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Discover the art of book illustration with a short course

Student artwork
  • Written byCarys Thomas
  • Published date22 December 2021
Student artwork
Artwork by Michelle Freeman

We caught up with illustrator, Michelle Freeman, to hear about her experience on our Book Illustration Online Short Course.

Michelle was awarded the 2021 Graphic Novel prize by LDComics for her work “The Room of Stars”, and has many exciting creative projects in the pipeline.

Currently based in Liverpool, Michelle studied Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art, specialising in landscape paintings inspired by sci-fi and horror films. “The COVID-19 pandemic refocused my interests and career direction” says Michelle, who became interested in book illustration after spending time reading to her children.

Studying on the Book Illustration Online Short Course helped Michelle realise her ambition to write and illustrate her own books. “I joined the course thinking I was only interested in being an illustrator but by the second session I was fully gripped with the author-illustrator concept and was brimming with ideas,” Michelle explains.

Image of Michelle Freeman
Michelle Freeman

While on the course, Michelle developed the first images and ideas for her book “The Room of Stars”, drawing inspiration from her schooldays after course tutor, Zehra Hicks, advised students to “draw what you enjoy drawing.” “This gave me permission to go back to the kind of doodles I did on the back of my text book at school: gothic creatures and angels!” says Michelle. “I continued from there to reflect upon my time at school - that awkward but fertile stage of life where you are exploring your own identity and searching for belonging. The book explores themes of bullying, otherness and gender, with a huge dose of gothic fantasy and dark humour.”

For Michelle, the course became an important source of inspiration for her creative work; “during the course I was introduced to the wonderful world of graphic novels which I had never really explored before, opening up a horizon of possibilities and inspiration” she said. “I love that there are no set rules in relation to graphic novels - you can work using whatever styles, layouts, themes and approaches you feel most suitable. It is a field rife for innovation. We also looked at a diverse range of children's books. I came away with two original book ideas (one graphic novel and one children's picture book) and felt armed and ready to take the next step.”

The structure of the course also worked well for Michelle, who found the opportunity to pause and reflect between sessions helpful, “the sessions are hands-on, fast paced and intense, with a full week in between to absorb and reflect, which really suited me. The course is holistic in covering both industry knowledge and practical/creative techniques.”

Michelle is particularly inspired by course tutor, Zehra Hicks. “Zehra is a very inclusive, motivating and inspiring tutor - her energy is infectious. I learnt such a lot in a short space of time.”

Michelle continues to share her artwork on her Instagram account and recently worked in collaboration with Gemma McKenzie, a public health researcher, to secure funding to produce a zine about human rights in the maternity system. “Working in partnership with AIMS we will produce a zine about consent in maternity care”, says Michelle, “this form of graphic medicine can be really powerful in shifting attitudes and giving a voice to those who are so often silenced or ignored. I am thrilled to be part of this creative human rights project.”

We look forward to following Michelle’s creative journey online and wish her the best of luck with her future work.

Are you interested in a career in illustration? Take a look at our guide on how to become an illustrator.

Our fine art short courses can help you achieve your creative goals. Check out our upcoming short courses for more information.

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