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.
Hayley Chan is an Illustrator based in London, UK, paired with mentor and Illustrator Willa Gebbie. Continue reading to learn how her mentorship is going so far, her key takeaways from the experience, and much more.
What does being part of the AOI Mentorship mean to you?
Being part of the AOI mentorship has been so crucial for me. It could not have come at a better time as I’d reached a point in my illustration career where I wanted to take things to the next level but wasn’t sure how to get there. For a while now, I’d been struggling to gain clarity on where my work sat commercially and to build a portfolio geared towards that.
It’s been a huge confidence boost to have Willa, my mentor – being such a successful illustrator and someone so knowledgeable about the industry – to crit my work. She’s really brought a much needed fresh perspective. We’ve had 3 meetings so far and I’ve already learnt so much and feel as though I’m moving in the right direction, whereas before the mentorship, I’d been feeling a little stuck.
“When we started, I felt that Hayley already had a style and portfolio that was ready to go, but she seemed to be quite distracted by the many possibilities for her illustration. Her confidence and energy had dipped. We’ve worked together to try and rediscover Hayley’s voice, and refocus on commercial areas that match with her own creative goals.
I think this is a common thing for all of us. It’s so easy to look at what other illustrators are doing, or what’s trending, and think ‘Oh, but I could do that’. But that’s a quick route to becoming unhappy with the quality and content of your work. Hayley has the advantage of having a second income, so we’re focussing on a long term strategy alongside her short term ambitions.”
– Willa Gebbie, AOI Mentor.
How has the mentorship helped you tackle your goals? In what way(s) has your mentor supported you?
Willa encouraged me to pause and think about what I actually enjoy illustrating and what my work is all about. I realised when I sat down to do that, that I hadn’t been entirely sure lately! Spending that time made me realise that I love illustrating contemplative, calm and everyday moments. And focus on work which represents the outdoors, nature, wellbeing and everyday life.
Some of these themes are already present in my work, and now I want to do much more of these. This lead nicely into figuring out the kind of work I’d like to pursue going forwards, like editorial and books to start.
I’d also like to connect with other creatives of colour; those who have experienced anxiety, lack of self esteem, and/or are introverted, and to build a network and a supportive community. Funnily enough, I’d been following an illustrator’s meet up called Yo Illo on Instagram for months but (letting anxiety get the better of me) hadn’t yet made it to a meet up. When I started the AOI mentorship, I was so pleased to find out that Willa founded and runs Yo Illo! I went along to a meet up and really enjoyed it – highly recommend it to other illustrator’s looking to connect with other creatives.
“When I applied for the AOI mentorship I didn’t think I would be selected and I couldn’t be happier and grateful that I was. I’m hoping to take this and keep it front of mind once I start reaching out to new clients.”
– Hayley Chan
What has been a key moment or takeaway from the mentorship so far?
A key takeaway for me has been to always go for those opportunities, like this mentorship, even with those doubts or fears in your mind. When I applied for the AOI mentorship I didn’t think I would be selected and I couldn’t be happier and grateful that I was. I’m hoping to take this and keep it front of mind once I start reaching out to new clients.
Another takeaway would be to seek out other illustrators and creatives, especially in moments of stagnation or loneliness. ‘You’re not alone!’ and I’ve always found illustration to be such a supportive community. If you don’t work from a shared studio, illustration can mean many hours of solitude, which even though I enjoy, I’ve now learnt needs to be balanced out with a good creative network too.
Thank you Hayley for taking the time to give us this interview. See more of her work on her 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.