Association of Illustrators portfolio consultant Fig Taylor talks to Sally Hales Tabout the issues surrounding the artform and offers advice on getting noticed
he history of illustration – as predominance of digital image-making, the defined as the decoration, story is starting to change. Illustrators with interpretation or visual traditional skills are again finding themselves explanation of a text, concept or in high esteem. Fig Taylor, portfolio process – is old as the history of consultant at the Association of Illustrators art itself, beginning in pre-history as our early (AOI), says: “Some digital artists are
FOR MANY ILLUSTRATORS, IT IS STILL IMPOSSIBLE TO THINK OF NOT STARTING WITH A PEN AND PENCIL
ABOVE Helen Green, Time May Change Me, animation LEFT Phoebe Swan, Borough Market, lino print and Photoshop
digital platforms, spawning new genres as it goes. The rise of motion images is an avenue that looks set to grow. For example, Helen Green’s Time May Change Me GIF – a digital image file that supports animation – of David Bowie, which she created for the musician’s 68th birthday, went viral on the internet.
There’s also the continued rise of self-publishing and the use of illustration in >
ancestors told stories about themselves with symbols, ideograms and images. And, today, in the age of advertising with the digital revolution continuing apace, there is seemingly endless space, opportunity and need to tell stories with images.
TECHNOLOGY V TRADITION
The rise of digital technology has been a defining characteristic of the genre, with ever-improving software and hardware offering clear advantages to those working at speed on a brief. But whereas a few years ago traditional media artists feared the
reporting interest is falling in the work that looks obviously digital. And some clients specify they want traditional media, or the appearance of it, even if work is digital.”
Hand-drawn or painted images remain an important part of the process. For many, it’s still impossible to think of not starting with a pen or pencil, and the sketchbook remains the place where ideas are born. Digital and traditional media are learning to co-exist.
OFF THE PAGE
But technology isn’t going anywhere. Rather, it’s moving illustration off the page onto packaging, as brands look to move beyond corporate blandness and develop a visual personality. As for the content of images,
Fig notes that, although “quirky animals are forever with us”, there is an 1980s aesthetic emerging. “I see it at almost every art school I visit and in many portfolios at the AOI,” she says. “Some illustrators are oblivious, while others are mining the era for inspiration.”
GETTING IN AND GETTING ON
Trends and technology are ever-changing, but one thing remains constant: an illustrator needs to find their own voice and style to stand out from the crowd. “Clients with an abundance of choice can become lazy,” says Fig. “They become disinclined to take risks. Most dislike what they view as a ‘jack of all trades’. Where variety is appreciated is in the illustrator’s style embracing a wide variety
of subject matter. As commissioners’ workloads increase, the need for work to be recognisable and consistent will become a global necessity.”
But while the kind of commissions available changes, career advice for aspiring and emerging artists is consistent. “Make sure you know why you want an agent and what you’d like that agent to do for you,” says Fig. And you will still need a killer portfolio, she says, that “states in short order who you
example, Instagram is a vital place for commissioners to find work and keep in touch with what is happening. Figs says artists need to “build and maintain a web-based presence and have a website and/or at least one web portfolio.”
And there’s also blogging, which opens up a window to creative practice and will engage other like-minded souls and commissioners.
YOU WILL STILL NEED A KILLER PORTFOLIO THAT STATES IN SHORT ORDER WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU WORK
are, how you work and how potential clients can make use of your skills.”
Where the digital realm has changed illustrators’ careers forever – regardless of whether they work in digital or traditional media – is the necessity of using the internet and social media to build a profile. For
But don’t let off-line slip either, entering competitions to raise your profile and finding other outlets, such as exhibitions and online shops, are still important avenues.
The AOI is the UK’s professional body for illustration. A consultation with Fig is
free with membership. www.theaoi.com