Hartford Art School

MFA in Illustration

The illustration graduate program is designed specifically to meet the needs of practicing illustrators who maintain active, full-time professional careers.

About the Program

The Hartford Art School’s  low-residency MFA in Illustration is the only low-residency MFA program in the country that is dedicated exclusively to illustration.

Degree Requirements

Our low-residency program takes two years (summer, fall, spring) and two weeks (final third summer) to complete. You convene with other students at our campus in West Hartford, Connecticut for two weeks in July for three consecutive summers. Program faculty include professionals from across the country.

Between the intensive, two-week studio and lecture-packed summer residencies, we meet in selected cities for one week in both November and March to interact with leading illustrators, illustration entrepreneurs, agents, and licensing experts. This completes the 10 weeks of contact time in the program.

Recent Guest Speakers

Steve Brodner, Joe Ciardiello, José Cruz, Jack Davis, Peter deSeve, Leo and Diane Dillon, John Dykes, Teresa Fasolino, Bart Forbes, Craig Frazier, Rudy Gutierrez, Robert Hunt, Victor Juhasz, Chuck Pyle, Yuko Shimizu, Robert Kato, Jack Unruh, Courtney Granner, Collin Fix, Ward Schumaker

Museum Visits

Eric Carle Museum of Children’s Books, New Britain Museum of American Art, Norman Rockwell Museum, and more.

Studio Visits

Communication Arts Magazine, Electronic Arts Entertainment, Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation Studios, Jane and Ben Eisenstat’s Illustration Collection, Lucasfilm Campus, Real Musgrave’s Studio, Kenton Nelson’s Studio, Nickelodeon Studios, Society of Illustrators, Illustration House, Ted and Betsy Lewin’s Studio


All Master of Fine Arts in Illustration candidates are required to maintain continuous enrollment in the program and a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0.

Career Outlook

illustration by mfa student

Whether you’re looking to pursue a career in education, revitalize your creativity or reinvent your portfolio, you can earn an MFA in Illustration while maintaining your career and commitments at home.

Illustration MFA Faculty, Advisors, and Leaders

Our program facilitators tap into what is happening right now among the best in the illustration field in cities such as Dallas, Tex.; New York City, NY; Pasadena/Los Angeles, Calif.; and San Francisco, Calif. Learn about them here, or meet them in person when you join us.

Douglas Andersen
Assistant Professor
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Chris Payne
Director, MFA Illustration
MFA Illustration
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Shayna Piascik
Manager, Illustration MFA
MFA Illustration
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Bill Thomson
Professor, Chair of Visual Communication Design
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How to Apply


Contact Shayna Cochefski, Program Manager at cochefski@hartford.edu to submit your initial inquiry. Please include a link to your online portfolio/website or an attachment containing at least 10 of your best commissioned and reproduced illustrations as your portfolio. There will be a follow-up phone interview with Chris Payne, Program Director.

Your Application and Materials

Upon the acceptance of your portfolio, complete the online application and submit your $50 application fee at hartford.edu/gradapp.

Please request that one official copy of your transcript from any college and/or postsecondary institution you attended be forwarded to:
Center for Graduate and Adult Academic Services
University of Hartford
200 Bloomfield Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06117-1599

Submit a letter of intent (within the online application). In no more than 500 words, this statement should address your influences, interests, brief life history, current direction, and reasons for applying to a graduate program at this time.

Request one letter of recommendation attesting to your ability and competence from a person practicing or teaching in the field in which the application is made.

Upload your portfolio (PDF format) to the application portal or email GradStudy@hartford.edu with a link to your portfolio.

Once You've Been Accepted

Following your acceptance into the program, you will need to submit a non-refundable $300 deposit to hold your spot within the cohort beginning that summer. Visit admission.hartford.edu/deposit and log in using the same ID/PIN you created at the beginning of the application process. Your deposit will be credited to your account and applied toward future tuition.

International Applicants

TOEFL—Official score to be submitted. The University of Hartford test code number is 3436. Visit TOEFL at ets.org. Minimum score: 550 paper-based or 80 internet-based.

SThe Pearson Test of English (PTE) minimum score is a 58. Visit the PTE at: pearsonpte.com.

SThe IELTS is also accepted with a minimum score of 6.5 or higher.

Guarantor’s Statement—As part of the application, international students must provide a bank statement to ensure adequacy of funds. This statement is also used to issue an I-20 form to students. The Guarantor’s Statement is necessary for obtaining a visa.

Deadlines and Dates

Admission into the MFA Illustration program occurs on a rolling basis. Applications will be considered until the year’s cohort of 20 for the start of the summer semester is full, with a priority deadline of January 14.

Merit Scholarships

Some partial tuition scholarships are available for entering candidates. The awarding of scholarships is determined by the Illustration Committee and is based purely on the merit of professional work. Portfolios are reviewed prior to May 1 and students are notified of awards by June 1.

Graduate Presidential Scholarships

The goal of this merit-based program is to recruit the very best applicants to the University’s graduate programs. The award defrays 25% of the student’s annual tuition, up to $5,000, for each of the first two years after matriculation and is paid directly to the student’s Bursar’s account. No extensions of the award beyond two years are possible. Nominations are made by the director. Recipients are not required to provide any services to the University in exchange for the award.

Financial Aid

Students enrolled in the program are considered full time and may be eligible for federal and supplemental loan programs.

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