Infographic Illustrator or Fine Artist?
The saying goes that ‘a picture can paint a thousand words’. But I believe that a picture can do so much more. It can tell a hundred stories or share a single truth. Pictures set expectations, evoke emotions and change moods. They can convey complex processes or abstract concepts, cross cultural divides and language barriers. Pictures resonate with us, they move us and they motivate us.
In my last blog, I talked about my difficulty in choosing between the different types of artwork that I create. Infographics that give life to dry or tricky text, share voices or promote wellbeing and happiness, fine art drawings that capture the beauty of nature and brightly coloured pictures that bring joy. They all have meaning for me and hold a special place in my heart. But which one defines me as an illustrator and defines Thomkat Illustrations as a business?
From 11th August, Thomkat Illustrations was a side hustle no longer. It became my main thing. The thing that will pay the bills. So the time for chaos and confusion was over. It was time to choose.
Choosing is hard when you’re faced with picking just one of the many things you love. It’s like going to a restaurant and only being allowed one thing from a menu full of your favourite food. How on earth could I just pick one?
I’ve done the courses and watched the webinars and knew that I needed to focus and specialise. But I didn’t KNOW it. I understood the theory, but I still wanted to do all the things! To get my gazillion followers and appeal to everyone. To draw fine art pet portraits and wildlife drawings, and infographic illustrations, and personalised designs. To sell originals and prints and cards and cushions and placemats and tea towels and…. and…. and….I wanted to draw all the things for all the people and didn’t really get why I shouldn’t.
And then I had a ‘Day of Voxer’ with Katie Chappell, a completely awesome and inspiring and funny live illustrator, who is making a living from her illustration work. Katie has worked as an illustrator for the likes of Google and Facebook (very cool) and is 1/3rd of The Good Ship Illustration, offering no-nonsense advice for illustrators and image-makers navigating a creative career – so couldn’t be more perfect!
It was a great day and I learned lots, including (unsurprisingly really) that most artists find it hard to narrow down and focus. The result is that they get overwhelmed and find it so much harder to succeed. It reinforced how important this choice really was.
Knowing how difficult a decision it is, Katie asked me to step back and review all the different things that I was doing. What did I love about them? How long did they typically take? How much profit was each one making me?
There were 8 different things on my list. I wrote the word ‘love’ at least once when describing each… but when I looked at the list with a combination of emotion and common sense, the choice became obvious.
The illustration work from which Thomkat Illustrations was borne had me buzzing inside from the moment I created those first hand drawn graphics for a team away day in 2017.
I realised what I guess I had known from the very start, but had forgotten along the way. Infographic illustration was my thing; the thing that started me on this journey; my purpose as an illustrator.
And what I also realised was that I could still do all the other things that I loved, I didn’t have to give them up, but I could release myself from the pressure of trying to turn all of it into a single coherent business right now.
Since that first tentative exploration, I have created many more visuals. I’ve drawn pictures to describe complex information in policies, procedures and legislation. I’ve translated organisational vision, purpose and strategy into accessible, engaging and memorable illustrations. I’ve drawn graphics for leadership development and workshop facilitation. My drawings have shared the voices of those who struggle to be heard, promoted mental well-being, positivity and kindness and much more.
It’s hard to describe how much it has meant to me to use my creativity to bring words to life in such a powerful and compelling way.
I also realised that trying to do it all and promote absolutely everything on my website and social media came from a place of fear. What if I couldn’t make a living out of just one of my things? If I didn’t cover all my bases, what opportunities might I miss? I spent the last 20 years working in finance and other corporate roles in the private and public sector on a salary; what could I possibly know about running a business and being an illustrator? I needed to show ALL my work, otherwise how could I stand out with no relevant qualifications or decent experience or knowledge of the industry?
And Katie helped me with that too, by helping me to see my experience in the corporate world as something positive, something different, maybe even my USP…. Because there’s only one of me. Only me with my background, my story, experiences, motivations, qualities and style.
That’s what I can offer other businesses. That’s what makes me different as an illustrator. All those years in corporate roles in the private and public sector, most recently the NHS, means that I get it. I understand the corporate world. I understand the corporate language, the sentences that say lots without saying much of anything at all. The jargon, the acronyms - well, probably not all the acronyms, I'm not sure that's actually possible.
I’ve worked with people across many different roles; with doctors and directors, with facilities and pharmacists, accountants and administrators.
I've read strategy documents, standing financial instructions, complex policies... Heck, I've written them too. I've read and written board reports, I’ve created training documents, written standard operating procedures and read even more.
I've sat in the meetings, I've run them. I've participated in training and development, leadership and learning events. I've designed and delivered them too.
And I can draw it.
I create infographics to translate complicated written material into something engaging, memorable and powerful. I can bring your strategy to life in pictures, I can draw your achievements. I can illustrate your messages in a way that will inspire and uplift, tell a story and connect with your audience in a way that will stay with them and make a difference.
I’m Emily from Thomkat Illustrations, and infographic illustrations is my thing.