Can I do a PhD in art with a 1st supervisor from the phycology department?


Previously I have failed a couple of times to secure a second supervisor because I wish to write and illustrate a children's book about visual illusions. When I applied to do a practice-based illustration PhD they said they did not have a second supervisor with knowledge of this subject in the art or any other department including phycology.
So I have now found a uni with experts in visual illusion in their phycology department, but I do not want to study the phycology of illusions on children. I wish to create a book of my own interpretations of visual illusions (for children) on a practice-based PhD.
So I think I should approach the children's creative writing/ illustration supervisor in the art department to find out if I could do a practice-based PhD first.
But I think like the supervisor I approached before he will say it's not his area of expertise and/or interest.
So I'm wondering if I should try it the other way around this time. Should I approach the expert in visual illusions in the phycology department and say I want to do a book about illusions and have him as the 1st supervisor and the children's book expert as the second supervisor.

Is this possible? Or do 1st supervisors have to be in your area of expertise and proposed outcome? (I studied art not phycology for BA&MA)

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Hi sarahanother,

To be honest, you are in a grey area and you can probably get away with anything if the supervisors & university agree. Generally you want your supervisory team to cover most the proposed PhD sub-areas and it can be in any order. You can get supervisors across different universities if both agree so that you can get more options if necessary. Though if you are having trouble choosing, have you considered your own strengths and weakness and what the main focus of the PhD is? Ideally your first supervisor knows the main area of your PhD and the second/third supervisors help with specific areas. The alternative is to go with a hands off supervisor that will let you do what you want without any input except signatures, which is a bit risky.

Also, I should point out that if your first supervisor is in psychology, your PhD will most likely be in psychology and not art. It is very university specific but it may limit your submission options and you might not be allowed a practice based illustration thesis (honestly, I don't know what that is).


Hello Sarahanother!

First of all, and this is really important: It's called psychology with an S (pronounced "sigh"-cology, the P is silent). Phycology is the scientific study of algae, which I doubt is what you are looking for. To be brutally honest, as a prospective advisor my personal enthusiasm would already be somewhat limited when faced with such a fundamental mistake.

Second, I think you should decide what it is that you want. You say you want show your "own interpretations" of visual illusions. But what does that mean? Do you want to teach children how visual illusions work, or about their history in art or science? Do you want the illusions to be effective in the book (i.e., when the reader looks at them)? Or do you want to use them only as visual ornaments?

Do you have to write a thesis along with a practice-based art PhD? If so, it sounds like provding scientific background information on the visual illusions themselves would be a good idea. Having an appropriate supervisors from psychology would then make sense. However, since you already say that you do not want the PhD to be science-focused, I do not see that having somebody from psychology as main advisor. If this is supposed to be primarly an art project, somebody from that field should take the lead.


sorry. I have dyslexia, I just installed Grammarly on my web browser so I didn't even check but I guess it's not as good as it claims. I will repost with correct spelling since it will not let me edit it


sorry. I have dyslexia, I just installed Grammarly on my web browser so I didn't even check but I guess it's not as good as it claims. I will repost with correct spelling since it will not let me edit it