December 18, 2008

Getting Work as an Illustrator

From Frank Stockon's site

Sunday, December 14, 2008
I received the following email a while back from a friend I went to school with. It's a question I get asked semi-frequently, so I thought it would be better just to post it here.

My response to the email is specific to this artist's work, but I hope any of you who are interested in the topic to put yourself in the shoes of the person who sent the original email.

I've removed the illustrator's name for their privacy.

Hey Frank,

Got a question for ya. I gots me a new round of promo postcards burning holes in my pockets/desk/floor-where-t
hey're-strewn. I've sent a few out with some of the info I've gathered, but I thought I'd see if you could list off a few places/art directors that you recommend I hit up, especially while I'm still out here on the east. Whatcha thank? I'd much appreciate your recommendations as I'm sure you also know who's more receptive to newer people, my style, etc... Anything helps! Hit me up when you get a chance.

Hope all's well in NYC even if they did turn the waterfalls off, sad... I might be in town again at the end of the month. I'll give ya a call if so.

Thanks, C

Hey C!

I am sorry for not getting back to you sooner, the question you posed in that email was kind of a big one that isn't so easy to answer.

I checked out your site and the first thing I'd say about getting work is that you need to commit your portfolio site to one style of art. Your website reads more like a gallery painter's website than an illustrator's website because of the style and content of the work. I don't know where it could be used professionally.

As for narrowing it down to one style, I'd say just pick a handful of images you really enjoyed doing that represent what the work you're currently making or planning on making looks like. Simplicity is key for getting an art director's attention. They don't have time to wonder how they should use you and they don't like to think about what "style" they should ask for.

You'll get more bites if you're specific about what you do and if when you leave them they have a visual impression of what your work is like.

As for getting work, that's all promotion. I recommend buying a list (such as Adbase), or if you can't afford it, make a list of magazines you think are appropriate for your work. It's going to take some research on your part, but you have all the time in the world when you don't have any assignments (I know, I've been there!).

Once you have a list, the way to go about it is to regularly and methodically send promos--either email or postcards, every 45-60 days. Art directors want to be sure they're dealing with professionals, and that you're not a flash in the pan.

Another way of thinking about promotion is that you're a dude hitting on a hot babe (the magazine is the babe). When you make a pass at the her (by sending a postcard) and she likes it, the hot babe (magazine) thinks "hmmm... this is interesting..." but is not necessarily ready to jump right in the sack with you (i.e. hire you for a job).

So you have to be persistent. :)

By the way, don't expect any feedback as in "I like your postcard," because you're unlikely to get it. They'll just call you for a job in 6 - 12 months if they like your work and you've been doing what you need to be doing.

Lastly, the easiest jobs I've come across happen when you do email promos. They tend to be free jobs or very low paying, but they help you build your portfolio. You should be adding a minimum of one new piece to your site every month so there is a reason for the art directors to look at your site when you send an email or a postcard. It also keeps you fresh so that when you get the call you're not feeling rusty (unless you are Rusty).

I wish I could just give you names of people would hire you off the bat, but I don't really know anyone who's likely to do that. Sorry.

Anyway, best of luck to you and kick some ass!

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