How to seek advice as an illustrator


In creativity tips Posted

If you’re trying to get your illustration work out there, you might sometimes feel unsure about whether you’re on the right path. One of the best ways to check if you are is to ask others for advice! But, there are some tricks on how to do it, and what to do with it after you get it.

How to seek advice

You might know this – somewhat odd- Albert Einstein quote: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” It’s a quote that I really like because it describes an important concept for artists who want to ask for advice. It’s great to ask around for feedback, but unless you get feedback from the people with the right skillset, it is only relevant to some extent.

Here is what I mean: Let’s say, you’ve created a new piece and you’re thinking of showing it to some agents or art directors to try and get it licensed. Perhaps directly email it to a prospective client. You want to be sure it’s right for them, and as such you’re seeking advice! And who better to ask for advice than your friends/partner/parents/deli guy, right? Well, that depends. If these people happen to know what good illustration is, what the client is looking for, or have an excellent taste for what you’re asking of them, then yes! If they are outsiders to the industry, it might be a different story when it comes to the relevance of your piece in that market.

If you’re looking for feedback from people who know the industry, consider this:

-Do you know them personally, or through someone? Could you ask someone for an introduction? This will help you get an answer easier.

-Do they have relevant experience in the field you’re trying to get into?

-Do they have a ‘good eye’ for the work?

-Do you really care about what they think?

-What will you do once they give their feedback?

Still, I personally think it’s great to show your work to people who are closest to you. They know you the best, after all! I do recommend asking them a different type of question than you would ask someone in your industry. Ask them questions like:

-I remember you liked piece X that I did, how about this?

-What kind of work that I did before, did you like? Why?

-What works of mine did you think are most ‘me’?

-How do you think this would look if it were sold in “insert market here/store that sells this”?

-What do you think could be better about this piece?

My favourite tip!

I think using outside advice is great when you’re using it in a focused way. Don’t just anyone a random opinion, but rather ask a selection of people. If you’re having trouble connecting with people with relevant experience, consider finding illustration groups in your area. And, go to creative events and trade fairs!

Also, it never hurts to reach out to a stranger online that has this relevant experience. I have a tactic that I have used in the past after I will have followed them for a while. You talked to them a bit before, so they know you a little, and when I have a project or question I want to share with them, I will ask this: Hey there! Love connecting with you, [personal touch here….} So I’m looking to improve my current portfolio. If you could share one thing I could do better, that would be so useful to me! Here is where you can find it. Let me know if I can do something for you as well!  

In my experience, this works great, because it’s easy to find just one thing and it takes the other person very little time. The key to this is to have a personal connection. It’s much more relevant if you actually like and know the person, after all!

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