This post is part of a series in which we interview successful makers on how they built their business. Today we are interviewing professional illustrator, Tracey English.
Tracey English is a UK based illustrator and surface pattern artist. She specializes in creating collages from hand coloured tissue paper. Tracey built an international following around her unique style, and grew that into a thriving freelance illustration business.
Tracey is teaching a session during our live online workshop, Marketing and Self-Promotion for Illustrators on December 18th.
When did you first discover your love of art?
As a child! my dad was an art director and illustrator, my mum a water colour artist and art teacher, my brother and I were always surrounded by creativity! One day at primary school aged six, we were allowed to do art all day, that was the day I realized that that would be the perfect wish for me!
Did you always know this would become your career?
I always hoped that I could do something creative, I was never very academic.
What did you do before you were a full-time illustrator?
When I first left collage I worked in a Colour Forecasting Studio, we were putting together mood boards and colour trends for the home furnishing markets, it was the days before the computer so everything was cut and pasted onto big boards!
How did you start your illustration career?
I studied Textiles at collage as I have always loved colour and pattern. Whilst working at the Colour studio , I was also already doing my own work, I hand painted on silk and went to local arts and crafts markets at the weekend to sell my products!
From there my style developed and I gradually went into creating illustrations for greeting cards, wrap, children’s magazines and educational books. Slowly I started to work in watercolour and gouache rather then on silk, it was just a lot more practical.
Eventually my family came along and with some other family commitments too I found it impossible to carry on with my work as well, so decided to give it a break, I still kept being creative and did lots of creations in my sons primary school. In 2014 I decided to take the first Lilla Rogers on line course and that really was the start of where I am now!
What kind of art do you create?
I create collages with hand painted tissue paper.
Which three words would you use to describe your style?
Colourful, fun patterns
How do you come up with new ideas? What inspires you?
Everyday life, prompts on line, courses that I take, or a brief that has been set!
What kind of clients do you work with?
Home decor and stationary
How did you find your first few clients?
Please describe an average day in your life.
My day starts early at six o’clock, I make everyones packed lunches and breakfasts, see my sons off to school and then walk our dog Daisy, this is normally when I plan my day, once home I make a coffee and sit at my computer and answer any emails and take a look at social media, I always post things in the morning before I get started on some physical work. I then normally go down to my studio and do some creating , it really depends what I need to do, sometimes I am just scanning things in and cleaning them up in Photoshop.
I normally stop once my sons are home from school , help them if they need help with any homework and cook the dinner. The dog gets walked again and then I may do a little more work in the evening, really depends what I am involved in. In the winter my studio is very uninviting at night as it is a winter garden on the back of our house, so cold and dark, so in Winter I intend to do mainly computer work or sit at the kitchen table instead to snip something out.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own freelance illustration business?
You have to be very determined, hard working and not mind rejection! The competition now is very fierce. You also need to be individual and work at creating your own style so that you can stand out from the crowd.
What do you hope the not-too-distant future holds for your illustration career; Do you have any exciting, upcoming plans that you would like to share with us?
I hope I can continue to evolve and move forward with my work, and create more freelance opportunities for myself.
I have a nice project for January, but cant say to much right now, and am excited about some drink packaging which should be out next year sometime.
After having some tea towels printed I would really like to try and get a few more of my own products out there too.
Tracey is teaching a session during our live online workshop, Marketing and Self-Promotion for Illustrators. This program will show you how to market your illustration business in a way that will land new clients. The live workshop starts December 18th, but everyone who signs up will get lifetime access to the content. See the full schedule and sign up here.