Illustration is art for the people: illustrators create work that is seen, enjoyed and judged by general audiences, not art specialists. The Illustration department is distinct from other majors at MICA in that it is not defined by a specific medium. Illustrations can be created by hand (drawing, painting, collage, assemblage, sculpture, printmaking, etc...), digitally (Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Corel Painter, Autodesk 3ds Max, Softimage and Maya, etc....) and increasingly a combination of both.
The language of Illustration is symbolic and narrative, rooted in the traditional codes of Western Art, but constantly affected by diverse contemporary and non-Western aesthetics.
The departmental courses provide technical and conceptual preparation that allows the students to become engaged professionals. Illustration majors learn to create work that is based on personal vision and aware of the shifts in markets and culture. Contemporary Illustrators create work mostly for publication (books, magazines, newspapers, web, comics and graphic novels, institutional publications, advertisements, posters and flyers, graphics for music, etc,) and preproduction (concept art and character design for film, video games, animation and television).
Students in the department have regularly received recognition in the Society of Illustrators of New York's Annual Student Competition and American Illustration Annual and Communication Arts Illustration Annual, 3x3 and Spectrum.
A variety of approaches in the use of materials, styles and markets are explored in the sophomore year in the courses Sophomore Illustration I and II. In addition, two electives in illustration further define technical skills and explore possibilities.
Confronting the challenges of problem solving, collaboration, and development of ideas with insight and originality are addressed in the junior year in their Junior Illustration I and II classes. Students further identify their strengths and personalize their coursework through a variety of electives in the department.
Seniors are mentored in two semesters of portfolio building work in Senior Illustration I and II to prepare a solid body of work in order to become professional illustrators. Professional Development for Illustrators includes portfolio preparation, business practice, intellectual property, and copyright issues.
Illustration electives address the specific interests of illustration students and help them go deeper into several areas of illustration, such as Book Illustration, Sequential Art, Concept Art and Character Design. Out-of-department electives help to diversify abilities. Critiques, presentations on historical and contemporary illustrators, guest artists, media demonstrations, off-site sketching, and field trips enrich classes on all levels.
Several studio concentrations at MICA are relevant to illustrators. These include Book Arts, Animation, Graphic Design, and Printmaking. Minors in Art History or Humanistic Studies can be completed by adding six credits to those required for the BFA in the chosen minor field, as detailed in the section on liberal arts minors.
Faculty in the department are professionals who bring the experience of their award-winning careers to the classroom. They are involved in all major illustration and comics conferences and festivals. Their work is regularly published and exhibited in national and international venues. Additionally, noted guest speakers discuss their work and critique student work. The department maintains the Julian Allen Illustration Gallery, which displays exhibitions to showcase work by the department's students, illustration alumni, and guest illustrators. The illustration office provides a friendly and relaxing place for students to meet faculty, get advisement, and become an integral part of the department.
Adobe's Creative Suite is installed in all departmental labs. Wacom tablets are available for checkout by illustration students, two large and one small Cintiq screens are in the studios, and the department has two large format scanners. The Illustration Department's senior studio blends studio space, classroom, and digital lab into one room. No matter what media students use, they are encouraged to buy their own computers upon entering the department as an essential tool in professional illustration.