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MA Graphic Novels and Children’s Book Illustration

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Key course details

Location Carlisle - Brampton Road
Duration Full-time, 1 Year, Full-time, 2 Years
Start date September 2020
Entry Requirements Programme specification (PDF)
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Header Image Credit: "Baim" by Sasha Thompson

If you have a passion for drawing and telling stories, then this masters’ programme is for you. The course brings together two distinct visual fields, the comic-strip novel and the illustrated picture book, to explore a range of practical and theoretical approaches to visual expression and sequential storytelling.

The programme has been designed in consultation with external partners, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF). As a student on the course, you will gain insight into the contemporary publishing landscape, be inspired by leading practitioners and academic staff who are published in the field. You will learn what it takes to create meaningful visual stories which resonate with audiences and readers.

LICAF 2019, cartoon poster for the celebration of comic art from across the world

Throughout the programme you will foster and refine your practical ideas and skills, working either individually or collaboratively on short or extended project briefs, towards a sustained portfolio of professional practice. This degree invites you to consider critical issues pertaining to storytelling and readership, including: the dynamic between text and image, negotiating spatial relationships, the mediating hand of the artist, ideological concerns and the wider cultural context in which graphic novels and children’s books are produced, disseminated and interpreted.

This taught MA is tailored towards students progressing from undergraduate arts studies and mid-career professionals wishing to advance or diversify their studio practice. The programme is available in both full and part-time modes of study and follows a trimester structure over a full calendar year, culminating in a public exhibition of MA project work in late August. The part-time route will follow the full-time programme but over two calendar years allowing students to engage with the full-time cohort but only undertake a proportion of the taught sessions and project briefs.

Junko Mizuno LICAF artist visit Graphic Novel University of Cumbria, Junko Mizuno - Jigoku Dayu 2013, cartoon woman smiling and holding hands with a skeleton on a blue background

Why Choose University of Cumbria

Staff on the programme are experienced practitioners and researchers who are published in the field of narrative illustration and utilise research-informed methods and expertise in their teaching. As a student on the programme you will benefit from regular visiting speakers and exhibitors, as well as specific content directed at professional development and planning, fostering aspiration and career readiness.

  • Academic lecturers and practitioners are experts in their field, have published and exhibited nationally and internationally and are involved in practice-led research
  • Small class sizes mean you get the benefit of intensive tutorial support and feedback from our lecturer-practitioners
  • Professional development is built into module content - you will gain insight into the role of the freelance illustrator via programme content and staff expertise, as well as access to professional networks such as the Association of Illustrators and guest lectures from practitioners who work in the field of narrative illustration
  • Study in a dynamic arts environment, in close proximity to others in the postgraduate community, affording opportunities for cross-disciplinary exchange and collaboration.
  • Excellent resources include a specialist arts library so you can keep up-to-date with contemporary practices and research
  • Study in professionally-set up workspaces that include Mac and PC computer suites carrying the latest high-specification design and video production software and hardware
  • To facilitate and support your creative projects you will have full access all of our workshop areas and technical staff, including print-making, reprographics and audio-visual, life-drawing, laser cutting, ceramics, wood shop and textiles  
  • Industry links with arts organisations, including the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF), opening up opportunities for live projects and collaboration.
  • Exhibit and promote your work at keynote graduate expo and festival events, for example; D&AD New Blood and New Designers (both London) and LICAF (Kendal)
  • Opportunity to publish your work in the annual programme anthology (online and/or print), a means of showcasing innovative approaches to visual storytelling.
  • Take part in the final MA exhibition in the Vallum Gallery. The gallery hosts exhibitions by contemporary artists and designers, as well as students, staff and alumni

You will study on our dedicated Brampton Road campus. The site overlooks the river Eden and border city of Carlisle, with Scotland a short distance in one direction and the stunning Lake District National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage site - in the other. Add to that the spectacular Solway Coast, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and you’ll never be stuck for inspiration.

Your Career After Your Master's Degree

Graduates of the programme will go on to apply their advanced creative skills in domains as varied as: freelance illustration and design, online and traditional publishing, 2D and 3D animation, storyboard and concept art for video games and film, as well as further research or teaching at PhD level and academia. Students are encouraged to be outward looking and entrepreneurial throughout their time on the course: to consider their career trajectory at the outset, to forge links with industry, creative agencies and organisations.

News and Events

Disability arts pioneer inspires students

Posted: 16 Dec 2019

Renowned sculptor Tony Heaton OBE is challenging art students to explore societal barriers faced by people with disabilities. Tony presented the issues as he delivered a guest lecture, part of a series of talks organised by the Arts Research Initiative, for University of Cumbria Institute of the Arts staff and students. A selection of his art, material and documents is also on display at the university's creative Carlisle campus.

Student filmmakers working on TV hit, graduate with first-class degree and award

Posted: 4 Dec 2019

Two student filmmakers, who made their names working on a hit TV programme while studying, have graduated not only with first-class degrees but a special award recognising their hard work and contribution to the university.

Cranston's found their perfect Intern from the Institute of the Arts

Posted: 29 Apr 2019

Cranstons Butchers Ltd have recently been working with intern Rachel Stewart, who is studying a BA Graphic Design at the Institute of the Arts. We asked Jane Silburn, Head of Marketing and Retail Development at Cranstons why they decided on an intern and what the intern bought to the company.

Open Event (2020 entry enquirers only)

Thu 6 Feb 2020

It’s not too late to apply to us for 2020 entry, our expert teams of support and academic staff are on hand to give you a bespoke and personal visit experience that will arm you with everything you need to know about starting a course in September 2020.

Campus Tour

Thu 27 Feb 2020

An opportunity to visit our Brampton Road campus.

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