GREAT scholarship awardee Jiabin describes how she came to study MA Children's Book Illustration here and what her course and her life in Cambridge involves.
The UK has a long and renowned history of children's literature and illustration, from Middle-earth to Narnia, from Treasure Island to Hogwarts. This land seems to be full of imagination. It’s a great honour and pleasure for me to be awarded the GREAT Scholarship for my study of MA Children’s Book Illustration course in the Cambridge School of Art at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).
Before joining ARU, I was a lawyer and worked part-time in a legal aid center and social work organisation in China. I participated in art education activities for children in primary schools in underdeveloped areas. At the beginning I did some creative writing for stories for these children as I was always interested in reading Children’s literature and illustration books since I was a child. During this process I had the chance to work together with art illustrators to complete these stories into illustrated books. I gradually began to explore the relationship between pictures and texts and extended my interest to illustration creation.
During my undergraduate study, I had the opportunity to visit Cambridge for my exchange programme and travelled around the UK. Cambridge is an ideal location for international students. As a university town it has a long history and academic atmosphere, also a creative hub with exciting art and cultural activities. The teaching concept and curriculum design at the Cambridge School of Art is very supportive to young artists. It has a focus on traditional art skills but at the same time encouraging new and creative experiments. Within the School there is a friendly art community atmosphere. The majority of our teachers are also very experienced freelance illustrators and artists. They encourage the students to be creative, critical and innovative in our design work.
Lectures and studio work
I started the course in September 2021 when the teaching activities have mostly returned to on campus delivery. We can make full use of the art studios and facilities including printmaking and 3D printing for our study and design work. At Cambridge School of Art, there is also the private tutorial session every week when as a student I have ample time to meet with my tutor or other visiting artists to discuss my work. Our study activities are not just limited to the lectures on campus. We do observational drawing in the historical buildings and charming streets in Cambridge; we visit museums in Cambridge to see extra learning resources for inspirations; we are shown and encouraged to read in libraries and art studios the excellent art works by other artists; we participate in various local cultural activities like the "Dinky Door" tour and story-telling day. This immersive learning experience is very distinctive and value adding for art students especially international students from a different culture and education background.
Observational drawing in Cambridge
I have keen interests in local culture and ethnic stories. The projects I choose to work on in this semester are all based on the stories of local history. My tutors have been very supportive to introduce me to various resources to get the first hand experience. Through their network and recommendation, I became a volunteer in the Museum of Cambridge which has offered me a unique chance and a deeper understanding of the urban development history in Cambridge and its “Town and Gown" culture. My project has gradually developed from ideas into mature story and design.
My project work ‘Haunted in Museum’
I am greatly enjoying my studies and life in Cambridge. It’s exciting to absorb new knowledge, experience and skills every day. I will continue to improve and devote myself to illustration and books on children's education and social welfare. I want to be a children's book creator with not only great illustration skills but also a good sense of social responsibility for children's growth.
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