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Alumni success ‘spotlight’ interview with Annabel Tempest


We are so proud of our Make Art That Sells Alumni, and we are pleased to feature a series of spotlight interviews showcasing their successes and artwork. We’ve asked them to share how the MATS courses have helped them learn and grow. You can see more Alumni Success stories here


Today, we have an interview with Annabel Tempest, who has taken ALL of our MATS courses –  Four Years of Bootcamp 2014-2107, MATS A and B several times, Creating Collections for Home Decor and entered the Global Talent Search two years in a row. Annabel is celebrating many successes and particularly the three children’s books she illustrated!

Profile image A.TEMPEST Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Annabel Tempest

Tell us a little about how you got started in art and design

Ever since I was a little girl my favourite thing has been drawing, cutting, sticking, colouring in, making and doing. So I suppose I started then! I feel so lucky that my job is essentially doing what I love most in the world. I did a degree in Fashion Textiles in Bristol UK back in the olden days. When I left University I showed my textile portfolio to someone who said they didn’t want to be rude but my designs looked more like wrapping paper. I love wrapping paper so undeterred I sent my work off to greetings companies and soon started selling designs for wrap and cards. I’ve continued to do that for the last twenty years alongside all sorts of other work and projects.

Lilla always says “People buy your joy.” What brings you joy?’

Lots of things bring me joy, swimming in the very cold sea, dancing in the kitchen on a Friday night, early morning walks in my wellies with my two Jack Russell’s, bedtime stories with my boys, wearing my tutu and of course delicious new art supplies. Creatively I love a really juicy new brief, it’s that fizz of adrenalin that you get when you think you’ve come up with a really good idea and tingle of excitement when you’ve made, designed or illustrated something that you are so pleased with you can’t stop looking!

1.ANNABEL TEMPEST SEAFORCAT 5B WK2 Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Annabel Tempest

Which is your favorite market(s) to design for and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to work in lots of different markets so it’s hard to pick. At the moment I’m really loving the world of Children’s Picture Books. I really enjoy surface pattern, but I think I bring a lot decorative and repeat elements into all the illustration jobs I do. So I think there is a lot of crossover. As Lilla would say “ It’s all about the icons. Icons, icons, icons.”

What are you working on currently?

I’ve literally JUST finished my third title ‘The Jungle Book’ for the heavenly BabyLit Books published by Gibbs Smith. I illustrated ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Moby Dick’ for them earlier this year, which have just been released. My brilliant agency ‘Bright’ threw a launch party at ‘The Bright Emporium’ with the lovely girls from ‘38a The Shop’ who wrote and designed the books. It was gorgeous, full of confetti balloons and packed to the rafters with little crafters making wooden spoon Bennet girls, eating Moby Dick cup cakes listening to the stories and posing with Mr Darcy. The party was such a lovely unexpected bonus after all the hard work. And all the books sold out!

2.PP and Moby D Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Annabel Tempest

What are some of the key things you have learnt from the MATS experience?

With Lilla’s courses every brief starts with a ‘Mini’. A chance to loosen up, explore and enjoy the subject matter before you dive into the main brief. This has been a revelation, and such an important tool to take away for me. As rather than being overwhelmed by the mammoth, daunting task ahead, you’ve already spent some time messing about, having fun without worrying about the final product. So you’re up and running seamlessly into the main brief full of inspiration and ideas without the anxiety of a blank piece of paper staring back at you demanding a final artwork.

How have the classes helped your artwork evolve /grow?

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is being much more thoughtful and selective with my colour palette. I love colour and before I started Lilla’s courses I tended to throw all the brightest colours of the rainbow at something, no muted or muddy contrast for me! Now one of my favourite things is picking and working with quite a minimal colour palette. It’s somehow quite liberating being constrained by a few colours and I think it gives my work a stronger overall look.

3.ANNABEL TEMPEST DANDYLION 3B WK5 Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Annabel Tempest

Any aha moments during MATS you would like to share?

I did MATS B for the first time back in 2014 and Lilla set us a brief to look at local flora and fauna for ‘paper products’. I felt rather dispirited as it was November and anyone who lives in England knows that this time of year can be a bit grey and brown. I was amazed that when I really looked there was so much more than mud and dead leaves. I came back from walks with armfuls of seedpods, berries, thistles and dried flower skeletons. It really opened my eyes to all the wonder and inspiration that can be found right under our noses when you really look.That was my aha moment, when you look, REALLY LOOK. I did one of my favourite pieces that week ‘Dandy Lion’

What are your key successes since taking a MATS class?

The reason I took MATS courses was in order to build my portfolio to a point where an agent would take me on. It worked! I’m delighted to say that I have been with Vicki Willden-Lebrecht’s agency ‘Bright’ since February 2016. And being commissioned to do three titles for BabyLit has been amazing. Fingers crossed they’ll ask me to do another! I’m currently working on something with Simon & Schuster which will be ready for the Bologna Book Fair which is very exciting. I think also it is the unexpected successes too. I did a Somerset map in the Editorial week of MATS B and before I knew it I was selling prints of it at Christmas Markets. A local tea shop, ‘Living Pretty’ stocked them and when the owner Kate Macy opened a pub ‘The Firehouse Somerset’ she asked me to do all the branding for it. An fabulous but rather terrifying proposition. But a year and a half on and it’s covered in busy waiter badgers, wine pouring pigs, pizza flipping foxes and ponies in pearls. ‘The Firehouse’ has just won ‘Best Newcomer’ at The Great British Pub Awards.

4.A TEMPEST A Very English ABC Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Annabel Tempest

How would you describe taking a MATS class to a fellow artist looking to develop their art

Taking MATS classes are so much more than brilliant inspiration filled briefs, and the rollercoaster adrenalin ride of getting your final piece in by Sunday evening. It’s the AMAZING MATS community and all the wonderful opportunities, connections and friendships it opens up. The highlight of 2015 was ‘The Global Art Gathering’ in Brighton. It was incredible to meet so many of my online friends in person and of course Lilla. I also met the glorious Margo Tantau, and went on to do ‘Creating Collections for Home Decor’ MATS course run by Lilla and Margo. At the same time I met brilliant Zoë Tucker, and the following year did the MATS course ‘Illustrating Children’s Books’ with Zoë and Lilla. I also met the lovely Rachael Taylor and wonderful Beth Kempton, co-founders of MATS sister company ‘Make it in Design’ and have had the pleasure of attending some fabulous design inspiration days with them. Having just finished Beth’s book ‘Freedom Seeker’ I was spurred on to sign up for her ‘Freedom Seeker’ workshop. So many avenues of possibility and adventure from signing up to do one on-line class!

What is your dream gig for your artwork?

This is an easy question. My Dream gig, is to write and illustrate my own children’s book and then take that artwork onto lunch boxes, pyjamas, postage stamps, cuckoo clocks, teapots and suitcases. Oh and then if someone could commission a children’s television series, that would be perfect. Dream BIG.

See more work here: Website | Instagram| Twitter

For publishing enquiries please say hello to my agent Arabella Stein at [email protected]


Do you dream of illustrating a children’s book? Would you love to create a magical world with characters that you’ve designed? Do you love the magic of children’s books and feel that you have something to offer? Then this course is for you.

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