Julia is 32 years old and works as an illustrator. She studied the art and business of illustration at Sheridan College for three years. She now lives in Toronto. You can see her work in both national newspapers, as well as magazines, books and products of all kinds.
Stephanie: What made you decide to become an illustrator?
Julia: I became an illustrator because I’ve always chosen books by their covers. I am not naturally a fine artist - I work very well with client deadlines and love moving on to a new project. Fine art has always seemed to be one continuous process to me, a project that never has an ending - and at the time when I was choosing which college or university to attend, it bothered me that I didn’t know any fine artists that actually made a living from what they loved to do.
Stephanie: How did you become an illustrator?
Julia: I moved out of my parents' home at 16, and quit school not too long after. I spent years trying to get back on track and struggling to figure out what I wanted to do. I worked full-time at jobs I hated and took high school courses part-time once I realized that I couldn’t get anywhere without them.
When I was 25, I decided to take a leap and apply for the illustration course at college. It seemed right since I was always doing little side projects like painting Christmas windows, signs and faux finishes for restaurants and businesses. I was accepted and I took an illustration course at Sheridan College in Oakville for three years, and several extra drawing and painting classes on top of that in Toronto at the same time. Yet it wasn’t as simple as that. Illustration is a competitive field and I have been working steadily at it for five years now since I graduated to get my name out there using; direct mail, several Web sites showing my online portfolio, acquiring an agent in California and my own to feet to pound the pavement to show my portfolio.
Stephanie: What does an illustrator do?
Julia: An illustrator is someone who can paint a picture to accompany an article in a magazine or newspaper and tell you something that the words within in it aren’t saying. An illustrator will help sell a product or a book - go into the grocery store and see how many products there have illustration on them - there are hundreds!
Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Julia: It’s exciting! My work gets seen by millions of people every day - when I have a piece printed in the Globe and Mail, my aunt can buy the paper and see it in British Columbia. It’s very satisfying. Some other parts of my job that I love: I have crazy working hours (sometimes I’m up 'till three in the morning painting!) but I can work in my pajamas if I feel like it since I work at home and I get to draw and paint for money! It’s a dream come true.
Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Julia: My least favourite part of the job is that I don’t have a steady paycheque - waiting for money to come in the mail is painful torture. Another part I dislike is that I don’t have any health coverage or retirement funds that a company would normally provide in a more traditional job. So when I go to the dentist or need new glasses, I have to pay for these things myself.
Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming an illustrator?
Julia: Be prepared. Illustration is a competitive field and can be a fleeting business. Perseverance, foresight, and artistic skill are key to being an illustrator.
Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be an illustrator?
Julia: I took an illustration course at Sheridan College and I couldn’t have been as successful as I have without it. They taught me a lot about the freelance business and the history of illustration that you need to know before you go out there.
Stephanie: Who is your favourite artist, and why?
Julia: That is a really tough question, I have many artists that I admire. If I have to say one, I would say Paul Klee. His work is so magical and it makes me laugh.
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