From photography to watercolor

After twenty plus years doing photography, I’ve gotten interested in watercolor and ink wash art, and hope to evolve these media into professional illustration.

But I’m still new at this, so I absolutely welcome suggestions on how works like this could be made more commercial. I want to do this well.




It’s extremely difficult in today’s world to be a professional illustrator. They still exist, but they’re rare. Hand work takes time, and time costs money. Digital photography and inexpensive stock photo sites, have made it cheaper and easier to use photos, so that’s what’s usually done.

One of the most interesting things I’ve seen done with watercolor and ink in the past few years is the title sequence for the Netflix Marco Polo series.


I enjoyed that.

That is cool, thanks for sharing it.

Actually, that’s freakin’ awesome. I love watching ink and water flow.

Illustration is tough. It mostly isn’t about what you want to create, it’s more about what you can create for your client. Most of the stuff we hire watercolor artists for are historical maps for things like battlefields or city history. You’d get a bunch of research material and some direction, do some sketches, then a rough semi-fill of color. Once the direction is right, you finish it. Under deadline and on budget.
If you can hand-letter, even better. Then we don’t have to hire a calligraphist.

Some of the other things we’ve had illustrated in color are native flora and fauna for specific areas maybe for a zoo or nature park, and again, historical battle scenes for which there are no photos (like the Revolutionary War, etc.) Clients are getting sick of seeing the same old historical photos used for the Civil War too, so there is a bit of work there.

We’re not into advertising, but there could be something there for you as well.
Most times we work with an agency or artist representative (though I just found out the two sites we normally use are shut down, so that doesn’t bode well.) Here is one where you can check portfolios to see what they do.

Illustrators are hired on style. So have a style and stick with it. While your art is very good, it doesn’t stand out. At least not for what we do. But there’s stuff in that portfolio link that I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to use either.
But it’s not about me.
Or you.
It’s all about the client.

Thank you very much, PrintDriver, for your right-on detailed feedback. You are right, it’s all about the client.

And the portfolio link is helpful! I will dig into that and learn more whether my evolving style will be useful in the illustration market. Thank you again! :smile:

The whales are stunning! :+1:t3::+1:t3::+1:t3:

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Check around on other artist rep sites. Not as many stables out there as there used to be.
It’s really hit or miss for illustrators.

Have you thought about children’s books?
And while they don’t pay much, there are a lot of self-publishers out there these days too.

(I like the kittens! :grinning:)

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I would love to do book covers and inside illustration. Maybe not children’s books necessarily, my style is more realistic than whimsical… But I’d love any links or suggestions on tapping into the book market.

Hi there, I am a traditional illustrator, too. I love the whale piece and its water texture. I feel like certain clients might just like to use these for their products like t-shirt… or you can sell prints in the meanwhile before you get a better idea about which direction you want to go. Sorry if this doesn’t help.

Are you on Behance? If not, you can make an account and show you work. People really contact you even when you have no idea how they find you out among million artists and designers on that site.

My feeling is that the illustration field is really competitive. You need to have a distinctive style, professional quality works, be highly creative, blah blah blah