How to be an Illustrator – Darrel Rees

A review of Darrel Rees guide to becoming a successful illustrator. Includes tips and advice from leading industry professionals.

If you’re looking for an inspirational book that showcases brilliant illustrations created by talented and successful artists you’re spoilt for choice. Many major art book publishers produce series of books that catalogue and focus on the output of prolific illustrators. However, if you’re looking for practical advice and guidance it’s not such an easy task to find relevant material.

Publisher Lawrence King (LK) aims to address this with ‘How to be an Illustrator’ by Darrel Rees. The book offers detailed, practical information that covers topics including creating a portfolio, approaching would-be clients, handling jobs, billing, setting up a studio and other tasks a professional illustrator may face.

How to be an Illustrator

About the author – Darrel Rees

From the LK website – Darrel Rees has worked as an illustrator since 1986, joining influential London studio The Big Orange’ in 1992. He founded illustration agency Heart in London in 1994 and Heart USA in New York in 2001. He contributed to The Education of an Illustrator, edited by Steven Heller. He is a member of the Society of Publication Designers in New York and the D&AD in the UK, acting as a jury foreman on its awards scheme.’

Darrel has an impressive résumé and gaining knowledge from such an experienced illustrator is invaluable. It’s well written and begins with background information including how Darrel became an illustrator. It then moves onto chapters that are neatly split into in-depth sections.

How to be an Illustrator

What’s inside?

After the ‘Getting Started’ chapter the book dives into practical information beginning with ‘Preparing your portfolio’. Alongside providing a guide to the best methods for presenting your work Darrel shares anecdotes from his career that help to provide context. Other chapters feature useful information covering job hunting, interviews, working on your first job, billing/financial tips, self promotion, studios and the pros and cons of working with agents. As you can see it’s a pretty comprehensive guide and I can’t think of anything they’ve missed out.

How to be an Illustrator


Throughout the book there are interviews with Illustrators, Creative Directors, Art Directors and Art Buyers. It’s a good selection that provides various points of view and in the case of the illustrators a small showcase of their artwork.

How to be an Illustrator

Second Edition

I reviewed the second edition of the book which features chapter opener illustrations by Tom Gauld and a revised layout/updated text. I’m a big fan of Tom’s work and it really complements the tone and content of the book. It’s also full colour and has been edited to focus on using social media and the internet to promote yourself.

How to be an illustrator

Who should buy the book?

The obvious answer is students and graduates that want to prepare themselves for a career as a illustrator. However there is so much useful information inside that even professional illustrators will be able to find something of value.

You can buy the book for £17.95 and I’d happily recommend it to aspiring illustrators.

How to be an Illustrator

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