My Experience with the Internship/Mentorship at Travis Foster Reps

After 15 years of working as an adult, I finally came to a realization. I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing. Drawing has always been a big part of my life, but for some reason, I could never fully commit to it as a career. 2016 was going to be the year I made a change. I was going to start a new career as an illustrator. But how do you do that? Especially at the age of 38 with two middle-school kids at home and a mortgage? The odds weren’t in my favor. But with as much faith and optimism as I could muster, I started looking for illustration work. Fortunately, I had always done some freelance work on the side, so I kind of knew where to look. Kind of. It was in this frantic search for something (anything) that I came across an ad from Travis Foster. I clicked on the ad. What was this internship all about? Would it help? Would I even be accepted into the program?

From day one, Travis has helped me grow as an artist. In one of our first conversations, I confessed my fears about really being able to pull this off. Travis told me, “You can totally do this!” He also asked for something. He asked me to be patient with the process. He warned that I may not be able to understand some of the excercises he was about to put me through. Like Karate Kid, I might be learning “wax on, wax off” and not understand its future application. But fortunately for both of us, I didn’t find myself in a place to question his methods. I needed to work. I’d never been able to make more than a few thousand dollars a year (usually less) from illustration. If Travis said jump, I was prepared to ask “How high?”

Fast forward to today. I have a brand new portfolio with 50 images in it. These are images that are the product of sending Travis sketches, getting approvals, making corrections, and moving a piece to its final stage. The process mirrors the relationship with a potential client. Being responsive. Learning to make a sketch and send it off and not fear the corrections that might be required. It’s not a judgment on my talent, it’s about what the client (or in this case, Travis) wants. I also have an emerging list of client contacts. I am in the process of sending the portfolio out and tracking engagement through my website’s “dashboard.” Art directors are seeing the image in my e-mail and are going to my portfolio. In other words, it’s working.

Illustrating as a career is not for everyone. It’s more than just liking to make art. You have to like being your own boss. You have to like customer service. You have to be willing to invest time in non-creative pursuits like writing e-mails, creating spreadsheets, and doing research about the industry. Some folks would rather just draw for fun or on the side and there’s nothing wrong with that; I did that for most of my adult life. But for those of us who are ready, who know we have a divine calling to illustrate, I can think of no better place to start than with Travis Foster Reps. If you do your part, Travis will do his. And together, you’ll plant seeds, water them, and begin to see plants sprout.

John Haney, Image created: July 11, 2016