What are some unique ways you can apply your illustration skills?

  • SVS OG

    I've been thinking a lot lately about illustration and what I (and my skill set) can offer people.

    So, I know all the traditional ways illustrators make money--illustrating books/comics, ads and editorial work, selling prints. What are some of the less conventional things you've either done or heard of?

    I remember Will saying in one of his videos that one of the best ways to find a niche is to not just have one skill, but two--combine two things you are good at/interested in in order to find clients and make money. I feel this might be key to this discussion, but I feel like my brain is getting stuck.

    Any thoughts or ideas?

  • One thing I have been thinking about lately is science illustration. Your clients are museums, academia, research journals, museums, botanical gardens etc. My background is in science and I love to draw so I am learning more about this area of illustration.

  • I thought of breaking down the ideas about illustration skills to see where else they can apply. As an illustrator I believe you are expected to have a certain level of skill at:

    Technical Aspects of Illustration:

    • you know how to use tools to create things: they can be physical tools (paint, paper, sculpting, collage, etc), or digital tools (you know how to use software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP, KRITA, Paint Tool Sai, etc)

    At this point only, knowing how to use the tool doesn't mean you know what to do with the tool, but you can still be hired to do technical jobs - anything where the company or person hiring you will need you to press for them because they don't know how to press it themselves. It's not a bad thing, you get a job and that is good.

    Thinking Aspects of Illustration:

    • you know about colour theory, shape theory, composition theory. You know how to match colours and create a colour palette for a specific piece, you know how to arrange the elements such that its pleasant to look at and directs the eye to the point of interest, you know which angles are good and bad... and all of these other conceptual/theoretical aspects that we learn as artists.

    • you know how to tell stories. You can summarize a book page, a paragraph or a specific line into an illustration. Basically you know how to interpret things an make information better, so you understand about visualization.

    With all of these skills together, you can do things like:

    • Become a professional photographer (wedding photography, editorial photography)
    • Graphic Designer (you can make icons, logos, fliers, banners, posters, magazine layouting, covers)
    • Board Game designer (at least the artistic aspect of the game and maybe story writing - but you can also learn how to design the mechanics and test it)
    • Digital game designer (like board game designer, but you may not be able to do the programing part of the game)
    • Open a cafe and decorate it yourself, and produce all the marketing products yourself.
    • Start a toy/miniature company
    • Design displays for stores/companies
    • Basically search for any creative job in the market and try it if you think you fit!

    Now... many of the ways to create products out of your skills may actually be more than just a "one-man job" and some artists need to learn this (try making a board game entirely from scratch all by yourself and see how long it takes until you get it out somewhere).

    Also, some of the ways are about starting some sort of business, so you need to learn a bit of business skills too (@Will-Terry and some SVS videos emphasize this idea).

  • SVS OG

    My friend keeps mentioning illustrating family history stories. I do love family history but feel overwhelmed with it right now 🙂

  • I like woodworking and spoon carving, so could create some art to burn into the backs or handles of the spoons. One thing I have been wanting to try is linocut prints. Could do that on pieces of wood as a display piece.

  • Pro SVS OG

    Things I have done that are not listed here already: animation asset packs and storyboarding. There is a super-thriving market targeting corporations and medium-large organization of all kinds - normally via video or animation agencies - and not that many illustrators who can do asset-packs for animation or good-quality storyboarding.

  • SVS OG

    You can do your own merchandising. For people who just like character design or who don't want to create a story or world for the characters they draw, a good idea is to sell prints and merchandise like mugs, pillows, phone cases, stickers, t-shirts and greeting cards. Check out places like Etsy or print on demand sites to see what's being done and how you can bring something new to the table.
    There's also fashion design or perhaps personalized scrap booking art. You could cartoon someone's kids and print sheets of papers and stickers for their scrapbook. You can print your own shower curtains and fabrics now too. You could do an entire home in "storybook style" if that's your thing. I'll just mention that I've never seen any storybook style car decor that wasn't Disney related. (Tinkerbell window decals and so forth.)
    "Design" is a pretty big tree, and you could explore some of it's branches. haha

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