Catching a Vision ~ Being an Illustrator

By: Matt Ostrom

Being an illustrator is not just about drawing. It’s about catching a vision. Unless you, as an illustrator are illustrating your own writing, part of developing your talent is to learn to catch someone else’s vision. This is not an easy task, but a good illustrator can achieve this goal by understanding and using some guidelines.


Getting to know the author and what the author expects for the illustration is the first guideline I follow as an illustrator. Is the author more flexible, or particular? What are specific details the author wants in the illustrations? Getting a good description of the vision is key. Many authors will have a very clear idea of what they want, sometimes you have to fish a bit to build the vision. When illustrating a novel it doesn’t hurt to read part of the manuscript and highlight key details. This could be crucial to a productive interaction with the author.

It is important to understand is that some visions are not going to be perfect. One thing I have learned through my experience working with different authors is that there are many different people who want things done different ways. Some are rather adamant, some are willing to take whatever you come up with.

Creating a vision is a process. A process of interaction with the author. I normally ask authors if they want changes made to the illustrations at reasonable steps throughout the progress. Be prepared for finalizing changes when the work is completed. Be prepared to be firm if they ask for too much. It is a good idea to limit the amount of changes you will allow.

When someone else’s vision seems hard to catch, trust in your own creative skills and allow your talent to guide you. Even though it is someone else’s vision, the illustrator brings it to life with his or her skills. You put yourself into the vision, as an illustrator.

For an artist, this is the development of placing yourself in the picture in your head. Get the vision clearly defined in your mind first. When the author describes the vision for his or her writing, I can picture it in my head as an image or a scene. I can visually imagine a whole new world.

When I put the image on paper, sometimes it’s not as elaborate as it is in my head, but that’s all right. It’s like a photograph. A photograph can capture the beauty of a mountain top view, but it’s not as awesome as the real thing. I could make the illustrations as elaborate as my imagination, but then I would never get it done; and the cost would probably be prohibitive. Find the level of detail your client wants and work from there.

You may have heard the phrase, “An Artist’s work is never done.” You could say the same thing for an illustrator, except an illustrator has deadlines and needs to work with other people’s terms. So, knowing when to say it’s done is good. Also, make sure that you are working within the specifications of the printer or publisher that will use the final product.

Over all, you will make an author happy with your illustrations if you work to catch the author’s visions. If you hear the author’s words, set the scene in your mind, and trust your skills to put the vision on paper, the work is sure to satisfy. Understanding and trusting your own guidelines can help you catch a vision.



Matt Ostrom, illustrator and 3-D artist for PDMI Publishing LLC, creates artwork in a multitude of forms. His formidable set of skills allows him to craft works by hand or through computers, the latter allowing him to create works in two-dimensional or three-dimensional forms. Matt’s creative vision is boundless, encompassing everything from pencil sketches and paintings to the world of graphic art designs, with his artistic skills also extending to the worlds of computerized 3-D object rendering and drafting. Matt’s 3-D objects have attracted worldwide recognition. As is the case with his colleague Elizabeth Mueller, working with PDMI will allow Matt to use and showcase a multitude of skills.

Website: www.mattostrom.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mattostrom3D