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.
Saahia Mayenin is an Illustrator based in London, UK, paired with Agency mentor Arena Illustration. Continue reading to learn how their mentorship is going so far, their key takeaways from the experience, and much more.
What does being part of the AOI Mentorship mean to you?
It truly means the world to me! This mentorship has found me at such an important time, both in life and in my career as an artist. I feel it’s given me a space to reflect and focus on why I make art, what I enjoy creating and what I want my work to say.
I’m so happy to have Caroline from Arena Illustration Agency as my mentor. With her extensive experience and knowledge of the industry, she always offers a fresh perspective and the clarity I need to ground myself. I feel more confident as an illustrator and am inspired to keep improving!
“Mentoring Saahia has been a pleasure. She’s always enthusiastic and has embraced the challenges I’ve given her so far, especially when I’ve encouraged her to leave her comfort zone a bit and not to be afraid of making mistakes.
Often we want to run before we can walk and that’s so often the case with new illustrators, especially as they are bombarded with social media posts that convey an Artist’s success without any reference to the hard won journey (and mistakes) it took to achieve their goals. Hopefully, I’ve given Saahia some confidence to have the courage of her convictions, as well as some strategies to take the next steps towards building a lifelong career as a creative. I’m excited to see her develop her work further.”
– Caroline Thomson, Arena Illustration – AOI Mentor
How has the mentorship helped you tackle your goals? In what way(s) has your mentor supported you?
What I hoped to work on more than anything during the mentorship was to develop a stronger creative voice in my work. Focusing on developing my visual language by expanding my daily practice in all areas, not only by making finished pieces, has been a huge step for me. I feel like my sketchbook work has become more intentional now that I’m actively trying to go out of my comfort zone. Nothing seems too boring to draw anymore and I’m really beginning to enjoy drawing all kinds of things from observation just to learn. It’s been fun to find new ways of representing the world in a way that’s unique to me!
I recently landed a job as a 2D Artist and Character Designer in the games industry, so Caroline has been helping me balance everything. After work, I now set time aside to work on portfolio pieces and personal projects, like working on products to sell at art markets and conventions. Or I take time to just relax and draw for myself – making fanart for something I’m inspired by usually leaves me feeling recharged to continue my other pieces. I’ve also been working on a book cover brief provided by Caroline which has already taught me a lot about book cover illustration! I’m grateful that the support I’ve received so far has not only been concerned with illustration, but also about the personal side of things, like maintaining my wellbeing, motivation and inspiration.
For me, everything in life comes back to my art and this mentorship has really helped me find balance and engage with my artistic practice. I’ve realised that working to my strengths and following my interests are just as important as using my skills for work. I try to remember to have fun with it, to think and sketch through ideas and keep being curious about the world.
What has been a key moment or takeaway from the mentorship so far?
There have been so many ideas buzzing in my mind since we started as I learn more about myself and my practice. I know I am at a point of great change and I have to remember to be patient with myself. Being an artist means constantly going through a cycle of learning and then trying to catch up with what you have learnt. But that’s natural! Focusing on growth rather than perfection is something I have to remind myself of.
Above all, I realised that I should never limit myself. Whenever I have an idea, Caroline always tell me to go for it! Her words ‘You can draw a dream,’ have really stuck with me and they encourage me to never give up on my ideas.
“For me, everything in life comes back to my art and this mentorship has really helped me find balance and engage with my artistic practice. I’ve realised that working to my strengths and following my interests are just as important as using my skills for work. I try to remember to have fun with it, to think and sketch through ideas and keep being curious about the world.”
– Saahia Mayenin
Thank you Saahia for taking the time to give us this interview. See more of their work on their website, instagram and twitter.
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.