Anna Doherty graduated with a degree in Illustration from DJCAD in 2015. She’s currently studying a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Art, whilst also taking freelance commissions in her spare time. When she’s not doing art, she spends her time going to the cinema and theatre, dog-spotting and eating nachos.
Hi Anna! What’s your main source of inspiration when approaching a new project? Do you do a lot of research before a final design? Who is your favourite artist/designer, who inspires you, and why?
I think at the moment I approach projects by either having a little nugget of an idea in my brain that I keep going back to, and also by doing a lot of observational drawing and seeing what shapes and things I am enjoying drawing. And I think these two go hand in hand, because it’s all very well having a fabulous idea but you have to enjoy drawing/making the subject of it and vice versa- you can’t just choose something you like to draw/create and try to force a project around it. I like to do a lot of thinking in places where I can’t write down all my muddled thoughts, like in the shower or on my bike, and then note down the strongest ideas. If I’m feeling stuck I like to go draw old buildings or at the swimming pool. I would say I do more development then research before a final image. My tip-top faves are not all illustrators because I think it’s important to get inspiration from different places that aren’t the same as what you are doing. Also I think all my favourites are people who make things that make me chuckle. Sara Ogilvie, Lauren Child, Violeta Lopiz, Jon Klassen, Oliver Jeffers, Faye Moorhouse, Julia Sarda, David Shrigley, Wes Anderson.
How quickly after uni did you manage to find work?
I dived right into doing my masters when I finished so I didn’t get permanent, but I got going with a couple of small commissions here and there within a month or two of graduating although I didn’t go looking for many because I was kept busy with my course.
How much creative freedom do you feel you get in your current job/internships/projects?
In any freelance projects I’ve had quite a lot of freedom in my experience (which sometimes makes it harder…!)
Do you actively seek work (how?), and what is most important – CV, portfolio, social media, blogs?
I haven’t been recently as I’ve been busy with my course, but when I do seek work I think a website which includes a CV and a strong presence on social media is important, a lot of small jobs I have got have been through Instagram followers.
What resources and infrastructure do you miss now that you are away from uni? Do you feel connected to the people or networks that were available in uni? How do you manage to make new contacts?
I definitely miss all the facilities like the computers and lasercutter and ceramics room, because it’s harder to play around with different mediums in the real world because everything is so expensive to poor graduates. And having a studio space! Working in your bedroom makes it very hard not to get distracted. I think our illustration class was very close so we still have that network going and we still talk to each other about projects we’re working on. It’s harder not all being in a studio together though. I’ve made new contacts via social media and going to exhibition openings/arty things.
What one thing do you know now that you wish you had known when you were leaving uni?
How to work out how much to charge people for work!
How do you overcome difficulties during projects such as lack of ideas, motivation etc?
I think that’s different for anyone, but if I’m feeling stuck I will go outside and do or draw something else, or listen to audiobooks/have a tv show that I know well enough not to look at on in the background to give me motivation not to leave my desk.
How do you manage your time and adjust to going from having the uni schedule to not having a set schedule as such? Do you plan projects up front?
It is sometimes a struggle and recently I’ve got a calendar so I can put all the deadlines down on and score out when I’ve done parts of projects which has helped me a lot.
How do you deal with clients and putting value in to your projects, cost per hour of your work, do you generally get a lot of negotiation in regards to hourly rate/selling rate?This is the hardest thing! Everyone is very British when it comes to asking for money, but I think it’s good to do it over email so you can have it all in writing and don’t undersell yourself. Better to ask for too much and back down than to get scammed. And don’t do things for free because it will “be good exposure” or because it’s your hobby. Generally though I’ve always got what I’ve asked for. Charging per hour is good if you can pre-work out how long you’ll take.
Would you consider going back to education, do you have any plans for the future?
Ahhh I have no plans to go back after this masters is over with. It was amazing and I learnt so much, but it is so time consuming and life-consuming!
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(images courtesy of the artist)