September 19, 2013

Here we go! More tips for you career hungry students and graduates out there. Ever wondered how to make it as an illustrator in the big bad world? Well Californian man Bob Motown is just the guy you’ll want to listen to.

Bob Motown is an illustrator, doodle wizard, and self-taught whiz-kid at screen printing. He was born and raised in Hollywood, California, where he ran a full-service print shop and design studio called Two Rabbits, producing work which was featured in venues, shows, and magazines all across the US. He recently relinquished his role as one half of Two Rabbits, packed up and shipped out to London, and is now 100% Bob Motown. See Bob’s tips below…


Giving advice can be really hard as everyone’s situation is different. However receiving advice is essential and how you take it can make all the difference. I want to share a few things that will hopefully help anyone who wants to give a creative job/lifestyle a crack!

Rules are meant to be broken.

I personally hate being told what to do. I don’t know why, but it’s been that way all my life. I am not one of those people who do the opposite of what they are told out of spite, more so I don’t want my options limited by anyone other than myself. Rules can greatly limit people’s ideas. Bending, breaking and molding those limitations is what creates new and wonderful things. So don’t get held back by anything telling you, “You can’t do that!”


Do something creative EVERYDAY.

My granddad was an amazing artist. He always told me, “Make at least one drawing everyday.” This has been some of the best advice I have ever gotten, because it is beneficial on so many levels. Practice makes perfect, and making a good habit of being creative will keep your mind and technique nimble and active. Also, you will always have a boat load of drawings to use as a mattress incase the whole “art” thing doesn’t work out and you are forced to sleep on the street!


Style is subjective, technique is not.

Everyone has different taste. Some things I like you might detest. A person’s style is a personal thing that is totally subjective. However, things like composition and excellent skill are not as subjective. Bad composition is bad composition. No matter how excellent your technique or how much you love a person’s style you need to make a visually pleasing finished project.

The place where style, technique and composition meet is where the magic happens. Bottom line, don’t make crap and say that’s “just your style.”


The brush doesn’t make a painting.

Often, when I am reading interviews or tips from artists I like, I am totally into the technical side. What brush they use, what kind of paint or which tablet they have. It fascinates me to think there is that magic tool that will make me a better artist. I have learned after spending lots of money that it’s not about what you use, but what you make.

It doesn’t matter if you use the cheapest stuff or the most expensive as long as your work is good and you like the outcome. Finding what you enjoy working with can take time, but what will work for one person will not work for others.


Stay in the spotlight.

Keep the words “out of sight, out of mind” written down somewhere, because it’s very true. It is paramount to stay active and to keep people interested in your work and yourself. This includes online presence and IRL. Your work will bring you jobs but you as an individual should also bring in jobs. People want to work with someone they like, and getting out there and meeting people, schmoozing if you will, is an essential part of an artist’s career.

Often people put all their efforts into their work and forget that how people relate to that work is through the person that created it. Making a connection and a relationship with people who like your work is the best way to get them to go from fans to collectors.


Paint what you know.

This always sounded so lame to me. I am sure you’ve heard it all before too but it’s true. Make art that’s about what you like and what you are interested in. Make art that YOU want to see!

Make art for the other people out there that have the same taste. When you make art strictly to please others it is always harder and it is obvious in the work. Even when doing client work find a way to make it your own.


Work really hard.

If there is anything you take from these tips let it be this. WORK YOUR ASS OFF! Make work, hustle jobs, get out there and network. Whatever it is you want to do, stop screwing around and do it. Do nothing but that and don’t stop till you make it. Forget about friends and family and food and having a home and new shoes. Just work really hard on your art at all costs. It will be worth it. TRUST.

Make your life your work. These wise words always helped me knuckle down when distracted: “Pussy, drugs, and alcohol will do nothing but prevent and distract you from true success in life” – Jersey Joe. CAREER CRUISIN' WITH BOB MOTOWN

Art school is an option not a requirement.

You don’t need to get a formal art education. I think it can be very beneficial in many ways but it is not needed. You can learn almost ANYTHING online and if you are savvy you can get experience and training from professionals without spending all that money. I didn’t go to art school. I am 100% self-taught.

I often talk to aspiring artists and illustrators who are stifled by the notion they need to go to school to do it. I have never been asked for a degree or some sort of certificate. Your portfolio will be your ticket, and you can go to school forever and still have a lame portfolio.


Don’t work for free.

The value of creative work is going down. Companies want to hire artists to make them look cool. Then they expect those artists to work for free, offering them the promise of exposure. In my experience this only exposes you to more companies offering exposure as payment.

As artists/illustrators we need to stick together and demand we get paid for our hard work. When you are starting out it is very tempting to want to take any job just for the portfolio piece. The plethora of hungry people willing to do any work for free is lowering the value of our work as a whole.

I am not saying you cannot take on those jobs but demand some form of compensation equal to what you’d ask for in money. Be it free gear, ad space on the website, event tickets or even a burger and a high five. Never forget the old adage “FUCK YOU, PAY ME.”


Learn from your surroundings.

Surround yourself with other people doing the same thing. Work in a shared studio space. You will pick up little techniques and tips from all the people around you. I have learned more from drinking beers and talking shop with buddies than I have from any art class I’ve ever taken. Being surrounded by people working on creative projects will keep you working on yours. When you need a hand or advice all you need is to ask. This is how art movements are born.


(Top Photo Credit – Georgie Lord)

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