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13 October 2014

Felt-tip portraits and the benefits of taking on smaller jobs

Being a free-lance illustrator can mean taking on all sorts of unusual and varied commissions from large-scale jobs, spread over many months, to smaller, local projects that perhaps only a few people may actually physically see the results of.

I was recently contacted by a local researcher, who works directly with disabled children and wanted to create a bespoke, sensory book for each of the five children in their study. Rather than simply insert a photo of the child in question, she commissioned me to catch some of the energy and character of each of the five children in the form of a simple portrait.

Between us we opted for the very immediate and common-place medium of felt-tips, with their bright, bold colours and immediately recognisable line. Working from a selection of photographs, I sketched out each of the five children and after a few amends, under direction from the researcher, translated the rough sketches to the final, felt-tip line drawings.

While this was a very small job, with a quick turn-around and with the images now already in use in the play-books - I felt this worth-while blogging about, as it's these sorts of jobs that can sometimes be the most rewarding, due to it's immediacy and very personal use - almost like making a present for someone. Longer and larger commissions can sometimes, depending on the nature of the job, require a reserve of energy to stay motivated and excited about the project in question.

Smaller projects also remind me how useful it can be to break down larger jobs into manageable, bite-size chunks and to tackle a number of those "chunks" in unison. I've found that if I'm struggling to find a solution in one area, by focusing on another section of the project, this can then allow me to return to that original problem area with fresh-eyes. A benefit of being free-lance and managing your own time can mean that you can create a time-table of projects and project sections, allowing you to move between areas with each part potentially influencing and motivating the other.