Haseebah Ali

Visual Communication (Illustration) BA (Hons)

Haseebah’s creative passions led her to specialise in Illustration at BCU. After excelling in her course and embracing the resources available to her, she has been able to forge an exciting career as an artist and educator.  

“I always wanted to go to university, but growing up I assumed I would be studying English or going into the medical field.

This all changed when I was in college, as I discovered I was paying more attention to my fine art course than chemistry and biology. So, I decided to study graphic design and go down the creative route. I realised that I wanted to do a more creative degree, but my parents had to be persuaded, as they hadn’t seen anyone do vocational course before. I came to an open day at BCU and fell in love with the Parkside building and the resources available there.

So, I dropped chemistry and biology after my first year of A-Levels, and chose to study graphic design as an AS level, meaning I would only have two A-Levels in the end, English and Art. I worried that I wouldn’t meet the entry requirements for my course, but once I showed my portfolio at my university interview, I got an unconditional offer.

The Visal Communication (Illustration) course at BCU helped me to incorporate storytelling within my art practise and share that with the wider public. It also helped to build up my confidence and be comfortable and proud to share my culture in my work.

My love for printmaking really blossomed whilst I was studying at BCU, as I spent a lot of time in the print room. I even ended up doing up a printing residency at Parkside after completing my studies.

After graduating, my career felt unstable and I didn't really know where to start, but now it just feels very easy. I found that the most challenging thing when you’re just starting out is the unpredictability and how to establish the foundations of your practise. I've managed to overcome this by networking with artists and organisations in my local area and being open to every opportunity. Currently I'm an Artist and Arts Educator, which includes facilitating art workshops, producing community projects, and being commissioned to create artwork.

A typical day for me involves heading to the studio, catching up with emails and then creating and designing a new piece or preparing for a workshop.

I've been able to work in a lot of different settings. I started out as an assistant workshop facilitator, before starting to lead my own workshops. I also worked at a school and a hospital as an activities coordinator whilst I was freelancing part time. Nowadays, I’m a full-time freelancer and have worked in multiple galleries and education departments.

My proudest achievement since graduating was having my work ‘Emerald Floods’, inspired by the floods in Pakistan, exhibited at Saatchi Gallery last year in collaboration with WaterAid and the British Art Fair. I never thought I’d get to this stage, so to have my work next to the likes of David Hockney and Damien Hurst felt very surreal.

It is my long-term ambition to work on a more international scale and have another solo exhibition.

My advice to fellow BCU graduates who are just starting out in their career would be to research the opportunities in your local area, because you'd be surprised to discover what is on our doorstep. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks and pursue a course that you're really passionate about, like I did. You also need to have confidence in your ability and vouch for yourself.

To me, I AM BCU means being proud of what you've achieved at university.”