How I became an illustrator

6:30 pm

If you've followed my blog for a while, you might know over the past three years I've been studying International Fashion Promotion at Manchester Metropolitan University, it's a course I loved and adored and honestly wish lasted longer than three years. This, combined with the fact I had a blog, landed me a couple of internships along the way, most relating to fashion, including backstage at London fashion week (read more on that here), in visual merchandising at a large highstreet retailer's HQ, and in what is now my awesome part time job, social media at Voodou and Hippy Club. So how the hell did I end up becoming an illustrator?

During my final year at university, one of our assignments, which also happened to be my favourite, was to create a visual concept to promote a designer showcasing at fashion week. I chose Mary Benson, a London based designer who's collection at the time was filled with doodles, hearts and teardrops. After running the idea by my tutor (miss you Jen), we thought mine and Mary's aesthetics would be a good match. Inspired by heartbreak which seemed to me to be a running theme throughout the collection led me to research pop art, which then led to me exploring emotions, and how do we express emotions in 2016? Emojis. There was my concept. After a good play around and a sketchbook's worth of fun, I created a range of emojis inspired by Mary's collection, which in theory would be launched in collaboration with Tinder. Thankfully, the assignment went down a storm, earning me 86% (yippee!) and even a regram off Mary herself who has been so supportive, thank you Mary! - I'm still down for a collab if you are.

This is probably my biggest piece of advice if you want to know how to become an illustrator - or anything for that matter. Collaborate! Think of all the designers showcasing at fashion week, I could have produced work for Chanel, Fendi or Dior. But those guys have enough people falling at their feet to work for them. I'm more interested in the new, the exciting. And besides, what are the chances of Karl Lagerfeld giving me a shoutout? Pretty close to nil. Find people who inspire you, get stuck in, explore different themes and types of media, and show them your work. What's the worst that can happen?


With my tutors cheering me on and the emojis getting a good response on social media, I realised I'm not too shabby at drawing, and it's partly due to my graphics tablet. I wouldn't have been able to complete that assignment without this tablet, which my amazing friends at uni got me for my 21st birthday. So I guess they're partly responsible for me becoming an illustrator too, thanks guys!

If you want to become an illustrator, you're going to need some tools. You don't need anything state of the art, you can make do with a HB pencil and a sketchbook from your local art shop, just make sure the paper is decent and you have a sharpener handy. I'm no expert on the tools front, but it turns out people in art shops are super friendly. If you're local to Liverpool, venture into Rennie's on Bold Street, they'll be able to help.


Soon after the third year stress was over, I received an email from the pictures editor at Metro.co.uk, it turns out he'd seen my work on Behance and wondered if I would be interested in some freelance work. My answer to which was HELL YEAH, just worded a little more professionally. A few days later and my first job came through, I had approximately 12 hours to create three illustrations for an article about a girl suffering from Alice in wonderland syndrome. A lot of coffee and not a lot of sleep later, my work was submitted and soon enough it was made official, I am a published freelance illustrator.

Another tip: publish your work. Have a digital portfolio on Dropr, Tumblr or Wix and don't forget to publish your work on sites like Behance and Instagram, it's probably the easiest way to get noticed. Plus they're both amazing creative communities to enjoy.

As many of you know, freelance work has it's pros and cons, and doesn't always make for a steady income, especially when you're just starting out. So to help me gain some more work, and a little more cash to pay my rent, I decided to build up my portfolio and put myself out there. Having been a blogger for almost four years, I like to think I know the community fairly well, the people, the politics, the trends. I know portraits are popular and a little flattery never hurt anybody, so why not do some custom portraits for some bloggers I know? I sent out a tweet and, thankfully, I got some replies, agreeing to give my work a tweet or an Instagram post in return for a free portrait. I've now sent the free portraits on their merry ways and so far, so good.

Working for free is always a touchy subject, and honestly I could talk about it for hours, but if you've got a few hours spare and someone who's willing to take what you've got on offer, why not? Plus it feels really nice to do something for someone else, admittedly whilst getting something back in return like a shoutout.
As of now, I'm eagerly checking my inbox every hour waiting for a request or some more freelance opportunities. It may not make me Tuesday Bassen (illustration goals) or fund my masters degree just yet, but I'm hoping it will pave the way for a creative career in the future, as well as putting me through my final year of education - unless I decide to do a PhD that is. This, alongside my marketing work for Voodou, Hippy Club and The Hippy Rose, which I really enjoy, keeps me busy when I'm not sat at my desk blogging. When you combine all these roles together, it's even better than I would have imagined newly-graduate life to be.

If you're in any way interested in what I do, give me a shout! Whether you want to know more about becoming an illustrator or would even like to make a request - ahem - I do portraits, banners and social media buttons from £5 - send me an email at alliedavies182@gmail.com. It could be the start of something great!

Good vibes guys 

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2 comments

  1. These illustrations are so good! I don't think I would ever cut it out as an illustrator so I admire your work x

    Eleanorclaudie.com

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  2. oh I love your style, it's so cool! best of luck with it, sounds like you're doing pretty awesome already

    charlotteharvs.co.uk 👽

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