The Emotional Coaster Ride known as The Global Talent Search

So the emotional roller coaster ride begins…

GTS Submission: Irene Chan

My Final Submission at Lilla Rogers’ Global Talent Search

Entering Lilla Rogers’ Global Talent Search is my goal of the year. In fact, I joined MATS A and Bootcamp classes because I wanted to join GTS! It is my dream to be represented by Lilla, and joining GTS is probably the one and only way to seek this opportunity nowadays.

I don’t know the actual number, but according to the GTS fan page, there are 999 artists/submissions all around the world who joined GTS. Three rounds of assignments will be given: The first round of assignment will narrow the competition down to 50 participants. The second round will narrow the competition down to 5, and they will pick the winner in the third round. The winner will win Lilla’s representation for 2 years, and a bunch of licensing deals, including a mini fabric line, a home decor line, plus many more wonderful things, including an all expenses paid trip to UK. Wow, right? This one person will win it all! It is pretty much the kick-starter of an amazing illustrator career.

Here is the first round:

Topic: Little Terrarium
Market: Wall Art (Children or Adult)

Terrariums are beautiful “potted plants” grown inside a glass container. Google the term and you will see beautiful images. This is a very “flexible” topic as you can pretty much draw anything that is in your imagination. You can draw one terrarium, 100 terrariums, a world within a terrarium, a terrarium within a terrarium. Terrariums dancing and having a party, terrariums fried rice (?), terrarium played by Liam Neeson, terrariums…

While I love the topic so much, I was a little bummed out by the “Wall Art” market. I felt like we have done 3 assignments with wall art since the beginning of Bootcamp to MATS A, so this will be the 4th one!  And as always, I am very intimidated with “wall art”. I always identify myself as a designer and illustrator, not an artist. Creating art is such a professional term, and I feel very insecure about it.


I have always wanted to draw a portrait of our family, and I really wanted to do it with this assignment. I started out with creating a magical environment within a terrarium bottle, and then I sketched a common scene in my family – reading a book together about choo-choo train before bedtime. It is a very iconic moment in our lives at the moment, and I am sure many families have this mundane yet memorable moment as well.

Global Talent Search: My sketches

Left: I tested out the color palette in Adobe Illustrator; Right: Mother and Child in watercolor, which wasn’t used in the final piece.

I wanted to grow my watercolor portfolio, so I chose to paint with watercolor for this assignment. I first worked on a color palette on Illustrator. I have chosen a color for every element before I break out the brushes! So basically I did a “paint by numbers” approach, which came out looking pretty great! And yes, I love that gouache-like quality, it just gives a whimsical and surreal feeling to my scene.

Global Talent Search: My many drawings and printouts

Global Talent Search: My many drawings and printouts

I quite like how the bottle scene ended up looking like, but the watercolor family didn’t quite fit in. It just became very busy visually . The lack of contrast was also a problem. Originally I wanted their skins to be a pale gray, but they looked like zombies after I painted them in watercolor. I brought back the colors but it still didn’t look like they belong. I took out the dad, and it still wasn’t really working out. Sorry my dear husband, I guess we’ll draw our portrait next time.

I vectorized the mother and child in the hopes of simplifying the lines, and I applied the watercolor/gouache textures in. I still wasn’t completely satisfied with it. That was when I started brainstorming for ideas to visually simplify it. I thought about having the child reading alone, which actually looked pretty good visually (!), but conceptually it just felt sad, as if he was a refugee or orphan in the mountains. I have also explored the idea of a play tent, and the concept of camping, and the child sleeping and dreaming inside his little play tent. My friends basically talked me out of it – the teepee tent looked too tribal and may generate criticism, and the concept wasn’t as clear as the mother and child and bedtime story.

Global Talent Search: My many options

One chicken served in many ways: My many options

Here are a few of my many variations, and many of my friends preferred the mother and child. I was no longer thinking with a clear head so I believed them, and thank God I did, as I almost removed the whale! My friends also helped me on editing the copy so it reads more like a poem and appeals more to mothers. I have such professional friends, and I can not thank them enough for all their help and support. If you are reading this, you know who you are!


I took GTS way more serious than any of my previous assignments, so I kept reworking and over-thinking. I drew many tents, continuously reworked on the mother and child, the whale, and then I wasn’t happy with my type and redrew the type. The assignment took a total of almost 8 solid days to complete. At one point I was very upset at myself, for there was always something that I was not happy about! I was also very afraid that I may mysteriously miss the deadline (equipment failure…etc.), so I submitted ahead of deadline with the first image on this post.

There were a few things that I immediately revised after I submitted (!!). The above was what I wish I were able to submit. I added a few bubbles on the bottom right to balance out the scene. I also put “goodnight” as one word. It had always been in one word, and somewhere along the lines it got separated, and I don’t know what happened!

That was my first assignment, which could possibly be my last. We will see everyone’s submissions on August 26, as well as the top 50 who will advance to the second round. I have been going through the 5 stages of grief since the late July. I am seriously considering if I should schedule for an appointment with my therapist on August 26! I’ve been comforting myself, well, at least I’d have the whole month of September to plan a vacation. Haha!

So, we shall find out on August 26, and I will update with a link to the public gallery for all entries as well as the top 50. Hold my hand and wish me luck!

12 thoughts on “The Emotional Coaster Ride known as The Global Talent Search

  1. Irene–thanks so much for this glimpse into your working process…this actually is something I plan on trying–narrowing a pallette in ai *first* wow…could be a great way to work! And congratulations on making it to the first 50–it’s been a fun day since the announcement, whee!

    • Congrats to you too Rachael!!!! I have been meaning to email you: Who isn’t in the “in-crowd” now???????? Huh???? ;-)

      RE: color palette – yes I love setting the palette before painting, but it is taking sooooo long! Need to figure out something as I don’t think I can do that for round 2… I only have 4 solid days left to finish the assignment with Labor Day coming up!! Yikes!

      Best of luck to you and can’t wait to see your work on Round 2!

  2. Irene,

    Beautiful work. I really enjoyed reading about your process. I watercolor also and hadn’t thought about trying out my palette first in illustrator. Congrats on making the top 50! You deserve it. It is such a beautiful piece.

  3. It’s so beautiful! I love reading your process too. My friend, Jen Hill (also an illustrator) is the only one I thought I knew who works out her colors on the computer then paints in gouache! Cool. Congratulations on making it to the next round!! :)

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