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.



Reportage Event November 2016

Drawn from Life: Reportage event Manchester School of Art 04/11/16

Keynote Lecture: Olivier Kugler


With additional short presentations from Dr John Hewitt and Robin Sukatorn.

This event first began as a conversation with Olivier Kugler in 2014 around a bid for Arts Council funding to develop an extensive body of work based on observations in conflict zones and refugee camps with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

By expanding the scope of the day to cover reportage from three distinct speaker perspectives the intention was to explore some of the tensions around definitions of reportage and the distribution of content through traditional and evolving media platforms. The Q&A discussions also covered the contextualisation of layered content through the relationship of contemporary and historical narratives in the body of the drawing or post and the use of photography as a part of the reportage process.

The lectures were attended by staff  and students from Manchester School of Art undergraduate, postgraduate, foundation and alumni: Julia Midgley and Cherie Gerrard.  Also present were our invited guests: staff and students from Stockport College Illustration programme. I am grateful for the article below written by MFA student Robin Sukatorn as a reflective record of the event and to Dr John Hewitt for his contributions on the day.

In a world where news is increasingly consumed in endless rolling feeds, where political campaigns are fought in a media frenzy of ‘post-truth’ rhetoric and bombastic headlines, and where the minutiae of daily life is framed, curated and shared across a swelling smörgåsbord of social media platforms, questions of representation, authenticity, truth and engagement have become particularly pertinent. Amongst this bustling melee of information and visual content, where do we find space for representations of nuanced, individual lives; for local and personal moments and experiences; and for authentic, unfiltered portrayals of the human condition? Where do we find time to pause and observe the people and places in the world around us?

One medium which has the potential to cut through the noise is reportage illustration. This unique creative process involves the recording of events, scenes, people and places through direct observation and on-location drawing, and offers a novel and engaging way of shining a light on more local stories and personal experiences. Reportage artists place themselves in the unique and intimate position of a witness and reporter, producing visual records of a specific subject, responding immediately and intuitively to the observed scene at hand and capturing its essence and vitality through their own individual perspective,style and technique.

Olivier Kugler, a prolific socially-engaged illustrator and visual essayist based in London, is one of the most prominent practitioners of this reportage tradition, and this Autumn term the Manchester School of Art Department of Illustration with Animation hosted a special public event, convened by Senior Lecturer Ian Whadcock, in which Kugler discussed the development of his practice and presented a selection of his illustrations to an audience of students, educators and creative practitioners.

I was privileged to be invited to participate in the event myself, opening proceedings with a short presentation of my own reportage drawings developed over the course of my first year of MFA Illustration studies at the Manchester School of Art. I spoke about my own experience scouting out and documenting various scenes and events from contemporary political, cultural and community life: drawing newly-elected Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking outside Manchester Cathedral, culminating in an illustration for which I was delighted to receive the 2016 John Ruskin Prize Student Award, as well as regular excursions to draw city council meetings, music concerts, political demonstrations, public vigils and parades in Manchester and the North of England. I also presented a selection of my drawings from a current project with the responsible-investment charity Share Action, in which I am developing a series of compositions documenting scenes from the Annual General Meetings of several FTSE 250 companies including Marks & Spencers, National Grid and United Utilities, based on my personal observations and sketches of the characters, interactions and proceedings witnessed from within the meetings.


I was followed by Dr John Hewitt, a Senior Lecturer in Illustration at Manchester School ofArt and the winner of the Hugh Casson Prize for drawing at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2016, who in his presentation offered his own take on reportage illustration and his experiences using drawing as a means of representing and documenting the world around him. He spoke of his role as a ‘psychogeographer’- one who wanders through the urban environment, observing and recording the relationships between places and people, including the histories and ghosts of the past which linger seen or unseen in specific locations. He also recounted his experience documenting the 7/7 bombings in London, through drawings committed from memory based on his personal observations in the aftermath of the attacks, and how he felt a strong moral duty not to invent or inject himself as the artist into the image due to the sensitive subject at hand. I was particularly struck by his words on the ‘evidential value of the moment’ as a core feature of reportage, the important role of drawing in building empathy- particularly evident in his own moving sketches of homeless people on the streets of Manchester- and the positive utility of social media as a platform for sharing and building wider engagement with his drawings and the stories behind them.


As our special guest for the afternoon, Olivier Kugler then took to the podium to share the story of his development as a reportage illustrator. Born into an artistic household in Germany, Kugler spoke about his love for drawing as a child, with a particular focus on the human figure and documenting the world around him. Although initially pursuing the more economically-secure option of studying and working as a graphic designer for a number of years, Kugler eventually broke away from this path and threw himself into the world of illustration, bolstered by a scholarship to study a masters degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

It was fascinating to hear Kugler talk first-hand about the development of his creative process as a reportage illustrator, in which he works from direct observation, on-location drawings and personal photographs, subsequently incorporating text, digital colour and narrative composition and creating vivid and characterful visual essays which capture the unique personal stories of particular individuals and places. While presenting us with a selection of his drawings, Kugler offered an insightful commentary into the stories and experiences behind some of his most engaging projects: with particular highlights including his sketches and interviews of diverse characters encountered on the streets of New York and London; drawings of aged locals and railways conductors in China as part of a field trip of Guardian journalists; spending four days travelling through Iran with a truck driver and documenting the experience through reportage illustrations based on personal photographs, interviews and memories, for which he was awarded the overall prize at the 2011 V&A Illustration Awards; drawing discreetly from within the home of a characterful ‘super-grass’ ex-mafioso named Luigi; witnessing and documenting the desperate living conditions of refugee families in Iraqi Kurdistan- and subsequently the island of Kos in Greece and the Calais ‘jungle’ in France- and offering a crucial and poignant insight into the human stories behind the headlines which so often pass us by as faceless and sweeping reports.

To hear Kugler speak so passionately and movingly about his experiences meeting and drawing such a diverse array of individuals around the world- whose stories are told with patience and detail through his characterful and engaging illustrations- was incredibly inspiring and eye-opening, both for myself as an aspiring illustrator and no doubt for the other students, practitioners and educators in the audience. Through bringing together different approaches and experiences of documentary drawing, visual journalism and reportage illustration, and offering a platform for Kugler in particular to share the stories and insights behind his remarkable work, the event built a compelling and optimistic picture of how drawing can be harnessed to reflect a more nuanced, intimate and engaging perspective of the world around us.

Article by Robin Sukatorn MFA Illustration Student at Manchester School of Art

©Robin Sukatorn 05/12/16

Dr John Hewitt’s drawings and account of the 7/7 London bombings are on permanent display at the Museum of London

Alumni Profile two years on: Beth Thompson.


Bethany Thompson graduated in 2014 having already started to work on an independent magazine publication: Counterpoint along side her own illustration practice.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-12-36-59Counterpoint started as an online only publication but has gradually moved into print and is now on it’s eleventh issue. Each issue is themed and contributors are invited to submit proposals for publication. In late 2016 the magazine was shortlisted in the Stack Awards for best use of illustration in a magazine!

Great recognition from judges Derek Brazell (writer and illustrator project manager for AOI/Varoom) and Cath Coldwell (Senior Lecturer Central St Martins, editor Lawrence King, former editorial art director, Observer London, Conde Nast Traveler in New York and at Hearst Magazines UK as design director for ELLE UK).

In addition to Counterpoint when Beth left Manchester School of Art she applied for and succeeded in gaining an internship opportunity at the Out of The Blue Arts and Education Trust – a print workshop based at the Drill Hall in Edinburgh. Click here for a short film about Out of The Blue

In 2016 the role of internship was due to come to an end but the trust promoted Beth to Studio Manager as a recognition of the contribution she was making to the on going success of the venture. This has created a great platform for learning, community engagement, the development of professional practice skills and has recently pulled in work for prestigious clients such as UNESCO to the print workshop.

At a recent reunion meeting with Beth in Edinburgh we discussed the importance of exposure to contemporary practice models and being professionally informed during the third year at MMU. In addition taking responsibility to look beyond the individual project brief and the degree classification for a sense of practitioner identity, and how was a vital reference point in the period post graduation.

Fundamentally Beth demonstrates that a willingness to collaborate and be proactive in accessing complimentary resources and learning beyond the immediate curriculum has created real opportunities. To quote Beth regarding the internship –  ‘….aim to make yourself indispensable and develop the role you undertake in any way you can’.

Counterpoint is available on-line and in the following outlets





  • Magma, Covent Garden
  • Magma, Clerkenwell Road


  • Magma, Oldham Street