I’ve been with this blog for a while now and I always talk about illustration, about illustrators… but, what is an illustrator?*
*While writing this I remembered one of the first classes I had in Fine Arts in college, where they explained to us that “art is what artists do.”
**Note for the international reader: I will be talking about the professional illustrator in Spain, it can be quite different from the way illustrators work in other countries.
Technically, an illustrator is a person who does illustrations *professionally*, that is, they get paid to do them. But there are many different business models for illustrators.
We tend to think of illustrators as freelancers, but it isn’t always that way. According to the APIM (Professional Illustrators Association of Madrid) territorial report of April 2020, 53.57% of those surveyed are self-employed, while 17.86% work for others. Other work situations present in the survey are illustrators who combine the illustration with another job, unemployed, students or retired.
Most of the illustrators registered as freelancers were not registered throughout the year (that is, they registered and canceled according to the needs of each moment).
In fact, 55.10% of the illustrators surveyed “are often forced to work in other sectors because they do not earn enough from illustration to make a living from it” (extract from the APIM report).
In other words, more than half of the illustrators who participated in the APIM survey work in other sectors because they cannot live exclusively from illustration. These other professions can be, for example, teaching, graphic design, selling products online or, in my case, things as varied as selling mojitos at a themed party or walking trough a shopping center dressed as an elf at Christmas.
What I am trying to say with all of this is that there are many ways to be an illustrator and that you are no less of an illustrator than others because you cannot dedicate 100% of your time to it.
We must be aware that it is a complicated profession, that it has its moments of greater or lesser volume of work and that it must be taken as a long-distance race: step by step and appreciating the small victories that we achieve.
Do you want to see the full report? You can access from here (in Spanish): Informe territorial APIM