I’ve drawn since I can remember; almost anything. Mostly, it would be cartoon characters or characters and stories of my own. I always found the animation and comics world fascinating. That’s why I learned to draw. Later I found out that it is not that easy to be an animator or a comic artist, but my passion for drawing continued. I started studying graphic design and to my surprise there were a lot of ways to continue drawing; to apply my passion and skills to magazines, websites, products, apps, almost anything! It was wonderful. As I learned after, the drawings were not only for the love of the art, they had a meaning. A purpose. It was an Illustration.
But what is an illustration?
An illustration is a drawing, composition, collage or a graphic piece that communicates a message or helps to make a message clearer. It can be made with traditional painting and drawing methods or digital. In contrast with a piece of art, which is tied to the interpretation of the viewer, an illustration needs to send a universal message. Everybody needs to understand the same idea; it’s not up to interpretation. (You can learn more here)
As I said above, to be an illustrator we need to communicate a clear message and to make it visually appealing to viewers. I've been illustrating for a while now so here are the things I’ve been doing that have helped me to be closer to the illustrator I want to be.
Draw, draw and draw.
Nobody became an expert on what they do without practice. This happens in all disciplines. Same is with drawing: If you don’t draw, it will be harder to create appealing illustrations. Here’s an example: When we learn how to drive we are afraid of everything, right? We glance at our mirrors. We are conscious of everything on the street. We are nervous. It’s difficult to park, difficult to shift gears. But as time passes we become more skilled and these things are no longer hard to do. We can even perform pro stuff like parallel parking or being an F1 pilot (Listen to our F1 podcast!).
The same happens with drawing, we reach a point in our life where we stopped and our skill level stays the same. So, when people say they don’t draw it is usually because they stopped practicing. They stopped drawing. As in driving, if we continue drawing during our life and don’t stop, we would develop the skill and eye to be a good artist and illustrator.
Learn the fundamentals.
Taking the example of learning to drive, before actually driving there are a set of rules we need to learn: like which side of the street we drive on, what stop lights mean, green lights, stop signals and also how the car works. Also turn lights, stick shifts and automatic transmission; these are the fundamentals.
In order to become good illustrators we need to learn the fundamentals of drawing like composition, color, forms and typography. Combining this with practice helps us improve our skills; or at least it takes us on a good path. There are a lot of books and courses online with these fundamentals. Some are gonna be for comic drawing, traditional painting methods or digital art. The media doesn’t matter because everyone uses the same basic set of rules to create a good visual composition.
Break the fundamentals.
The rules are meant to be broken, right? So after learning the fundamentals, break them! Explore different ways to do things, mix weird colors, break your composition, add weird characters and even mix media! it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t follow every composition rule: If it looks good and complements the message, you are doing a great job.
Draw with a meaning.
This means that when you practice illustration, try to give it a message. Try to see if you can communicate an idea and if people get it. This is gonna put you in a mindset for drawing with purpose. An exercise can be to grab a piece of text from a blog or a book and do an illustration about it. Does it communicate the idea? Another one can be to create illustrations for websites or apps. Try to help the content to communicate better and also to give it delight.
It’s ok if it takes time to find your style.
I’ve been changing styles since I can remember. First it was cartoonish, then flat, then artsy, then vectors, then geometrical and I could go on. It’s hard to find your style because as we grow as persons and illustrators, we change our mind. Some things that we found difficult are not anymore: so we develop our own styles. Don’t be mad at yourself or feel bad if you imitate or copy: that’s the exploration we need to do! Try different techniques like pencil, vectors or a mix of it! It may take time but eventually you’ll feel comfortable with your process and the work you do.
Get into real projects
The only way to continue improving ourselves is by practicing, exploring and learning as much as we can. One of the best ways of doing so is to get into projects where you can apply this knowledge. Find an opportunity in your current job where you can help with illustration. Ask a friend with a local business to let you work their social media, business wall, print media. You can even pursue your personal projects and use it as a playground. It doesn’t matter which one you end up with, the idea is to apply and be familiar with workflows and processes you’ll need to get a job in the future.
Keep going forever!
Hope you liked how I ended up illustrating and that the practices I’ve been doing help you to become an illustrator or at least to get back into your drawing hobby you left 10 years ago. Continue practicing and don’t give up. It gets better with time. As Mando said: This is the way.
If you wanna see more about my work as illustrator follow me @eleduardoreyes.