Monday, November 12, 2012

Standing Room Only

We hosted a group of illustration students from Stockport College in the United Kingdom on Wednesday. We managed to fit all 26 students plus their two professors, Joanna and Gary Spicer in a space that’s usually limited to a max of 21 students, so unfortunately several had to stand for the almost 2-hour talk.

It’s always wonderful to get in front of the next generation of illustrators and hopefully offer some guidance about entering the field once they graduate. As always there were questions about promotion, web sites and the general market for illustrators and what it takes to succeed. When the fact that only one in eighty graduates continue as illustrators after their first year out of school and only .0001 percent are actively working right out of school, graduates must plan their future carefully. Defining success means pursing something you love and being able to make a living doing it. Which of course is not limited to illustration, it could be fine art, art direction, design which offer opportunities for all graduates.

One thing I missed passing along is the importance of getting a second job once they graduate, it is so difficult to break into the field of illustration that a part-time or full-time paying-job takes a lot of the pressure off meeting financial obligations. This second job should be in a related field i.e. book publishing, advertising or editorial and at the very least someplace where they are able to interact with people even if it’s a menial job in retail. As young graduates they have the abundant energy needed to work at a job and still pursue their true love of illustration. It takes discipline and long hours but a good many successful illustrators have taken this path before they made their name known and many still do today. What I don’t recommend is to take a job teaching right out of school, even if it’s after a master’s degree. I’ve seen too many drained by the pressures of academia, too many are swallowed up by the dedication to be good teacher and too many never fully realize their potential as illustrators. It all comes down to making choices, hopefully the right choices.

Photo courtesy of Joanna Spicer