BAHons (Visual Arts Illustration)

Programme description

Illustration in contemporary visual culture is one of the most versatile art forms. Crossing boundaries between fine art, drawing, the graphic arts and design, illustration is the exemplary hybrid art form. Often partnered with the publishing industry, political satire, information design and the advertising sector, illustration takes up a wide range of techniques and media formats. As a discipline, Illustration is also undergoing a major shift in both its vocational positioning and intellectual relevance. The development of digital technologies and new media continue to blur the boundaries of this genre, extending possibilities toward an eclectic range of illustration practices.

The BA Honours programme in Visual Arts (Illustration) at Stellenbosch University seeks to explore expanded notions of illustration practices that acknowledge contemporary visual culture, academic contexts and current industry. Students following this one-year programme are encouraged to challenge the position of the illustrator within commercial, social, political and cultural contexts while maintaining and developing the core values that underpin these illustration practices. Constantly revisiting, expanding and disrupting the tools, intent, context and role of illustration this programme takes an innovative, experimental and critical approach to the broad practices of illustration.

Content overview

Based on illustration's long history in relation to science, culture and society, the BA Honours in Visual Arts (Illustration) correspondingly supports an inter- and cross-disciplinary approach through the modules listed below.

Drawing for illustration

This module explores the development or affirmation of what is often called 'a personal voice' (trait) in drawing and the role it can play in the students accomplishing recognition of their full status and potency as illustrators. The emphasis is on the originative processes of personalisation in drawing, favouring the creative production of unforeseeable form, given a blind yet individuated hand that conducts such personalised drawing. With this approach, the students rather strive to not repeat the norms that institutionalised style poses, nor do they necessarily obey the restraints of acceptability in any academic context. In contrast, individuation as a form of deviation from institutional norm challenges its constancy, while bringing renewal.

Scientific illustration

This module introduces the relationship between illustration and science with specific focus on botanical and entomological illustration. Mainly initiating and developing expert techniques in traditional illustration media such as pencil, watercolour, gouache, and pen and ink, this unit also explores the relationship between photography, technology and science. Workshops in digital production, printmaking, photography and darkroom techniques support this module.

Conceptual illustration

Investigating the relationship between image and text, this module explores illustration as performative language. The module considers descriptive versus informational, instructional, diagrammatic, poetic and abstract functions in illustration. Experimental and multimodal in approach, this unit examines the elements and principles of art and design, lettering, motion and animation, and delves into various direct, indirect, generative and digital mark-making processes and strategies for illustration. Workshops in digital production, alternative techniques and bookbinding support this module.

Narrative illustration

This module focuses on character development, visual storytelling, narrative contexts as well as audience in book, comic and digital formats. The module covers layout, typography, book design, bookbinding and animated GIFS. Workshops in digital production, typography and printmaking techniques support this module.

Theory of illustration

This module provides the theoretical frame for illustration as a contemporary discipline. This theory module proceeds in tandem with the practical modules and covers the following topics: art, science and technology, semiotics, picture theory, and narratology. The format of this module consists of introductory lectures, student presentations and written assignments.

Integrated research project

Based on individual and self-motivated topics, this independent research project comprises a 5000 - 8000 word research article and a substantive/autonomous practical component. Both these theoretical and practical components are complementary and supportive of each other. Workshops in research methodologies include the following: finding a research topic, literature review, writing a proposal, the Harvard Method, macro- and microstructure of an article, as well as structuring and giving research presentations. The practical research component proceeds by way of weekly presentations and critique.

Admission requirements

Prospective candidates must have an appropriate Bachelor's degree (or an equivalent qualification regarded by the Senate as adequate for admission to the programme) and the submission of a body of art works to indicate that the candidate is adequately prepared for advanced study in Illustration. An average pass mark of at least 60% in the final-year subjects is required.

Information and application

The deadline is 30 November for South African candidates and 31 August for international candidates.

Prospective students have to submit an electronic portfolio of art works in PDF format to Marthie Kaden before the application deadline.


Programme Coordinator: Ms Marthie Kaden

Tel: +27 (0)21 808 3593