Illustration: What is it and why do I need it?

29 Apr 2015

Illustration: What is it and why do I need it?

Illustrations are good for more than just children’s fiction. Illustrative images can add interest to non-fiction, adult fiction, professional documentation, social media, business branding and more.
We’ve invited Greenslade Creation’s very own illustrator, Glen Holman, to answer some questions about illustration.

What’s the difference between an illustrator and an artist?

Glen : Not a great deal. Every illustrator is an artist, but not every artist is an illustrator. You don’t just need to be able to draw (though it helps), but have a good eye for visualising somebody else’s ideas that they may not even have had yet, all the while reading the subtext for what needs to be in the illustration. An illustration should reinforce the text it accompanies, and emphasise the point being made, or alternatively give a different spin on the subject.


What uses do illustrations have?

Glen : There are many varying uses for illustrations—some are more mundane, such as instructional illustrations that you might find on medical documents, or health and safety instructions, where the illustration is meant to guide the reader with visual cues. More often, they are used to make stories more exciting, interesting or comical—a well placed illustration can make a point hit home, a joke funnier or a meaning more poignant. Illustrations are not suitable for everything, but they can really help transform an otherwise rather bland wall of text into something exciting and engaging.

What should I look for in an illustrator?

Glen : Attention to detail and consistency are always important. The actual technical ability isn’t too important in a lot of cases. Many illustrations don’t need to be detailed. I’ve seen good illustrations carried out with little more than stick people, and they’ve still worked. The key is to make sure it looks professional and deliberate. Other than that, your illustrator should be open to your ideas and not just go off on their own tangent. However, on the flip-side, they also need to be able to work from their own initiative. It’s a delicate balance. Overall, you need to be able to trust your illustrator with your ideas and be able to guide each other to a result that everybody’s happy with.


How long does it take to create an illustration?

Glen : It entirely depends on the illustration. Something in colour can range anywhere from twenty minutes to many hours, depending on the level of detail. Obviously, black and white is quicker, and line art is quicker still—but it’s impossible to give a definitive answer.


I have my own drawings, can I give these to an illustrator?

Glen : Of course! I actually love working on other people’s drawings; it takes a lot of the conceptualising out of the equation, which takes up a lot of the time. Sketches can rather easily be digitised and worked on, meaning I just get to colour and shade the work. The customers then get to see their own art as a professionally finished high-quality digital work. I find they’re always going to be pleased with the outcome as well, as it’s their own picture.

(client supplied drawings, digitally tweaked and coloured by an illustrator)


What’s your favourite kind of illustration?

Glen : I tend to work digitally most of the time, so I’m a big fan of digital art. There’s just so much that you can do with an illustration in a program like Photoshop that you just wouldn’t be able to do with a pen and paper. Plus, having an undo button is a BIG help.


How do you find inspiration for illustration?

Glen : Generally from the text it accompanies. Other than that, a childhood spent running around in my own dreamworld using my imagination has left me well armed to picture all kinds of weird things in my head. I don’t really have any particular places or things that I use for inspiration, as each job is always different, but sitting down with a pencil and some paper and just letting my mind wander and sketch for a while tends to help the process.


How much say do I have in how my illustration turns out?

Glen : As much as you want—some people are very clear in their mind what they want their illustration to be, and it’s helpful to have that information. I will say, however, that micro-managing an illustrator might not be the best approach. If you know exactly where you want each line to be, then perhaps you should try drawing it yourself and send it in to be digitised and coloured/shaded by your illustrator instead of getting them to draw it from scratch. Each illustrator is different, and will do things with their own spin, and that can’t often be helped.

Obviously, if you’re unhappy with an illustration then say so; most illustrators are trying their best to tap into your vision, but they might be going down the wrong path.

Generally I like to keep the customer quite closely associated with what I’m doing at each stage so they can critique the process as I go—to make sure we’re both thinking the same way and to save problems like this later down the track.

(illustrations by Glen Holman)


How much does an illustration cost?

Glen : That depends entirely on the amount of time spent on the illustration, which takes into account colour, shading, size, complexity, subject matter and so on. It’s impossible to give a solid answer, some illustrators charge by the hour, others may accept royalties instead of upfront payment.


Do you have any tips for any would-be illustrators out there?

Glen : Practice. All the time. Most illustrators started out scribbling away in a pad, painting stuff, or just playing around with arty things. Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You might get to a point where you stop drawing certain things because you think you aren’t good at drawing them. Well, don’t do that. Draw them over and over as much as possible until you are good at those things. Figure drawing is always helpful as well.


Get in touch with Greenslade Creations today to see your visions for illustration come to life. or 07 3345 1415