Faktorovich: How did you convince the first person that hired you as an animator/ illustrator that you deserved the job? Would you/ have you showed your portfolio from those days to the general public? Why or why not? (Can you share any of your early illustrations/ drawings as part of this interview?) What was the highest amount you’ve made for one of your illustrations? Was it from a flat payment for freelance work, or a percentage in royalties based on sales of the book? How did you get that project? Did you work with an agent? While in theory people told you that you can grow rich from illustration, has this really been the case in your experience. This is probably of top interest to new illustrators who are considering if this path is worth the sacrifice of more artsy pursuits.
Adams: The first person who hired me as an illustrator chose me because I had a sketchbook full of drawings with me. I had the person describe in words a character: appearance, emotion, and action. As they spoke, I drew. When they asked for my card, I told them I didn’t have one, but wrote their name inside my journal. They left hoping I’d call or email, because I had the drawing of their character in my sketchbook.
That’s how you get the job. Don’t carry a cumbersome portfolio of messy charcoal figure drawings. Don’t send them to your weak website, because they won’t bother viewing your portfolio page. Don’t wait!
Drawing in public was my best portfolio. Developing the spiel took some time, but worth every failure. It goes kinda like this:
Contact: “Hey, you’re talented. Are you a professional illustrator?”
Me: “Yes, I’m an award-winning children’s book illustrator.”
Contact: “Wow, I know a friend who has written a children’s book and needs an illustrator.”
Me: “That’s wonderful, I don’t have a card, but I’ll write down your email and you can forward it on to your friend. They can contact me when they’re ready.”
Contact: “Wonderful. Where can I get one of your books?”
Me: “I’ve illustrated over 50. If you go to the Barnes and Noble in the mall and buy a book, I’ll sign it now before I leave.”
Contact: “I’ll be right back!”
See how working on the spiel can land contracts and sell books. It took time though.
The most I’ve ever received for a single painting was $2,500 freelance for Marc Michaels Interior Design in Orlando, Florida. Nancy Short, Principal at Ansana Interior Design, Inc., commissioned my services after seeing art and furniture I had created for my own home.
My children’s book illustrations pay a deposit up front (average $8,000.00) and a royalty for the life of the book including merchandising (average 10-20%). I tend to be my own agent, actively interviewing prospective clients. The more hands in the cookie jar, the fewer cookies for everyone.
Getting “rich” as an illustrator is one of those words with double meaning. Is rich money? Is rich knowledge? Is rich cultivating strong relationships? As an illustrator, I invested $100 in supplies and generated $8,000 and a 10% royalty for life. That’s rich when you finish 6-8 books a year. As a publisher, holiday book sales make you rich! Until January, when you reorder 20,000 books to replenish inventory.
The knowledge and relationships cultivated through this journey are priceless. My animation dream was the stepping stone to my full potential. Authors and Illustrators create new realities for themselves and others.
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning Illustrator with Anna Faktorovich, PhD