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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

That's a Lotta Hotta Art! (Part 2)

Continuing my commercial art education in 2019 through the courses I took at Make Art That Sells online curriculum, I have compiled here the pieces I have created for the Hot Markets Part B classes.

Self-paced Slack

It took a lenghty hiatus from the Part A and the last MATS live class, Home Décor Plus, before I worked on the Hot Markets Part B. The problem with self-paced online classes is that we tend to take our time for granted. Why? Because there is no accountability attached to it. There are no deadlines nor live reviews, which was a very good push to any MATS student. Admittedly, I was also brain drained from making so much artworks in the last months that I gave myself a break, about two months, which turned out to be nearly fatal because I almost did not finish the entire course. That was part of the challenge, though. After all, no one else would benefit from this other than myself, right?

With just a few weeks left before the online classroom closes for all MATS My Year of Art School 2019 enrollees and before we depart for the Christmas holidays, I forced myself to complete the last round of the Hot Markets for Your Art series, which is the sequel to the much-loved series of self-paced classes designed by industry expert, Lilla Rogers, to help artists build their portfolio for 5 of the most lucrative markets: stationery, baby/children’s apparel, scrapbooking, editorial (magazines), party paper.

Stationery Market

The first assignment in Hot Markets Part B is for the stationery market and cookies were to be the source of inspiration. I must admit, it was quite difficult to control the urge to grab a handful of baked goods from my cupboard with my ongoing diet and all and so I just relied on Google to fend off the desire to binge eat. Finally I've found a beautiful image of a plate of cookies with royal icing decoration of bird and baubble motifs and made several sketches from it.

"Turtle Doves" holiday card presentation page | Watercolor and digital collage | 2019

The assignment was to design holiday greeting cards without being too specific although a Christmas theme was implied. We learned that bird motifs are always a good way to go and so I went for a concept about turtle doves sending messages of joy, love and peace as the main design and a technical repeat pattern of other icons to compliment the card layout. Of course, hand lettering is a necessity and the color choices were controlled and subdued hues of reds and greens, which was a concious decision to veer away from my typical bright color palette.

Baby Apparel

Ah, the market I was trying to avoid because of my motherhood issues, which goes deeper if you know my medical history. Once I cried in the department store at the baby apparel section because the sight of those adorable clothing just hit my then fragile heart hard. But a professional knows how to separate their personal life from work and so I pushed forward to finish this assignment. All throughout MATS we were also taught to discover what excites us most in any of the exercises. It so happened that I was looking for opportunities to draw divination and essoteric symbols and was always curious about how I would render the icons. Fortunately the theme was all about lucky charms!

In my library is a book about symbols and so I began my research with that and sketched while I conceptualize my approach to the assignment. Unicorns, elephants, scarab beetles, rainbows and stars were all in the lineup. I've also made a bold decision to use even more subdued colors with just one color pop, hot pink! I was thinking of sophisticated tastes with a touch of kawaii---the kind of mothers who would let their children wear a little black dress or bowties. Nevermind that motherhood issue---I want that lucky mushroom dress in my size!

"Lucky Charms" baby apparel presentation page | Watercolor and digital collage | 2019


Though the assignments were designed accordingly, I did not particularly follow the order of the syllabus because I was following my intuition and practicing my free will. The scrapbooking assignment was the last in my agenda and boy did I give my all to it. It was such a joy to illustrate summer beach and cruising holiday themes and fill up a page. In fact there are a lot more icons that I did not include here anymore. Also I was getting closer to our Christmas holiday at the beach in my tropical country and that state of mind helped me push through crunch time.

The highlight for me and the most fun part was the paper doll section of this scrapbooking assignment, an idea that came to me the last minute. If I was planning a cruise trip, I need to plan my outfit as well, and so a paper doll would be a good idea on my scrapbook album. Immediately I was nostalgic for I used to make my own paper dolls.

"Bon Voyage" scrapbooking presentation page | Watercolor and digital collage | 2019


Right after our very inspiring MATS Editorial Live in June, I skipped the other assignments in Hot Markets B and went straight to the Editorial market but got stuck for some reason. I heavily researched about my current city, Johannesburg and played around the concept of "Egoli" or a place of gold. However there are just so many things to include that relates to this concept and the landmarks are either too cramped in one area or too far away from the city centre (Johannesburg CBD), and because of its dark history, aka Apartheid, I was also cautious about the elements I would include or exclude. I asked the locals' opinions. Illustrating maps involve complicated problem solving.

So then I tried to focus on a city of gold, hence the dominance of the gold color, which I painted with gold, by the way. Also I wanted it to look like a collage artwork and much less of a real touristy map. After leaving it on the shelf for 6 months, I looked at it again and decided, I didn't want to change any of it except for some minor tweaks on textures and color adjustments. In this post, I discussed more about my process in making the illustrated map of Johannesburg.

"Johannesburg: City of Gold" | Watercolor and digital collage | 2019

Party Paper

For the last assignment in the party paper market, wherein we were tasked to create designs and patterns for paper plates, serviettes or paper cups, the visual cues came from Ukranian and Bavarian folk art. Having lived in Germany for four years, I was naturally inclined to pick "Bauernkunst" or peasant art from Bavaria as my source of inspiration and my German husband as a reliable source of ideas.

He suggested a "Wolpertinger," a popular folk mythical creature that is said to inhabit the Bavarian forests. What a brilliant idea to jumpstart my concept! A winged Jackalope creature was my first drawing and everything came after that: flower and bird motifs based from regional furniture and home decor designs, the Bavarian blue and white lozenge pattern as well the gingham patterns typically seen in Dirndl dresses and shirts during the Octoberfest season. All my photographs from our trips to Munich and the Alpine region likewise were finally usable.

"Folksy Life" party paper presentation page | Watercolor and digital collage | 2019

Mission Accomplished

True enough, no one else benefited from these exercise other than myself. After months of continuous conceptualizing and illustrating, I have aquired a collection of icons, patterns and more importantly, professional looking pieces for my portfolio that I could later distribute to prospective clients.

I came into this class without knowing anything about which market to target and now I came out having a clearer direction in how to tackle each one of them. There has been growth not only in my professional practice but also my personal style and because of that, I take off my hat to my mentors and give myself a pat on the back for doing a great job in my virtual art school.


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