Questioning Creatives

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This article was written on 06 Sep 2012, and is filled under illustrators.

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Martin Chatterton

I’m 50. I’ve been illustrating since 1983 pretty much without a break. I have been very lucky in some ways in that I have always had work and periods of incredible popularity (and money) from illustration. You could define the first ten to fifteeen years as being dominated by advertising and design briefs and the last fifteen as being dominated by publishing work. There’s a pretty good bio on my website for more details.

When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
At art school. I always wanted to do something in the arts, probably film-making. I’m still a frustrated film-maker to some extent.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Definitely. I had a great experience although it was back at the dawn of time. I’m not sure what they’re like now but if it’s anything like my experience it would be worth it. And you shouldn’t underestimate getting that degree (like I did). Consider doing a Masters too. I was too keen to get ‘out there’ and start producing. I’d have benefited from more introspection and development.

How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Straight away. I was fortunate that it was easy to get work in the mid eighties because although lively, my work was still evolving. Probably within three years of leaving art school I was earning a living income and about three more years after that I was doing very well.

Could you describe your typical day?
That’s hard now because I am predominantly a writer these days. Essentially I try and do a ‘normal’ working day. I get to the desk around 8.30 and work until 5. Like all freelancers that doesn’t always happen when deadlines approach.

What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
I wish I’d started writing earlier.

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Drawing pictures for a living.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Maintaining a career. I’ve always had other strings to my bow: being a designer, a lecturer, writer, doing animation, public speaking and the like. Making a living solely from illustration is, I believe, now almost impossible. There will be people doing it and that will last a few years maybe (I made a lot of money during a ten year patch) but most illustrators will be exhibiting work, teaching, designing, doing a lot of other stuff to keep the wheels turning.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I already am something else: a writer.

Any other tips you could share?
Learn how to draw. Learn how to be flexible. Don’t let people down. Don’t miss a deadline. Be aware that your part in a project is just one part of the whole.
Get a good accountant. Don’t take yourself too seriously: it’s only illustration.

www.worldofchatterton.com

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