Tools For a Successful Illustration Business

Friday August 06, 2010 by Juliette Wolf-Robin, ADBASE

Posted in: Building your Business

Best practices for running and marketing a successful illustration business were on the agenda at ICON's 6th biennial Illustration Conference in Los Angeles. Four days of workshops, tours and keynotes wrapped July 17, with professionals from the illustration, design, editorial, advertising and academic communities taking in a wealth of information. ADBASE Vice-president Juliette Wolf-Robin has attended every ICON conference since it began in 1999. She shares her thoughts about trends and issues explored at ICON6:

ICON6 conference director Mark Heflin, along with the board of directors, did an amazing job setting up the programs and picking a great location for this year's event. It was a terrific cross-section of influential speakers with a variety of viewpoints. Brian Rea and Paul Rogers kept the pace going throughout and added a good touch of humor with their diagrams explaining what to do and how to get around. There was a panel of artists who work on graphic novels, a group that works on picture books, illustrators who also write professionally, and illustrators who are graphic designers. There were established fine art photographers and fresh, award-winning newcomers.

There were also several buyers of illustration work at the conference including art buyer Kim Witczak (listen to my podcast interview with Kim) and creative director Stuart D'Rozario from Barrie D'Rozario Murphy, who both work on the United Airlines account.

Also attending ICON6 were Rachael Cole, associate art director at Schwartz & Wade Books (an imprint of Random House Children's Books), Sally Morrow, creative director at Sandstrom Partners and Arem Duplessis, design director of the New York Times.

Of course, motion was a big topic at this year's conference. Wyatt Mitchell of Wired magazine, along with a panel of publishing experts, started the conference by showing some amazing new opportunities for magazine content that is accessible online and via the iPad. (Watch the videos)

This set off a lively discussion among illustrators, some of whom lamented the need to learn yet more technology skills. Jesus de Francisco of Motion Theory, insisted that not every illustrator needs to learn animation to be part of this new wave. According to de Francisco, there are companies that can take any illustrator's work and make it move: It's really about identifying new opportunities for artists, if they are interested.

In any case, there was a definite push during the conference for artists to keep up on technology - even if it's just for communicating with clients.

Among the other presentations at ICON6 was a seminar on Price Negotiation given by ADBASE partner and Insight contributor Maria Piscopo (watch the video), important copyright information from Jeff Sedlik, president of the PLUS Coalition, and contract "translations" from Kathryn Adams.

Presenter Fernanda Cohen's advice to illustrators on how to get work was to always "keep moving" because they have to do it all: promotion, email campaigns, postcards, social media, awards, etc. Cohen stressed that illustrators should not dilute their portfolios with weak images: Update regularly and get onto different websites so that your work can be seen. What counts most in the promotion of an artist is the image, she said.

By the end of the conference there was a strong sense that it's every artist's job to create work they are passionate about, build buzz that promotes the work, and to keep their eyes open to new opportunities.

Overall, ICON6 had a good turnout with quite a large group of first-time attendees. It was great to see some familiar faces and on Saturday night everyone was dancing in the ballroom and making new friends.

Didn't make it to ICON6? See what you missed by clicking on these links: