Image credits

Course Leader Q&A

The staff are all practitioners and this is an integral part of the course, the majority exhibit work nationally and internationally and present at conferences.

Glyn Brewerton
Course Leader
Read Glyn Brewerton’s staff profile.

Could talk about your background and your passion for illustration?

I’d always been a massive fan of comics and children’s illustrated books. I have a big collection – hundreds – so it began there. I’ve always had a passion for making pictures and my mother is a painter who was very influential to me. I’ve worked for a range of organisations including Creative Review, a new media company and a music foundation. Each job led on to the next one because I was always learning from people and looking to work. When I decided to go freelance I scouted agencies to represent me as an Illustrator and I was taken on by one of the better ones.

I was shortlisted for a drawing prize in 2007 and was in the same exhibition as Ian Davenport, who had previously been nominated for the Turner Prize. I started curating exhibitions of my work and got a residency at a studio near Nottingham.

Teaching now takes a much bigger role in my life and it’s about how I put all this experience into my teaching and encourage students to do better and try different things. I am really passionate about supporting students to be better than the last year, producing generations of people doing different, inventive things. I encourage students to not just make pictures, but to be inventors and writers, that’s my philosophy. This stems from the people I’ve worked with and that’s the advantage of working in the industry you teach in.

What makes the course special?

We have a good record of graduates going on to establish new companies and they often come back and speak to our students. Tamlyn Francis, who is part of our Creative Industry Liaison Group, and Caroline Tomlinson, who was also a student here, have gone on to be Managing Directors at Arena Illustration Agency. Eastwing Illustration Agency is also managed by an NUA Illustration graduate. I think that makes us unique in that we have fantastic links with graduates who have gone on to do good things.

The staff are all practitioners and this is an integral part of the course, the majority exhibit work nationally and internationally and present at conferences. This helps to maintain very good links to what is going on in London. Neil Bousfield is a print maker, novelist and has done a lot of work in the US. Norwich has a big voice in this broader illustration community. I don’t know whether this makes us completely original and distinctive but it makes us noticeable. People know the strength of the course at Norwich because of the quality of the graduates.

How is the course taught?

In year one the majority of projects are workshop driven and we take a broad approach in order for students to develop the skills they need to engage with the project properly. We have regular practical skill sessions, e.g. working with image and text, editorial, publications, storyboarding and working with ideas and concepts and key skills such as working with colour and line print making. The course is almost split into two halves where the first year and a half is mainly technical and practical skill development leading into projects and teaching which focuses more on business skills, so there is a natural flow from one to the next.

We look at approaching industry in the right way, tax, business and self-assessment. Predominantly illustrators work initially as freelancers and even if they are working in groups/companies they need business skills. This runs alongside the creative skills development.

What do you look for in applicants to the course?

Primarily drawing skills, not just good but excellent. Creativity in the sense that they understand how to apply skills imaginatively. We don’t necessarily expect them to have undertaken illustration projects because it might not be something they’ve been taught in schools but we do expect them to have an imagination and to have an understanding of what illustration is.

I think really an understanding of how illustration works in partnership with other things such as text or music is really important. So we are really looking for people who understand how a picture functions and how it should communicate. Illustration is more about what you add to a set of words as oppose to illustrating every single word and if students can demonstrate that then it is really to their advantage.

What I say on open days is we are looking for strong drawing, a coherently presented portfolio, sketchbooks and an openness to try different things. Those are the core things. Also they need to be willing to talk about their work. They must understand illustration and not see it as a grey area between other disciplines. It has its own function and because we are illustrators we are passionate about this and an applicant’s enthusiasm and passion for the subject needs to be clear.