A question about career change.

  • Hi

    I am in my late 30’s, a father of 3 and work as a shipper/receiver for a plumbing wholesaler. Most of my working life my jobs have been lower tier physical labour jobs with some exceptions.
    I really like the 3 point perspective topic about having dreams, and working towards them. This year i have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone with my art. Wanting to kick my skill level up a couple of notches and trying to work towards my dream of illustrating 1 kids lit book and/or making illustrating a full time job. My goal this year is to have a website show casing my portfolio.
    So with this in mind i have some questions:
    Is it too late to make a career change into illustration?
    Is this dream attainable how did you do it? What steps did you take to get to where wanted to be?
    When did you decide to make it a full time gig? Or, did/do you still work a full time job and do illustration on the side?
    Is there a well known illustrator that you admire that started their illustration career later in life?

    Thanks for taking your time to read.


  • Pro

    @robbery Making a career in freelance illustration is super possible, at any age! But especially late 30s, that's not even old Rob! You have clear middle-term and long-term goals and you're asking the right questions, I think that all bodes well for you 🙂

    I work as a full-time freelance illustrator myself, and was able to make a living in the first couple months after I left my full-time studio job. It's a bit of a hard start as you build up your client list and network, and you have to work hard to find and obtain every single job. But after a while you start getting recurring work from past clients, from word of mouth and from your agent if you have one. That coupled with starting to get higher-paying work as you improve and gain experience, you start to be able to relax a bit and stop hustling 24/7. Right now, 2 years into it, I now work on average 4-5 hours a day and make more than I did when I worked my 9-5 studio job. I love the lifestyle and it was so worth it!

    Most dreams, including this one, are totally attainable to those who have a plan 🙂 That's my motto!

  • @robbery Of course it's possible! But you know that it'll involve a lot of hard work, patience, and dedication among other things. But if you keep yourself motivated, it'll happen! The main hesitation is often related to finances. So you'll really have to sit down and plan out how you can make it work for yourself with all your financial obligations. You'll need to maintain realistic goals and timelines (which will keep changing as you evolve).
    For me, once I figured out I wanted to be a part of the children's publishing industry, it took me almost a year and a half to feel confident enough of my portfolio. This was all while taking SVS classes because my art was changing so much with all the learning. Once that sliver of confidence came, I reached out to publishers and agents, and soon after, got representation from an illustration agency. It's only been 2 months but I have work coming in. I'm only just starting to accept that I can be financially independent (I wasn't for a very long time) and make it happen.
    There will be high points and low points, but keep your eye on the goal and keep moving forward!
    Wish you the best!

  • I am on this journey for about 2 years now, and started out in my late 30's too. I did have some prior knowledge on composistion, design because of my graphic design education and passion for photography for many years.

    The nice thing about art is you can start at any age, there is no particular advantage in starting early. It is possible to make a full time living in doing illustration, moslty you will not be rich but definitely possible to make enough so you can have time to do art 🙂 (at least that is my goal :-).

    Depending on your definition of "make it", there are different routes to the goal. I am personally more interested in making more artistic books. So recently I turned down a couple jobs that do not have the room for me to spend time on them, doing proper art. But I am also in the begining of my career, so I know that having books been published is an important stepping stone, even though that means I might put out things that I am not 100% happy with. I am kind of walking in a fine line to find what jobs to say yes, and what jobs to say no to.

    Same story as @Neha-Rawat, I spent 1,5 years building my portfolio with the help of svs community, and show up to make art almost everyday. Then I got an agency to represent me not too long ago. Now they help me to get possible jobs. Being picky about what projects to take in also means that I have less income coming in from doing illustration at this moment. I need to take this into an account when planning my career and finance.

    As for sucessful illustrators who started out late, look up Lisa Congdon. She does not work in kidlit space that much, but she is huge in the art and illustration community.

    Best wishes to yoru journey.
    And listen to @NessIllustration, she is nailing it again.

  • SVS OG

    @robbery Hi! I personally think that age is not the determining factor when getting into the illustration industry. There are a lot of illustrators who found their calling at a later age. Being in your 30s, you're still very capable of starting your career. What may be a tougher hurdle for most is money. An illustration career will take months if not years to get off the ground. And even when you start getting jobs, they'll most likely to be small and not enough to support a family at the beginning. There's good news though. It does get better if you just stick to it but you'll really have to prepare your finances when diving in.

  • I just want to echo everyone in that it's not too late at all! I also think that the older someone gets, the more life experience they have to draw on to make meaningful, beautiful stories.

  • @NessIllustration said in A question about career change.:

    Hi Ness,
    I just wanted to thank you for your answer, and it wasn't even me who asked the question! I'm in a similar boat to Rob, although a little older. It is extremely valuable to me to hear encouraging things like this from a professional illustrator. I realise that it takes hard work, and I'm putting it in!

    Sheffield, UK.

    P.S I love the start-to-finish video of your digital painting of an Easter Bunny. It's really valuable to see how real artists do this. I'm still learning digital, but love it too!

  • Pro

    @Adam-Thornton That's so sweet, thanks! Best luck to you on the path, it's a wonderful journey 🙂

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