AOI Mentorship Scheme 2023: Meet Andrés Palacios

The 2023 AOI Mentorship scheme is fully underway, and we are proud to introduce and champion this year’s mentees in a new series of interviews. A free program first introduced in 2020, this initiative champions a select group of 22 underrepresented illustrators, empowering them with dedicated support and guidance in the course of six months.

Andrés Palacios is an Illustrator based in Guatemala, paired with mentor and Illustrator Ben The Illustrator. Continue reading to learn how his mentorship is going so far, his key takeaways from the experience, and much more.

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

Being part of the mentorship for me is a mixture of two things: Gratefulness and disbelief. Let me explain – First of all, I feel extremely grateful for having the opportunity of working closely with an illustrator who knows the ins and outs of the industry, not only that but for his kindness and time as well. Ben (my mentor) has been nothing but encouraging and open with me. Second, I can’t but feel a little bit of disbelief just because, in the vast world we live in, my story resonated with the team at the AOI. There are infinite unique and inspiring stories out there, and the fact that the AOI saw the potential in mine makes me feel very blessed.

Again, thank you to the AOI and Ben for this exciting opportunity, this will help me grow both as an artist and on a personal level as well. Hopefully, I can pay it forward in the future!

How has the mentorship helped you tackle your goals? In what way(s) has your mentor supported you?

One of the main goals I have tackled so far within the mentorship is how to efficiently communicate with an Art Director; from ideation all the way to completing the project. Ben and I did a mock project: Ben was the Art Director and I was the illustrator. Ben assigned me a brief, in which he gave me a set of guidelines I had to keep in mind when executing the project. We exchanged emails as if this was a real commission, which in turn helped me practice my communication and freelancer skills. 

We were able to chat about the good, the bad, and the beautiful of being a designer. Midway through the sessions, I already feel even more able to navigate the industry.”
– Andrés Palacios

After the project concluded, Ben and I had a discussion in which we talked about the learning points of the project and what could be improved. It was very fun to complete this exercise, especially after Ben mocked up the illustrations in the cover and article of the publication. We also talked about the business side of the interaction: Letter of agreements, contracts, invoices, etc. Which was really insightful and will help me in the future as I grow my freelance business. 

Overall Ben has been very encouraging and helpful, apart from being an extremely talented artist, he is also a very kind person. 

“I’m really enjoying working with Andrés this year, not just because he’s a brilliant illustrator, but because he is a pleasure to chat with and he’s really striving to build an enjoyable and professional life.  This is my second year mentoring with The AOI and it’s interesting to see the different challenges illustrators can face when getting to know the industry. Looking ahead I’m sure Andrés has an exciting career ahead and I look forward to seeing where he goes”
– Ben The Illustrator, AOI Mentor

What has been a key moment or takeaway from the mentorship so far?

I think that one of my biggest takeaways from the mentorship so far is that a freelance illustration career is not only possible, but also lucrative. I have come to understand that half of the work is illustrating and the other half is reaching out and communicating with your clients. This second half is very important and as Ben has told me: always be polite and friendly. This might seem like an obvious thing to most people, but I have noticed that this makes a huge difference when it comes to creating relationships with clients and fellow creatives.

Another key moment from the mentorship was actually discussed almost at the beginning of the program. I was asking Ben about his own practices as a freelancer and what advice he would give me about having a freelance illustration business. He mentioned something I really liked: “Find a way to not get bored of illustration and therefore, quitting.” Sometimes our passions can develop a bitter taste when we start to associate it with work, but Ben has come with a creative solution to this problem. He has his core portfolio and he also has a more “experimental” and fun project on the side. On his website he has a “Ben Draws” and “Cover Versions”, two projects that allow him to be more experimental and freer with the way he approaches his illustrations, which I think is a very clever thing to do. 

I’m really excited to keep working with Ben, I have really enjoyed our conversations thus far.

Thank you Andrés for taking the time to give us this interview. See more of his work on his website and Instagram

Keep checking our Mentorship section to meet more mentees!

Learn more about the AOI Mentorship and our 2023 Mentors.

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

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