Overview of our BFA in Illustration
New York Film Academy BFA in Illustration program is offered at our Los Angeles Campus.
Qualified students have the option of completing course work at the New York Film Academy in New York City in a one-year non-degree program and then applying their course work to be accepted for advanced standing in the BFA Illustration degree program.
The NYFA BFA in Illustration curriculum provides immersive training and education in preparation for a career in Illustration, alongside comprehensive study in Liberal Arts & Sciences. The program cultivates with significant depth the competencies, technical skills, practical knowledge, entrepreneurial talents and varied considerations that are germane to Illustration practice. By establishing an overarching philosophical commitment to substantive, incisive and eloquent works of visual communication, the student’s abilities will traverse all major genres and classifications of Illustration, from Editorial and Scientific Illustration to image-making for books and self-publishing, enabling both breadth of exposure and specificity of interest in defining a career as an illustrator.
The BFA in Illustration provides a creative and encouraging setting in which to inspire, challenge and promote the talents of its students as they follow an intensive curriculum and achieve multiple learning objectives.
The first two semesters of the BFA in Illustration establish an elegant framework for the fundamental skills necessary to the study of illustration: sensitivity and criticality in the areas of two-dimensional design; basic color theory; perspective and anatomy in drawing; representational painting from observation; materials and techniques; visual thinking/ideation; applied illustration concepts coupled with an overview of the profession; and the history of the field itself, contextualized by research and discussion of political, social and technological innovations which contributed to its evolution and continuing development. Semesters 3-6 offer a wealth of exposure and practice with processes, materials and mediums in the form of technical workshops. Proficiency in the use of industry-standard hardware and software applications for digital media, as well as the fundamentals of coding for new forms of interactive communication is encouraged through digital coursework. During this period, students develop a thorough and practical understanding of the wide array of visual communication vehicles, content and audiences associated with illustration and strengthen and challenge their critical thinking skills through continual discourse with faculty and peers in concept-oriented coursework. Having developed in previous semesters an affinity for unique ways of working, potential career paths and artistic voice, students enter the final semesters as the culmination of the program. The last two semesters (7-8) require significant focus on the development and fulfillment of a thesis project, building a portfolio and planning for career options, including entrepreneurial enterprise. These experiences accompany the culmination of both rigorous scholarly and visual research in the form of a thesis.
In fulfillment of General Education requirements, students complete the majority of the required Foundation Studies coursework in the first two semesters. Courses taught in the area of Foundation Studies focus on communications, analysis and deductive reasoning. Students practice critical thinking, reading, writing and scholarly research, and these courses build a foundation for more specialized subjects requiring advanced written and oral communication skills in later semesters. Mastered in the prescribed sequence, the skills prepare students for advanced illustration coursework and facilitate the development and completion of informed and viable project proposals for degree projects.
In the first semester, students are introduced to the fundamentals of two-dimensional design and color theory, as well as perspective systems in observational drawing, with an emphasis on convincing articulation of form and volume in space. Visual thinking skills are cultivated alongside exposure to basic semiotics of visual communication, and written and spoken evidence of critical perspective emerges through frequent critique and writing. Students are encouraged to think beyond convention and apply what they have learned to their creative work. They are provided an orientation to the history of western art and visual culture and round out their learning with Foundation Studies courses in English Composition and Physical and Mental Wellness.
In semester two, students will be introduced to a range of materials commonly employed by illustrators and will explore the intersection of idea and applied context, with particular attention to audience and the unique character of a variety of communication vehicles. They will continue to challenge themselves critically and creatively through daily critical discourse in the studio and will be provided with a thorough grounding in representational drawing from observation, with an emphasis on human anatomy, the figure in perspectival space and the construction of dynamic pictorial narrative. An introduction to oil painting will stress articulation of light, fundamentals of color as applied to painting, the material properties of paint, and its uses in technical terms. The History of Illustration is also taught in the second semester, grounding their thinking in the rich heritage of the field through political, social and cultural lenses, and enabling them to apply this knowledge to their own investigations in studio and critique. They will continue to challenge their image-making abilities, both artistically and technically. Students’ visual vocabularies will be further developed through practical and conceptual engagement with their work and the work of others, including seminal visual artists. Students develop persuasive oratory and foundational research skills in Public Speaking.
In the students’ third semester, they investigate deeply the relationships between verbal and visual language in the pictorial interpretation of non-fiction texts—from simple verbal prompts such as idioms and quotations, to contemporary essays and memoirs. They will further their exposure to the heritage of the field in the review of illustrated texts throughout history, and will examine the relationships between verbal and visual language, including the use of tropes and grammatical concepts and compositional structure. Students strengthen their critical and interpretive skills by writing and deconstructing texts of their own. Visual thinking is further mined in the development of ideas and formal and technical sensitivity is deepened through practical illustration problems and critical evaluation. A survey of digital illustration applications, including the Adobe Creative Suite and Corel Painter, provide a substantial grounding in the use of digital media for illustration, thereby preparing students for more advanced coursework such as Coding and Illustrating for Interactive Narrative. A Technical Workshop in Mixed Media, Collage and Assemblage affords exposure to less conventional uses of materials and techniques, adding to their formal and technical competencies while stimulating improvisation and experimentation. They will round out their Foundation Studies with analytical courses in Critical Thinking and Mathematics and will choose either Comparative Literature or Dramatic Literature to fulfill Arts and Humanities credit requirements.
In semester four, Text To Image II will continue investigation of the dynamic partnership between text and illustration, exploring narrative genres such as children’s books, short stories, memoir and historical narratives. Students will grow more committed to documenting the world around them with a class in Sketchbooks and Visual Journalism, which will broaden their exposure to cultures, people and places beyond their own intimate, familiar sphere, while reinforcing skills of drawing from observation, visual thinking and writing. In a course focusing on Series Illustration, students will create projects characterized by multiple different, yet related, iterations on themes. Design principles such as unity within variety are key to the experience in this semester, and practical problems addressing series-oriented content will be undertaken. A course in 3D Digital Graphics will introduce the students to sophisticated 3D rendering, providing requisite skills to produce digital 3D images with the use of industry standard hardware and software. Students will expand their General Education studies to include coursework in Natural Sciences and Social and Behavioral Sciences, providing broader context to their illustration practice.
In semester five, the relationship between picture and word is further explored in Introduction to Typography, a studio course designed to shape student proficiency in typographic design, reinforcing the enduring partnership between illustrator and designer and empowering the illustrator with the necessary abilities to develop sophisticated typographic contexts for their work. Students will build upon the knowledge gained in Social and Natural Sciences in a class specifically designed to call out the symbiotic relationship between scientific data and phenomena, natural forms, and socio-political dynamics by learning to interpret and represent information clearly and objectively. A Coding class will prepare students for a subsequent course in interactive design (see semester six), occurring a little more than halfway along their educational path and affording ample time to explore emerging technologies and media in the remaining semesters. A class in the materials, techniques, processes and uses of manual three-dimensional illustration will occur in semester five, keeping the students in close touch with issues of materiality, tactility, and making, Humanities credits are included in the areas of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and students will choose an upper-division History of Art, Theatre, and Media course to round out their academic coursework.
In this semester students reflect on the role of the illustrator as public intellectual and member of society. Projects in Editorial Illustration, promoting political commentary, philanthropic enterprise, illustrating for non-profits, and engaging in cultural criticism become the focus of studio work, complemented by an orientation to self-published formats for illustration such as comics and zines. Synthesizing drawing and painting from imagination with imagery created from direct observation provides the platform for a genre class in Science Fiction and Fantasy Illustration. The most common subject in all of illustration—the human persona—will be represented in various modes, including portraiture and caricature, while reviewing exemplary precedents by artists and illustrators throughout history. Natural Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Social and Behavioral Sciences courses round out the students’ coursework.
Combined with their extensive preparatory coursework in pictorial narrative, drawing and painting, and the conceptual, problem-solving skills they developed in the preceding semesters, students are well prepared to embark on the final two semesters of their course of study. At this time students define a final thesis project and determine the direction of their thesis research in a course that provides an investigative forum for both. Courses in Arts and Humanities will further enrich students’ analytical skills. In semester seven, students also explore complex new mediums for communication in Illustrating for Interactivity, utilizing the foundational skills they acquired in the earlier Coding class. Using transformative communication vehicles, they will confront the many considerations affecting the development and interpretation of content. Likewise, students will gain proficiency in the fast-growing field of illustrating for the entertainment industry, relying on the students’ abilities in coding, digital imaging, illustrated characterization, and reiterative visual thinking.
During the final semester, students focus primarily on their thesis projects in the genre of their choice, beginning with a clearly stated objective and a well-articulated research strategy. The written thesis paper is created in tandem with the completion of a sizable final degree project, begun in semester seven and representing the culmination of abilities and insights gained during the previous seven semesters of coursework. Students will produce their theses under supervision of a Thesis Committee comprised of NYFA faculty. Consolidating and refining their work from previous semesters, students will demonstrate advanced technical skills, creative vision, and personal aesthetic in the production of their final portfolio and body of work for the Thesis Exhibition. A course in Entrepreneurial Business Practices promotes multiple possibilities for illustrators and—along with the Portfolio class—assists students in the preparation of a business plan, self-promotional materials, participation in competitions, and the establishment of a support network of peers and industry mentors. Students’ last course in Arts and Humanities category complements their studio research in their final semester.