2014: the year of learning - MATS

Virginia Romo Illustration . Christmas Card at the MATS course

I am so grateful the internet exists! When I look back at the last twelve months and I see how many things I have learned: most of the courses I did were online. A fantastic way to pick out exactly what you need and to fit the course in your calendar.

The first one was MATS, last spring. It stays for Make Art That Sells. It is imparted by the wonderful Lilla Rogers Studio School. For the ones out there who don´t know her: Lilla Rogers is an illustration agent and teacher. She used to be an illustrator herself, so she has a very complete perspective of the whole business, she represents incredibly talented and successful illustrators and she is passionate about what she does. You can tell it when you see her videos or follow her courses.

The course goes over five weeks, each week is dedicated to a specific market that is relevant for an illustrator. Enrolling the course you get access to a blog in which the posts containing the material of the course are sequentially published. At least one blog post containing REALLY valuable information is published every day. Mondays you get an insider view of the market of the week and a mini task.

For example, in my first week the theme was paper market, that means mainly postcards but also stationery, wrapping paper and so on. So, on Monday you get to know what is important in this market, how it works in terms of submissions, timing, what things you have to pay extra attention to, this goes from technical issues to content, colours etc. etc. The mini task for my group was: Gingerbread house. The idea of the "minis", as they are called in the course, is to warm your fantasy and hand up around one theme but without a specific goal in mind, so that you feel free to draw without putting limits to your work in advance. It is about researching a bit, sketching a lot and having fun while doing it.

Then Wednesdays, if I remember well, the real task is revealed. The real homework is always a "ready to go" product, the way you would send it to a client. And you have until Sunday to do it.

All over the week you get material like: techniques and tricks, interviews with professionals in that market (agents, art buyers, illustrators), all of them working at high level, in form of videos and / or pdfs. So you learn first hand from people who know what they are talking about. And there are no secrets kept. Everything is really open. The course is excellent. It is not a couple of things that somebody put together and here you go. No. It is very well made, it provides you with exceptional knowledge that otherwise you could only acquire with your own experience over years, because these are not the kind of things that are written in books. And it is made with passion and very a very good vibe.

There is a Facebook group to exchange information, doubts, questions and to cheer up your co-students, who are spread all over the world. I met a lot of interesting people there and I keep contact with some of them. And there is a Flickr group where every student uploads her or his work by Sunday. Mondays (or was it Tuesdays?) Lilla Rogers reviews in a ca. 20 minutes video the submitted works, she comments some of the illustrations from different perspectives. If your work is among the selected ones, that is huge, but even if not, the advice she gives is applicable for everybody.

In my example: After having drawn hundred of gingerbread houses and all things you can imagine around that theme, we had to create a Christmas card featuring a gingerbread house, of course. You get the dimensions and all technical requirements your work has to fulfil and there you go. What you see above are three versions of my Christmas card. Finally I went for the middle one? Right decision? What do you mean?

The course is pretty intensive, you have to put aside some time to dedicate to it every day for more than a month. But it is so well invested time. If you are an illustrator out there reading this and you would like to learn more about this business, I can just recommend it to you: MATS.

The Lilla Rogers Studio School offers also some other course models. I just enrolled for the next Assignment BootCamp.