My Brief Career as an Editorial Illustrator

My Brief Career as an Editorial Illustrator

Although I’m primarily known as a children’s illustrator today, I have prior work experience as an editorial illustrator. Was it for a major newspaper, read far and wide by the Jamaican masses? Yes…and no. In this post, I’ll explain how I got started, the topics I tended to cover, and my overall experience producing editorial illustrations for a teen newspaper.


How and Where I Got The Gig

Between 2005-2007, I worked as one of two editorial illustrators for YouthLink Magazine. The other illustrator was my friend Kathryn, who had put in a good word with the Powers That Be (great looking out, Kat!), helped get me on the team, and it gave me something different and more true-to-life to illustrator than the character commissions that I’d been doing on my own at the time.

YouthLink is a weekly supplement printed and distributed on Tuesdays by the Gleaner Company Limited, the oldest newspaper in Jamaica. Geared towards a teen-to-young-adult audience, YouthLink covers a variety of topics that both interest and impact that particular demographic – fashion and entertainment, technology news and gadgets, academic and career articles (from studying for CSEC examinations through to adjusting to college life and selecting career paths), as well as matters of health, relationships, and human nature. Throughout each week’s publication, during my tenure and in the years since I resigned, YouthLink was never preachy or condescending. I figure that’s due to the articles being written by young people from within the same target audience; young people who knew what it’s like to be talked down to or dismissed by adults who rigidly believe that they have nothing at all to worry about.

Being on the YouthLink staff came with an I.D. card, Saturday afternoon meetings with the rest of the team at the Gleaner’s North Street office followed by lunch at the canteen, and deadlines for my work to make it into the required Tuesday’s issue (which was always on Saturdays before 1 PM). My memory of fuzzy, but I think I got my assignments a week or two in advance which gave me enough time to get a proper illustration done and not be fighting too much sleep to get it done after work. My personal deadlines would be either Thursday or Friday nights because

1) better early than late, and

2) it gave me some wriggle room in case life picked the worst moment to happen.

My YouthLink Editorial Illustrations

Most of the academic, Tech, and fashion topics had photographs attached so there was no chance of me (or Kat, for that matter) getting a crack at those. The topics I did illustrate, more often than not ‘Dear Counselor’ type articles, dealt with human issues such as emotional trials,

"Longing for a Father Figure" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Longing for a Father Figure”, a topic that far too many people can relate to in my opinion.

 

"Resisting Temptation" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Resisting Temptation”. When I illustrated this topic, having a flip phone was *the* thing to own to prove your material worth to everyone else.

 

"Handling Grief" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Handling Grief”. From rejection to death, there are many reasons for grieving and healthy ways to handle it.

 

"Annoying People - How to Deal With Them" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Annoying People – How to Deal With Them”. A helpful guide for handling those people in our lives who make us contemplate doing hard time. Too bad I forgot the tips.

 

"Handling Your Friend's Bad Breath" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Handling Your Friend’s Bad Breath”. Honestly, there is no easy way to tell your friend that their breath smells like road kill in the hot summer sun, but this one had great tips – which I’ve forgotten.

 

romance and other matters of the heart,

"Who Should I Choose?" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Who Should I Choose?”. A scenario I have no familiarity with as I usually make this decision over food and not people.

 

"Interracial Relationships" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Interracial Relationships”. Sometimes you find love in a different package, and sometimes I’ll use any excuse to draw a cute cat.

 

"Signs That It's Over" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Signs That It’s Over”. Sometimes relationships just run their course and couples need help recognizing it. Again, I can’t relate.

 

"Why Do People Cheat?" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Why Do People Cheat?”. And then you have this scenario, where a couple seems faithful to each other yet they’re anything but.

and even the facts of life regarding human reproductive health.

"Menstruation" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Menstruation”. Cravings, cravings, and low energy. Oh, the joy. Also, don’t be afraid to hide inking mistakes behind an eye patch.

 

"Nocturnal Emission, or Wet Dreams" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Nocturnal Emission, or Wet Dreams”. Don’t worry, guys. You’re not exempt from the fun.

 

"Uterine Fibroids" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Uterine Fibroids”. As if periods weren’t enough to deal with, sometimes nature decides to triple the discomfort.

 

"Testicular Torsion" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Testicular Torsion”. I never knew about this condition before and my stomach screamed when I saw the medical images for it. Yeouch!

I also illustrated gender-based topics of a more traumatic and abusive nature.

 

"Sexual Harassment" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Sexual Harassment”. A real workplace scourge, and that sponsor placement and slogan was really unfortunate in hindsight.

 

"Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM" - An editorial illustration by Peta-Ann Smith for YouthLink Magazine, published by The Gleaner Company Limited in Jamaica.
“Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM”. Hands down, the most serious topic I illustrated during my tenure at YouthLink.

The latter topic isn’t practiced here in Jamaica (at least I hope not; our children have enough to deal with!), but geography is no excuse to raise awareness of such issues.

Illustrating for YouthLink was a short but very fun experience or me as a carer-confused person in my early 20s. Aside from being paid to draw outside of my thin comfort zone and bringing fresh work to my portfolio, being a part of a team gave me a sense of belonging and connection that I’d missed after abruptly leaving my first college. Working as a freelance illustrator can be a lonely experience, whereas working with like-minded others for a common goal fuels you in ways I can’t adequately describe. A gig like I had with YouthLink is something that I’d recommend to any young artist who’s interested in doing something different.


"My Brief Career as an Editorial Illustrator", on Langi Lala Studios

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Peta-Ann Smith

Head Cook and Bottle Washer at Langi Lala Studios
Peta-Ann is a chocoholic nut who loves to draw, and loves to make a living by loving to draw. She's also recently began learning to animate, and is a long-time closet writer.