A Word from our Members: Charlotte MacMillan-Scott

Here at the AOI we champion illustrators at all stages of their careers and working in a wide variety of mediumsThe ways we provide support are quite extensive, but rather than just listing them we’d rather let our members tell you directly!

Charlotte MacMillan-Scott is an illustrator and member of the AOI, using vibrant bold colours to create inspiring images that burst with energy. Her specialism lie within portraits, hand lettering and surface pattern design, working with clients including Tatty Devine, Project Everyone and Quarto Books.

We speak to Charlotte about how she’s used her AOI membership, as well as her process negotiating and illustrating a fantastic new book project.

How has the AOI helped you to successfully negotiate the terms and/or licensing for a specific project?

I was commissioned by White Lion Publishing, part of Quarto Books, to illustrate 365 portraits for ‘365 Gays of the Year’, a book by author Lewis Laney, which has recently come out. The AOI were instrumental in guiding me through the fee negotiation and going through the contract with me. I am hugely grateful for the support they showed me throughout the whole project.

What led to Quarto approaching you?

I designed a collection of silk scarves and one of the team from Quarto bought one and discovered my work through Instagram.  

The book contains a huge volume of illustration – how did you manage the process and workload, both in terms of creating the work and communicating with the publisher?

This was the first time I’ve worked with a publisher and I was really lucky to work with such a amazing team as it was such a mammoth job! I was asked to deliver batches of 120 portraits at a time, as that’s how the payment also worked, with around 3 months to get through each batch, so I worked out I needed to draw two portraits a day consistently in order to reach the deadlines. On delivery of each batch I’d then receive feedback from the publisher on which ones needed edits and which could go straight to finalising, which I had to work into my schedule. Safe to say I didn’t have much of a social life throughout this! But I also really loved the challenge and discovering all of these new people along the way. 

Portraiture can have its own unique challenges – how did you navigate this?

A good portrait is getting the essence of the person, and when you are having to draw each portrait within a 2/3 hour time frame and then move on to the next, you don’t have the luxury of spending as much time on it as you would for an individual portrait job. This is the beauty of having the publisher check the initial draft and spot any necessary tweaks. The process also taught me not to be a total perfectionist.

“The AOI were instrumental in guiding me through the fee negotiation and going through the contract with me. I am hugely grateful for the support they showed me throughout the whole project.”
– Charlotte MacMillan-Scott

Every new commission is a learning opportunity – how has your work or your approach to business practices developed through this project?

I got really good at portraits by the end and really finessed my style. It was hard work to keep up the motivation toward the end, but I made sure I was looking after myself mentally, by taking myself for a swim or going for a walk every day – it’s so important to take breaks so you can come back refreshed and ready to go again. I also put motivational post-it notes on my screen to keep me going. I wanted to make it the best I could for the author. 

How has being an AOI member supported your illustration career?

The AOI has been so amazing at helping me navigate contracts and fees for various clients of all shapes and sizes, particularly at the beginning of my illustration career where I had no clue where to begin on pricing. I’ve found the calculator tool to be massively beneficial, but I know that there’ll always be someone on hand to chat things through if I’m uncertain about anything. Derek has been my saving grace!

Would you recommend us to other illustrators?

100%! The AOI are an invaluable service. 

What would be your advice to other illustrators embarking on a large-scale commission, or a job in an new area?

Say yes to it if it feels right and aligns with where you want to go. And make sure you are getting paid properly for it! This is where the AOI comes in. This was my first publishing contract and their help was instrumental in navigating unfamiliar territory.

Don’t be nervous about entering a new area, because it’s the best way to learn and there are always people to support you along the way, such as the AOI! Just make a plan before you begin so that you know what you can realistically achieve and communicate this with the client – I find that people are usually very accommodating. 

Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to answer our questions and for her kind words. 

Make sure to see more of her fantastic work on her website and instagram.

Already a member? Explore your AOI Membership fully and get in touch if you need 1-1 support!

Not a member yet? Find out more about our membership plans here.

16th June 2023

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