Don’t go breaking my heart

People regularly ask for me to work for the pleasure of working them, which in itself is lovely. They like my work and want the work I do for their project, but I really have to draw (literally) the line somewhere and paying the rent is important.

This seems to be a universal problem for illustrators and I’ve noticed this happens for all people with any skill that any other individual lacks. We all want our friend who’s studied law to look over a contract, our mate whose a plumber to fix the hot water service and the kid who’s really good at the computer to show us how make a website.

It’s different though for a friend, it’s different for a project that everyone is into on an equal footing. Being asked work for nothing while other parties make profit or at least their costs back, is a bit of a smack in the face.

Anyway, IA have got on board The AOI’s #notahobby campaign, because we all need to make a living from the skills we have worked hard to learn and get good at. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help out a charity and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help out a friend, but put as succinctly as I can…

Your passion project , digital image with hand drawn elements, 2019

Your passion project, digital image with hand drawn elements, 2019

You read a bit more about this on a previous post about self-publishing.



Mad as...

A friend finagled tickets for us to a taping of last weeks Mad as Hell. It was a long session of four hours and funny all the way through.

One of the skits was when a Labor supporter (played by Emily Taheny) was asked a question replied “Albosolutley”. Then this popped into my noggin. Apologies to all the creative people on the show.


Professional illustration

Volunteering with Illustrators Australia (IA) has been the most amazing experience. There I look after a couple of email addresses, but mostly the memberships.

The most interesting is the many applications from people who would like to be professional members.

I love seeing all the fabulous portfolios, although all I do is pass them onto the assessors without comment and they do the had work of looking at the application.

What I have noticed is the gap between what makes someone who can draw really, really amazing pictures and a professional illustrator.

Illustration is great. I love looking at the beautiful work on Instagram, Twitter, portfolio sites and the applications that come through. But doing great work and creating wonderful pictures does not on it’s own constitute any individual as an employment ready, professional illustrator.

Things that constantly crop up in discourse with illustrators:

  • Understanding CMYK & RGB colour profiles. *eyeroll*

  • Meet deadlines. If asked to get something done by a certain date, get it done by that date, professionals shouldn’t need chasing.

  • Have contact details on your website and social media profiles. How do people get work if commissioners/art directors/publishers/creative directors/agents don’t know how to get in touch? Again, professionals shouldn’t need chasing.

  • Be a registered business, in Australia that means having an ABN. Other countries have other rules. Look it up!

  • Understand your worth and don’t undersell yourself, it damages the whole industry if illustrators undercut each other

  • Be a member of IA! Get involved and meet YOUR people and learn about the industry along the way, it’s also a great way to support other illustrators.
    If you’re not ready for Professional membership, there are other levels (they’re often cheaper) and you have access to a wealth of information to help you and your business thrive.



  • Don’t be rude or hard to talk to (i.e.: not being a dick)




or I've written a picture book and I need some pictures done…

You’ve put in the hard yards in and taken some words, massaged them into place and created a beautiful story. It’s a great thing to do and it’s something you’re very passionate about. You know you need some pictures for the story and so you’ve landed here. That’s great, and I’m looking forward to our adventure together.

Before we start, there are a few things I need you to understand and there is no judgement in this, but from many requests I and many of my illustrator colleagues get it is clear that there is a gap in the information available to writers as to how and what it takes to get a book published.

Let me be very clear, If you are going to submit your book to a publisher, they will want to chose their own illustrator. Employing me to draw anything will be a waste of your money, the drawings will be discarded. Publishers do not want illustrated submissions unless the author is an illustrator, illustrating their own writing.

Publishing houses exist is because it takes a lot of work to get a book published and involves a lot of people. Looking clearly at how the industry works will protect you emotionally and financially. It will help you clarify what you want out of me and what other things are involved in getting your book out into the market place.

  • Editor: Basically, the project manager, pulling all the parts of the book together. Managing expectations of the author, illustrator and book designer to get the best result

  • Art director: Like and editor, but for pictures

  • Book designer: A specialist graphic designer who lays in the text and places the illustrations getting the item ready for print

  • Author: Writes the words with editing guidance from the editor

  • Illustrator: Draws the pictures under direction from the editor (and/or art director)

  • Marketing: Assess the book for sales potential, deciding on print run and distribution

  • Printer: Prints and binds the book

  • Distribution: Delivers the book to the shops

If you are going to self-publish, you take on all of these functions or you pay someone to do them for you.

Illustrators and anyone you ask to do work on your book will expect to be paid. Your passion project is not their passion project. By all means you can ask for advice, almost everyone is happy to share their knowledge (if they have time) but it is not right to ask them to work for free or at a discount.


It can cost thousands of dollars to get a book published and the person doing the publishing will bear this cost.

Economies can be made with the scope of the project, but the illustrations alone can cost $5000 to $15000 (maybe even more), depending on the illustrator, the number and complexity of the illustrations and how soon you want them.

I am not trying to step on your dream or be nasty, this is an industry and there are, few (if any) short cuts.

There are successful self-published authors, it is a lot of hard work and an ongoing commitment to your project is needed.

Find a few and talk to them.

Join the ASA and/or SCWBI, these are your network. You will meet lots of people who have lots of information and advice to get you on your way. They are your peeps!

SO, when you’re ready and you’ve learned all you can about publishing and want to go ahead and get a quote for me there is one more step (sorry). Fill in this form and send it through when you request your quote.

It will help you clarify what you’re asking for and it will help me put together an accurate figure for you.

I want us to have a fun and rewarding working relationship, getting the best result and realising your vision. Having a comprehensive understanding of what’s involved and clear communication paths is the foundation of a really positive experience for everyone.

See below for some further information to read and listen to. Good luck and hopefully I haven’t done myself out of too much work.



Further information…

On publishing…

Sarah McIntyre 'Can you illustrate my book?' Some tips for writers approaching illustrators, 25 April 2016

Tania McCartney, The Happy Book Children’s Book Podcast, 2 January 2019

Australian Society of Authors, Find and answer, Publishing [5 March 2019]

Australian Publishers Association, Getting Published [5 March 2019]


Australian Society of Authors (ASA)
Contract advice, workshops, industry information

Society of Childrens Writers and Book Illustrators (SCWBI)
Meet your people, network and learn.

Keep and eye out for…

CYA Conference


There's an exhibition on!

It's been a while, but you still love me? right?

I've been working hard over the past eighteen months volunteering for Illustrators Australia (IA). We've been moving the organisation to a new administration software system and planning for the future. It certainly been a challenge and I've learnt so much, met some amazingly smart people and hopefully it will stand IA in good stead for the next decade. Fingers crossed.

Along with all that, IA are putting on an exhibition, SHOUT! opening 6pm this Friday, at Collingwood Gallery, 292 Smith Street, Collingwood and runs for two weeks. I have a piece in this! You can check out the details on the IA website here and if you can't make it but what to see (and possibly buy a piece), there is an online auction! (fancy, I know!)

Opening night: 6pm Friday 13 July 2018 Exhibition runs 13 - 26 July 2018  Collingwood Gallery, 292 Smith Street Collingwood

Opening night: 6pm Friday 13 July 2018
Exhibition runs 13 - 26 July 2018
Collingwood Gallery, 292 Smith Street Collingwood

There is amazing work on display, digitally printed on wood, collaged, drawn, painted, carved - the illustrators have pushed this theme to the max, worth seeing for sure!



Happy George

Recently I developed and illustrated a new character, for a disability service. Introducing: Happy George

This little guy ties in with some other promotional material and is soon to be launched on their website.

Happy George is a friendly frog who like to say hello to everyone!

Happy George is a friendly frog who like to say hello to everyone!

Happy George is technologically savvy!

Happy George is technologically savvy!

Happy George is being used on colouring in sheets and word searches which I also developed. These will be available for people to download from their website .

It was great to translate the linear to the rendered colour and build up a stock of imagery around it all to describe the world in which George lives.

He will also be in explanatory material on printed documents and certificates.

It was a great project. I had lots of fun testing out techniques I've not used for a while. And it was fantastic to see it so well received by the client. 

Hopefully the participants of the service like him too, because I'd love to do more of this! 

Cheers and chin-chin,


Birdies everywhere!

I've been a bit slack with the blogging, but busy is as busy does and because not everyone has Instagram here's what I've been doing...

As you can see Birdies have exploded from my pencil and have taken a life of their own. Up to all sorts of adventures. Hopefully a wonderful and generous publisher can see the potential and gives me a call. I have so many ideas for what these little darlings can achieve, you just never know what they'll do next!

Cheers and chin-chin!