Contact time #1

As a Visiting Lecturer I am often asked question by students about Freelance Illustration either in passing or in the form of questionnaire emails and essay questions. The topics range from general practice, details on client relations and occasionally more abstract themes surrounding the nature of creativity and commercial activity. Somehow these questions are missed during the allocated contact time one has with students, but which are important in the formation of independent practice.

It woud be a shame for these questions to remain locked away in emails so I have decided to post them here.
If you have questions you would like to ask, please send them to


Q - Do you think illustration as a practice is one that means you need to be both objective and subjective?
What I mean by that is, objective in the sense, you are a professional who has to make money from it, but subjective to the extent that your work still has emotion and you yourself still enjoy producing work.

Illustration Student at the University College of Arts and Bournemouth

A - First i will begin by clarifying one aspect of your question which is fundamental to my answer. The nature of your conceptual apparatus is subjective, however you have a choice to align the activity of your conceptual apparatus, your mind, to the facts of reality, this alignement is termed objectivity. Now onto your question.

There need not be a divide between commercial success and an honest integrated, self-fulfilling practice. The reason why I state this is because the essential factor concerned in your question is creativity. The professional John D Rockefellers of the world who discover grand innovations in the production and commercialisation of energy and the Michelangelo Di Vinci's of the world who discover the very nature of human physicality expressed within pictorial form - are both creative, degrees of talent and areas of technical specialisation aside, they both commit the same fundamental act, that is they think. In other words they formulate new concepts based upon their observations of the facts of reality.

The formulation of a concept is the product of an orchestration of observed abstract facts into more complex integrated units, abstract facts are impressions composed of percept information, percept information is perceptual information absorbed or recognised through sensory faculties (predominantly sight as far as illustration is concerned). Creativity is the act of integrating information from its most basic sensory form into vast arrays of complex inter-related conceptual units.

Illustration as a practice is one that requires the application of your mind to the context of reality just as other industrious activities do. It requires focus at every level of your activity, from the functionality of your portfolio, to how your portfolio looks, to what is possible to produce within a given time scale, to the accuracy/relevancy of your representation of a given concept within a commission, to how best to maximise the profitability of your personal investment (be it time or materials etc). This is where we come to the crux of your question, so far as you are the thinker, the individual who exercises this faculty of concept formation for every aspect of your enterprise, there need not be a compartmentalisation within your creative practice between what is profitable and what is rewarding on a deeply personal level. Fulfilment itself pertains to ethics which means the essential question here is what is the good for man? if the good is to live, and if man is by his very nature a conceptual animal, then this activity of concept creation - if consistent with the demands of reality and therefore successful - is the means in which man achieves, maintains and excels in the act of living. So far as you are the individual who exercises this faculty of concept formation in order to sustain your own practice, and do not place that responsibility onto anybody else, your practice will be fulfilling in a broader sense.

To conclude, yes this profession is one composed of both commercial considerations and personal fulfilment, but these two veins are fundamentally the same. The challenge presented to most illustrators is to develop a working methodology that supports the range of activities necessary to make what you enjoy producing, possible.

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