BA (Hons) Illustration - welcome


Hope you all are having brilliant summers – we’re just preparing the studios for your arrival.

As you know, the Illustration course is a close-knit and friendly student community – a community of learning. You’ll learn off each other as much as from the tutors and visiting lecturers (not that we’ve got our feet up, drinking tea all day!) and we’re looking forward to the energy that you bring to the mix. It’s going to be a really busy year and you’ll be doing loads of new things – some you’ll find tough going and others will be a breeze – hopefully all are interesting and challenging and you enter into the spirit of creative exploration along with us – who knows where you’re going to lead us!

Our course philosophy

Illustration in the 21st Century is a vibrant and diverse subject, and we, as staff, are practitioners in areas such as editorial, animation and film, children’s markets, comics, printmaking, drawing, design, curatorship and critical writing, and as well as active in contributing to lively debate at national and international levels. It is our aim to involve you in those debates right from the start of your course, and to give you every opportunity to develop your own critical voice. Indeed, the Illustration course philosophy is designed to encourage you to develop your own intellectual strengths, enthusiasms and personal visual voice. We are interested in your experience and opinions and look forward to hearing from you what it is about illustration that you find particularly inspiring. 

Year One (Level 4) includes the following:

  • The design process
  • Image and text relationship
  • Sequential imagery
  • Life drawing
  • Location drawing
  • Theoretical study into the contexts of illustration
  • Creative and critical writing
  • Introductions and workshops
  • Printmaking
  • Digital software
  • Bookbinding
  • Typography
  • Visiting lecturer programme
  • Social events
  • Overseas and national field trips

Illustration studio

List of the modules where all this happens:

Semester 1

ILLUS400 Play (20 credits)

You are introduced to the basics of making effective imagery and the design processes of illustrative practice. The module establishes the importance of developing a broad visual vocabulary and awareness, expanding analytical and technical skills and developing visual confidence. 

ILLUS421 Meaning & Ideas (40 credits) 

This module introduces Illustration as a means to communicate issues of social, ethical, environmental or political interest. Through discussion students share personal beliefs and values. You’ll explore and challenge received communication via the interpretation and manipulation of imagery. 

Projects emphasise creative thinking and ideas generation as essential skills for illustrators by identifying a well-defined focus for enquiry, planning and investigation from a range of sources.

ife drawing, drawing out and contextual studies are linked to explore the module from varying perspectives. 

Semester 2 

Now a negotiated CHOICE: the following modules suffixed with PP are called Plymouth Plus modules and is where you will collaborate with students from other courses in the School of Art, Design & Architecture. 

NB This range of options is new for this academic year and may be subject to number limits tbc

You’ll pick one of the following: 

1) CART400 PP Conscience (communicating an ethical message) (20 credits)

You explore ‘Big Picture’ ethical / sustainability issues in contemporary society. 

A real-world problem is researched / established through collaboration across Subject areas (BA Photography and BA Graphic Communication with Typography students) and together you explore different visual responses through critical evaluation of each other’s practice. You are encouraged to consider future, holisticism, conscience, caring, imagining, listening, mindfulness, contemplation, soul, spirituality, grace and nourishing – important to ethical understanding.

2) DOCU403PP Documentary (20 credits) 

Illustrators and photographers have a long history of recording ‘on the spot’ human activities and natural events. You will be working as a team using images and image-making to report on an issue based project, telling peoples stories, working on location and with relevant news events. 

You’ll be working alongside students from the BA Documentary Photography course.

3) ILLGA400PP Character (20 credits)

You will explore the making and development of effective characters. Looking at physicality, backstories and environment will be a part of the module. From a loose, experimental 3D starting point you will develop your characters into the world of platform gaming, challenging each other to duels and power ups. 

You will be working alongside students from the BA Game Arts and Design course.

ILLUS411 Narrative Sequence (40 credits) 

You will visually explore sequence creation within your work via a range of traditional and digital media and formats. Narrative pacing, creative writing are a feature. Critical reflective writing underpins practical work. 

Reflection and planning help to establish personal ambitions and identify strengths and weaknesses. 

Again, life drawing, drawing out and contextual studies are linked to explore the module from varying perspectives. 

The continuous practice of drawing will underpin all three ILLUS modules as will an overview of the key art and design contexts of the last century as a framework for the development of cultural visual languages. You investigate the cultural contexts that illustration has existed in, its current state and look forward at various possibilities for its future.

Along with exploring writing strategies you will also be introduced to the creation of visual research journals as a method of contextualising and reflecting upon your discoveries to develop a practical, theoretical and critical awareness. 

As we said, loads to do!

Overseas trip

We organise an overseas field study trip every year and this may be outside of the official term time of study.

The trip needs to be booked very early in the year to enable us to make firm bookings and ensure the cheapest possible flights and accommodation, so please bring:

a) the number of your passport
b) 2 x colour photocopies of the information page (on separate sheets of A4)

IMPORTANT: Please ensure that your passport will be current for the whole year. Please note if you need to apply for a new passport your number will change and this will incur an additional cost from the airline – if that applies to you then get on it now!

London trip

We will be running a day field study trip to London in October / November. You will be receiving help to cover the costs of both trips.

Before you arrive…

Induction week

This week starts on Monday 18th September 2017 and is designed to help you to orient yourself within the University and to introduce you to the Illustration staff. As part of your Induction Week there will be a small project for you.

You will be sent further details re the schedule via email, but if in doubt email Ashley as above or come into University at 11:00 at the Robbins Building Lecture Theatre. 

Please bring your normal drawing materials Tuesday 19th September. PLUS: 

  • Black mark making materials: – paint / charcoal / ink / shoe polish / etc
  • A small hand held mirror


This is your first studio module and you’ll need to collect some materials to ensure you have a strong start.

Please bring the materials for your first studio day on Monday 25th September as outlined on the following pages.

This is your first studio module (not the same as the Induction Project) 

It is very important that you collect the following: 

A collection of flattened paper/plastic from old crumpled bits of wrapping paper to sweet wrappers, and flattened packaging anything from Oxo cube /toothpaste cardboard packaging to Tunnock teacake packaging flattened (you might be amazed how quickly you can build a collection).

These materials will form the start of your first studio project so it’s really important that you come prepared.

Please bring the materials with you on Monday 26th September to the first year studio, RLB111 (Roland Levinsky Building).

Materials list 

The equipment listed will help you to be prepared for the various activities you will be engaging in.

You will be receiving a set of materials during the first weeks, but please bring your preferred materials (lucky pencil etc) as well. There are some odd bits you need to provide for yourself – please look at the list.

You will also need to bring in:

  • a good specimen of an ordinary, dead “Fly” (Musca Domestica)
Here’s a list of materials that you should bring for the year ahead:

  • Whatever you normally use
  • A range of pencils from 2H to 6B
  • White palette (A3 or bigger – this can be a cut down piece of melamine shelving (Conte board from a DIY shop is ideal) or an old white plate.
  • Water pots (2 x old large jam jars or cut down 2ltr plastic drinks bottles)
  • Household sponge
  • 1” and 2” wide house paint brushes (1 or 2 would be good – can be cheap quality
  • White candle
  • Some cheap hobby brushes for glues and inks etc.
  • A magnifying glass
  • Collected, rather than bought range of papers (keep costs to a minimum......looking for interesting textures, patterns, colours and shapes to collage with and to draw on)
  • Collection of magazines/newspaper for collage
  • Masking tape 1” wide
  • Glue/stick
  • Paint - acrylic and gouache – a range of colours: lemon yellow / cadmium yellow / vermillion / cadmium red / alizarin red / cobalt blue / ultramarine / windsor blue or monestial blue / hookers green / purple / yellow ochre / raw sienna / burnt sienna / cerulean blue / crimson / deep violet / orange
  • Black and white acrylic paints
Here’s a list of materials that you’ll be supplied with for the year ahead:

  • Scalpel & pack of size ‘10A’ blades
  • A3 hardback workbook
  • A4 sketchbook
  • A4 visual research journal
  • A3 cutting mat
  • Putty rubber
  • Graphite stick 6B
  • Oil pastels
  • Good quality coloured pencils

ILLUS421: Meaning and ideas

Instructions in preparation for the second module starting 23rd October 2017.

Task 1: Searching and finding

In preparation for the second module, ILLUS421 “Meaning & Ideas” we would like you to find one of the objects from the list below, search attics / second hand / junk shops, car boot sales or recycling centers for interesting examples; don’t just pick something for convenience sake, such as your own trainers or clothing item.

Please note you may have to alter / destroy your object. 

This object is going to be the main subject of your research and your experimental, creative journey through the project, so it would
be good (essential?) if you have some interest in your choice.

Please choose ONE of the following:

  • Glove 
  • Comb
  • Handbag 
  • Brassiere
  • Suitcase 
  • Coat
  • Shoe 
  • Umbrella
  • Chair 
  • Hat
  • Pair of spectacles

Draw and photograph your object in the place that you found it, for example: a suitcase in a dark wardrobe, a washed up shoe on the beach.

Bring this object with you to the RLB111 studio on Monday 23rd October 2017.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about any of the above, please email Ashley Potter, the Programme Leader.

We really look forward to welcoming you!

Ashley, Claire, John, Dean, Emma, Stephanie, Jo and Stephen.

The Illustration team