Ask Tania: When Should I Put my Illustrations 'Out There'?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Dear Tania,
I have a formal graphic design background, and that world is tough. You wouldn't share work with anyone for feedback and critique until it was 'bulletproof'. From what I've seen, with illustration in particular, it's better to start creating and just get it out there, but I'm worried there are downsides to that. Is it better to wait until you feel you are 'good enough' to share your work with others, or is it better to just get it out there?

Hi Kristen,

This is such an interesting question, and I think, in a way, it's a philosophical issue.

When it comes to illustration, as you well know!, there is no real 'marker' of 'good' or 'bad'. It's such a subjective thing, and nowhere more so than when it comes to the publishers of kids' books. While one editor may not resonate with your work, another may love it.

On top of that, artistic styles are so broad and variant ... publishers, and indeed authors, need to feel the work resonates with a particular book. Your work could be utterly superb but if it doesn't suit the tone and style of the book, it won't be taken on. This is all good to remember when it comes to rejection, as there are many reasons a work is rejected, and most of those reasons will have nothing to do with the quality of your work.

Having said that, I do believe illustrations need to be of publishing standard to be considered for publication. By publishing standard, I mean skilled enough in line work, design, colourways and finishing--essentially, print-ready.

Being a trained graphic designer, I would presume you already have talent, and I'm certain it's to publishing standard, so I think you should feel confident about that. Not everyone will like your work and some may pick it apart, but that's the challenge for any creator--and we can't be afraid--we must fortify with self-belief and--quite simply--the sheer desire to create.

In summary, I don't think an artist is ever 'ready' to put their work out there, and there aren't any downsides to doing that. You can't 'lose credibility' by showing your art. Just as the writer can always edit and re-edit and re-edit, the artist can always tinker--endlessly sometimes! So I'm all for just getting your work out there, not over-thinking it, and trying not to rely on the opinion of others. I rarely ask friends and colleagues for feedback on my work--I work hard to hone it, and then tend to trust my intuition. I simply ask myself this 'Do I like it?' If the answer is yes, it's good enough. If you hesitate, then perhaps create something new.

The publishing industry is a dichotomy in that it is constantly on fast-forward yet achingly slow. Responses, reactions, contracts--can take years. Don't waste time. Get your work out there. Have a web presence and forge ahead. Show your work. Submit it. Flaunt it. Be proud of it. Nothing will come of works stuffed in a closed portfolio, but the shared portfolio contains endless possibility.

Good luck!


HOT TIP: when submitting illustrations to publishers, bear in mind two requirements they're always looking for. Number one is continuity, so ensuring your characters look the same in all states of movement and physical states. The second is emotion. Be sure to learn ways (you can look this up online or simply study animals, faces, etc) to impart emotional response and the way a character's face should move according to how he or she is feeling.

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