Heading to Art Bootcamp

[This post was originally published on my old blog site April 3rd 2017]

It’s like that first day at school. You walk into a room not knowing anyone. That little voice in your head asking a hundred questions every minute. “Should I have started this? Will this help me? How will my style fit in? What is my style? Will this help me find my style? Am I out of my depth here?  Am I just going to show myself up? How can I compare to the talent in this place?”.

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Welcome to Bootcamp! This is no ordinary school though. This is a portfolio boosting, illustration and surface pattern design course developed by the Make Art That Sells team with artists agent Lilla Rogers at the helm. The idea of the bootcamp is that you are provided with weekly assignments and mini missions that will help you build up a body of work for your portfolio.

So let’s get down to popping those fear bubbles that Little Voice was shouting about earlier.

Should I have started this? 

Within a day I knew I had made the right decision to sign up. Why? It’s the Bootcamp community. Saying hello and sharing our explorations and mini assignment sketches, catching up with each other on Instagram.

For me I have literally just started on this road of dedicating time to exploring and sharing my hand drawn creations. I know a few wonderful artists but I’ve been hanging out with the stitching kids for the last six years. To get in the zone you have to find your tribe.As soon as I entered that virtual classroom of the Facebook group, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with incredible pieces of art. Absolutely wonderful!

Will this help me? 

Yes, yes, yes! Let’s open the door on my creative life for a moment.

LBB (Life before Bootcamp):

Picks up sketchbook. Roots around for a biro. Casually doodles random thoughts. Sketchbook closes & shoved to side of desk where it eventually gets buried beneath a pile of hospital letters, half finished sewing patterns and a half eaten packet of sweet and salty popcorn.

Jumps in and out of numerous online classes desperately seeking the ever elusive creature known as “my style”.


Supplies restocked and accidentally duplicated. Ah well, those paint tubes are teeny tiny. I’ll soon blitz through them with all these upcoming assignments! Treated myself to new materials and promise solemnly to use Christmas and birthday gifts of watercolour paints and screen printing kit.

LDB (Life during Bootcamp):

Digs out seven different sketchbooks (with only the first few pages doodled on) that have been hoarded over the years after buying three shiny new ones to celebrate Bootcamp sign up. Now all stacked on a dedicated shelf.

Carry around mini sketchbook and commit to drawing not just daily but whenever I get a moment. As soon as my eyes open in a morning I reach for pen and paper to sketch or scribble a texture down.


Our first mini assignment was to look for patterns. I find myself hunting around the house like an intrepid explorer zooming in on succulents, brickwork and garden moss with my iPhone camera. You can tell the level of this new found obsession when I pause an XBox game to snap an in game wall texture for pattern inspiration.

How will my style fit in? 

It is intimidating to see all that colourful, amazing art work flood your Facebook feed in the first moments of joining up to the dedicated group. But then I realised something. There were people in this group just like me, starting out on this journey, never having made a pattern collection nor shared their work to such a large audience before. As for the seasoned MATS and illustration pros, well it’s nice to get into the mindset that these are the people you can aspire to be like if you so wish. Personally I’m admiring their styles, their work methodologies and their dedication to what they clearly love to do. I intend to learn from these brilliant and creative souls, with a determination to emulate their passion on my journey in this illustration world.

What is my style? 


Now this is one question that has haunted me from the moment I decided to share my work on social media. First rule of social media – share your style. Yeah, that’s tricky when you’re first starting out. I came to the conclusion that I’m simply going to be sharing my story and my style, in time, will appear once I’ve amassed a body of work. Until then I’m taking great joy in experimenting with every medium and style around. The bootcamp mini and main assignments are fantastic at motivating you to create work around a theme. It’s a fantastic sand pit to be playing in!

Will this help me find my style?

Within the first few weeks bootcamp motivated me to leap out of my comfort zone. It sounds so cheesy but I continue to face my fears when it comes to what I make. Signing up and actively participating has enabled me to carve out the time to try new paints, pens and illustration styles. I’m making sure I spend every morning   putting pencil to paper for assignments or personal art projects. I’m finding my style by experimenting with all my might.

Am I out of my depth here? 

At the start I felt like that kid in the swimming pool with double armbands, a pool noodle and a rubber dinghy, floating off into the deep end, a look of sheer panic across my face. Comparison with other bootcampers fed that panic and fear of not being good enough. When the mini assignment was issued I kept questioning whether I was completing the task in the right way. I stopped playing to those thoughts by sharing my progress along the way, both in the group and on my Instagram.


How can I compare with all this amazing talent in here?

In the first month of bootcamp I had my perception changed, my attitude altered and my creativity flourished. It wasn’t clear how the minis would fit into the main assignments at first. They felt like strange ingredients for an, as yet, unknown recipe. I duly followed along and found myself viewing the world in a totally new way. It really was a surprising eye-opener. My attitude was that my drawing and painting had to be a separate part of my life, nicely filed away in the “artsy fartsy” drawer of my filing cabinet life. How wrong I was. It’s only now, as I write this one month into art bootcamp, that I can see how my creativity has always been there and weaves throughout my daily life. It also has every right to be there, not just something I dabble in or toy with when I catch some “hobby time”.

As for comparison? Well, nothing was as scary as sharing that final mock up of a backpack. I puzzled over whether it would lose me points (on that imaginary scoreboard) for not placing my design on a perfect photo mock up. I did it my own way, in a style that I felt most comfortable with and guess what? Every submission to the Bad Ass Backpack gallery was unique, colourful and reflected the artist’s nature so well.

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I named my final piece Adventurous Spirit. Rather fitting for this first part of the bootcamp journey don’t you think? Sometimes it takes a mission, a goal shared by a group of people with similar passions, to give you that boldness, that permission if you will, to embrace your adventurous spirit and see where it takes you.

You can check out all the wonderful work from March’s bootcamp assignment in the gallery here.

Until next time, happy sketching!