Episode 2 - Am I Too Old To Get Started?

  • I had no idea Yuko Shimizu was such a hot illustrator. I watched an inking tutorial she did a while back and thought it was great, but I never went to her site. She has worked for about every top publication out there, yet she's so down to earth. I think age has nothing to do with it really. It's about loving something so much your just driven to do it .

  • I spent all of my 20s bouncing around various jobs (art framer, blacksmith, high school art teacher). Two years ago I took the plunge and decided to transition into full time illustration. I'm now 33 and scraping together a living as an early career science illustrator (currently working a 6-month contract for the lab of ornithology). I found this episode really encouraging and validating, as I took many of the same steps you mentioned in your "phases" while working a full-time teaching job. I also really appreciate the statements to the effect of "How much do you want it/what are you willing to sacrifice" because they land very close to home.

    Questions I'd love to hear you address further that tie into this episodes topic are:

    1.) Do you recommend getting hyper specialized or being a generalist? I have had a lot of luck so far having a generalist approach in my field (science illustration), but you guys sound pretty specialized in your approach - for example, you all seem to be proponents of knowing where you want to be even as early as your first year/phase 1. The reality of needing a job has sort of forced me to bounce around a lot (from museums to publications, from paleoart to ornithological illustrations, etc...) My strategy has always sort of been "apply for everything and choose your best options."

    2.) How do you deal with "imposter syndrome" in your early (or even mid/late) career. I liked (I think it was Lee's) four rules of "are you good", but I still find myself struggling despite meeting those criteria. I've heard from a lot of colleagues in similar stages of their career that they are struggling with this as well. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Loving the podcast, and I've shared it with both my colleagues and former students!

  • Great podcast!!

    I had a question about the master copy segment. A few of the artists in my top 5, also produce a lot of sketches for their work. Would it be a good idea to copy these works?

    Second, and I think I know the answer, does the master copy you've chosen news to be produced in the same medium as the original?

  • @jake-parker This podcast was a great encouragement and reminder that it's not too late to get started, or to improve on what I'm doing. I've been freelancing for 11 years now, and I'm an okay artist but a sucky businessman. You guys have inspired me to lift my game. As soon as I finish my university degree this year I'll be signing up for your SVS Learn classes. Thanks for all that you guys are doing.

  • I haven't listened to any of the podcasts yet (rectifying that in a minute) but I feel like you started these at the perfect time for me. I have just finished my first year as an illustration and animation student at uni. I'm 41 and although there are other mature students in my class I'm the only parent - I have a friend in the second year who is also a parent both of us single parents so we have kind of clung to each other as this year ended in a massive roller coaster of emotions for both of us. Although I am 20 years her senior we have both felt at times that we were kidding ourselves and that we couldn't do it. I've come out the other side loving my first year, emotionally drained, feeling like I've learnt loads but at the same time feeling like I know nothing at all - hence my slinking back here to make better use of SVS than I have over the summer.

    Whenever we went into the software classes (they use Photoshop, Illustrator, Dragon Frame etc etc) I really felt my lack of knowledge - I went in thinking Adobe just did some kind of something with PDF's - now I find out they rule my world and I am some kind of slave to all the mumbo jumbo. (Us older ones would grab a teenager to sit next to us in class)

    So in advance, thank you for these podcasts - I'm now going to re-sub and actually do the classes - I want to strut in throwing around my PS knowledge in September rather than blubbing that I don't know how to turn on the damn Apple machines. (PC user all the way here)

    Am I to old - I certainly feel it at the moment but am loving it all the same. Determined to get there (although where there is... I haven't decided yet!)

    I may be back once I've listened to the podcast 🙂

  • Guys, this post was great. I took particular interest in it since I am 41 and have been seriously pursuing illustration for the past 5 years thanks to the help and advice of you guys every step of the way!

    5 years ago I had a degree in Graphic Design and a life-time love of comics and drawing, I had been out of college for some time and after working for a few years had settled down at home to begin raising our family as a stay at home Mom. Even then I began getting my post cards ready to send out and even sent set, but I pretty much knew that my work wasn't ready. I laugh now just thinking about it because I know much more now than I did then about what is needed to be pro.
    Anyway, then I spent the next portion of my life pregnant and with babies and toddlers and no sleep....bringing us to the point 5 years ago when I discovered you guys one at a time and immediately started following all your advice.
    I also began reading every book I could get my hands on about productivity, creativity and getting things done. I read Seth Godin, Austin Kleon, Jon Acuff. I read about Small Wins and Willpower and Deep Work. I did everything ya'll said. I entered the third thursday contests back in the beginning, I got Will's tutorial back when you had to get it on his website. I watched all of Jake's youtube videos and I did the 100 things project (with mice) I took the Children's Book Illustration class, I got to the point where I could draw every day and fill multiple sketchbooks I made progress charts and I learned to ship. I completed inktobers the last couple of years and made one into a coloring book that I sold to all my friends. I’ve made calendars, and last but not least I finished my dummy book for my children's book that I have worked on and started over and worked on again since all this began.

    All that to say. I have doubted myself the entire time, and still do, but I keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward. I am still not to the point where I can do it all well, but I am so much happier with my work now than I was 5 years ago.
    The best part of all is that I know how to work. It’s not about producing one good piece now and then, it’s about being so comfortable with the process that you can just jump into projects whole-heartedly without fear but with excitement instead and then work your way out of them till there is an actual finish. This is worth gold. I’m so happy that I know I am capable of ‘shipping’ now and that I don’t treat each thing as precious and handle it gingerly and then drop it from all the doubt and fear I feel in the process.

    I still don’t consider myself ready to go pro. I still have a very small handful of followers on instagram. I still have who knows how far to go before I have any “success” of most people’s standard. But I am trusting that If I could come that far in 5 years then in 5 more with tons and tons and tons of work, I will have something more tangible to show for it or maybe I won’t, but you sure won’t be able to say I didn’t try with every ounce of strength I had!


    Misty McKeithen

    PS Check out my Mermay series on Instagram @misty_mck

  • Firstly, I love the podcast and I think it's a perfect transition from 3rd Thursdays! I really liked this topic because I'm a very young and green illustrator. I'm only 20 years old and about to start my final year of art school! I felt like starting in high school was too late, can you believe that?

    Hearing you guys talk about this really puts my journey into perspective. There are no excuses for me! I loved hearing you talk about the life experiences of people who start much later adding tremendously to their work. I've noticed that some artists my age (and younger!) may create beautiful work, but it's conceptually or emotionally mediocre because we lack the experience to back it up. I constantly struggle with this and try to remember that the story/message is the heart of it. It's easy to get caught up in the need to get better and better technically, but then what are we trying to say? If we have no life, then our work has no life. I also didn't know that Yuko Shimizu started so late! She's amazing!

    This topic also lets a lot of self-inflicted pressure off. It's not a sprint. I'm in this for the long haul. I've got my whole life to do this! I get to do this my whole life as long as I can pick up a pencil.

    Thank you so much!

  • Just want to say, I too am 38 getting back on this horse. I have not legitimately picked up a pencil to draw in almost 20yrs. I have fiddled with programs halfheartedly making logo's, custom UI for a few games... custom textures here and there. Things for little mods. Deep down I've always wondered.. what if I gave it it a real effort. I'm at a point in my life where I have 4-5hrs a day, I can devote to something, and the money to get the tools and lessons for the first time. So here we go. Fundamentals it is. Line, lines, circles and squares.

    Jake your Youtube Videos are what got me to sign up and try this out. I don't know if I will ever do anything professionally, right now, I'm just grabbing the horse and holding on for the adventure to come.

  • @lady-chamomile I don’t have much experience, but from what I’ve seen and been told, if you don’t really fit into more ‘traditional’ art paths, it might do well to start your own thing.

    My best friend wants to make graphic novels, so she got her feet wet with a webcomic and it started generating money. Not enough to live on yet, but she’s getting there. My other best friend has gotten some niche freelance sculpting jobs that most people probably wouldn’t have because she’s interested in certain fandoms and creative properties.

    Artists like Loish, Chihiro Howe, Iraville, Cat Coquillete, Jacquelin de Leon, Chris Hong, Claire Wendling, Teagan White, Morgan Davidson, our very own Jake Parker, and others have had successful careers so far or are building their careers by branding themselves and monetizing their interests. They freelance and do client work, sell prints, do licensing, or start personal projects based on the personal work and brand they established/are establishing. They all seem to have their thing that attracts people to them, and that's what makes them money. Something like that might work for you.

    I'm young and barely in the industry, but it appears that if you can channel your interests into projects and products people are willing to buy, it can be a fairly sustainable career in the long run 🙂

  • @holleywilliamson I totally agree about getting enough sleep! I'm in art school right now and my peers pull all nighters all the time, and we're often told to do whatever it takes to improve even if it's not sustainable and causes intense physical stress. But I've learned that having a healthy relationship with time and managing it responsibly will virtually eliminate the need for that. Good sleep is important like good nutrition and good exercise in order to do good work. I know that if I don't get enough sleep I can't function at full capacity the next day and my productivity while trying to stay up plummets exponentially which negates the point of an all-nighter, late nighter, or cutting my sleep time. People ask how I get all my work done, and sleeping when I need to is a surprisingly large part of it. That being said, it's important to understand how much sleep we actually need to function at our prime. I found I only need 6.5-7 hours in order to feel rested. Knowing ourselves and how to use our time wisely increases quality of life and productivity 🙂

  • @jake-parker I just listened to this episode. Actually I caught up on all of them while folding laundry and vacuuming and making dinner. Thanks for the encouragement, because I ask myself if I’m too old all the time. I’ve been writing and drawing since I was a kid. It’s my release, my way of processing life and it’s been the one constant pursuit of my life. I got serious about it a couple years ago and felt directionless till I found Will Terrys YouTube and then SVS. I’m a bookkeeper for my husband’s businesses /stay at home mom of 5 and I quite often feel like I missed the boat. You guys give me hope though. Gonna give myself some time and try to work my way through the “Jake Parker 3phase plan for success.” What Lee said was what I needed to hear... I’m gonna turn 40 at some point anyway. Why not work at doing something cool along the way? I’m paraphrasing. 😆 I deal with a lot of interruptions, but the struggle makes it more precious in a lot of ways.

  • Hello @jake-parker and company. I just heard this podcast because, although I've been drawing all my life, eight years ago I started working in a company as a graphic designer, and I kept stuck here, in what was supposed to be a "temporary job" while I was trying to be an illustrator. My personal situation has not been ideal, it's important for me to say that I have been in a therapy for more than a year to solve some serious problems and, coincidentally, a few months ago I started to draw again after a long time that I just couldn't do it. I felt bad, insecure, blocked, pressed... And then, for the first time in my life I was clear that, I want to draw! I have only done things by inertia, without passion, without illusion, I am really tired of my work... So I here I go. Casually I've been in a workshop with Yuko Shimizu recently, who you mention in the podcast. This was so encouraging! I have a lot of doubts but I feel able. I think your advices will be very useful to me. Thanks! 🙂

  • By the way, I am 33. Almost 34.

  • I'm also 40 years old now and still trying to "BREAK IN"....for me I think the path forward is working only on my own projects and then trying to sell them or crowd fund. I've pretty much stopped trying to do any freelance work at this point. Putting all my effort into my own stuff.

  • In relation to this podcast, I thought some of you might be interested in this recent New York Times article on late "hot streaks" in one's career. Keep in mind that the NY Times only offers a very limited number of free articles a month, so unless you have a subscription, this will count against that number. Happy reading!

    Feel Like You Haven’t Hit Your Peak Yet? It’s Never Too Late
    Your best work may very well be ahead of you, a new study says.

  • @missmushy I totally get you. It's awfully scary to step off the train in a place where you don't know anything or anyone (if you catch my drift.) I'm 38 and have always taken art classes in school but then when the moment came to choose an occupation my mother told me that there's no future for artists. They don't earn anything. I could better look at something where I could be sure I'd get a wage off later on.

    As I am a mom myself, I can understand her feelings and her way of thinking but if I could turn back time, I would have gone to art school and just follow my heart.

    Right now I am following the SVS learn classes whenever I have a spare moment. I love them and totally loose track of time once I'm going. I'm also reading up on stuff I have a hard time with (at this moment it's perspective, next I'm doing character design).

    And just like you, I have a lot of moments when I am thinking to myself, what the heck are you doing? Why are you spending all this money on supplies, books and lessons? And then having my husband sneer at me for getting that book that I need for my study or yet another pad of paper. It makes me feel guilty.

    But then again, we are doing something that makes us happy. Something where we don't have to sit pushing buttons all day long so in the end it will be all worth it. " Eyes on the prize Violet. Eyes on the prize."

    Big hugs!

  • I love this podcast... I feel like a complete newbie coming into this field many of the replies above already have so much of art that is so good. I run my own web development and graphic design business and am getting kind of tired the technical aspects of that so I am only just getting into drawing again. I did a lot up until I was 20 years old and then nothing for the last 17 years. I am only now getting back into it again. Starting at age 37....

    I grew up with no tv from a kid until like 20 years old, so I read many, many, many books. My head is full of ideas and creativity and I am hoping I will find direction and a place to finally release the many stores in my head. 🙂 There are so many good illustrators on this forum I feel quite intimidated...but inspired as well.

    Such good advice in this episode, plus I am glad I joined svs learn. I am going to devour everything in the online courses and learn from the masters. I already have a thick skin for critiquing in my current profession. So I am ready to be humbled and learn from the bottom.

  • @smceccarelli would also join for a meeting in Europe. Hope you would also invite an absolute beginner 🙂
    Studied geography and geoinformation and after some years in the scientific world I am in software engineering at the moment.

  • I'm way WAY late to the party, as I just discovered SVS within the last couple weeks. I just binge-listened to all the podcasts, and Episode 2 was my favorite.

    I'd been looking for someone to outline a sort of plan more fleshed out than "Work on your fundamentals & draw every day", and this was it. Can I tell you how much this has already impacted my life? Just within the last week?!? I'm 50, and this episode Rocked. My. World.

    Finding my top 5 illustrators I'd like to emulate (as suggested in Phase 1) led me to trolling through around 25 different illustrator representation agencies. Portfolio after portfolio... On and on... And I finally narrowed it down.

    And because I did that, I have a much stronger understanding of my own likes and dislikes, what type of work I want to create, specific visual techniques I want to try to figure out how to do, and a greater awareness of the current work in the illustration field as a whole.

    It's vast. I didn't realize how vast. I learned so much about what my own preferences are, my own biases, my own strengths and what I really need and want to work on. I so needed that.

    I can't tell you how useful that simple exercise was. I know, as a theatrical costume design teacher of 20 years at the university level, that many students don't know very much about the fields they think they want to have a career in. I'm beginning to realize myself how much I don't know. I see now that I've personally just barely scratched the surface.

    I'm going to use this exercise in my own teaching. I urge everyone to try it. Just googling "illustration agencies" will render several websites with lists of different links to go visit. It's very enlightening. I had a couple favorite illustrators growing up that I thought were my long-held favorites, but I didn't realize how many other artists there were to fall in love with and explore and I soon started to question my choices. I don't wanna knock Richard Scarry for whom I have a soft spot in my heart, but I think it was my nostalgia keeping him there. I can confidently say that Rogério Coelho now has my personal top spot... I bought several children's books as a result of the exercise and I am not disappointed!!

    I also learned that this year there is a new book coming out called History of Illustration by Doyle, Grove & Sherman. I think there have been a LOT of art history texts, but not necessarily one about illustration specifically. The $90 (!!!) paperback version comes out on February 7th.

    Does anyone else know of any really good "Intro to the Illustration Field" texts that have helped them? I'd love to know about them!

    Anyway, I thought I'd share. Thanks for this episode! It was great! Changed my life!

  • I can't explain how much this episode meant to me, especially hearing Lee say that he'd started at around my age. I'm 34 right now, and I've been drawing all of my life, but I've never pursued it as a career, either supplemental or main. I honestly thought I'd be stuck sitting an IT job and not ever having my art amount to much until I started listening to the show, and the thought that maybe I could freelance in my spare time and do okay started to float. But then that voice... "You're 34, dude. You're too old for this."

    Thanks so much for the advice, for the encouragement, and for the reminder that age is just a number. 2019 is where my art career is going to start, you wait and see 😃


Log in to reply