A Year as an Illustrator: Part 1

9 Mar

I’ve decided to add another edition to this blog.  This will be a monthly contribution I like to call A Year as an Illustrator.  It will take course over an entire year.  This, being March, is my first post.  And actually, this is kind of where the journey of illustration begins for me.  I got the idea for doing this from other ambitious bloggers who did a similar feature ala what their desires were.  So, for me, this year – illustration is a big one.

Ambitious as I am, I’ve really missed some good opportunities in my life with just focusing on syndication.  There’s a lot more out there for a guy like me (besides delicious donuts I lust after every morning).

Syndication doesn’t seem to be the revenue powerhouse that I was hoping for by this point in time.  As we know, newspapers continue to dwindle and the whole syndication market is a little up in the air.  I AM syndicated – online.  So, I’m an optimistic person.  I believe – in the future – the tide will change.  I can see a big opportunity for syndicated cartoons once again when things get a grip as it’s all being processed through this ‘everything is a free-for-all’ digital age.

But, in the meantime, I’m not sure if I see a major shift happening very quickly.  And, as a person who needs to make an income, I have looked elsewhere along with continuing Break of Day (my syndicated work).  Break of Day is not going anywhere, but I’m adding a lot more to the plate (no,no –  not donuts).

So, this year, I started up Fakes Illustration.

As I mentioned, I missed the boat a bit with other opportunities out there.  There are a ton of jobs for cartoonist that I can’t foresee ever diminishing.  Why?  Think about it.  Cartoons are EVERYWHERE.  From the box your tooth paste comes in, church bulletins to advertising – EVERYWHERE.  There will always be a market for cartoons and illustration.  And depending on what style the client is looking for, come to find out, my work can fit the bill.  I just have to adjust a few things, like along with calling myself a cartoonist, I’m now also an illustrator.

So, this blog starts at month one.  March is pretty much the beginning because this is the month I’ve actually started to work, promote and launch my illustration journey.  I kind of dipped my toes into new territory already with some new clients earlier this year.  (I have greeting cards coming out with two major clients later on this year.)  But, in general, right now is where it begins.  Here in March.

I’m going to report my progress every month in my quest to become an illustration pro.  As in making substantial money with it as a business.  Currently, my only income is through the newspaper, syndication, magazine cartoons and freelance work.  Money from the greeting card industry won’t start until they’re launched, which several are coming up as early as this May.  And quite frankly, I don’t make much.  You know that if you’re an avid reader of this blog.  I’m paycheck to paycheck and always teetering on the idea of getting a dreaded day job.  (Which, if you’re not familiar with me and my blog, I’ve worked a day job my whole life.  A lot of times two – crappy – day jobs at the same time.  That’s another motivation for me to do well at this.)

What I’ve learned from other illustrators is that they get paid a lot more than cartoonist for jobs.  Why?  I don’t know.  It’s really weird, but one drawing garnishes more money typically than a cartoon that has to be thought of, written AND drawn.  An illustration job consist of a client giving you the details and you just take that idea and run with it.  Seems like it would be the opposite (doing a cartoon would make more), but it’s not.  Oh well.  It’s another excuse for me to really grasp my whole illustration outlook on things.

To start off my illustration path, the first thing I did was set up a portfolio online.  Now don’t laugh – I’m starting off by using a relatively simple display of my work.  I think the site is set up was free and very user friendly and gives a pretty broad example of what I can and can not do.  I wish there were a few more bells and whistles to it, but for now, I’m actually pretty happy with it.  I’ll be adding more to it soon.

The next thing I have ready is I just ordered (and they just arrived) 250 postcards to mail out to magazines, advertising agencies and other markets.  I got a nice list from the Artist’s and Graphic Designers Market 2012 edition.  There are a lot of people out there wanting to see new work.  So, if you’re an illustrator, this book is a must and submit away!  You’d be surprised.  Even a style that might not be detailed, simple or whatever (heck, look at a lot of my work) can be exactly what a client is looking for.

So, I’ve got my postcards ready to be mailed out this week!  Here’s a look at the front.

Above:  The front of my postcard.  Spiffy?  I’d like to think it might be, but what do I know.

I wanted to showcase a broad variety of my characters and style.  And in a postcard, there’s obviously limited space, so I think I made the best of it.  On the inside, I have another small illustration and my contact info.  I’ll probably do a new one every four months or so.

Okay, so I have my portfolio up, postcards heading out and what else?

Business cards, silly!

I came up with some new cards.  A lot of cartoonist/illustrators seem to think they’re unnecessary, however, I meet new people all around town, and you never know who might be a new client.  Even the hotdog vendor on the corner might want some hot dog illustrations someday.

Above:  The Card Business.

On top of all of this, I’ve finally developed a pretty good record keeping system.  I’ve had some minimum clients that I’ve kind of scattered all my receipts, contracts, paperwork everywhere.  Now, it’s somewhat organized like a true professional.  (Yes, I think of myself as that.  Don’t laugh.)

Throughout this, things might change.  Heck – I never grew up thinking I’d have such an emphasis on illustration.  But, one must go with the flow.  And right now, cartooning jobs aren’t really flowing and my wallet is thinning.  That being said, there’s no reason why I can’t make it in the illustration field.  There is definitely a lot of competition, but as I mentioned, one never knows when a certain style might be fitting for a certain project.  There are all kinds of illustrators, so I have a spot for someone.  I even thought of coming up with a jingle like ‘Fakes is Fitting’ but I soon realized how scary it was and scratched that idea instantly.

To review, this first month I did a portfolio site (not the best, but it works), I’m sending out postcards and made up some business cards as well.  Whew!  Also to review, I have no new illustration clients as of yet.  That’s a big ZERO.  But, we’ll see what happens with this marketing endeavor.

I’ll let you know how my progress seems to be heading next month in April!


7 Responses to “A Year as an Illustrator: Part 1”

  1. gardenfreshtomatoes March 10, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    Sounds like you’re off to a good start… looking forward to hearing about your adventures…
    I don’t know how the process works, or who you’ve already queried, but your style is well-suited to illustrating children’s books.
    Just a thought…it’s that Mom-Thing, you know? 😉

    • w101njf March 10, 2012 at 8:21 am #

      There should be plenty of adventures! And yes, I’ve explored the children book possibilities. We’ll see!

  2. Bearman March 14, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    Definitely see your style in childrens books. Send some work to some stars who seem to want to write those things.

    • w101njf March 22, 2012 at 10:32 am #

      Hmm….might be on to something there!

  3. Sandra March 22, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    I have “stolen” your cartoon (about the worms), but gave you credit for it on my blog. What a delightful blog you have! I wish you the greatest luck! I really like your style of drawing and I agree, children’s books for one–comedy for another.
    I’ll be checking back, enjoy the new project! Keep up the blogging!

    • w101njf March 22, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      Thank you, Sandra! I appreciate that and I should have some interesting stuff to come. Feel free to share any cartoon!


  1. Worm-dodgin’ Ride « A Promise to Dad - March 22, 2012

    […] from natefakes blog:  a wonderfully talented illustrator–if anyone needs one out […]

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