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Finishing the MA…what happens next?

Fátima Ordinola

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: Cambridge School of Art
Course: Children's Book Illustration MA
Category: Art and design

30 January 2024

5 years ago, Fatima came to the UK as a Spice Girls fan, she saw them perform on stage in Manchester Stadium. She then travelled with her family around the country and decided to visit Cambridge to explore the city and ARU before applying and making the decision to study here.

Why I chose Cambridge

Fatima, standing outside the Ruskin Building, Cambridge Campus

As soon as I walked inside the corridors of the Ruskin building, I knew this was the place for me. It took me a long time, between the lockdown, preparing my portfolio artworks, letters, and all the documents I needed to come here and follow my dream. Now that I’ve finished the MA Children’s Book Illustration and look back, it feels that the journey is almost over…or maybe not.

Studying at Cambridge School of Art

The MA course has given me a different perspective on how to approach observation, life, and movement. Carrying a sketchbook every day and drawing all day was exhausting but satisfying at the same time. As Ronald Searle portrays the experience of studying at Cambridge School of Art “…it was drummed into us that we should not move, eat, drink, or sleep without a sketchbook in the hand. Consequently, the habit of looking and drawing became as natural as breathing. It served its purpose not only by bringing one a feeling of freedom in drawing but also to store up a massive collection of detail in the head”. Indeed, I felt the impulse to draw in my sketchbook daily.

Fatima, showing her MA Project, which got selected for the Batsford Prize 2023

In parallel, my days in the print room trying and experimenting with different materials, textures, and techniques, were the best way to immerse in my stories. Being creative requires a large amount of courage and you must add lots of different feelings like being away from your family and friends, missing your home country's food, and more. It’s not easy, but I’ve met amazing people here and week after week, Cambridge felt more like home to me.

Fatima, showing the screen print template in the campus print room

Preparing for competitions and next steps

With the London exhibition and Bologna Children's Book Fair around the corner, I have lots of things to prepare for. After all the hard work during term time, I have the opportunity to be a part of two important events in children’s literature. A year and a half of drawing, painting, making lots of dummy books, sketching, editing, printing, thinking, designing, reading, looking and loving picturebooks has given me a chance to grow and evolve, and the best thing of this is that now I can do it all over again for the next years as a children’s book Illustrator! Hurray!


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