Monday, 15 July 2013

Book Review: Becoming a Successful Illustrator

Welcome to the very first book review on my blog. I'm not sure whether this will become a regular occurrence, but seeing as a lot of my audience seem to be aspiring (and often working) illustrators, I thought an illustration manual might be an appropriate place to start.

This particular book was sent to me by one of the authors, Derek Brazell. I first met Derek as an intern for the Association of Illustrators in 2011. I found working with the AOI team an invaluable experience - and I quickly learned that any advice from Derek, was very good advice indeed.


Becoming a Successful Illustrator is written by the experienced duo, Derek Brazell and Jo Davies. Both work as professional illustrators and both are on the Board of the Association of Illustrators where, among other things, they launched Varoom Magazine and later 'Making Great Illustration' - publications which both inform about and celebrate the art of illustration.

The book is structured in a very concise way, which I think works both for readers at the very start of their education, and more experienced illustration heads who know a few of the ins and outs already. The opening chapter "Illustration Enterprise" is a really insightful introduction, discussing what illustration actually is, where it's used and how illustrators commonly work. This is a great read even for experienced illustrators, as it's something which is always changing, and it's good to reassess. There are colourful artist "spotlights", in this chapter from Alberto Cerriteno, which break up the information, but then it's quickly back to more practical considerations.



I was particularly impressed with the sub-chapters 'Attitude' and 'Knowledge' which talk frankly about how you should view yourself and your practice. This is great for new illustrators - there is the temptation to be quite relaxed and unprincipled about your new career, because you're working from home and presumably doing what you love, however the book sets the record straight from the start - this is your business, your livelihood, and it needs to be taken seriously.



"To succeed you will need a combination of skills, attitude, knowledge. A bit of luck is useful too."

The next five chapters focus on the professional side of illustration -  approaching clients, and working with them and promoting yourself as a business. There are some really great considerations on the different ways you can promote yourself - online, exhibitions, mail outs - featuring personal experiences from artists and discussions on the strength of each output, so you can weigh up your options. There's also advice on securing a commission, the questions to ask, negotiating a fee and determining your rights. You'll learn about finance with a brilliant section outlining costs to consider as a freelancer, and determining your rates based on this. This is straightforward advice which any illustrator will gladly lap up.


A great section I forgot to mention - includes contract and invoice templates, and activities to help organise yourself.

For me, what is so wonderful about the book, is that between it's pages you have everything you could need to know about illustration written concisely and without any pretense. It's reassuring to know that the next time a commission comes through, I can flick to page 121 for example, and find a checklist of appropriate questions to ask when accepting new work. This is what makes it so accessible and useful to illustrators at every stage in their career. Lets face it, illustration is a lonely game, and without a company policy defining how you work, it can be easy to go off track.

This book is a welcome addiction to my bookcase, and will be something I turn to when I feel I need a bit of help. There's enough insight from practicing illustrators, plus beautifully printed artwork to keep the creativity levels high, but there's good old fashioned information too. Win win.

1 comment:

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