Having just graduated six months ago, Michael Driver is rapidly establishing himself as an award winning Freelance Illustrator with an impressive list of high profile clients already under his belt.
By Michael Driver
You were recently shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards 2015. Could you tell us a bit more about your entry and the process behind it?
Sure thing! My entry was one of three images I made for a Puck Collective group show at the Print Space earlier on this year. The series explored our relationship with technology. From work to relaxation I often find this relationship fascinating; it seems now more than ever that we probably spend more time staring at a screen than at anything else, and I think there is something really melancholic about that. This was something I was trying to reflect on in the series. In regards to process I used a mixture of techniques, blending working digitally with traditional drawing and mark making. It’s always nice to mix the two up so there is still an element of exploring, making and pushing my craft. I’m far too young to start defining exactly what I do, so exploring materials, textures and shape is a great way to keep pushing on.
Speculative Piece for The New York Times by Michael Driver
How did you find the transition between education and work? Were there any obstacles you had to face that you didn’t expect?
The transition between education and freelancing full time has been pretty crazy. About a month before I finished studying at Kingston I got a lot of agency interest and then went on to sign with MP arts, then I was lucky enough to be picked out as one of the ‘It’s Nice That’ and Creative Review graduates which drummed up a lot of interest in my work. I’ve been really lucky so far, it’s been four/five months and I’ve managed to have constant work. I never really thought I’d be doing this full time straight away and I’m really thankful that I am. Aside from having to learn how to invoice and set up the whole banking side of things, there’s yet to be any apparent obstacles. I’m in a bit of a quiet patch at the moment, but I’m really aware that freelance work can be very quiet one week and then crazy busy the next. It seems to be all about riding the wave.
When a commissioner contacts you with a project, what are the first three stages you take?
What I usually do is try to read through the client’s email a good few times so I have a good understanding of what they want and what their expectations of the job is. If its something I’m not too familiar with quoting on (say if it’s advertising based or publishing based) I usually then pass it on to my agent to figure out how much the job will cost. I’m not too confident when it comes to the financial side of things, so I prefer to let somebody else negotiate fees for me. Once everything is agreed, I start drawing. Sometimes clients are very specific with what they want, other times they want you to explore an idea. I enjoy both sorts of client for different reasons. It’s fun to think on your toes and be expected to use your brain (and I often think this is where illustration is at its best), but it’s also nice to not have to do that so you can spend a long time crafting an image.
Wheel chair basketball for Mosaic Science by Michael Driver
How has social media helped you market yourself? What have you found are the pros and cons?
Social media has really sped everything up for me. I post regularly (sometimes far too regularly), and it’s helped get the attention of quite a few clients. I think social media is great in helping you push your work into people’s hands in a far less awkward manner than sending a direct e-mail. Social media platforms like Instagram are great for making portfolio updates without having to get potential clients to remember your name, website or doing any additional clicking. On a professional level I don’t really see too many cons with using social media. I think sometimes it’s really easy to identify what the new visual fad is through it.
Cocktail, editorial illustration for Kiblind Magazine by Michael Driver
As a graduate yourself, what piece of advice would you give to an illustration student soon to graduate?
Graduating can be a really stressful time; Final shows often bring out the worst in people. Try your hardest to enjoy every moment of it, as you will probably never get the opportunity to do it all again. Stay up late, work hard and most importantly try and have fun. University is a great place where you can meet likeminded individuals and spend three years of your life experimenting. Ultimately don’t worry and stick at it, it’s over in a blink of an eye, and try not to muck it up just before the finishing line.
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