Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why am I an illustrator?

This fascinating subject was put in front of me by illustration agent Anna Goodson through her weekly FeedbackFriday question, if you don't know what FeedbackFriday is then you can read up about it here!

The question was this:

Who/What influenced you to become an illustrator?

I gave her an answer on Twitter, but I didn't feel that this was a subject that could just be over and done with so quickly. This whole thing got me thinking, what really did influence me to become an illustrator? Why didn't I decide to do Fine Art instead or become a graphic designer? What drove me to wander this particular path? I have thought about it before of course, but never really sat down to ponder it deeply, until now that is.

The many emotional stages I can go through while examining my life and my choices...look familiar?

The truth is that there are several reasons why I became an illustrator and not any given one can be said to be the singular most important reason as to why I chose to do what I do. They all contributed in their own special way. I wont list all the reasons in length, but I will go in depth on the most important ones.

Ever since I was a little girl I have been drawing, but I rarely drew things just for the heck of it, when I had my pencils out I would draw fairytale princesses like I imagined they would look like and I would try to recreate my favorite stories or movies or comic book characters. My mother being the fantastic creature she is, always told me that my drawings were lovely. That's where it all began.

I was a shy kid in school and so I often doodled by myself, but sometimes other kids would come and peek at my art and be all excited about it and all of a sudden I was making a new friend, art has helped me grow as a person,  and it brings people together in so many ways. Art made me able to reach out and talk to others, from family, to classmates to people on the other side of the world that I have never met. I owe a lot of near and dear friendships to art and illustration, and that's one of the reasons why abandoning art could never be an option for me.

When growing up I was surrounded by comics and graphic novels like Elfquest, Bamse (the worlds strongest bear) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and so on.  I watched japanese animé like Silver Fang, the Blacksea Pirates, Sinbad and all the Disney classics. I was amazed at how people could narrate entire stories though images and create dream worlds you could get lost in. That's probably why I ended up doing it myself on an unconscious level. At some point people started telling me that my pictures told stories, they were more than just pretty pictures of pretty women, there was emotion and a love of storytelling behind it. So eventually I decided that I wanted to tell stories for a living.

This did not happen over night of course, it took time and a lot of agonizing. My way to becoming an illustrator may have seemed straight forward to the people around me, but has never been easy. I graduated from my college of further education in 2007, I was 18 at the time and completely green. I had no idea of where to go and what to do. I just knew that whatever it was it had to be something creative. I started looking at schools, just to see what was out there and I stumbled upon a school that offered illustration classes. At the time I didn't even know what an illustrator was. I had a background in art, design and art history, but when I read what the course was about and realized what an illustrator did. I just knew it, this was what I was supposed to do with my life!

I applied to the school and was accepted, but I couldn't afford to go so I didn't reply and figured I would just have to apply again next year if I could save up some money. After a while the school called me and asked why I hadn't replied to their acceptance letter. I explained my predicament, and to my surprise they were gracious enough to promise me a spot in next years class. All I had to do was sign the new acceptance papers the coming year. Boy did that give me motivation to save up some cash! I worked like a dog for a year at a local grocery store. I saved up money to buy myself my very own laptop, ( I am using that same laptop right now 5 years later, it's the best investment I ever made). I also saved up enough money to be able to pay a deposit for a flat because I needed to move across the entire country to Oslo, to study at my school of choice. My family did not have money to support me through it so I had to take up loans and apply for scholarships, and have a part time job on the side to make ends meet. I studied in Oslo for two years and graduated with a C, something I remember feeling very unhappy about since I'm more of  an A/B type student. I then chose to take a third and final year abroad as an undergraduate in the UK, so I could finally achieve a Bachelors degree in Illustration (this was a dream come true for me, I always dreamed of studying abroad and getting a degree from a University when I was a kid). I got accepted into the University of Wolverhampton, I sponsored the whopping tuition fee with new loans and scholarships. I graduated with a B in 2011, which in English terms is a 2.1 BA(Hons) in illustration.

And now...Now I try to tell stories for a living, through images and words both. I still work part-time, I still barely make ends meet, but I am doing what I love and I am following a dream. And that ladies and gentleman is why I am an illustrator.

Do you know why you want to be an illustrator and what really inspired you to become a storytelling artist?

Until next time,
Anita K. Olsen

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