Freelance illustrator Mike Driver explains the importance of finding a work/life balance, taking time to reflect and not rushing into a specific career route.

How would you describe what you do?

I graduated under three years ago from Kingston University and, since then, I've worked full time in the creative industry as a freelance illustrator. 

I primarily work in editorial, where I take a lot of big ideas and concepts and squish them down into punchy visual metaphors that go alongside articles for magazines and newspapers. I've also had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects across the board in advertising, branding, publishing and a tiny bit of design and direction for animation.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

A typical day starts with me getting up at 5am, working at my part-time job until 10am and then returning home and getting on with my illustrated work. My days vary a lot depending on what I've got going on, but it's likely I'll get started with pencil drawings, then move onto scanning things in and working things up on my computer later on in the day. 

"The biggest challenge I often face is largely to do with getting my work/life balance right."

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Michael Driver: The Guardian

What or who encouraged you to make the shift from a non-arts background to a creatively-focused career?

I've always been very visually stimulated. I used to watch a ton of cartoons, collect millions of things, and that interest really helped me transition into a creative career. I saw lots of people making cool stuff and I wanted to make cool stuff too — that’s kind of how I got started. 

Also, my Mum and Dad. My mum is fantastic at drawing, although has never really pursued it beyond a hobby, and my Dad — although he would never really admit it — has his own ways of being creative. Both of them have been incredibly supportive, and I really don't know where I'd be without them.

What are the biggest professional challenges you have encountered?

Freelancing in general is pretty hard, you have to wear many hats. That responsibility can push you into uncomfortable positions at times, especially for illustrators who are pretty introverted characters. 

University is a fantastic place to get to grips with the concept of working with a brief and developing a visual language, but I don't think you really learn how to become a viable illustrator until you've left. The biggest challenge I often face is largely to do with getting my work/life balance right. A lot of illustrators get very wrapped up in their work, and it can really be hard to step back from it at times and switch off. 

"University is a fantastic place to get to grips with the concept of working with a brief and developing a visual language, but I don't think you really learn how to become a viable illustrator until you've left."

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Michael Driver: The Guardian

What are the main tools you use in your work?

I use a ton of different mediums. Ninety percent of the time I start with a pencil, then start working things up on my Wacom Cintiq (graphics tablet). I'll usually drop in a few hand-drawn textures to give the work I'm making a little more of a handmade feel.

I don't really feel like I've found the thing I do yet, and I'd be super worried if I had already. 

"Try not to pay too much attention to people who seem to be overtaking you, there is no rush."

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Michael Driver: The Guardian

What is the best piece of professional advice you have received? What would you say to aspiring creative students?

I think there is often a really big rush to go straight into the industry post-university. I'd urge anybody who hasn't managed to yet make that leap to reflect on the work they want to make, and really take some time out to work out where they want to go and what they want to do. 

A lot of the people I studied with no longer do illustration, and that’s not a bad thing by any means — there are so many creative roles out there. You just need to take the time out to look and think about what it is you want to do and, by all means, try not to pay too much attention to people who seem to be overtaking you. There is no rush. 


michaeldriver.co.uk

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Michael Driver: The Observer
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Michael Driver: The Observer
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Michael Driver: Ultraviolence

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