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The magical world of illustrators: what does an illustrator do?

What is an illustration?

I know you might be wondering what an illustrator does. In this blog post, I'm going to give you a brief summary of this very complex subject. Let's get started!

The job of an illustrator is to create artwork that can be used in a variety of projects (such as storybook, book covers, animation, advertising illustration, packaging illustration, web design elements or botanical illustration), ensuring an aesthetic and creative look.

Illustrators can express their ideas through unique and creative artwork. Think of books, for example! These illustrations can also convey stories that depict, among other things, intangible emotions and the intricate web of human relationships. The viewer is thus able to connect with the image at multiple points, for example when browsing through a book and looking at the illustration that accompanies the text.

3 examples on illustration: children is reading a picture book, illustrated books and magazines

But an illustration does not necessarily have to be so complex. Just think of the patterns you see on a sweater or even a pair of pyjamas. An illustration can be simple or grand, the point is to please the eye.

3 examples on illustration in the fashion industry: pattern design, some fabrics with floral pattern, floral pattern on a pillow

The purpose of an illustration is to visually express ideas, stories or emotions, support textual content or create a unique and memorable visual experience for the viewer.


Self-expression with the language of illustration

As in other professions, it is quite common for an illustrator to specialise in only one or two fields. Illustrators range widely in terms of specialisation. You can discover their work in places you would never have imagined before.

Take stock of the most basic things that surround you. The floral pattern on your new T-shirt was probably designed by an illustrator. Here's a beautifully illustrated children’s book! Or take that cute dinosaur bedsheet you had your eye on for the kids’ room the other day. Those dinosaurs could have been drawn by an illustrator. But even if you flip through the magazine, I'm pretty sure there will be articles in there that have been illustrated by an illustrator.

3 examples on illustration: decorated plate, pillow with cactus design, floral pattern on some fabric

As you can see, being an illustrator is a very complex job, as there are many different things to specialise in within the profession. Some illustrators only work with magazines or newspapers. Others work within the book industry and work eight hours a day producing covers for newly published books. Some draw complex illustrations for poems, short stories or children's books, or produce serious illustrations of bones and muscles for medical textbooks. The list is virtually endless.

How does an illustrator work?

Being an illustrator is most often associated with the feeling of being a lone wolf. Most artists work alone, either on commission or creating their own collections. It is less common for an illustrator to find a job in specific company, be it a publishing house or even a marketing agency. In the latter case, the person is obviously no longer working alone but in a team.

Being an illustrator means that you are also an entrepreneur. The profession is no longer just about who can draw better. Marketing, client communication, and pricing are also important aspects for an illustrator.

If the illustrator is working for a commission, they are generally looking for a visual answer to a "problem". Let's say I am contracted to design a label for a jam making client. The result is that close collaboration is needed to produce the label illustration. Proper communication and expert advice from the illustrator are essential to properly represent the client's vision and to capture the target audience.

When the illustrator launches his own collections, a completely different approach is taken. The market research, advertising, marketing and all the related stuff has to be done by the illustrator before he or she even starts designing the collection. Imagine, for example, that you're looking for a series of animal illustrations for your children's room. Such a series of pictures will probably take the illustrator several months of work to get it in front of the customer's eyes, in this case yours.

Black and white prints on a home wall and in a nursery

The world of imagination is limitless: the illustrator and his style

In the same way that everyone has their own handwriting, illustrators have their own unique style that they use in their illustrations. The artist's style gives the viewer the opportunity to recognise him or her from his or her drawings. This can be a technique that is unique to the illustrator (such as paper cut-outs), or even elements in the image that recur (such as the almond-shaped eye in character drawings).

The illustrations always contain the artist's unique approach to colour or characterisation, etc. The artist creates a consistent visual language through his or her creativity.

This visual language contains the elements, characteristics, techniques and other traits that distinguish the illustrator from other artists.

6 examples from the illustration industry: picture book illustration, botanical illustration, book cover design, stamp design, sketchbook illustrations with pen and watercolor

But style is also an expressive tool that reveals a piece of the artist's personality. Just as the things we like and dislike change, it is not uncommon for an illustrator's style to change over time. Over the course of an artist's life, they gain experience and new inspiration, and these processes can influence their style.

In fact, there are illustrators whose style is more difficult to absorb. It also depends on the viewer, as some subjects are certainly closer to you, while others are completely neutral for you. If you see an image that you feel speaks to you, it's probably down to that.

What is an illustration for?

Illustrators present the world in a creative way that makes sense and resonates with the target audience. It is important to note, however, that an illustrator is not just a drawer, but can also be a storyteller and a conveyor of emotion in one person. The task is much more complex than being the "hand" of the client.

In the creative process, each illustrator expresses his or her unique style and creativity as he or she interprets and reworks the subject matter. Illustrators play a key role in the world of art, as they can turn imagination into reality and open up new dimensions for the viewer.

Illustration can be more than an artistic expression. They can also carry deeper meanings that can be understood by the viewer through a unified visual language.

6 examples on illustration: mug decoration, advertising illustration, stationery, home decoration, tapestry decoration

Get to know the illustration even better!

If you're new to illustration, now is the time to explore this unique art form. Just look around in your home and see what patterns, shapes and forms surround you. Do you have any objects at home that you know an illustrator has helped to create?

What products in the shop do you see illustrations on? It's always worth taking a look at the home decoration department in shops. But perhaps the easiest example of this is napkins, as you can buy an incredible range of patterns and they are available almost everywhere.

Look around on the street too! Do you see any posters that have been created using illustrations rather than photographs? It's very exciting at first to see things in a different light.

6 examples on illustration: pillow case design, Christmas mug and Christmas ball design, tea packaging design, advertisement with food illustration, Christmas postcard design

If you want to explore the world of illustration in more depth and get an insight into what an illustrator does on a daily basis, you can do so by following me on social media.

Image source: Unsplash


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