ILLUSTRATION FEATURE Creativity out of Chaos

With even more contracted markets during the health crisis, illustrators are exploring all sorts of ways to market their art. Trish Phillips gives her impression of the recent Make Art That Sells bootcamp.

How is society coping in the current situation? There are those saving lives and risking their lives to keep everything going - undisputedly nothing is more important than this, and yet for everyone else who no longer have normality we are realising what an important role ‘the arts’ plays in our lives in keeping us connected. Meanwhile, it is interesting to see how those of us under the umbrella of ‘the arts’ deal with this crisis in our own way. At worst it is a creative block, at best it is a golden opportunity.

The internet has been crucial and offers reprieve from isolation as people instinctively seek to connect with each other, as is our human instinct. It is invaluable in your field to have a group of like-minded people to share information with and to bounce off each other. Even if you have not needed this before, you may find yourself looking for support now. Look for artists and other creative groups on social media and you will soon find links to those offering live workshops, courses, or classes you can join in.

There are more ideas at the end of the article however, one which has been a lifesaver to myself these past months is Make Art that Sells (MATS for short).

Art agent, Lilla Rogers has a fabulous website dedicated to boosting creatives and, together with her team, strives to get imagination flowing with courses such as Assignment Bootcamp, Mats Bad Ass, Hot Markets for your art, Drawing Faces, Kids' book pitch, Home Décor, and Illustrating Children’s Books. Serendipitously I joined Mats Assignment Bootcamp 2020 just before Lockdown, a four-month course with monthly assignments and one or two mini preparation assignments, and video talks by Lilla, her team and guest artists - some of which are live with interaction as illustrators text in. You work with the aim of adding pieces to your portfolio and Lilla covers markets such as editorial, the toy market and wall art, which highlight significant and often overlooked areas where you can sell your art. This is not a course where I was assessed, it is a self-improvement course, and at the end of each month you post your work to the gallery and hashtags on Instagram. If I ever needed a course which connected me to other artists of all disciplines, the timing was perfect.

A mini assignment exploring colour palettes for a wall art assignment.
Another palette for the above.
In addition there is a Facebook page where members post work to receive advice and comments. The group is worldwide and there is a diverse set of abilities made up of working artists, newcomers, even those that have a creative streak that are not necessarily artistic. Little did I know when I joined that there were other SCBWI illustrators on the course already, it attracts great people!

Another blessing was that Lilla offered a free enrolment on a second course MATS MBA (and I so love this title – it stands for Mats Bad Ass). This is aimed at the difficult but vital process of setting yourself up as a business. Often with creative minds there is a lack of a business sense or focus but, with the help of Lilla and Beth working through this, it helped me with the common fears and ‘money monsters’ with an effective new way of looking at things. As with the Assignment Bootcamp, there were regular fun videos to talk me through the exercises to be done. I have been putting off doing this as I have many blocks around money, but the good thing is this one is self-paced and does not run to a schedule like the Bootcamp, so I could take it as slowly as I liked. With the courses come various other offers and additional goodies, so all in all I found the fee for this year’s Assignment Bootcamp very worthwhile. 

The final submission for March; abstract is way out of my comfort zone.
The final submission for April – poster for West Side Story.

Taking a brief look at what else you may find useful to keep the creative momentum going:

Facebook – you will already have your links with creative friends here in groups such as SCBWI – your own art groups, other breakout groups from various things that you have joined, but do look to see if any are offering group activities that can inspire and push you in your work.

Instagram – there are many artists doing online workshops, classes, sketching evenings etc.
Here are a couple:

The Good Ship Illustration – run courses but you can catch up with some live sketching in your home with the Helen and Katie in their art club every Friday at 8pm; simply click on their Instagram profile and be ready with drawing material and things to draw but be warned, it is fast and furious. See here to read an article in W&P by Bridget Marzo.

Orange Beak Studio – Pam Smy, Ness Wood, Maisy Paradise Shearring, Alice Corrie and Tony Lee run courses, retreats and one to one tutorials and mentoring. They are also currently doing fun things on Instagram and it's worth looking them up.

BBC4 – life drawing – you can catch up with iPlayer and sketch away.


Cambridge MA graduate and Illustration Committee member Trish Phillips is an author, illustrator and paper engineer. Facebook: Instagram: @trish.phillips.scribbles

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