When you hear the word apple, what comes to your mind? The word itself, spelled, A-P-P-L-E? The price of apples that your mum quoted recently? Or do you picture a red, juicy, ripe fruit down to the minute details?
Well, if you belong to the third category, you are someone who has a very strong visual sense. If you can back it with skills of design as well as creativity, becoming an illustrator might just be the career for you!
If your idea of happiness is a blank sheet of paper that you can draw your heart out on, or a design that makes you forget time, you might just have been bitten by the illustrating bug early on like professional cartoonist and illustrator Balraj KN. “I would often find myself sitting in a corner in the class too engrossed with a sheet of paper, pencils, and an eraser, while all other classmates would be out in the field,” says Balraj.
In a world where automation is making huge headway, creative careers remain an area that still requires a lot of human intervention, despite the availability of software design tools.
What is the quintessential characteristic that an illustrator should possess? “Willingness to draw. That’s it,” replies popular merchandise illustrator Alicia Souza.
Describing the kind of creativity that this profession would demand, Balraj says, “A creative professional (cartoonist/ designer/ illustrator) needs a fertile imaginative brain that’s playful and experimental. New ideas come about not by simply obeying rules but by questioning previously held assumptions. The creative process is nothing but a problem-solving effort to find the most suitable answer to a question. A cartoon/illustration is nothing but an idea expressed in drawing. One has to spend time on thinking up the idea and executing it.” An illustrator’s line of work can range from cartoons, illustrations, visual scribing, graphic facilitation, infographics, storyboarding to caricatures. These can be done for media, corporates, NGOs, event companies, design studios, ad agencies, and animation studios, besides others.
Alicia says though it is not essential to have a professional education in illustration before taking up the career, an education does help. If you are looking to study a course, Balraj recommends that you look at completing a degree in visual arts in any premier design schools in India like NID, Shrishti School of Design, IDC, and NIFT, to name a few. He also provides a reality check to aspirants and mentions that becoming a creative professional is not a choice one makes based on prevailing trends. “The drive to be cartoonist/ illustrator/ designer should come from within rather than someone prodding you. It’s not the safest path to choose but there are immense joys and challenges for those who do. And one’s creative abilities and experience always count more than the best degree certificate that you can produce,” he says. Talking about trends and how she gets inspiration for her work, Alicia says, “I tend not to follow those because trends die and I like to draw messages rather than what’s popular in the market. I draw things that happen around me and things that catch my attention. Funny things I see, hear, or think about make me want to share, so I draw them.”
In short, if creative thinking, designing, and putting your ideas to create a visual treat are what you love to do, explore the world of illustration as a possible career option. And like Alicia, famous for her quirky one-liners, says, “Work hard, be nice.”
The writer is a new-age career expert and business coach.