Hartford Art School

MFA in Illustration

This prestigious program is the only low residency MFA in the country that is dedicated exclusively to illustration.

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. You’ll be surrounded by fellow students who are, themselves, highly motivated, established illustrators, illustrator/graphic designers, and illustration educators from across the country.

Through challenging work and exceptional student/faculty relationships, you are guided in advancing your distinct, creative voice while refining and building upon your skills and techniques. You are exposed to current professionals and practices, allowing you to nurture your creative intellect and strengthen your business, promotional, and marketing knowledge.

Admission Requirements| Faculty Our Alumni Frequently Asked Questions  | Current Student Work

Quick Facts
  • 60 credits
  • Low Residency
  • Application Priority Deadline - January 15th annually, with continued reviews until the cohort is full.
  • Summer Semester Start
  • Apply Now

Request Information
Questions? Contact the MFA Office at


About the Program

illustration classroom

Our low residency program couples intensive, on-campus sessions in the summer with traveling spring and fall contact periods. During the summer, you convene with other students on campus for two weeks, working in a studio environment where you are provided focused interaction with award-winning faculty. The week-long fall and spring contact periods take place off-campus in major cities across the country, where we visit studios, area museums, and invite local illustrators to speak about their careers.

The structure of our program allows you to complete the program in two years (summer, fall, spring semesters each) plus two weeks (final third summer). In between contact periods, you’ll maintain communication with the Program Director and Thesis Advisor while completing assignments and developing a thesis project.

The program is directed by Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame inductee, C.F. Payne, and was founded by the late Murray Tinkelman, legendary Hall of Fame illustrator, educator, and illustration historian.

Unique Travel Component

MFA Students Traveling

Between the two-week summer residencies, we meet in major cities across the country that have included: Philadelphia, PA; Columbus, Ohio; New York City, NY; Pasadena/Los Angeles, Calif.; Atlanta, GA; and San Francisco, Calif.

You’ll interact with leading illustrators, illustration entrepreneurs, agents, and licensing experts. Emphasis is placed on exposing you to an abundant and diverse array of illustration styles, markets of illustration, and career experiences. You’ll hear from over 50 professionals in the editorial, advertising, animation, children’s book, product design, and comic book industries.

Guest speakers across the country have included:

Mary Kate McDevitt, Mike Hawthorne, Molly Egan, James Bennett, Yuko Shimizu, Tim O’Brien, Brendan Wenzel, Rudy Gutierrez, Laura Bee, Peter deSeve, Edel Rodriguez, Katherine Streeter, Daniel Fishel, Loren Long, Brian Ajhar, Steve Brodner, Dadu Shin, Chris Buzelli, Craig Frazier, Owen Smith, Brian Stauffer, Gemma Correll, Jeff Sangalli, Mark Ulriksen, Marla Frazee, Victo Ngai, Dan Santat, Paul Rogers, Red Nose Studio, Andy J Miller, Emily Dumas, Kelly Murphy, Victor Juhasz, John S. Dykes, Barry Blitt, R. Kikuo Johnson, David Wenzel, James Gurney, Wendell Minor, Etienne Delessert, Allison Bamcat, Kadir Nelson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Claire Keane, Brian Stelfreeze, Greg Manchess, Lindsay Ward

Studio & Museum visits across the country have included:

Lucasfilm, Norman Rockwell Museum, New Britain Museum of American Art, Walt Disney
Animation Studio, Nickelodeon, Sony Animation, Brandywine Museum, Illuxcon, Huntington Gardens, Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum, Mazza Childrens Book Museum, and more!

Degree Requirements

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.

Students are required to attend each contact period to successfully complete the program, progressing through the two years within a summer start cohort.

For more information, and to see a complete list of degree requirements, visit the Course Catalog.

Having earned an MFA in Illustration through the Hartford Art School, my career has been catapulted into a new level of creative output, passion and teaching. It was always there - now it has purpose.

Arden von Haeger, Class of 2014

Admission Requirements

Contact the MFA office at to submit your initial inquiry, or fill out a graduate program information form. Please include a link to your online portfolio/website. There will be a follow-up phone interview with Chris Payne, Program Director.

Upon the acceptance of your portfolio, complete the online application and submit your $50 application fee.
Please request that one official copy of your transcript from any college and/or postsecondary institution you attended be forwarded to:

Graduate Admission
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 (URL or PDF format) to the application portal.

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 here 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.

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

  • The Pearson Test of English (PTE) minimum score is a 58. Visit the PTE at:
  • The 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.

**The MFA programs are not residential programs; international students cannot move to the U.S. for the duration of these programs, but rather are expected to be present in the U.S. during the dates of each residency.** International students participating in these Low-Residency MFA Programs are restricted in the length of time they can stay in the U.S. between the two (2) or three (3) in-person residency sessions each year of the program. Students may enter the U.S.. up to 30 days prior to each residency start date, and may depart up to 30 days after the end of each residency. Please contact for more information and confirmation of yearly residency dates.

Admission into the MFA Illustration program occurs on a rolling basis. Applications will be considered until the year’s cohort for the start of the summer semester is full, with a priority deadline of January 15.

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. 

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

Please visit our Financial Aid page for more details.

Illustration MFA Summer Faculty

Studio courses during the July contact period are intensive, concept- and technique-focused classes that are team taught by industry leaders. You’ll complete assignments each of the two weeks that aim to spark inspiration, learn new techniques, practices, and insights.

Take a look at the recent work of our faculty and guest artists.

Alice "Bunny" Carter

Recent Alumni

Our alumni are accomplished, award-winning professionals in markets across the field of illustration. They make up a close-knit community of lifelong friends and resourceful peers, from all over the world, who are always encouraged to reach out, compare thoughts with, ask advice of, and share triumphs with.

Current Student Work

The Program Experience

Frequently Asked Questions

Our program is designed with working professionals in mind. Think of the Low Residency structure as a combination of on-campus and online learning. You’re afforded the convenience and flexibility while also benefiting from the value of learning in a studio environment.

In short, you’ll be away from home for 10 weeks total. We meet in-person four weeks out of the academic year: two weeks in July, one week in October, and one week in March. Each time we meet is called a contact period. There are 10 weeks total of contact periods.

Just over two years—two years plus two weeks, to be exact. Even though you aren’t on campus full-time, the curriculum is designed so that you maintain status as a full-time student. You’ll complete the program at the end of your third July contact period.

The University of Hartford is our home-base. Your three July contact periods are held here on campus in West Hartford, CT. The four Fall and Spring contact periods you attend are held across the country, in cities that reflect the thriving and changing markets of illustration. Cities for the Fall and Spring contact periods have included: San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, Los Angeles, CA, Philadelphia, PA.

We take pride in collaborating with leading and legendary illustration professionals from across the country. Take a moment to learn about our administrators, visiting faculty, and lecturers here.

Throughout the two years, you will maintain close communication via email, telephone, and video conferences with your thesis advisor and with Program Director, CF Payne. They’ll work with you to develop an individualized timeline of progress points to best suit your longterm goals.

A vital element of the program is the development and presentation of your Thesis project, which will be initiated during the first summer contact period. This Thesis project will be a self-initiated capstone body of work developed by you, under the guidance of your Thesis advisor Doug Andersen or Bill Thomson and Program Director CF Payne. You will meet with your Thesis Advisor and Program Director during each contact period and stay in contact with them throughout the year.

This Thesis affords you the opportunity to create a body of work that can be used to strengthen and expand your portfolio and launch your career in exciting new directions. The Thesis will consist of three elements: the art, the descriptive narrative, and a business plan showing how you plan to promote and sell your body of work. Portions of each student's Thesis project will be exhibited during the final contact period of the program.

Because of the prescribed curriculum, we calculate tuition on a full-year rate rather than per credit hour. Published tuition rates are tuition only, and do not include transportation, lodging, books, supplies, and other University fees. For the latest on the current year’s tuition and division of payments throughout the academic year, please see the current Grad Tuition Rates page, or reach out to us at

Merit-based scholarships are available and determined by the Program Director and the MFA in Illustration Admission Committee. Financial aid for domestic students is available through the U.S. Department of Education.

To learn more, please contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance at 800.947.4303 or email:

Why wait? Entering cohorts begin each July. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, until the cohort is filled.

Being around artists for two years, and having them as my peers and teachers has been absolutely invaluable to my growth. Ivey been to places where I normally wouldn't have gone, talked to people whom I would normally have shied away from, and created work that I didn't know I was capable of.

Sibu Puthenveetil, Class of 2019


CF Payne, Program Director

Bill Thomson, Thesis Advisor

Carol Schwartz, Thesis Advisor

Shayna Piascik, Program Manager

Join our vibrant community.