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Insights on Illustration with Craig Smallish

with Craig Smallish

Video: How did you get your first job in illustration?

Craig Smallish, professional illustrator and creative strategist, shares his insights on breaking into illustration, keeping up with technology, and staying inspired.
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Insights on Illustration with Craig Smallish
Video duration: 0s 49m 41s Beginner


Craig Smallish started working as a professional illustrator in 1987, and has been a creative strategist for companies including Microsoft and Time magazine. In this course, he shares his insights on breaking into the field, keeping up with technology, and staying inspired. Craig explains exactly what a professional illustrator does, the importance of a formal education, how to transition from freelance to full time, and how changes in technology have impacted the industry. This course is invaluable for anyone wanting to get a foothold in illustration or the creative arts.


How did you get your first job in illustration?

And my first job in the industry, as a, as an illustrator. I'm going to back that up a little bit, because I think there's kind of an important component to this ramping up to my, my, my professional life as an artist/designer/illustrator. Right after college there was rent to pay. There were bills to pay and, you know, of course I'd, occasionally eat some food. I was able to land a job as a, as an auto mechanic in a very small kind of foreign car repair shop purely because I had, you know.

I had some skill sets that, that that allowed me to, you know, find that profession. So I was working as an auto mechanic and, and it paid the bills, but it was also very. It was not very satisfying because I had just finished college. And I had put together this, what I thought, and still do, looked back on and think as, as a great portfolio. And, I had gotten to this point in my career as an auto mechanic where I was actually approached by a a local dealership.

To come on board and, and they were going to pay for my, you know, training to become you know, fully certified as a, as a Audi Volvo mechanic. And I, I think it was at that moment I, I realized, okay I've got a, this is some important decisions, that need to be made here. You know, I can, I can do this, and I can, you know, probably live a. Comfortable life but, you know, as I think back, that wouldn't have been very rewarding at all for me. So I, I continued working at the small shop and on my, my lunch hours I would, I would in advance I would have scheduled some appointments with some different little studios and ad agencies around town.

And I would dash out into alle, literally into the alley behind the shop. I would have cleaned up. Scrubbed up. Get into the into my car which was parked in the alley. And take off and do a number of different interviews over that little, short segment of time. And I just started to get to meet, you know, designers and art directors in, in the area. And some were incouraging, others were maybe less so. my, my portfolio was, my portfolio was, my illi, my illustration portfolio was such that the type of imagery I was working on was, was very stylized imagery.

By no means was it, you know photo realism and I think there where there where certain art directors and designers who understood where I was coming from with that others who I think had a difficult time trying to figure out where this type of imagery would fit, how they could use it. And I met with any number of different criticisms of the, of the style of work I did. But ultimately I was fortunate enough to find some folks who were very encouraging of what I was doing and while they were encouraging I think I think one of the most remarkable.

One of the most remarkable bits of feedback that I received, it was early on, was from THIEL design in Milwaukee, they, they John and Norene Thiel, sat down, they, they were very encouraging, they said, we love your work, we, we really enjoy what you're doing. We, we don't have a place for it, but we love it and that was enough for me to continue on you know. The, they weren't handing me money but, that encouragement was so valuable it was such a huge catalyst for me.

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