Over the years, I have frequently received requests from parents and schools to talk to talented young people about a career in illustration. I have a different approach to each presentation.
For schools, I typically stress the importance of being exposed to many fields and disciplines in the student's education in order to be able to communicate visually to the broadest audience possible. If the education is limited to illustration only, one can be a whiz at drawing but fail to effectively communicate to a wide range of people without heavy input from the writer or art director. Besides, from a practical standpoint, those who are not serious enough to persevere in their art may find through their broader studies another discipline for which they would be better suited.
For the parents who want me to talk to their children on a more personal level, I try to dispel the romantic notions they may have of an illustrator working from home with interesting people and projects, living the intellectual life, and waking up every day to do creative work with great passion. Instead, I present the more realistic aspects of being prepared for much rejection, long hours with little social life, clients expecting a miracle on a tight deadline, and then taking forever to pay for your hard work. I also stress the importance of being a self-starter when it's necessary to create work during the downside of the feast-and-famine cycle.
I figure those who are truly serious and passionate about their art will pursue their dream despite the discouragement. And those who are frightened away by the scary prospect of an insecure career do not have the perseverance it takes to succeed in this business anyhow.
Ever since I was a child, I had tunnel vision for what I do today. No one had to twist my arm to do this for a living. In fact, there were plenty of people telling me it was impossible unless I moved to New York City--and even then, I'd get eaten alive. When times have been lean at various stages during my career, I had plenty of second-guessers pointing out how foolish it was to pursue such a tenuous profession.
Art is something I must pursue. I realize it's also a journey to a destination where you never arrive. But, for me, the path has enough joy and fulfillment along the way to make the steep ledges worth the risk.