Joanna Spicer

Subject Leader
Senior Lecturer

Specialist Subject Areas

Illustration, Drawing and Play


MA Distinction Manchester Metropolitan University
BA (hons) Illustration Stockport College
PGCE Bolton Institute


Joanna is the current Level 4 Subject Leader and encourages students to play and explore as an integral part of locating their own personal visual language. With a background in commercial illustration for editorial, book jackets and advertising, Joanna turned her practice around after undertaking an MA in Illustration at MMU.

The initial starting point was simply to ‘draw dance’, an idea which evolved through childhood memories of dreaming of being a ballerina. Looking at traditional and contemporary dance, she made connections between drawing, the body and dance and attempted to convey movement and document ‘traces of dance’. Her working method began to transform from being formulaic and tight, as it had been, to more fluid and unpredictable. She began drawing ‘off the page’ and using more tangible and tactile materials. Her perception of ‘what’ drawing was or could be shifted. The discovered that I ‘meaning’ could be created through drawing and creative writing has uncovered a very personal narrative thread throughout.

This culminated in her drawings and poems, being used as a stimulus for Year 10, GCSE dance students at Fallibroome Academy in Macclesfield. The dancers become the drivers to ‘illustrate’ her work, and transformed its’ meaning to become their personal interpretations. Joanna understand from her own experience that in order to learn you have to trust yourself, allow yourself to be vulnerable, ready to collaborate and open to the unexpected.

Current research

Her current research is focused on her experience as a mother of twins. As an illustrator, she needed to draw and make marks, most of her recent work had been rooted in observation and drawing people in public spaces; drinking coffee in cafes, relaxing with friends in the park, commuting or shopping. Joanna’s drawings had always been made in relation to events outside of the home and during lockdown her work became very restricted. She applied the approaches from her MA studies to draw the twins. She had never drawn children or scenes from the domestic space before. Her aim was not to draw portraits but to capture the spirit of the twins, the way the moved and interacted with each other.

As a busy mother, Joanna draws in snatched moments when the twins are occupied or immersed in an activity. Drawings are not pre-planned and she works directly from them when possible or from films of them recorded, watching the way they move, their balance, their flexibility and the tussles they have over toys. The drawings are fluid and emerge as she adds and take away parts of the charcoal with a putty rubber. There is an intimacy in these drawings, a sense of being present and ‘in the moment’, which Joanna has never experienced before in other work she has made. Her relationship with her subject is now personal, the twins have become her muses and these drawings act as a record and archive. This body of work is ever growing as the twins change and exhibited on her Instagram account. The work has been featured in the latest A.O.I journal of Illustration magazine, Varoom, published in June 2021.

Principal Publications, Exhibitions and Awards

Varoom Magazine (2021), Illustration & London Interview and featured work in the annual issue.

Twins Trust Magazine (2021) ‘Multiple Matters’ Summer Edition. Interview and featured work in the quarterly issue.

Visceral Realism Issue 1 - A Visceral Response to the ballet ‘Tree of Codes’, Manchester International Festival, July 2015. - February 2017

Interview for Contemporary Manchester magazine publishing creative writing, art, criticism and all things literary.

Wigan, M (2009) Basics Illustration: Global Contexts. Ava Publishing.An image was used to illustrate an aspect of this book.

A.O.I Images 29 Two images were selected to feature in the Association Of Illustrators Annual and also featured in the travelling exhibition in London.


Ensemble – Staff Show, Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery, September 2017

MA Show – Manchester Metropolitan University, October 2016. Online Portfolio: mashow/joanna-spicer

Images & Archives - Manchester Metropolitan University, October 2015. As part of a group show, in response to a selected item from the Special Collections archive

Ill-us-tra-shun –Stockport Art Gallery – September 2004 Three images of mine included in an exhibition to celebrate the breadth practitioners involved in the Illustration Course at the college alongside work by Ian Pollock, Chris Corr, Ian Whadcock, Ian Murray and Mario Minichiello.

New Blood (D&AD) – Commonwealth Institute, London 2003.

Modules taught

Visual Languages, In Contexts, Collaborate and Concept.