Becoming a Professional Illustrator: What Careers Are Available?
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If you’ve ever had your heart set on turning a passion into a source of income; a career as an illustrator may be for you.
Illustrators get to explore their creativity everyday, turning ideas into visuals for a range of clients and across different mediums. Explore some of the most common illustrator professions.
Professional Illustration Careers
It’s not only the entertainment and advertising industries that have need of artists. The diagrams found in medical journals and user manuals were drawn by professional illustrators, as well as the sketches depicting courtroom proceedings. It’s a diverse profession, and one that grants its practitioners the chance to work in a variety of mediums. Here’s just a few of the career paths available to professional illustrators.
According to Guy Hansen, curator of the Bringing the House Down exhibition: “Cartoons are now one of the most important weapons in a newspaper’s armoury of political analysis”. By drawing the audience’s attention to important issues and cutting proud politicians down to size with satire, political cartoonists play a vital role in ensuring the media fulfils its function as “the Fourth Estate”. Australia has a rich history of political cartooning. In 1889, pro-labor cartoons played a role in spurring Australians to action, prompting a 30,000 pound donation to the London docker’s strike that helped ensure its success. And in 1924, the world’s first society of cartoonists – the Black and White Artists Society, was formed in Sydney. Political cartooning is a form of journalism as well as art, so the cartoonist needs to be knowledgeable about current affairs. They should also be familiar with the illustrative style of their art, such as the use of humorous caricatures that emphasise certain recognisable qualities of the political figures being portrayed.
Whether it’s the educational images found in science textbooks, or the descriptive diagrams utilised in instruction manuals, the work of the technical illustrator is invaluable to anyone attempting to make sense of complex information. Accuracy and detail is the aim of technical illustration, rather than emotional engagement. As such, technical illustrators will need to collaborate with industry professionals, and may even have the opportunity to visit manufacturing plants and construction sites to see how things are built. A great career choice for those who enjoy combining professional illustration with extensive research.
Book illustrators are usually employed by children’s book publishers, though certain genres may offer the opportunity to work on more adult-oriented material. Tibet: Through the Red Box is an example of a picture book aimed at adults, and history books may incorporate illustrations depicting various ancient cities and warrior apparel. Book illustrators need to be able to visualise appropriate imagery in response to the books they intend to illustrate. Finding a style that appeals to children can be an especially challenging, though rewarding task.
Becoming an Illustrator
According to Nate Williams, professional illustrators require a consistent style, technical skills, the ability to market themselves, and enthusiasm for their work. Social media presents an invaluable marketing tool, but your first step to establishing an online presence should be to start a website or blog showcasing your work. Some form of post-secondary training is highly recommended. A course in illustration can help refine your technical skills as well as provide an opportunity to network. According to the Australian Visa Bureau, qualified illustrators are in short supply throughout the country.