The Duchess of York

So far, telling people that I am an illustrator is going well. I expected a lot of raised eyebrows, queries about my sanity and put-downs about art’s relationship with money, but instead was delighted to discover that people are enthusiastic about my decision.

Pencilled image, designer's tape, beginning to paint the background in gouache

People respond in the way we set them up to respond. It’s easy to be self-deprecating, or to make out like things aren’t a big deal. One of the books I’ve been reading, Breaking into Freelance Illustration by Holly DeWolf*, contains an assortment of sugary tips that make one feel like an eager girl guide rather than a bad arse artist too busy being outrageously and provocatively cool to waste any thought on practical matters, but a key message that shines through all the sweetness is this: Think highly of yourself, and your confidence will inspire others to think highly of you.

Building up the middle-ground, concentrating on textures

Says Holly (p. 71): ‘You are an illustrator. You are talented and motivated to get work. Let that enthusiasm show in how you write [or talk] about yourself. Put yourself in the spotlight the best way possible.’

Details: I couldn't leave them out if I wanted to, and I know they make for instant success

It’s daunting to announce that you’re an illustrator when you’ve only been at it a few days. On the other hand–you’ve been at it, and you certainly haven’t been doing anything else. An illustrator isn’t defined by the clients she has or the money in her pocket, but by the act of illustrating. I think this is obscured by the common claim that you’re only an artist once you’ve exhibited and / or sold artwork. Until then, the general public considers you a hobbyist. But an illustrator who sits at her desk all day, studying colour theory, reading up on running a small business and dabbing away with gouache is working as an illustrator, and can rightly claim that title.

J's fabulous pink Strat brings warmer contrast to the intentionally green-heavy picture


While Holly’s advice verges on self-help for illustrators–‘success breeds success’–her book is so damn positive that you can’t help but feel good about yourself even though you get to stay home all day and draw pictures. She reassures the illustrator that this is a legitimate career, like being a public servant or a plumber, that problem solving and artistic skills are valuable and valued, and that though success may be less clearly defined than in a job with designated hierarchies, promotions and pay scales, as an illustrator one can feel satisfied with the effort one has put in.

The Duchess © Samantha Groenestyn

* DeWolf, Holly. 2009. Breaking into Freelance Illustration: The guide for artists, designers and illustrators. How Books: Cincinnati.


7 thoughts on “The Duchess of York

  1. The best piece of advice I ever got for indie businesses is that it’s unlikely that all your clients (customers) would fire you at once. Well, I find it inspiring, anyway 😉

    And I totally agree that if you (general you) take yourself seriously, then others will too. I notice that when people ask what I majored in, if I say what I studied with confidence people seem impressed. If I don’t, they tend to say things like, isn’t that useless? (It is, but no matter, I prefer the compliments!)

    • Haha, I love it! Good advice to keep in mind. I also noticed this about my philosophy degree, which did in fact score me a corporate job straight from university, so on all counts, talk yourself up and don’t attach ‘I only’ to what you do! x

      • I wish my French degree landed me, well anything at this point, besides working my volunteer job (it’s supposed to “look good on my C.V.” but really is not what I want to be doing for more than a year or so). I really admire that you’re living the life you want, rather than the life you thought you needed! So thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I’ve been following yours for a while–it’s inspiring to see other people getting their work out there. I love your website too–I am looking at Cargo Collective, it looks like a really good set-up, would you recommend it? x

      • Yes, I would recommend it! It’s easy and free (but you can upgrade and pay for a custom url), you can follow the work of other artists & I think it looks quite nice!

        If you choose cargo and need some help setting up your website, I’d be happy to help 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s