What is an illustrator?

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It’s a question asked of many in the profession: what is an illustrator exactly?

People I meet are sometimes curious about my job, in part because they don’t quite know what an illustrator does. I tell them I draw pictures for magazines and newspapers and more often than not the reply is, ‘so you’re an artist’. I never feel all that comfortable about calling myself an artist and, technically-speaking, the two professions are not the same. An illustrator may create art but he is still an illustrator (though it seems in all other creative fields people can legitimately call themselves artists – so bemoans the illustrator!).

The other common response is: ‘you’re a graphic designer then?’

Again, not quite. While there is a certain amount of overlap, graphic designers generally work with several elements such as layout, typography, symbols and images in order to visually present an idea or message.

 So what is an illustrator??

An illustration is an image that accompanies a text (though not always), its purpose being to enhance a story or to visualize its themes or concepts. An illustrator, to state the obvious, is someone who creates such images. Illustrators can work in numerous areas, from fashion illustration to advertising and editorial, along with comics and children’s books.

To complicate matters, an illustrator of comic books may prefer the title ‘comic book artist’. And a cartoonist is also an illustrator, though an illustrator is not a cartoonist.

It might sound a lot like splitting hairs. It’s probably why the illustrator should best distinguish himself through his ‘art’ – or rather I should say his ‘work’.