#Skillmillstories with Derek Bacon About Becoming a Successful Illustrator

For the latest #Skillmillstories, we have interviewed illustrator Derek Bacon. Derek has been doing editorial, advertising and publishing work and he now mostly specializes in portrait illustration. While creating illustrations, Derek focuses on culture, current affairs, think pieces and finance. Looking into Derek’s achievements and talent, it comes as no surprise that he has worked with companies such as The Economist, Honda, Saatchi & Saatchi and many others. Thus, in this virtual interview, Derek will be sharing his experience and important tips.

How long have you been working in the illustration field and what is the next step in your career?

I’ve been doing illustration work, mostly editorial illustration, since about 2004. I’m just happy to try and keep going in doing what I love. I’ve just bought a printing press, so I am keen to explore what I can do with that.  

Which actions led to your work being noticed by giant companies like The Economist, Honda, Saatchi & Saatchi, etc? 

Originally, I submitted some work to a magazine called ‘Computer Arts’, and this was spotted by an illustration agency who offered to represent me. So most of those initial clients came via the agency’s network. 

Creation by Derek Bacon
What are the main 3 things that you’ve learned since the start of your career? 

First, that it’s important to try to keep evolving as an artist. For a while, I felt I got stuck in one way of making pictures. You need to please yourself as much as you do the client. Second—I know it might sound obvious— but you need to really go all-out for the client. Ask yourself: what is it that they really want from this commission? And do your best to deliver that. Thirdly, get used to making amends. You can’t afford to be too precious when you’re working with a client. It’s more of a collaboration than anything else. 

What are the 3 tips that you would give to someone who is starting their career in the illustration field? 
  1. Hone your individual style, and show that style at work across a wide range of subject matter. 
  2. Get used to the work being intermittent. 
  3. Like I mentioned above: go all-out for the job in hand. Your aim is to build a good reputation and ultimately get repeat work. 
What encourages and inspires you to illustrate various politicians and current affairs? 

Well, when it goes right, an image can hit the nail right on the head, really say things in a direct and creative way. Plus of course, so many of these politicians are already cartoon characters themselves, primed to be sent up in any way possible. 


Creation by Viviane Wild  
Have you tried to work in any alternative creative fields besides illustration? If so, how was the overall experience? 

I’ve dabbled in writing. I’ve been an on-and-off writer for about the same time that I’ve been illustrating. Both fields have a similar creative tingle to them, but overall I would say there’s something more relaxing about making pictures.

What would you recommend someone not to do starting their career in the illustration field?

Don’t worry too much about whether your own illustration style is on-trend or not. Certainly there are trends in illustration but there is also the continuing need for all kinds of styles. Your niche is in there somewhere.

–– Derek Bacon

Creation by Derek Bacon
What is your favourite illustration that you have created so far? 

Generally, it is the last thing I’ve worked on. You always feel positive about that. 

How are you coping with the current pandemic environment? Has it impacted your workflow positively/negatively? 

I’ve seen a few publications go under, which is always sad. Although maybe some of this was in the pipeline pre-pandemic. But I’ve been working from home for so long that I’m fortunate to be able to say that it hasn’t had too much of an impact so far.

Would you like to know more information about Derek Bacon and see more of his illustrations? Check out his Skillmill profile and website.

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