Immersion Course Review
Navigating making a living as a full-time artist is interesting in this the year of 2024. (Oh, and Happy New Year!) One of the best ways to be successful these days is to diversify income streams, and to have a couple of different skill sets in your pocket to pull out as circumstances change.
I was first introduced to Bonne Christine in 2021 through Emily Jeffords. I had taken Emily’s Making Art Work online course in 2020 and was gearing up to take a it a second time in 2022, and she was cross promoting her friend Bonnie Christine’s Immersion Program. Committing to Emily’s MAW program was the extent of my education budget for the year, but I resolved to check out Immersion when enrollment opened again in 2022.
Once 2022 came around I could feel my excitement building for Immersion. A whole year of anticipation had built up in me, and I could not wait to sign up and immerse myself (ha!) in all things pattern design.
Immersion is an 8 week pattern design course that goes over how to use Adobe Illustrator, how to create patterns in Adobe Illustrator, and how to get started in licensing your work as a pattern artist.
The online class is eight weeks long, which includes six modules and two implementation weeks. These implementation weeks are helpful and are placed after weeks with particularly dense modules so that students can get through the coursework and work on their own pattern projects without getting behind in the course.
Overall, I think that the Immersion Program is a great course for learning Adobe Illustrator, pattern design and beginning to get your work out there.
Cost (2023): $1997, with returning students receiving a large discount
Length of course: 8 weeks
Apps/equipment needed: Adobe Illustrator, and a way of drawing and getting your art onto the computer. This could be using a digital program to start, or doodling in a sketchbook and scanning it or using your cell phone to get a photo of your doodle.
Access/Longevity: Lifetime access to the program year that you purchased. For instance, as a 2022 and 2023 student, I will have lifetime access to the 2022 and 2023 versions of the class.
Schedule breakdown 2022 & 2023:
- Week 0: Soft introduction
- Week 1: Module 1 Class begins/ Intro to Illustrator
- Week 2: Module 2 Illustrator Advanced
- Week 3: Implementation week
- Week 4: Module 3: Repeating Patterns Pro
- Week 5: Module 4: Collection Creation
- Week 6: Implementation Week
- Week 7: Module 5: Licensing Your Art
- Week 8: Module 6: Creative Entrepreneurship
WHO IS THIS CLASS BEST FOR?
Personally, I think that both complete beginners and artists with Illustrator experience can get a lot out of this course. However, if you are a complete beginner who is new to Illustrator and is maybe a little intimidated at what a beast of a program it is, then I cannot recommend this class enough. Bonnie will hold your hand and walk you through how to use tools and settings in the program so that you not only know how to do something, but you also understand why you are doing it. I have a handful of other programs that I wish I could find this level of education for online.
I took Immersion in 2022 and again in 2023, and in 2023 I was surprised at just how much more I picked up than in 2022, despite the course being virtually the same. In retrospect, I think that I was such a beginner in 2022 that in 2023, after a year of continuing work in Illustrator and getting a better sense of my own workflow and how I wanted to create art, that I had built a bucket for that information to land. My 2023 class experience deepened by skill with the program and pattern design all around.
So I think that even as a seasoned professional there is room to grow within this class, and that you will find that growth if you reach for it.
The class is grouped into modules, as mentioned above. Each module is a series of lessons that are mostly video lessons that contain tutorials and lectures. There are also worksheets that go along with each module. One major difference between my 2022 and my 2023 experience is that in 2023, all students were sent a delicious spiral-bound hardcopy of all the worksheets as one large reference book, and it is WONDERFUL. I love it. It is so much easier for me to flip to a section for the quick notes on how to do something when it is in physical form, and I retain material so much better when I have a physical object in front of me.
Immersion also includes several bonus modules in addition to the weekly modules listed above. I don’t want to give away the surprise, but I thought they were great additions to the curriculum.
The actual class is accompanied by large community aspect. The community can be split into two parts:
The online community is a large forum for the entire student body of Immersion, for that year. Everybody has access to the community, and everybody must agree and adhere to the community guidelines in order to participate.
Something that I found unique to Immersion is that Bonnie hires about 25 employees to help support the online community throughout the duration of the course. This is, in my opinion, excellent. The Support Team is split into two groups: The Community Guides, and the Experts. Community Guides help to answer questions, troubleshoot, and give feedback on artwork. The Experts are available to help troubleshoot larger Illustrator questions and are able to break down steps clearly and simply.
What the Support Team creates is an online community experience where each student post receives at least one response, which in turn creates a vibrant and supportive community. This is not an online discussion page where nobody engages, and posts are left as a sacrifice to the void. As folks are encouraged by the participation of the support team, more and more students participate, and as students receive encouraging feedback and celebration when they share their wins or their work, they share more. Let me tell you, this community is hoppin’.
PEER SUPPORT GROUPS
The other community element to the Immersion program is the Peer Groups. Peer Groups are optional, and they have an extra fee. If you sign up for a Peer Group, you will get sorted into a group of about 6-8 other students in your time zone who are all at about the skill level where you report yourself as you sign up. When you sign up for a Peer Group, you are asked if you are interested in becoming a Group Lead, and those selected to become group leaders go through training on best practices for facilitation. Each peer group has one leader who organizes meeting times and facilitates meetings.
The idea behind peer groups is that you get together once a week to talk about the course materials, where you are at with everything, brainstorm ideas, etc. This is your study group. It is more intimate than the larger online community, and many people end up forming friendships that last beyond the time of the course.
I’ve worked with Peer Groups in a couple of different online classes, and in my experience, you get out of it what you put into it. For myself, I really enjoy peer groups even though I identify as deeply introverted because I love getting to know people, and because so often the folks in my group bring different perspectives that I would not have otherwise considered. The most effective per groups that I have experienced engage with a spirit of mutuality and reciprocity, with everyone contributing as much as they take from the group.
Many artists identify as introverted, and I have come to find that most small peer groups of artists need at least one person to bring the ol’ razzle dazzle. If you are interested in participating in a peer group, I recommend being prepared to commit to the group and give it your best shot, and to have your razzle dazzle ready in your pocket in case it falls on you to bring it. And consider signing up to be a leader! Facilitation training never goes to waste.
WHAT DID I LEARN
The biggest thing that I walked away from Immersion with is skill with Adobe Illustrator. I went from being overwhelmed with the program to being very confident in how I use it, and what I want from it. This confidence doubled after retaking the course in 2023, because I understood why I was being shown things that I didn’t care about previously.
With the class under my belt in 2022 I was able to start creating tee shirt designs and pin designs with ease. I was also able to use Illustrator to create other merch with foil stamping like journals and washi tape, and if the manufacturer came back needing me to revise something in my art it was no big deal because I could just do it real quick. Before Immersion 2022, a request for revisions would have sent me into a hand-wringing panic, but no longer.
While I put together a few patterns in the 2022 class, it wasn’t until the 2023 class that I put together a full pattern collection. For myself, I think I needed to sit with the information for a while, play around with it by figuring out how my work, which is primarily traditional watercolor painting built up with luminous glazes for dimension, translated into vector work. That is something I am still working out.
When I took the class for a second time, I was determined to finished the class with a completed collection in two colorways that I could begin to pitch to manufacturers, and I’m so proud that I met that goal last year. I have been slowly pitching my collection, Dream Song, to companies over the last few months.
By the end of the 2023 class, I walked away from Immersion with:
- A skillset in Adobe Illustrator
- A pattern collection in two colorways
- A roadmap for pitching my work to companies for licensing
- A list of companies that I thought would be a good match for my work
- Ideas for new projects outside of pattern design
- SO MANY ideas for pattern collections
As of the writing of this blog, I have not yet had a pattern licensed by a company. I had one company ask that I submit again next year, and I have also simply not heard back from several companies. I am okay with this! While an easy win is always, well, easy, I do not mind that this will take some time. I am happy to luxuriate in the process of creating art like this. One of my goals for 2024 is to receive 100 rejections, with the idea being that I am submitting so much that even within 100 rejections, there will be a yes in there. And I think that getting comfortable with rejection is a good and necessary mindset for an artist.
IMMERSION SEASON IS COMING
Now that we are in January of 2023, Immersion Season is right around the corner. While I will have some traveling to do this spring, I do plan on taking this class again with the goal of creating another pattern collection to add to my portfolio. Could I do this on my own? Yes. But I love the class environment. I love the community that is built throughout the program. I love being able to receive feedback from experts and peers alike. So while the work is possible on my own, the dedicated time and community experience does so much for me that I am excited to do it again. I can’t wait to see what kind of growth I’ll see this year.
This year I have also been invited back as an affiliate! This is the only affiliate work that I do because I really do believe in this program so much that I feel genuinely good about shouting about it as loudly as I can.
Have you thought about getting into pattern design, or have you heard of the Immersion course before? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!