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From illustrator to illustrator – Nina Cosford

Nina Cosford is a freelance illustrator from Hastings, she covers a range of areas in illustration.
I first discovered Nina when reading an article about her latest work, ‘Girls Illustrated’.


I admire Nina’s work ascetic, this reason being why I contacted her asking for some advice.

Here are the main points of the email, she reply was really helpful.
1. Self Promotion and Image
Whenever possible, update your website, blog, social media etc to show you are busy. Even if you feel
at a stand-still or if work is sparse, there are a number of ways to make yourself look busy, productive and
prolific, even if that’s not entirely the case. Bear in mind that people will start to have an idea of what you
are like by what you are projecting online. It’s good to try to be positive, pleasant and inquisitive as this will
create a positive and energetic self image. I have learned that you don’t have to be 100% confident in
yourself to give off the impression that you are.

2. Confidence
Similar to my point above, confidence builds gradually and it’s only by taking risks and trying things out
that you will gain any. Each project you complete, each job you finish, each piece of good feedback you
get, all goes back into your practice. I personally feel it’s good to maintain a clear style that a) you enjoy
and feel expresses your own unique voice and b) other people can come to recognise as you. Again, this
does come about gradually with job after job but you have to start somewhere. Consider the identity you
project when it comes to your final major project / portfolio etc because this is one of the first glimpses
people in the industry get of you. I struggled with my degree show in choosing what represented me and
my way of illustrating. I decided to do something really simple and showcase all my drawings I liked best,
all together as a set. I love drawing buildings so made a montage of all the ones I’d drawn. This was seen
by art directors and publishers and because of it I was commissioned to do my first book, which entailed
drawing lots of buildings. Kind of obvious but it showed my work in context and was applicable to real life
jobs. With your projects, consider; would someone commission me to make this? Who is my audience,
what is the demographic I am trying to appeal to? How do I set out my projects and structure my time?
You should always take your work seriously and professionally – if you don’t then who will? Whether it’s a
self-initiated project, a sample, a collaboration or a commission, it’s still you and it’s still your work. Taking
your work seriously and professionally is one of the biggest contributors to self-confidence in my opinion.
If you value your work, others will too!

3. Costs of Living
All of this is well and good but you still need to pay the bills and make a living! The best thing I can advise,
is to not pressure yourself too much into living where you think you just should. For a few years I was
telling myself I’ve got to move to London, to the city, because that’s where the work is. In some instances
that can be true but for freelancers, we can often be remote. There’s quite a lot of freedom, so you should
live where you feel happy, within your means and still in touch enough with the things you want to be
in touch with. I’m only a 90 minute train journey from London and still keep in touch with a bunch of London
friends and peers from uni so I still feel connected. One thing to remember though, is that only you are
responsible for your lifestyle and it’s up to you to maintain contact and still get yourself out there. As for
everyone, there are always ups and downs to being self-employed and of course, creative! Like I said before
though, it’s up to you which image of yourself you project. It doesn’t matter where you live, it comes down
to your energy and your image of self-confidence because that is what people pick up on.

4. Professional Practice

Ideally, you want to have a good studio environment to work in. Many people use a spare part of their home
but it can be great to have a workspace which is separate from your living space. I worked in a box room at
the end of my bed for about 2 years before finding a studio to rent which I could afford. It made such a huge
difference moving my studio out of the home – I felt ten times more professional and felt like I was actually a
full-time working illustrator. For ages, I didn’t actually realise I was making a living purely out of my illustration
work, I felt like it was temporary or something I was just having a go at. It wasn’t until I started renting a
studio that I saw how achievable it was, especially if you share with people. Always try your best to network
locally and keep your ear to the ground to see what other creatives around you are up to. It’s great to
cross-over wherever possible and can make a really supportive and inspiring work environment.


Contacting Tiger Print…

I was pleasantly surprised by the quickness of the reply from Tiger Print, that along with the company taking the time to tell me they like my work although they don’t have any placements at the moment gave me a little confidence boost. They also told me to keep in contact and try again in the future which I definitely will be doing!

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Contacting Dazed and Confused…

My first real life illustration brief! I thought it was about time I got stuck in contacting clients and companies on whether or not my work is good enough for the working world.

I decided to contact Dazed and Confused magazine to see if they were in need of any illustration for upcoming events, as I know in the past they have used illustration from press purposes.

I managed to get a reply from a lady called Alisha who said she was willing to consider my illustrations for an upcoming event they were running for the new channel 4 program Music Nation.

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I sent over some of my illustrations and she gave me some idea of the artwork they usually use on e-vites for events, this way I had an idea of what demographic to aim at.

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I am currently working on some rough ideas and sketches and so far so well.

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Contacting my favourite illustrators…

After having a maniac week of stress and procrastination I realised it was about time I got myself into gear and started contacting some successful illustrators. Of course I had to try and get in contact with my favourite artists, getting advice from them about the illustration world would be the best inspirational push for me at the moment.

One of the first illustrators I contacted was Sally Spratt, I find that I have similarities with her work and therefor could really benefit from her advice. Aswell as being one of her fans, I have been following her artwork on instagram for over a year now.

I tried to keep the emails short and sweet yet getting in as much information as I could without sounding annoying! I understand that they are all established and busy working illustrators and I did not want to come across as if I was too eager and taking up too much of their time.

I also contacted Liz Clement, Charmaine Olivia and Nina Cosford, I wanted to make sure I contacted illustrators who’s work I admire of course but also make sure that they were unique in style and work ascetic to eachother, that way I will get the most variation out of their replies.

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My Style

Over the years and my time at university I have found it hard to come up with ‘my unique style’ and as we all know to be an illustrator, you have to have ‘that unique style’.

The thing with me is, I LOVE experimenting! I love finding new ways of creating and making, I love when you find that unusual way to combine a certain material with my illustrations, I love using materials in unconventional ways, basically I love being different.

But I have found that in the working world of illustration, it does help to establish you as an artist if you require a individual style, something that makes you stand out from the rest.

I don’t feel that I have completely found my unique style yet, although as I progress through my third and final year of university, I have found that working with simple drawings and combining watercolour variations seems to be working for me.

I take a lot of my inspiration from the illustrator Sally Spratt, creator of ‘The Lust List’ I find her work beautiful and although her illustrations are not of great detail they still capture the object she is drawing. Also a lot of her work is commercial based which shows that you don’t have to adopt a certain style of illustration to get jobs from companies such as magazines, retail etc.


For the time being I plan to work on my illustration and watercolour painting skills and hopefully, sooner or later I will be able to finalise that unique style of mine! I am also considering combining inks into my work to see what different effects I can create.

I believe that I am making good progress finding my style, I am starting to see a pattern within the work I have recently been creating which I am happy with. Hopefully this will continue and my collection of work will grow stronger.

Getting to know the Illustration World

Heatons Art Trail

After finding out there was an art trail happening in my area I had to attend, I was very intrigued to see the talented artist that are necessarily well known and are from my area.
What I discovered was an array of beautiful, original, hand made pieces of art ranging from photography to ceramics, I did not realise the diversity of artists that lived so close to my home.

I was overwhelmed by the amazing garden studios and how much the art was selling for! I couldn’t believe that art being made in someones comfort of their backgarden was going for hundreds of pounds.

My favourite most inspiring artist from the trail was Moira Walton, I fell INLOVE with her garden studio. It was so minimal and simplistic, it was completely up my street filled with etchings and paint markings and millions of trinkets found on her travels that she used to create imagery. it was a dream!
Now her work was even more beautiful, paint stripes and marks in neutral colours inspired by the nature and the sea. Although her paintings were very simple, they just made sense.

Pokusevski’s Deli – Avril Neagle

Kro Bar – Bev Brocklehurst

Stanley Studio – Moira Walton

Norman Studio – Liz Cooksey and Jane Dzisiewski

Egerton Studio – Rachel Cooke

Lynwood Studio – Ton Von Krogh, Dionne Swift and Jo Lavelle Jewellery






IdeasTap Editorial Artist Competition

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I have once before tried to apply for this competition but at the time I was concentrating on my Live Project and did not have time to fit it in, so i’ve decided to give it another go.  I love the articles in this magazine and think it is a really good opportunity to get my artwork out there into the open and if I don’t win its an added bit of experience to go under my belt!

I am looking to create a sketch of a combination of the biggest news stories that have been in the public eye recently, rather than sticking to one story and drawing that I wanted to do something different and not in my usual style.

Ideas so far;

  • Andy Murray loosing to Grigor Dimitrov at Wimbledon/Israli and Palestians conflict
  • Tour de France/Common Wealth Games
  • Drought of antibiotics/Recent drug wars
  • Conflict between Brazilians and Fifa World Cup


Stamp Press

After looking online for a part time job (with an artsy background) and having no luck, I soon discovered an ad for a company called Stamp Press.

Stamp Press are a stamp making company based online that supply other businesses with bulk orders of stamps and also single stamps for the public to buy.

The ad included a opportunity to become one of the designers of the stamps, therefor your artwork would be transferred into a stamp for people to buy, every stamp bought you would make back a percentage of the profit.

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I didn’t really care about the amount of money I would receive for my designs as there only basic sketches, it was more about getting experience in working for a company and getting my name out there. Although it is only a little company it is a start!

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Here are some of the designs I sent over to Stamp Press.