Become Your Own Boss in Illustration Projects with Jessica Abel

Emily McLaughlin, Communications Work Study Student:

On the last day of the fall semester, students gathered around the project board in a public hallway. Each student stepped forward to check off their final task, and received the biggest congratulation sticker yet from Jessica Abel, Chair of Illustration. We finally did it!

Following the Professional Practices course within the Illustration curriculum at PAFA, Illustration Projects takes the next step forward, focusing on the definition and delivery of art as an independent professional artist. Unlike other courses in which most projects are assigned to students with regular deadlines, Illustration Projects challenges students to be their own bosses. 

Within the 15 weeks of the semester, students define their projects in a brief, create milestones and checkpoints, meet in small groups to offer peer support, rework project goals to make up for delays and revisions, and perhaps the hardest part: finish on time. 

By the end of the course, students have both a finished project they can be proud of, the beginning of ideas for the Annual Student Exhibition and a Venture Fund proposal, and a better understanding of how to structure their time in the most efficient manner possible.

In short, through the Illustration Projects course, Jessica Abel shapes students into professionals. 


Students were asked how the Illustration Projects class helped to refine their goals for their career in art: 

"I created branding illustrations for a made-up bakery. The general idea and structure remained the same, but it has gone through many revisions stylistically. My goal for my career is to become an art director and this class helped me by guiding me through the process of creating this kind of work with feedback from my professor and peers." —Diana Kulpin

"My project consists of making an illustrated recipe box of simple and easy-to-make recipes. I first planned to make a physical prototype of the box, but because of the corrections I had to make, I had to keep it as a photoshopped mockup. The class really is helping me to plan for longer projects and keep consistency." —Aimee Liriano

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.