Interview 3 months ago

Toby Triumph on drawing ‘errrrday’.

We had a chat with the super lovely Toby Triumph, he told us all about how he works, the realities of day to day life, what his motivations are and why he started out being an illustrator in the first place.

Being a fully self sufficient creative since graduation and impressively having clients such as Heineken, Skype, Virgin Media and Adidas. Toby’s answers to our questions are not only honest but incredibly endearing.

If you are thinking of dipping your toe into freelance illustration this should make a very interesting read for you…

Why illustration? What excites you about it?

I like illustration because it suits my character the best.

It’s fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you can get away with drawing absolute nonsense for actual real money.

The most exciting thing for me about freelance illustration is that you never know what’s coming around the corner.

My work is not predominantly in one place, I get commissioned for editorial, advertising, packaging, animations, websites, books, murals, wallpaper etc… So the next job could be anything.

When an email comes in from a brand new client it can be a real buzz! The potential of where the job’s could go blows my mind.

Give us an idea of your average day, how you work and how do you get your creative ideas done?

I wake up at 6.30/7 every day and work from my studio/desk at home until 10am-ish.

Even though i’m not a morning person those hours before clients start sending emails are super precious. So I try and bust out a couple of hours drawing before 9.30am.

Then I head to my studio which is 10 mins from my flat in Dalston. I share my studio with four illustrators / animators. Either side of our studio are more studio’s that are full to the brim of ridiculously talented freelance illustration superstars.

Freelance creative cooking pots…

We’re all friends so we show each other work all the time. I’m never far away from creative inspiration in the studio.

We get the tea and coffee flowing, put some sweet soul music on and then I try and get a bunch of emails sent out.

Then, due to my inability to turn down jobs i’m usually working on a few projects at once. So i’ll get cracking on ploughing through the to do list. The end of the day can be anywhere between 6.30pm and 2am depending on the urgency of the job.

Toby Triumph Freelance IllustrationToby Triumph Freelance Illustration

I like having a bunch of projects on at once, as I like to keep a balance of different jobs.

At the moment i’m working on:

  • An ad job
  • Some editorial work
  • 2 book pitches
  • Some original pieces for a restaurant
  • An illustration for a zine
  • A packaging job
  • Illustrations for a website

Oh and the odd bit of personal work.

It sounds manic but it means i’m always busy and always moving from different jobs. Which keeps me on the tiptoes.

Illustration Process…

I draw by hand with pens and pencils and then scan into photoshop.

Then, I clean the work up a bit before adding any colour. Over the years my work has become much more simply coloured with me using a much more limited palette.

When I first graduated I would apply colour like a madman with a paintball gun and the lack of confidence with colour showed. Over the years i’ve learnt to be more confident with spots of limited colour.

Toby Triumph Freelance Illustration

How do you attract new work?

I tweet quite a lot, and try and drum up interest through social media.

I also go and meet clients about work on a regular basis. The face to face meeting is invaluable for me, it feels much more like a collaboration that way. Rather than just being a gun for hire.

I also send out promo emails to art directors. I post out physical work too, limited prints and cards etc…

Contacting Art Directors directly has led to some really great projects. It doesn’t work all of the time but it’s definitely worth doing.

The freelance illustration world is crowded, but an amazing world to be a part of. Shouting about your work is part of this industry.

Just like in the real world though…

Don’t shout too loudly, too often, and don’t shout in people’s faces when they’re trying to eat their lunch.

Toby Triumph Freelance Illustration

How long have you been a freelance illustrator and would you say it’s your career?

I’ve been freelancing since I graduated in 2008, which seems a million years ago now…

I would definitely say it’s my career. Anything that i’ve put this much blood, sweat and tears into should definitely be considered a career.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in freelance illustration?

  • Be bold and brave with decisions.
  • Draw every day.
  • Promote yourself.
  • Take it seriously.
  • But not too seriously.
  • Dont be too cocky.
  • Dont be too shy.
  • Don’t spend all of your money at once.
  • Enjoy it.