What is an illustrator process of work?
For 7 years now I had the chance to draw lots and lots of lines for a various range of clients. From big agencies to tiny but exquisite niche brands. It is always about giving the most tailored illustration possible to the client.
So before starting any project, I would gather as much information on the subject and on the client as possible. Photos of course, but also the history of the agency, the story of the final client, to whom are the illustrations for, etc …
The questions are what do we try to say, what is the story behind those future illustrations?
We usually organize a start call. It is a great way to present ourselves even though it always scares me, even after seven years ^^.
At that time the client should have a brief to present. It will contain their expectation but also inspirations, references of work they like, etc. All that is super important for me to feel the project.
Then I would start sketching. I usually only provide one sketch. I don’t believe in the three sketches proposition. For me, it may show that you haven’t figured out properly your client's needs. One clean, sharp precise sketch is worth three unsure ones. But once again if you feel like you need three sketches to be sure, do it, there are no rules to be honest.
After this step, I would ask for some feedback from the client. If everything is fine I would go on to the finalization or I would make amends if necessary. I would repeat this stage for the finalization.
Et voila! An illustration ready to be used for edition, publicity, communication…
What tools are you using?
At first pen and paper but after my first clients, and the cadency going on with it, I rapidly switched on numerical tools.
I’m now working on an iPad, on. It is quite a wonderful software. It is really easy to handle and it gives so much liberty to draw, redraw, do, undo, with any type of brush you want. I usually use 3 of them, to be honest as my work is to draw in black and white.
What files do you provide?
For the document format, I usually provide a TIFF or a JPEG for simple use of the illustration like for the inside of a book.
If the client wants an animation, I have to anticipate it at the beginning, creating lots of the different elements of the illustrations on different layers with a background so the animator can work her/his magic.
It could also be an AI if the client wants a vectorized illustration.
Over the years I got an increasing demand for vectorized illustrations.
A vectorization would be required for re-scalable illustrations such as logos or illustrations that need to be on big publicity panels for example.
I’m now fully able to provide this specificity with a high-quality and detailed result. It is usually the problem with vectorization. Not only do you lose the detailed aspect but you also lose the spirit that goes with the illustrations. You won’t lose anything with me I promise ^^.
How long does it take to create an illustration?
Although my work is a bit time-consuming after seven years of practice, plus the use of an iPad, I managed to speed up the process a lot, and so I’m totally capable to adjust my work for tight deadlines now.
It is funny because a lot of my projects are urgent work. Not that it is something that I particularly like but I’m quite good at it. Whenever it is the weekend or the holidays, my client will have their illustrations delivered on time.
I believe that it is a great part of my service. Being a professional illustrator means to me, punctuality, reactivity, and qualitative work.
In seven years I may have delivered two or three illustrations a day later which bothered me way more than my client at the time ^^
So don’t hesitate to contact me even if you have a super short deadline. Once I delivered 13 illustrations (sketched/modified/finalized/vectorized) within five days! So try me! ^^
What is a black-and-white line work style?
What is my style? I wouldn’t say I have a particular style. I would say that I work with lines. I’m considering myself an applied illustrator which means that I will adapt my style to the client's wish.
Sometimes my client asks for a simple clean and readable line, the aim would be to have an illustrative style that speaks to the majority of people while keeping this handmade feeling. It is the case for the work realized for the BBCStorywork for the Blancpaing timeline. It is also the case for Ralph Lauren’s building illustration for a shop opening in Berlin.
Sometimes my clients would ask for some highly detailed line work like the Australian wine label Ravensworth realized for Cloudyco. Complex and intertwined line work is my favorite! Not so vectorizable though ^^
Sometimes it is even a precise era that my client wants. The Spanish gallery at Aukland Wallpaper project is one of them. The demand was having the XVI century engraving style feeling. I search in my pdf books and found the perfect one, a book on flowers from the XVI century! Loving those books would be a euphemism. I adore them. I have now quite a library of them. They are a great source of inspiration for me.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From my ancient PDF library as told before. I would generally say the aesthetic of the XIXth and the XXth centuries, the maximalism of ornaments at every corner of the buildings, pages, and bills inspires me.
So many artists are inspiring me, not just in an illustrative style. It can be textile artists, embroiderers, straw weaving, musician of course….pretty much everything is inspiring.
I would also say from my way of life. I live in a contemporary yurt in the forest, south France. I live surrounded by trees and flowers and so I am keener to draw them more than drawing something urban. Botanic is one of my favorite subjects though it is not asked frequently. I think that most of the time the client will think it is easy to find a botanical drawing for free. So why ask an illustrator to do it? Well, whatever suits you but it will not be perfectly perfect.
How to work with my Agents?
I am so grateful to work with these incredible people for seven years now! It is always bliss.
I know it can be stressful to hear that there is an agent in the group of discussion because you may think oh, it will be so much more expensive. But not necessarily no.
James, Kim & Katie are mainly here to help us during the creative process. And they are super nice ^^
They usually are the first contact of the clients, asking about their illustration needs, for what purpose, for how long, where & when.
All of that will help us determine a timeline and a budget. It will make the first selection of projects. But it is for the best. We are here to make high-quality work. That implies implicated clients, a proper timeline, and if not a proper budget.
To resume they hugely facilitate the work process and the communication between me and my clients. Some clients of big companies like Mcgarry Bowen, Sainsbury, Havas even prefer working with agents because it ensures them smooth projects.
How to find an agent?
If you are a young (or not ^^) illustrator and you wish to find an agent here are some modest pieces of advice.
I would say first choose your style. watercolor, hyperrealism, contemporary illustration, color, black and white… whatever suit you but keep working and searching in one direction. I feel like a client would have more confidence in an illustrator that is quite a master in its domain than a person who does a lot of different stuff but it is only my opinion.
Then I would say build a strong portfolio showing your skills: Persons, botanic, cars, ambiance. Some illustrators are even just specialized in one particular era like highly precise medical illustrations. Those are for medical supplies like medical books, science popularization…how fascinating!
The next step would be to choose an agency. A good move would be to search for an agency where there are enough illustrators (that means they have a good working flow) but not too many people in your style. That way they may consider adding you to develop their range of illustrative propositions.
Then wait and see! And also multiply your demands, re-send emails.
Having an agent is like a relationship. It takes time to find the perfect balance. It took me six years. And sometimes it does not work. That’s life, It can not work every time. Then it is time to go separate ways.
But to be honest it is also a question of chance. I had a huge chance seven years ago when Folio came to recruit us. I won’t put everything on hard-working and talent. Because there is more talented person out there who won’t have that chance.