Rebecca Bradley

Program Director of the MA in Illustration, Maryland Institute College of Art

Rebecca Bradley

Rebecca Bradley. photo by Sam Lacombe 2021

Graduate study in Illustration is self-actualization”


Self-actualization is the highest level fulfillment of one’s potential. It describes a state of being which occurs after the basic needs of life have been met. In this paper I will describe how I and many alumni of graduate illustration programs feel that we have achieved this state of being through studying illustration at the graduate level. I will describe how this is not a final state of being, but a new clear lane that has been uncovered by the access to the time, space, resources, self - analysis and guidance that are integral to the study of Illustration at graduate level. This is evidenced in the beginning ( or renewed continuance ) of their professional artistic careers, making them more in line with their inward feelings and viewpoints and providing the tools and wherewithal to continue the process with longevity.

I will explain how the program I lead was created with this goal in mind and how the imperative to make space for one’s self actualization and authenticity is true for people from all cultural and academic backgrounds. Often times we will see that they have begun the journey of self-actualization before they even come to class by self-identifying as an illustrator and seeking more learning in the subject. Is self-actualization therefore just a natural process ? I believe it is not. I argue that it is the action of dedicating yourself to the study that is the catalyst for growth that leads to full potential.

As the field of illustration is not narrowly defined or restricted by method or output, the ability to continue one’s growth is a critical aspect of both the classroom and beyond in an illustrator’s life. We are reminded that it is a constant rotation of ‘reflect, respond and make’ - growing and building on what was made before, to become.


Rebecca Bradley is the program director of the MA in Illustration at the Maryland Institute college of Art, Baltimore USA. She is also a practicing illustrator and is interested in ideas of creating durability and flexibility in one’s practice, having worked in academia for 20 years and being an illustrator for 30 years. She also created and runs a study abroad in London trip every summer.
She was born in Kent and studied at Maidstone School of Art, Chelsea College of Art and Savannah College of Art and Design, USA ( where she eventually self-actualized!) . She has exhibited in Beijing, London, Baltimore, New York, Savannah and Nepal and is featured in American Illustration, Society of Illustrators Los Angeles and Images UK. Rebecca has worked with clients for diverse projects all over the world including Chronicle books, the Guardian, Safeway and Flow magazine. Rebecca typically centres her work around drawing in pen and ink and painting ( both digital and watercolour ) and is especially interested in creating work from lists, being both comprehensive and ambitious in scope. She also enjoys making work involving public sculpture, fashion, food, travel, flowers and pattern.