It has happened a lot recently that students contact me for this reason.
It seems quite unreal to me since I was a student myself not long ago!
Anyway, I'm glad people think I'm someone able to give advice!:)
Here the Q+A.
How many artworks are recommended for presenting a portfolio?
I would recommend you to put no more than 15-20 pieces in your portfolio and only your best work.
Honestly, I never had the need to print a phisical portfolio to show around, nowadays everything is digital and usually people look at my website to see my work, or eventually I like to bring with me an ipad with my images in it if I have a meeting.
But if you're interested about the process of putting together a portfolio, I would advice you to read these blog posts. Very illuminating.
Where should a person start if they want to pursue this career?
Regarding starting out, my first tip for someone that is about to get out of college is to not wait until you finished college to promote yourself or find the first commissions. An art degree doesn't make any different in the illustration world, so my advice is to start now, immediately, do not wait any more time to actively start behaving like an illustrator and look for work, commissions and possible clients to contact.
I would highly recommend you to get a proper professional website (behance is good to share stuff with other peers, but not so much as a professional window for your work to show to a client). Having one helped me enormously.
Then you could start emailing the clients you would like to work with. A nice brief email introducing yourself with a link to your new shiny website will do.
Most of them might not reply but some will do! And those might become your first clients...
What makes a successful illustrator?
I personally think a successful illustrator is like a stew recipe. You need to throw in a pot the following ingredients:
- Tons of perseverance. Which means never ever give up. In the end only the ones who didn't get discourage by the rejections (everyone has them all the time!) will become a professional.
- Passion for the job. If you aren't willing to work weekends, don't even start.
- Your personality. Creative work is very personal and different for each one of us. I reckon that's because our artistic work is the reflection of a piece of our identity, and that's what makes it special and unique.
- A sprinkle of luck.