5 tips on How to earn a Healthy living as an Illustrator

I gave a talk at the Brit school at the end of 2017 and I’ve been meaning to turn it into a blog post ever since but…time! Anyway the AOI’s Empowerment campaign has got me all cranked up in the best possible way! Illustration is most definitely #notahobby but if people continue to work for clients for very little money it will devalue the whole industry. Making it difficult for all, including established illustrators to make a living. Social media has had a massive impact on this; as companies expect you to deliver both content and marketing (your following / audience) to a client for less for than the average editorial web piece?!? Anyway I don’t want to get side tracked with a rant on this topic when it’s already been covered brilliantly by Handsome frank here I want to talk about making a sustainable income as an illustrator, paying your rent or mortgage, covering your bills and having some left over to live a happy healthy life, because that’s the goal right?!

Slide from my talk at the Brit School’s Graphic Design department

Slide from my talk at the Brit School’s Graphic Design department

  1. So the most important rule and I’m saying this as someone who spent ages not doing this…. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE. When someone comes at you with a fee even if they say it’s locked down and immovable. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? You can and should feel comfortable to negotiate the fee, the deadline and the parameters of the job eg; deliver 3 scenes etc. You are your own boss, yes this person is your client but you are working together to deliver. So learn to negotiate, it’s empowering plus it will also save you a headache down the road when you realise you haven’t clearly discussed what you are expected to deliver.

  2. Learn about CONTRACTS. Joining the AOI was the best decision and an eye opener for me as I learned to negotiate contracts; yep we aren’t finished with negotiating yet! The AOI have checked and advised me on so many contracts that I’m now quite literate with understanding what is and isn’t working for me. This has given me more confidence in negotiating and most importantly protecting my rights to my own works. This is why my work is always licensed to clients within these rules; Length of usage eg: 3 years, Type of usage eg: web and finally Region of usage eg: Worldwide. Get literate on these matters as they are central to your career!

Professional traits to make it as an illustrator; Organised, Motivated and Entrepreneurial

Professional traits to make it as an illustrator; Organised, Motivated and Entrepreneurial

3. Go out of your comfort zone on the regular, this might be through paid gigs or personal projects it’s great to give things a go. Mind’s are shifting from seeing people as ‘Jack’s of all trades’ to a Multi- Hyphenates thanks to Emma Gannon’s multi hypen method this is all about diversifying your income streams and future proofing your career, because when one line goes quiet another one will buzz! I know this isn’t for everyone but it really works for me; one month I’ll focus on developing new products for my online shop for example I’m at the screen printing studio and the following month I’m focussed on commissions. What’s great is that these projects all feed and influence each other, they also get you noticed by a different audience’s potentially leading to more jobs!

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4. Self Promotion, I know this doesn’t come naturally which is why it’s good to mentally separate your self (personal) from your work (commercial) Selling in person at illustration fairs and craft markets has definitely helped me get my head around this and it’s also a great way to self promote IRL. It’s not ALL about instagram! It’s also a good idea to have a mailing list as a direct line to people who have commissioned you or bought from you before I send out a fun filled email once a month if you’re interested you can sign up here. In the name of self promotion I also tried my hand at painting a mural last year, which I don’t think led to any work… yet! But it was fab for getting me out of my comfort zone! Proper post is another good way to promote yourself...I hear! I finally did this recently and so far I’ve already had one job come through, woop woop! Other ways include; collaborations with brands, big and small, applying to get featured on relevant design blogs and magazines etc Go for it all!!

Mail out for Art Director’s and Brands I’d love to work with

Mail out for Art Director’s and Brands I’d love to work with

5. Lastly where would we be without SUPPORT! I am lucky to have an amazing partner who I met at art school and who’s opinion I value above all others, I’m also lucky to have friends who are fellow creatives and happy to share a moan about creative woes. Its super important having someone to check Ideas and brain storm with, especially as illustration can be lonely work. If you’re struggling to find someone then sitting on a market stall next to the right person can be like therapy! Or check this blogpost for ideas about meet-ups there is loads of great ones out there!

Ok I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a link to the AOI’s Code of Conduct for Illustrators this is rules to live by in terms of professionalism and protecting the industry and everyone should swear an oath by them!

Let me know if you have any questions below, or if you’d like me to expand on any of these topics?!

Thanks for reading! Jacqueline x

5 years Freelance; a recap and lessons learned

I was making a presentation recently for a talk at UAL for their Careers and Employability department, the topic was; ‘Buy me! Turn your creativity into sellable products’. I decided to present a timeline of how my products, website and photography have evolved and it was such an interesting exercise! Then this week I realised it’s been 5 years since I left my full time job. It’s hard to pin point when I started making my own products as I’ve always enjoyed a bit of crafting but I know that 9 months later; the following Christmas I did my first market selling note books that I’d hand bound in my own fabric. But I’d say that I launched the product side of my business the following May 2015 when I exhibited at the trade show; Pulse on UAL’s group stand. I did the fair hoping to get new clients, but I also started to understand the world of products and wholesale and that I could be a part of that through applying my designs to products. 

First collections launched at Pulse May 2015

First collections launched at Pulse May 2015

Website evolution Left top and bottom were Big cartel stores linked to my website and on the left you can see my current shop from 2018, The most important thing that has changed is my ability to take and style photos!

Website evolution Left top and bottom were Big cartel stores linked to my website and on the left you can see my current shop from 2018, The most important thing that has changed is my ability to take and style photos!

It’s worth noting that making products has always been the ‘side hustle’ to my main income. When I first left my full time job in 2014 (I was one of two textile designers at Oasis Fashions and responsible for half the collection) it was to become a freelance print designer and continue on with what I’d been doing the previous six years. My main clients were high street fashion and I quickly began to feel frustrated, as I’d left to pursue more creative projects, but I was doing the same thing. So I had to start creating the work that I wanted to see in my portfolio, without a client, solely for myself and with the intention to sell! 

2017: expanded range experimenting with new product types

2017: expanded range experimenting with new product types

Last year I worked hard on my product range, styling and photography adding colour and fun to my website

Last year I worked hard on my product range, styling and photography adding colour and fun to my website

That’s where the products began, I needed to show people my ideas and what I can do in the hopes that eventually I would simply be commissioned for my designs and no longer need to make the products. It’s funny because at some point that started happening, PHEW! (Breathe big sigh of relief) But I still carried on designing and making the products, It has became a core pillar of my practice influencing my commissioned work and feeding me creatively, as well as challenging me technically. 

2018: Big variety of products maybe it’s time to simplify?

2018: Big variety of products maybe it’s time to simplify?

I’m now looking to wind down and simplify areas of my product range so that I can focus on commissioned work but I know that creating my own products and designs will always feed and improve my practice as a whole. Big thanks to the Careers and employability team at UAL for supporting me initially in exhibiting at Pulse and for inviting me to present and reflect on this! 

Are you on a product making journey? Do you want to hear more about this? If you have a questions comment below and I’ll get back to you! :D Jacqueline

Markets have been an important way to exhibit my work here I am at The London Illustration Fair Dec 2018

Markets have been an important way to exhibit my work here I am at The London Illustration Fair Dec 2018

Cotswolds Break!

You’d think a trip to the Cotswolds in February would be in invitation for snow but the UK is having an alarming (global warming) heatwave this Feb so we actually had lovely weather! We decided to go as we’ve never been, we love a road trip and to celebrate our 12 year anniversary!

A scenic drive back to London revealed this beauty in Dorchester upon Thames!

A scenic drive back to London revealed this beauty in Dorchester upon Thames!

So the Cotswolds totally lived up to it’s ‘chocolate box’ reputation with each village cuter than the last! We stayed in South Cerney which seemed to be a perfect example of an English village complete with village hall and cute river! Our expeditions began with Burford which is a picturesque single high st on a hill filled with shops to delight tourists including a brush shop! Lynwood & Co was a delight with delicious coffee and foodie snacks!

Photographs of architectural and typographic things that caught my eye in the cotswolds!

Photographs of architectural and typographic things that caught my eye in the cotswolds!

Next we trundled over to Dyrham Park as we wanted to catch a stately home while we were there; It was interesting for me, as to see the house you have to take a tour. Which I would normally avoid but it was super informative and felt like catching a glimpse into past lives of the super rich! The grounds also hold hundreds of deer that you can see trotting about in the distance!

A Rummage through Oxfam Bookshops almost always pays off!

A Rummage through Oxfam Bookshops almost always pays off!

On our last full day we were determined to look around some antique shops so headed to Stow-on-the-Wold unfortunately like our experiences elsewhere in the Cotswolds Antique shops are more akin to museums and bare hefty price tags! But on the bright side that makes them all the more interesting to look around and there were a few amazing ones in Stow-on-the-Wold Including Baggott Antiques Luckily on our way back to London we passed through Wallingford where there is an Oxfam bookshop and I found this awesome Natural History book for a bargain price of £9 (Books are my weakness!) We also ate at The Old Post Office which was delicious!

Antique shops in the Cotswolds are more akin to Museums!

Antique shops in the Cotswolds are more akin to Museums!

Here is my sketchbook spread documenting our time there; mainly my favourite buildings and antiques! All the Staffordshire Ceramics were definitely the most inspiring thing as well as the little architectural details like lions and gargoyles plus the cute doggos everywhere! Definitely up for more staycations in the UK!

A sketchbook spread from my time there

A sketchbook spread from my time there

Drawing trip with Caran d'Ache

When I received an email inviting me on a trip to Geneva to look around the Caran d’Ache Factory my first thought was this is too good to be true!

Charlotte Ager, Jacqueline Colley and Maria Ines Gul Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Charlotte Ager, Jacqueline Colley and Maria Ines Gul Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

But I said yes and VERY surreal but last week I was flown to Geneva with 7 other illustrators! First stop the Caran d’Ache factory where we were greeted by this amazing display of the Caran d’Ache range (below) from 1915! I drool over vintage packaging at the best of times so this was heaven! Plus lots of vintage graphics from their posters through the years were all around! Swoon!

I always love vintage advertising and packaging!

I always love vintage advertising and packaging!

But then we get to the REALLY good bit; meeting Eric Vitus whose actual job title is ‘Master of Colours’! He showed us around the factory explaining how and why the Caran d’ache products are manufactured in the way that they are! Basically always working towards maximum colour saturation, so interesting! Check out the pigments below which were SO saturated my camera struggled to focus!

So much colour inspiration around the factory!

So much colour inspiration around the factory!

Here’s me in a colour induced craze trying to snap all the colourful things! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Here’s me in a colour induced craze trying to snap all the colourful things! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

I loved watching all the mechanised processes such as pencil sharpening on an industrial scale! Check out this little video I put together using small clips taken on my phone! Editing skillz ;)

A very Talented bunch that I got to hang out with! From Left: Mr Slow Boy, Jacqueline Colley, Maria-Ines Gul, Nina Cosford, Bodil Jane, Jackie Diedam Below; Charlotte Ager and Joey Yu. Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

A very Talented bunch that I got to hang out with! From Left: Mr Slow Boy, Jacqueline Colley, Maria-Ines Gul, Nina Cosford, Bodil Jane, Jackie Diedam Below; Charlotte Ager and Joey Yu. Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Next up we went to the Caran d’Ache house for some delicious lunch and then an amazing demonstration of the ways in which the products can be used! Ambassador for the brand Adrian Weber showed us some really interesting techniques such as using the water soluble aspects of some of the Supracolor and Neocolor 2 as well as demonstrating how saturated the colours are! Mmmmmmm! Then it was play time as we got to experiment with the range!

Studio Time! Beaut drawings by Mr Slow boy & Jackie Diedam

Studio Time! Beaut drawings by Mr Slow boy & Jackie Diedam

Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

I was super nervous to draw especially as I was surrounded by all these amazing illustrators! >.< Luckily I got on with it and started doodling some of the bits I’d been messing around with in my sketchbook; matchbooks and travel ephemera are my current obsession! I really enjoyed working with the Luminance colour pencils which are so vivid in colour which I’m ALL about! I actually started experimenting with combining these with the Fibralo brush markers and loved the effect so I’ll definetly be doing more of that in my work!

Having a play with ALL the products! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Having a play with ALL the products! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Experimenting with Neo Colour 1, Luminance pencils and Fibralo Brush markers

Experimenting with Neo Colour 1, Luminance pencils and Fibralo Brush markers

Here is the sketchbook spread that I was working on while on the trip! This is all drawn using Supracolor Soft pencils!

Here is the sketchbook spread that I was working on while on the trip! This is all drawn using Supracolor Soft pencils!

I really liked what I came up with in my sketchbook and during the drawing session so I decided to work up some final illustrations using Luminance colour pencils that I bought at the Caran d’Ache shop on the trip! Again lots’s of paper ephemera such as tickets, the little signage bits that you find on Aeroplanes plus some of the awesome vintage typography that I saw at the Caran d’Ache head office!

A visual travel journal!

A visual travel journal!

Wow! such an incredible and inspiring trip, I want to say a massive thank you to the Caran d’Ache team and the Massey Partnership who arranged this and invited me along! THANK YOU!! :D

Making a Matchbook Mural

What I learned from my first experience; designing and painting a wall mural

So this all started because I’d been having a couple of quiet days / weeks on the freelance illustration front, that tends to drive me crazy, so I need a project! Time for me to make some personal work and ping out some emails to potential clients! Caran d’ache had sent me a set of their Supracolor pencils in limited edition colours so I cracked them out and started illustrating some vintage matchbooks that I picked up in the US you can see them and my illo’s below:

Flea market finds are the best finds!

Flea market finds are the best finds!

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That was cool and it all would have stopped there but one of the emails I’d sent out had been to Global Street Art about getting a wall space to paint on. (I’d love to paint murals to commission but I need to get some in my portfolio!) GSA were happy for me to take a wall space so now the panic started setting in; I didn't know what to paint or if I really could paint a wall!?

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I decided to do something completely new and took the small sketches I’d made and scaled each one up to A4 to see how they looked big! I always like practicing drawing something to figure out how I want it to look, plus knowing that I would need to paint these large scale made this a good exercise.

However the draw back is that it’s so easy to sneak in more detail (especially if you’re a maximalist like me!) and working in my usual medium of felt tips. In hindsight I know that these details will be hard to achieve when it comes to painting.

Plus mainly, really time consuming, how fine a brush do you really want to work with when people are seeing your art from across the street!?

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Once I’d got these sketches done and into a layout I had a plan for my wall mural and there was no more procrastination to do,

I went to see the space…

Wow! That is a big old intimidating wall! I felt scared…! At this point that I put a call out on Social Media for HELP! This wall was too big for me alone!

But I started hearing back from awesome creative ladies whose work I love and I thought well hang on instead of helping me painting my design on a couple of panels why don’t we just fill this corner with colour!?!?

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So I began turning these lovely offers of help into fellow mural artists! I also prepped the space, sorted the colour palette and started painting my Matchbooks, end of Day 1! On Day 2 Aleesha Nandhra joined which was perfect as she is a fellow matchbox lover and the theme was set! She smashed out her design in a day; absolute pro and it looks awesome…!!!

On day three wall mural regular Natasha Nuttall joined in the fun and took inspiration from the strike paper’s on the side of matchboxes and created a dotty design which tied the two walls together and seriously cheers up this little Shoreditch corner! To see the Wall Mural in person head to 10 Rivington St, but be quick! These walls get turned over fast!

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