It is rare for artists to be successful with little or no formal training. Although it is not impossible (Patrick Woodroffe is a perfect example) formal training teaches techniques for transforming your creative energy into a more realistic representation of what you envisage – anatomy, perspective, colour effects and other special techniques.
If you are already at Art College then take advantage of their careers facilities as well as making as many contacts in the art and publishing professions as you can. Write everything down. Only a completely unprofessional idiot believes they will remember everything. Keep notes on all your business meetings and all agreements you make with prospective clients. You may find that the business side of being an artist does not come naturally and can even feel “dirty”. You may feel very reluctant to be involved in business dealings at all. Although artists vary tremendously in their attitudes with some being extremely good at running their own businesses this feeling is shared by other artists including some very famous ones. Don’t feel there is something wrong if business does not come as naturally to you as your creative inspiration does. But if you are not happy or feel incapable with regards to the business side of things then you will need an agent. Take time and take care in choosing someone who can empathise with what you are about and has a good idea where your strengths are so that they can get you the kind of work you do best.
College cannot give you the creative energy, that is both innate and developed through life experience and self-development (some artists are religiously inclined or practice meditation or yoga etc in this respect). College tutors can sometimes prod you into a direction you are not truly comfortable with and you need to be careful about what it is you really want to do. However, illustration and the world of art generally is a very hard place to work and you need to be clear about your goals and also develop your communication skills so you can either handle the business side or at least be able to find a decent agent you can trust and work well with.
Play to your strengths and go for the type of work you really want to do wherever possible though you may need to do something like advertising work in the beginning that may not appeal to you. On the plus side, advertising work is disciplined and structured so it can often help to instill a more professional way of working. There is no “easy road”. Masses of hard work, inspiration and a little luck is the usual combination.
The Spring Fair in Birmingham UK is a good place to meet publishers and others in the market for employing artists to design their products. I’m sure you know you’ll need to put together a good portfolio of your best work and you will probably need to visit many publishers and agents to get sufficient work.
Look also at producing your own merchandise to sell if you have the capital and by all means contact us if you have prints etc that are in our market area that we can sell for you. If you are not sure what you have that might be suitable then look round our ecommerce website artistsuk.co.uk to get a feel for what we do.
I hope this helps you in your search for your niche and we wish you every success.