Blog 11: Talking to a Professional

Welcome to the eleventh installment of professional practice, where I will be talking about my experience in getting in contact with an illustrator within the industry.


I decided to search for illustrators who were nearby or within a drivable distance away, to which I stumbled upon the illustrator Heather Horsley. Heather was a recent graduate from the university of derby herself on the same course as me. I decided to ignore the anxious introvert inside me and just take the gamble and get in contact with Heather at the very least to get some insight be it verbally or by email if a meet up wasn’t possible. Within the first few hours I got response which is evidenced below. We discussed further over email about the meet up until we decide upon a suitable meeting place, which was a costa in Burton upon Trent where she is based. I believe putting in the effort to go and visits a professional who has a busy schedule is the right thing to do rather than demanding for them to come to you as its their time you’re using up it its best to exploit that. Otherwise you’ll lose a good contact in my mind.


(Costa is the haven for all formal chats, coffee sends a good vibe)

I went prepared with research about Heathers work and turned up early to make a good impression. When we had, both gotten a drink and had done away with the awkwardness that follows when you meet new people, it became insanely easy to talk and converse with Heather about both the trivial and serious side of our industry. I had some preconceptions that I would communicate due to my own anxieties but we broke the awkward ice and simply chatted like normal human beings, because at the end of the day that’s what we are despite any occupational titles. The interview was itself really broadened my own insight and further horizons.

Question Time:

I will paraphrase my notes as a recording of our interview as that was the only way to record the reams of knowledge.

What are you working on at the moment?

-Heather is working various portrait illustrations for twins as well as creating an interactive pop up map of Burton for the city council, alongside some charity based work.

How did you start out?

-Heather informed me that initially she started out as freelancer in illustrating gift cards and pattern designs for a few years before taking the leap back to education as an older student at the university of Derby. This as primarily due to the more trending use of digital media and techniques which she wanted to use and perfect in her own practice leading to a 2:1 at BA level.

What challenges did you face initially?

-Initially she mentioned that it was the online side of getting work out into the public domain, where she needed to build a coherent website that clearly explored and showcased her visual identity. As well as being apart of the AOI to get portfolio and finical advice to avoid start up troubles. Heather was also based at Bank Mills studios from the start until she moved to burton, yet they had set her up with the space and widespread support needed. She suggested that I should take consider a place after a university or the company Seed creativity who provide informative guidance and lectures on the industry as well as various skill sets to explore.

How have you used social media?

-Her approach to social media involved having a central hub for everything such as her website which will be shown below. Here she centered her consistently updated Facebook page as blog with a professional Behance Portfolio, along with her other sites for her portrait business as well. She mentioned he importance of having a rigid and clear cut LinkedIn page to thoroughly communicate your visual identity through the focused networking site.

How do you approach clients?

-Simply put, be yourself since you’re selling yourself essentially. Whist being professional and show good engaging body language, again remember you’re all human, just remember to do background research as that’s what she did with meeting me. As she approached our meet up as like meeting a client. Always be enthusiastic and remember you can say no if the job isn’t right for you, or you can pass it on to one of your contacts as not to let the client down.

Any advice for someone starting out in illustration?

-Be clear of which direction you want to follow and don’t over saturate your portfolio.

What I presumed would be a quick chat turned into 2 hours of insightful conversation, I really got to know how Heather worked as an illustrator with her hand drawn and precise process with a contemporary and fresh modern output. As well as the ins and outs of how to handle time management and daily life as illustrator. Heather took a glance at my work and pointed out that I had a passion for politics and editorial work which evidences what this blog has portrayed. Since she did background research on me using this very blog.

Even after the conversation we spoke about keeping in contact for similar talks on our industry, giving me another contact in the form of Thomas Phillips to help gain some focused insight on editorial illustration. As a part of the AOI she mentioned an event in May called Picture Hook where other practitioners will present their work and talk about the industry which I will be attending for further insights and perspectives. This experience concludes that by taking a chance you can really network by being yourself having the right attitude to make contacts.

Little White Lies:

Also, below is the final update on the Little White Lies Competition that I had previously mentioned in earlier posts. Although I didn’t win or get shortlisted, as stated it was the experience to handle such deadlines and different projects to highlight some improvements, Such as typography to which I lack a lot of knowledge on.

Winning Submission:



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