Apr 20, 2024  
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Illustration Emphasis, Fine Arts BFA

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Please click here  to see general Visual Arts information.

The Illustration emphasis integrates fine art, mixed media and digital practices with conceptual thinking, research and storytelling in the production of creative work. As a practice, Illustration focuses on skills and concepts in the professional development of a student’s individual vision and approach to illustrative arts. Marketing, business and design practices prepare students to discuss and view their work in a design context and for particular commercial markets and galleries. Courses are taught in state-of-the-art drawing and computer labs using the Adobe software suite alongside hands-on studio facilities. Illustration students gather skills to easily work across multiple artistic media–including design, drawing, painting, printmaking, and 3D media for the development of motion and spatial projects.

Students gain the ability to establish freelance illustration studio practice, as well as multi-faceted professional skills and flexibility in working with designers, creative directors, and art directors. Graduates are prepared to write and illustrate concepts and stories in preparation for studios, and the editorial, publishing and advertising markets.

Students in the illustration emphasis receive instruction in conceptual illustration, digital illustration, rendering, perspective, painting, exhibition preparation, professional practices and the use of various artistic and illustration techniques. In preparation for a professional illustration career, the course work allows students to master numerous essential digital and traditional tools and work to successfully bring the two together in ambitious and innovative illustrative work.

Program Delivery

  • This is an on-campus program.

Declaring This Major

  • Click here  to go to information about declaring a major.

  • Students who are applying for entrance into the illustration emphasis must participate in portfolio review day, as described below. The illustration emphasis accepts applications once a year during the Spring semester. Students who meet the requirements and are accepted go on to take upper-division illustration courses.


 The student has completed, or is in the process of completing, the following courses:

A minimum cumulative fine arts/art history GPA of 2.0


Portfolio Review Requirements

Students applying to the illustration emphasis present a portfolio of 10 - 15 works of art, a written statement and unofficial transcript(s) from CU Denver and all previous post-secondary educational institutions. Portfolio Day will take place on the first Friday in April approximately between 12:00pm and 5:00pm (Mountain Time). Faculty review works in person, which must be formatted and presented to the specifications listed below. There is no fee to apply.

Portfolio of Images

  • The portfolio must include a minimum of 10 creative works (but no more than 15). Present six or more artworks completed in FINE 1100 Drawing I, FINE 1400 Two-Dimensional Design, FINE 1500 Three-Dimensional Design and FINE 2405 Introduction to Digital Design. Artwork examples should demonstrate skill in observational drawing, linear perspective and life drawing, as well as an understanding of design principles. Additional examples (up to five) may be in the form of design, drawing, painting, photography, mixed media and/or printmaking.

Written Statement

Five printed copies of a one-page (400-500 words) written statement must be provided at the time of review. In the written statement, students should address the following questions. 

  • Why do you want to study illustration and what goals and expectations do you have regarding a career as an illustrator?
  • What are your creative strengths, and what areas need further development?
  • What other accomplishments would you like the committee to know about, such as Dean’s List, GPA, internships, art-related extracurricular activities or relevant professional experience?

Course Transcripts

These may be official or unofficial transcripts from CU Denver and previous post-secondary institutions. The CU Denver transcript must show any current semester courses. One copy of these must be provided at the time of review.


  • A committee of painting, drawing and illustration faculty members reviews the application materials.  Acceptance into the illustration emphasis is based on the portfolio images, written statement and GPA.
  • If not admitted into the illustration emphasis, a student may begin with the illustration minor, and then attempt the review process again the following year or may apply to another emphasis. Students are encouraged to apply for more than one emphasis. Students are also encouraged to schedule a meeting with illustration faculty to learn about ways to improve their portfolios for future submissions.

The application is evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Presentation - The portfolio should be well-crafted and well organized in content and presentation.
  • Technical Skill - The portfolio should demonstrate strong proficiency in drawing, composition, design and color.
  • Creativity - The portfolio should demonstrate creative choices in content and aesthetics.
  • Conceptual Skills - The portfolio and written statements should reflect analytical thinking and conceptual exploration of the foundations of drawing and design.
  • Written Statement - The statement should outline academic and artistic goals, addressing any potential strengths and weaknesses.
  • Academic Performance - The student’s grades must reflect their commitment to learning and growth.
  • Completeness of Application - All required documentation must be submitted (images, written statement and transcripts).


For more portfolio information, please contact CAM@ucdenver.edu or illustration faculty Rebecca Heavner (rebecca.heavner@ucdenver.edu), Travis Vermilye (travis.vermilye@ucdenver.edu), or Bryan Leister (bryan.leister@ucdenver.edu).

General Requirements

To earn a degree, students must satisfy all requirements in each of the areas below, in addition to their individual major requirements.

Program Requirements

  1. A minimum grade of C (2.0) is required for each course applied toward a College of Arts & Media major, minor or certificate requirement. A grade of C- (1.7) or lower will not fulfill a major, minor or certificate requirement. A grade of P is acceptable for courses in which the only grade available is Pass or Fail.
  2. All upper-division visual arts courses must be taken at CU Denver unless approved otherwise by Department of Visual Arts faculty.
  3. At least 27 semester hours of visual arts credits (at any level) must be taken at CU Denver.
  4. At least 24 semester hours of total visual arts courses must be upper-division.

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