Introducing the AOI Mentorship scheme 2021

After a successful and highly well-received pilot, the Association of Illustrators are delighted to introduce their 2021 mentees!

This year we expanded and welcomed 15 mentors who are generously sharing their time and expertise with our community. Among them, we have (for the first time) 3 agent mentors who are supporting creatives interested in becoming agents themselves.

We know that we need diversity in all areas of our industry, and the Mentorship scheme addresses this goal. Coordinated by the AOI, the (free) programme is designed to further support and guide under-represented illustrators directly and intimately.

The 2021 mentorship is now fully underway. Meet the mentees!


Madeleine Allcock

Madeleine is mentored by Illustrator Camille Medina.

Madeleine: “I am delighted to be part of the mentorship programme. Camille is fantastic, helping me to work on my confidence, navigate the world of freelancing, and level up my portfolio. Her perfect balance of encouragement and truth have helped me spread my wings as an illustrator, and I’m starting to hear back from potential clients. For years, I was too scared to pursue my dream of illustration. I’m not letting fear hold me back anymore.”

Camille: “This is now my second year of mentoring in various settings and I find the whole experience extremely rewarding. What I love most about it is the dynamic between mentor and mentee where both individuals can learn from each other, and the fact that through listening, asking questions and the sharing of experience a person can come up with their own solutions and strategies for moving forward.”

Follow Madeleine and Camille online:
@madeleine.allcock | @camillesland


Gianne Amparo

Gianne: “The AOI Mentorship has been great so far- Owen Davey, my mentor, has given me some insight into his own illustration practice along with drawing tips during our sessions. A couple of weeks after starting, I signed on with a literary agent which was an unexpected surprise! It’s given me the boost to motivate my work and to keep on drawing.”

Owen: “I’m super pleased to be able to be part of this initiative, which is actively trying to encourage diversity and inclusiveness in the creative world. The illustration industry needs to be equal. It needs to be fair. It needs to be inviting and compelling to anybody and everybody who wants to make art. For the industry to truly thrive, it needs to share and represent the voices of individuals from all sectors of our societies.”

Follow Gianne and Owen online:
@gianneillustrates | @owendaveydraws


Emma Carpendale

Emma is mentored by Illustrator Laura Hughes.

Emma:I feel very privileged to have been selected for the AOI mentorship scheme, and to be mentored by one of my favourite children’s book illustrators has been a dream come true. Laura is a fantastic mentor; her experience in the industry and passion for illustration shines through. She has helped me define my strengths as an illustrator, encouraged me to try new things and from this I’ve started to create new work that I’m proud of. Even though I’ve only been on the scheme for a couple of months, I can already see huge improvements in my work and greater confidence in my abilities.

Laura: “Mentoring with the AOI has been hugely rewarding so far, and I’ve really enjoyed working with Emma over the last few months. She is enthusiastic, hard-working and is a brilliant illustrator! 

In the early stages of my career the help and direction of others was invaluable, so it’s a real honour and a privilege to be in a position where I can now help others too.”

Follow Emma and Laura online:
@emmaillustrates | @laura_a_hughes

Yellow Tiger

Yellow Tiger is mentored by Illustrator Jenni Sparks.

Yellow Tiger: “This amazing opportunity has already given me confidence to create work highlighting challenges I face as a single parent, and Jenni’s insights and experience have helped me to plan a path to the illustration career I want.”

Jenni:I am finding the AOI mentorship program a really fantastic experience as a mentor – getting to know Rachel and her work has been a wonderful experience and despite me having more industry experience, seeing her attitude and approach to things has been a breath of fresh air. It’s been fun brainstorming ideas together and has even inspired me to up my game a bit!


Follow Yellow Tiger and Jenni online:
@yellowtigerdesigns | @jennisparks


Leanne Coelho

Leanne is mentored by Agent Caroline Thomson from Arena Agency.

Leanne: “My experience in the mentorship with the guidance of Caroline Thompson has already helped me start to forge a clearer path to a successful children’s illustration career. The goals I set out to achieve are well underway and it’s exciting to see the development in my work that is helping me find my creative voice.”

Follow Leanne and Arena online:
@leannecoelhouk | @arenaillustration


Julian Gray

Julian is mentored by Illustrator James Albon

Julian: “It’s been amazing getting guidance from James as a more experienced illustrator, and I’m really excited to develop a graphic novel with his help. The artistic exercises he’s set me and the feedback I’ve had has already led me to take new approaches to scriptwriting, character design, and storytelling.” 

James: “It’s hugely interesting working with Julian as an AOI mentor, and seeing how he goes about developing his many exciting ideas for graphic novels. His fresh and insightful approach also gives me a valuable perspective for reflecting on my own illustration process.”

Follow Julian and James online:
@juliangrayart | @jamesalbon.illustration



Monsie (Monika Jurczyk) is mentored by Agent Ryan Claydon from JSR Agency.

Monsie: “With the help and guidance from Ryan, I hope to gain confidence in the business side of illustration and venture into the world of advertising.” 

Ryan: “Getting to know Monika and her work these past months has been an amazing experience. It’s a real pleasure to help build Monika’s portfolio, and navigate new areas of work for her. The world of advertising lacks diversity and inclusivity – especially the artists they commission – and the key decision makers are likely to be privately-educated and have studied at university. Helping a self-taught illustrator to navigate this hierarchical world, and hopefully get her portfolio seen and commissioned, is extremely rewarding.”

Follow Monsie and JSR online:
@iammonsie | @jsragency


Kateryna Kyslitska | Wind on Paper

Kateryna is mentored by Illustrator Willa Gebby.

Kateryna: “This mentorship is a huge boost of energy and confidence for me. Willa is brilliant: the support, insights and information I am getting from her are priceless. We managed to set up a plan and now I am not feeling that lost as I was before we started. It is still a long and scary way to go, but I am having high hopes on the outcome!” 

Willa: “I’m self-taught, so everything I have learned over the last 10 years has come directly from the illustration community. I became a mentor with hopes of feeding back into the community that has been so essential to me. I’ve really loved connecting 1:1 with Kateryna, especially during these isolated times. It’s fulfilling, but also really revealing, as I’d often be wise to listen to my own advice.

Follow Kateryna and Willa online:
@windonpaper | @willagebbie


Kulay Labitigan

Kulay is mentored by Agent Matthew Shearer from Berstein & Andriulli

Kulay: “Really grateful for this mentorship program. The exchanges with my wonderful mentor who takes time to listen and make sense of my meanderings, allowed me to have challenging conversations with myself. Inspiring me to revisit the realms my practice has chartered, which helps me discover hidden gems shining in the shadows of what I think I do. Not only that it is important for me to reach my artistic goals, but it is spiritually essential to keep me going and staying creative.

Follow Kulay and Bernstein & Andriulli online:
@kolor_lab | @BAreps


Sandy Leong Sin U

Sandy is also mentored by Agent Caroline Thomson from Arena Agency.

Sandy: “Mentor Caroline has given me the latest information about being a professional illustrator; she even introduced the difference between eastern and western markets. She encouraged me to expand the possibilities of my illustration. I’m trying to create various aged characters which I rarely did before, such progress has opened a new lens for me to explore and challenge myself.


Follow Sandy and Arena online:
@sandyleongsiunu | @arenaillustration


Kevwe Okiti

Kevwe is also mentored by Illustrator Marcus Marritt.

Kevwe: “Having a mentor means a lot to me, because I can have a direct conversation with a professional Illustrator to help me have a successful career in the industry. The experience has been great so far; it’s increased my drive and it’s helped make improvements to my portfolio, personal work and wherever possible. Thank you so much Marcus Marritt and The AOI.”

Marcus:I have long been an advocate of the AOI and all the organisation does to support the industry. Once I knew of the mentorship programme I jumped at the opportunity, to contribute in supporting and offering advice to someone earlier in their own journey as an illustrator. I am learning just as much from Kevwe as I hope he is gaining from this programme.


Follow Kevwe and Marcus online:
t | @marcusmarritt


Cecile Simonis

Cecile is mentored by Illustrator Cat O’Neil

Cecile: “The mentorship has been truly amazing so far. I was hoping to get help in changing the focus of my illustration practise towards entering the world of publishing and editorial illustration. Coming from the very different field of selling my illustrations through galleries and shops, I wanted to know how to approach the relevant people, how to present my work, how to pitch an idea, etc.  Cat is helping me with very practical tips and advice and has been incredibly generous with her time and knowledge. I benefit hugely from her sharing her experience and answering all my questions. I am also getting great advice and tips on publishing from her husband, James Albon. I can’t quite believe my luck and I really can’t thank them enough.”

Follow Cecile and Cat online:
@cecile.simonis | @catoneil.illustration


Kyla Tomlinson

Kyla is mentored by Illustrator Jacqueline Colley.

Kyla: “Having Jacqueline as a mentor has been invaluable. Being able to talk through creative challenges, getting an objective take on personal artwork has given me much needed energy and a new appreciation in what I do and how I do it. I’m loving every step of this!” 

Jacqueline:The mentorship experience has been great. We have different career paths in illustration but so many of the same struggles, so carving out regular time slots to talk about those obstacles (and brainstorm solutions as well as getting fired up about out central drive to make work) has been really fun. I always enjoy connecting with a fellow creative mind!

Follow Kyla and Jacqueline online:
@kylatomlinson_artistanimator | @jacquelinecolley


Margarita Turbinina | Maggie Roman

Margarita is mentored by Illustrator Adriana Bellet (Jeez Vanilla).

Adriana:“Having come into illustration in my late 20s and without formal education to back my new pursuits, my career would not have taken off without the help of the people that gave me my first opportunities – with little to assure them I would be able to deliver-; those that took the time to explain how the industry works when I was completely lost and confused; and those who held my hand and told me it was going to be OK when I was about ready to give up. So being able to share some of the hard learned lessons from my early days (and not so far removed) in the industry in hopes that someone (Maggie) might skip the heartache seems to me the absolute best way to pay it forward. Also, is there’s anything more fun than getting to geek out on all things illustration with someone that loves it just as much as you do?”

Follow Margarita and Adriana online:
@maggie_roman_illustration | @jeezvanilla


Valeria Weerasinghe

Valeria is mentored by Illustrator Dave Bain.

Valeria: “I am very happy to be part of this program and to have the talented Dave Bain as my mentor. So far Dave has given me some great advice, the work we’ve been doing is very specific to the goals that I have set for myself and this is something that I was really looking for in a mentorship.

Dave: “Mentoring an illustrator, like Valeria, who is passionate about her practice and striving to improve her portfolio is incredible to be part of. For me, being a mentor is as much about listening and understanding as well as relating your own experience and advice. Navigating the world of illustration can be daunting – so building up a network of key knowledge via mentors and industry organisations is such a good way to chart these waters.”

Follow Valeria and Dave online:
@valeeeria | @davebainuk

AOI would like to thank all 2021 Mentors and Mentees for your kind words.

Meet the 2020 Mentees here.

Learn more about the AOI Mentorship and our 2021 Mentors here.

The AOI Mentorship scheme is one of the many benefits offered by the AOI. Find out more about membership today.