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The certificate program in Illustration provides you with a solid foundation for creating images, learning illustrative techniques, and understanding an illustrator's creative process.

SMFA offers a unique and flexible approach to illustration, maintaining its fine art basis while teaching its practical applications. You will acquire general technical and conceptual skills to use in a wide variety of opportunities within the field. You can choose to focus on particular types of illustration, such as editorial illustration for newspapers and magazines, children's book illustration, cartooning, graphic novels, concept illustration for ads and video games, and more. You can also delve into digital and analog techniques, including Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, watercolor, oil painting, or printmaking.

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Program Requirements

This program consists of 10 courses comprised of 5 required fundamental courses and 5 electives.

Please note: The semester offering information listed below is generally correct, but is subject to change.

Required Courses

We suggest beginning the program with either Drawing for Illustrators and Figurative Artists or Illustration: Beginner. After completing both classes, we recommend taking Fundamentals of 2D Design, and Illustration: Intermediate, before moving on to a wide selection of elective courses and concluding with Portfolio Preparation.

Drawing for Illustrators and Figurative Artists (offered Fall, Spring)

This course combines frequent drawing sessions at the Museum of Fine Arts, in-class workshop assignments and at-home drawing exercises. Students will learn the fundamentals of traditional figurative drawing, novel techniques used by successful artists, composition, perspective, expressive light and shade and the creative use of reference. The course will also include group critiques, examples of relevant artwork and demonstrations of tools, materials and techniques. By the end of the course, students will be proficient at the fundamentals of traditional drawing, familiar with the basic tools of drawing, and adept at imagining, designing, and executing compelling and dynamic figurative imagery.

Illustration I (offered Fall, Spring)

In this course, you will explore the partnership between the art of illustration and the written word. We begin with a warm-up drawing exercise followed by weekly assignments in logical progression. Students work with diverse subject matter for a variety of venues, ranging from small black-and-white pieces to larger color images dependent on text. The course emphasizes idea development, visual metaphor, and the search for a personal style. Presentations focus on the work of accomplished illustrators, painters, and printmakers as well as illustration techniques. Suitable for beginners seeking a foundation and those wanting to strengthen their skills.

Fundamentals of 2D Design (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

Design Fundamentals is an investigation into the core elements of art and design. The class will provide a solid foundation for your work as a designer or illustrator. You will learn to recognize issues that influence how we see, and to investigate solutions, by completing studio-based projects. You will build your design vocabulary and strengthen your ability to discuss the complex and interesting facets of visual languages. Over the semester, we will look at historical design precedents, taking an approach that will help identify areas of strength and potential in your own work.

Illustration II (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

This course continues students' exploration of illustration by simulating the experience of a professional freelance illustrator working with clients. Through a wide variety of progressive real-world assignments in such areas as editorial, book, institutional, and children's illustration, students will learn how to analyze an assignment, create concept sketches, and produce finished art. Students can use the media of their choice, including traditional hand-drawn, digital, or a combination, for class assignments and projects. Each class will consist of the presentation of a topic, samples of artful illustration, and critiques of assignments. This seminar-style course utilizes group participation and accommodates individual needs and requests. Level: intermediate to advanced. An introductory illustration course or equivalent is suggested as preparation for this class.

Portfolio Preparation (offered Spring)

In this seminar-style class tailored to individual needs, you will establish goals and work toward assembling a cohesive body of portfolio work for professional or personal use. During the term, a choice of homework assignments—including some publishable ones—gives you the opportunity to create additional portfolio pieces with feedback in weekly critiques. The course also covers researching appropriate venues for your work, standard business practices and pricing, and how to design a résumé, promote your work and approach publishers, studios, and organizations. Throughout the semester, guest art directors and other professionals in the field visit the course as well. Recent students have launched successful freelance careers, publish books and cards, receive design awards, and more. Ideal for those preparing to launch their career, designs or other projects. This course is strongly recommended as a capstone for the Graphic Design and Illustration certificate sequences.

Suggested Elective Courses

Anatomy for Life Drawing (offered Fall, Spring)

This course is designed to improve your concept and understanding of the human figure by studying the underlying skeletal and muscular structure and how it affects surface appearance. Class meetings will include observations and drawing from the model (gesture and long pose), illustrated lectures, the skeleton, plaster casts, occasional slide lectures and more. Homework is required (one hour per week minimum). Anatomy study is best suited for students who have had at least a beginning course in drawing. You will gain an improved sense for observation, proportion, perspective, planes, structure, volume, weight, space and clarity of articulation, as well as for the visual dynamics of body movement and resultant formal changes.

Color Theory for Artists, Designers, and the Color Curious (offered Fall, Spring)

What is color, and how has it been used historically, symbolically, and culturally across many disciplines and virtually all areas of art? Whether you are interested in fashion, design, fine art or marketing, this hands-on studio course is for you. Students learn a variety of color systems and terminology based on artistic and scientific theories. By the end of the course, you will be able to speak and understand the language of color (tint, tone, shade, harmony, discord, chromatic intensity and more). Most importantly, you will learn to utilize color relationships practically and professionally in new and meaningful ways. You may even develop a new theory!

Digital Photography: Beginner (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

Digital Photo is an introduction to the world of digital photography. Students will learn to operate a digital camera, to enhance their images in post-production using Photoshop and to make high quality prints from their digital photographs. Topics of discussion include color and light, composition and image management. Class time will be devoted to working in the "digital darkroom," looking at historical and contemporary art photography and reviewing students' works. Through discussion, demonstration and hands-on practice, students will develop their technical skills as well as aesthetic ideas.

Adobe Illustrator: Introduction (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

This course is a comprehensive introduction to the wide-ranging qualities of Adobe Illustrator. The class will take you through many of the program's tools and effects, and will include contextualizing topics such as color theory and graphic design history. Class time is based on a lecture and demonstration format, along with hands-on experimenting. The course will give you insight into the depths of the software and its potential to enhance your work and design.

Typography: Introduction (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

Typography is a field of graphic design used to give shape to the written word. This introductory course explores strategies for organizing letters, words, paragraphs, pages, and beyond to visually communicate an idea and aims to develop your creative processes in new and powerful ways. Course topics include the anatomy of letterforms, type history and classification systems, type selection and pairing, legibility and readability, and the expressive qualities of type. The course features discussions and critiques, lectures, and demonstrations, as well as hands-on problem-solving exercises and assignments. While this isn't a software-based course, Macintosh computers and Adobe InDesign are used frequently. The course is open to beginning and intermediate graphic designers or individuals developing their professional skills in visual communications.

Visualizing Information (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

Our lives are full of facts we need to sift through in order to make sense of the world. Which T line gets me to South Station? What do my taxes really pay for? Frequently we need to draw connections between seemingly unrelated factors, and information design makes those relationships visible. By exploring the core principles of information design and putting them into practice, this course will explore ways a picture really can be worth a thousand words. Throughout, we'll emphasize the hallmarks of excellence in information graphics: clarity, precision, and efficiency.

Lithography: Art of the Multiple (offered Fall, Spring)

Have you ever wondered how posters, board games, photos and illustrated books got produced before modern technology? Have you ever admired the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, Goya, or M.C. Escher and wondered how they got such beautiful textures in their drawings? No matter your reason or experience level, if you love drawing, mark-making or printing of any kind, Lithography is the next step for your work. Come combine art, history, chemistry and images and transform a humble stone, aluminum plate or plastic sheet into a sea of color, textures, and multiple prints. The possibilities, and editions, are endless.

Screenprinting: A to Z (offered Spring)

This course enables students to explore some of the most current and innovative technology within the world of printmaking and screenprinting. Color separations, large-format printmaking, and the use of computer applications in the screenprinting process will form the heart of the course, which is devoted to exploring the breadth of screenprinting opportunities. We also will examine traditional screenprinting techniques in order to provide students with an understanding of the full spectrum of screenprinting approaches. No printmaking or computer experience is required.

Mixed Media Watercolor (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

In this course, students will learn the tools to tackle personal projects with a variety of media. We will discuss ways to effectively use and combine media such as ink, watercolor, gouache, acryla gouache, Flashe, acrylic, collage and drawing materials. You will experiment on a variety of papers in order to develop your technique and personal imagery. Class discussions, critiques and ongoing personal development are integral to the class. This class is ideal for those who wish to learn new techniques and those who wish to take personal projects to a new level with close guidance.

Web Design: Introduction (offered Fall, Spring, Summer)

This course will teach the fundamental skills necessary to plan, organize, design, and build modern standards-compliant websites. Students will learn the basic building blocks of the web (HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript) and theoretical and practical approaches to interface design. Students will also come to understand the web as a series of delicately choreographed visual, conceptual, and navigational systems. Previous experience with digital imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop is recommended.

Electives Offered on Occasion

Children's Books Illustration

As a kid you probably spent happy times with Winnie the Pooh, Dr. De Soto, or Where the Wild Things Are. Now it's time for YOU to take the plunge, and become author and illustrator! In this course, students will create a book dummy, or mock-up. Assignments start with beginning sketches and text, to small vignettes, and later full-page and double-spread illustrations. We'll examine types of children's books in the marketplace, and become familiar with current demands of editors and publishers. This course is suitable for beginners as well as those developing skills further.

Graphic Novel

In the new golden age of graphic novels and cartooning, publishers and online comics have redefined what a comic book can be. Students will explore the history of cartooning from early days of newspaper strips through today's most exciting creators. They will begin creating the ideas for their very own projects, learn how to create concept drawings, book layouts, and will learn penciling and various inking and finishing techniques. The course will also teach students how to share their ideas with the greater cartooning community through digital media.

Program Costs

2019-2020 tuition is $995 per course. The certificate consists of ten courses (10 x $995). You can expect to pay approximately $9,950 in tuition, plus the application fee ($35), for a total cost of $9,985 for the certificate.

There is a $65 one-time registration fee for summer session courses. For more information please see our course list. Tuition does not include the cost of class materials/supplies.

How to Apply

To apply to the Illustration certificate program, complete our online application via Slideroom. There is a $35 application fee. Payment is completed online when you submit your application.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, there is no deadline to apply. Our office will contact you within 2-3 weeks.

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