As an illustrator I first began my career acquiring skills in fine art. A background studying traditional painting, drawing, design, and color theory is what can give you the edge you need to stand out among talented illustrators in this industry. Many artists today still offer traditional paintings or drawings, but these are quickly becoming replaced with high tech computer renderings and 3D modeling.
By also studying CG Illustration you may find ways to simulate hand drawn or water color paintings in addition to creating more photo realistic visuals. After learning 3D Modeling and Animation, I went on to study undergrad courses for an architectural degree and work for a builder. Here I learned technical drafting skills and building methods. This is very important to understand the building process and terminology in order to be able to read plans and communicate with architects, builders, and real estate agents.
After working for architects and building developers for several years, I opened my own freelance design studio. These entry level jobs brought me hands on experience working with city public officials, real estate agents, talented designers, and building developers on site. To be able to communicate and understand the needs of these key professionals was a priceless skill to learn what was necessary to open my own studio.
I am now able to serve the needs of other industry professionals mostly from my computer, while only visiting certain job sites or clients for very specific detailed or large projects. One of the main skills I had to learn outside of school was the ability to communicate the benefits of what architectural illustration can do for others in order to earn the interest of clients. Students can often focus solely on the detail of their craft through refining their artistic and technological skills, and this can easily distract them from the networking that is incredibly important in order to attract clients.
It can be incredibly challenging to find work if you cannot communicate and market yourself to professionals that need your services. Because this is a very specialized field, anyone interested in pursuing it as a career must learn to convey to others all that they have to offer. Architectural illustrators must let their clients know how these skills can make them more money and increase sales.
In addition, the expansion of sustainable and “green” building methodologies has created another huge market looking for 3D modelers to help explain how the new technology works through renderings and animations. Various industries in related fields are also seeking the skills of 3D modelers and technical illustrators for furniture, medical, and retail product design.
Overall, architectural illustration is a very valuable asset to the industry. It is a specialized niche to belong to, but meets a specific demand from a progressive industry that is striving for a lighter footprint on the environment. Regardless of the economy being good or bad, visualization of a project promotes better communication, more efficiency, and less waste in the building process. It is invaluable to “Green” building, and more importantly, on survival in a tough economy.