MA Degree Show 2015

It is with a lot of nostalgia that I take the yearly pilgrimage to London to see The Masters of Arts Children's Book Illustration degree show.  The opportunity to read through dozens of dummies invariably makes me ache to run back to the studio to work. Oh! But there is always one more book project to read, always another precious sketchbook or portfolio that makes me linger for a few more minutes, way past closing time.

Go and visit this show at Candid Arts (keep going left out of Angel tube station). Details here.  Even setting a whole afternoon to read through all book projects I couldn't.  So here are some observations of my limited visit.

There are very strong visual identities already developed in this year's exhibition. I loved  Maisie Paradise Shearring's Susan's School Days. It  had me hooked for a good while of my time there wrapped in a very believable world;  Jenny Duke's very distinctive mono print lines At the playground; and Joe Lyward's charming I'm going to school stood out as having a visual language of their own.

Joe Lyward

This batch of illustrators was not shy to tackle sad or difficult subjects. I really enjoyed Li-Wen Chu's You are here where she uses internal external chromatic spaces to amplify meaning on her sweet text on memory; as Lucy Wooler's divorce piece Dancing with Mummy and Daddy; and Maria S. Costa's uplifting story about adoption in her book An Odd Family.

Li-Wen Chu

Although the majority of graduates concentrated on story books it was nice to see more conceptual approaches such as Indira Margot Hamaker's pineapple variations book and patterns. A nice reminder how this course encourages independent thinking and the pursuit of individual goals.

Favourites of this exhibition were:

 Shu-Ti Liao's hilarious Birdie and An adventure at night where she uses the outside of a beam of flashlight to illuminate what the character can't see. Shu-Ti has a superb chromatic sense, pace and point of view. She has developed several books to such high and completed, I have no idea if she ever sleeps.
Shu-Ti Liao

and
 Morag Hood, who I hope walks off with the golden envelope tonight, had me laughing out loud with When Grandad was a Penguin and Go away, where a snail, pestered by slugs, builds them a home and sends them on their way. She combines natural storytelling with very confident  bold characterisation  and great instinct for design.

Morag Hood

There was a wide spectrum of the level at which books have been developed, from early dummies with great surface experimentation and wit like Abigail Joy Bowen's...
Abigail Joy Bowen


...to published books such as Katie Harnett's Tras mi ventana.

Katie Harnett



Clearly fundraising efforts have been phenomenal to put together this show,  sometimes diverting from storytelling into merchandising. Nevertheless, this did not distract from the accomplished book projects, and as usual, the diversity in approaches, themes and techniques was a delight. There are woks there which will instantly be taken by british publishers and some which will sure benefit from the larger stage and wider tastes of the Bologna Children's book fair. 


My beloved old Cambridge School of Art seems to never run out of amazing talent, and both senior staff and regular visiting lecturers are ensuring that the quality stays high, to keep us alumni proud and on our toes.