Illustrated AdventuresIan R Ward is a Nottinghamshire-based artist who helps self-publishing authors bring their ideas to life with professional book illustrations. His extensive portfolio now boasts over fifty self-published books, an award-winning history subscription box and a variety of projects for National Trust, Mars, Paul Lamond Games and Warner Bros. We asked Ian about his adventures in illustration, how he got started and what advice he has for younger artists.
How did you become a professional illustrator?
I've always enjoyed drawing from a very early age but it wasn't until my early teens that I realised I could actually make a living from it. I started out in graphic design rather than go the fine art route. I've always been quite technical and I think I preferred being told what to do rather than come up with ideas myself! It took me quite a few years working in graphics and building up some experience before I decided I was ready to be a freelance illustrator.
Where do you work and what techniques do you use?
I work from my home studio, where I spend roughly half my time at the drawing board and half on the computer. Most of my work is book illustration these days and I'm lucky in that a lot of authors still prefer the traditional watercolour style for their children's picture books. Line and wash is what I've been best at and find easiest to do, though more and more of my illustrations are digital or at least a combination of hand-drawn linework and digital colouring using Photoshop. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but mostly I suppose from nature - there's nothing I like more than drawing animals, either in a cartoon style or more realistic.
How do you get new clients?
Illustrated maps are love of mine and I have been lucky to have done a lot of them for clients such as The National Trust and various local authorities. Most of my work over the years came through a regular list of local design companies and it's through these that I've managed to work for a few blue chip clients such as Warner Bros and Mars for products such as board games and advertising and packaging. No pressure there then! All new clients these days come via my portfolio website, and so the pressure's off a little more now. I still have deadlines to keep to of course, but I don't get so many "Can you do it for tomorrow?" jobs!
Do you sell your own work?
I've dabbled a bit in the past selling my own work and it's something I may return to one day with something like an Etsy site. I used to sell limited-edition prints of local scenes and wildlife and so I guess I should drag myself into the 21st Century and look into something like NFTs and the like. I'm still a bit old-school though, which is why I love the fact that people are still buying physical books, especially with regard to their children. Long may it last! Self-publishing is such a big industry at the moment and I like nothing better than helping to bring someone's stories and vision to life in a picture book.
Do you have any advice for younger artists?
The most important advice I could give to people wanting to become an artist or illustrator is to sketch a lot, and try to do it from life as much as possible, as opposed to photographs or from a screen. Just draw what you can see, or sit with a sketchbook while the TV's on and sketch the family. Also, push yourself to try different styles and media as much as you can. There's a wealth of information and tutorials online, but there's nothing better than sitting down with a blank piece of paper and trusting your own imagination.
Thank you Ian for taking the time to talk with us. If you'd like to hire Ian R Ward for your own self-publishing project, or would like to see more of his brilliant illustrations, you can visit his newly-redesigned website. You can also follow Ian on Facebook and Instagram.