Self publishing author clients, and versatile illustrators

  • This year I have worked only with self publishing clients. I’ve not got an agent yet and could probably come up with a million excuses why. It’s been good work however.

    I’m writing this because I’m starting to wonder about my portfolio and needing to tighten it up. I’ve got too many styles. I can remember the process for each one...and Work new ones to death till moving on. Then I combine approaches. Anyway, result is there’s a lot.

    As I’ve worked with the clients, I’ve tried to push them towards one style or other. Or they have seen one of my pieces. But they don’t usually follow me to the style I want. And they don’t ask me to work for the style they discovered me through. Instead they want something different, and have envisaged their book in a particular style.

    Often they can’t afford an agency where one agent has access to many artists who have unique style. That’s where I step in.
    So here’s my thoughts.

    First, I am still on the fence, but I am wondering if becoming known as the person who can do bespoke styles is what sets me apart as opposed to the style itself.

    Secondly, I follow the author world, and although still in its infancy (pun intended) children’s Self publishing seems to be following the trend of adult fiction self publishing. In other words we are going to be getting more people who don’t want an agent for themselves; or work with an illustration agency. They will want to work with people they get on with and is flexible in their work to help them to create their vision.

    What do you think? And if I am right, what’s the best way of promotion and portfolio creation for a multi style and versatile illustrator working with self publishers? (For example, one thing I am finding is I am having to advise people on formats, printing process and even marketing....which is not my forte but I know more than they do so I am having to learn!)

  • I can't speak to a lot of this because I've not been in that situation, but maybe I can say something peripherally. If you love art its natural to want to do art and make a living at it if you can. Once you start making money, complications are introduced because you need it to live (atypical exceptions not included).

    There's a word for what you're describing and that word is technician. It's not a derogatory word in the least. It simply means that you mold yourself to the work rather than the work molding itself to you. Now I'm going to guess that because you do have particular visions for the artistic direction of the books that you work on, that this is not your ideal. You may have the ability to be malleable in your styles, but ultimately you want to reflect something more personal in your work.

    My suggestion is to take small steps. As an example, consider trying it out by offering one fewer style than you already do. Ideally, choose your least favorite if you can. Now keep taking small steps and nudge things where you want them to go. Keep your practical needs in mind, but keep your ideal as the goal.

  • @jazeps-tenis that’s a great idea

  • Having diverse styles allows for a diverse range of opportunities in terms of work produced, but more importantly, in terms of chances to get jobs - you are having some luck that the clients you are getting are requesting you to try the style they want even thou that's not your style. Wondering if in the long term that will be a healthy relationship for you: you may end up stuck in this situation where only self publishing authors hire you because they can try to get you to do their style, while big publishers will be searching for the artist that matches the style they want.

    That should not be the main philosophy guiding your way of developing your work, but it should be a way to make you try new things. Those new things includes styles, techniques and even types of art - nothing prevents a pen and paper or digital painting artist to try some clay sculpturing or even do some ballet. The different things, and in your case, styles you are capable of producing may end up mixing and becoming a new piece of work.

    Also, in the rapidly changing high tech world of nowadays, sometimes styles are also becoming obsolete or just very repetitive - simply because now we can see thousands of people that try the same style. Don't you feel like, sometimes if you open some artist portfolio and you see like 50 images that are about the same in terms of style, then you just quickly pass through the next new image she/he adds because if just feels like "ok... another one"?

    The only person preventing you from trying a different style is yourself. Even if you have a job that requires you to only do that style (e.g. being a manga illustrator you end up just doing manga - it can be quite diverse but it is still just manga) you can still try something else on your free time. Even if it's just during toilet break at work!

    Finally, careful with the philosophy of following your own style because it may be actually just an excuse you are giving to yourself to not try something else - you may actually like the other style as much as your own. I know a few artists that are caught in this issue and can't see their work develop much.

  • What you have to decide is how you want to represent yourself as an illustrator. Do you want to be known as someone who is versatile? You said yourself that you try to push your clients in a specific direction, only to have them push you in the direction of their vision. I don't know that I would call that having multiple styles, but more of being able to interpret a clients request to their satisfaction. That does speak positively to your skills as an artist. I guess a bit more clarity on your part would help in us helping you with your portfolio development. What direction do you want to go (being versatile or known for certain styles)? Where do you want to be years from now (working with only self publishers, or getting to a point where you have an agent)?

  • SVS OG

    There is a saying for this: Jack of all trades, master of none. (not saying you aren't a master of them all though fyi)

    If all your work is under the same umbrella I think it makes you appear as the master of that style and the client will expect that skill from you. It gives what you have to offer more clarity.

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