Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interview with Alicia Kat Dillman

I had the pleasure this past week of being interviewed by Fan to Pro blogger Steven Savage

The interview is as follows but please feel free to visit the Fan to Pro Blog and read more of the wealth of information they have there:

Interview with Artist Alicia Dillman

I met Alicia Dillman at a local convention in the Bay Area and was impressed with her drive and her incredible artistic talent. She was nice enough to be interviewed to give some insights on her artistic experience, background, and professional advice.

Alicia "Kat" Dillman
website: or

1) Tell us a bit about who you are and what to you do professionally as an artist.

My name is Alicia "Kat" Dillman and I own and operate KatGirl Studio. I'm a profession freelance illustrator. I graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco in 2008. I mainly do work for children's publishing and book covers. I am currently in the process of illustrating 3 children's picture books and writing two Young Adult novels.

2) People have a lot of ideas about what artists careers and jobs will be like - what assumptions did you have that turned out to be wrong? What turned out to be right?

While going to school our instructors told us that the only starving artists were those who possessed poor technical ability or business skills. I was assured as one of the top students I would have no problem finding work. Then the economy tanked and I graduated during the worst year in economic history since the Great Depression. Jobs and projects, even badly paying ones, were scarce. It really didn't matter how good you were. If you weren't already known there was nothing out there for you. It was really hard but recently things have started to pick up a bit. It's nice to know that my career as an Illustrator can only really go up from here.

3) Do you have any interesting insights to share on your career in art that may help people who want to break into the field? How did you get in, why, what worked for you, and how did your hobbies/interests play into it.

I got into Illustration after trying out 3 other majors in college. I was originally going to transfer to the Academy of Art for Theatrical Fashion Design but got on the wrong tour bus on Academy Day and ended up at the Illustration building instead. Their department looked more interesting so I signed up and never looked back.

I don't know that I have really "gotten in" just yet but I'm trying really hard to work my way into the industry. What has seemed to work the best is having a strong web presence. I have my work on one of the top portfolio sites for Children's Illustrators and a lot of my clients find me through there. I also have my work on free portfolio sites, I have a blog I post is nearly every week, as well as a strong twitter following. Also had a table or a booth at 4 conventions, 3 Art & Wine festivals and 1 conference in the past 10 months. Meeting people face to face is very important to building name recognition and strengthening you fan base.

4) Freelance or employed by someone else as an artist - what are the advantages and disadvantages to you?

Employment: If you are employed by someone else you generally own nothing. Everything you create, every idea, is owned by someone else. The advantage is that you have that job security. You will get a pay check 5 days a week, not just when projects come in. I would love to work for a company like Pixar but in 2008 and still now coveted art positions at companies were far and few between. Working for a company is a good gig, if you can get it.

Freelance: Everything you create is owned by you unless you sell those rights. You have complete control over the things you create and how they are used. You get larger chunks of money for your skills. You can work from a home studio, saving money on everything from gas to food. The disadvantage is that you don't get that steady pay check. You have to front all costs for projects until you are paid. It's common for checks to take 30-90 days to come in after a project is completed and some never come in. There's also the health care problem. Because our country doesn't have universal health care or something like it freelancers can very rarely afford to get their own health care plans. Those are the disadvantages most think of, but they forget to subtle ones that afflict freelancers like depression and isolation. Unless you work in a shared studio you spent most days alone without human contact unless you live with someone or go outside to get lunch or run errands. Some people just don't do will with that isolation others thrive on it. I am a people person to it was really hard to adjust to spending my days alone after 20 years of being in school. If you're like me I recommend chatting with other freelancers or friends via an instant messaging system, Twitter or FaceBook Chat while you work. Bounce ideas of them and share preliminary work with them if your project contract allows. Its kinda like having co-workers all over the world. It will help maintain good mental health and moral.

5) What social media and internet tools helped your career and which ones do you recommend.

It goes without saying that you need your own website. If you want clients to view you as a professional you need your own website. In this day in age it is the single most important thing to have as an artisan, illustrator or other graphical artist. If you are not tech savvy hire someone to make one for you, bribe a tech savvy friend or as a last resort at least have a blog site. I recommend Blogspot which has all kinds of widgets to help you. Feel free to visit mine and see what I mean.

I strongly recommend having a Twitter. If you adopt only one new technology into your career make it this one. It is imperative that you have one and use it frequently. It keeps my fans up to date on what I'm doing and helps strengthen the connection they feel towards me. It also helps me connect with potential clients and gives them a view into the person I am.. Don't forget art directors, agents, editors and publishers tweet too. You can also glean valuable information that is not widely available anywhere else.

Have a Deviant Art account its free and if you get a paid account for the extra features its only $30 for a year. I use it to search for reference and inspiration. I post my preliminary work and work in progress images for my fans. I make blog posts about events we will be at or new products in our shop. I use its stat feature to find out the most popular pieces I've created. It also has a widget that hooks up my twitter feed to my DA account giving me more ways to reach my fans and connect with them.

6) In an age of technology changes, economic upheaval, and companies moving into each other's spaces, where do you see artists like yourself being?

Right where we always have been. Though these things may change the way we work it does not change the need for creative people. I myself am always at the forefront of technology because I use it in nearly every aspect of my work. I am also the daughter of a computer engineer and have never experienced the technological reluctance that some artist's have. I have to say to everyone reading this: avoid and fear technology at your own peril, for the industry will have no qualms about passing you over for one more willing to move forward.

7) Any further insights to share?

It is sad that artists are so undervalued in our society when everything you see in your day to day lives had to pass through the hands of Illustrators, graphic designs or artisans to get there. There's an anonymous quote out there on the internet that reads: "In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field." Never forget how valuable and rare your skills are. Never let others diminish you, pay you less than you deserve or convince you to work for "exposure" alone. You are not some picture pony out there for the amusement of others you are a trained thoroughbred race horse. As a professional illustrator, artist or graphic designer you deserve the same respect given to any other highly skilled profession of any other field.

If you would like to read the whole article the quote is from you can find it here:

Please visit the Fan to Pro Blog

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