Hear from a graduate of the Falmouth Flexible MA Illustration about how the course has helped her shape her career.
Natali de Mello, who currently lives in Canada, graduated from the Falmouth Flexible MA Illustration in December 2022. We spoke to Natali about how she’s balanced studying with other commitments, how the course has helped her examine her illustration practice, and how it’s enabled her to move into freelance illustration as a career.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Natali: I’m a Brazilian who’s been living in Canada for six years. I was working as an architect in Brazil for around 10 years. Then I went to Europe and started an MA in Architecture, but I realised it wouldn’t work for me.
I wanted to do something different and came to Canada, but I got pregnant, and things got a little bit harder. I then decided to do the online MA Illustration.
Why did you choose to study illustration online with Falmouth Flexible?
Natali: There were no suitable courses here where I live in Canada. My kids were little, and it was impossible to attend a course in person. I needed an online course and illustration was what I liked to do, even though I've worked as an architect and as a graphic designer.
Illustration was always a hobby, something that I did occasionally. I wanted to make it my profession and I didn't know how to start. I decided to change my career through online study.
How has the course helped you rethink and develop your own illustration practice?
Natali: It’s helped me a lot. I’ve drawn since I was a kid, but I never had academic knowledge about illustration or drawing, and I didn't have knowledge about the illustration market today and how it works.
I was searching for the academic background, but also the practical part of illustration. This is how the MA helped me see what I needed to do, to be in the market, to stand out from the competition and to get clients.
It also helped me to think about myself - what I would like to do and who I want to be.
The academic reading was very hard, especially because my first language isn’t English. It was a challenge for me, but I knew that’s what I needed to do.
A personal map Natali illustrated during the MA, which was recently bought by Sherbrooke City Council in Canada.
How did you balance work, study, and your other commitments?
Natali: I had to spend more hours studying than I had imagined, but it was worth it in the end. I work part-time as a graphic designer and during my MA I started getting illustration contracts as well.
Although the MA is an online course and I'm living on the other side of the world I made good friends. We’re going to meet for the graduation ceremony in Falmouth. It was very important for me to talk to people and make friends during the course.
What was the support like, both during the application process and your studies?
Natali: I searched for an online illustration course and filled in a form on the website to get more information. To my surprise, a Course Adviser called me from the UK. That made a good first impression. She called me three times to answer any questions during the application process. It was an important support.
During the course, I also had incredible online tutors that were always available. I also had support from the EAP (English for Academic Purposes) team from Falmouth University throughout the course.
I had more support than I’ve had before with in-person residential courses, so I was never alone in it.
How has the course helped you with your career?
Natali: The course helped me to know how to start, where to start, and that it’s possible. People always told me that I would make more money as an architect, but I wasn't happy. The course made me see that it’s possible to pursue what I enjoy. I’m not sure if I'm going to be rich or not, but it is possible.
It was easier to change careers once I knew how to do it and who I should approach, as well as having more knowledge of how to make a good illustration.
Before, I felt like a good illustration was a pretty one, but now I see that a good illustration is one that communicates well. The course helped me realise that. I've seen the results with the clients that I've had throughout the course.
Now that I see my work is better and has more structure, I have the confidence to charge more. People will pay and they’re happy with my work. It's just the beginning but it's important for me to see this.
The cover of the mock-up of a book Natali made during the Narrative and Storytelling module.
What are your future career plans and how will the course help you achieve your goals?
Natali:Long term, I want to work full-time as a freelancer. I intend to send my portfolio to illustration agencies. I think an illustration agency could help me with the business side.
I also intend to apply for funding to animate the story I did for my Final Major Project. I just did the trailer of the animation but now I want to apply for a funding from the government here in Canada so I can produce the whole animation. And maybe in the future I’m going to do a PhD, who knows!
Would you describe the illustration course as a good investment?
Natali: Yes, certainly. At the beginning, I was not at all confident because I didn't have the money to pay for the whole course. Then someone close to me said they had the money if I needed it, but they were sure I would make money while I was studying. I did then start to get clients during the course, so it helped me to pay. Now I see the MA Illustration was a very good investment.
Would you recommend the course to someone thinking of trying to move into illustration?
Natali: Yes, I love the course. I really recommend it. It made me reflect on myself, but also my career and what I want to be in the future.
Thank you to Natali for sharing your insights into the course!
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