How do I become an illustrator? Artist Mark Weighton shares his tips
Do you want to illustrate books one day? Mark Weighton is the inventive illustrator behind the wonderful Boyface series – here he shares his top tips on how to get his job!
1. First and foremost, do what you love!
I don’t consider myself solely an illustrator, but illustrating books is one of the things in my life that I love. I do loads of other lovely stuff that inspires and informs my illustration work and it was pursuing those things in life that I love that actually led me to illustrating books.
2. Copy stuff you love!
I always copied the drawings that I loved, particularly out of comic books. Teachers usually tell you off for copying but I say: “COPY! COPY! COPY!”
I learnt so much by seeing how other artists made their drawings, and the best way to do that, I discovered, was to try to draw like them. Don’t tell my publishers, but I hereby encourage all young illustrators to copy drawings of Boyface as often as they want!
3. Remember what excited you about the drawings you loved when you were little.
I had a favourite author and book when I was little. It was called What Do People Do All Day? by a brilliant American author and illustrator called Richard Scarry. His drawings in this particular book were so full of crazy and very funny things that sometimes I would spend hours gazing at one picture just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. In the same way, I love to fill my illustrations with loads of odd stuff so that there is always something new to notice and hopefully raise a smile.
4. Don’t worry about being rubbish – just aim to do your best!
I certainly wasn’t the best at drawing in my class at school but I knew I loved it. In the end, by doing more of it than anyone else, I got better than most other people. But I still don’t consider myself to be a naturally gifted artist. I have to work hard to make a drawing I like.
5. Do some drawing every day – because you love to, not because you think you ought to.
If you haven’t already got one, get yourself a sketchbook as soon as possible and draw in it whenever you can, even when you are watching the telly! Fill those pages with anything: doodles, squiggles, patterns, sketches of your family, pets, dinner table, furniture or crazy worlds from your imagination – ANYTHING!
My two daughters draw all the time when they’re watching telly: in their sketchbooks, on the backs of envelopes, scraps of paper, even on their own skin and surprise, surprise: guess what? They’re both fantastic at drawing – much better than me in fact. They don’t want to be illustrators; they just love drawing.
6. Draw for other people.
Try to draw and design your own birthday cards and Christmas cards for your friends and family. You won’t believe how much happiness a hand drawn card can bring someone until you try it. Doing this on a regular basis when I was at school helped me to be less worried about showing my work to people. It will also save you a good deal of your cash in those awful card shops!
7. See where a line takes you.
Just start anywhere on a page and see where the marks you make take you. Try not to think too much about the outcome. The latest sketch might be something you throw away OR it might just be the best drawing you’ve ever done. If it doesn’t do what you want it to do then you can always have another go.
8. Mistakes can lead to the best results.
I’ve often found that when I’ve made what I think is a terrible mistake in a drawing that it can lead to an even better drawing than I had thought possible. It sometimes pays to work with a mistake and see what happens before discarding the drawing as useless.
9. Use a pen straight onto the page to gain confidence.
Don’t dilly-dally around with a pencil and eraser too much. Get confident with your drawing skills and dive straight in with a pen. You won’t be able to rub out what you think are your mistakes, so at first, it will feel like swinging on a trapeze without a safety net. Persevere and your penmanship will improve incredibly quickly.
10. Love what you do.
It’s not always easy to do what you love in life but it is possible to love whatever you do. My publishers took a huge gamble when they asked me to illustrate the Boyface books but I think they saw my enthusiasm for the project and knew that I would give it my absolute best, so thankfully, they gave me my chance. I think people are much more likely to respond to you positively if you are positive yourself.