Illustration Class of 2020 degree show blog Work by JUA OKANE

Our Journal

Illustration grads get virtual Degree Show

We chat to our BA (Hons) Illustration Subject Leader Ben Wright about the Class of 2020's newly launched virtual degree show space.

Our BA (Hons) Illustration team recently launched an online exhibition for their 2020 graduates, who missed out on a traditional end-of-degree show because of the global pandemic.

The show, which gives the audience a virtual walkthrough of a painstakingly accurate representation of the Illustration studios at the college, will be permanently open from now on - you can check it out yourself here.

Illustration Class of 2020 degree show blog Work by IZZY HAZARD

Work by BA (Hons) Illustration graduate Izzy Hazard.

We caught up with BA (Hons) Illustration’s Joint Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader Ben Wright to discuss the merits of digital degree shows and how a virtual photocopier can make a real difference.

So Ben, tell us, why did you choose to replicate the real world degree show experience virtually, why not just showcase the class of 2020's work as a book or a magazine?

We primarily wanted to host a virtual private view with our former year three cohort (our Class of 2020 who missed out on their show last summer). For us, it was important to bring the show back to the studio where they studied for three years (and the space that they would have exhibited in). Despite it taking place later than it would have done in the real world, it was really lovely seeing our graduates again for the show (even though it was an online gathering) - and it was a great opportunity to share their incredible work again.

We did actually do a magazine too - check out TRUE GRIT here, which was put together by Sam Rowe, BA (Hons) Illustration’s Joint Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader.

Illustration Class of 2020 degree show blog Work by CECILY GOFF

Work by BA (Hons) Illustration graduate Cecily Goff.

How did you choose which online platform to use? There must be a lot of these springing up given the situation globally over the last year - so what drew you to this one in particular?

We just stumbled across Artsteps whilst looking for an appropriate platform. It’s fairly straightforward to use - and with a bit of playing around, it allowed us to create the space we wanted.

Did it take a long time to build the exhibition?

A few weekends and late evenings! It’s not exactly Sims, but it allowed us to create a virtual space that really felt like the college, after we added a few extra assets!

The Local, an animation by BA (Hons) Illustration graduate Conor Mullin.

People who know that room will genuinely get a sense of actually being in the Illustration studio in our Tavistock Place building - how did you manage to achieve that?

I measured it, made it look a bit lived in - and tried to place drawings of windows and doors in all the right places. It was a strange moment when I had to dash into the studio after lockdown to photograph all the wall fixtures and fire escape signs. Also, Sam created some sinks and a photocopier for us to give that extra level of authenticity.

Usually the opening night of Degree Shows is a big occasion - how did you do your opening night?

We arranged to meet the graduates on a video call. A few glasses of wine and beer were had, and we had a general catch up and a look around the exhibition. The highlight of the evening was when the pencils and sketchbooks inevitably came out and we drew each other over the webcam! It won’t be the last time we connect with those guys, and we really hope we can work with them more in the future.

How long will the show be available for people to view on Artsteps?

As long as we like (or as long as the platform exists!) which is quite nice, as in a normal degree show setting, the work would only be up for a week.

Do you have any insights or recommendations for other creatives thinking about doing something similar for their own practice?

Even after COVID-19 has passed, and face to face events start to emerge again, there will still, I think, be a demand for accompanying online spaces for us to connect and share so as not to exclude geographically diverse participants and visitors. It’s always particularly exciting to see what’s already being used and how it can be bent, broken or changed to suit you. We got really lucky with this particular platform - but who knows what other spaces are out there ready to be used by the right creative with enough time.

Visit the BA (Hons) Illustration Class of 2020 Degree show right here, wherever you are, whatever time it may be.