Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some Stellar Illustration Wisdom

I was packing up my old college portfolios for the big move across the Charles next week and I came across a little hidden jewel. This list was given to me upon graduation from the Art Institute of Boston. I thought I'd spend the time typing it out because, as a senior in college this meant nothing to me...now, however...it means so much more. So those of you who lost your list... I am sharing mine.

Some Golden Rules of Illustration to Remember:

-Always do more thumbnails than you think you can. Exhaust the subject. Stand it on its head and try anything.

-Your preliminary sketches should be those 2 or 3 that really work from your thumbnails. These are the sketches that an art director will usually see, so make your concept clear and concise.

-Be flexible and open to suggestion. Never take anything personally. You are being directed after all.

-Be open to new developments in your artwork. You will need to grow and 'feed the well'.

-Try to stay true to your own voice. An illustrator needs their own identity.

-Your final sketch should have all your compositional dilemmas ironed out. It will be what you will be working from for your final illustration. The more you do at this stage, the easier your final 'painting' will be to create.

-Find a way to work that suits you, but admit to yourself when you are being lazy, because this will show itself in your work.

- Involve yourself in other art forms and read a great deal. Everything you do and everything you see will come out or have a bearing on your own work in time.

-For the illustrator, reproduction is paramount. More important than the original artwork. Cultivate a desire to be published.

-If you are not enjoying something, find a way to enjoy it. Again, any lack of involvement will be reflected in the final art.

-Be aware of other illustrators work, both past and present. Learn the markets and differences/ similarities in your own work.

-Your color composition is there to aid you. Do not think of it as a burdensome extra, but something that will help you make better choices in your final art.

I took the liberty of italicizing my faves.


  1. I think there are three golden rules of illustration that were left off the list...

    - Don't run with scissors

    - Don't sniff the glue

    - Don't leave your crayons in the sun

  2. Don't sniff the glue!? Why not? ;P

  3. Ive always believed that illustration is 90% mental and 10% technique... thats why I find this list incredibly informative. Great post!

  4. Great list, Renee! Looks like them there university to was good for something after all. ;)

  5. Seeing how I'm heading into my final year at school, this list finds me at a great time. Thanks for posting Renee!

  6. Anonymous8:03 PM

    Nice list. Hmmm, i can change the ilustration references to photography.
    Thanks for continuing to inspire me...

  7. Anonymous11:25 AM

    I have to agree with the rest of the commenters here. This is really helpful.