Some of you will know that I’m studying for a part-time Master’s degree in Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth University. I can say, hand on heart, that the decision to do this is one of the best choices I’ve made. It’s pushed and shaped the ways I’ve thought about illustration and my own approach to it much further than I ever anticipated – and I’m only a quarter of the way in.

I handed in my first essay recently – the first I’ve written in 17 years. I was really proud of it – it is definitely the best thing I’ve ever written, but most importantly it was the first time in the whole of my academic career – from GCSEs, A-level, Art Foundation and BA Hons, that I’ve written an essay and learnt and developed from it, rather than it just being an exercise where I jump through a hoop and get a grade reward.

I wrote it about uncertainty in art, and took Twin Peaks director David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and illustrator Stefano Ricci’s Depositonero as case studies. I looked at the use of uncertainty – something I’m fascinated with – through the lenses of queer theory, Jungian psychoanalysis and deconstructionism and showed how I was using it in my own practice. A percentage of the marks given were for the design and presentation of the essay – it was supposed to reflect the content. I printed it on tracing paper, cut it to loose-leaf squares and handed it in in a black hand-made cardboard box. I wish I’d taken some photos now!

I just got my marks back. 50% is a pass, 60% is a merit and 70% is a distinction. I got 80% which is the best mark I’ve got for anything since my GCSEs. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re passionate about something! We were encouraged to be creative with the essay-writing process, so while the first two chapters were fairly standard in their academic writing style, the third was fully-referenced stream-of-consciousness, and the layout reflected this, the main body text flowing through the page and the footnotes bashing up against it:

The word count was 3,000 which was torturous – I could have easily written 10,000 words. But it was a truly satisfying process and the discipline of editing is a vital one to develop.

If you’re interested in studying for an MA you can now get student loans to pay your tuition fees. I’m enjoying every moment of mine and I have noticed tangible improvements in the quality of my client work because of it. 

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