How One of My Idols Became My Mentor

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

fashion illustration by Jessica Durrant for Dena Cooper's blog, Brushstroke a la Mode

It was scrolling through Pinterest in 2012 that I stumbled upon Jessica Durrant’s gorgeous work for the first time.  There’s something so effortless about the way she combines her lines and washes of color that makes anyone think they can pursue watercolor with ease.  Pick up a paint brush and you might find it to be a little harder than it looks.  I know because that’s exactly what I did.

I’ve been drawing since day one (okay, maybe day two) and I’ve always spent my free time sketching in pencil or charcoal.  I went to school for fashion design and before that, I had an extensive background in fine arts but I had never touched watercolor before.  I bought my first novice set of watercolors with a pack of brushes and a pad of inexpensive paper and I got to work experimenting with this new fluid medium that bled all over the page at any contact with moisture.

fashion illustration by Jessica Durrant for Dena Cooper's blog, Brushstroke a la Mode
Needless to say, conquering watercolor took me a great amount of effort and practice but I’m not sure I would have had the inspiration to try without seeing Jessica’s amazing talent.  Since then, I’ve followed Jessica on Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and her blog.  Her voice in the illustration community is one of positive energy and encouragement which is especially unique given the competitive edge to any creative industry.  She is constantly striving for transparency with her audience which is what makes her followers such devoted fans of her work.

I was over the moon when reading Jessica’s announcement that she would be participating in a mentoring service called RookieUp and went straight to their website to book an hour with her on the phone.  RookieUp is an online platform connecting creative professionals to those in need of a mentor.  There are several experienced professionals from web designers to photographers and illustrators all with differing specialties.  

fashion illustration by Jessica Durrant for Dena Cooper's blog, Brushstroke a la Mode

On the morning of my call, I was filled with excitement at the prospect of chatting with an artist I had been following and worshiping for years.  When the phone rang it was like talking to an old friend - Jessica was so warm and considerate.  We talked about building a freelance career, finding clients that speak your language (figuratively, of course) and dealing with rejection as an artist and a professional.  Almost two months later, many of Jessica’s words are still on repeat in my head.

The experience was unforgettable but furthermore, Jessica has stayed in touch on Instagram when she has a spare moment from her dream job.  I will definitely be using RookieUp to contact her again in the future as my illustration career progresses.

All artwork is intellectual property of Jessica Durrant.  Thank you so much to Jessica for allowing me to use her work as a part of this post.


  1. You rock, Dena! So happy you had such a good experience with RookieUp :-)

    1. I really did! So glad RookieUp exists in the world! Thanks so much Alec :)


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