Next came the subject of portfolios, of course in this day and age a portfolio is contained within an illustrators website and allows people from all over the world to view their work. Jill began her career at a time when portfolio visits (much like the viewings I’ve recently had) were the norm, and the best way to get your work out there. Although times have changed, Jill still puts a lot of thought and attention into her physical portfolio.
Jill’s advice is to create a physical portfolio that will stand out from the crowd and will inspire people. She has her portfolios custom made by a professional bookbinder based in Fife, who she went to meet in person and together they collaborated on creating a series of unique portfolios that are works of art in their own right.
However, alongside these handcrafted pieces Jill also uses an iPad as a portfolio. One of the benefits to this is the zoom feature, meaning that those viewing the portfolio can look closely to admire the intricacies of each design.
The second big lesson was: Draw. Jill made it clear that although she, like many other contemporary illustrators, uses Photoshop to compose illustrations; the elements used are all drawn by hand. Drawing is still very important to Jill, as are the materials she draws with. She made a point of saying how she draws with anything and everything. From the small pencils that are given out free in IKEA, to crayons that she bought years ago at a market in Mexico. And then of course there is ink, which can transform any household object into a drawing implement and produce a unique and distinct quality of line.
Then there is the question of what to draw; Jill talked of the time she likes to spend exploring the world with a sketchbook at hand to document her discoveries. She now has a large collection of sketchbooks documenting various people and places that she has encountered over the years, and all of which are now unique reference points that can be used in commissions.
She also mentioned what she referred to as ‘Google Drawing’; this is where you draw with reference to Google Images. To be honest I’ve been overly reliant on this process for a while now and could do with collecting more first hand sketchbook references like the kind mentioned previously.
Jill’s final lesson was to “Make mistakes and be silly”. She explained how illustration student are often guilty of taking themselves and their work too seriously, and that often when they start to get paid to illustrate they take their work even more seriously and forget to have fun. This means remembering to be playful in your work, to have a sense of humor about it and to have no fear about making mistakes. It is often when we are at our most playful that we are at our most creative and create our best work. If you have fun in creating a piece this will show in the piece itself.
I myself, now that I am faced with looming deadlines and responsibilities have been guilty of taking my work too seriously when I should always be remembering to be playful and enjoy the process. This important piece of advice came just at the right time for me, and I’m grateful that it did.
This was a fantastic talk, given by a passionate and confident speaker. Jill was as humorous and entertaining as she was informative and helpful. Thanks Jill!