MA Graphic Novels and Children’s Book Illustration

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Key course details

Duration Full-time, 1 Year, Part-time, 2 Years
Start date September 2021
Entry Requirements Programme specification (PDF)
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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.

BAIM by Sasha Thompson,

Image credit: "Baim" by Sasha Thompson

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.

Partners & Memberships

Logo Licaf Lakes International Comic Art Festival,

Your Career With a 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.

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.

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

  • 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.

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Carlisle Culture framework launch

Posted: 26 Oct 2020

A cultural framework for Carlisle, that aims to give new life and vision to the city’s rich culture and heritage, is set to be launched at a virtual event early next month. The event will provide progress on Carlisle Culture - a partnership working to harness the rich arts, heritage and culture of the city for our future sustainability and growth. The four lead partners are University of Cumbria, Carlisle City Council, Prism Arts and Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery.

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Masterclass: Observational Sketching

Thu 26 Nov 2020

Working in a small A5 sketchbook and with a range of pencils, this workshop introduces prospective students of Art & Design to the effective use of a sketchbook and as a means to test new materials and techniques.