Q&A with Lilla – Part 3 (from MATS A)

question of the dayWALL

Our ‘Q&A with Lilla’ series is back! This is where we share questions from the previous class of Make Art That Sells.

In Lilla’s Make Art That Sells classes she often gets asked about how to sell work in particular markets, so we thought we’d share some of those questions and answers with you.

The next Make Art That Sells classes will start 2 March, 2015 and registration is open here.

You can see what a wide variety of topics are covered – and you might even find the answer to that burning question you have been wanting to ask! These questions were asked during the MATS Part A class last year.


Q. Do you think children’s ebooks are a good market for artists to approach?

A: It starts with the printed book. Then, the publisher may elect to produce the title as an ebook if all goes well. We haven’t done much with e-books.

Q. I’m used to having a feedback loop in my design process where I get the brief and then I do subsequent presentations to get feedback from a client before finalising a design. It seems like it is often the case that artists create their own work and submit it for consideration by manufacturers. You talk about using our own taste and aesthetic to guide us. Is there anyway to hone that skill and assess ones own work? I’m used to thinking about others perceptions of the work, how do you shut off and clearly see the work on it’s own terms. Are there any tips to get to this sooner?

A: I wish! You’ve articulated the issue very well. Keep exposing yourself to great work, and also hide yourself away and keep making work you like. The MATS course is the perfect way to do that.

Q. I create work in different styles from abstract mixed-media paintings to detailed pencil illustrations and digital collages. How can I achieve a cohesive look for example at trade shows? Would it be wise to show a variety of styles or do you suggest to just focus on one? I want to be a consistent brand and not give an unprofessional impression to potential buyers.

A: It’s not unprofessional. It’s fine to show variety if that’s who you are right now. Own it. See what work clients love and let that be a guide. Over time, all your different media will coalesce into one style. This happens as you do many, many pieces, so you must be dedicated to that and not give up. Once you have a cohesive style you can continue to use a variety of media.

Q. Could you name other home decor companies other than the biggies (Crate N Barrel, Anthropologie, West Elm) that license art?

A: Midwest CBK, Demcaco, Magnetworks are a few. To get more, you would exhibit at Surtex or walk the Atlanta Gift Mart, or simply go to shops, turn over products, and find names of companies.

Q. I am just starting out as an illustrator. Is it better to focus all of my efforts solely on one of the markets and try and get work in that area? Or is it better to try lots of the markets all at the same time?

A: It may be too early to make that decision. Make pieces you love. See where it leads you. At the same time, think about homing in on a few markets. You’ll learn with my courses that the work you do for one market is very applicable to a handful of other markets.

Q. After doing how many thousands of hours, at what point do you say ‘this is not my thing’? I would love to create the next Hello Kitty, Mr Men or Peppa Pig type character. I have worked on assignments, enjoyed, got frustrated, but always returned and am excited by improving my previous pieces, but this week is different. Is it possible to have success in this area if your drawings are quite frankly rubbish, no matter how hard you try?

A: Wow, lots of good, important questions. I always think that if you really love making art, and are open to learning and looking, and are willing to work hard, you will succeed. It must be a top priority in your life like any other business. The focus on creating the next Hello Kitty is probably unrealistic, and keeps you from letting your work inform you on what amazing things you will come up with. Who knows where it’ll lead? That’s what’s so fun about this career. It takes wonderful twists and turns and you get work in areas and for projects you never knew existed!

And finally, it’s not possible to get work in this or any area if you drawings are “quite frankly rubbish no matter how hard you try”. That’s why I made this course; so that you can improve your work. But it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Think about Olympic athletes. That’s kind of what you are. You are in training.

Q. I would love to hear more about the artist/artist rep relationship. I’ve often heard it compared to a relationship that is similar to marriage. When is it time for an artist to seek representation? Artists can be temperamental and emotional people. Do you try and get a sense of the artist’s personality and business skills before you take them on? Or do you really focus mostly on their portfolio?

A: We absolutely look for someone who will be a pleasure to work with, not high maintenance, and very professional. Life is too short for aggravation. At this point, we know how to spot red flags. As for what time to seek representation, there’s no rule. When you feel you have a body of work that an agent can effectively license or commission from.

Q. I like using fabric and magazine paper in collage, however it brings up issues of copyright. How much of an image is acceptable to use, and is it just better to design your own patterns and collage with those?

A: Yes, design your own. Do not use anything current. Best is to use Dover publications. Read the rights usage information listed in the books or CDs. If in doubt seek professional advice from an intellectual property lawyer or an organization like ACID (Anti-Copying in Design).


Got your own questions for Lilla? Join us for the next round of Make Art That Sells. Class begins on Monday 2 March, 2015 and registration is open here.



  • So many great questions, and really informative answers. Thank you MATS peeps and Lilla.

    February 20, 2015
  • “You are in training”. I loved that. Thanks.

    February 20, 2015
  • Just piping up to say how much I appreciate your posts, and I’m with VirginaRomo, its rather fun thinking like an Olympic trainee.

    February 20, 2015
  • So helpful Lilla!!! xxx

    February 21, 2015
  • Such helpful advice; always. I get new excitement each time I come to your site/class/video…it’s all great to me. THANK YOU.

    February 23, 2015

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