Roisin Swales, ‘Big Hid’ and Flying Eye Books.

Roisin Swales graduated from Illustration with Animation in 2016 with a portfolio of work that clearly identified picture books as a career direction she was interested in following. There had already been early indications of Roisin’s potential when as a second year she was recognised with inclusion in The International Lemniscaat Worldwide Picture Book Illustration Exhibition at The Hive in Worcester. (image below)

Roisin Swales 2.jpgFollowing a successful end of year show in Manchester and a shortlisting for the 2016 Macmillan Prize. (see below). In July 2016 the IWA course took a selectionRoisin Swales.jpg

Roisin Swales.jpg

of the the final year student show down to the New Designers graduate showcase in London…..this was a success for the course overall but in particular Roisin’s work received a great deal of attention form publishers and agents.

You can read what happened next in this interview with Roisin in Creative Review April 2017:

Further research:

The Macmillan Prize

The International Centre for the Picture Book in Society

New Designers



Alumni: Amy Veried – Junior Agent at Handsome Frank.

Amy Veried graduated in the summer of 2014 from BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation at Manchester School of Art. We caught up with Amy in her latest role as a newly appointed Junior Agent at leading artists agents Handsome Frank.


Amy has responded to a series of questions from Senior Lecturer Ian Whadcock that asked  her to reflect on her path from graduation to employment. Amy has passed on some valuable advice on what she wished she had done more of at university, where the moments of key advice came from and how she has achieved her ambition so quickly.

Amy Veried: Brief timeline since finishing Uni/ Background

In the last year of Uni, I knew that I didn’t want to be a freelance illustrator, (something I never would of known without doing the course,) but I wanted to be around illustration and help people achieve great work, I had a bit of a light bulb moment after a talk by Fig Taylor (AOI) and knew I wanted to be an agent, so much so I immediately called my mum and told her I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I used my days off when I wasn’t working to make huge lists of agencies mostly in London, as that’s where I wanted to be. I had a brief moment where I did a Sotheby’s summer course in Art History, where I spent a month sofa surfing around London thanks to friends who let me stay. After that I spent my days in coffee shops emailing and ringing everyone, until I was offered some work experience. I went down to London and a week turned into two, which turned into a 3 month paid internship, which turned into a job.

I learnt a lot about children’s illustration, something I never swayed towards at all at Uni, which I now have a massive appreciation and understanding of that I didn’t have before, but this was mostly in the publishing industry, and I knew there was something more.

Strangely, my dream was to work for Handsome Frank, an agency that I personally thought had the best illustrators, who had a handle on contemporary illustration, and had a nice approach and interesting voice. One day I was looking on Twitter, which I never do, and I saw a tweet advertising the position of Junior Agent. Anyway, a couple of meetings and a few beers later, I got the job and am now in a team of great people who deal with illustration across so many sectors, it’s a very exciting and interesting place to be!

What would I most like to pass on

Don’t get disheartened but be savvy.  There’s lots of illustration out there and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. It does on this end too, and there simply isn’t enough time to respond to every submission, but if you’re looking for an agent, do your research and find one that you think is appropriate to you, look up who works there and tailor it to them. (I.e.- Dear Sir/Madam’s not a good start!)

If you’re going it alone, brush up on some contract law and jargon for when you receive contracts, otherwise you could be handing people a lot more than you bargained for, worst case scenario you could give someone all your rights, so the image you created isn’t even yours any more and you can’t even show or tell anyone you made it.

When negotiating a job if you don’t have an agent, set out exactly what you’re going to deliver, where it’s going to be and for how long, and the fee. If they change their mind or ask you to do extra work, then that’s more work which requires another fee. As a rule I would say know your worth and don’t work for free. Also state that you always retain your copyright.

What did I do wrong

Underestimate the need and absolutely necessity to understand and to be competent with computer software. If you wish to be a freelance illustrator, although there are exceptions to the rule, you really need to know how to at least use Photoshop and some Indesign. Something I’ve learnt despite going to all the workshops, at the time it didn’t seem for me, as I thought I liked prints and handmade work more, but with the type of illustration I mostly deal with now it’s not commercially viable. If you need to change a colour or move something around if the client wishes, you need to be able to do that quickly without redrawing the whole image.

What I wish I had done at uni

I wish I had gone to every single workshop and every talk with a guest speaker to glean all the information I could and to meet interesting people. Also use all the facilities, you think printing is expensive, it’s no compared with the real world..

What really makes the difference.

Finishing work to a professional standard. Sometimes you can see student work straight away because it just doesn’t seem quite completed and have that polished edge. This is something that obviously comes with time and practice as you refine your skill, but it can be easy to be glanced over if you don’t have this.

Having an audience for your work. Art School is a time to experiment, but by the end of third year you should know or have an idea of where you want your work to be and the kind of people you want to commission you. Wherever you go, does your portfolio and website reflect this?

Being proactive. Go to exhibition openings/ creative nights/ art fairs/ talks/ workshops. Meet people, make connections, build up a rapport with like-minded people in your area. It’s good to be on someone’s radar when they quickly need to hire an illustrator.


Alumni: Thomas Hartnett O’Meara animates David Hockney for Tate Britain.

Alumni Thomas Hartnett O’Meara graduated from the BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation programme in 2012 going on to complete an MA at the RCA in 2015. Previously profiled here on this blog Thomas is also an alumni of the School of Art Foundation Diploma.

In recent work Thomas has just completed a high profile commission from Tate Britain for the current sell out: David Hockney Retrospective – you can see the animated film on the vimeo link below.

Thomas has also been working for renowned film maker Wes Anderson on puppets for forthcoming The Isle of Dogs animated feature film, due out in 2018. More news on this as it goes live.

Link to Thomas Hartnett O’Meara’s website

Alumni Becca Hall: two years on…

Graduate stories – two years on we hear from alumni Becca Hall


Becca Hall graduated in 2014 with a successful degree show and a well received body of work based on her life and interests back in the Lake District.  The entrepreneurial approach was always evident in Becca’s career ambition and she has developed an ever expanding body of work that connects to her love of  the lakes, its people and places. Below are some reflections and advice we asked Becca to pass on in her own words, starting off with an interesting commission developed as an external collaboration over a number of meetings between Ian Whadcock and Bronwyn Simpson at Stockport Museum services – Bronwyn herself being an alumni of the BA (Hons) Textiles in Practice course in (2001) and now also running her own millinery business at MMU Marketplace Studios Stockport.

Becca: I have has  been pretty busy with freelance illustration work since graduation. In 2015 I was asked by the Stockport Story Museum to re-design and illustrate all the walls and information boards on the 4th floor (the family/children section of the museum). This was by far the biggest job I have ever done, and I really enjoyed it. I worked from home, sending the files over the internet, and only occasionally visiting the museum site in Stockport. (To see the space and meet the client). This was a great opportunity and as I am based in the Lake District – it proves you don’t need to be in a big city to get city scale work. I was told that I was chosen over other shortlisted designers because they liked my individual style, and they were impressed by my website and online presence.


This was completed in late 2015 and involved a series of thematically linked large format exhibition  panels. I developed a series of characters, signage, dealt with hand drawn text and devised a range of printed materials to enhance visitor experience, encouraging interaction and engagement.

I have  also undertaken a lot of personal commissions, run stalls at print fairs across the North West, and provided a range of artwork and design for companies such as:
  • Soiree Make Up (Website illustrations)
  • Macarons by Al Strong (Website and printed menu that goes in every box of macarons sold!)
  • The Kendal Picture Framers (website banner)
  • South Lakes Housing (website banner and christmas e-card)
  • Prepare To Plan ( business consultancy – Helpful tip guide)
  • Hattie’s Homegrown (Illustrations for website and packaging)
  • Farrers Tea and Coffee – (Illustrations for mugs, tea towels and tea pots)
  • Childs & Co ( illustration for Children’s Toy Box)
  • Calvert Trust (Herdwick lamb for the Go Herdwick trail in the Lake District)
  • The Happy Newspaper (Emily Coxhead who weirdly was in the same year as me, on the Graphic Design course and we never met – despite me living with one of her friends and working on the same floor!)
  • Open/Close ranges of bespoke signage for cafes such as Homeground and Farrers Coffee.
At the same time I have also been launching my own range of products. This is something I decided I really wanted to do in my third year. So far I have been selling mugs, notebooks, pocket mirrors, calendars and cards. I aim to keep developing and diversifying my collections, attracting more stockists and in time to develop a distinctive brand and take a stand at one of the key trade shows like the Spring Fair at the NEC Birmingham or Top Drawer in London. Thats where I would really like to be: selling products around the country,  designed by me, manufactured and printed in England. I have already been approached by shops and outlets in the Lake District who are interested in developing a range of cards in 2017.. so watch this space!
I have also set up an Easy shop where I am getting orders almost every day for prints, cards, originals, mugs etc. It does work.
Mistakes I’ve made……
The big one has to be when I took on someones wedding stationary as a commission. I didn’t specify sufficient terms and conditions in the acceptance of commission quote, and ended up spending eleven Months on a £400 budget. The  client kept asking me for more and more, and change after change. As I hadn’t stated that changing their mind would cost them money, I just had to do it – and learn from it!
Tips for current undergraduates:
Attend any lectures you can on running your own business, being self employed, tax and negotiating fees. These are invaluable when you first start out and can cost you time money and stress if you get it wrong.
Pay attention to your website/blog and social media presence, post regularly and don’t be afraid of showing work in progress and telling people what you are up to. Pay attention to tagging posts and building the right audience for your  work. Be consistent across different channels and respond positively to interest you receive.
Be confident, and don’t lose sight of who you want to be. Don’t forget to draw, just to enjoy the act of drawing! Not everything has to be for a commission. Keep a journal/sketchbook… and use it. Sometimes when you’re stressed up to your eye balls with work and deadlines, its good to have something to look at that reminds you why you are doing it.
You can take a look at more of Becca’s work on her recently updated website.


Manchester Academy of Fine Arts Awards Presentation

In the first week of December a pop up show and awards ceremony was held at the Grosvenor Gallery, Manchester School of Art, for graduates selected by the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts at the 2016 degree show.


These cash awards are given for a range of categories across the fine arts with each award accompanied by the invitation to show work as guests at the annual MAFA exhibition for the next three years.

Three BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation students were selected in 2016: David Howe, Julia Pankowska and Antony Cross, pictured below.

David has gone on to be commissioned by the Folio Society, Julia was recently exhibited in a graduate show case at The Mission Gallery Swansea and is busy applying for shows across the UK. Antony has since won the Flourish Student Award from West Yorkshire Printmakers and is currently working on a two year part time MA in Illustration at Manchester School of Art.

The event was hosted for the first time by MMU with an afternoon reception, a speech from the president of  MAFA, with students, staff and alumni of Manchester School of Art.

Folio Society – commission for recent graduate: David Howe.

After being picked out at this years New Designers event in London July 2016, recent graduate David Howe has just completed an exciting new cover design and accompanying suite of drawings, for a classic of contemporary literature by highly regarded publishers The Folio Society in London.

We are not able to reveal the exact publication or any of the images just yet due to an embargo by the publishers, as soon as we can reveal more we will around March/ April 2017.

This is an excellent result for David who twelve months ago in his third year was working towards the annual Book Illustration Competition (a partnership between The Folio Society and the House of Illustration gallery in London).


Interestingly David failed to be shortlisted for the Folio competition in 2016 (War Horse Michael Morpurgo). However the experience gained from entering the competition informed all that he produced after this period right up to graduation.  This translated into a First Class Hons award from MMU, the attention of the Folio Society for the image above and within a few months this prestigious commission.

A profile of David’s degree show and link to his website can be found here.