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The enterprising artist

Illustration student Shu-Ti Lao

Shu-Ti Lao

Throughout my life, whenever I’ve felt stressed, drawing has made me feel better.

Back in Taiwan, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the ‘ideal’ college or study exactly what I wanted, and so after graduating, I worked as a graphic designer for four years. It was a fun and enjoyable experience, but there was always this nagging feeling deep down that I should be more hands on – like there was a drawing-shaped hole in my life.

Online research lead me to a blog post about that year’s graduating ARU Children’s Book Illustration (MA) degree cohort. I couldn’t believe how good their final show was. I thought to myself, ‘I really want to be a part of this’ and applied almost right away. To be honest at that stage I didn’t think too much about how the course would benefit me in the future, or how it would tie in career wise. I guess I always knew I had design as a backup option. This was about doing something that I’d always wanted to do.

I am leaving ARU equipped with everything I need to make it in my profession.

So, two weeks before the course began, I quit my job in Taiwan and made the move to England. It couldn’t have been a better decision. My work has developed in so many ways since being here. Before I was quite the perfectionist with my illustration, everything had to be clean and precise – but the tutors helped me learn to let go. It’s strange if you think about it, I had to study a structured, formal course to learn how to be a less structured, less formal artist!

Illustration by Shu-Ti Lao - whales, fish, jellyfish and octopus in the sea

After a year-and-a-half of study, my gamble already seemed to have paid off. In 2015, I won the Macmillan Illustration Prize for my first book, Adventure at Night. It was one of my final projects on the course and my tutors encouraged each student to enter the competition. They helped us realise what an opportunity it could be – it’s that sort of entrepreneurial mind-set that ARU helps to instil and develop in you. There’s always a purpose to what you’re doing and an opportunity to make it something meaningful.

Winning the prize has been unbelievable. Not only has it helped get the book published and opened doors everywhere, but more than anything it’s a massive personal accomplishment for me. I have something special and rewarding by which to remember my time studying in England, and real proof that following your heart can pay off. So while I may have come to ARU with no grand ambitions, I am now leaving equipped with everything I need to make it in my profession, and I can’t wait to get started!

Shu-Ti studied MA Children's Book Illustration at ARU.

If you're interested in taking your studies to the next level, or thinking about making a career change, like Shu-Ti, book your place at our next postgraduate Open Evening to see how ARU can offer you.