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,
romance and other matters of the heart,
and even the facts of life regarding human reproductive health.
I also illustrated gender-based topics of a more traumatic and abusive nature.
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.
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