• Leanne Coelho

AOI Mentorship

Updated: Apr 7

Last year I got a membership newsletter email from the AOI announcing that applications were open for the 2021 AOI Mentorship, I thought I'd missed the deadline, but luckily I was wrong! As a serial overthinker, I thought I'd spend days agonising over the application letter, but it all sort of fell out fairly easily and once that was done I sent the application off without much thought for whether I would really get it.

So I was beyond excited when I opened an email just after the new year saying that I had been chosen to be one of the 2021 mentees!


I was introduced to my mentor, Caroline Thompson from Arena Agency and after our fourth Zoom meeting, I am so grateful that I was. She has been brilliant with helping me get out of my head and I think the most pivotal thing that I've realised since starting the mentorship and working with Caroline is that good illustration, especially for children, is not about showing how well I can draw or simply drawing a lot of pictures, but really thinking about why I'm drawing it in the first place, what kind of story I'm trying to tell and why it means something to me.


I had fallen into the habit of sketching in the evenings on my iPad, which although not necessarily a bad thing, was leaving me frustrated with the art I was producing. I felt like I was furiously trying to find my creative voice and Caroline suggested I go back to physical sketchbooks and pencils. It is something my wife had suggested numerous times before, so when I took Caroline's advice without hesitation and explained excitedly to my wife the positive difference it had made to my work and the way I think about it she tried very hard not to say I told you so.


In the application letter for the mentorship, I needed to outline 3 goals I wanted to achieve with the help of my mentor. My goals were:


1. Finish a dummy book for Bologna Book Fair

2. Refine my portfolio and online presence showing a clear visual language

3. Research and be prepared to approach a curated list of agents, publishers and clients.


I feel well on my way to achieving all three of these goals, which is a huge achievement for only a few months. I am incredibly grateful to the AOI who have always been a tremendously helpful resource and to my mentor, Caroline for being honest with her feedback, helping me get out of my own way and always being open to my sketchbook spam in her inbox.



*Update Since starting the mentorship, I have been featured on the AOI website in this article, finished my first picture book as an illustrator working with Anna Granger, a self-published author (that will be published this summer) and have been featured on our local radio station, you can hear the interview here.


I have also started creating little polymer clay characters from my sketchbooks, after Caroline suggested making things. As a grown up child, I'm not sure I ever needed an excuse to play with what is essentially playdough, but it has been so much fun creating these!

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