Illustration student Jua O'Kane wants to start conversations around mental heath
At Plymouth College of Art, we know that self-care and well-being is key – we recognise how important it is to offer our students support for all aspects of their lives. From The Student Hub to the Students’ Union, if you study here we will support you not just academically, but emotionally and socially too!
We teamed up with second year BA (Hons) Illustration student, Jua O’Kane, to deliver some exclusively designed items that were sent out to all prospective students to help them look after themselves in the build-up to starting university. With top tips on how to look after yourself and maintain a positive well-being; everything you need to get organised with your illustrated notepad, where you can write down something you’re happy about every day; and the opportunity to get creative with exclusive stickers!
Find out more about Jua's work and the way they manage their mental health while studying...
Hey Jua, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m a nonbinary illustrator and comic artist from Northern Ireland. I’m inspired by fashion illustration, josei manga, and technology, and I love to tell stories that explore the line between reality and illusion. In my spare time I enjoy cooking and reading comics. I pretty much never stop drawing or thinking about illustration.
We love how your work often addresses mental health and starts conversations that can sometimes be difficult – can you tell us one way that you manage your mental health?
Learning to live with a mood disorder is difficult, meditation has been very helpful for me. The combination of being on medication and learning to integrate mindful ways of thinking into my everyday life has allowed me to find stability. I like using the Headspace app but also meditating on my own too.
How has the college supported you during your studies?
I spend a lot of time in the Student Hub, I was introduced to meditation by one of the counsellors there. When I’m having a bad day it’s nice knowing that I can pop down and have a chat. I get a lot of support and insight from my tutors as well.
What initially made you want to study at Plymouth College of Art, and why did you then choose us as your first choice?
Primarily it was that the illustration course sounded exactly like what I wanted to get out of a degree. Visiting the college sealed the deal, I was so impressed when I came for my interview, it was much more personal than what I’d experienced at other universities, I felt like a person as opposed to a cog in a machine. It just felt right! I could see myself living and studying here.
What have been your biggest professional or personal achievements so far?
Professionally, that I had a comic printed in an issue of Oh Comely last year. Personally I’m just really proud of how much progress I’ve made since the start of first year! My tutors have always encouraged me to push the envelope within my projects and that’s resulted in some great outcomes - I’ve self published two comics since January and created various 'make-to-sell' products.
What’s the best thing for you about being a creative?
Getting to visually transcribe the feelings we might not be able to put into words. I’m fascinated by the tiny differences in how we each perceive the world. My aim is always to make work that provokes an emotional response and inspires empathy between people with difference experiences.
We’ve loved working with you on this exclusive design project for our applicants. What was it like when you received your applicant box before you started studying with us?
I was always blown away by the care and detail put into these boxes when I received them as an applicant. It’s kind of surreal to now be in the position two years later where I’m designing one myself! I was so excited when your team initially contacted me, I tried to design the products based around the kind of thing I would have liked to receive, so hopefully people enjoy them.
Can you share with us your best piece of advice to help with the transition into university life?
Realise that everyone else is just as nervous as you are, if not more! I was so scared to move to England and start uni, I’d convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to handle it, but it’s completely changed my life for the better. Try as much as possible to just throw yourself into conversations and social situations, it’s a lot easier than you might think.
Where can we see more of your illustrations and keep up to date with your work?