5 ways to stay in love with your job as an illustrator

Although life as working in illustration (opens in new tab) is hard to beat, sometimes as with any creative industry you may go through periods where things can feel like an uphill struggle. There are many pitfalls we are all susceptible to over the years, we might grow tired of the way we work yet struggle to change, work may dry up, we might feel isolated or lacking in inspiration or even lose sight of why we became an illustrator in the first place

All these experiences can happen to the best of us yet there is always a way to bring that passion back with a little effort and creative thinking. Here are five top tips that will help you to reignite that creative spark and get you loving your work again.

01. Focus on work that excites you

Anna Wray work for Tesco

If you're not enjoying creating it, who's going to enjoy looking at it? (Design by Anna Wray, commissioned work for Tesco carrier bags)

Try to remain as close to that initial spark that inspired you to be an illustrator as possible. It is tempting to make work you know 'will sell' and risking your work becoming restrictive and repetitive.

Try to steer you own ship as much as possible, if a certain style of illustration you have done takes off, yet you are tired of working in this way, take the commissions but don’t actively seek them. Instead pour you energies into an area of work that really excites you and start making self initiated work to self-crafted briefs with dream clients in mind (and even send it to them!).

Then market yourself and your work hard. You make your own luck, and it’s your responsibility to make sure you are creatively fulfilled as possible to keep that passion alive.

02. Give a talk at an art school

Being an illustrator can be a pretty solitary profession, and it's inevitable that sometimes you will miss the buzz of sharing ideas and dialogue with others. Becoming involved with an art college, school or university can really ignite your passion again by sharing your knowledge and experience with the next generation of illustrators who will be keen to learn from you.

Getting out of your comfort zone and talking in front of a large audience may be daunting at first but will boost your confidence and give you a real feeling of accomplishment. Most course leaders love professional Illustrators to come in for a day to chat about their work, it can be a one off or a way in to becoming a regular visiting lecturer.

03. Find new ways to exhibit

Jonny Hannah exhibition

Jonny Hannah painted directly on to plywood and found objects in a recent exhibition

A self-imposed exhibition deadline and that little frisson of fear will inspire you to really pull it out of the hat and create great work. But to create a buzz that will do wonders for your reputation, think about presenting your work in a new and innovative way.

For example, the illustrator Jonny Hannah has put on a series of sell out shows showcasing his new 3D work painted directly onto plywood and found objects. Or you could invite the audience to 'participate' like Tuner Prize nominee David Shrigley’s exhibition. Whatever you do, make it memorable!

04. Start a blog

Having an audience to share ideas and experiences can make all the difference. It will provide a platform for images, places you have visited, ideas you have had, objects that inspire you and new work. Keep it fresh and updated and gather followers and follow other blogs that really excite you. Use it to indulge in your other interests that may indirectly influence your work as an illustrator. Carry a camera with your everywhere and look for inspiration!

05. Join a print making studio

Print Club London

Print Club London has a great community surrounding it - http://printclublondon.com/

An endless stream of commercial commissions with tight deadlines can sometimes take precedence over some more exploratory work and life as an illustrator can become increasingly uninspiring. To shake things up, join a local printmaking studio and become part of the creative community there.

It's an ideal environment to experiment with your work and to create illustration for illustrations sake in a new medium. It also makes a great sideline, approach galleries and online shops such as Magma books or Nobrow and see if they might be interested in selling your work.

Words: Anna Wray (opens in new tab)

Anna Wray is an illustrator/author and a visiting lecturer on the Ba(Hons) Illustration at Cambridge School of Art.

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