Si Clark Interview
11. How did you first establish contact with a client?
I started working freelance 6 years ago. It's something I went straight into and to be honest, I didn't give it much thought. If I did I might have worried too much about it. I started getting work by looking through various online job sites. I applied for as many jobs as I could and eventually got one. I can't remember what is was, one of my first projects was doing some illustration work for a dentist. He had posted an ad saying that he needed an illustrator/animator which I replied to, sending him links to my website and got the job. So it was all through email, that's pretty much how I conduct almost all of my business.
22. How are your work habits? How do you go about dealing with your projects, deadlines, and the like?
I normally am working on a number of different projects at any given time. For example at the moment I am working on 1 music video, 2 children's book projects, 1 private illustration, 1 illustration for a fashion magazine, 1 leaflet illustration, 1 web animated cartoon, 2 album covers and small job changing some information on some leaflets. Sometimes it's a little difficult to balance everything but normally each project has very different deadlines and I just sort them into ones that are urgent and ones that are not so urgent. There is also a lot of waiting involved as clients look over various stages and give feedback. So that means you can do the first part of project A and then while you are waiting for feedback you can start projects B and C and so on.
I have a work diary which I try and write down lists for each day and can then easily prioritise which jobs to do first. I find this is a huge help to me and I can structure my day and be very productive. Sometimes it is hard working from home as you can be easily distracted but I seem to do ok.
As I work from home I normally spend the mornings sorting out chores and food shopping and then leave the rest of the afternoon and evening for work. Even though I am quite good at managing my time there have still been many occassions when I have to work all through the night to get work done but I work well under pressure so it's not too much of a problem.
33. How helpful is your internet presence and website?
My website and internet presence is VITAL. That is one of the most important things to do if you want to become an illustrator or any kind of artist. If you don't know how to build a site or can't afford to pay someone else to do it then just use one of the many free online gallery sites like Deviant Art or GFX Artist or just start a blog. You need something so you can send interested parties to your portfolio. I spent the first few years of being freelance finding as many online galleries as I could and putting as much work on there as I was allowed. At the time it might seem almost pointless as you might not get instant responses but hopefully overtime more and more people will see your work.
Also enter as many competitions as you can, sites like Deviant Art have them all the time. Just do anything to get your work out there, that is the most important thing. It's clichéd but you never know who might be looking. I have had countless jobs from random people all over the world that have seen my artwork on one of the many sites it's on and have asked me to do work for them. This happens all of the time.
So you need to put a lot of time and effort in to build up your internet presence but hopefully that will pay off and lots of people will find your work. I'm not that great at it at the moment, I've been meaning to update my website for ages but have been too busy.
44. I see that you have other skills besides Illustration under your belt. Are there any other skills you have that you feel are helpful or ideal for an illustrator to have?
If you going to be an illustrator then most likely you will be freelance and self employed so will need as much work as you can. Therefore it makes sense to learn some other skills so you can get other kinds of work when illlustration jobs dry up. There are always loads of graphic design and web design jobs out there. I don't know anything about them, my other job is as an animator. My work load is pretty evenly split between both animation and illustration.
55. Were there any non-art related classes you took in college that you feel have helped/influenced your work?
I wasn’t really aware of any non-art classes at our art college, it wasn’t that big. I spend pretty much all of my time on my artwork so I have very little time for anything else. It’s my job and my hobby.
66. What sorts of things inspire you and influence your work?
Ideas come from so many things. For example, I am working on a large animation project at the moment which is made up of lots of small shots which I need ideas for. I went out into London for the day and on the tube into the city looking at the buildings gave me an idea. Then later listening to a particular track gave me a new idea. I went to a couple of art exhibitions each of which gave me new ideas and then later when I am trying to get to sleep I have new ideas popping up in my mind. I try and carry a sketchbook with me wherever I go or at the very least a pencil and some paper just so I can scribble down all of the things that come into my head. It might be the colour scheme of a building that sparks off a new idea, or a tiny little area of a painting or a certain technique that inspires some new ideas. They can come from pretty much anything. When I have a new project (illustration or animation) normally I get the idea for it almost instantly as I am reading through the brief. On the occasions that this doesn't happen I will start drawing rough ideas until something works. Sometimes I get projects where the right idea just isn't coming into my head. When this happens it's best to re-read the brief and get all of the information in my head. then I go away and do something completely different and trust that while I am doing this my unconscious mind is working away on the problem and then eventually the idea will pop into my conscious mind.
In terms of influence, 1920s German Expressionistic cinema, in particular the film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari had a big influence on my style. Reading Dr Suess books as a kid probably influenced me too. With regards to the texture and darkness of my personal work that has mainly been influenced by personal issues and mental illness.
77. What do you do when you run out of inspiration?
I sort of answered that question in the previous answer. I just fill my head with information and then go and do something else and hope that my unconscious mind sorts it out which is what normally happens.
88. Is there anything you wished you knew in school that you know now? What sort of advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
I think I probably would have taken more advantage of the equipment at my college. We had a couple of print making courses but I really should have used the print room in my free time and learn how to screen print as I think this would have been very useful. I highly recommend learning screen printing if you can as it means you can produce your own t-shirts and make your own prints. Obviously I can still do courses now but it's just easier when you're at college because all the equipment is there and there are no extras fees for using them.
When I was at art college I don't think it was made very clear that it is quite hard to start off being freelance. Due to there not really being many full time illustration jobs, freelancing is what you are most likely to be going into. Therefore I think it would have been helpful to have some teaching about how to set yourself up working for yourself. I would recommend getting an accountant as soon as possible unless you like filling out horrible tax returns. I can't stand it and am more than happy to pay someone to do it for me.
Also, I don't know if you use a large portfolio case at the moment but I strongly recommend that you get a much smaller case for when you go to meetings/interviews. I use an A4 size portfolio case which means I can do any printing at home which just makes life easier but having a large portfolio case is like having a neon sign on your head stating 'I have just left college'. In my experience (I can't remember if I already mentioned this) illustration agencies want you to have some experience before taking you on.
In terms of advice spend your first few years trying to do as many competitions and any free work that comes up just to build up your portfolio with professional work so you don't have college work in your portfolio. And include personal work as well as this will show you have a lot of passion and enthusiasm for illustration if you are doing it in your free time.