A day in the life of an illustrator: balancing client needs with creativity

Explore a day in the life of an illustrator, balancing client needs and creativity. From morning walks to sketching sessions, here is a glimpse of my day to day.

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A day in the life of an illustrator: balancing client needs with creativity

The scent of freshly brewed coffee (no sugar, thanks!) fills the air as I settle in around 8 or 9 am. Once I have it, I’m ready to tackle the day. However, just after quicky ckecking emails, I grab my tiny furry co-pilot (aka my dog) and we head to the park for a quick morning walk. Sunshine, fresh air, and a good audiobook ā€“ the perfect way to wake up the creative side of my brain and brainstorm ideas for the day ahead. This is, more or less, the starting of a day in the life of an illustrator.

Once the walk is over, it’s all systems go! I rely heavily on Notion (shoutout to their free version!) to keep my schedule organized. It’s my digital command center, holding project templates, notes, and a clear roadmap for the day.

Meanwhile, the bulk of my day is dedicated to illustration projects. Occasionally, design requests pop up, keeping things interesting! I like to sprinkle in short breaks throughout the day to maintain a fresh perspective. A quick stretch, a lunch break, and later on, another tiny cup of coffee while getting back to work. Maybe sometimes a chat with some fellow illustrator inbetween does wonders for keeping the creative juices flowing.

When starting a new project, I commonly begin by creating a mood board. Typically, I collect a variety of pictures digitally from Pinterest and other online resources, and I also take my own photos using my iPhone camera. Then, I compile all these images in Photoshop, organizing them by layers. Subsequently, I sketch over the mood board, extracting a color palette to start either working in 2D, or doing a clay render in 3D directly. This render is later illuminated and texturized with high quality materials. BTW, if you are looking for a nice collection of 3D materials for free, check out this post. I often paint over my renders to add final details and breath some life to the piece. You can check out my previous post on what is a mood board and how to create one in 3 simple steps, for more insights.

Often around 6 or 7 pm,Ā I try to wrap up client work, thereforeĀ leaving some space for personal endeavors.Ā This might involve diving into an illustration project of my own orĀ indulging in some freehand painting (a nice change of pace!). Maybe simply relaxing with music,Ā a sci-fi movie,Ā or even a playing retro game.

Recently, I received a Powkiddy RGB 20S as a gift. This tiny device introduced me to the amazing world of retro emulation. These consoles are not only powerful but also highly portable. They’re also capable of running thousands of games from various platforms in one place. For fun, I’ve customized mine to include all the titles I used to play 30 years ago, along with classic PC games like Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, The Dig, and Beneath a Steel Sky, complete with their original graphics and sounds.

Video games have always been a source of inspiration for meā€”the pixelated landscapes, intricate character designs, and sheer creativity poured into those worlds. Although I’m familiar with Steam, Iā€™m too busy to spend much time gaming nowadays. Instead, I use it more to scout the newest game promotional art than to play.

Music, paintings, books, movies, and games are sources that clearly fuel my artistic fire in different ways. Altogether my routine is a constant loop of inspiration, creation, and relaxation that keeps me constantly going!

So, that’s a glimpse into a day in the life of an illustratorā€”my daily hustle. It’s a blend of structure and creative freedom, client work and personal exploration. It’s also about feeding my curiosity, doing research, and learning new things, whether they’re useful or just for fun. I’ve always sought new ways to enjoy making art, and I believe that’s the key.