Biff> My usual go-to is to send out emails to places that I think my work would suit or to studios that excite me. I’ll write up a very short and sweet email letting them know why I exist, why I’m getting in contact, what I can offer and requesting to come in for a chat. I’ll send a few illustrations along with the email, and hopefully they’ll do most of the talking because time is a luxury for busy London folk. They rarely waste it on reading paragraphs of pointless faff.
Justin> The best way to get noticed it to make stuff! Stand out from the crowd by making physical work and getting that in front of clients. Go and meet with people face to face. Develop relationships! (This is what good agents, like Jelly do!)
Alison> Starting out in the industry in 2019 is very different than starting out when I did twenty years ago. Self promotion in some ways is easier because of social media platforms but it’s very easy to make yourself invisible by creating similar work to other artists and blending in to the point where no one notices your work. And there are a lot of artists who are really active on social media so it’s important to try and make your work look original and distinctive. This is much easier said than done but in my opinion, the best way of doing this is to step away from all those platforms which inadvertently might influence the type of work you create, and get back to old fashioned craft.
And so, in the age of social media, the topic of sharing and liking is as prevalent as ever. Jelly wanted to know what its artists’ opinions were on sharing their art, how big a role Instagram plays, and what they choose to share on their online platforms.
As ever, Jelly's artists each had a different approach and relationship to social media. They all agreed that it is important to distinguish what the purpose is of sharing content, and that Instagram is a useful tool to share work, but should not be relied on, or equated with an artist’s success.
Alison> Instagram can be an evil necessity. I’m not a massive fan of Instagram, but it can still be a useful and instant way of sharing my work. I don’t tend to share everything, but I’m aware that clients are looking and sometimes even asking agents who has the most followers – which is crazy – but it does have it’s plus points. It’s important to remember that a lot of what you see artists sharing on social media is not necessarily the live briefs where they have been paid – we share old work, test artwork and personal work – so don’t feel disheartened in thinking that other artists are getting loads more commissions than you, because social media can paint a very pretty picture of the reality!
Your portfolio is the measure of your talent and skill. Your Instagram follower count is a measure of your dedication to your social media which is a totally different skillset. If it makes you feel bad about yourself, leave it well alone – it’s not worth damaging your emotional well being.
Justin> Social media is a great way to put work out and promote yourself, but it’s not the only way. I think it’s important to realise that on social media you are not just competing with other illustrators for people's attention. You’re also up against cute dogs, memes and everything else that people put up. If you really want to stand out, think of how you can be on a potential clients mind before they’ve scrolled through the feed.
Having likes and followers isn’t a reflection of your work. I use Instagram to show the best highlights, and don’t really feel the need to share everything. Sometimes it’s not the best platform as I’ll often have to wait ages- maybe a year or so- until the client has shared the work, so I’m able to share it too. I don’t necessarily think it’s the best reflection of an artist’s process, as you can’t always show your most current work. But, ultimately it is a necessity as people do always look at it.
Biff> I think if you’re doing a lot of self-initiated work, Instagram is a great platform to share it all on. Try and use Instagram to your advantage, but don’t create things for Instagram- you always need to be thinking; where is this going to live outside social media?
Finally, if you had one piece of advice for aspiring illustrators, what would it be?
Alison> Play around with your process. Playing is the best way to find your style.
Justin> Enjoy the process of creating the work, not just the finished product. I started out as an illustrator, so I’ve dedicated all of my working time to it. I have occasionally done some branding or graphic work, but I’ve tried to be picky as I could afford to when deciding what projects to work on.
Biff> Draw all the time. If you love it enough you can always find time to illustrate.