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My Middle Grade Mentorship Recap!

At the end of June, I started a 5 weeks middle grade mentorship with Lissy Marlin (aka Lazyfishy). I was so excited to start the mentorship as Lissy is a prolific middle grade illustration, that has worked in the industry for so many years. I was really looking forward to seeing what she had to say about my portfolio and what I could improve so that my art could reach the next step on my journey!

Mentorship Overview

Before we started the mentorship, Lissy and I had a one hour Zoom call where we talked about my goals for this mentorship, what to expect with assignments, and any other questions that I might have. A lot of the previous art courses that I took the past few years left me wanting for more. Having a set curriculum where everyone does the same thing with little to no feedback made me feel like I was wasting my money. I always love learning, but I needed something that was tailored for more experienced artists, not students. Talking to Lissy about my goals and aspirations was so great because it meant that she would direct her feedback and assignment requests on my specific needs. Her one-on-one approach was amazing and I really felt like she understood where I was coming from and what I was going for. Overall, it made me feel like I was working exactly what I wanted and needed to, without wasting time on things I didn’t care about.


The first part of the mentorship was to set expectations on what I wished to accomplish during the process. I was clear with Lissy that I wanted to push my middle grade portfolio further and I also wanted to work on color palettes that were less “expected”. I wanted to push my compositions for cover illustrations as well, as I find that it is much harder for me to create an interesting composition when I am bound to a physical cover that will include text, spine and other elements. With that in mind, we started working on a mock cover that I’m now super proud to include in my portfolio!

Character Sketches and Cover Studies

The character sketches for my cover. Lissy mentioned that I needed to age up my characters for middle-grade, so we worked on making them a bit older. I decided to add a bit of whimsical fantasy with a magic owl, but keeping the characters fairly modern.
I did some cover studies from middle grade illustrators that I absolutely love. I chose covers that had interesting color palettes that I wouldn’t normally think of, while also taking note on how they were shading their work. One of Lissy’s comments was that my work was looking a bit younger because my shading was quite soft. So this is now something that I’m trying to work on, while adding texture to my work as well.

Rough Cover Sketches

The following week, I worked on some very rough compositions for the cover. I had a brief that Lissy handed me, with description of what the mock book is about, the two main characters and the mood of the book, which guided me for the cover sketches. Because of my goals and what I wanted to take from the mentorship, Lissy decided that the best cover for what I wanted would be #3. I still like all of the other ones, and I think I might end up reusing them for something else!

Clean sketch and color compositions

After getting feedback on my rough sketches, I took Lissy’s notes and drew the final sketch with values. I also worked on some rough color ideas, keeping in mind that I wanted to work on unusual colors. This being a night scene (so that the owl can pop), my instinct was to go for blue, but I pushed myself to find interesting color palettes. Ultimately, we both agreed that #1 was the best out of all of them and it was now time to bring this to final!

Final Cover illustration

And here is the final! This was designed for a dust jacket, so the illustration spreads out a lot. I’m very happy with the final result and Lissy’s feedback throughout the mentorship really helped me to think about elements that I wouldn’t normally pay as much attention to. Her dedication to storytelling and representing the book as best as possible really made me think about new ways to approach cover art. I’m really excited to see what comes next and I will practice everything that I took out of that mentorship!

Final Thoughts

I found this mentorship incredibly helpful. Lissy’s experience in the publishing industry and her great insight was amazing. I liked that what I took from it wasn’t necessarily skilled-based, but rather about the way to think about cover illustrations and how to translate an entire book in one image. I’m excited to see what comes next, until then, time to draw!

It’s also important to mention that this very website has been redesigned with Lissy’s comments in mind. I have made it more interesting by adding this blog and tailoring my home page with some of my best work along with a bit of info about me!

If you read through the entire article, thank you! If you want to be updated whenever I post, please sign up for my newsletter down below. I can’t wait to share more exciting news with all of you! Feel free to comment down below and let me know what you would like to see moving forward!

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