I had an interesting talk with Fig Taylor who was at Woodlane for a forum aimed at helping graduating students. Fig Taylor is a portfolio consultant at the AOI and has worked for 5 Illustration agencies so she really knows her stuff. She gave a talk beforehand that outlined the fact that clients are lazy and because of this your portfolio needs to show them exactly what they would get if they hired you. In a survey 25% of clients said they would like to see a portfolio containing a couple of styles and pretty much everyone else said they just wanted to see one. She outlined the mainstream illustration clients as magazines, books, design companies and advertising. It is easiest to start with magazines and if you are looking for advertising work in a particular sector then you should approach magazines in this area first because design companies and advertisers will want to see relevant published work. Don’t just go for the obivious magazines because every other illustrator will be sending them work too, explore the obscure and the niche.
At the start of the day we had been given a talk about social networking that gave a brief outline of the benefits to using Linked In, Twitter and Facebook effectively (you should never hard sell and 80% of your interactions should be sharing or educating), I asked Fig if how important she thought social networking was to an aspiring illustrator and she told me of some great success stories of work being picked up through blogging and Flickr (not FB, Linked In or Twitter). The examples she talked about Linzie Hunter, Gemma Correll and Sophie Blackall all started self initiated projects and published them online.
The projects I liked the sound of most were Linzie Hunter’s Spam Project which took the subject line of spam emails and turned them into hand drawn typographic designs link and Sophie Blackall’s illustrations inspired by Missed Connections websites where lonely hearts try to reconnect with missed opportunites link. I especially appreciate these projects I think because they are similar to my Hummingbirds project and how a lot of my work starts – illustration is great for highlighting the funny and absurd and things that might otherwise be considered bad, forgettable or sad. I also think that these examples show that a portfolio with one style might be the best for taking to show potential clients but if you have self initiated work, authorial work, that you really believe in and want to show the world then you could publish as many blogs as you like in as many different styles as you like and there’s always a chance that people will notice and things will take off.