A Report on Freelance Illustration & Concept Art

January 28, 2017

During the Professional Practise unit, I have started to research Concept art, specifically for film and TV. This is a career I am considering perusing after university.

 ‘Concept art is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books or other media before it is put into the final product.’ For film this could be character design, costume design, set design, credit scene artwork, and design for CGI. While researching this field I have discovered it may not be the career for me, however I have realised that there are many ways of producing this kind of work whilst being a freelance illustrator working on multiple projects. At this time, I am still trying to get an internship or work experience in the film and TV industry to gain a better understanding of what artistic roles there are and how I can get involved.


I have also looked at freelance Illustration as whole and the variations of working/ lifestyles within it, including various artists such as Alan Lee – Concept artist and Illustrator of the Lord of the Ring’s books and Trevor Dalmer. – Head designer and Illustrator for Laika, a stop animation studio that created ‘Coraline’, ‘Boxtrolls’ and most recently ‘Kubo and the Two Strings.’ Concept artists on the whole are very hard to contact and although some did respond, they said that they didn’t have the time to have an interview with myself. I also contacted the Company’s Laika and Aardaman. Laika responded with a list of schools and other learning facilities in which I could gain the skills to apply to work for their team or apply for an internship. Most concept artists work full time for a company, (which is why they are in general too busy to respond to Q&A’s)

Both of these illustrators work for a company or estate as concept artists however in completely different ways. Alan Lee illustrated the LOTR’s books and later was asked to help construct artwork for the films. Whereas Trevor Dalmer has worked with Laika since the beginning, helping create each individual film. They have a selective team of people working on every aspect of then film that you can think of as well as several artists creating different concept art for the same thing (character, set, costume etc.) For example, around five artists worked together to create the Characters in Kubo and the Two Strings, using each other’s designs to inspire one another and work through any issues, ending up with the best result. Although these two artists work very differently they both work in the same industry, and both of these ways of working appeal to me as a starting Illustrator. It also goes to show that there is no one set way of working in this industry.


Because of this I chose to look at a freelance artist who works similarly to this, who also works for an estate, but again started out in a completely different way, and also does his own freelance commissioned work.

Paul Kidby is the main Illustrator for the Terry Pratchett books. He works for the Terry Pratchett estate as well as doing commission work in his spare time. He is a self-taught illustrator and at the beginning he really struggled to find work. He ended up painting roller blinds and making model teeth as some of his first jobs. However, because of these weird commissions, he learned skills which he now uses in his work for the Terry Pratchett estate. Not only is he a painter and an illustrator, he also creates bronzes for his animal creations. Showing that on the side of creating commissioned or contracted work you can create things such as sculptures to sell. These can often be seen as more desirable as they are made in small quantities and you therefor can charge more for them. It’s also another great way to promote your work. Making your own pieces keeps your creative work and cash flow going, you know when you’re doing well when you can solely fund 'fun' pieces like this with your commission work. Paul says the best thing you can do; is do all the jobs you are offered even the most obscure ones. It pushes your creative ability, you gain new skills, contacts and its keeps you going till the ‘real’ thing.


I have also done a lot of research into how to price your work, and what not to do when starting out as a freelance illustrator as these were areas not covered by Paul.

This includes; consider who your work is for, how many people will see it, and how long for?

  • How much will it cost you to make?

  • How long will it take you to make? (You can charge more for rushed deadlines.)

  • What is it made out of?

  • Will it be mass reproduced?

  • Who will own this artwork?

  • Can you get extra royalties if they want to use your designs elsewhere? (Put time limits on your work, so that whoever owns it for a period of time recognizes it as it more desirable and you can charge more.)


I’ve also learnt that if you are commissioned for work, it’s because the client likes what they have seen of yours. Figure out what that is (even ask them) so you can recreate that for the project. You want to give them something that makes them feel like they can approach you again for more work. But most importantly make sure the work you share/send out is your very best. You want to show what you are all about, to get the right clients asking for your work.


Something that a member of my group researched was the social media and promotion side of being freelance illustrator. The best ways to promote yourself are by contacting people! For example: Sending out emails but not being too pushy.

  • Sending out little cards or gifts at holidays to gently remind clients that you are still here and waiting for work.

  • Using social media! (Instagram is the most popular forum at the moment and an easy way to post images of what you are doing. Also pretty much everyone is on it...)

  • Having a blog with all social media websites linked is useful too. A blog is also useful for a more professional side of your work for people to contact you, but also see what inspires you and how you create your work. This gives clients the best feel for who you are as an artist.


To sum up, being freelance is what you make it. How much you put in, you will get out of it. At first it will be hard, but as long as you do what you can to keep things afloat it will start to balance out, and time is never wasted. The more you do, the more you learn, the more you’ll be recognized. As far as the concept art industry is concerned, this is the same. If you contact the right people and promote your work in ways which is adept to that field, you should be able to find suitable work and build up your portfolio and your career - It may just take some time.

Promotion is key, hard work is important, but having fun and pushing yourself is the general idea.


Images belong to Paul Kidby, Alan Lee and Trevor Dalmor/Laika Studios.



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Amanda Perrin |  amandaperrin14@gmail.com  |  @_amandadraws