Scot was featured July/August 2011

1. When did you start illustrating (for clients professionally?)

I was co-owner of a greeting card company for 11 years in Toronto - at the time it was the biggest all Canadian Greeting Card company. I did the art and text. We had some very successful cards filling a niche market but after awhile it was tough going up against the big guns so eventually I threw in the towel. I then became a freelance illustrator and signed up with an agent. After going our separate ways creatively I began to work on my own. This was a real education as I had to learn all the things my agent had done for me for the last 14 years. Although it was a rude awakening it was the best thing for me.

2. Who are your biggest influences?

My favourite artist is Sempe. I was recently described as a British style illustrator which is a big compliment in my books. I have always loved European looking illustration as it seems to be looser and more subtle than some more local styles. A favourite artist growing up in Vancouver was a local newspaper editorial cartoonist called Norris. Another favourite is Quentin Blake.

3. What is your work process?

I hand draw to start, scan the black ink line in then do the colouring on the computer. I use Photoshop. When I'm doing a book I read the manuscript and sketch images in the margins or on loose paper. Often the first read through gets the best imagery. Later I will go through these very rough sketches and see which ones stand out.

4. What would you name as the biggest strength of your illustrations?

Humour and subtlety are two of my strengths. It's very pragmatic but knowing I wanted to be a commercial illustrator I purposely chose a simple style many years ago. Over the years it has become more painterly and the line work has loosened up.

5. Do you have any formal education in art?

I got my BFA from UBC but have had no real formal training. I did go to an art school in Toronto for one year called Art's Sake but it was entirely non representational. It was a great education because it clarified that I would prefer to represent things than do abstract work.

6. Where do you see the future of illustration?

This is a big question given the wide array of new platforms illustration can appear on and the possibility to hire someone in India as easily as someone in Toronto. I think it definitely is morphing as new programmes and applications come on the market. The good news is that illustration is always going to be creative and will always be in the hands of creative people.

7. If you could offer one piece of advice to someone considering a career in illustration, what would it be?

At the risk of sounding cliche I would say find your own voice. After being in the business for over 20 years I have learned that what sells (and has longevity) is something that is vaguely in the popular style but is also distinctively you. I aim not to be too trendy. This way you don't run the risk of disappearing as styles change. Having a loose style helps as well when it comes to clothes and hairstyles as the art can't be pinned down as easily to a particular period.

8. Last words?

Have a real passion for art but never forget this is commercial illustration. Editors and art directors have financial concerns when they hire us. Humour, wit and beauty aren't measurable so there will always be an element of the unknown... and that's a good thing. Also, although you will become recognized for a certain style (and you should develop it) you have to feel free to evolve within that, or work on different styles. This is commercial art but it is still art. You have to be creating and learning all the time or you become stale.

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Scot Ritchie


Scot is an award winning illustrator who has illustrated 48 books to date as well as doing advertising, editorial and educational work. His client list includes Oxford University Press, Verizon, New York Magazine and The National Film Board of Canada.

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