Finding a Mentor


  • SVS OG

    alt text
    Art by Marta Kitka

    Art mentors can supercharge your career and teach you the tricks and shortcuts you need to hit the ground running. But how do you convince someone to take you on as a mentee? This week Jake Parker, Lee White, and Will Terry discuss the perfect way to approach a potential mentor from a pro artist’s perspective. They also discuss email templates that you can use when reaching out to new potential mentors!

    Click here to listen, and read the shownotes.



  • Looking forward to listening!
    @Marta-Kitka I'm in love with this illustration 😻 😻 😻



  • @Marta-Kitka This is one beautiful illo.

    Just finished listening.
    Was pretty helpful.
    The lists of what to keep in mind when reaching out was so good by all of you.

    I also agree with @Lee-White about the getting back after you receive help.
    Just be human beings fellas.
    Cheers to all!


  • SVS OG

    I never liked the assignment "interview a pro in the industry" because it puts the burden of teaching on that professional, to take their time for free. The student is already paying a huge fee to the college to learn, the professor or school should be providing the opportunities. Bring in a pro artist to interview (and compensate them). Or better, change the assignment to fit modern times, like Jake talked about. Watch a pro's videos and research content they already put out there.

    It's good to reach out to others in a field you want to grow in, but I think this type of assignment is not the way to do it is all. This podcast is a much better guide on how to make a mentor connection more naturally. It's not likely to happen as a time-sensitive questionnaire.



  • This is a great episode gents! Also love the artwork @Marta-Kitka!

    I’m 41 and new to illustration, but absolutely loving the learning process. My career is in engineering, which I have a mentor in; however, I have yet to pursue a mentor for my illustration for the following several reasons:

    1. Still taking SVS Courses and absorbing so much! The classes feel like mentorship to me because I’m learning things I wouldn’t even know to ask!

    2. My fellow SVS students feel like unofficial mentors always lending a hand and offering constructive criticism. This forum is GOLD because of the community.

    3. I’m not sure I’m ready for a mentor yet, but I’m strongly considering a professional portfolio review. I love my pieces, but they just aren’t making the sweet 16 cut. I’m not disappointed but always looking for opportunities to improve.

    @Jake-Parker, Please, please, PLEASE!!!! Teach me 10 Free Classes! (Smile)

    Kidding aside, another great discussion!

    @Will-Terry, Congratulations on Kickstarter campaign and book launch!!!



  • Great episode as usual.

    I thought I chip in with my mentorship experience.
    I took a few classes with SVS last year. The subscription classes at SVS are gold and packed with so much information, but what really does it for me was seeing Lee paint-over my artwork during interactive classes I took - a completely eye-opening experience for me when seeing a pro artist helping me to think/paint from my perspective, and fits with my intension. Since then, I have kept my eye open to find opportunities to get similar guidance with my personal artwork.

    At the beginning of this year, I received a stipend to go to the Bologna book fair which I could spend on perfecting my portfolio. I wanted similar guidance as SVS's interactive classes, but with my own portfolio piece. I did not see SVS has offers that fit my needs. Then I discovered the mentorship program with Giuseppe Castellano at IllustrationDept. I listened to every episode of Giuseppe's podcast and did my research, and I signed up for a 3-month mentorship program with him. I worked on my portfolio with his help, but more importantly, he also taught me new ways to observe the world and gave me new perspectives on art, illustration, creativity, agency hunting, and the children’s book publishing industry. He is the perfect mentor for my needs, at the right time.

    Now I signed with an agency and started working professionally as an illustrator. I went back and started a one-year mentorship program with Giuseppe. Having someone who is as experienced as him to talk about the industry, art-making at beginning of my career really makes a huge difference for me. When I started my mentorship, it was not very clear to me what I want to do with art and illustration (I am still exploring). Giuseppe has been a very good teacher asking me the right questions, and provide me relevant information I did not know existed.

    Mentorship relation is very personal, a perfect mentor for one person may not work with others. But I highly recommend people seeking out mentors one way or another, seeking out multiple mentors if you can, formal or informal.

    I also see Lee is my virtual mentor ( I think he probably does not know about that). I watched how he combines gallery fine art and book illustration in his career, which is very inspiring for me. I am very curious about his new gallery space and hoping to hear more about that in this podcast at some point in the near.


  • Pro

    Super interesting episode! I've been thinking about mentorship a lot lately and this discussion helped deepen my thinking. I've been really wanting to start a Youtube channel and create an online program to help new illustrators with the business side. I love to talk about this and help people out with this, it's something I'm so passionate about (why you think I hang out here bothering everyone with my 2 cents on every post haha...) But at the same time I feel like my knowledge falls much too short to be a mentor yet and that I still myself need mentorship to improve. After listening to this podcast I'm leaning towards the conclusion that there are different levels of mentorship, and that even while still learning myself (I think I will get some help from Giuseppe too, @xin-li ! Your positive experience has encouraged me!), there might be *something I can still help someone else with. Though I'm just a beginner pro (a baby pro!), for someone who's just starting to think about going pro and doesn't know where to be begin, they might find something of value even from my yet incomplete knowledge. I think I am going to take the plunge and start a Youtube channel for 2021!


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Quick question, would you guys want us to offer a 3 month/6 month mentorship program? Love to hear your thoughts. I'm open to discussing it for sure.



  • @Lee-White absolutely.



  • @Lee-White Yes, I would be very interested to hear more about this. After listening to the podcast episode, I have a large interest in seeking out a mentor in the next year or so.


  • Pro

    @Lee-White I'm personally looking for more of a one-time thing that I can get periodically to check in, like a personalized portfolio review that I can buy every year. I would LOVE if SVS offered that! But that's mostly because I'm a very self-motivated, self-starter kind of person so I don't need ongoing accountability, plus I have a wonky schedule. I'm actually not every a regular subscriber here, I like to get a la carte classes whenever I have no projects lined up for a few weeks 🙂 The 3/6 months mentorship would be a really great fit for many people though, I think! I'm sure loads would be interested!



  • @Lee-White I would definitely be interested in something like that, where there is discussion in the beginning, time to work on what was discussed, and feedback on the work - if it’s going in the right direction etc.

    I’m at the point where I’ve found a process that I really enjoy, but I would like feedback on what works and what doesn’t. I was studying under a pretty traditional illustration teacher who used watercolors, and once I decided that I just wasn’t enjoying the process of using watercolors and switched to more print based work, he didn’t seem to know what to do with me and just shrugged off my questions, answering pretty blandly like ‘it’s good’. I found it very unhelpful and pretty discouraging! So I do think it’s really important to find a mentor who works in a similar way that you would like to, or at least one that appreciates and has a taste for the type of work you want to do. I know there are many artists out there who work with the types of media that interest me (oil mono-printing, screen printing, collage), I just need to find some who have put out info that I can learn from and ideally one to give feedback!


  • SVS OG

    @Lee-White Definitely! The shorter mentorship would be easier to commit to, and I bet a student would grow a LOT in that timeframe, based on experience from past live classes. Even the short personal feedback in those helped me build confidence and skill.



  • Quick question on fox anatomy - is the foreleg/paw meant to bend that way???



  • Hi @Lee-White, definitely think that would be an excellent opportunity!



  • Great podcast! Always full of good info and lots of laughs. I'm with @xin-li in that I feel the SVS instructors are my mentors right now. It would be awesome to have an option to invest in mentorship sometime down the road, though my goals are a scaled back version of a full-blown career.



  • @Lee-White Yes. Absolutely yes 🙂 Though I'd be interested to hear what kind of price point you guys would set for that much of your time!



  • @Lee-White Now that's an intriguing possibility.



  • @Lee-White Yeah I think that would have a lot of value.

    I also really like something similar to what @NessIllustration is talking about. I would love to have a sounding board to get pro-level feedback on and also just help brainstorm about some of the next steps in my own career. Sometimes it's a struggle when you just don't know what to do next to keep leveling up and working towards those long term career goals.



  • Once again an excellent podcast! I enjoy learning from these while I draw.

    Crazy concept on mentorship that I just enacted this season: has anyone ever approached their customers as mentors? I select 10 past customers and ask them to critique my newest work. Customers are rarely artists themselves, and this limits their visual literacy, but, ultimately I am producing art for a particular market and it's surprising how willing that market is to tell me what they don't like or what they really want. For example I drew a friendly bird and one reviewer said it looked "sinister" - that's some important feedback right there! And it's good to see when everyone loves a piece, or laughs or whatever reaction I was hoping to get! I think some of them appreciate being asked their opinion and are happy when I edit the piece with their suggestions incorporated. Plus then they actually want to buy the piece, sometimes.

    Another thing I do, instead of directly emailing THE person I wish were my mentor, or the company I wish I could work for, is to find interviews with them online. My mentor creates tutorials, has been on art podcasts, in magazines, and wrote their own books so I buy those and learn from them. I'm surprised but typically she always has a response online somewhere to all those nagging questions in my head. 🙂

    Also, twice I have Facebook messaged questions to a couple of would-be mentors, and they both got back to me with short but helpful responses, so if you're looking for something real quick and it's not on their FAQ or books, you never know, that famous artist may reply after all!


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