9 Practical Tips from a Professional Artist: How To Make It As An Illustrator with Vidhya Nagarajan

9 Practical Tips from a Professional Artist: How To Make It As An Illustrator with Vidhya Nagarajan

Written by:
Lillie Therieau
Apr 26, 2021

Whether you’re starting out on the road to becoming a professional illustrator, or further into your career but in need of a pep talk, these 9 practical tips from illustrator Vidhya Nagarajan will do the trick! Check out her full Artist Process Video here, and stay tuned for more conversations with working artists on our blog. 

Vidhya Nagarajan is a working illustrator living in NYC. Her clients include folks like Google, the New York Times, and Apple. Vidhya’s colorful, expressive, and sketchy style is joyful and full of fantasy! She’s been working with IPMM for years, and we were super excited to receive such a valuable and information-filled Artist Process Video from her. So without further ado, here’s 9 amazing tips for fellow illustrators. (And really artists of all stripes!)

9 Practical Tips From A Working Illustrator

1. Starting Out — The Nitty-Gritty

Vidhya knows how it feels to strike out into the professional world as an illustrator, and how terrifying it can be. At the very beginning, you worry about making rent, having enough to pay your bills, and how to market yourself and your art. 

She wants to let you know that everyone feels the same fear and anxiety, but that if you create consistently and truly put the work into marketing and putting your art out there, you will eventually get the jobs you need and deserve. 


2. Patience and Perseverance, Even When It Really Sucks 

Persistence is the name of the game when you’re a young artist. You just have to keep trying, working on new projects, reaching out to new people, and throwing yourself into your practice. Even if you feel like nothing is coming out of your efforts, you have to be patient. Vidhya wishes she knew this when she was starting out. The good things will come!


3. Keeping A Sketchbook 

Vidhya keeps a sketchbook that also functions as a travel diary! She letters the name of the city she’s visiting and then illustrates sights and experiences she has over a day of travelling, using a single color per day. She has been doing this regularly for a long time, and eventually, clients started noticing and requesting work in the style of her travel diaries. 

Keeping a sketchbook and working on personal projects is a great way to keep your skills sharp, and to create a substantial body of work in the same style or with the same themes to show to clients as example work.


4. The Upside Of Totally Digital Artmaking 

Although Vidhya started out doing all of her illustration by hand, she’s learned to appreciate working digitally! Today, she uses a mixture of digital and manual illustration, but she loves that she doesn’t have to scan a million versions of her illustrations when working in ProCreate. She also likes that she can cut down on paper waste when working digitally, and work in layers, as she’s able to isolate certain aspects of her drawings to work on separately and hide everything else if she wants to. 

 


5. Why You Should Consider Getting An Agent 

Vidhya has an agent that handles the business side of her life as a professional artist, freeing her up to focus on the creative process. Her agent negotiates contracts, sets Vidhya’s prices, makes sure things are flowing smoothly with clients, promotes her work, and sets up her usage rights. It’s a great way to outsource some of the more technical and confusing aspects of selling art or working on client projects as a working artist. 

6. But, Getting An Agent Won’t Solve All Your Problems

Even though Vidhya loves having an agent, and recommends it as an option for artists that need help managing their transactions and contracts, she knows that it isn’t a silver bullet. She still has to look for some of her own clients, and do some self-promotion and outreach. Sometimes, Vidhya goes through periods with less work, even with an agent! It isn’t a magical solution to all of an artist’s problems, although it can alleviate a lot of stress. 


7. Knowing How To Be A Good Manager For Yourself

As a working artist, you are your own boss. You have to figure out how to be a fair manager for yourself, and how to stay accountable. Vidhya knows that she works poorly when she’s overwhelmed, overworked, and under stress. She works out solutions to make sure that her energy isn’t being sapped by the wrong things, and that she can spend her valuable time and energy making art! 


8. The Process Of Digital Art Creation 

Foy Vidhya, digital art is a process of continually evolving sketches. She sketches different aspects of her illustrations over and over, tightening up her design, and adding details each time. Her digital art platform allows her to layer these sketches and isolate aspects that she wants to work on. It’s a cumulative process! 


9. Illustration Allows You To Realize Your Dreams 

The best thing about being an illustrator is that you can bring your wildest dreams and fantasies to life in the world of your creations. There are no boundaries to the things you can create! Vidhya loves living vicariously in the world of her illustrations. 

The Road To Becoming A Working Artist Is A Tough One — But At Least You’re In Good Company

Although it can be super challenging starting out as a working artist, there’s so many amazing artists out there ready to share their wisdom and make your path a little easier. Each of them went through a similar process, and remember how tough it was. The artist community is a supportive one, and everyone wants to see each other succeed.

At IPMM we believe in collaboration, and in connecting artists with resources, information, and other artists to learn from. Check out more artist interviews on our blog. 

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Written by:
Lillie Therieau
Apr 26, 2021

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