Useful Sites & Resources For Becoming An Illustrator

More by Jardley Jean-Louis

Even when I was in college I tried to make the time to create personal pieces and promote them effectively to the world. But, it wasn’t until I took a forced hiatus from college once and eventually left again that I really started searching and finding out more about the business side of Illustration. As you may or may not know, mid-year of 2011 I ended up having to leave school due to the financial strain it was having on me. But, because I still had the drive to create art, and have the world see my work, I began to search for how other illustrator’s experiences were like. I looked for answers to these questions: How to promote your art/illustrations? How to get your art into galleries? How do get your illustrations into magazines? What are some steps to becoming an illustrator, and many more.
I learned so much and I’m still learning. This will most likely be an incomplete list. But, it is a list of some sites that may reveal to you more about the background of an illustration business, such as sending out promo cards, creating a blog, social networking, style. It’s not only for the freelance illustrator but also for the artist who is working on bringing their art to the public and knowing the inside and outs of marketing their business. I’m still in the same boat you’re in when it comes to effectively creating a market for my work and forming relationships with my art peers. But, with the guides that I’ve found, I am a different person now and know more than I did a year ago. You will too.

First up: Escape From Illustration Island
Yep, Escape from Illustration Island, it’s served me rather well. Particularly the podcasts. I used to listen to these podcasts while creating pieces. I say used to because I’ve listened to every single one of them and am waiting for an update!

Thomas James interviews many different people in the field from Art Consultants, Art Directors, Illustrators, Art Reps and more! It’s crazy insightful and engaging. When you listen to a podcast, it flows pretty smoothly even though at times Thomas James will pause and it looks like he doesn’t know what to say. I love wondering if he has preplanned questions yet sometimes he ends up asking questions that are really unexpected and rely solely on what the interviewee said. Aside from the podcasts, he has an abundance of resources that feature contributions from fellow illustrators. Resources like showing examples of a contract when working with a client, sites to sell your work, tutorials on different mediums and various outside blogs and sites to cater to your desires as an artist If you’ve got a skill, article or piece you want to share, you’re even invited to do so. (Guest contributing is one way to increase the visibility of your work.) ETA: (September 4, 2013) As you can tell from the link for Escape From Illustration Island, it redirects to Illustration Age, a site that Thomas James also runs. But, the Escape From Illustration Island Podcasts are now available in an archive here.)

2. IllustrationMundo
I can’t really remember how I found out about this site. It was probably senior year of high school. I do think it was at a time when I was discovering Illustration for the first time. It features plenty of Illustrators and when you click on a particular thumbnail that you like, you are sent to the artist’s website to see more of their portfolio. Aside from the front page featured Illustrators, you can search for plenty of Illustrators by medium, or style. You’ll see how someone uses the same materials you use in their own way, find out more on a style you’re trying to hone or just look at new styles in general. Illustration Mundo gets you acquainted with artists working in your field. In the blog section, a huge bonus is at times Nate Williams (the illustrator who runs the site) will interview some of the illustrators featured. Not only do you find out their work, but you’ll find out why they became an illustrator, what’s a day in the life of said illustrator, what mediums they use and why, clients they’ve had etc. It’s a great way to not only understand more about an Illustrator, but you can take a look at their work ethic, quite possibly how they landed a client, and if your work relates in some way to the illustrator or a client’s vision. If it does, then that’s an opportunity for you to share your work or strengthen your work if the type of clients they’ve had are the ones you’re looking for.

3. zero2illo
zero2illo was set up by illustrator Jonathan Woodward during his own beginning stages of being an illustrator. There is even a section titled Jonathan’s Progress You’re there along with him while he shares his own experience. That’s what I like the most about this site. Even now while his career is flourishing, he gives tips on different income streams, interviews other artists, details to you business practices that start with your own confidence as an illustrator, and provides a list of business tools you’ll need as your own boss.

4. Lines and Colors
Lines and Colors I definitely found in high school and I’ve been keeping up with it ever since. Charley Parker (founder of this site) reviews any art from past or present. We’re talking art as far back as the 16th century, quite possibly more. In each article he focuses solely on the artist, or the art form. This site is similar to Illustration Mundo in that it features your peers in the art field but it differs in that I don’t recall him interviewing anyone. What makes Lines and Colors a viable resource in my opinion is you’re shown a large assortment of creatives who have worked before you or are working alongside you today. You’re shown sites, materials, resource books, or medias you’ve probably never seen before or really paid attention to. Or it may spark an interest you already have in say the area of animation, and on further view of the links he provides alongside an artist, you’re given more access into how a piece is created, or how it could relate to your work. In my own experience, through reading Lines and Colors, I found J.C. Leyendecker, an artist from the early 20th century. I became acquainted with the way he played with colors, shadows, the way he stroked a brush. Those things were important to me in my work so finding an artist who came before me who could serve as a teacher was exciting. When you become familiar with the works of the artists in the field both past and present, in my opinion they start feeling less like strangers. You’ve also gained a wealth of portfolios and teachers if you desire to strengthen more of your own skills in their particular area. Plus, when you become more of an established creative you might be asked whose work you admire. It’s a question I’ve seen posed more than once.

5. EmptyEasel
EmptyEasel gives you tutorials on art mediums, sites to show your portfolio when you can’t afford your own website, how to set up an art blog or parts of running a business you probably didn’t know about like using art registries to market your work, etc. They also provide you with the opportunity to guest write like IllustrationMundo and encourage you to do so on other sites. EE will almost always research other social networking, business or portfolio sites before they tell you it might be a great idea to join. I’m still at the beginning stage of testing out Google Adwords for my illustration print shop, and even though these articles on EE are a bit dated, they gave me the jist of what I could expect from advertising my shop with google.

6. The New York Foundation for the Arts
I live in New York, but from personally using this site, you don’t have to. At least in most opportunities. If you want to exhibit your work in galleries some of these are out of state so not residing in New York won’t be a problem continously. Apart from the jobs and Call for Entries board, there are sections of this foundation that cater to business advice, podcasts, providing sponsorship, grants, etc. I’ve focused most of my attention on the jobs and exhibition opportunities so you’ll have to find out more on the other sections yourself.

There are still more specific useful advice I want to share that I’ve read and found. But, they’re from illustrators, designers, in their own voice and not as a collective site so that will be for another post. For now that concludes this list. ETA (September 4, 2013)- There will not be a Part 2 to this post. What I admitted to myself is that I see myself as an artist, not as an illustrator and so want to devote my time to learning about the artists that are on the path I’m on. Namely, exhibiting in galleries and being a versatile independent artist rather than working with and for an art director to support myself. But, for you who wants to be an illustrator, I think you’ll still find this list useful. All of that isn’t to say I won’t ever do work for an art director, a stream of income is always good, it’s just not my main goal.)

Hey! Before you go, here are two books I’m setting out to buy. Because, I wasn’t fully enthusiastic some months ago as my peers were when talking about being freelance illustrators, I saw buying the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines and the Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market as not for me. But, that line of thinking has changed in that now I just see it as one path I could take to gain visibility while getting monetary value from my work. I may or may not write a review of the latest edition of these books, and even if I did I’m sure it’d be weeks weeks later. But, you probably know about these books so you may not need my review.
These books have been praised and mentioned quite a bit in the sites I’ve listed above, you’ll see that yourself when you start checking them out.

Happy Sunday.

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