Embrace the power of the written word and discover how your flair for writing could lead to an exciting new career as a journalist, magazine editor or children's author. Australian College of Journalism is part of Open Colleges, Australia's leading provider of online education. Read more
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Life, advice and inspiration: an interview with freelance illustrator and artist, Sebastian CiaffaglioneRead More
Sebastian Ciaffaglione is a freelance illustrator and artist from Melbourne, Australia. His illustrations have appeared in the best-selling Keeper’s Trilogy by Lian Tanner and Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series published by Allen & Unwin.
The Australian College of Journalism spoke to Sebastian about his freelance career and found out about where he finds his inspiration, creativity and illustration process.
- How and when did you first get into illustration?
Sebastian Ciaffaglione: I’ve always drawn or painted from as early as I can remember. I first thought of illustration as a career when I found the illustration course at the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE. I thought, if they were teaching it, then it must be a proper job, right?
- While working, do you ever practise and create illustrations just for your personal amusement or are you kept fully occupied with paid gigs?
SC: Oh, yes! I paint for myself all the time. Sometimes I spend too much time on my own paintings when I should be focusing on other projects. I’m part of a number of Facebook artists’ groups that are constantly distracting me with interesting topics to tackle.
- You’ve worked on children’s book covers, fantasy novels and comics. What is your favourite type of commercial project, and why?
SC: Book covers are my favourite. I enjoy reading, I love having the chance to dive into someone’s world and try to interpret it visually.
- Describe your current working environment as a freelance illustrator and how it works for you.
SC: It’s pretty simple really. I have a couple of desks set up, one for digital work with my Wacom (a touchscreen and stylus program designed by a Japanese manufacturer) and a couple of monitors, and the other for traditional work. I just switch between them as I need to.
- How does a typical “day in the life of” a freelance illustrator go?
SC: Well, I’m up around 7:30, have coffee and waste time on Facebook/email/Reddit. Then I will paint for the rest of the day. I like to try and have weekends off these days but it doesn’t always work out that way.
How did you get your first illustration job?
SC: We had an end of year exhibition at TAFE and I was lucky enough to be noticed by a publisher here in Melbourne who offered me my first cover job. It all snowballed from there.
- How do you go about getting your current freelance gigs with professionals such as bestselling authors, Lian Tanner and Garth Nix?
SC: Those jobs are both essentially for the same client, Allen & Unwin. In that case, one job led to the other just from the experience of working together. Most of the time your best marketing tool is just to be published in the first place. Kind of a Catch-22 for people starting out, I guess.
- Take us on a journey through your design process. What does it look like, and where do you start?
SC: I start with the script of course! Taking notes as I read, I pay particular attention to the tone and mood of the story as well as the physical descriptions of the characters, and the world. After I feel familiar enough with the book, I take out my little thumbnail sketchbook and draw dozens and dozens of little “basic thumbnail” drawings. This stage is just about working out a good composition and something that will satisfy everyone. I’ll usually choose two or three of these thumbnails and refine them into a more finished work, but still with “loose” drawings, which I then send to the publisher for approval. Based on their choice and their feedback, I begin the final painting.
- Where do you find your inspiration for both personal and commercial projects?
SC: I am constantly looking at art. Every day I find new artists I love. The sheer amount of brilliant work out there is what inspires me.
- Lastly, do you have any advice you’d like to pass on to aspiring illustrators? Anything you wish you could tell a young, Sebastian Ciaffaglione before becoming a successful freelance illustrator?
SC: Meet your deadlines. That’s the most important piece of advice I can offer any artist. You may be the greatest painter in the world, but your clients will always hire the second best artist if he or she is the one who always meets their deadlines. It’s not just about making art as beautiful as you can.
How to get your Sports Writing Career off the GroundRead More
With the Soccer World Cup and the Commonwealth Games splashed all over our televisions, computer screens and newspapers this year, many of us have caught the sporting bug. However, were you watching just for fun, or did it ignite an interest in turning your passion for sport into a career?
Perhaps you aspire to be like Peter FitzSimons, a former Wallaby lock who now writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and is a panellist on Fox Sports? Or maybe you admire Liz Ellis, a professional netballer turned writer who now commentates on Fox Sports, appears on The Back Page and has written two books?
A great way to get into the sports writing industry is as a freelance writer. Get your foot in the door by contacting sports magazines and newspapers to see if they would hire you to write for them.
But first, you need an article to impress them! For some inspiration, keep an eye out for these upcoming sporting events and have your notepad and camera ready:
• Rugby—The Bledisloe Cup—16th August
• Motor Racing—Australian Grand Prix—19th October
• Golf—Perth International—22nd—26th October
• Horse Racing—Melbourne Cup Carnival—1st November
• Cycling—The Tour Down Under—17th—25th January
• Tennis—Australian Open—19th January—1st February
Now you have the sporting events diarised, where should you start?
We recommend setting up your own sports blog. It will give you experience in writing and it is a good way to get noticed and show off your sports journalism skills to companies who may be looking to hire. So start writing your first post to show them what you can do!
Here are a few tips when considering what to write for your first article:
Understand the sport—Do some research into the rules and past scores so you can add background and detail to your article. Make sure you include key terms to show you are familiar with the sport.
Read widely—Take a look at the work of other sports journalists to see how they write. Work out their style and anything that sets them apart from other writers.
Be objective—Your favourite team may have lost, but it’s important to remain objective when writing a sports story.
Keep it simple—Make sure your article is easy to understand. Although you may be an expert in the sport you’re writing about, your readers may not be, so always bear this in mind.
Build your contacts—You have no doubt heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, this certainly applies to the sports writing industry. Try to network with as many people as possible, from bloggers, sports people, agents and local clubs. It’s good to stay in the know and they might create some useful interview opportunities.
Now you know the basics, are you interested in taking your career in sports journalism further? To learn more about how get noticed and how to make your articles stand out, consider developing your skills with a journalist training programme.
At the Australian College of Journalism, we have a specially designed Freelance Sports Writing and Photography course. This will help you develop your research and interview techniques, find angles for your stories, improve your digital photography skills and much more.
If you would like more information about our Certificate in Freelance Sports Writing & Photography course, get in touch with us today. Call us on 1300 309 225.
If you’ve already taken the leap and have become a freelance sports writer, we’d love to know your tips and advice. Let us know in the comments below!