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Mastering my Craft. Studying part-time for my Master’s degree with Falmouth and building my career as an Illustrator.

My BA (Hons) Illustration Degree was with Open College of Arts

My Masters Illustration degree is online with Falmouth University. (started Jan 24) 

A bright and colourful inllustration of a girl drawing on the floor childlike pictures.
Drawing my voice

I may have been crazy; as it was only five minutes after finishing my Illustration BA (Hons) Illustration Degree, that I jumped right into a part-time master’s degree in Illustration. A degree which I plan to complete whilst working full-time as an illustrator and building my name.

Why, would I do this to myself? In all honestly, I just didn’t feel done with education. Guess in many ways I want to see how far I can take it and if I can truly master my craft. Another is a sense of keeping myself accountable, like stabilisers to make sure I do not lose sight of everything I am working towards. 

I am actually a huge believer that there are many routes into illustration, self-taught, graphic design or further education. No single route is perfect or easier way, doing a degree worked for me.

A young school girl illustration. The girl is young, in a grey uniform with long yellow hair in a headband and hearing aids. She has pale white skin with a little smile, she is pointing to the pictures she has stuck on the wall behind her and evidence around her feed in form of glass jar with paint brush and pencil that has created this.
Found my visual Lanuage in my illustrations

Since I was young, likely picked up a pencil to communicate with the world around me. I was a deaf girl in mainstream school that didn't sign, I had to find my own visual language I suppose. I always thought I failed at “mainstream” school, took me a long time to realise my education failed me, it just wasn’t accessible for me, I would spend all my time just fitting in and it left little energy to “actually” learn.

Which was a really sad thing as I love knowledge and learning. I felt I was lazy; I was letting myself and everyone down. I never saw how hard I worked, times I would get home from school and fall asleep on the floor in the living room, midway through neighbours or home and away. It was down to pure fatigue from the hearing world, having teachers walk around the room expecting me to hear, write notes and keep up. Times I would just read the board as the teacher spent all day with their back to me, told of for copying my neighbours’ writing when I couldn’t hear to write it. All while being bullied, isolated and just wanting to not draw any attention to myself.

I loved art, not GCSE art, as hit the same issue of not hearing teachers teach me… Had to guess or fill in the blanks. At college, I still faced a lot of the same issues, whilst I was drawing all day and loving it, it wasn’t enough! The reality was I only got around 20% of the lessons/teachers and resources.

Needless to say, I was done. As much as I dreamed of going to university, I was done, I couldn’t do it anymore and took a break. That break turned into working life, married life and family life. It was like I blinked, and years had passed me by and it wasn’t always kind to me, the workplace wasn’t much better than school.

I had my second child when something had to give, I could no longer wear a mask, and things happened in the workplace that made me stop. I became a stay-at-home mum, I needed to work as well, so made a small business painting jute bags and face painting.

I wanted more from my skills, so I started teaching myself from the ground up, realising all the core art foundations I should have known, my skills started to grow. It was a couple of years after this I hit a bottleneck in my skills and wasn’t really improving and I was stuck in limbo. It was just a passing thought “I do an online degree”. Each day I became more serious about it and thought I had nothing to lose. I told enough people that I kind of made myself accountable for this, all while the voice in my head was telling me “I couldn’t do it”.

I didn’t listen to that voice and started the BA (Hons) Illustration Degree in November 2019, for the first time it was a method that suited my needs, and boy, did I fly…

Without giving 120% just for every day, I could put that into my work. I became greedy for more knowledge like I had been starved my whole life.

I discovered it wasn’t skills/knowledge I needed in my illustrations; I needed me. I needed to be present in my work. Part of the degree was to sketch every day, however during this part of my studies the Covid-19 pandemic was happening, the lockdown was happening and my every day was me, so I had to look inward. One day I will blog about this connection with oneself and why I think illustrators should not just look at skills, but bring who they are to their work, it is also what sets us apart from AI and gives an emotional connection to our audience.

I got more than I asked for in my degree, I discovered my access need, my connection to work, my confidence and most importantly my voice.

I got a first in my BA (Hons) Illustration, a taste of what a world could be without barriers and the biggest “I told you I could do it!” possible to the world around me. With that, I started to believe… Believing and dreaming was something that once felt so dangerous now seems safe.

So with all this being sad, the Masters is about something more…

It is about taking the messages I have learnt about myself, the emotions and the psychological side and putting this into narrative illustration.

Making my audience connect and feel!     

My core values lie in the dangers of a single story, representation for all in illustrations and access needs. I want my work to speak to the children in the gaps, the ones finding their voices and feeling unheard in this world. I speak in my work as if I were my own inner child who has been hurt and needs to heal.  

This is a very abratracted line digital illustration that has comes together to give the impression of a foxglove.
Foxglove made with my own digital marks

So far, my Masters has been challenging me in a way that makes my brain inch, which I love. Like another level of deep thinking and a newfound interest in including psychology in my work. I love the discussions with tutors and my peers about the meanings and purposes behind key quotes and theories.

I can see how this can be applied to my work, helping me narrate the complex nature I wish to include, such as colour, composition, expression, framing, pacing, line and texture. To the right is a small sample of the work we have been doing, sort of loose abstract foxglove. Do I recommend a degree and university, yes! Because for me personally it worked well and I love the format. I know it isn't for everyone and that is okay. Let me know if have any questions about my study, I am happy to answer questions.

Meanwhile, I am working also on two amazing projects for clients (hope to share more about these in a blog post soon)

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