Art Center Op-Ed class
One of the pleasures of teaching at Art Center is a class I co-teach with the great Brian Rea called Op-Ed Illustration. A few years ago when Brian told me he was leaving the grind of NYC and his spot as AD of The New York Times Op-Ed page for the equally treacherous streets of Los Feliz, I suggested we plan a class that would be a bridge from school to the real world for illustration students about to graduate.
The concept of creating thoughtful illustrations that communicate an idea is not easy for students to grasp and the only way to get good at it is to make a lot of images. We try to duplicate for our students the procedure that illustrators who work for the Op-Ed page go through. That means we e-mail the article just before the class and expect to see 4-5 smart ideas the next day, we pick one and the final is due the next week. Not exactly the one-day turnaround that Op-Ed demands, but a lot quicker than students are used to working.
We’ve had the generous support of the ADs at the Times who agreed to assign a live assignment each term. Students get the topic in class and sketch their ideas, we approve one and the final has to be e-mailed to Brian and me the next morning by 9am. We send them all to the paper, they pick one, and someone has their first piece in The New York Times the next day.
This semester we had the pleasure of working with the great AD Nathan Huang who was a student in the first illustration class I ever taught about ten years ago. It was a Letters piece about the controversy surrounding the number of food carts in front of the Met. Brian and I always tell the AD, that if none of the students’ pieces are right, one of us will jump in and do the illustration, so far there has been no risk of that happening.
Ellen Surrey and Loris Lora
We see a lot of talented young artists graduate from Art Center every semester, and every now and then there are some who really stand out and look like they have everything they need to start their careers, smart ideas, good taste, and the skills to make beautiful images. This spring, we saw two like that.
Ellen Surrey and Loris Lora, are fantastic young illustrators that are just starting to show their work around and starting to get assignments.
Ellen and Loris are good friends and I’ve noticed their friendship is made of equal measures of support and competition that has driven each to make their best work.
If I was an art director, I’d be checking out their websites and figuring out an assignment for them soon.
On the Road
I haven’t yet seen the new movie by Walter Salles, but I’ve been assigning a book jacket project for Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to my Illustration Design class at Art Center for the past six or seven years. It's a great book that has had some sad covers issued in the last fifty-five years. At first, I was surprised how few students had already read it, but then I thought that if they don’t learn anything else from me, I’ll have introduced them to Kerouac, and the class will have that going for it.
The assignment is to pick an idea or theme from the book and communicate it in a way that feels right for the story. Research into Kerouac’s life and the way America looked right after World War II is a big part of the project. You’d be surprised how many 22-year olds don’t know suitcases didn’t always have wheels on them.
Most of these covers were designed by students about halfway through their studies at Art Center, some have graduated, some are still in school. I’ve added links to their websites if you’d like to see what they are up to now.
Li Kai Lai
Woody Guthrie 100
This year is Woody Guthrie’s Centennial, so I gave my class at Art Center an assignment to design a poster for one of the many concerts this year that pay tribute to the guy who Bob Dylan called “the greatest holiest godliest one in the world.” Most of the class only had a vague idea of who Guthrie was and had never listened to his music.
Here’s six of my favorites :