PK 132: What if You Spent 3 Years on ONE Single Art Project? Jazz Day Illustrator, Francis Vallejo, Reveals How to Find Your Art Style

PK 132: What if You Spent 3 Years on ONE Single Art Project? Jazz Day Illustrator, Francis Vallejo, Reveals How to Find Your Art Style 2 pk 132 making of jazz day francis vallejo pk podcast

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“Above all, draw and paint good…and something’s gonna happen!”

~ Francis Vallejo

In this week’s interview, artist and illustrator, Francis Vallejo, reveals why spending three years on one single art project helped him find his niche as an artist.

During the process of illustrating the book, Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, Francis travelled to Harlem, New York, to get a real flavor of that moment in the 1950s when photographer, Art Kane, gathered the biggest names in Jazz at that time to pose for a moment in history.

You’ll hear what it’s really like to be truly immersed in a creative project, and why taking the time to find out what really motivates and inspires you as an artist can help your career take flight.

How to Find Your Art Style: Francis Vallejo on Jazz Day

Interview Chapters:

00:00 – 03:12


Detroit-born artist and illustrator, Francis Vallejo, introduces himself and reveals what motivates and inspires him as an artist,

03:23 – 04:10

The Story Behind Illustrating Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

Francis describes his book illustration project and what he learned from working on it.

04:36 – 07:29

What’s it Like to Work on a Project That Lasts 3 Years?

Illustrating Jazz Day took 3 years. Here, Francis talks about the reasoning behind this, and how what could have been a huge gamble actually paid off.

08:23 – 11:01

How Illustrating Jazz Day Changed Francis’ Life

Francis says illustrating Jazz Day changed his life as an artist. Find out how you can find your own art style too in this part of our interview.

12:00 – 14:07

How did Working on Jazz Day Help Francis Find His Niche as an Artist?

Most artists take a while to find their true niche – the one thing that truly inspires them and motivates them to keep on making art. For Francis, illustrating Jazz Day brought him closer to the world of literature he loved, and enabled him to make lots of new contacts with people in this industry.

14:36 – 16:09

Is Working in Literature Really as Romantic as you Might Think?

Many artists dream of working in the field of literature, but is it really as romantic as all that? Hear what Francis thinks in this chapter.

16:26 – 18:41

What’s Next for Francis?

Having completed one big project, Francis is ready to move onto the next one. Here, he describes the exciting projects he’s got lined up, and how he’s inspired by the prospect of travelling and researching in the near future.

19:01 – 20:54

What are the Benefits of Working at Your Own Pace?

Taking the time to research a project and see it through to completion without feeling rushed can really help you as an artist.
Here, Francis explains why he loves working this way, and how you as an artist can find an area of work which best reflects your personality.

21:41 – 22:08

How Can Working on a Long Project Help You Improve as an Artist?

Francis felt he truly developed as an artist while working on Jazz Day. Find out why in this chapter.

22:44 – 27:10

What Happens After a Long Project is Finished?

In this chapter, Francis reveals what happens once you’ve completed a long project and goes into detail on all the associated marketing and promotion which follows.

28:08 – 32:28

How did Francis get Discovered as an Artist?

Amazingly, Francis didn’t reach out to the publishers of Jazz Day looking for work. Instead, they found him. How does this work and what can you do to help promote your art? You’ll find out in this chapter.

33:10 – 35:56

How Should you Present Yourself to Book Publishers and Work With Them on Your Project?

Francis went out of his way to meet his clients face-to-face as often as possible during his project. Find out why he believes this is so important in this chapter.

37:03 – 39:54

What Advice does Francis Have for Aspiring Artists?

Francis learned a lot through working on his project. Here, he shares his advice for any aspiring artists who have yet to find their true niche.

40:35 – 42:40

What Makes Your Art Saleable?

A lot of artists fall into the trap of producing work in the style of others in an attempt to make their work more saleable. Find out why staying true to yourself is the way forward in this chapter.

40:35 – 42:40

What Makes Your Art Saleable?

43:25 – 44:53

Conclusion and Where to Find Francis Online

Where can you see examples of Francis’ work online? Find out in the concluding part of this interview.

Francis Vallejo: Double Page Spread Illustration from Jazz Day


We hope this week’s interview with Francis Vallejo helps you find your art style and develop your creative career.

Have you ever worked on an art project that took years? Share your story in the comments box below – we’d love to hear from you 🙂

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2 thoughts on “PK 132: What if You Spent 3 Years on ONE Single Art Project? Jazz Day Illustrator, Francis Vallejo, Reveals How to Find Your Art Style”

  1. This podcast really spoke to me, as I feel I am at a frustrating juncture in my art career. I am what you would call a nontraditional artist – I’m older, not academy trained, came to it later in life, so I already lack a network or any mentors to help give me insight. I love working freelance and doing research, reference gathering, and the whole arduous process of creating illustrations (though lately I have not been engaged in that). I had a great series of commissions for advertising art recently where I really enjoyed the process of providing concept sketches, taking notes and delivering drafts to a terrific art director (who, like Mr Vallejo’s experience, approached me first). I find I am in a tight spot because I don’t live near any major art centers (and cannot move due to family reasons) and my medium is primarily digital, which is a tough sell for the fine art market. Even locally here it is difficult to find paying work because we have an art school in this city and people seem to use local art students for (free) work. I am really drawn to freelance illustration both in style and as a career (dealing with art directors and clients etc, I feel my past of working in “the real world” has helped my professionalism. Anyhow, listening to this podcast has helped relieve my sense of isolation somewhat. There is a lot more I need to do, hopefully someday Mr. Vallejo can do a podcast on the best ways to focus and package your art online and for sending to art directors in an effective way. Unfortunately for someone like me success is not going to “keep happening” and I will probably have to work much harder because of my somewhat unconventional background and location.

    1. Hi Ellen and thanks so much for your feedback. I’m really glad you enjoyed this podcast and could relate to it 🙂 Many artists feel isolated by their surroundings, but there are numerous ways you can overcome this, such as: networking with fellow artists on social media (ie. Twitter), building a strong online portfolio, researching art directors/publishers etc who might be receptive to the kind of work you produce, getting involved with community groups and art projects, and constantly being on the lookout for opportunities. Personal projects can be a great way to showcase your skills (if you don’t have any current commissions on) and, crucially, these demonstrate to prospective employers that you can see a project through from beginning to end. I’d love to see your recent commissions, so feel free to send me a link and I’ll promote your work via our social media channels 🙂

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