How can I get a career in book illustration?

Yulia wants to get a career in illustration but has been out of the creative world for a few years.

I would like to find out how I can get into the book illustration design. I graduated a few years ago and I have a degree in Scientific Illustration. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to gain more experience in my profession, but I really want to work in book illustration. I guess when you are out of the world for 2-3 years, you start to feeling a bit self-conscious and can lose confidence in your art work. 

I really don’t want for this to happen and I really want to achieve something in my life. At the moment I work in a 9-5 job and it really drains me as I really want to work somewhere where I can use my creative skills. I found your website and I am hoping that you can give me some advice as to where I shall start to get me back on track. I live in Leeds, but I prepared to move to London if I have to as I really want to work in Illustration. I am looking for a place where I can gain some experience in working as illustrator. 

I am sorry but I guess this is my cry for help to you and I hope that you can advise me on something. 

— Yulia Fomina

Expert answers

Martin Roach's reply:

​Hi Yulia,

I think the first thing is for you to get that confidence back in your ability to do what you love. This is essential as there will undoubtedly be some knock-backs along the way. I once made 200 phone calls in 2 days looking for work experience.

Now you may have been out of the game for 2-3 years but …your tastes and eye for illustration will have matured so you will need to ensure that this is reflected in your current portfolio. You work 9-5 which is tough, but you may need to invest some time into your portfolio to ensure that it reflects who you are NOW not 2-3 years ago. If you can achieve this I believe you will gain the confidence you will need to face the challenges ahead.

Look out for some short courses (members of my team are always going on short courses in writing/ directing/ lighting/ just to stay sharp - so look at this as a lifetime’s pursuit) that can help you connect with your craft a bit deeper - I know it’s hard to fit it around the full time job but … it may give you the sanity you need.

Although the world of a creative can be lonely I would look to collaborate on a project with some like-minded people. Imagine a short film that utilised your skills. This would allow you to develop your network in Leeds and will help you raise the bar when it comes to your work. You’ll have to put yourself out there though.

Finally, look to get your work online, there are some great free websites out there and illustrators (in my opinion) have some of the most engaging freelance websites you can find.

I know it’s not going to be easy but if you can design a way that helps you remain engaged in your profession, build confidence, and collaborate I think finding a job will be a natural step.

Good luck!


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