MATS Part A - Overview and Review


5 weeks of illustrating like crazy!
 The following is a two part review of the Make Art That Sells course Part A as it was presented this year (2015).

1) A Review of the Make Art That Sells Course, Part A (from the heart)

MATS is a meeting place for people all around the world who are looking for their "tribe."  I know that's a word that's flung around a lot these days, but I don't have a better word for it... I guess I could say like-minded or similar seekers.  The community that is created after sharing our work, well, it's kind of intimate.  When you're working so hard on a dream that you hold dear, and you share it with others who have a similar dream, it's not difficult to see why we come together and why the course begins to take on a deeper meaning. MATS has a following because we feel connected to one another.

What about the work?  I can only speak for myself.  I have grown a lot and I think you can see it most in my final two assignments.  I used the five weeks of the course to try and discover a style within my work.  I wrote in my pre-course planner, "I have invested in this course because I want to make marketable art that feels true to me in a style that rocks!" So, I experimented with various mediums and line and hoped a style would jump out at me.  I can see a common thread running through all five pieces, mostly it's a color-based thread, but no obvious style jumped out at me.  The biggest thing I learned is to stop being slap-dash about my work.  I can see in my final piece a deliberateness that wasn't there before.  I am taking the lesson of deliberate mark-making as my biggest achievement in these past 5 weeks.  Did I achieve my original goal?  I think I kind of did.  I think all of my work feels true to me, but I don't think I'm far enough along in my illustration journey to say, "Yes! I love this style!  You, oh thick line and wavy brush, you will be my style from this time henceforward!" or whatever.  Not there yet...

2) A Review of the MATS Course, Part A by the numbers

Let me give you an idea of how dense this course is.  I created an outline in order to keep track of all the materials after the final wrap-up post, and it took me 12 hours to do a cursory review and download the course materials.  TWELVE HOURS!!  If I were to collate all the pages and content of this course, it would amount to a very, very thick 3 ring binder.  It would be somewhere between 200 and 300 pages of material.  The first photo in this post is just a fraction of the content.  I printed out only what I intended to fill out or jot notes on.  And this is just Part A! There are several hours of videos including interviews with successful working illustrators and artists.  There are written interviews with experts in the business.  The course includes so many helpful tips, tricks, lists of possible clients, and a very large, supportive community (see part 1 of this review).

It is an intense course requiring the quick turnaround of 5 briefs from concept to layout/mock-up in five weeks.  Each project is broken up into a mini assignment at the start of each week, and then the fleshed out brief is given mid-week with the deadline of Sunday.  I loved the deadlines, and I happily met each one.  I loved being given the assignments, too.  It was nice having direction given to me. :)

And finally, many people who are reading this review are wondering about the reviews.  I will be straight with you.  My work never made it to the reviews.  Each week, Lilla Rogers chose 9 to 13 pieces to talk about.  There were over 150 people signed up for the course.  Many of these people, I'll say 20% are professionals.  Remember people take the course for all kinds of reasons including re-booting a career or refreshing a portfolio.  Some of my peers taking the course had already done editorial work with big name magazines and others had illustrated entire children's books, others were total beginners.  I was... in the middle.  So, I wasn't surprised that my work was not chosen for review.

On one level, of course I was disappointed!  I want to feel validated just as much as the next artist.  But, after every single review without fail, I looked at the checklist Lilla used to discuss the merits and drawbacks of each piece and I saw that even though my work had some of the elements listed, there were always a few missing.  The work reviewed often had a little something extra or something special about them that my work just didn't have (or doesn't have YET!).

It's also a matter of taste!  I know my work runs a bit dark (see troll and mash-up creatures), and Lilla represents some really joyful and happy art.  I'd like to make art that makes people feel joy, and I need to get back to that place.  I was there once.  Here's a throwback photo for you all.  This photo is from the RISD Graduate Student Publication "Making Something with Some Things" from 2008...

It's my entry into our class book.  I still haven't given up on that dream, I just got a little sidetracked is all.

So was it worth it?  Hell, yeah!

If you have any questions about the course or are considering it, but aren't sure, just send me an e-mail and I'll answer the best I can.  You can also write to the school itself, they're super helpful and friendly.
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