Friday, 4 September 2009

10 ways to stay busy

Ordinary folk I meet when I venture out of my shed ask me how I manage to earn enough money drawing pictures to support my three children. I'm the only wage earner so I need to stay busy. Here are my 10 ways to stay busy as an illustrator:

1.Get a good agent.
The picture of the jazz man at the top was done for an agency 'brochure'. I had to pay to go in the brochure. Nice little picture. Got me sod all work. Agents that operate like that are not much use unless you want an illustration hobby rather than career. If the agent isn't offering you work every month it's either the wrong agent or you're crap.

2.Get paid to pitch.
A good agent will get you a fee to pitch for work. The image below was for an Aztec book. The publisher prefers to use 'realistic' styles in information books but wanted to see what I'd do. They decided against using it, but I got paid and got to try something out.

3.Do Anything for money.
There are a few illustrators who have a "style" and it's the "style" that you pay for. I had a "style" for a while, but my "style" earnt less money than a part time shelf-stacker in Tesco. The Yosser Hughes, "I-can-do-that" approach, is the one that pays my bills. Somebody was going to get paid for drawing sharks that look like photographs, as I was totally broke I thought it might be nice if it was me.
4.Every magazine needs illustrations.
Sometimes this may require hypnotising the editor, but MAGAZINES DO NEED ILLUSTRATIONS. Below are some things I did for the unlikely and short-lived BBC puzzle magazine Mindgames.
5.Pretend you're someone else.
If Osprey are looking for an Angus McBride type watercolour, figurative, historical illustrator then pretend you are one. Actually ignore that. I didn't get the gig anyway.

6.Come up with a quick style
Illustration work is really badly paid so it makes sense to work fast. If you're clever you make it look as if knocking-them-out-ten-to-the-dozen is your "style". This dandruff picture was done for Tall Tree Books.

7.Always say yes.
When that nice Ben Sharpe, editor of the DFC, asked me if I had any stories to pitch I said "yes". And then ran away to quickly come up with something. Below is one of the stories I pitched that day - Geronimo. I think it's best to say yes to pretty much everything, means you spend less time thinking and more time drawing and writing.

8.Don't think Twice.
The knack to drawing stuff quick is to draw faster than you think. These monkeys are a prime example. They were done for a book about puberty for Parragon. They didn't take much longer to draw than they do to look at. Your drawing is a product of a whole life of looking and thinking, no need to waste time thinking about it when you're drawing it.
9.Pretend you understand Da Kidz
Essential given that most illustration is for children. Even if you are a miserable old git in your 40s it's best to make out you're in-tune with the kids. These pics were also part of the Parragon puberty books.

10.Find somebody really successful and make them look good
I make more money pretending to be Martin Brown than I do being me, that's because he's very successful and I'm not. Most of the Horrible Histories books will have pictures inked and coloured by me on the front and many are filled with my pictures too.

10a.... or find somebody really successful and jump in their grave
The other option is to take over from somebody successful. I now do Philip Reeve's old job illustrating Murderous Maths. In fact Kjartan and I have a giant Murderous Maths of Everything coming out next year. Fortunately I don't have to do it all in Philip Reeve's "style".

There you have it, that's how I support my three children (and my comic career). I know, I know I'm a total slut.


WJC said...

crap- check
hobby- check
style- check
I'll get me coat.
Cracking post though Rob!

Brad Brooks said...

Excellent post Rob. I would use this to live by if I were actually any good at drawing and stuff. Unfortunately I'm not, so I'll just sit in the corner and sob.


Mark Kardwell said...

Our junior library is full of your work and I've never even noticed until now!

Rob Davis said...

Warwick - your work is wonderful and if I was your agent I would be getting you regular gigs doing exactly what you do on your blog. Tell Andrea and Abby to go out and bang on some doors telling people that your stuff is not just about the drawing, it's your whole way of looking at things. (By the way say hi to Abby and apologise for the slight in this post ;-)

Brad - you wrote one of my favourite books so who needs to draw - anyway drawing's overrated as a way to spend your days.

Mark - Martin Brown is the brand so his name goes on the front whether he does all the drawings or not. I've done covers for all the Horrible Histories books for the past few years and I don't get any credit. BUT they pay me good money so I'm not complaining.

Unknown said...

Are you the same Rob Davies who used to work for Shoot! football magazine (RIP) when I was editor there?

Rob Davis said...

Hello Andy!

Yes I am me! How are things in your world?

I had a lot of fun doing Shoot FC and The Boot for Shoot, don't often get offered to take this piss out of famous footballers for money these days.

Neil Roberts said...

Hi Rob - fantastic post, I'll make sure to I read, re-read and take all that info on board. Keep up the GREAT work! N

Unknown said...

It's really good to see that you're still a working artist and producing such terrific stuff. I have fond memories of Shoot FC (often my favourite thing in the whole mag!) and chatting to you about 2000AD and Roy Of The Rovers.

I don't work in magazines any more - moved over to newspapers a few years ago. I also write and sometimes publish my own comics - check out if you get the chance.

Studiotoad said...

Great post Rob- I wouldn't be paying the mortgage were it not for Martin Brown and Tony DeSaulles!!!

Unknown said...

Probably if We'll follow this steps, our lives will be too much better. I like specially one you mentioned:"Do anything for money", and it's true, because if you make the opposite, you probably finish no so good.BTW there is an interesting ones in viagra online , that probably will be useful for our lives.

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