2011/10/12 TIPS TIPS

Six Approaches to Making It In The Illustration Business

How do you find work as an illustrator?

For people with their sights set on becoming an illustrator, the most difficult problems to becoming a pro are knowing where to start doing illustration work, and what levels of self-selling/solicitation are required.

Freelance illustrators also wonder how other illustrators find work and opportunities to collaborate on unique projects.

This article takes a multifaceted look at ten artists currently working as part of a female illustration project called “BlueRoses” and relates some of their experiences with obtaining work. It also introduces “six approaches” for how to get your hands on illustration work.

In addition, BlueRoses is holding an upcoming female illustration seminar on October 29th called loftwork x BlueRoses. Demonstrations will be held showing the different techniques that professional illustrators employ for digital live painting. Live conversations with BlueRoses illustrators are also planned, so don’t miss the event information at the end of this article.

* Illustrator comments reprinted from the compilation “Girls Illustration Recipes (Socym),” a collection of techniques that BlueRoses uses for female illustration.

The Players

Akira Ebihara

Akira Ebihara

Yoshimi Ohtani

Yoshimi Ohtani






Dalma Shouten

Dalma Shouten



Yoshiko Miyamoto

Yoshiko Miyamoto

Satoko Chiba

Satoko Chiba


1. Perfect your web portfolio

Illustrators nowadays distribute information through personal sites and blogs, and display their work on a number of creator sites. This has become more or less the standard thing to do. Even people without much experience or actual achievements get requests for work from unexpected places, through the appeal of their artwork alone.

“My business style is operating my own web site and blog, in addition to displaying my works on creator sites.” – Yoshimi Otani.

“It truly was a matter of luck, but when I had just become a freelance artist, I got two illustration jobs at the same time – one for the “[[[MyBirthday]]]” cover page of a fortune telling magazine, and another for a billboard design for Shibuya fashion building 109-2.” –TAMMY)」

There are also tips for word choice, literary style and taste, so that what you write can be easily searched for and found.

“I heard that an editor found me through a search on the keyword ‘psychedelic.’ There are many ways to achieve your own little niche like I did.” –mamico

(left) TAMMY’s personal site. (right) Yoshimi Otani’s portfolio. A rich collection of works.

2. Build upon your achievements through online competitions

For those who don’t have many achievements, it is highly recommended that you enter a number of online competitions. Winning will improve your chances for exposure, and having a personal record of wins, or publication of works from competitions, can increase your credibility.

Even if you don’t win, entering competitions, understanding how you should handle various requirements and other related issues — this in and of itself is a form of training.

“If you’ll at least enter a variety of contests and increase your exposure, you’ll leave an impression on people.” –Xi

TrophiesPhoto by Brad.K | CC-BY

3. Get your portfolio organized and always have it with you

You never know when opportunity will come knocking. A good illustrator will have their portfolio with them at all times, so that they’ll be able to show off their works at a moment’s notice.

“I don’t do direct selling myself, but I always have my portfolio with me, even though it weighs a ton. If the topic comes up during dinner or drinks, I’ll be able to show off what I’ve done.” – Daruma Shop.

Some of you might think, “but carrying around a heavy binder is a pain!” If you think so, there are ways around it. The iPad and other tablet/touch devices can hold your portfolio in PDF or other formats.

Here is some advice for creating your portfolio.

“When creating your portfolio, it would be a good idea to add a note describing what advertisement or article the work was used in. Even if you have the illustration with you, the other person may tell you that they can’t ‘see the whole picture.'” – CNO

In order for others to understand why you were illustrating in the first place, it’s a good idea to add some sort of background information to the piece. This will result in a more effective portfolio.

ipad-horizPhoto by pablohart | CC-BY

4. Real opportunities come through social connections

Creator events such as personal/group exhibitions and design festivals are not just occasions to meet others; they are a chance for you to get direct feedback about your work.

“Public reaction can be pretty brutal. For those who have already had their work attain merchandise level, I believe that creating your own site and uploading your works, and increasing the number of friends and contacts you have on Twitter and Facebook can help strengthen your presence.” – Xi

It requires an honest effort on your part, but work will come if you utilize both in-person opportunities and social networks to increase your number of contacts.

5. Now is the time to take a chance

Internet media has risen to new heights of prosperity, but publication through magazines and books is still a popular source of illustration work even today.

“Lots of people read magazines, and since your name is published along with the work, there’s a good chance of getting called for a job because of it.” – – Yoshiko Miyamoto

As a general rule, however, people who choose which illustrators to publish are busy, and therefore can’t take the time to search through the mountains of information on a creator site. If you want to do a job for a publisher, you can’t just display your work on the web and wait. You should be proactive and go to the publisher’s official web site, or call them directly and set up an appointment. Visit the editorial department in person. This appears to be an effective plan of attack.

“Even if you’re told ‘Sorry, we’re busy, just send a sample of your work,’ you shouldn’t give up. For the time being, send a sample, and you might get a callback.” – Satoko Chiba.)」

So another option is being determined and taking a chance – getting a hold of someone in charge inside the publishing company could get you a step or two closer to that next big opportunity.

6. Put your heart into it – one job at a time

You could say the standard thing to do on a job is understand what the client is asking for, then create something using your own originality. Yet knowing how to create a work which exhibits “the answer” is the secret to being seen as a trusted and credible professional. A solid relationship with a client can lead to one job after another: they’ll say “give them the job and there won’t be any problems.” If you can become that person, before you know it, you won’t be out selling yourself to get jobs; the jobs will come to you.

Here are some comments from illustrators who have said “I often get jobs without looking for them myself.”

“Putting my heart into my job and making others happy — I don’t think there is a greater way to do business. There are often times when requests for corrections or additions come in suddenly, for a number of different reasons. It’s pretty difficult, but I try to do whatever I can to make the books or other publications in which my works are going even better, even if it means a hectic schedule.” – Akira Ebihara

“I don’t particularly sell myself, nor have I taken my works into a publisher. I just give my all to any job that I do.” – sioux

So what do you think? It’s something easy to understand and doable, isn’t it?

No matter what the job is, it’s important to never forget to think from a creator’s point of view.
“They probably don’t have time to search for an illustrator, so I’ll take a chance and make an appointment.”
“I should create an easy to understand portfolio.”
Think about how to put yourself in a situation where it is easy for someone to request work from you – and make it happen. You could say it’s the shortcut to doing “the work you want to do.”

There are lots of people in the illustration industry who started by “doing what they love for a living.” To those of you who are aiming for a career in this business, being motivated and committing yourself to your work is one thing, but also try to put these six approaches into practice, and do your best to find your own unique appeal.

★★Live on Ustream!!!★★

loftwork x BlueRoses Girls Illustrations Seminar


Illustration by オオタニヨシミ

This seminar is for people who wish to learn techniques on how to use digital tools such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, in order to create really cute and lovely girl illustrations.
An artist will be there to share his expertise on this field.

We’re going to broadcasting on ustream, check it out!
>>Ustream Channel

Event Details

● Digital live event for demonstration of techniques using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
● Broadcast as a live event via USTREAM
● Talk given by a professional artist on the field of illustrations
● An event for networking with artists
● Book “Girls Illustrations Recipes” will be available for sale


・Date and time: October 29, 2011 (Saturday) 15:00-20:00
・Location: loftwork Ground [MAP]
・Participation fee: Free of charge
・How to apply: please use this page to register your wish to participate.
・Organized by BlueRoses
・In collaboration with loftwork Co., Ltd
・Sponsored by Wacom Co., Ltd.

>>>>Apply From Here

About BlueRoses

BlueRoses is a project consisting of up and coming artists who are attracting a lot of attention within Japan and the rest of the world. It is comprised of 17 groups of illustrators whose objective is to promote girls illustrations around the world. “Girls Illustrations” aims to reach a pronominal existence and to raise the standard of the whole industry. Launched in October, 2009, BlueRoses develops products and holds exhibitions in Japan and the rest of the world.
Furthermore, BlueRoses is not comprised of curators or agents, but is an organization run by artists working together to achieve a common goal.


Kazuko Taniguchi

Kazuko Taniguchi







Hiroyuki Takahashi

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