Hi, I’m Steph, a 23 year old illustrator living and working in West Berkshire. I graduated from the University of Lincoln with a First in Illustration in the summer of 2012 and am the very early beginnings of a (fingers crossed!) career in Illustration!
When did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator?
It wasn’t until I’d starting studying my A-Levels that I realised a career in art and design was for me. I’d always been academic at school so I always assumed this was the direction I’d head in once it came to University. Luckily I’d kept up studying art purely because I enjoyed it so much. My teachers at school were great and full of encouragement and helped me to choose a great art foundation course. This was were I really discovered illustration as more than just pictures in children’s books and greetings cards. It really broadened my horizons and showed me just how much potential there was for a future career in illustration. Looking back it seems strange how it took me so long to realise that this was what I should be doing: I was forever writing and illustrating my own stories as a child and drawing pictures for friends on demand.
Would you recommend studying at art school?
For me it was definitely the right choice. My foundation course was especially enlightening and taught me so much about so many different areas of art and design, allowing me to make an informed choice about my chosen career path at the end of it. During the 4 years I studied at art school I was also part of a dynamic studio environment which is something I really miss now I’m back home. There are so many people around to bounce ideas off and discuss things with so work is constantly flowing. There’s also the lecture side of things and all the theory and history you discover.
How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Alas, this is still a distant dream but I remain hopeful that one day it will happen. Work is very slow at the moment and it’s taken a while to get my printing process sorted, out of the studio environment. I work part time at a well known chain of shoe shops which keeps some money coming it.
Could you describe your typical day?
It entirely depends on whether I have to work the day job or not. If I want to get a print printed then I prefer to get it all done at the same time so I’ll use a day off for this. If I’m just processing ideas and thumbnails then I’ll usually get up at about 8 and have my breakfast watching the news. Then I’ll start by checking emails and social media and making sure everything’s all up to date (I’m not very good at drawing first off). Then I’ll make lists (possibly several) splitting a long list of tasks into more manageable chunks. Once I’ve planned my tasks for the day I’ll get started on either coming up with ideas for a new print or making thumbnails, eventually moving onto more resolved visuals. I don’t always take a break for lunch – if i’m on a roll I’d rather just work through and finish slightly earlier. I usually stop working on images around 6, but will spend my evenings re-checking emails and updating social media or my blog if I’ve got bits to add. The whole time I’m working I’ll have something on in the background whether it be the radio or TV – I absolutely cannot concentrate if it’s quiet, I get completely distracted. I’ll also jot down any thoughts or ideas that come to me while I’m trying to get to sleep.
What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
Probably best to re-ask me this question in about 5 years. So far it’d probably be the business side of things – more information on being self-employed and what it entails.
What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
The not knowing what might be coming up in the next few weeks and months. It’s incredibly exciting not having your every day from now until whenever already pre-planned. Once you’re able to freelance full time then the idea that you can make a living out of making pictures seems like the best thing in the world. I mean really? How amazing is that!
What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
The same as the best – the not knowing whether or not you’ll have work coming in. I’m lucky at the moment in that I have stability with my part time job but it’ll be pretty nerve racking when I eventually take the leap into earning my money solely from freelance work. Currently another frustration is the lack of response from publications/agencies etc. It’s all part of the job and you just have to take the knocks but it can be really demoralising
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
Ooo, I’d have probably done a history degree so who knows where I’d have ended up!
Any other tips you could share?
Don’t quit without giving it a go. You’ll never know if you don’t try. Be determined.