by Eric Fortune
“Just a few questions regarding how you got your start after school? and what route you took to get the publicity you have obtained this far. I am mainly a graphic style artist but I really don’t know how to live the life of an illustrator. I have been out of school for about 3 months now and I have not been getting much work. I would just like to know what you did and how you occupied your time from day to day, for example how strict was your schedule? and how often do you abide to that schedule? to be more specific: how much time did you give your self to drawing personal work, how much time did you devote to freelance work, and was there a “normal” job in between?
I know this is a lot. But I just don’t know how much time I should be devoting to what. I feel that I am drawing too much sometimes and it’s mostly for myself. I dont know much about the life style of an illustrator/ artist other than its tough haha. I know I want to live the life of an illustrator I just haven’t figured out how to live it yet. thanks for hearing me out. Hope to hear from you soon!”
Okay, so I’ll give a little insight into my own personal experience directly after graduating art school. Apologies for those who are hearing this yet again. Drum roll……………… Not a whole lot. I got a few local freelance jobs right out of school and thought “okay, so far so good” and then absolutely nothing. But what did I expect? No one knew my work and I wasn’t busy promoting myself. And the work I did get around to showing people was still college level work.
A year out of school a friend informed me of an opening at a local catalog company that used water color illustrations instead of photography. I surrounded myself with their catalogs and did some very specific art samples based on the type of art they used. Now this was not the type of work I wanted to be doing in the long run and it resembled absolutely nothing in my portfolio. However, getting paid to do any kind of artwork out of school is kind of nice. And it was for a full time position. Not to mention they had the most amazing potlucks! I never have potlucks in my current work place.
Thankfully, I got the position and did rather well at the company. My ruggedly handsome physique and witty humor allowed me to rise through the ranks to a Senior Illustrator position. When not at my 9 to 5 I tried to spend as much time as I could tolerate working on personal pieces to slowly replace the work in my portfolio or look up art directors to send samples to. I would also send jpgs of new work to former school mates and teachers I knew. At one point a group of my art friends and myself developed an art collaborative to split time, energy, and funds on promotion. It started off ok and some of us got some new clients to work for. Unfortunately, the work was inconsistent and some of the participants didn’t always have new work for promotion. Promoting the same images only goes so far and eventually we disbanded.
A few years later one of the friends I had been sending new art updates to had forwarded some of those samples to his art rep. I was contacted by the rep and started to take on more steady freelance. I worked full time and freelanced for as long as I could and saved as much as possible for what I knew was to eventually happen. The jump into freelancing full time. This all happened over several years and a lot of effort. So try not to be too discouraged and work as hard as you can on your art and on promoting yourself. These things can take a very long time and obviously a lot of energy and persistence. Hope that helps or at the very least gives some of you realistic expectations for life as an artist after college.
Now for a little work in progress update.
Here as you can see is actually a halfway decent sketch. If you’ve seen some of my other sketches you know what I’m talking about.
After having a friend of mine get dressed up and levitate for photo reference you can see my final drawing here. I’m doing some shading where I feel it’s necessary and sometimes a little more just because. I want my drawing to be as close to what I want prior to putting down paint as the first wash of paint will seal the graphite and make drastic changes almost impossible.
Here I’ve laid down a few thin washes of acrylic. While wet I took a paper towel and dabbed out the paint where the undershirt is because I know I want that to be a lighter area in the painting. At this point I also laid down some solid black where I knew it was going to get very dark. This black will be a great reference point for me to judge other dark areas of the work as I go. I also took a thinner version of the wash and reinforced some of my pencil work so that the information doesn’t get lost in the following washes that will continue to darken the suit.
These last two shots are basically me laying down some thin flat washes. I then start to add a gradation by applying a mid tone wash and slowly diluting it by adding water to my brush as I pull the paint across the figure. On top of this I’m also using a dry brush technique to slowly build value as well. For a short painting demo you can view this video.
I like the WIP Eric, I might have to play with acrylic washes coming up.
I always enjoy hearing other's 'How I made it' stories because they are all so different from each other. To me the most important things are:
1 Promoting yourself (and I mean more than blind emails to ADs, go to conventions and make real connections).
2 Never miss deadlines.
3 When you don't have paying work, do pieces to build targeted portfolios for companies you'd like consistent work from.
It's very unlikely that you can support yourself as a freelance just starting out. Live modestly, get a job to keep afloat and spend as much time as you can portfolio building.
Between Justin's watercolour work and you using acrylics instead of the rewettable watercolours, I think I may have found my 'sweet spot'. Very grateful for this, so thanks to the both of ya!
That is a lovely sketch! 😉
The darkening of the suit towards the top and bottom is already making this iconic of your style. Always reminds me of deer or tree, caught in the spotlights of a car. Or a policeman's light. Adds a tiny sense of danger, chase … narrative.
Most elements pull the eye to the top right, but the triangle of the knee(s) work opposite. Nice!
Excellent advice. Promote promote promote. I would also remind people to enter into the competitions as well. Society of Illustrators, Spectrum etc. and of course most are familiar with Jon Shindehette's Art Challenge.
I would also like to add that I think it's important to do a personal piece when possible. Something just for yourself. I think artist often start out doing illustration jobs that pay but aren't always the kind of work we want to do. Ultimately, we want to get paid to make art of the things that we are also interested in. In order to do that we have to promote that kind of work. Most of my portfolio, even after I had been freelancing for a few years, consisted of my personal work. I had a gang load of editorial work under my belt but it wasn't quite the direction I wanted to go.