Creative Crowdfunding

We’re going to talk about how crowdfunding is helping our members earn a living followed by introducing you to a couple of artists who dived in head first with this newfangled concept with stunning results. I say newfangled, but this way of generating revenue has been around for years now.

The Little Mermaid by Ashly Lovett

Before we start, we’ll clarify a couple of definitions. An illustrator is someone who communicates other people’s ideas in a visual format, normally via a brief, and gets paid for it by licensing them usage rights. An artist is someone who creates artwork by scratching their creative itch and then offering their work for sale in one way or another after the fact. Crowdfunding is just a way for an artist to pre-sell their artwork before it’s officially launched or finished. Lots of creatives slip between being an illustrator and an artist, but there is a clear distinction between the two when you relate them to the processes and aims that I’ve just mentioned. An artist’s or illustrator’s professional title isn’t dependent on what their work looks like or even the finished product; it’s the process that counts.

  • (A) Illustrator: Client > Idea > Illustrator > Contract / License > Deposit > Illustration > Payment > Delivery
  • (B) Artist: Artist > Idea > Artwork > Sale OR License > Client > Payment > Delivery
  • (C) Crowdfunding: Illustrator / Artist > Idea > Crowdfunding Platform > Presentation / Proposal > Funding Round > Payment > Illustration / Artwork / Product > Overheads / Production > Distribution

As you may (or may not) know, we’re a community of illustrators, animators and artists. Each profession has their own ways of producing revenue streams to support their chosen career path and as a collective we try to support them in anyway we can. That does mean that finding people commissions and connecting them with new clients isn’t all we do. We offer professional advice on contracts, licensing and pricing, along with guidance on the best way for members to market or promote themselves whether they’re offering a product or service. With that in mind, in recent years preemptively generating funding for an artist’s project has become a necessity and this is where Crowdfunding comes in.

Kickstarter, in relation to the creative industry, focuses on an artist-created project seeking funding for publication or other endeavours to allow them to bring their vision to life in full. For example artist Ashly Lovett has just launched an impressive Kickstarter campaign which features an illustrated adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid – this is a perfect match for Ashly’s fondness of dark fantasy and romance, and a great opportunity to get her work directly into the hands of her supporters and fans without the backing of a publisher (although we believe Ashly wouldn’t have had any issues finding one if she had wanted to take that route instead).

Mermaids are truly wonderfully fun to draw, and I can’t get enough drawing of glorious long hair. It’s a simple thing, but I love it.


The video introduction for Ashly Lovett’s The Little Mermaid

It’s not always easy for an artist to get the word out there about a new project they’re working on and we always encourage our members to submit these items as news to us via their profiles. A lot don’t, as they see our space as somewhere to showcase their commercial and private commissions, but that is just not the case. We’re here to support all of our members and more and more are relying on Kickstarter and Patreon as a way to pay their bills. It’s not all about money though, some are artists who have toyed with the idea of being a commercial artist to fund their lifestyle and career rather than going all in as the traditional starving artist or taking on a part-time job. So when the opportunity arises where an artist can have the general public fund their own ideas or passion project rather than fulfilling a client’s needs like an illustrator would, they’re going to jump at the chance and take full advantage of the situation. For some, crowdfunding is the life blood they need and Patreon, like Kickstarter, is no exception.

Postcards from Graeme Neil Reid’s $5 Patreon supporter reward

A good example of Patreon being used to supplement a professional illustrator’s income while allowing them to share their own work with an appreciative audience without the pressures of a client brief is comic book artist Graeme Neil Reid’s supporter page. It’s taken time and he still has a long way to go to replace a full-time income, but he’s built up a loyal following of supporters who love what he does and want to own a piece of this talented creative’s work.

I’m looking for support to help me buy art supplies. Paper, pencils, paints, brushes, canvases, basic supplies can cost so much let alone that easel I really need. Art materials are expensive. Your support will buy me those much needed supplies.

Graeme Neil

About Graeme Neil Reid’s Patreon page

Breaking it down, we’re only talking about crowdfunding for a creative’s own initiative rather than a client hiring an illustrator to realise their ideas for a crowdfunded project. That would be a regular commission, like (A), although you do get a good number of clients trying to hire illustrators for their crowdfunding projects, but only offering them payment dependant on the success of the fundraising. That’s not cool; clients need to pay illustrators for their talent and hard work and maybe offer them a bonus based on a successful round, but not tie the illustrator’s earning to the project’s success. That’s not an incentive, that is a plain demoralising way to work. The illustrator already knows that there’s likely to be more paid work if the crowdfunding is a success and reaches its goals, which is more than enough incentive for them. If you don’t have the money for an illustrator and you believe in your idea, get a loan, make other cuts, get a part-time job and put money aside, do the illustrations yourself, sell your car or borrow money from family. There’s an endless list of things you can do to create a budget for your creatives, just don’t ask a professional to work for free or on faith. As I said, that’s not cool and you wouldn’t expect it if the shoe was on the other foot. Partnerships are another thing altogether, but they don’t normally arise through a client approaching a professional and rely more upon a mutual acquaintance or the aligned interests of known parties.

To finish this article if you’re a fan of Ashly or Graeme‘s artwork I’m sure they’d be happy to discus a commercial or private commission if you have one in mind and feel they’d be perfect for the job. Other than that, please support them via their respective Kickstarter or Patreon pages. It doesn’t take a lot and you’ll get an awesome book or pieces of artwork in return. My whole point is that we should support those whose work brings us joy! The world is always changing, we just need to keep spinning in the right direction, it’s as simple as that.

If you’re running a crowdfunding campaign at the moment we’d be delighted if you shared it with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by tagging @hireillo and using the #SupportTheCreators hashtag.

Are you ready for an Amazing Adventure?

We’re packed and ready to go! All the art prints have been printed and framed, the quality is amazing and we’re really happy with them. On Monday (8th) we’ll be setting up the gallery and getting everything ready for the 9th April public opening. It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point and it’s not been easy, but we’re sure the hard work will be completely worth it. At the show, the exhibition catalogue will be available to purchase and take away – all of the art prints will also be available for purchase along with a number of original pieces.

If you’re coming along be sure to check out the Mail Me Art section too; there will be mail art from “Open All Hours” and “Apocalypse” on display. On this occasion the mail art will not be for sale, but if you’re interested in purchasing any of the work be sure to let us know. We can note your name down and reserve it for you when it does become available at a future date. Mail Me Art is taking a back seat on this occasion, but we hope to dedicate a full show to the project when time allows. We just thought the least we could do was make the collection publicly viewable while we had the wall space since we’ve been hiding it away since 2015 and the last actual Mail Me Art exhibition was in 2013.

Obviously the gallery will be open and the Jules Verne artwork will be on display from Tuesday ’til Friday, and all are welcome to visit us and take a peek at our illustrators’ wonderful creations, but Thursday is the day you want to be there if you can only make one viewing. The open-to-all private viewing (yes, we know that’s an oxymoron) will be on Thursday 11th April between 6pm and 8:30pm followed by an all-are-welcome gathering at the Fitzroy Tavern, just down the road after the show. Reserving a ticket via eventbright means we have an idea of how many are coming along and we can make sure the free bar is stocked with enough beer, but a ticket will not be required for entry.

Below is a random selection of about a third of the work we’ll have on display at the gallery.

The exhibition viewing hours are:
– 9th Tuesday 10:00am – 5:30pm
– 10th Wednesday 10:00am – 5:30pm
– 11th Thursday 6pm – 8:30pm
– 12th Friday 10:00am – 5:30pm
The Framers Gallery
36 Windmill Street
London W1T 2JT

Facebook Event Page:
Social Hashtags: #JulesVerneExpo or #julesverneexpo

We can’t wait to meet you all, so please come and say hello, and enjoy a drink with us. All staff will be wearing red ID tags and I (Darren) will be at the gallery every day of the exhibition throughout the week – I’m happy to do portfolio reviews, with the exception of Thursday, as long as you let me know what time and day you’d like to meet prior to your visit. Email or message me via one of my social profiles to make arrangements.

Illustrators’ Survey 2018

We’re happy to share with you this year’s results of the annual illustrator’s survey that Ben O’Brien (AKA Ben the Illustrator) started in 2017. We did our own survey of illustrators in 2014/15, but until Ben came along we didn’t have time (or the energy) to work on an updated and current round of questions. That’s no longer the case and we’re excited to revive this public service.

Share: #WeAreIllustrators
Illustrators’ Survey 2018/19

There were lots of really interesting results, some good, some discouraging, and some that’ll encourage conversation about specific subjects for the long term. We didn’t address the open questions and answers that we were sent as part of the survey results, but we hope to put those to good use in the near future to give additional insight into our cherished community. A word of warning before you view the results: be careful not to jump to conclusions. Although just under 1500 illustrators took part in the survey, that’s still a very small percentage of our industry as a whole. If we’re able to do a survey each year, we hope that number will grow exponentially, allowing us to build on the results each year to give them more legitimacy and context. As with all surveys there’ll be user bias in play and results can be twisted and manipulated to work in favour of opposing views and opinions, so be careful of the connections people may make between the results and state as facts. Remember, correlation is not causation.

One thing we will need to address if we do more surveys in the future is the way we handle mental health questions. What we realised after receiving feedback from various sources is that having self-confidence issues and sometimes feeling anxious about things is not the same as having a diagnosable mental health problem like an anxiety disorder or depression. We did not make a distinction between the two in the survey, which was a mistake that would need to be updated with the correct terminology and wording in the next survey. Also, while talking about mental health, a lot of people have made a connection between mental health issues and low incomes – there was no defined connection between these two factors and the data was completely anonymised for the sake of our contributors privacy. This means that even if we wanted to, we can’t make a connection between the two as we don’t know who did or didn’t say that they were affected by both mental health and had a low income. GDPR advocates would be proud.

We were able to correlate some of the data we collected and it would be great to use that to make some really interesting infographics, as some people have suggested. What would be great though is if we’re able to collect a few years’ worth of data so that we’re able to show how the industry is changing from year to year. Even better is to be able to use the survey results to encourage change for the betterment and health of our colleges and friends. We all want a decent wage and a good life, and as a community making that happen is in our own hands.

Share: #WeAreIllustrators
Illustrators’ Survey 2018/19

For pricing advice, promotion and support – become part of our community and join Hire an Illustrator.

Amazing Adventures: Art Inspired by the Works of Jules Verne @ The Framers Gallery, London

Hire an Illustrator presents Amazing Adventures: An Exhibition of Art Inspired by the Works of Jules Verne, in collaboration with The Little Chimp Society. The group show will feature over 100 original works and high quality digital prints from our international community of talented illustrators, traditional and digital artists. This is not a travelling exhibition, so this is your only chance to see the artwork in person and, if you’re coming to the Thursday viewing, meet the attending artists.

The work will be on display from 9th-12th April 2019.

The exhibition viewing hours are:
– 9th Tuesday 10:00am – 5:30pm
– 10th Wednesday 10:00am – 5:30pm
– 11th Thursday 6pm – 8:30pm
– 12th Friday 10:00am – 5:30pm
The Framers Gallery
36 Windmill Street
London W1T 2JT

All of the artwork will be influenced by the Voyages extraordinaires series of novels by author Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days and so on. All are welcome and invited to come and check out the show. There will be an open bar on the Thursday evening and all of the work will be avalible for purchase, including the prints and orginals. The accompanying publication will also be made avaliable for a limited time at the gallery.

I’ve set up an events page for the show. We’d love to have an idea of how many are coming and please do share the page with whoever may be interested. 🙂

And for those who don’t use Facebook:


There’s also been a consensus on the hashtag we’re using on social media for WIPs and finished pieces related to the show see: #JulesVerneExpo or #julesverneexpo

Notable featured artists:

Paul Shipper is an English illustrator, artist and graphic designer, working from his home studio in South-West England. Shipper is renowned for making imagery for movies, entertainment and adverts and is known for keeping a retro feel in his artworks. He has produced posters for movies such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity War, Warcraft, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, many Star Trek movies, Frozen, Batman and more. He has also worked wth the band Muse, including producing the alternative artwork for their upcoming LP Simulation Theory. See Paul Shipper’s Illustration Portfolio.

Rod Hunt is an award winning London based Illustrator, map designer and the artist behind the bestselling Where’s Stig? books for the BBC’s hit TV show Top Gear. Rod has built a reputation for retro-tinged Illustrations and detailed character filled landscapes for UK & international clients spanning publishing, design, advertising and new media, for everything from book covers to advertising campaigns; campus, amusement and theme park maps, and even large scale museum and exhibition installations. Rod served as PR and Media Relations Chair of ICON The Illustration Conference for ICON8 (Portland, OR) and ICON9 (Austin, TX) for 4 years until October 2016. He was also Chairman of the Association of Illustrators from August 2009 to March 2012, and was a Director for 9 years. The AOI was established in 1973 to advance and protect illustrator’s rights and encourage professional standards. See Rod Hunt’s Illustration Portfolio.

Brian Allen is the man behind the design of the Philadelphia Flyers’ new mascot, “Gritty.” The Flyers were one of the only NHL teams to not have a mascot. A representative from the Flyers organization reached out to Brian after seeing the campaign he did for Chick-fil-A promoting the Georgia vs Auburn football game last season. The Flyers gave him a list of about 10 ideas, and he did a 30-minute sketch of each of those ideas, and about 20 mascots in total. Reaction to the NHL’s newest mascot on social media was swift, and not all that flattering, with people comparing Gritty to the McDonald’s character Grimace after drinking too much orange juice, accusing him of being on drugs, and calling him “terrifying.” Despite the initial reaction to Gritty he became a PR goldmine and fans on both side have grown to love him in their own special way. – Central Daily Times. See Brian Allen’s Illustration Portfolio.

Illustrator’s Survey 2018

The 2nd annual Illustrator’s Survey is up now! We’ve teamed up with Ben O’Brien and we’re asking for anyone who worked in commercial illustration in 2018 to please fill in the survey and spread the word! #WeAreIllustrators


Last year I launched the first Illustrator’s Survey and with an overwhelming response was able to put together a well-received report containing some very thought-provoking statistics about the illustration industry and those working in it throughout 2017. This year I’m working alongside Hire an Illustrator to do the same, looking for responses from anyone who has worked as a professional illustrator (whether full or part time) throughout 2018. If you have been working as an illustrator over the passed 12 months then please do take ten minutes to respond to the survey and of course help to spread the word amongst your fellow illustrators!

The survey will run until the end of January when we will compile the results to be released in early February.

Ben the Illustrator

Amazing Adventures: Jules Verne Exhibition

Presenting Amazing Adventures: An Exhibition of Art Inspired by the Works of Jules Verne. We’re partnering up with the Little Chimp Society again to bring our members the opportunity to be part of an exclusive exhibition and publication next April in London. The show will feature original works and high quality digital prints from our international community of talented illustrators, traditional and digital artists.

All of the artwork will be influenced by the Voyages extraordinaires series of novels by author Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days and so on. This will be our first event where works are being produced specifically for the show, if you don’t count our involvement with Mail Me Art many years ago, and we’re really excited about it. So excited in fact, that our recent Artist in Residence Tom Martin has already produced a Jules Verne-inspired spot illustration for us for this very blog post – we can’t wait to see what our other illustrators create as well!

A special members’ update email will be sent out in the next few days with instructions on how to sign up for the show, and the requirements. We’ll also get events pages up on Facebook and Eventbrite as the gallery is already locked down and there’s no point in wasting time… and when it comes to the show, we’re hoping to see as many of you there as possible. It should be a fantastic event!

If you don’t want to miss out on future updates, make sure you’re signed up for our email newsletter and following our Facebook or Twitter accounts. Also if you have any questions or just want to say hello, leave a comment below.

Artist in Residence: Tom Martin

Over the previous month of October, we had our first ever Artist in Residence (AiR), Tom Martin – or more accurately, Artist in virtual Residence! This has been something new we had wanted to try out for a long time and we’re very glad that Tom was kind enough to come along for the ride.

The residency involved one of our members (Tom) fulfilling our illustration needs over the period of one month. You would have thought finding an illustrator would have been an easy task for us, but things aren’t always that simple. Our first problem was that any artwork produced would need to appeal to our members and also draw in a wide audience of art directors and commissioners, so we didn’t want to go for anything too niche or risqué. Secondly, and most importantly, we needed to take into consideration that whoever we worked with would be a full-time freelance illustrator and we didn’t want them to be turning down commissions due to being too busy with working on pieces for us. You need to remember that part of our commitment to our members is that we’re constantly networking and finding them new opportunities and connections, so making sure that whoever was our AiR could handle the additional workload was essential.

When we asked Tom if he was interested in being our first AiR, we hadn’t quite ironed out all of the details, so there was some trial and error, but essentially we gave Tom directions and then allowed him to guide us. It was a misstep that we had Tom creating Halloween artwork for us in October that would be turned into physical items at some point, as lead time hadn’t been taken into consideration with all the excitement. There was no real need to worry about that though, as we’ll be getting the stickers and pins made up for April to show people at our next exhibition and we’ll have plenty in stock to give away as promo items to lucky clients when next October comes around. However with that in mind, from now on if an artist is working on something seasonal for us, we’ll get them to do it one or two months beforehand.

We really can’t wait to have the pins and stickers made and in our hands! The artwork looks great and we’re really pleased with the website background that Tom created for us, it’s brilliant! There were several other images that he created for us as well, two of them specifically for future posts on this very blog. You’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

We love Tom’s work and we hope you do to, he’s open for commissions and you can find more of his illustrations at

Love is in the air for Myrtle and Xaddrarth

We’d like to introduce our newest background, created for us by the very talented Emily Hare. We love Emily’s artwork and thought that one of her paintings could work really well with the site, so after discussing what was needed for of our backgrounds, we left it in Emily’s capable hands to come up with some ideas.

Here’s the first attempt and the work in process illustrations…

At this point Emily decided to go in a different direction, something a bit more cuddly. Although we did really like the previous image and were advising on direction, we gave full creative control over to Emily and we trusted her to complete the task at hand.

And here is the final piece…

We think Emily did a brilliant job and we love our new background! Please note: Emily may have already given the dragons names, but we’ve decided to call them Myrtle and Xaddrarth. 🙂

Promoting Illustration in 2018

This year we will be retiring our mail shot packs and refocusing our efforts on collectable postcard-sized art prints. They’re going to be high quality and of limited runs. Our hope is to build a collectable series of prints that will also work as a promotional device that our client base will treasure and retain. There will be more than one set as our clients work in a large variety of markets within the illustration industry, for example we’ll have a children’s series, a separate editorial series, and so on. Our hope is that this new direction will lay the ground work for our physical promotional items for years to come and create a buzz that will expand our customer base beyond our dedicated contact lists.

We’ve been sending out mail packs and printing postcards for just over ten years now, and we always aimed to make the process as simple and accessible as possible for our illustrators. We believe we achieved what we set out to do and the packs have always been very popular with our clients. It has now got to a point though were we believe that we need to evolve and do more than what we were doing to continue to stand out from the crowd. We’ve always had more success with our physical promotions than other companies have had, but that has probably been down to our unique and guarded contact lists. Also, maintaining a healthy relationship with our clients – and potential clients – doesn’t do any harm and I’m sure is appreciated.

We’re not going to be making a sudden switch to the new collectable prints, as we would like to test the water and get some feedback from our long-term clients and members first. The plan is to phase out the regular mail shot packs over the next 3-4 months, so until then it’s business as normal. Keep sending us your cards and designs and we’ll keep sending them out.

Postcards! Calling all members!

Calling all members! We’re doing a big postcard order this weekend. So if you’d like to be included in our current batch of mail packs, send Darren an email for printing information.

We send out our mail packs to clients across the globe and each pack is catered to the recipient. We’ve found over the years that physical mailers are still appreciated by the clients on our mailing lists. We think it’s also the personal touches we include and actually being able to hold something physical that makes this type of promotion we do so special. We’re not hipsters*, but we do feel old is the new new.

* Slightly guilty of having a beard**, owning a record player and wearing t-shirts with pugs on.

** Darren only, Jane does not have a beard. I repeat Jane does not have a beard. 🙂