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For Illustrators, Practice Makes Perfect

by Christopher Liguori | April 10, 2022

Abby James is an aspiring children’s book illustrator who enrolled in the Undergraduate Certificate in Illustration program to develop her traditional and digital art skills. A self-motivated learner, Abby has enjoyed how the combination of structure and feedback provided in the program has helped her enhance her skills in ways that complement her favorite YouTube resources. Our Admissions Advisor Christopher Liguori recently caught up with Abby to find out why she chose an online path for her creative education.

What has inspired you to study illustration and pursue your goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator?

There was a book I read all the time when I was younger called The True Princess, by Angela Hunt, illustrated by Diana Magnuson. It wasn’t a little kid’s reader; it was more of a collectable story book that would look good on a shelf. This is the sort of book I would be most interested in illustrating. The book had such a great story, and even now I can clearly remember my favorite illustrations from the book.

I think that the art style of the book and even the color palette has inspired quite a bit of the art I’m currently doing. It had a huge impact on me and my art style. I would love to be able to create a book that could have the same impact on someone else.

How has the flexibility of online study helped you pursue your education?

I am very thankful for the option of online learning. Going to college in person was just something I wasn’t going to do. I had never really even considered going to an art school; I was just planning to learn things online through platforms like Youtube and Skillshare. When I did happen to look around for colleges I found Sessions College and soon realized that it offered exactly what I needed.

My main goal in art is to learn and sharpen my skills and portfolio. Although YouTube is a good learning resource, it’s rather inconsistent and it’s easy to have loopholes in your knowledge.

The online teachers in the program are all very responsive, helpful, and involved, which is something you can’t get from YouTube! A concern of mine was that not being in an actual classroom would inhibit my ability to ask questions and ask for clarification, but as the teachers are all very responsive and helpful, it hasn’t been a problem at all. The online option is really nice for my part time job as I can take my classes whenever I would like and even get ahead if I need to.

Outside of your Sessions College program, what professional experience do you have working in art, design, or illustration?

I have worked in many different areas of art and design. I have done a bit of poster design and have done some portraiture for friends and family. I also ran a comic strip on Instagram for a while.

When I first started out working digitally, my work was pretty rough, but I knew the only way I could get better was to practice. I ended up doing around thirty pages of comics. The story I wrote didn’t have a lot of direction because the main reason I started was to practice my digital art and develop a consistent style. Even though I ended up stopping the comic, I am happy that I did it, and thankful for the experience it gave me.

While working on my artwork I often compared my first and last comic. In my first page, my characters’ proportions were questionable, none of the colors worked, and I clearly remember the struggle I had simply drawing a believable table! In my final and most recent comic, I could comfortably create multiple characters per panel, make a city in the background and produce what I believe is a professional-looking comic. Out of all the different areas I have worked in, my favorite one would have to be my comic strip.

Which course(s) have been most challenging, fun or rewarding. Why?

I think that my hardest courses were Photoshop and Life Drawing I. Photoshop was rather difficult for me because, while I had previous experience with a program called Krita, learning new programs like that is not my strong suit. It was additionally challenging for me because none of the assignments were based on drawing skill. They were primarily based on my ability with the program and my creativity and composition skills. In this class I learned quite a bit about typography, how it works in an art piece and how to apply it effectively. Though it wasn’t easy, thanks to the patience of my teachers, I have become pretty fluent in Photoshop.

Life Drawing was harder for me than I had initially thought it would be. This class really pushed me, and I would have to say that the hardest parts were the time limit (I had a week per assignment) and drawing from life. Although I had previously done portraiture it had always been from a photograph. This class, as well as my Drawing I class, has really helped me to see the benefits of drawing from life. In particular, Life Drawing has helped me to be much more comfortable drawing what I see.

My favorite classes or the ones I had the most fun with would be Color Theory and Design and Composition. These classes were short but sweet and I was really surprised about how much knowledge was packed into these short classes.

What kind of illustrations do you want to do professionally, and what advice would you give to other aspiring illustrators?

My goal is to illustrate  children’s books, whether a fully illustrated special edition book, or just a cover. I have also considered writing and illustrating my own short graphic novel for kids, and that is something I would still be interested in if the opportunity arose.

The advice I would give to other aspiring illustrators is to practice constantly and be consistent. It’s hard to stick with one or two preferred ways of illustrating, as our art styles are constantly changing and getting better, but I would highly recommend trying to find two or three styles that you like and enjoy illustrating in and sticking with them.

I would try to base these styles off of what you want to do with your Illustration. For example, if you wanted to do designs or logos for websites, I would recommend trying to have a consistent style that would work well on a website. If you don’t have a particular style you want to draw in, I would recommend studying some of your favorite artists. Try to pick out the parts you like and incorporate those things into your work. The most important thing to do, however, is to practice!

To find out more about  Abby James, visit https://abbymarieart.myportfolio.com/ or https://www.instagram.com/abbymarie_art/. Visit Sessions.edu for more information on illustration media majors at Sessions College, including our Associate Degree in Illustration and Undergraduate Certificate in Illustration program.

Christopher Liguori is a Student Services Advisor at Sessions. He supports and assists students from their onboarding to the day of their graduation. Chris has many years of customer service experience, and a degree in Film and Media from Arizona State University.