February 14, 2020

Rose Jenkins

The illustration course here at Cardiff Met is really open – it’s not just about digital or traditional drawing, though these are obviously important. In fact, we can even work in three dimensions!

At Cardiff School of Art and Design (CSAD), students from every course, including Illustration, are welcome to use all of the workshops for metal, ceramics, wood, textiles and more.

We even have special ‘Field’ modules which give us the opportunity to work with other students from different courses to broaden your knowledge. It helps us to learn other techniques and discover new approaches to our own practice – basically, with the art school at Cardiff Met the world really is your oyster!

I really enjoy studying BA illustration for this reason – I like the openness of the course and I love the freedom this brings to my practice.

There is often a misconception that illustration only involves drawing and flat, two dimensional work – but it can be much more than just designing greeting cards or illustrating stories for books and magazines. An illustrator can use whatever materials they choose to explore the narrative.

We also learn that illustration it doesn’t just have to be a sidekick to writing – it can carry a lot of meaning on its own. Illustrators can create art about topics they’re truly passionate about like climate change, mental health, politics, culture and more, all while using many different materials and techniques.

I really enjoy the whole making process behind what I create on the course. For example, I’ve been investigating making my own paper as part of the narrative. I add botanicals like dried flowers such as lavender so the paper smells lovely and provides an interesting texture. I grow and harvest my own lavender, so it’s aesthetic and therapeutic properties become a part of the illustration.

Paper making
Making my own paper

My practice is inspired by issues around mental health, so I try to create stories and art pieces that attempt to empathise with and hopefully help people with poor mental health.

To do this I find my practice is often inspired by nature, plants and the environment, and sometimes by the magic and mythology which has grown from centuries of lore about ‘Mother Nature’. I try to incorporate this into my illustrations in a way that tells a story which is therapeutic for me and for others.

As part of my dissertation, I researched herbal medicines and botanicals. My focus was a

nostalgic nod towards how, as a child, I use to make my own ‘magic’ wands to create spells to make things better. I’d use items I found around the house – all sorts of things such as bits of broken toys, twigs, ribbons and glitter would go into creating these power wielding tools!

I would create stories in my head about the wand’s powers and this in turn would calm and reassure me, and help me to sleep more soundly.

This link to my childhood and my passion about helping people with mental health and insomnia lead to my decision to make a 3D artefact for my dissertation. I’ve been creating my own wands once again, this time using flowers, herbs and crystals which I know through my dissertation research that many people claim to be therapeutic.

One of my wands

Another aspect of my practice is to tell stories using embroidery and stitch. I really enjoy the slower pace of hand embroidery, because it forces you to be involved with the simple process of pushing and pulling a needle and thread through a piece of cloth – I find it relaxing.

Embroidery has so many different stitches and techniques, it can be as 3 dimensional as you like. Again, my embroidered pieces often incorporate a narrative focussing on nature and helping others, because that is what I am inspired by. Whether you prefer to work in two or three dimensions, the Illustration course at CSAD offers you all the creative freedom to follow your interests and inspirations.