BA Illustration for Communication students foster sense of community through the pandemic

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Article by: Gaynor Orvis

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Second-year BA Illustration for Communication students, Ella Chick and Laura Brannigan, have worked hard during the pandemic to retain a sense of community among their classmates by curating work on their course's Instagram page. This has served as a space for collaboration and oneness, despite the student's physical separateness. 

Here they chat about what they have learnt during the pandemic, how their career goals have changed, and how their creative work has served as a positive outlet during this period of uncertainty and isolation. 


Ella Chick's responses

Ella Chick profile

Hi Ella. Firstly, I'm sure we can all think of plenty of cons when it comes to living and studying during a pandemic, but have you managed to find any pros? 

Initially, it felt uncomfortable because I am extremely tactile with the way I work. I benefited from working at uni with the resources, so I had to completely adapt to my new environment. This wasn’t an easy adjustment.

The time did allow me to concentrate on projects I wanted to get involved in though. I got involved with numerous collaborations, more skills courses were also around to try outside of uni. For example, I took part in a life drawing session with Ferly via Zoom.

I also challenged myself to be more consistent with my Instagram account and to plan creatively, as this seemed like the only thing that still had momentum whilst the world was very static.

To be able to solely focus on myself and for the first time ask the questions: what do I want? Where do I want to go? What small things could I do now that will benefit me later on? Isolation gave me time to reflect. 

BA Illustration for Communication work by Ella Chick

Illustration work by Ella Chick

Have you found your creative work to be a useful outlet during the pandemic? 

Yes! I was struggling to see myself as just an illustrator and wanted to push myself in different directions, which I don’t think I would have done in the way I had, had we not been in a pandemic.

I continually asked myself the question: what can I create? I challenged myself to find alternative ways to illustrate.

I think when we are creative, we give ourselves permission to express all that is happening within our emotional state. I’m starting to realise that's what drives my work the majority of the time.

Also, I think the very things that make us feel alone and isolated in these times, are the very things that connect us too. So, when people were posting their art or talking about their experiences, especially in humour, I found a lot of the feelings relatable.

But connections on a whole have completely changed. If we were in for the whole of our first year, we would have had the opportunity in class to express different parts of our personality to different people. Zoom practically makes that non-existent, so it has been harder to get to know people.

You can find Ella Chick on Instagram at @ella.chick

Laura Brannigan's responses

Laura Brannigan profile

Hi Laura, how have you and your course mates maintained a sense of community during the pandemic?

Laura: Covid-19 presented an array of new challenges surrounding the dynamics of how we create and maintain a sense of community.

With everything moving online and little to no physical contact, we had to adapt the way we communicate. In class, having smaller group discussions kept a sense of community, being able to engage in conversation as you would normally in the studio.

With the talk of Covid plastered over every social platform, it was nice to be able to escape it through natural and distracting conversations.

We had to keep evolving in the way we work. Being able to collaborate online helped maintain a community spirit.

Staying connected while at home was important for us throughout the pandemic, be that with our course group chat or our own individual conversations. Using different social media platforms helped, such as our course’s Instagram page. I felt it was a place we could use to promote and support each other’s creativity during lockdown.

BA Illustration for Communication work by student Laura Branngian

Illustration work by Laura Brannigan

Have you changed any of your career plans as a result of Covid and how do you feel generally about life after graduation?

While I had initial career plans, I would say some of these have changed. Covid has made me more conscious of my attitude to the industry and its need for change.

When the whole world had to adapt to this alternative way of living, I realised I would have to adapt alongside it. Without lockdown, I don’t know if I would have come to this conclusion.

Having the opportunity to hear from more industry professionals, it gave me a better insight and made me reflect on where I felt my role would be in this ever-changing environment. I feel I am more open to opportunities rather than focusing on one outcome.

Before Covid, I would have said I was apprehensive about life after graduation. The idea of being thrown into the world and not knowing what you want to do was scary. But being stuck inside most of the year, I feel more determined than ever. I am excited to experience new things and adapt to whatever comes my way.

You can find Laura Brannigan on Instagram at @laura.b.illustration.

Ella and Laura's illustrated profile images were created by fellow second-year student Sarah Harris @dust_to_dustbunny