Design in Town
What is an illustrator, what do they do and how do you become one?
Design in Town
What is an illustrator, what do they do and how do you become one?
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What is an illustrator, what do they do and how do you become one?

Design in Town interviews Flavio Rosati, illustrator and President of the Association of Image Authors. 
During the interview, Flavio Rosati provides some basic information on the profession of the illustrator with all its current implications. This contribution helps young talents and families to focus on perspectives and paths whilst they consider embarking on an exciting and transversal career, much more open to the contemporary than one might think. 

Who is the illustrator today. 

Let’s try to give a current definition of the illustrator’s profession. 

Can you hold a pencil in your hand? Do you like draw? Sorry, you still can’t call yourself an illustrator. But if you have the ability, through drawing, to represent reality and fantasy with your own personal style, then there is a good chance that you can become one.

What are the main types of professionals who produce illustration boards?

The illustrator’s work is present everywhere in our daily life. Wherever you look, you see thousands of illustrations around you. It goes from publishing (comics, children’s books, magazines, newspapers, school books), to advertising, packaging and cinema (storyboards).

How to become an illustrator. 

How can you approach illustration during high school? 

Sharpening our gaze and paying attention to the illustrations you already have at home: book covers, comics, magazines from your parents. It is the first step in understanding the importance of drawing and if we are attracted to it. Then the real search begins:

Visit websites such as that of our association or online magazines such as to understand the basics of the profession and discover the authors and styles of the moment; Understanding the thousand possibilities of drawing on portals such as, “getting lost” in the illustrations to fully immerse yourself in the subject; follow the authors who inspire you the most on social media to understand their technique and perceive the effort that exists behind the creation of an illustration; Volunteer at trade fairs such as the Treviso Comic Book Festival, Inchiostro Festival, Lucca Comics & Games, Comicon in Naples and Illustrada; attend specialized courses, including summer courses, organized by accredited schools, suggestions to this effect can be found on the website; Draw at home, on the go, anywhere, as if there were no tomorrow, because there is nothing more useful and fun than practicing!

What exactly does an illustrator do. 

Where does an illustrator work? 

Physically, an illustrator can work wherever there is a table on which to lean with one’s tools (brushes, computer, tablet…). You work at home or in a freelance shared workspace. Or you work for communication agencies. In the vast majority of cases, the illustrator is a freelancer.

What professional skills does the market require of a young illustrator today? 

Must have three types of skills: technical (basics of drawing and perspective, to be constantly improved throughout life); technological (publishing houses require a perfect digital file to go to print as quickly as possible); professional (knowing the copyright, knowing how to read a contract, knowing how to talk to the customer, meeting deadlines). Then, you need to know the trends of the moment to build attractive projects without giving up your individual style, which is built slowly over years of profession and mistakes.


What does it take to be a good illustrator. 

What soft skills will a good illustrator need? 

Every professional in our industry knows that drawing is just the easiest part of the job. 80% of the profession is based on the ability to manage one’s time. It is necessary to manage your time well and make the calculations so that the work allows you to:

  • to pay taxes;
  • go shopping;
  • to pay the rent;
  • pay for vacations and daily entertainment.

In addition to that, you need to remember to sleep and have free time so you don’t go crazy. First of all, you have to manage the deadlines to carry out a project. With experience you will learn to “fight” to get better contracts and compensation. At the same time, I recommend following personalities on social networks to inspire you to improve communication with people, from Steve Jobs and Enrico Brignano passing through the whole world of stand-up comedy. It can be used to learn how to improve your presence in the classroom, in laboratories or even just to do an interview well. When it comes to social media, it’s important to know the basics of effective profile management and job posting. Finally, it is essential to study copyright to protect one’s dignity as an author. Knowing at least one other language is taken for granted.

To work as an illustrator you need talent, technological skills, elbow grease and culture. Can you tell us in what percentages the perfect cocktail is, and why? 

To be an illustrator, all you need is the awareness of being able to work in many different sectors. We must not become stuck in just one field. It takes curiosity and patience. Nothing else is needed.

Tell us about the perfect day of an illustrator. And the worst, catastrophic. 

The perfect day of an illustrator is when, in the right time and without complications, you are able to create a job that satisfies the client right away. The worst day is the one spent making a thousand corrections requested by the client. With experience and building a decent career, an illustrator learns to make his vision prevail.

Advice to a young illustrator. 

Who were your illustrators of reference when you were young? 

As a kid I loved Claudio Castellini madly. It was he who inspired me to become a cartoonist.

And who would they be if you were a young person now?

If I were an eighteen year old I would go crazy for Emiliano Ponzi, Gloria Pizzilli and for the authors of at least half of the manga out there.

Can you recommend some good books for those who want to approach the world of illustration? 

All artbooks by Hayao Miyazaki. The art book titled Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And finally an annual of image authors, which functions as a complete catalog of styles.

And an essential film? 

The entire filmography of Hayao Miyazaki and Spider-Man: a new universe, 2018 animated film directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman.

Flavio Rosati

Flavio Rosati is a designer, cartoonist and entrepreneur from Trentino. In 2015 he founded Ilflaviatore, a company dedicated to the creation of comics in the field of marketing, as a new communication tool for companies and businesses. Since 2016 he has been president of AI Associazione Autori di Immagini, the main Italian organization that protects illustrators and cartoonists. In this role he is involved in organizing meetings to help young illustrators and cartoonists enter the world of work and portfolio reviews with the greatest Italian authors to help aspiring illustrators/cartoonists in their personal and professional growth; collaborations with large companies in the publishing and entertainment world (Lucca Comics & Games, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Comicon, Internazionale...) to tell and protect Italian image authors; challenges the institutions and the government for the protection of the entire discipline. 

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