I recently spent an interesting day with final-year illustration students at Southampton Solent University. I was invited by tutor Jonny Hannah to give them tips on how to make it in illustration and to crit a self-promotional project.
I had reservations about encouraging the students to try to make a living out of illustration, having witnessed a decline in commissioning. Many years ago, I worked at the Radio Times where we commissioned illustrators by the ’arm full’, but those glory days have long gone.
However, what today’s illustration students have in their favour is technology – few people had a mobile phone 15 years ago, and you had to have a land line and a permanent address to qualify for one.
It was also difficult for illustrators to operate outside London. Artwork had to be delivered by hand or by messenger – compare that with the ease of e-mailing work. Self-promotion is now also easier and cheaper, and with access to a half-decent colour printer, illustrators can reach scores of potential clients.
I’ve recently seen more illustrators selling work as limited editions and working in co-operatives, possibly combining this with part-time teaching. Given this scenario, they can have a fulfilling career in illustration.
One point worth noting is that while, as the work shown here demonstrates, the Southampton Solent illustrators can illustrate, few can design. Their promotional pieces therefore fell short of the mark in terms of presentation. Maybe they should have worked with the graphics department…