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What NOT to say to a Children's Book Illustrator

Since I started offering my illustration services, I have had some incredible, positive, encouraging feedback, and I’ve had some downright insulting comments, from people who mean well, that I can’t help but laugh about! 

If you’re up for a giggle, or you just want to know what not to say to your favourite artist, here are the most insulting things you can say to a children’s book illustrator (or any artist):

1. My brother/daughter/nephew/etc. could also do this!

There’s so much more to this job than I ever could have imagined when I first started out. If your brother/daughter/nephew/etc. actually wants to do this for a living, why aren’t they? I’m not denying that they can create beautiful art, but do they know anything about book design, being self-employed, finding leads, preparing quotes, or making customers happy?

Sure, my job may mostly be drawing pretty pictures from the comfort of my couch, but it’s not for the faint of heart. I’ve worked some pretty stressful jobs before, and none of them come close to what it feels like to be solely responsible for finding work for myself and making sure clients pay me so that I can pay my own bills.

That being said, I love this job! I love it more than any other job I’ve ever had. And I encourage anyone who truly wants to give it a go to dive in because it’s so worth it!

2. Your prices are so high! 

With double points for the perfect pairing: Can you sharpen your pencil? 

I price per project, and honestly, although I don’t like to admit it, often my hourly rate works out significantly less than when I worked as a scientist. Creating art takes time. Us artists are notoriously undervaluing ourselves, and comments like these don’t help!

So please, if you ever think someone’s valued themselves too high, I challenge you to reframe that thought either as, Sadly, that’s out of my budget, or Good on them for knowing their worth! Besides, if they can charge that much, their clients know the value they bring, you just might not be their ideal customer.

Also, I get a bit of a giggle about the pencil comment - I create all of my client work digitally these days, so there’s literally no pencil to sharpen and I don’t think I’ve even seen my pencil sharpener in about five years. 

3. Why don’t you get a real job? 

Believe me, Susan, this is a “real” job.

Thankfully, this isn’t a comment I’ve had directly, but that annoying little voice inside my head certainly tells me people think this all of the time!

So, in case you are wondering, I work more full-time hours on my business. Often more than full-time. This job pays my mortgage. My clients value the work that I do and I take my work very seriously. I also like to think back to 2020 when the world took a pause; if it hadn’t been for the work of artists past and present, all over the globe, we all would have been bored out of our minds. We didn’t take art for granted then, and I think we’d do well to remember that creating is a very real job that society needs desperately. 

4. I could make this for cheaper! 

This is one of my favourites because, if you think that about a book I’ve illustrated or a piece of art I’ve created, then you absolutely should go and make it for yourself! You go create that artwork or illustrate that book! You'll probably have heaps of fun and you might even learn some new skills along the way!

And hey, if it doesn’t work out, feel free to reach back out to me in the future. Or, if you'd prefer to go through the process with someone who has done this many times before, maybe you should trust a professional illustrator with your project.

5. This looks like something a five-year-old drew. 

While I know that this isn’t meant as a compliment, if you’re referring to something I’ve drawn for a children’s book, thank you! It all goes back to that point I made about book design and running a business. See, the thing is, children’s books are for children. There’s not much place for high-brow fine art, the target audience is literally children.

Sure, I’d be a bit offended by that comment if it was about a painting I’ve had displayed in a gallery, or a watercolour print in my shop, but if you think that about a children’s book I’ve created our a nursery print I sell, then I’m doing my job right!

If you’d like me to help you bring your children’s book story to life, or you’d like to commission a piece for an entirely different audience, give me a shout. 

…just don’t shout that your brother/daughter/nephew/etc. could create the same piece of art for you and I’m sure we’ll have a great time working together!

An illustration of the sun at sunset.

A recent piece of art I created inspired by Pantone's Color of the Year - Peach Fuzz.

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