What's an Illustrator?

Good question!

Wikipedia says, "An illustrator is an artist who specializes in enhancing writing or elucidating concepts by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text or idea. The illustration may be intended to clarify complicated concepts or objects that are difficult to describe textually, which is the reason illustrations are often found in children's books."

Whew! Still with me? In a nutshell, an illustrator is someone who creates an image that communicates something that words can't do by themselves.

This can include (but not limited to): advertisements, posters, trading cards, children's books, comic strips, comic books, logos, infographics, book covers, magazine covers...the list goes on and on!

Do you have to move to LA or New York to be an Illustrator?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away...but not anymore!

With a computer and a bit of internet-savvy, an illustrator can work from just about anywhere, even Indiana!

Don't believe me? Here are three illustrators who live right here in the Hoosier state:

JIM DAVIS: creator of Garfield

Quite possibly one of the best known illustrators/cartoonists from Indiana, Jim Davis not only lives in Indiana, he was born here too! Jim was born in Marion, Indiana and grew up on a small farm with (not surprisingly) a ton of cats! When he graduated from high school he attended Ball State University, where he studied art and business. Jim got his start in advertising, and eventually he created one of the most iconic, lasagna-loving felines we all know and love: Garfield.

On June 19, 1978, Garfield started syndication in 41 newspapers. Today it is syndicated in 2,580 newspapers and is read by approximately 300 million readers each day.

PATRICK ZIRCHER: Comic Book Artist

Patrick Zircher (also known as Patch Zircher) lives in Carmel, IN.

Zircher's early career as an illustrator in the genre began with production of several completed works on pen and paper role-playing games as well as early stints with independent comic book publishers.

Following this he would go on to work largely for Marvel Comics on leading titles like Iron Man, Thunderbolts and New Warriors but also did a considerable amount of work for DC, primarily on Nightwing. He continues to work regularly with DC Comics.

Troy Cummings: Children's Book Writer/Illustrator

Troy Cummings is another Hoosier-born artist who continues to live and work right here in Indiana!

Troy got his start in graphic design, but now illustrates the popular Notebook of Doom series, as well as other children's books of his own and of other authors.

WOW! But what about you Mr. Vincent?

 Well, one thing you might have noticed about those Hoosier Illustrators we looked at is that they usually started doing ANY illustrations they could before they got to focus on ONE particular thing.

That's where I'm at!

During the day, I am a Creative Director for a marketing company named &Marketing. When I am not creating a company’s brand, building websites, and whatnot, I do what is called "freelance" or "contract" illustration work. I have had a variety of clients over the years, but the most notable would probably be IGN Entertainment: a company that covers news in the world of entertainment and gaming.

When I am not doing either of those things, I write and illustrate my own projects which range from children's books to comic books. One day I hope to focus entirely on children's book writing and illustration, and occasionally creating comics for young readers.

COOL! So...how do I become an Illustrator?

Well, that's a tricky one to answer. I once heard someone describe it this way (when talking about becoming a professional comic artist):

"Breaking into comics is a lot like breaking out of prison. As soon as someone figures out a way to do it, it seems like that way get patched up, then everyone else has to find a different way than the first guy."

There isn't a tried and true way to become a professional illustrator. BUT, that doesn't mean you can't be an illustrator.


Here are the steps:

  1. Get a pencil.

  2. Get paper...LOTS of paper.

  3. DRAW!

That's the universal thing all illustrators have in common; we draw ALL the time, EVERY DAY. If you don't want to draw every day, then illustration might not be the best job for you. If the thought of drawing everyday has you more hyped up than a bag of pixie sticks, then let's look at some basics of drawing.

The ABC's of Drawing: Triangles, Squares, and Circles (among other shapes)

Just like our every word in the English language is a combination of only 27-letters of our alphabet, the same is true of illustrations and shapes. Every drawing you see has a foundation of shapes, and you have to train your eye to see these shapes.

First, let's start with some basic exercises.

Now, let's look at Garfield:

Now let's try this out together by going through a step-by-step tutorial of your choice!