The 5 most important lessons in becoming an illustrator

I’m going to share the 5 most important lessons in becoming an illustrator with you, by telling you how I became a successful mascot designer.

Lesson number one: Just start.

In March 2007 I was newly married and was looking for a way to bring in more income. I enjoyed art and was a big doodler. On a whim, I decided to start  illustrating. The problem is that I really did not have the skill sets to be an illustrator. I could draw from life, but an illustrator needs so much more. Since no one told me that I couldn’t illustrate, I went ahead and put a portfolio together. It was horrible. Luckily, no one told me that either. I put my portfolio up on guru.com. After a long time, I actually found someone who wanted to give me money to draw something. The pay was low but the project was huge. I had to draw 120 drawings for a children’s book series. This was the beginning of a very successful illustration career. I would not have had this career if I had not just started.

 

Lesson two: Be consistent and manage your time.

To create 120 illustrations was an enormous task. I set weekly deadlines. I decided to finish 4 illustrations per week. I don’t think I ever missed a deadline. This kept the client happy, and helped me get through the mountain of work I had ahead of me. It also kept me motivated because I was not thinking about the full 120 drawings all the time. I was only thinking about the four drawings I had to do that week.

 

Lesson three: Always be learning.

Before beginning to work every night, I would look for free tutorials online. The ones that I liked best were the short ones. I looked for tutorials that basically contained one gem of an idea. Nothing too complicated. I then tried to implement the new idea that week. As I tried to use what I learned, ideas turned into skills. I mastered one skill at a time.  The improvement was slow but steady. I really loved looking back and seeing the first illustrations and comparing them to where I was at. (I still do that now)

 

Lesson four: Break big tasks up into smaller sub tasks.

How this all worked was, I was breaking up a gigantic task of ‘Becoming an illustrator’ into small sub tasks. I needed to learn how to draw characters that looked consistent in a number of different poses. I needed to understand how to compose a picture in a successful way. I needed to understand color.

I broke each of these skills up into smaller sub skills. Character drawing was broken up into:

  1. How to draw forms using construction lines and other landmarks.
  2.  How to draw stick figures to create interesting poses.
  3.  How to draw features. etc. etc.

I think you get the picture. Really, you can learn anything by breaking up big skills into smaller sub skills.

 

Lesson five: Prioritize

When I was learning these new skills, I was constantly working on my biggest weakness. I first worked on character design. I then worked on composition. Color was next. I was constantly jumping from skill to skill. This kept me from getting bored with the learning process. I didn’t have the time to master one skill at a time because they all needed so much work. Instead I settled for some level of improvement.

After I completed the 120 drawings, I considered myself a mediocre illustrator. At that point I was good enough to contact children’s book publishers. My prices went up and so did my demand.

I still learn this way today. I am constantly looking to improve my trade. I now focus my daily learning sessions on how to market a creative business effectively. I learn something every day and constantly try to implement what I learn.

Are planning to be a creative professional? How are you going about it? Let me know in the comments.

 

Here are some resources that I used to improve my illustration work. Some of these might be a little old, but here are some resources:

Sycra Yasin

This is Sycra’s youtube channel. It is pure gold.

Rad Sechrist 

More pure gold. Rad shares plenty about anatomy and character design.

Cntrl+paint

Really short videos mainly focusing on digital painting.

 

Are crowdsourcing sites killing the design industry?

Picture the following scene. A potential client contacts you for a design project. You send your quote and wait. A day or two pass, and your client gets back to you. Instead of you, he is going to work with a designer he found on fiver.com. The designer on fiverr undercuts you by about 500%.

This can be frustrating. Having said that, the better clients know that paying higher rates will give them better service. It will also give them a higher quality design. This means that there are clients out there who have higher budgets and are willing to pay decent rates. They do exist even with the existence of crowdsourcing.

On the other hand, crowdsourcing sites are great if you want to test your skills out or even learn while getting paid! When I got married I was barely making a living. I needed another income. Without thinking I put up some drawings on a crowdsourcing site. One fine day I got a response from an eager client. She had written 32 short stories and wanted them all illustrated. I didn’t really know how to illustrate well. I began illustrating at night. The work sucked, but the client was happy. 120 drawings later and I had become a mediocre illustrator. What is amazing about this is that I was being paid to learn a trade. One more project and my work had improved to the point where I was able to contact publishers. Crowdsourcing gave me the skills to be a children’s book illustrator.

This is how I got my start as a designer and illustrator. Once I started working for publishers, I had moved on from needing the crowdsourcing sites. My work had reached a much higher level and I was able to be more selective with my projects.

 

Need mascot design? Click here to see my portfolio. Click here to contact me.

#design #mascot

Why I don’t design mascots for $60

I was recently asked to quote a price for an integrated logo/mascot design. After I sent him my quote, he said I was way out of his budget and he was going with a designer he found on fiverr.com. The entire job would be done for $60. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?
The answer is, yes it is too good to be true. Lets examine where the $60 goes.
When you spend $60 on a logo and mascot, there are things that you have to consider. The average graphic design rates are between $40 and $60 and hour. That means the designer has at best an hour and a half to create the whole package from initial sketches to final artwork! Even if he takes $20 an hour he only has three hours. Great work takes WAY more than three hours. That means he has to cut a LOT of corners.
Here are a few common problems with cheap logo/mascot design.
1. The design is generic. The designer doesn’t have time to make something unique to your business. He only has one way of working and no time to invent. That means your logo will pretty much look like everyone else’s logo. That defeats the whole point of having a logo in the first place.
2. Little attention has been placed on the design of the text. The designer merely chose a font. This means the logo expresses very little or nothing about the company. Again that defeats the whole point of having a logo.
3. There is no integration between the characters and the text. That means it has no professional finish. If your logo doesn’t look professional,  what does that express about your business?
The reason why I charge higher rates is I need more time to get the design to tell a story. That story should express something about your business. Remember, your branding is the first thing people see. First impressions make a lasting impact. To create a highly polished professional image takes time and skill. 
Here is an example of a mascot and logo that I designed. Note how I have integrated the characters into the logo. They occupy their own space but are still part of the overall design. The colours are consistent. That ties the whole thing together. I spent a lot of time designing the text. It looks professional yet still playful. The text definitely looks branded and could appear on all of the companies branding.
Here is a second example of a integrated logo/mascot I designed. Here my intention was that the character would have so much attitude it would jump off the page. That is how the mascot helps to tell the story of the brand.
Need mascot design? Contact me here, or email me at darrellmordecai@gmail.com
#mascot design #design #logo design #branding