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How a short course can diversify your illustration practice

An illustration of a high street showing multiple shop windows
  • Written byYusuf Tamanna
  • Published date 31 March 2021
An illustration of a high street showing multiple shop windows

When asked to describe their short course experience in three words, both Sue Bamford and Isabella Coombs said - among other things - that they found it challenging, but in a good way.

Both students completed different illustration short courses with Sue attending the Illustration Drawn to Digital Online Short Course with a focus on combining traditional hand drawn pieces with digital software. Whereas Isabella opted for Illustrating for Books Online Short Course hoping to develop her skills in character design and storyboarding.

For Sue, attending the short course was simply her way of making sure she had an artistic outlet at her disposal. With a passion for all things art stemming from childhood, Sue has spent the last 40 years working in professional sport. When lockdown meant she couldn’t work, Sue used the time to exercise her creative side.

A photo of Sue Bamford sitting on a bench smiling away from the camera

“I found the Illustration Drawn to Digital Online Short Course run by Augusta Akerman online. It appealed to my developing interest in making repeating patterns from my artwork and the course dates coincided with a period of planned self-isolation because of the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Isabella’s motives for attending her short course were somewhat different to Sue’s. Based in South Wales, Isabella has recently started the first year of her BA in Illustration at University of Wales Trinity Saint David and dedicates time outside of university work to completing freelance illustration commissions on the side.

A Photo of Isabella Coombs smiling at the camera

When she attended the short course she was gearing up to begin her BA a few months later. But considering she had already planned to study Illustration as a full-time degree and has been working freelance in the field already, why did Isabella feel it necessary to attend the Illustrating for Books Online Short Course?

“I wanted to branch out to other universities and get in some more education about illustration before embarking on my Illustration BA course,” Isabella explains. A year before, Isabella completed her Foundation Art and Design Certificate of Higher Education also at University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

“To me, doing the short course was a natural progression from my foundation course. To help me understand and learn about illustration techniques, specifically for books. I had done a lot of research into short courses in illustration and came across the UAL short courses.”

An illustration of a young person hanging upside down relaxing in their bedroom

During her time on the short course, Sue said it opened her eyes up to the endless methods of home printing and the content delivered was the perfect combination of both hands-on creating and digital design.

“I really enjoyed the two days of printmaking. Although I have practiced lino cutting and mono printing at different print studios, I learned plenty of new techniques from Augusta!”

However, Sue admits she did find other aspects of the course at times quite hard to grasp but she didn’t let that deter her. "The most challenging part of the course for me was using Adobe Photoshop. I was a complete beginner!” Sue says. “But I was thrilled to succeed in creating a repeating pattern from one of my pieces of artwork.”

Black and White print of a vase and flowers

Print of a grey vase printed next two two pink flowers

An illustration of the vase and flowers completely blacked out except for a hint of pink for the outline

A repeated pattern design by Sue Bamford with pink tulips on a black background

Isabella says the feedback she received from tutor Leni Kauffman during her short course was invaluable for her own learning. More so, finding out more about Leni’s career and the careers of the students on the course was a great source of inspiration.

“The most valuable thing I learned while studying on the short course was character design and perspective work and how it can be implemented into my practice,” Isabella says. “I also enjoyed learning about the other artists on the course and more about their work. The feedback on the weekly assignments was also hugely beneficial to making progress in my work and I still refer to the feedback today to improve my work.”

Rough illustrations of a cartoon elderly couple

Hand drawn illustrations of a cartoon elderly couple sitting in their living room

An illustration of an elderly couple standing naked and embarrassed as a police officer looks on

As she attended the short course prior to starting her BA in Illustration, Isabella credits the short course for effectively bridging the gap between her foundation year and the start of her BA degree course and making the leap between course levels as seamless as possible.

“I can easily implement the skills learned on the short course to push my studies further. I have also been able to pick up commissions for books after completing the short course! It’s dramatically helped in furthering my knowledge on illustration and the different techniques that can be used,” Isabella explains.

A digital illustration of a cathedral building

In Sue’s case, her short course experience did exactly what she wanted it to do; it gave her the chance to express herself creatively. The fact she’s picked up a few transferrable skills along the way only makes the experience that bit more worthwhile.

“The course has given me the opportunity to develop my long-held interest in art. I gained the skills to create repeating patterns from my artwork, which was my objective. Beyond this, I hope to create a portfolio which I would like to develop commercially, while continuing with my present career. One of my friends has already commissioned me to create a pattern for fabric for upholstery in her home!”

Having both had fruitful experiences on their illustration short courses, both Sue and Isabella are both glad they attended their courses and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend others consider a short course for themselves.

A hand drawn illustration of a bird done with pencil

“I would thoroughly recommend doing a short course at UAL! My course was a fantastic learning experience, very enjoyable and well organised. Our tutor Augusta Akerman is highly experienced and endlessly patient. It's also good to learn alongside other people, even online. You will be challenged and inspired, “Sue says.

Speaking specifically about her short course, Isabella says the course is perfect for anyone wanting to improve their current practice or satisfy a creative curiosity. “The short courses are perfect to work around your life and other commitments. I loved my experience on the course and the skills I learnt!”

Sue finishes by adding: “For some, doing a UAL short course could be life changing!”


The many aspects of illustration are covered in our varied collection of illustration short courses! Whether it’s hand-on drawing skills, tips and tricks on developing convincing characters for books or transforming your designs into digital works of art, UAL Short Courses has you covered.

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