Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shaun Tan- Advice For A New Illustrator

I read an essay by illustrator Shaun Tan that I thought was really great, especially since I am always looking for clues from established illustrators on just how to do what they did, to get where they are. I'll share some of my favorite snippets with you here, or you can read the full essay at the link below.

Advice For A New Illustrator by Shaun Tan

Firstly, a good thing to keep in mind:
"That’s the first thing to be aware of, especially when either giving or receiving specific advice – every artist’s experience and circumstance is different."
So take this advice how you will.

I'm amazed at the way Shaun can create light with just a pencil.

"Enjoy what you do, to the extent that it is a pleasure to go beyond the call of duty."

"It’s very important to pursue personally challenging work, and small jobs can be just as significant as high profile ones for that reason."

"A good artist is (I think) an eternal student, and even when most confident, never feels like a master. They are forever pottering in their backyard spaces, trying to explore their craft with modest integrity."

"Communication is very important, even though so much time is spent working alone on what can otherwise seem an introverted profession. You need to be able to talk and write about everything you create in a clear and explanatory way to help others understand your ideas, especially when they are not immediately visible, especially to non-artists and certain folk who are, for all practical purposes, aesthetically blind."

"As long as you are doing something, even if it isn't successful, you are not wasting your time."

"Most people who do get published are very pleased, but not terribly surprised as if winning a lottery, because they've already done their homework and understand their surroundings. They have put themselves to some extent in an editor's shoes."

And if you're interested, you can see Shaun's website here:



  1. Thank you for posting these quotes! I love Shaun Tan's work. I had the pleasure of seeing his graphic novel The Arrival set to a score by a local small orchestra. His work is beautiful.

  2. Wow, that must have been quite the experience. Music and art really enhance each other. Wish I could see/hear that as well!
    I love his pencils, especially. I was really pleased to find this essay of his, as it has some great advice.