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Rasato Ma – “MA Illustration allowed me to form my own ‘visual language’”

The MA Illustration programme provides students with a lot of freedom to play, allowing them to explore and experiment with the possibilities of illustration and even challenge their boundaries.


At 19.00 every Thursday night, I used to participate in Life Drawing. That was the first time in my life I saw a nude model. I was a little shocked then, but the other students looked very calm, observing the models intently and recording their figures with coloured pencils or charcoal. I tried to integrate with them. Having the time to immerse myself in a comfortable world and draw whatever I like isn't so easy now. I now have to focus on commercial projects and consider making a living.

I’m committed to the development of editorial and illustration for magazines and other publications. I pick out articles I’m interested in from The New York Times, The Guardian, and so on, and illustrate them on a self-employed basis. I’ve been focusing on this matter since graduating in September last year.

More significantly, I attempt to pitch my work to art directors or magazines because it’s important to learn how to network. It determines whether my work can be seen and appreciated by more people and whether I can get commercial opportunities in the illustration field.

I never thought my work would be featured by the UK's leading creative magazine, Creative Boom. I couldn't stop shouting and crying. They picked out some of my editorial work, because it represents by illustrative style.

Frankly speaking, I was the one who reached out to Creative Boom. This was because I knew that I’m just an unknown artist who graduated less than a year ago, and if I were the editor of a magazine, I'd choose famous artists over fresh graduates. But getting featured has helped me to realise that you have to be proactive about asking for opportunities. Don’t always think about making your work perfect before showing it to others. I’m never ready and I believe it’s always possible to do better than before. Just take the brave step forward.

A whole year of studying and living in Bournemouth was an impressive and unparalleled experience. I could never have imagined having such a fulfilling year, focusing on myself, exploring the possibilities and experimentations of illustration – such as life drawing, screen printing and intaglio printing – and making new friends.

I wanted to record and preserve all the beautiful and fleeting things that happened in the dazzling midsummer and ruthless winter in Bournemouth. So I made the illustration book SKETCHBOOK. This was also one of my graduation projects. I hesitated at first, as I'd already decided that my future direction for development would be electronic painting. But I couldn't resist the feeling of drawing on paper with coloured pencils. And to make the shortlist at the Young Ones Student Awards… that’s an incredible thing for me.

I didn't believe that I could really win the prize; I just entered with the mentality of giving it a try. When discussing competitions with my tutor at AUB, she said the competition itself sometimes depends on the preferences of the judges. If you don’t win an award, it doesn’t mean your work isn’t good enough or that you probably need more practice. Never let competitions define and demonstrate your work.

As I said before, the MA Illustration programme at AUB provides a variety of possibilities. It allowed me to explore and form my own ‘visual language’ for illustration. That’s why I decided to develop my editorial illustration skills for my career, because it creates a comfortable platform between me and my audience. Listening to and depicting their stories through my illustrations, considering colour, textures, and compositional schemes.

More importantly, this project taught me how to effectively control and manage time. I needed to consider how to regulate my time and learn how to explore and gain new skills on my own, because no one will tell me exactly what to do. The ability to learn independently and take control of my time became more and more obvious after graduating.

Check out Rasato's website for more of their work.

Something to think about

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