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Starting Lilla Rogers’ Illustration Class – MATS A

I’m so happy, I’ve actually done it, I’ve enrolled in Lilla Rogers’ illustration class, MATS A (that stands for Make art that sells, part A)! I’ve been dreaming about this since January, and today I’m finally starting!

Seriously, one of the reasons I got a full time job was so that I could afford to take Lilla’s classes.

About the class

MATS A is the first in a series of classes Lilla has produced on applying your art skills to the real world and building a sound portfolio. It covers five markets: fabric, home decor, children’s books, wall art and gifts. In each section you learn about the structure of that market, then learn about some ways to produce artwork tailored for this market specifically, do a warm-up and a final assignment.

The course is self-paced, but conventionally it’s one week per section. That’s not a lot of time, so it’s not an in-depth study of each market, rather a way to understand what resonates with you most. I took a while thinking whether I wanted to spend longer on each module, but I think I will actually start with the fast paced version to get and overview and a general feel. Then with the section that appeals to me most, I can go back and do more work along Lilla’s guidelines, but using a different theme.

Why am I doing this

Last summer when I closed my solo show I felt two things: validated and exhausted. The validation felt good, of course: I finally felt like I can wholeheartedly and legitimately call myself an artist (note: you don’t actually need to do a solo show to do that). At the same time, I had pushed myself hard and I ended up being emptied out and lost. I no longer could do the same art that I used to do, I felt like I had outgrown it and moved on. But I lacked the skills to do things differently, so I felt locked in, like I no longer had the ability to express what I had to. Kind of like suddenly being in college with your big college thoughts, but the vocabulary of a three-year-old

So after a few months of zombie mode, I started learning new stuff to get a move on. I improved my digital skills, familiarizing myself with Illustrator. Then I got into color. I had always been terrified of color, but now I bought myself a box of gouache paint and religiously followed a couple of Creativebug classes on mixing color.

Suddenly, mixing color was no longer terrifying, and I started doing small live drawings in gouache. I loved it. In a month or so I went on to take a class in 2d game prop design in Photoshop. There we also worked with color, but with a strong accent on shapes and silhouettes. That really helped me get unstuck, and I was back to work.

In the meantime I got a job so I could afford more learning and input. I’ve spent the past two months getting used to working a full-time job, and working on my Kafka project for Museum night in St. Petersburg.

The project was very intense, so a few days before it ended I decided to enroll in a class that would keep me afloat when it’s over. I tend to experience a horrible emptiness when a project is over. Instead of feeling like I have accomplished something, I tend to feel that I no longer have anything to live for. So this time I was smart about it and arrange for a brand new reason to keep going that would start right after my show.

I am still craving guidance and input, and reasons to try out things I usually don’t have a reason to approach. I think Lilla’s class should give me just that.


One week per market segment is obviously not a lot, so I think for me the key here is exploration. Understanding what directions I most want to grow in. I’ve been thinking of making my art part of quote-unquote real life for a while now, and I think learning about the markets I can go for is a good first step.

I’m also really looking forward to learning to present my work and my design concepts better.

Making it work

My full time job (the one that allows me to take the classes I want) is still there, so I’ll only have evenings to do my assignments. However, I should have a lot more time now that I’ve finished my Insect project and am not spending every single free minute sculpting a giant beetle. As Lilla suggested, today I will schedule all the class articles, videos and assignments, so now every evening instead of “bug time” I will be checking off “MATS”.

For now, I have only scheduled the first week of class to see if I can keep up with the pace at this rate or if I should take it a little slower. If I don’t get overwhelmed, I would rather complete the class in five weeks though, because at the end of June I’m taking part in the Lilla Rogers’ Studio Global Talent Search, and I think having completed the class will be a great help. The way GTS works is you get a creative brief from Lilla, and the skills I get for presenting my work, and experience of designing for the market should make things easier. I’ll be able to focus on the brief and artwork itself, and not on figuring out how things work in the first place.

I still haven’t decided whether I’ll be doing the assignments at home or in the studio (probably, both). In any case, the key is to stay consistent, so my goal is to devote at least half an hour a day to my course work.


I really can’t wait to start, I feel like I’m really ready to grow and I crave input so much! I hope that my master plan for not falling into a black hole after my show is over will work, and I’ll jump right into my course work and keep flying.





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