Los Angeles Event: WORK IT, GIRL!
"Find ten people who are working in ways you want to be working and reach out to them." -Kate Bingaman-Burt
Last weekend I attended a female illustrators panel in Los Angeles. I left with fabulous notes, sopping with new knowledge that I'm excited to share. The panel featured Emily McDowell, Ann Shen, and Kate Bingaman-Burt. I sat pulsing with inspiration among a room full of fellow artists as we listened to stories and advice from the very illustrators many of us have been looking up to and following for years. The three panelists shared common themes on their path to success: use your creativity for the purpose of solving a problem you see in the world, and start from the bottom by making art every day and sharing it. With a combined client list of Disney, Chronicle, Harper Collins, Oprah, Chipotle, and Princeton Architectural Books, these women have illustrated their way to the top.
A particularly helpful load of advice I loved was from Kate, explaining that her business as a full time-illustrator didn't even become clear to her until waking up one morning to the thought “ohhh $%*#, I have a lot of deadlines…” When trying to get hired for work, she encourages using paper post (mhm, actual mail with a stamp!) Mailing self-promos in the form of postcards or zines can help you get booked for jobs. Which, by the way Kate has an inspiring Skillshare Class on zines called "Making Your First Zine: From Idea to Illustration” She also stated at the panel 'Creative work will come if you keep making the type of work that you want to be hired to do.' @KateBingBurt got her start illustrating bank statements and making one drawing a day of something she purchased. Another tip I loved was "Find ten people who are working in ways you want to be working and reach out to them."
Here’s a Q&A recap:
How do you price for private clients? The Graphic Artists’ Guild Book is a great reference for freelancers to use for quoting prices. But each project is different so use your best judgment. Also, ask your other professional artist friends what they charge! LadiesGetPaid.com and WorkingNotWorking.com were other good resources mentioned.
What does your team look like? This was a great question because although each of the panelists are FULL-TIME *swoon* illustrators, they all run the show in a different way. Ann works on her own aside from her book agent and publicist. Kate has hired interns and students to help in her studio, she also works with publishers during book development. Emily has the biggest team, which at one point was up to 15 people- including lawyers to try and help protect her beautiful work. …which leads to the next question:
What can we do about people stealing our work? There’s a few things you can do: Copyright.gov is the smartest way to legally protect what you make. Also, put your name on everything, so that when the image floats around the internet there’s no question about who made it. And the last and most important piece of advice is, be prepared in knowing your artwork will probably get taken, but keep making new art. Empowering advice from Ann “They can steal what you’ve already made but they don’t know what you’re gonna do next.”
Emily, what advice do you have for those of us who'd like to begin a stationery line? Start with a line of AT LEAST 40 good greeting cards before you approach selling them, and make a catalogue to go with it. Share your work on social media and contact your favorite stationery shops. Research if you'd benefit by attending stationery shows like NSS in New York, or perhaps using Etsy Wholesale.
The last question was especially exciting to me because several years ago I picked up one of Emily McDowell's greeting cards in Portland and wondered how she became such a success. Asking her face-to-face was an amazing opportunity, which leads to my own personal advice- ATTEND AS MANY EVENTS AS YOU CAN and engage in lots of informational interviews with other creatives.