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3 False Beliefs About Art and Illustration

Updated on August 19, 2019
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Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

My self-portrait in charcoal
My self-portrait in charcoal | Source

False Beliefs

Art and illustration is a business like any other business but it seems many people treat it like a hobby that should be available to any and all for free. I find it so difficult to overcome the overwhelming false beliefs and negative premises. Here are a few things I have come across that keep people from working with me as if I were a real business.

If it (painting) weren’t so difficult, it wouldn’t be fun.

— Edgar Degas
Collage Illustration of a writer
Collage Illustration of a writer | Source

1. My Daughter Can Draw

One of the main disabling attitudes is the idea that anyone can do quality work for them. People think if they have an artist “in the family” that the never have to pay a professional for illustration work. I had one lady tell me that she needed a cover illustration for the book she had finished writing but when she learned to cost of a professional, she decided to have her daughter create something for her. There is nothing wrong with wanting a family member to create an illustration for you. You do need to keep in mind, that you get what you pay for. Unless your family member has been educated in illustration, you won’t get the best work.

Another time I did some preliminary sketches for t his book on baseball pitches and after working for a week on his book illustrations he paid me a little and said that he had decided to let a family member do the work for him at a lesser price. I appreciated him at least giving me a closing fee because I had put in a weeks work. I hope he will be pleased with the work he gets from his family, but doubt that it will be quality.

A man throws himself out of the fourth-floor window; if you can’t make a sketch of him before he gets to the ground, you will never do anything big.

— Eugene Delacroix
My daughter can draw
My daughter can draw | Source


The other problem with this attitude is that every artist is different. We all have different genres, preferences, expertise in different mediums and styles. No two are really alike. You can ask your family member to give you a realistic style illustration, but if they are used to doing work in Manga, you will probably get your illustration or book cover in that style, whether you like it or not. It is best to hire an artist with the style and expertise that you like and not try to force an artist who works in another style to do what you want.

Have you ever hired an illustrator?

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A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.

— Colin Powell
My diploma
My diploma | Source

2. Education

I’ve heard it before and I even thought it myself for a while: artists don’t need an art school education. I was a self-taught artist for most of my life. How I wanted to go to an art school but I got married and college was the dream I left behind. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last, but with two little girls, I couldn’t go back to college. It wasn’t until the children left home for lives of their own that I wanted to get back to my dreams. I tried to break into illustration without the education and I did get a few pieces published but mostly I met a closed, brick door. When I discovered I could complete my schooling with a prestigious art school online, I jumped at it. I thought that it would be a piece of cake since I had already been doing art for 20 years, but the school pulled out of me things I didn’t know I possessed. Good enough was not good enough. I had to work on pieces I thought were good, over and over again. My art improved immeasurably. They taught me the particulars and rules of certain kinds of illustration that I didn’t know before.

Yes, I could have done the art without education, but I got much better with education. Yes, I could have decided I was fine with the few meager pieces that got published in children’s magazines but I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted more. Yes, I could work a little in art programs, but I never could master them without the education the art school classes gave me. It is the education that made all the difference. Of course, I’m late coming to the party, but I’m not dead yet and I feel assured that I will be doing art till they pull the paintbrush from my cold dead fingers. Grandma Moses painted till she was 105 and that will be my legacy as well.

Don't listen to those who say you're taking too big a chance. (If he had), Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.

— Neil Simon

Online Classes

Since those days I have found there are some places that offer specific classes in many art and illustration related fields without the art school price. Just a few are Creative Live and Skillshare. Skillshare is a subscription-based educational platform with thousands of classes and skills to offer for about $10 a month. You can take classes in drawing, painting, book illustration, book cover illustration, and much more. There are classes on everything from cooking to sewing to technical programs like movie making, After Effects, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and more. It is well worth checking out. I also noticed many famous artists are creating and selling teaching packages online for those who want to see how they do their illustrations. There is a wealth out there for the discovery.

Collage illustration of my grandfather at 90 years old.
Collage illustration of my grandfather at 90 years old. | Source

3. Hurry Up

It is just as ludicrous to call up an artist and expect hours/days of work done over the weekend or by the next day. This happens all too often as well. Magazines are notorious at this but they aren’t the only ones. “How fast can you get this done? We need it by Monday.” It seems to me that if they really needed it that soon they would have scheduled it better. Still, many of us will try to accommodate good customers and companies by working all night or all weekend for a project. The biggest problem is that it cannot be our best work when we do that. I have done it before an was sorry because if I had had more time I would do the work so much better. Art is not something we just turn out by magic. It takes hours of skill and eye-blurring focused work. Sure, we can do the work faster than your daughter, Joy, but we still need time.

Collage Illustration for Children's Book

Never Again

I have come to the place that I won’t take a rush job anymore unless I’m sure I can focus on it exclusively. If there are any other projects on my artboard, I just won’t divide my attention anymore. The last time I tried it, the customer was unhappy with the outcome and they canceled the project in favor of asking some other artist to do the job. To me, that meant, first I had wasted my valuable time and effort, and second, that they had more time available to them than they first told me. I just won’t do that again. If you want my services, give me the time I need to complete the job.

The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.

— Wassily Kandinsky
Collage illustration of best friends
Collage illustration of best friends | Source

Final Thoughts

What are your thoughts on the issue of hiring an illustrator for a job? Do you have any phobias about them or problems with the industry? I’d love to hear your take on it.


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