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Alumni success ‘spotlight’ interview with Lisa Larsen


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


Lisa Larsen Portrait Lg Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Lisa Larsen

Today, we have an interview with Lisa Larsen, who has taken Bootcamp, Mats-A and the Global Talent Search

How did you get started in art and design?

Art is something that has always been part of my life. I started painting as a child and throughout my life as an adult I have taken many art education courses, participated in several art shows, founded a couple of art rubber stamp and greeting card companies, and so on. However, I truly started my career as an artist and designer after I retired from 25 years of working in high tech. I decided I wanted a life where I do what I love, meet fabulous people to work with, can make my own schedule, work from anywhere I want to be, and where I can expand in any direction I am inclined to go. A wonderful friend and illustrator suggested I take one of Lilla’s classes, and so I did. I use Lilla’s courses as a guide to my career as an illustrator and designer.

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

I LOVE to draw, to design patterns, to get lost in gardens, to work with people to help them reach their dreams. GARDENS bring me joy. Travel and experiencing other cultures brings me Joy. Learning new things brings me joy! I think I am in the right place ☺.

portfolio bolt fabric Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Lisa Larsen

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

At the moment I would say my favorite markets are the bolt fabric and wall art markets. I love making patterns and I really enjoy painting floral and travel scenes in watercolors. I say “at the moment” because I have spent a ton of time making repeat patterns as a result of the Mats-A course and freelance work, so that is where I am comfortable now. Wall art is something that has been part of my life for years and will likely continue to be forever.
Ask me in three months and my answer will be different!

What are you working on currently?

I just finished a set of stained glass designs for a paper die company, illustrated a children’s book, and completed a set of repeat patterns for a new client. I am currently working on a number of designs for a wholesale manufacturer for the tourist gift market, on a travel inspired set of coloring books, and on a collection of repeat patterns which I want to license in 2018.

portfolio coloring book spread Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Lisa Larsen

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

I took the bootcamp course early on and learned that I had a lot to learn! Seriously, the bootcamp class exposed me to many markets, to amazing illustrators, and to Lilla’s critiques of the work that was submitted. It was really wonderful to see we can make beautiful and interesting things with the skills we already have and that there is no need to wait in fear that our art is not good enough.

MATS-A has provided a more in depth view of several markets. I have taken my time with this self-paced course, and chosen to really dive into each market, do the assignments, and then go find work in those markets using the MATS-A work as part of my portfolio. By doing work in the selected markets for real clients, I both build up my portfolio and continue my learning journey. This approach gives me some hands on experience which also helps me understand what I truly like to work on.

A couple of things really stand out from taking these courses:

  • Getting professional inputs on what works and what doesn’t, how to make things better, what people are looking for, is invaluable. It really helps to point us in the right direction.
  • Doing minis as part of a warm up before tacking big assignments helps get rid of artist block, gets some of the practice sketches out of the way, and helps converge on how to tackle the big assignments.
  • This is a JOB not a HOBBY! That means deadlines, professional work, hours and hours and hours of elbow grease in order to get somewhere.
  • You are only as good as you are today. Work with that. The more you do, the better you get.
  • I could go on, but people will stop reading ;).

portfolio baby journal Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Lisa Larsen

How have the classes helped your artwork evolve/grow?

Lilla’s reviews are key. We get so used to our own work that we don’t see how to improve it. Listening to the reviews gives me specific things to look for and improve. The Facebook group is incredible as well. So many people from all over the world are so willing to provide feedback. I love this.
Taking these courses really helps polish my pieces and helps them stand out in each market. We get to hear about what the buyers want, we get to see what is trending, we get to listen to constructive feedback, and most of all, we have to actually DO an assignment. There is no substitute for hours of work.

Any Aha moments during MATS you would like to share?

I guess my Aha moment was seeing how really simple icons can be combined in incredibly powerful ways. Rather than looking at a finished piece as though it is this crazy hard thing to achieve, I now think of it in terms of all of the little components that come together into the final design. Not much different than any other project really, but for some reason, I had not thought of it in art!

What are your key successes since taking the MATS class?

I’ll speak to both bootcamp and MATS-A. The first really great thing that happened was I got the chance to create two coloring books for adults for Kalmbach Publishing. Someone at the company saw one of my pieces on social media and got in contact with me. I am now designing a collection of travel inspired coloring books which I hope to place with another publisher in 2018. After finishing the bolt fabric assignment, I started looking for repeat pattern work. I did several freelance small jobs which helped increase my skill level with the Adobe tools which I now use almost with my eyes closed. Shortly after, I was contacted by a company that manufactures their own fabric patterns and sells products made with their fabric. I have been designing regularly for them for some time now and hope the first products will be out in the October timeframe. I am now designing a wonderful nature inspired collection which I hope to be able to place with a company that sells into the quilt market.

After finishing two sessions of children’s book illustration courses and sending many applications out, I was contacted by a published author to illustrate one of her books. The piece that got me the job was the spread I created for Mats-A. The book is now on Amazon and is called “Oma is 100”.

portfolio childrens book Make Art That Sells Alumni success 'spotlight' interview with Lisa Larsen

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

I would tell any artist or creative person who has a desire to start a career in illustration and design that this is a very worthwhile investment. It will not only open your eyes to what is available out there, but will help you figure out how to apply what you know to the different markets. It is full of pertinent information, uses a proven method to help you develop your skill for each market, helps you figure out what market to focus on, provides an unbelievably awesome support group, and is just so inspiring.

These courses are not just an “art class”. They truly help launch your career as an illustrator and designer.

What is your dream gig for your artwork?

Just one? Here are my top few:

  • Get my watercolor orchid collection licensed by someone like Crate and Barrel, West Elm, Pottery Barn.
  • Get my nature inspired collection of bolt fabric patterns licensed by a large bolt fabric manufacturer.
  • Do stickers and bedding and clothing for children! Land of Nod or Oopsy Daisy.
  • More coloring books for adults – this may be fading, but I have some awesome travel inspired designs in the works.

See more work here: Website | Facebook | Instagram



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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