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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

That's a Lotta Hotta Art! (Part 1)

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

2019 was a year of education through the courses I took at Make Art That Sells online curriculum. Here is a recap of my assignments in all the 5 hot markets wherein artists are meant to thrive.

Hot Markets

One of the online course offerings of Make Art That Sells aptly called Hot Markets for Your Art Part A and B is a series of self-paced classes designed to help artists build their portfolio that would fit all the different lucrative markets. Participants were treated with comprehensive insider guide to making art that would sell.

"Pots and Pasta" | Watercolor | 2019

Bolt Fabric

In this first lesson, we learned how to create patterns that can be used for making bolt fabrics, those fabrics used by quilters, dressmakers and general hobbyists. Following a prompt about kitchen, pastas and Pyrex, we were asked to make one main pattern design and coordinates that do not necessarily match but form a cohesive presentation. We may also choose to suggest the usage of the patterns as in a mock-up apron or mittens, but I personally opted to present just the patterns.

In this assignment I challenged myself to create simple icons, independent objects that can easily be moved around or resized. I also picked a color palette that I would not usually pick. The result was a minimalist pattern of pots and pastas.

Additional coordinates to the main pattern "Pots and Pasta"

Home Décor

Home Décor is one of my favorite courses in the whole of MATS. In this class, we were tasked to create plates using Staffordshire ceramic as motifs. This allowed me to research extensively about the pottery technique, designs and origins. A little bit of history and literary contemporaries around the popularity of the pottery also helped me create one cohesive collection. The idea was dancing, eating and drinking, as how Jane Austen would describe it. To be honest I just wanted an excuse to create products for any Regency era fan.

"Having a Ball" home décor presentation page | Watercolor and digital collage | 2019

Children’s Books

The story we were to interpret was to me unheard of: The White Cat by the Comtesse d'Aulnoy. We were tasked to create either a scene or a cover. After reading the tale, I chose to work on a cover, as I would like to develop my character first and the idea of a wise but devious cat intrigued me the most. The heroine must be elegant, poised, with intelligent eyes, a balloon dress fit for a princess and a knife to suggest the brutal ending. From the very beginning I knew that my look would be dark and gothic but was careful not to scare my young audience. I added tidbits from the story without giving away so much about the plot. The lettering for the title also played a role---all white and bold. I searched for a font that would complement my design and copied it by hand, which rendered the text raw. I combined traditional and digital art by compositing every element in Photoshop--a technique I will be employing in all my art making activities for MATS.

We were also taught to do a squint test to see if the image would still pop even with our eyes half closed in a similar way to minimizing the image to a thumbnail size. You want your cover to stand out even when lined up amongst hundreds of picture books on a shelf and on an online store like Amazon. In my head, a book cover is also akin to a movie poster: catchy and straightforward but teasing.

Cover art for "The White Cat" picture book illustration assignment

Wall Art

Collage was the main exercise in this lesson for the wall art market. Coming straight from the MATS Illustrating for Children's Books courses, I was encouraged by our mentor, Lilla Rogers, to have more of the art direction I took on my book cover submission in my portfolio. Inspired and pumped up from the last live review, I thought of making a piece similar to that book cover.

Though we were asked to create a collage, I opted for a subtle mixture of media. Personally I wanted an elegant composition I could look at for a long time---something one must consider when creating wall art pieces. Using my newfound watercolor technique, I painted a white cottage surrounded by a landscape of fall trees and added a texture from a microfibre cloth, scanned and composited in Photoshop. A bird I used from a previous homework flew in useful as a foreground image in the composition. Finally, a handlettered text, "Change is Good" accentuated the autumnal landscape and aptly echoed my then sentiments on the evolution of my style.

"Change is Good" | Watercolor and collage | 2019

Gift Market

In this last round of Hot Markets Part A, I've embraced my maximalist tendencies. For the gift market course, zipper pouches was in fashion as well as uber luxurious imageries. We were even encouraged to recycle older artworks to make our collage design more extravagant. What came to mind was Florida and flamingos, sunshine and polka dots.

Since the beginning of this course, I've amassed alot of icons and patterns that became quite useful for this exercise not to mention my collection of old bird watercolor artworks. I also gathered all of my crafting and beading trinkets and photographed or scanned every little thing that may come handy. At this point I am already becoming an expert in applying my artworks onto mock-ups and had a bit of fun in designing my presentation page.

Just the beginning...

Finishing the top 5 markets was such a relief and quite inspiring. It was also a good idea to approach this series of lessons after having completed the previous MATS courses that were more extensive, which made tackling the assignments much easier. It does not end here, though, for there are more hot markets out there that needs exploring.

In the next post, I will be talking about my experience on the other 5 hot markets for illustrators such as myself who are trying to break through this lucrative industry.


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