My name is Rosie Curran. I am originally from Bognor Regis but currently living in London and I am 30 years old. I have been working freelance as an Illustrator since 2011. I am not full-time.
I made the decision to become an illustrator after finishing secondary school, I loved drawing and problem solving but I wouldn’t say I was absolutely certain that that was what I wanted to be. I love what I do now but I’m still not certain this is right for me and I think its good to admit that.
Would you recommend studying at art school?
I graduated from university with a degree in Illustration in 2009, I didn’t enjoy my time there. In fact it really put me off being creative and its something that actually really affected me for a long time afterwards. That is not the institutions fault, I think I just picked the wrong course. Some art schools can be very competitive, but they really do prepare you with a realistic perception of what the industry is like and give you the opportunity to work with inspirational peers. I would say find out everything you can about what being an Illustrator involves and crucially whether it suits you: the way you work, how you think and what environment you like to be in. I don’t mean this to sound so gloomy but an Illustration degree can be a more specialised subject than others.
This is what I have been thinking: Most people find it difficult to decide where to go and what to do after leaving school and perhaps it could be said that creative people tend to be naturally inter-disciplinary, good at lots of different creative things and ways of thinking. Their emotional state also tends to be more in line with what and when they create; maybe more so than other people. The creative subjects tend to get muddied a bit together throughout school until university, so it makes it really hard when we have to make a decision for further study! I didn’t think a year long foundation course was long enough to choose a pathway. If you are less sure what to do I would say… just wait. Study later and keep your options open, its good to have as many skills as you can, you don’t know what will happen and your work will be much more exciting for that.
How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Illustration isn’t my main source of income. Many people equate full-time freelance work with success. I think I do too to some extent, I think maybe I’m impressed or envious; but most probably a combination. Its hard work and it can be very personal. I didn’t have the determination to really give myself to Illustration, I beat myself up a lot when I didn’t like what I’d done and I would often have massive creative block for fear of failing, although I think I have overcome this now I have learnt that Illustrators need to be very diplomatic, proactive and be comfortable working autonomously. You also need to have a good sense of humility and be able to work in a fairly fluid way to react to project alterations. Its very hard to start working freelance if your not lucky enough to live at home or near a big city to start a career.. it can be a catch 22 situation working to live and not having enough spare time to devote to your artwork. You have to keep going, things do work out it just takes a bit longer, keep trying.
I started working evenings in a music venue and that freed up a lot of time in the day for me to draw. I decided I liked working in events and interacting with people as well as drawing on my own. I wanted to try and combine this and I knew I worked well under pressure when I gave myself no time to think about things too much! I started drawing 3 minute portraits of people whilst hiding in a box in 2011 which eventually turned into my portrait booth project. Now I hire myself out to the event planner and the portraits are free to their guests. I love doing the booth it makes me feel really happy and I’m grateful I get the chance to do this for a job. While this was starting off I worked as an in-house graphic designer, then I went on to work in a library part time which is where I am now. I’m glad I have this combination for now and I will admit I’m scared to make the leap into full-time freelance work. The rest of the week I freelance on anything from brainstorming creative projects for brands to packaging design… I’m trying to move into art direction and marketing but I will always do my booth too. At the weekends most of my time is dedicated to the portrait booth. I mainly do weddings which is brilliant as I get to eat a lot of amazing cakes.
Don’t work for free, value yourself!
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I want to do everything. Although when I was five I told my mum I wanted to be cat.