11 Nov Becoming a Professional Illustrator in 1 Year
Becoming a Professional Illustrator in 1 Year
I always knew, my dream is to draw. I always tried to push in that direction. The problem was, I didn’t know how to draw. The graphic design degree seemed like a good compromise to follow that direction but it still didn’t help me to become an illustrator. On the contrary, it moved me to work in the finance industry which was far from art.
That nagging feeling that I want to draw was always coming back to me in my career. I just never had the courage to try it. Not until I was at rock bottom with my work and life. I desperately needed something happy. I started to draw every day. It was my therapy and without realizing it, I also started fulfilling my dreams. It looked really bad but I didn’t have any expectations. I had nothing to lose anymore, so I was not worried to show my bad work.
I made my first illustrated post on Instagram in December 2018. Really bad. What was magical, was the support and response I received. There was not a single negative comment. On that day, I decided to draw every day and make it public consistently to just show up.
There are 3 important steps that helped me in that process and you can watch me talking about it on the Futur Academy channel:
#1 simplifying the conceptual process
#2 showing feelings in my illustrations
#3 Simplifying the technical process
The progress behind the last two* years
*It took me one year to get my first paying client but at the moment I am drawing for two years already.
I started my journey on iPad Pro because that was the fastest way to learn, without wasting tons of paper. 3 months after I started, I drew my first character.
#1 First 3 months I was only tracing photographs to get the shape and proportions right. My only goal was that when I draw a person, others should recognize it. I skipped any details, even the face. I recommend thick brushes like chalk so that the imperfections are not that visible.
I also made sure to learn more about composition, color, good taste, and balance. Those basics. helped me to show up even when things didn’t look that good.
I made money doing branding projects, which I was good at. The illustration was just a form of therapy and a hobby.
#2 Next 5 months I took time to take Skillshare classes on how to do shading and add texture. I also started to see my own style and character in the illustrations. I started to reflect on a lot of my own feelings. I started to use blue because of my mental health struggles and I started to make the hair bigger, I think it was my determination. So in this stage, I recommend finding a finer brush and adding basic facial features.
At this time, I was still not making any money as an illustrator. Looking back at this work, no wonder why!
#3 The next 3 months I focused on studying famous illustrators. I waited that long because I wanted to make my own mistakes and avoid the significant influence of style. Most importantly I learned how to tell stories. I focused on what I want my viewer to feel. I felt it and then I was able to tell my own story. By that time, my hair got red and more passionate. It was very useful to see how other illustrators draw faces and replicate the styles 100 times to find the one that fits me.
In October I received my first illustration commission, and I made my first €500 on it. How did they find me? It was from my previous connections and Instagram account, full of that “horrible” drawings. I did not have to sell anything.
#4 the following year, I spent finding my style and learning to monetize my work. I explored new, more complex brushes and textures. At this stage, I recommend looking at your work and finding details that need improvement. For me, it was the full-body, that I used to exaggerate in order to make the drawing easier. This was not a problem in general, but it just didn’t really suit my style.
This year, I am already making my income, mostly because of my illustrations and its licensing. I would say, it took me one year to get consistent inquires and then a few more months to find ways to monetize and license my art.
In 2021 I will be focusing on growing my skills but also on making an impact with my work. I would like to grow my Patreon page. There, I am hoping to incorporate my work and studies on mental health into my illustration work.
Tools that I am using
Below are the links to the gear that I am using. Some of them are affiliate links so you can also support my work when buying through them.
Procreate brushes I am using:
Calendly for scheduling meetings
WordPress site for portfolio
What do you think of my progress? What would you improve?