My Brief Career as an Editorial Illustrator

My Brief Career as an Editorial Illustrator

Today, most of my work so far has been in children’s illustration. For a while, though, I had worked 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 general 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 long-time friend Kathryn. She had put in a good word with the Powers That Be (great looking out, Kat!), and helped get me on the team. Working with YouthLink gave me something different and more true-to-life to illustrate. More so that the one-off character illustrations I freelanced back then.
 
YouthLink Magazine is a publication geared towards a teen-young adult audience. Produced by The Gleaner Company Limited, Jamaica’s oldest newspaper, it covered various topics:
  • fashion and entertainment
  • technology news and gadgets
  • academic and career articles
  • e.g. CSEC exam preparations
  • college life and selecting career paths),
  • as well as matters of health, relationships, and human nature.
YouthLink was never condescending or preachy, no matter what topics they tackled. I chalked this up to the fact that the articles were writen by young people *for* young people. After all, young people know what it feels like to face dismissal or talked down to by adults. Why replicate that in a youth-centred product?
 
Working at YouthLink came with an I.D. card, Saturday team meetings, and a cooked canteen lunch. It also carried deadlines, usually Saturdays by 1 PM to make it into next Tuesday’s issue. A decade has dulled my memory a bit, but I often received my assignments a week or two in advance. This was a blessing; I could get my tasks done without pulling all-nighters. After all, I still had my day job and I didn’t get paid there to sleep. 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 assigned. So that meant that there was no chance of me (or Kat, for that matter) getting a crack at those. That left me with ‘Dear Counselor’ type articles, which tackled 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.

 

"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”. 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 stressful enough, 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”.It’s a widespread workplace scourge. Also, 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.

 

FGM isn’t practiced here in Jamaica (to my knowledge), but geography is no excuse to raise awareness.

Illustrating for YouthLink was a short but very fun experience for me during my early 20s. I welcomed it as I had been going throught great career confusion at the time. My time there allowed me to draw outside of my comfort zone, and freshen my portfolio with more mature work. The team environment also gave me a sense of connection and belonging. Since working as a freelancer can be lonely, I relished the change and I look back on my work with great fondness. If you’re a young artist exploring your career options, look for a gig like YouthLink’s. On top of the portfolio boost, it will be an opportunity that enriches for years to come.

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

 

Do you have more questions about my time with YouthLink? Drop a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.