Ellie Woodman character in red environment with mushroom

Our Journal

Illustrator Ellie Woodman talks thriving in a supportive environment

We sat down with final year BA (Hons) Illustration student Ellie to discuss how she progressed from studying with Plymouth College of Art at Pre-Degree to university level and how Freshers Week helped her to make lifelong friends.

Ellie Woodman, from Ivybridge, Devon, studied a Level 3 UAL Extended Diploma in Graphics, Illustration & Game Arts at our Pre-Degree campus between 2017 and 2019.

After making the decision to stay in Plymouth and progress to undergraduate-level study at Plymouth College of Art, Ellie is now in the final year of her BA (Hons) Illustration. We sat down with Ellie to find out how she found the move from Pre-Degree to university-level study, how Freshers Week helped her to make lifelong friends, and hear about the benefits of staying local.

Ellie Woodman three characters around a table looking at a map

Ellie has found her passion in concept art.

How did you come to the decision to stay at Plymouth College of Art when it was time to choose a university?

“I grew up in Ivybridge and went to school there, but I struggled before choosing Plymouth College of Art. The school that I attended wasn’t the right environment for me. I struggled there with friendships and it felt like the teachers prioritised my grades above my wellbeing, so my mental health problems were stopping me from achieving my full potential.

“As soon as I started studying in Palace Court it felt like such a welcoming, creative environment, and I thought that I would thrive here. Funnily enough, I was right and I also made some excellent friends! Plymouth College of Art felt like an environment that was tailor made for me. When it became time to choose a university, I looked around at other art schools, but Plymouth College of Art is such a perfect environment and I’m lucky that it’s within easy travelling distance, so I thought why ruin a good thing?”

Palace Court’s outdoor courtyard basks in the summer sun. A golden-brown staircase to the left leads to a second-floor entranceway, whilst ground-level a large white mulberry tree is surrounded by pale grey gravel and white walls with black framing.

The courtyard at Plymouth College of Art's pre-degree campus, Palace Court.

"As soon as I started studying in Palace Court it felt like such a welcoming, creative environment, and I thought that I would thrive here."
Ellie Woodman, BA (Hons) Illustration student

What was it like trying to make new friends when you started your degree?

“Lots of the friends I made in Palace Court moved away for university, so I was nervous starting my degree at Plymouth College of Art because it felt like I would have to start over. After discovering how good things could be at Palace Court, however, I was determined to make the most of my university experience, so I pushed myself to attend the PCA:SU Freshers events and treat them as a fresh start to meet people who I could really connect with.”

“At Freshers, I was actively encouraged to talk to new people and check out all of the clubs and societies, which helped me to find people who were like me and had similar interests. Straight away I formed a group of friends who I’m still extremely close with. Starting the first year of my degree after that was amazing, it meant that from day one I had people around me who I could be myself around, which gave me a new confidence to learn and experiment on my Illustration course. I also started playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, which is now a core part of my social life!”

Ellie Woodman dark room with shelves

What advice would you give to someone considering living at home while studying for a degree?

“Throughout my degree I’ve lived at home in Ivybridge. My mum and sister have been so supportive and it’s great to be able to come home after a long day and see my family if I need them. I contribute to the costs at home, but because I have a supportive family, that relieves a lot of the financial burden and pressures compared to friends who moved away from home university and are renting. I know that this won’t be an option for everyone, but it really feels like having the best of both worlds. “

How does studying at Plymouth College of Art compare to what you imagined your degree would be like?

“After years of feeling exhausted and burnt out by other situations where I felt like I didn’t belong, at Plymouth College of Art I’ve really thrived, both personally and academically. I have a group of academics, technicians and friends here who are understanding and encouraging, giving me the support that I needed to succeed. Life here is so different to how I’d been told that studying in a traditional university would be. Every day I’m encouraged to go wild and try new things. I love it!”

Ellie Woodman as a Pre Degree student in 2019 1

Ellie Woodman as a Pre Degree student in 2019.

It sounds like you’re having a great time. You’re in your third year now, what’s next?

“During the course of my Illustration degree, I started with an interest in toy and fashion design, and for a while I went through an artistic identity crisis trying to figure out what I wanted to focus on. My tutors encouraged me to try everything, including contacting artists that I admire and entering as many competitions and live briefs as I could manage. The turning point for me came when I submitted a series of work for Grayson Perry’s Art Club. I wasn’t selected, but the experience of drawing liminal spaces was a turning point, helping me to find my passion for concept art, particularly immersive and background environments for TV, film, animation and video games.”

“With a clearer idea of the kind of roles I want to pursue after graduation, I’m focussing now on creating my final major project for the Degree Shows, which will give me a chance to put everything I’ve learned into practice and show the world what I’m capable of!”

Check out more of Ellie's work on her website: elliewoodmanart.com