What it means to be an illustrator + internships in design

What it means to be an illustrator + internships in design

Have you considered being an illustrator or comic artist? Here is what Mounica Tata has to say about a career as an illustrator in India.

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The life and times of comic artist Mounica Tata. (Courtesy: Doodledrama)
The life and times of comic artist Mounica Tata. (Courtesy: Doodledrama)

Seen it? Smiled? And shared it? Well, you’re not alone. Web comics and graphic memes are a permanent fixture on social media; even communication! Tagging each other, sharing posts across all social media channels, everyone loves a laugh.

Illustrators and comic artists touch upon a range of subjects, everyday life, current affairs, social issues et al and often, these comics are stick figures! And you This makes many of us wonder, could we do this too? Is it just scribbling away and writing funny jokes? We spoke to Mounica Tata, creator of Doodleodrama, a popular page on Facebook about her journey as a doodler and illustrator.

You are a full-time freelance illustrator and cartoonist, what does a typical work day look like?

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It varies – depending upon the number of projects and the kind of projects I am working on. I try and finish the not-so-creative part of my job in the first half of my day. It usually involves reading and responding to emails, paying bills, making client calls and sometimes even client meetings. And then, I surf the internet for a bit for some inspiration (while smothering my dog with love and lots of attention).

Once I have the ideas, I plan out my work, which I categorise into three buckets; client work, Social media upkeep, and personal projects. I like to work on multiple projects at any given point of time because it not only keeps me busy but also motivated. My typical day starts around 9 AM and I try and finish by 8 PM and as far as I can help it, I try not to work on the weekends. I also set timelines/deadlines for myself and work toward it, this way I stay organised and motivated.

What has been your educational background? Have you studied illustration or art as a subject? Has your educational background helped in your current occupation?

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I am a self-taught illustrator. I am a commerce graduate who went on to do masters in mass communication. I’ve never studied art, or specifically how to draw but I’ve always enjoyed drawing and being creative. My educational background does not play a direct role in my current occupation but I think having a degree in mass communication definitely pushes me to read more about subject matters that are close to my heart, actively seek out different interpretations and perceptions to a said problem.

It might not directly affect my skill level but it sure helps in the creative process that goes behind the content I create.

Have you worked elsewhere prior this? Has there been any learning from those experiences?

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Yes, I’ve had a handful of full-time day jobs before I made the decision to jump into this. I’ve worked as editor for an online college magazine then I went on to work as a client executive for design and digital media houses. I think it was while working with one of the design houses, I decided to pick up Photoshop. I went from scribbling on paper to MS Paint to now Photoshop.

Having worked as a client executive/account manager has also helped me a fair bit in handling clients, communication with clients, setting expectations, deciding on timelines, invoicing, etc. The learning curve for me has been a steep one, but I am trudging along, one step at a time.

Any particular moments that make you feel on top of the world while pursuing this passion? Also, any challenges that you face?

adult-life

I think everything in life comes with its fair share of good, bad, and ugly. For me personally, when people tell me that they can relate to my work or that my work has somehow made an impact on their lives (even if it’s a small one), it makes my day!

I think the biggest challenge is to find my ground. It’s an ongoing process but you need to find your style and understand what is it that sets your work apart from the thousands and thousands of people (in my case illustrators and cartoonists) online. I always say this, content is the queen!

Currently, what are your revenue streams? What can budding illustrators do to earn a living?

You could create revenue through paid assignments and merchandising, says Mounica.
You could create revenue through paid assignments and merchandising, says Mounica. (Doodledrama)

I mostly earn through the customised, commissioned work I take up, whether it’s for individuals or companies. I also make (a very negligible amount) from merchandise that I sell on e-commerce sites. I think these two are definitely the biggest source of revenue for illustrators. You can set up your shop online for merchandise and prints.

Another option is to start a YouTube channel and eventually that could turn into a revenue hotspot too. Once you’ve garnered enough and more audience base, you could work for paid promotions, brand deals collaboration with brands bandwagon.

Any tips or suggestions to young students who are aspiring to become illustrators or comic artists?

Be smart:

Make sure whatever your plan is, it is sustainable. I used up my savings from my day jobs to help me survive the first few months of my freelance job. You could either work part time/take up a day job or ask your parents to loan you money when you start out.

Keep at it:

Even if you’re not currently venturing into illustration full-time or as a freelancer, keep at it. Create every single day and share your work on social media platforms. Build your portfolio. No matter how busy you are, how bad a day it was, do not go to bed before putting up some work out there!

Respect your work:

Never work for free. And always remember, why you started.

Let us know if you anyone with offbeat careers. We look to recognise, salute and use leaders in such careers as beacons for those aspiring for careers in these fields. And if it’s you, yourself, you could consider using your eye for visuals and communicating with them through internships in design – as part of our bunch of summer internships in 2017.

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