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What Does an Illustrator Do?

An illustrator draws a character.
Children's books are one area where illustrations are used.
An illustrator might be called upon to draw two-dimensional animals.
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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2014
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An illustrator creates art in the form of drawings or paintings. She uses her talents and tools to produce images that are two-dimensional renderings of people, animals, objects and nature. The art may be black and white or have few or many colors in it. Various effects are created by the artist through her use of color, light and shadows. Her talents can be used in such areas as children's books, medical illustrating, fashion design and technical design industries, among others.

People who work in this art form are important to many mediums and industries. An illustrator can contribute to an advertising campaign by drawing images for packaging, labels and advertising materials. The greeting card and wrapping paper industries also use art to enhance their products. Most magazines and many books rely on the talents of these artists to generate pictures to accompany text or for cover designs.

Many illustrators choose to specialize in one medium or industry. This choice is generally based on particular talents of the artist as well as the needs of the marketplace. For example, if she discovers that she is particularly adept at sketching evolving automobile designs and concepts, she may concentrate her efforts in perfecting skills in technical illustration.

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Other popular areas of concentration for this position include scientific, medical and fashion illustration. Scientific illustrators generally have special talents in depicting foliage, animals, earth formations and planets. Those who specialize in medical drawings normally excel in drawing human body organs and schematics of surgical procedures. Fashion illustrators typically demonstrate distinct talents in sketching clothing and accessories.

If an artist chooses to remain a freelancer, she normally approaches each assignment in an organized and methodical manner. She traditionally reviews the past sketches or drawings used by the customer to determine their style preference. This evaluation ordinarily includes determining preferences for color or black and white and whether realism or idealism is preferred in the depictions. Other points of consideration are the quantity of sketches desired and the time frame in which they must be produced.

In addition to having a portfolio that reflects her full range of talents, an illustrator is normally expected to be open to new methods and challenges. Her success often is highly dependent upon her ability to listen and understand her clients’ needs and present them with her interpretation of them. The artistic process is typically a long process of exchanging ideas. Being able to comprehend and rework multiple concepts is helpful to the individual's career.

Illustrators, like many other artistic professionals, tend to heavily rely upon natural talent to be successful. Education and training related to talent commonly improve inherent artistic aptitude, so college and art school classes can be beneficial. A solid and diversified portfolio is customarily considered a major asset.

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