Sunday, May 1, 2016

It ain't over until the Theaster Bunny Sings!

I find myself saying this same thing every year, but students just keep getting more and more impressive, and this semester's group of Illustration students who just presented their thesis work, are the very embodiment of impressive!

Focus Week at the PNCA normally comes about when my freelance work is at it's height, and whereas sleep is nil through it's duration, it's a joy to see just how all these inventive minds have evolved!  I can't help but think about where I was when I graduated in the early 90's, and how much further along their opportunities will surely take them in the years to come.  So very exciting to have taught most of these students, given the chance to prod about in their wonderfully creative brains, and then realize their potential with such a grand show of all their wig bubbles hanging on the walls of the 511 building!  Truly something to behold every semester!

Let me begin with my Mentorship this semester Malcolm Bridwell.  Malcolm took my Character Design class twice, and both semesters filled his sketchbook with Robots!  Some fashioned from my Cute/BrĂ¼t and Super/Mini Challenges, and others fun mash-ups of Transformers and Pacific Rim.  Well, for the last 14 weeks Malcolm's created packaging and Orthographics for a series of Robot Toy designs, with their backstory tied into satirizing technological expansion and convenience culture.

Doggy Defender, LawnLady, and The Ovenator (complete with Glow in the Dark chicken roast), created by Gadgetech, a company garishly catering to society's need for uber-convenience.  They're all depicted quite innocently killing swatches of post apocalyptic humanity, by simply doing their job.  Malcolm has a wonderful mind for illustration, but also the construction and documentation of 3D forms, valuable to any toy manufacturer.  Check him out on FaceBook, and he'll keep you updated on which path these Bots lay waste to in the future, he may even potentially sell them as designs that you could download, and print out with instructions on how to construct the Bots from Paper!  Great Job, Malcolm, and may your LawnLady's Two-Lips be with you.. Always.. =)

Kelsey Holland-Rayle is currently doing phenomenal work for my Character Design class, and although time didn't allow me seeing her presentation, let me say that Kelsey's mixings of hand-craft and illustration is phenomenal!  Kelsey has an impressive knowledge of botanicals, and actual species of animal that she anthropomorphizes with, and her pastel colour palette and flowing lines are not soon forgotten!  In her thesis presentation, Kelsey created a product line with characters and objects to both define and help with specific mental health issues.  Brilliant topic, and brilliant results!!  Her diligent process, speed, and general smiling earnest and ease to work with, will make her a brilliant editorial illustrator for absolutely anyone hiring!  Check Kelsey out on her blog Curiocosm and on Instagram.

And then there's Colin Laurel..  Another stunningly skilled young illustrator I had in class, who has a very distinct style, wonderful movement in line quality, and great graphic appeal to his work.  Colin's thesis was based on Homeless folks and the special relationships they have with their pets.  Setting up a call out to folks using the Portland Animal Welfare (PAW) an organization that gives free veterinary care for pets of people who are homeless or living in acute poverty here in Portland, Colin started his ambitious project.   A touching group of drawings, more subtle in approach than his normal illustrative style, but nonetheless beautiful series of portraits.  Please do yourself a favor and check out Colin's Website and process Blog.  What a wonderfully sweet charitable work, and from such brilliantly skilled talent.  Bravo, Colin!

Eva Landis took my class her 3rd year at the PNCA, and I could tell from the minute I saw her sketchbook, that she was a brilliant technician, and spent time taking visual notes of intricacies of Character.  Her thesis was called Eat Trash Be Free, and although I'm again poking myself with a fork for not being able to attend, Eva's environmentalist conservationist ethics mixed with solid research on animal behavior and cohabitation are apparent throughout her work.  Quite a brilliant mind, and providing both traditional and digital techniques for your every editorial need.

The week began with a student I've never had in class, but whom I could pick style out of a crowd almost instantly; Marlowe Dobbe.  Marlowe unleashed a video game idea, Margaret's Blight, that if produced, will surely play a role in subtly combating some of the harmful vid game tropes that unfortunately still exist today.  Through anthropomorphization, humour, and juxtaposing ideology when you least expect it, Margaret and team may become the next generations standard in youth market vid games!

This may not come up in class all the time, but my Pop died with ALS years ago, and although he didn't suffer the long decline that many folks with this horrible disease do, I'm still very struck by the toll it takes on families and completely empathize with what they endure.  This was the case with former student Anna Colasanti's wonderfully heart felt thesis project.  Anna's Father passed of ALS as well, and this was the subject of her brilliantly poignant and thoughtful children's book, A Man and A Cat.  I watched Anna move in her skill set by leaps and bounds in my class, and as I watched her presentation, past some tears mind you, I saw both her traditional and digital skills and her writing skills click completely into place.  Guided by none other than the PNCA's NYTimes best seller, author/illustrator Victoria Jameson as Anna's mentor, the story tells of the loss of a loved one, through the relationship developed between the Man and the Cat, but with such grace, simplicity, and brevity of words and symbols that you must read it yourself to see.  What a brilliant therapy this book will be when published, and what a wonderfully heart felt tale you given us.

I mention Victor Ambrose (beloved kid's book, and archeological illustrator for the British series called TimeTeam) all the time in my class, and former student Morgan Viger's thesis was based in a similar vein; Archeological Reconstruction.  With documentary processes in drawing; cataloging, (large, almost to scale) prints of Greek friezes from the Pantheon in near original colouring, and a wonderful wit, Morgan gave us some insight into this rare form of illustration (a career path that I'll admit to being a bit jealous of. =)  Just a wonderful show!

I was part of the thesis panel reviewing the Comic work of Jenelle Newman, and although she's another student I've never had in class, her hopefully soon to be webcomic Slice of Life was yet another very ambitious, and very impressive work.  Covering the topic of depression, this promising first issue features a protagonist named Fred, who becomes a Grim Reaper.  Jenelle has great line quality, a great sense of design and paneling, and I just can't wait to see what the next issue will bring us!

Last but certainly not least, was a brilliant act of kindness (and as far as I can tell, a brand new tradition for the PNCA Illustration Department) from Jessica Mick.  She essentially designed and sewed a toy plushie for each graduating senior, based on their thesis topic.  Calling them "Theaster Presents".  I just have to tip my hat to this kind of brilliance, and I must have this awesome Sloth.  Jess and her awesome plushies are all on her Etsy site, and I'd encourage anyone to get this cuteness into your life!

Colossal job, Ayebody!