increasing year upon year.

Could you describe your typical day?
A typical day would be to leave the house around eight-thirty, grab a coffee on the way into the studio and then start working on the commissions I have on at the time. I try and set aside a good few hours a week to work on my personal artwork too so my portfolio has some new material when it is shown to potential clients.

What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
I guess when I first started I’d have liked to have known more about the financial side of things when becoming self-employed as it’s a very steep learning curve. Keeping accounts of what you earn for tax purposes and having to submit returns each year. This gets much easier over time though but at first it can be a bit daunting!

 What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
I’d say the best thing about being an illustrator is the variety of jobs you get to do. One day you could be drawing pirates, the next day aliens and the next, pigeons pooping on a village (Pigeon poo published by Little Tiger Press) You’re only limitation is your imagination in this job.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
The worst thing is that it isn’t a secure job with a regular salary so you have to be good at managing your finances and realising when you’re going to go through a quiet period. Sometimes deadlines can get on top of you as well which may mean working times when you really don’t want to but this is par for the course and a very minor grumble of being an illustrator.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
If I wasn’t an illustrator I’d probably be a pirate or a ghostbuster, sailing the seven seas and shivering timbers or splatting ghosts. In all honesty though it would have to be something in the creative industries in whatever capacity.

Any other tips you could share? 
If there was any other advice I could offer it would be, never give up! You have to go out there and make it happen and however many knock backs you get, keep going! Waking up each day with the passion to draw and to be able to say you love what you do is a great feeling and it makes all the hard work that you’ve put in well worth it!

www.facebook.com/chambersillustration

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