(LAKEWOOD, COLORADO) – Illustration has been a part of Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design since its beginning 60 years ago. RMCAD’s founder, Philip J. Steele was passionate about narrative storytelling as an illustrator himself, which set the foundation for RMCAD’s Illustration Program, Children’s Book Concentration (which launched in 2004), and the school’s focus on professors not only being educators, but also working artists.
In the Illustration Program, 40% of professors are published children’s book illustrators or authors, and the remaining are practicing industry professionals. “Having a professor who is currently navigating the same waters is invaluable because we can help them deal with today’s challenges,” shares Illustration Adjunct Professor Aja Mulford.
“Children’s books is one of few markets where there’s still a lot of opportunity,” says Illustration Associate Professor Brizida Magro. Technical skills aren’t the only thing she teaches, she also motivates students to bring emotion into book scenes and lean into character development.
Magro and Mulford both prioritize sharing their stories with their students, including obstacles, failures, but also wins, all of which are critical to the growth of any creative. These professors and others at RMCAD don’t stop with just sharing their own expertise, but also go out of their way to bring in industry connections (through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and RMCAD alumni.
Recently, illustration students visited New York City in May 2023 for an up close look at the publishing world and had the opportunity to visit several renowned firms. During the trip, students met with alumna, Abbey Bryant, who has illustrated more than 10 published children’s books rooted in inclusivity and diversity. Her successful career, like Kaz Windness, started in RMCAD’s classrooms.
“Building connections and networking is a powerful stepping stone to a successful career,” reiterates Chair of Illustration Scott Wakefield, published illustrator/author. “Since RMCAD is filled with seasoned professionals and published children’s book illustrators, we are helping students from day one make critical connections. Not to mention helping them further their craft and find their niche.”
Founded in 1963, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design is an accredited institution of higher education that offers degree programs focused on the arts, design, education, technology, and business. RMCAD serves its students from a 23-acre campus in Lakewood, Colorado, but also virtually, as a leader in online education for more than a decade. RMCAD offers courses taught by practicing industry professionals; an intimate learning environment; multimedia-rich online classes; and a beautiful historic campus. The school strives to allow artists and designers to find their voice, discover their own paths, and thrive as professionals.