Illustration MA student nominated for two industry awards

02 July 2024

merran coleman
merran coleman
Type: Text
Category: Industry insights, Interviews

Illustration: Authorial Practice MA student Merran Coleman has been nominated for two acclaimed illustration awards.

His piece, A is for Aval - an A-Z of Cornish Folklore, has been shortlisted for the V&A Emerging Illustrator Award. The project, which he began at the start of his MA, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Additionally, Merran has been longlisted for the Folio Book Illustration Award for his work based on Neil Gaiman’s short story, The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains. The longlist was selected from over 700 entries, narrowed down to just 20 by an industry judging panel. This marks Merran's second time being longlisted for the award, having also featured in 2022, and an incredible achievement.

We asked Merran a few questions about his work and studies on the master’s.

Could you tell us more about your A-Z of Cornish Folklore project?

My family is full of musicians, storytellers, historians, and artists. Thanks to them, I was surrounded by Cornish folklore, music, language, and culture from a young age. So, it’s always been an interest of mine and an influence on my artwork.

For the A-Z project, research was equally, if not more, important than the artwork. I spent a lot of time reading books by 19th and 20th-century folklorists such as William Bottrell, M.A. Courtney, and Robert Hunt. These are great starting points for anyone interested in Cornish folklore.

You're midway through your Illustration: Authorial Practice MA - how's it going?

I love the MA course. I feel the standard of my work has improved so much already. I think the main aspect of the course which has benefited me is the feedback from the tutors.

We’re also encouraged to find a clarity of intention when working on a project, which has had a huge impact on my work.

In a more technical sense, the colour workshop with Steve Braund was invaluable. As a colour-blind person, I need all the help I can get when using colour. Steve’s technique for building pleasing colour combinations is something I still use regularly now - in fact, I used that technique for the A-Z project.

I did a BA in Illustration at the University of Brighton, which was a great experience, and I loved living there. The main difference between my time there and now at Falmouth is really my own headspace. If I’m honest, at Brighton I was more interested in partying than drawing. My attitude and focus have so much improved now to the point where I am pretty obsessive about illustration. I’m like a hermit, drawing for hours every day.

Your piece for Neil Gaiman’s short story project is very striking – what did it involve?

The original drawing is A3, pencil on paper. It took me three or four layers of shading to build up the depth of shadows I wanted. Once the pencil layers were completed, I added colour digitally using Photoshop. After a month of working on it, I was really pleased to get it finished and sent off!

What does it mean to you to get your work shortlisted?

Obviously, it’s a lovely little ego boost, and to feel validated and recognised for your hard work is great. If it leads to more work or opportunities for me, then that’s the real prize. If you’re an illustrator or artist, I would definitely recommend entering competitions, especially if you can find ones that are free to enter! It’s a good opportunity to get your work in front of art directors, and you just never know…

Do you have any other projects coming up?

I’m working on a new book. It’s almost like a medieval bestiary of mythical creatures but based on the unique creatures from Cornish mythology. Full of piskies, mermaids, and giants, it’s called The Adventurer’s Guide to the Creatures of Cornwall. If you’re interested, you can follow my progress on Instagram @cornish_mythology.

External links


Instagram: @merrancoleman

Instagram: @cornish_mythology

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