I am a 26 year old creative living in Essex, working full time as a freelancer illustrator. I graduated from Middlesex University in 2010 and spent the next two years struggling to break into the competitive illustration industry, taking on internships when I could, and working waitressing jobs to fund my desire to stay in London - a city which has inspired me throughout Uni and my early career. After a while the clients started to come in and I was able to build my business to what it is today. I'm so grateful for this; this is the job I always longed for and it fulfils me every day.
At the age of five I was given a lesson on watercolour by an artist and friend of the family, and since then it's become my passion. It's the only medium I use to produce my work, and I haven't felt the need to stray to another medium for over 6 years now! I love the range of colours and tones you can create with a tiny tube of paint, and the ability to play with light and dark and different textures. I've never been much of a drawer (although I think it's very important to practice sometimes!), and a paintbrush has always felt more comfortable than a pen; as an artist I'm more interested in colour and light than I am with line, and I'm ok with that!
How do you get inspiration for work?
I mostly work on commissioned briefs, most of which tend to be quite literal, and in terms of inspiration its just about finding reference images that interest me and that I can recreate in my illustration style. When I get the chance to work on personal projects I find myself wanting to paint from the natural world - animals, plants, flowers, birds etc. I also have a fascination with antique household objects - old packaging, ornaments, kitchen utensils etc. I love capturing beautiful and odd aging objects in watercolour, I think it's the perfect fit.
How do I get illustration commissions? Any advice?
Mostly, clients contact me... But this is after 6 years of work in the industry! It takes time to build your portfolio, gain publicity, and find clients who want to work with you. My advice to new illustrators would be to first work hard on building your portfolio to a level where you can show examples of all the areas you want to get into (food illustration, portraiture, children's illustration, typography etc). Secondly it would be to be involved in the industry - go to talks, exhibition openings, fairs - and take inspiration from what others are doing. Ask yourself where a gap in the market might be, what can you bring to the table to get your work noticed? My third piece of advice would be to make contact! Send emails and postcards (I can't stress how important it is to do your research first on this - no 'Dear Sir/Madam' !) and use social media to connect with people.
Do what you love to do, do it well, work hard, work harder, be consistent, be consistently nice, and things will work out.