AOI Mentorship 2022: Introducing Jane Sunbeam

The 2022 AOI Mentorship scheme is now fully underway! First introduced in 2020 and expanded in 2021, this free program is designed by the AOI to further support and guide under-represented illustrators in an intimate and supporting setting.

Leicester-based illustrator Jane Sunbeam is one of 17 new mentees selected for this year’s edition, paired with mentor and Illustrator Laura Hughes. We learn how her mentorship is going so far and what she’s hoping to achieve in the months ahead.


What does being part of the AOI Mentorship mean to you?

I was delighted to be selected as a 2022 mentee and to be paired with Laura Hughes, whose colourful and energy filled illustrations I love so much. To have one-to-one mentorship from an industry expert over several months is a real privilege, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be given this opportunity. It has already led to so many breakthroughs and has helped me climb creative obstacles that I thought were unsurmountable. 

What has the mentorship been like so far?

The mentorship so far has been fantastic! Laura is such a nurturing mentor, and I can’t believe how much I’ve learnt in the past few months. I’ve always struggled with imposter syndrome, but increased health issues and chronic pain have left me exhausted and I’d lost even more of my confidence. Now Laura and I are identifying my hopes and aims, detangling my processes, experimenting with new approaches and integrating these with existing practices to form the essence of my creative voice.

Laura has helped me conquer my fears and our regular catchups mean I never feel alone or lost. She has helped me stop feeling overwhelmed by breaking down tasks into smaller manageable stages, setting clear briefs and guiding me back on track when I find myself veering off onto side roads. I can already see a huge improvement in my work and I’ve become so much more confident in expressing ideas and opinions. Our sessions together are always uplifting and I have pages of feedback, notes and new ways forward at the end of each zoom call.

Character Development work and progression from quick sketches to initial colour explorations

For the mentorship, we decided to focus on one character and take her right through the picturebook process – from quick character sketches and narrative to page design and full spreads. Laura has given me so much valuable advice and tips to help me work more efficiently with my energy and my poor, neglected lightbox has become my new best friend! I’ve loved getting more dynamism into my figures and I feel as though I am mastering my longstanding challenge of character consistency! In the remainder of my mentorship, I’m looking forward to delving into colour, experimenting with different media and creating a world for my little character to inhabit. 

I’ve been blown away by Laura’s generosity of time, energy and expertise – in addition to our zoom sessions, Laura gives me comprehensive written feedback on my work and meeting notes. She also checks in mid-way between our sessions and provides additional feedback, all of which is beyond my hopes for this mentorship. I am so grateful that Laura is giving so much of her time to my journey – it’s given me a huge boost of confidence to keep going and plough through my creative blocks. Thankyou so much Laura, it’s been an incredible adventure so far and I’m really looking forward to the rest of our time together. 

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the mentorship?

By the end of the mentorship, I hope to have a more unified working practice and am aiming to have a character sheet demonstrating variety of poses, two full colour spreads, plus a great deal of development work for use in publicity. I will also use all that I have learnt on the mentorship scheme to create additional characters and rework existing projects in readiness for approaching publishers and agents in early Autumn. 


We’d like to thank Jane for her time in giving this interview. See more of her work on Instagram.

Keep checking our Mentorship section to meet more 2022 mentees!

Learn more about the AOI Mentorship and our 2022 Mentors.

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


25th March 2022
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