Friday, July 2, 2010

Two weeks ago, I arrived in New York City with my portfolio in one hand and a stress ball in the other. I was on my way to a week long illustration seminar -- the perfect way to close out my time at SCAD.

And sure, I knew we were showing our books around. I knew we would have a chance to network, to shake a few hands, and to snap a few pictures. What I didn't know was that I was going to meet a group of illustrators, art directors, and designers who would completely change the way I thought about self promotion, portfolio organization, and client relations.

Our itinerary was chock-full of heavy hitters, and if you take a peek at the post below, you'll see just how many amazing people and places we had a chance to visit. Each stop on the trip was insightful and beneficial in its own right. Different personalities offered different advice and experiences. I think we all left the city feeling humbled, inspired, and eager to get back to illustrating. (Ok, we were completely wiped out, too.)

Caitlin did a great job of tackling the trip from start to finish, so I decided to just highlight a few people we talked to and make a list of the comments that resonated with me most.

Murray Tinkelman on Self Initiated Projects

•As illustrators, it's crucial that we always find time to work on personal projects that fascinate us
•Illustrators who generate their own projects and execute them with passion and professionalism will be able to work on their own terms and create their own employment
Draw what you love. Simple as that. If you take a genuine interest in your subject matter, your work will be honest, alive, and original. Art directors pick up on that sort of thing!

Paul Jean & Rodrigo Honeywell, NY Times

•Your relationship with the art director is important. Be direct, be dependable, be down to earth. It's important for an AD and an illustrator to have a good working relationship because each is depending on the other to pull something fantastic off in a short time frame
•The art director has to sell your idea to editors before giving you the green light. Editors aren't artists, so your sketches need to be clear and indicate the final aesthetic as much as possible -- especially when you're not an established illustrator
• Editorial art directors prefer to see IDEAS over pretty pictures. You may create beautiful illustrations, but if there's no concept or context, they will often look elsewhere to hire

Charles Hively, 3x3
• It's the responsibility of illustrators to revitalize our field and show art directors that illustration is vital to the success of their publications
• We have to accomplish this through consistent and frequent self promotion -- regular e-mail blasts, mailers, or announcements about new work
• When organizing a portfolio, you need to be highly critical of your own work. Include only the best of the best -- scrutinize your pieces from every angle, detail by detail. Even if this knocks your numbers down, trust your most self-critical instincts
• Most art directors would rather see a book with six brilliant images than a book with 15 images, some of which are mediocre


Ever since I've been home, I've been illustrating furiously. I'm pushing my portfolio out there with every resource I have available, and as a result, I'm beginning to get phone calls for work. Who knew?

This trip to New York was more than just a fun cap-off to my time in the illustration department. It was an electric introduction into the field -- invigorating, eye opening, and more inspiring than I ever could have imagined. I now have my sights set on moving to New York, and until I get there, I'll be visiting regularly, knocking on doors and getting my work in front of people.

A special thanks to Durwin Talon, a top notch professor, mentor and friend during my time at SCAD. You pulled together a fantastic seminar, and I feel so grateful to have been a part of this last trip with you.


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