Many people have incredible drawing talents that can be put to good use across a wide spectrum of careers including children’s book illustrations, comic art and animation; some individuals have even managed to gain widespread success due to their creative abilities! Unfortunately, many talented people find it difficult to break into the industries that would most benefit from their abilities. Luckily, there are organizations that can help upcoming artists find outlets for their creativity. In the case of illustrators, the “Society of Illustrators” is a great resource.
The Society of Illustrators is an organization that gives both established and emerging artists a chance to mingle with each other and perhaps even find opportunities to advance their careers. According to the official website:
“The Society of Illustrators is an organization of many layers, one which provides illustrators a center to discuss, demonstrate and exhibit their work, contributes to future artists and to the community at large, honors its preeminent practitioners, takes a stand on legal and ethical issues affecting the profession—and has a great dining room to boot! As it faces the challenges of a swiftly changing future, the Society will continue to “promote generally the art of illustration,” as its founders dictated.”
The Society of Illustrators was founded in 1901 in New York City. Nine artists and one businessman were the trailblazers of the organization which initially served to promote the art of illustration and hold occasional exhibitions. Over a century later the Society of Illustrators is still holding steady in this mission. During its long history, the Society of Illustrators has hosted special guests that included Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie. During World War I artists from the Society of Illustrators created the now iconic “I Want You” Uncle Sam army poster and similar work was done during World War II.
Joining the Society of Illustrators was and is a prime way for many young artists to gain a foothold in career paths and the Society still encourages up-and-coming illustrators to apply for membership. However, to become a Society of Illustrators member an individual must receive at least 60% of their income from jobs related to their illustrations. Yet even for non-members the Society of Illustrators has many perks. For example, anyone who is confident in their drawing ability can enter contests or showcase their work in galleries and events. One of the most popular areas of interest is MoCCA—the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art that is affiliated with the Society of Illustrators. This museum run an annual convention (which is open to the public) and hosts competitions that aim to find the newest talent in cartoon and comic art.
For many young illustrators, membership with the Society of Illustrators has been extremely helpful. Even artists who are not directly associated with the Society of Illustrators have noticed the positive impact that the organization has on illustration and cartoon events. For instance, cartoonist Lara Antal, who is also the founder of the “So What? Press” noted how successful the annual MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) convention has become. “The Society has completely turned it around,” she declared. Although not a member of the Society of Illustrators, Lara’s work has sold well at the MoCCA show for the past two years.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Anelle Miller who is the Executive Director at the Society of Illustrators:
Q: What goals does the Society of Illustrators hope to achieve over the next ten years?
We hope to continue to expand our Arts in Education programs and build more awareness for the educational work that we do. If we had a larger space our goals would be a lot loftier, but since we are limited at the moment we need to work within the parameters that exist.
Q: What new programs would you most like to implement if you had the funds to do so?
We would expand our programming for children. We would offer more classes. We would renovate our library and create a research center for scholars, teachers and students that is state of the art technology.
Q: Was there ever any one particular organizational event or award that most touched or honored the Society of Illustrators? If so, what was it?
We were instrumental in having Mayor Bloomberg proclaim Illustration Week for the first week in November for two years in a row. Our work in collaboration with NYC Parks is very rewarding and we are quite proud of that. Our work with veterans, wounded warriors and the Air Force Art Program, which has been going on for 60 years is also something we are proud of.
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The Society of Illustrators is located at 128 East 63rd Street in a graceful, five-story townhouse on a quiet residential block on the Upper East Side. The establishment often holds events that are open to the public and offers an emailed newsletter to anyone who is interested in keeping track of the Society’s plans. The Society of Illustrators also offers many programs, classes, workshops and lectures to help people improve their drawing skills.
For more information visit the official Society of Illustrators website here: