My goal is to become a writer/illustrator, but I don't know that much about it, or what it entails, so I'm excited to see the projects you're working on are a similar style to ideas I have in my head. For example, short story anthologies that are illustrated, or illustrated novellas. I love children's book illustrations and wanted to integrate that into stories for an older audience, is that something that illustrators do now?
The short answer is a resounding yes. Illustration’s history is firmly rooted in books and printmaking- think illuminated manuscripts, woodcuts and lithographs. The Golden Age of Illustration (from the 1890s to about the 1920s), refers entirely to a boom period of exemplary book art. Today there’s definitely another upward trend, specifically in book illustration for older audiences, across all genres.
I understand where you’re coming from though if you’ve just gotten your foot in the door. At a glance it can seem like book art is concentrated entirely around children’s media; picture books, comics, chapter books and the like all call for image-heavy design to hold a child’s attention. That’s mostly what it is though- a matter of design. Contemporary YA and adult media assume a level of sophistication; too many spots and full illustrations can harm the story flow. You can imagine it’d be a feat at any rate to fully illustrate some 900+ page Victor Hugo monstrosity, as opposed to a 15 page picture book. (there’s a difference though between ‘sophistication’ and ‘boring clinical minimalism’- but that’s a whole other can of worms).
Book illustration work itself involves any combination of being contacted by editors, sending out story pitches, and self publishing/making zines. There are precious few in-house illustration jobs at publishing companies, and they’d most definitely expect some graphic design qualifications too. No discouragement intended though- freelance book art is The Done Thing, it’s the industry standard. At the moment, as a recent graduate, I’m in the business of self publishing and zines- starting small and simple, really. Portfolios and solid examples of work come first.
Speaking of examples, If you don’t know of it, I’d like to point you in the direction of The Folio Society- they’re a collective literally dedicated to making beautiful illustrated books. It’s easy to spend a long while browsing through all the work they have on their site http://www.foliosociety.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiAxarQBRAmEiwA6YcGKA1xjjmm5jlcg6xFyWvD5koU6xilKXJJE5Y_Yl91i0AgNK0fPRBZ2BoCSAMQAvD_BwE
At any rate, artists have been illustrating all manner of books since time immemorial, there’s no stopping that. I think people have always loved beautiful books, so there has been/ there probably will always be a demand for book illustrators ahaha.