So here’s one for you aspiring illustrators out there! Samantha Elmhurst of Living Art Illustration and Design has taken the time to answer some questions about her career as a science illustrator.
What is it exactly that you do?
I am a Veterinary/Equine Illustrator and Designer, freelancing for publishers and corporate companies world-wide. I am also co-author of the book ‘The Horse in Motion’.
In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Well, I started out in this career twenty-one years ago…it has it’s ‘lean’ periods where work seems to magically dry-up, panic sets in, thoughts along the lines of ‘Oh dear, time to stop playing and get a ‘proper’ job! Then work comes in – lots all at once, like the proverbial busses, and then I realise that I AM doing a proper, worthy job….it’s just the highs and lows of such a career!
What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
I trained at Middlesex University in London for four years, taking an Honours Degree in Scientific Illustration. I already had a veterinary nursing background and so my knowledge of my subject was greatly enhanced.
Dedication is a must, keep your portfolio in circulation and try and get published, if possible, before graduating so that you do have something in print to show that you can be trusted to produce high quality artwork and meet deadlines. This type of career is usually on a freelance basis, there are scant in-house posts for something so niche, so it’s hard graft and getting yourself ‘known’, constant mailshots, networking, etc, and it really is hard work sometimes to keep putting yourself ‘out there’, which has to be done even during busy times because you know that all of a sudden you will finish a job and have nothing to go on to for while.
Favourite horse memory?
Lots! I could be really show-offy and say ‘cantering around the ring of a huge show with ribbons and sashes flowing from my horse and I; presentations of cup and trophies, all that jazz…but in all honesty, I think probably it was the day when I was twelve and a half (that ALL important half matters when you’re growing up!) and my parents told me that they were going to let me have a pony of my own…..the rest is history!
Well I do have a secret commission coming up that I am far too superstitious to share with you at this point BUT as and when it comes to fruition, it will be a huge goal achieved, and also one that I will share with you, when the time comes. Share it with the world in fact I’m so over the moon at the mere thought of it!
Best thing about your sport/profession?
Funnily enough, the best can also be the worst, ie. working from home is lovely, surrounded by my pets, a nice quiet office, just me, no other office staff to worry or care about, I can wear what I like…but it can be lonely, especially when temporarily out of work.
The quietness can drive you mad, no emails to answer, no ringing telephone, cabin fever sets in, you start to question your own self-worth; if no one is hiring you, is it because you’re no good at the job any more??
You have to keep the faith or that ever present and niggling feeling sets in, the ‘time to get a proper job’ feeling…and then things can change in an instant!
“By reason of his elegance, he resembles an image painted in a palace, though he is as majestic as the palace itself.” – Emir Abd-el-Kader