Make Art That Sells, Week 1: Paper

I’ve gone back to school! But not the kind of school you’re expecting– that’s boring.

Last March, I signed up for Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells e-course. Lilla Rogers Studio is my DREAM agency (I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that as I’m already represented by another agency!) and Lilla reps a few of my favorite artists (among them, Jillian Philips and Mike Lowery). Lilla is one of the world’s top illustration agents and I tell you, I see her artists’ work on products all the time, even here in Manila. You know her artists and the studio must be really successful and get a lot of projects if their work is that far-reaching.

When I found out that she was running an e-course on how to make your art more commercially viable, I immediately signed up (I found out about the course late at night and registered for the class the next morning). It’s the next best thing to being represented by her agency– I haven’t tried submitting my portfolio to them for consideration as I know my work needs to be at a certain level of quality– a quality I have yet to reach.

The course is split into two parts, 5 weeks each part: Part A covering Bolt Fabric, Home Decor, Children’s Picture Books, Wall Art, and the Gift market. Part B covers Paper, Baby Apparel, Scrapbooking, Editorial, and Party Paper. You can opt to take both parts, or just one. As the course costs a lot of $$$ (ka-ching!) and I can only afford to take one part, I opted to take Part B as it covers illustration markets that, 1) I am most interested in, and 2) I think my illustration style is best suited for. I’m not very interested in home decor and wall art, and I have since found out that I do not enjoy illustrating for picture books (stuck on the same project, drawing the same characters consistently in different poses for months on end = nah).

The class started four weeks ago. The first week covered Paper– specifically, making illustrations for greeting cards, a huge industry that buys artwork (in fact, just yesterday, my agency sent me a notice that a greeting card company bought one of my illustrations). We get an assignment each week, and the assignment for Paper was to make a holiday card featuring ornaments and/or candy. We were to make two cards, but submit only one in the class pool.

This is my first card:

Blog entry: Make Art That Sells Week 1: Paper

You don’t often see gingerbread houses (or even gingerbread) here in the Philippines.We had an intern at work once who brought in a large and elaborately decorated gingerbread house to the office– my officemates and I were so fascinated by it as it was the first time most of us had seen one. I think we ate it for days.

That gingerbread house became the inspiration and focus of my card design. That, and the idea of a world of candy. When I was 9, I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 version with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka). As someone with a major sweet tooth, the thought of being surrounded by so much candy and chocolate really captured my imagination days, weeks, and even years after watching the movie. I remembered that childhood fascination as I was doing my card. I set my gingerbread house against a snowy, winter background as winter holidays is apparently a top-selling card theme.

Blog entry: Make Art That Sells Week 1: Paper

I had fun adding minute details to my card, really enjoying the process, never mind that it took a lot of time to get all the details in.

For my second card, I still couldn’t shake off the idea of gingerbread, so I designed a card with that theme as well. I ended up with gingerbread letters spelling out “Ho ho ho” because that means I only need to draw two letters, as opposed to “Happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas” ;P I’ve always wanted to decorate cookies (but just decorating– I’m not interested in baking them) so I’m glad I got to do that with digital icing, at least.

Blog entry: Make Art That Sells Week 1: Paper

I finished the second card in one sitting because I took some elements, used (mints and jellies) and unused (snowman, candy canes, jelly beans) from my first card.

But I only needed to submit one.

Blog entry: Make Art That Sells Week 1: Paper
(I adapted the design of my second card to fit a vertical orientation)


I ended up submitting my first card since I put in more time and effort on my gingerbread house, even though I like the second card better. In hindsight, I should’ve gone with the second one as Lilla reminded us to “design a card you would enjoy giving to friends.” I would definitely send out the second one instead of the first. In fact, I might actually send it out as my holiday postcard mailer for clients abroad 🙂

I’m already on week 4 of the 5-week course and gaining a lot of insight on different markets for my work. Each week I also end up with commercial-ready work I can add to my portfolio (maybe with a few tweaks here and there). I’ll be sharing my work from and thoughts about the class in succeeding days/weeks.

Next up is Week 2: Baby Apparel 🙂

Read about my Make Art That Sells series of blog posts
Week 1: Paper
Week 2: Baby Apparel
Week 3: Scrapbooking
Week 4: Editorial
Week 5: Party Paper
Bonus: Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells: a review