Interviews on the Critical Framework of Illustration in Education

(Author’s Note: This paper was completed as my graduate thesis in March 2011 and the interviews were completed in 2010. The full interviews are attached at the end of the paper.)

Abstract

This paper compares approaches to and philosophies of illustration pedagogy. The primary form of research is interviews with different illustration educators across the United States and Canada from a variety of higher learning institutions, both at the graduate and undergraduate level. Books written about illustration and art education supplement this research. Twenty-three illustration educators were asked ten to twelve questions, including inquiries into their personal education and illustration backgrounds, their methods of illustration education, and their opinions about the field of teaching illustration. From this research, I determined which illustration education practices and courses are widely taught and which are more unique to certain professors and schools. This paper compares and contrasts these practices in order to describe the integral components of an illustration education and promote further discussion in the field of illustration.

“There are no rules, only tools.” -Glenn V. Vilppu

I. Introduction

“One thing illustration has always lacked, compared to graphic design, is a strong critical framework by which to assess it. Design magazines have tended to treat it as an adjunct of design rather than a fully-fledged discipline in its own right. Apart from Steven Heller, who patrols a wider territory than either illustration or design alone, one would be hard pressed to name a single highly active writer, an expert, primarily identified with illustration as a subject.”[1]

- Rick Poynor, “The Missing Critical History of Illustration,” Print Magazine, June 2010

I discovered this statement and the subsequent article by Rick Poynor after I had already spent six months researching and conducting interviews with twenty-three illustrators who also teach in the field. Nevertheless, Poynor’s article begins to summarize what I had been researching: that illustration lacks a comprehensive canon of knowledge by which not only to assess it, as Poynor notes, but also to teach it. There are dozens of accredited illustration programs in the United States, and many more abroad, with a handful of these also offering graduate study in the field. How can an expansive academic discipline such as illustration be growing at such an expeditious rate, catering to thousands of students and employing hundreds of professors, without a strong theoretical basis on which to build it? My goal in researching and writing this paper is to begin to identify what this critical framework entails by going to the most direct source possible: illustration educators themselves.

In my conversation with Anita Kunz regarding this subject, she agreed: “You might actually start something like that, because there seems to be a vacuum, there seems to be a hole there. At the Society of Illustrators, they archive everything but it’s not one [volume]… you’re right, there is nothing like that… For one sort of bible, no, there’s really nothing like that.” Whitney Sherman concurred: “There aren’t really any books about [illustration], except the Heller books. What is this about? What is this practice all about? What’s its history? We have the Walt Reed book [The Illustrator in America], it’s like biopics, broken into decades, but things don’t really work in decades. “The Visual History of Illustration” [by Seymour Chwast and Steven Heller] breaks it down into genres, a little more accurate… but no pinpointed visual journalism, where did all that come from?”

Sherman has addressed the issue of establishing a critical framework by creating a class at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) entitled “History of Illustration.” The objective of this class is to conduct research on the lineage of contemporary illustration, addressing the “social, political, technological and aesthetic conditions and considerations of narrative art.” Ms. Sherman has gathered an exceptional body of resources regarding this topic on the class blog (historyofillustration.blogspot.com), arranged to assist her students in discerning between the fine and commercial arts and expand their understanding of the illustration field. Classes such as these, often categorized as history classes, are offered through a number of illustration programs and begin to catalog and assess the key subject matter and principles of illustration.

Rick Poynor’s article, as well as many of my interviews, addressed several of the same books that I had encountered during my research process, including Seymour Chwast’s “A Visual History of Illustration,” as well as Steven Heller’s multiple compilations. While a comprehensive history of American illustration exists in Walt Reed’s “The Illustrator in America”, Poynor asserts “no international history of illustration is now in print.” He also notes that in the past decade, “Books have appeared, but they are invariably how-to guides or visual surveys that merely aim to show what is going on.”[2] While my research, unlike Poynor’s, specifically strove to address the issue of how this framework is examined in an educational context, these issues are inherently connected. Without a critical framework by which to assess the product of a field, there cannot be a critical framework on which to base education of the field. In conclusion, Poynor and I agree that, to this date, the key principles and history of illustration have failed to be compiled or assessed by any major publication.

This paper aims to begin to solidify the canon of knowledge on which illustration education is based. While this paper in no means strives to become the comprehensive publication that the field of illustration needs, I hope that by gathering and synthesizing the expert opinions of illustration educators, it continues to open the field of discussion amongst professionals and educators in the discipline.

II. Research Methods

In order to investigate these questions, I contacted twenty-three educators in the field of illustration who currently teach at fourteen different universities and colleges as well as non-university programs in the US and Canada. I strove to create a list of educators to interview that were established professional illustrators with impressive client lists and peer recognition.

These illustrators included:

Scott Anderson — Westmont College and the Illustration Academy

Natalie Ascencios — School of Visual Arts and the Illustration Academy

Steven Brodner — School of Visual Arts, Fashion Institute of Technology

Marc Burckhardt — Texas State University

SooJin Buzelli — School of Visual Arts

Alice (Bunny) Carter — San Jose State University

Doug Chayka — Ringling College of Art and Design (at time of interview), currently teaching at the Savannah College of Art and Design

Marcos Chin — School of Visual Arts

Fernanda Cohen — School of Visual Arts

Frances Jetter — School of Visual Arts

Jean-Christian Knaff — Ontario College of Art and Design

Anita Kunz — Illustration Academy

Ted and Betsy Lewin — Hartford Art School

Melanie Reim — Fashion Institute of Technology

Whitney Sherman — Maryland Institute College of Art

Durwin Talon — Savannah College of Art and Design (at time of interview), currently teaching at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design

John Thompson — Syracuse University

Murray Tinkelman — Hartford Art School

Robert Meganck — Virginia Commonwealth University

Chris F. Payne — Columbus College of Art and Design, Hartford Art School, and the Illustration Academy

Jeffrey Smith — Art Center College of Design

Greg Spalenka — Artist as Brand workshop

The interviews consisted of ten to twelve questions and were conducted either by e-mail, in person, or via phone. In addition to these educators, I also contacted Caroline Walmsley, Managing Director of the UK branch of AVA Publishing.

III. Literature Review

In order to find the first illustration textbook, we need not look further than one of the greatest influences on illustration, Andrew Loomis, who in 1947 penned the comprehensive volume “Creative Illustration.”[3] Loomis was a prolific writer in the fields of art and illustration, also writing books on figure drawing, portraiture, and painting, such as “Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth,” “Drawing the Head and Hands,” and “The Eye of the Painter,” among others. In “Creative Illustration,” Loomis asserts that good drawing skills in an illustrator are already assumed as a necessity for working in the field. A good illustration is not based on drawing alone, but must contain personal interpretation in order to accomplish something, be it selling a product, illuminating a manuscript, or setting an emotionally evocative tone or feeling. In this book, Loomis breaks apart the fundamentals of illustration not for the purpose of teaching basic drawing skills, as many of his other books teach, but for the purpose of using these skills to let the drawing communicate.

The book is broken down into six parts: line, tone, color, telling the story, creating ideas, and, finally, fields of illustration. In the section regarding line, Loomis lays out the seven primary functions of line, which include not just drawing but also composition. Loomis uses extensive examples of a variety of ways line can be used to build formal compositions and create focal points, showing that even the most realistic drawing is still based on sound abstract principles. In his section on tone, Loomis notes the importance of creating value sketches to establish a tonal pattern before completing a final piece. He also uses this section to exemplify how illustration surpasses photography in its ability to choose focal points and simplify and enhance areas of value and pattern as the eye chooses, thereby enhancing the effect the illustrator wishes to produce. Loomis goes on to review the methods and techniques of prominent illustrators such as Howard Pyle and how they interpret these elementary principles. The book contains an exceptional overview of the use of color to convey a message, and finally, the sections concerning storytelling and creating ideas, which combine these fundamental principles into true illustrations. Overall, Loomis’ book succeeds in exemplifying the processes and techniques essential to narrative illustration through a combination of text, diagrams, and visual examples to create an indispensable guide to any illustrator.

However, sixty years of illustration history has passed since Loomis’ book was published, during which the markets, techniques, and genres for illustration have expanded exponentially, especially with the new technology in printing processes and the advent of the Internet. In addition, Loomis’ book focuses solely on figurative narrative illustration, which fails to include examples from many emerging and developing genres of illustration, such as product design and digital markets. Nevertheless, the key principles that Loomis lays forward, the importance of line, composition, value, and the utilization of these principles to create ideas and stories are concepts that can be interpreted into almost any illustration genre or market. Therefore, a comprehensive view of illustration requires an updated retrospective of the evolution of these genres and markets.

A number of books also exist on the history of illustration, including the aforementioned “Illustrator in America,” by Walt Reed, a comprehensive volume that spans fourteen decades and hundreds of illustrators from 1860–2000.[4] Two previous editions, spanning 1900–1960 and 1880–1980 were published in 1966 and 1984, respectively, acknowledging the constant evolvement of the field. This book gives an example of each illustrator’s work along with a short biography of the illustrator, sorting the illustrators into the decades during which they produced their most prominent work. While many of these featured illustrators’ careers spanned numerous decades and styles, this book focuses on the decade when they were most influential to both their peers and the public. Nevertheless, the work of many of these illustrators is difficult to encapsulate by a single picture. Even so, this book, along with Reed’s other publications on illustration history and technique, is a fundamental resource for the background of illustrators and their principal works. Contrarily, Seymour Chwast and Steven Heller’s “A Visual History of Illustration,” divides the field into two categories: style and form, which encapsulate the past two hundred years of illustration’s primary genres and markets, with an introduction tracing the roots of illustration to the Middle Ages and earlier.[5] In the preface, Chwast asserts that the book does not aim to be a linear history of illustration, but an “interpretive” one, imperfect in the sense that much illustration cannot be clearly categorized, but is a synthesis of a variety of styles. Chwast also notes that “illustration and illustrators are often better defined by their respective conceptual methods than by the surface alone.”[6] While Poynor writes off this book in his essay as being, “mainly pictorial,” the pictorial element is essential to informing the reader.[7] While these books and others that chronicle the history of illustration are important for contemporary illustrators to inform their work and place themselves within a historical context, they do not directly address the crafting or conceptual processes that illustration students utilize in their training.

I will not discount the importance of books on the business of illustration, including Heller and Arisman’s “Inside the Business of Illustration,”[8] along with the indispensable Graphic Artists Guild’s “Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.”[9] As Andy Warhol once said, “the finest art of all is the business of art,” and part of illustration is understanding the entirety of the visual problem at hand, including learning the intricacies of business practices and client relations. While many of these books are filled with pricing charts and contract forms, they also provide sound advice as to how to interact with art directors and successfully complete jobs, which inevitably play a part in the conceptualizing and problem solving processes inherent in illustration. However, because of the speed with which business and industry practices in the field are progressing, it is extremely important for illustrators to be reading the most recent information about these subjects as possible.

The prolific Steven Heller has helped to edit and publish numerous texts on the business and study of the field of illustration. Perhaps the most comprehensive and reflective of Heller’s books, “The Education of an Illustrator,” co-edited with Marshall Arisman, is a collection of essays regarding the field of illustration education, some of which border on the poetic while others give practical advice and insight into the process and the field.[10] The introduction discussion between Heller and Arisman in “The Education of an Illustrator,” addresses many of the questions included in my interviews, especially on the importance of drawing and the impact of technology, which I will address later in this paper. Nevertheless, while many of the essays in this book touch on important issues delineating the keys to illustration, the book reads as a collection, not a synthesis, of this information. The book ends with a collection of syllabi of illustration classes, which undoubtedly led to the later publication of “Teaching Illustration,” which is solely comprised of syllabi.[11] I want to note in my discussion of Heller’s books that I by no means want to discount their value in the furthering of the professional and educational practices of illustration; after all, these books are some of the most comprehensive textual bases we have on the subject. Nevertheless, while illuminating the process by which illustrators translate their knowledge into their educational practices, these publications do little to inform us of the integrated nature or critical framework of illustration.

In addition to these aforementioned full-length books, I wanted to mention a couple of shorter and non-traditional texts I found to be useful in examining the field of illustration. Charles Hively released a small text entitled “Nuts and Bolts: A Blueprint for a Successful Illustration Career,” for the purpose of first annual Nuts and Bolts conference in July of 2010, which lists many suggestions regarding illustration practice and business.[12] In my conversation with Steven Brodner, we discussed a short description of his illustration process that he produced and distributed during a speaking engagement in November of 2009 at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Although it is only one page, this document concisely summarizes the keys to developing an illustration and delineates the process that illustrators go through in order to create their work, from conceptualizing to composing to production. Finally, an excellent on-line resource of illustration history exists in David Apatoff’s blog “Illustration Art,” which juxtaposes powerful illustrations with in depth historical analysis and commentary.[13]

It was not until 2005, when AVA Publishing began its series of illustration textbooks, that academia began to develop a contemporary library of comprehensive resources specifically designed for illustration education. When I was attending the College Art Association conference in Chicago in February of 2010, I stumbled upon this publisher and at that point had not yet encountered any line of textbooks exclusively about the subject of illustration.[14][15][16] Some of these books were comprised of a confusing design scheme and seemed inconsistent in their foci. However, one title, “Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective” by Alan Male, gives an excellent view of the different markets of illustration, along with strong examples that delineate important styles and genres.[17] The cover of the book features an exploded diagram of a fantastical insect as a metaphor for breaking down the different components of illustration, including visual communication and intelligence, identity, persuasion, storytelling, commentary, research, and aesthetics, amongst others. Male, in a vein similar to Steven Brodner’s brief description of illustration problem-solving, delineates the conceptual process behind illustration as developing the “brief” (or problem), answering the brief, researching, and drawing.

In my e-mail interview with Caroline Walmsley, Managing Director of AVA Publishing UK, Ms. Walmsley clarified that AVA did not “specifically set out to plug what we perceived as gaps within the illustration education book market, but a broader gap in educational titles that we believed existed across the spectrum of the applied visual arts.” At the time of publication, Ms. Walmsley noted that there were “very, very few books” available on the subject of illustration, and gave the following explanation:

“In fact, the author whom we worked with on our first illustration title was at the time writing another book for a different publisher. That publisher was so concerned with preconceived ideas that an ‘illustration’ book would fail that he requested the term be replaced throughout the book with the phrase ‘image making’, both that book and AVA’s title were released to the market at the same time and our book (I’m both pleased and relieved to say) performed exceptionally well.”

In conclusion, this title was the closest I came to in my research of a textbook that sought to give such a comprehensive view of illustration since the publication of Andrew Loomis’ Creative Illustration fifty years ago. Therefore, in order to further understand the fundamentals of illustration and grasp what the canon of the field encompasses, I turned to my interviews with professionals in the field of illustration education.

IV. Illustration Educators Speak

A. The Role of the History in Illustration Education

In order to understand their innovative and constantly evolving field, illustration students must be aware of the current illustration being recognized and published. Because illustration is a communication art in an age where information is growing exponentially and whose trends are continuously evolving, the best resource for students is the work that is currently being developed. Just as a student producing research in physics or psychology needs to be versed in the current trends in his or her field, a student producing illustration needs to be also. Nevertheless, current trends do not eliminate the need for a firm understanding of their evolution and history.

In my interviews, the need for illustration history classes received mixed reviews. These ranged from “Critical.” (Melanie Reim) to “No, I don’t think illustration history needs to be taught” (Frances Jetter) to that it is a “luxury for any non-trade school program” (Scott Anderson). Steven Brodner describes why the history of illustration is valuable for beginning students: “The history of illustration is important from the standpoint of analyzing an illustrator’s statement and what they’re saying.” Murray Tinkelman elucidates on this importance: “The history of illustration is important, and should be introduced EARLY in the curriculum. It should be a sophomore class… I have severe criteria for who teaches the history of illustration, someone with significant illustration experience. A contemporary illustrator has a feeling for the history of illustration, it’s the most important aspect.”

A number of instructors believed that not only illustration history, but also art and design history are important for students to examine. Doug Chayka noted that, “Illustration history is absolutely important, but we also need to study graphic design and fine art history.” Frances Jetter agreed that, “It would be better to include [illustration] in art history in general. Great illustration and design is part of our culture and should be recognized as much as great painting. Exciting work, work where people took chances and made an impact, should be treated as important art.” John Thompson concurs: “All illustrators should know who came before them and what their contributions were. The same is true of the whole history of art. If illustrators don’t see themselves as artists, they are shortsighted.” Robert Meganck noted how illustration history needs to be integrated with the history of art and design, as well as related to history in general. In his Survey of Illustration history class at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Durwin Talon exemplified this principle, placing illustrators within the context of larger world events that occurred while they were creating their seminal works. Marcos Chin agreed that illustration history was important, but that many illustrators’ history is self-taught, as in his own experience: “The history component came from my teachers suggesting look at so-and-so, and through my own research and looking at illustration annuals from decades ago.” Marc Burckhardt is in agreement that “illustration history as a formal class isn’t necessary, though it has value as a means of placing a student’s work in the context of a long tradition.” Overall, the general response of the interviewees was to include some sort of history component in illustration education, be it through a formal class, general art history, or by encouraging students to research the historical context of their own work.

B. Educational Backgrounds & the Responsibilities of Educators

Illustration is an emerging field of study, albeit a well-established practice with a rich history, with the first collegiate illustration programs, besides scientific and medical illustration, emerging within the last half of the twentieth century. Because of this, many of the illustrators who are now educating in the field do not have an academic illustration background themselves, and their knowledge comes solely and directly from their experience in the field. As Thomas Allen writes in his essay “A Moving Target,” in the book “Education of the Illustrator,” “[Robert Weaver, Robert Andrew Parker, and I] were hired because we were successful freelance illustrators for major magazines, record companies, and corporations, and not because we knew how to teach illustration. The fact is, not one of us took a course in illustration — only drawing, painting, and printmaking. We taught from our own limited experience and from who we were — no syllabi, no curriculum. If the truth were known, we didn’t teach at all.”[18] From the illustrators that I interviewed who did not have backgrounds in illustration, many had backgrounds in graphic design, photography, commercial art, or fine art, although some also came from multidisciplinary fields, such as Natalie Ascencios’ background in History and Cultural Studies and Jean-Christian Knaff’s master’s degree in Linguistics. Knaff believes this makes sense as “illustration is about visual language.” He goes on to say, “These two are very close, actually. Common grounds are composition, grammar, placement, story telling, narrative, meaning, metaphors, etc.” However, a number of illustrators I interviewed were emerging as the first generation of illustration educators to have come from a formal illustration background.

Those present at the emergence of an academic field bear the responsibility of writing the “constitution” of that field to be interpreted and edited by future generations. Although numerous resources exist from artists, illustrators, and designers from the past that are significant contributions to the field, the responsibility of the first and second generations of illustration educators is to synthesize this information into a field of study and interpret it to their students through their teaching methods. I wanted to explore what this great responsibility of defining their field meant to these educators, why they entered the field, and how much their personal biases and preferences work into what they do versus purveying an objective set of information. Melanie Reim believes it is an educator’s responsibility to “keep current and walk the fine line of instilling work ethic and foundation versus room for exploration and learning by doing, which sometimes includes mistakes.” Anita Kunz agreed that educators have an inherent responsibility to their students: “The best teachers give everything of themselves, that’s the whole point of transferring knowledge.”

Many of the educators’ responsibilities to education were revealed in why they entered the field. Several enjoyed the discussion and sharing of ideas, as well as seeing the growth of the students, such as Marcos Chin and Frances Jetter. This idea is summed up in Doug Chayka’s comments: “I was missing the exchange and growth that happens in a school setting, which is mostly not part of the freelance lifestyle. I continue to pursue teaching because I enjoy helping students grow and see them excited about image making, and I continue to learn more about myself and my work in the process of helping them discover their point of view.” Jean-Christian Knaff agrees that teaching helps the illustrator grow as well as the student, stating: “I don’t believe you can be a good illustrator without teaching.” A statement that occurred repeatedly in my interviews were educators who saw teaching as a responsibility to give back to the profession, such as Marc Burckhardt, Greg Spalenka, and Jeffrey Smith. Melanie Reim summarizes this idea: “I woke up one day and realized that I wanted to give back and to share what I loved doing.”

The theory of encouraging an individual student’s personal expression and vision, to help them grow and open their minds, as being an illustration educator’s primary responsibility came up repeatedly in my interviews. Ted and Betsy Lewin specified this process: “The role of an illustration educator should be to draw out a student’s natural talent, and help them direct it. Here’s where our many years in the field is most helpful. We don’t believe that a teacher should impose personal biases, but should nurture individual creativity.” Murray Tinkelman agreed with this idea, saying the role of an illustration educator is to “help students discover who they are and help them along that path. One should not just impose their particular prejudice or likes and dislikes on the student… like a good decorative illustrator who belittles and denigrates people who work in a narrative style. Many people in academia and fine arts departments disregard illustration and are interested in their own “isms.” The primary job of an instructor is to be open-minded.” This statement is important because it distinguishes the field of illustration from that of fine art. While illustrators do not create their own problems or theoretical boundaries as fine artists do, they do sieve other peoples’ problems through their own filters and personal interpretations.

Opinions varied from educator to educator regarding the subjective nature of what they teach. Jeffrey Smith states, “My teaching is all about my personal bias and preference. But their education is about what they are willing to receive. That is why it is good to have more than one teacher.” Mark Burckhardt considers illustration to be an illusory vocation, stating, “It’s impossible not to teach art from a personal bias — it’s a subjective field. However, I think each teacher should strive to foster the individual student’s interests and skills rather than impose their own aesthetic preference.” Chris Payne says, “The main responsibility is to teach a student how they can be the best illustrator they can be with their own personal voice and their own visual language. Outside of the step-by-step processes of good picture making, my personal preferences are irrelevant. It is my job to expand the knowledge of illustration to the student, not inflict them with my personal biases.”

Almost all of the interviewees teach based on their personal experiences in the field, both theoretical and practical. Ms. Ascencios also draws upon experiences from her own education and attempts to improve upon these for her students. SooJin Buzelli writes: “I have no educational degree on ‘how to teach’ and therefore no formal teaching methods. My methods are based on observation and experience of what I wanted and learned in school. It is also comes from some memorable teachers that I had. Having given talks over the years, I also picked up on what students seemed to want and lacked as well. So I’ve created assignments for my class to resolve problems that I’ve noticed over the years.” Robert Meganck agrees that his professional experience is the strongest influence on his teaching methods: “I work and publish illustrations daily. I think I understand the marketplace. I bring this experience to the classroom. I’ve often said that, “I can work without teaching, but I cannot teach without working.”

Natalie Ascencios describes how while objective principles may exist, there may be a number of different solutions to the same problem: “I do not have many biases as students are learning and I understand that exploring, repetition and mistakes are critical when learning. I do show them what I consider ‘the best’ and explain why. If a student likes or is doing that I find ‘wrong’; I ask them to explain why specifically and hope the student thinks more deeply about the matter at hand. Many approaches exist to be visually compelling, so it would be wrong for me to not encourage them to investigate something that I may not find engaging.” John Thompson agrees, saying, “Each student should be seeking their own voice. The instructor should be instilling useful knowledge, but understand that there are multiple right answers to any given problem. In the field, an art director has the option of choosing a particular illustrator based on what he or she has done in the past. The art director will give them a clear understanding of the given problem and then let the illustrator come up with a solution. Teaching students isn’t all that different, except that the student is still growing and should have room to fail.” Robert Meganck realistically resolves this duality of subjectivity versus objectivity by positing that while “personal biases should not enter the classroom (emphasis mine)… no matter how hard you try — they will. Educators need to be as objective as possible, and try to encourage a personal voice to emerge in each student.” Glenn V. Vilppu summarizes this idea of structure versus individuality in his book “Sketching on Location,” “There are no rules, only tools.”[19] Educators provide the tools, but students choose which ones to use and how to apply them.

Jean-Christian Knaff, contrarily, does not see an educator as being responsible for his or her students, but sees them as all being part of a “creative group.” What more is education than critical analysis of a subject or product amongst a group of peers? Wherever this emerges, be it a university or informal setting, learning occurs, and where learning occurs, a framework begins. Although original illustration programs, such as those that Thomas Allen mentioned in the previously quoted essay, may not have had a clear or stated basis for their programs, what the delineation of the field of illustration as a program of study has created is a cohesive (and hopefully inclusive) group of professionals and students that have created a discussion about and evolution within the field.

C. Essential Components of an Illustration Education & Teaching Methods

A critical question in the interview process was to determine the essential components of an illustration education. Many of the interviewees mentioned developing strong drawing skills, including figure drawing and painting from life. In the book “Education of an Illustrator,” Marshall Arisman states that “Drawing is an activity that demands practice to realize its full potential… The process of drawing can unlock the entire creative process for an artist.”[20] Marcos Chin, for instance, who began his education at the University of Toronto in fine arts and then transferred to the Ontario College of Art and Design, stated, “I left university because it was too theoretical for me, 70% was theory based. I was a really good essay writer, but there was not enough time in the studio. A lot of the work was too cerebral, and I was not mature enough yet to know how to concept art. I didn’t have story I wanted to tell, and went to school to study art to improve my techniques. I have a solid technical foundation, but didn’t get that in fine art. When I moved to OCAD and started to specialize, I learned how to paint and draw and the techniques, taught proportions and perspective, the academics of drawing, how to create to the drawing of a figure, how to create a mark or a line that describes how you feel about what you’re drawing. I had a great color class. I had been mostly working in black, whites and grays, and didn’t know how to use it. In illustration I learned that.” Whitney Sherman describes that strong drawing for illustration reaches beyond traditional instruction in realism, “There are questions as to what constitutes “good drawing.” Is it an exuberance of marks? Is that idea clear? That the marks purvey a mood or sensitivity? Or is drawing representing accurately? It’s just a matter of where the heart is. It’s whether you’re creating a language with your marks.” Murray Tinkelman agrees with this statement: “What is good draftsmanship? A person’s vision or concept.”

Many interviewees stressed the importance of thumbnailing and exploring the conceptual and compositional relationship between an idea. Durwin Talon states: “You must articulate the problem before you illustrate it, then compose it.” Doug Chayka describes the importance of the conceptual process: “I think a strong emphasis on process (ideation, thumbnails, value/color studies, design exploration) is really important in the first couple years. It’s like learning grammar. Demonstrate the fundamentals first, then break away as it fits your personal way of working.” John Thompson spells out the creative process as followed in his illustration classes, “I hand out assignment sheets. Each assignment spells out a given problem. I give them examples of how other artists and students have solved similar problems. I usually give them a size requirement and whether it can be solved in black and white or color. The technique and materials are up to the student. I also give them a step by step creative process I expect them to follow: 1. ideas, 2. thumbnails, 3. working sketches, 4. finished sketch, 5. final art, 6. revisions.” In a talk given at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010, Yuko Shimizu gave a number of examples of the illustrative creative process through problem solving, including work by Marcos Chin. These examples began at the sketch phase for an assignment and showed the evolution of a “light bulb” idea into a great idea by pushing it further using an extensive revision process.

Steven Brodner, as aforementioned, has also expanded upon this creative process for creating illustrations: “Break it down to a sentence. Based on composition, contrast, color, and texture, learn how to make the eye travel through the picture. The illustrator should be in CONTROL of that. You have control at your fingertips, you can make this work. It’s easier to do an assignment that says: “Harry Truman was a powerful president,” it’s another thing to say: “here are the five important aspects of legislation.” You have to decide what’s first has to be the idea, and then the picture. This has got to make sense in a linear way. Think of syntax, rules that are going to connect your ideas and feelings with the cognitive process of a complete and total stranger. You have to do this in under a second, you have to do it in a way that’s compelling, powerful, witty, direct, and CLEAR. And if you can’t deliver your message in a clear, concise way, they will not give you a second chance. You do not have time, as an illustrator, you have to deliver the message right away.”

The idea of breaking up the illustration process into definable steps is akin to the establishment of the scientific process, creating a structure within which there exists countless possibilities of creativity. In their book “The Creative Process Illustrated,” W. Glenn Griffin and Deborah Morrison describe the key theories to the evolution of the creative process, including Graham Wallace’s Four-Stage Creative Process Model.[21] Wallace described the creative process as four stages: preparation or research of the problem at hand, incubation or contemplation of the problem, illumination or the transition of solutions from subconscious to conscious thought, and verification or testing of possible solutions. Wallace believed that this process was “recursive in nature,” and could double-back on itself, with the ability of a creative to revisit any of the stages at any point of the creative process.[22] The description of this process illuminated to me the flexible structure of creative problem solving, which had been described to me by so many of the illustrators I interviewed. Although creative thinking is almost by definition a individual and personal process, it is still governed by a structured process that can be communicated through education and experimentation.

Murray Tinkelman also delineates his teaching process: “My way is assignment and critique. I like to give elaborate assignments, with a visual presentation of 200 images of possible ways that this assignment could be approached, to make it inclusive to the entire class. No class is homogeneous, no class has the same outlook. I require sketches, everybody participates in the critique, my personal way of teaching is NOT studio. The assignments that I give the students would NOT focus on medium and technique, they would focus on subject matter and archetypal subjects. One subject was that I would give a 200-image presentation on the reflected image, reflections in water, in chrome, in the mirror, wherever, and they would go out and shoot photographic reference of reflections, 35 mm slides were used and each student would present 20 images of the photos they shot of reflections. They would also have to include a human presence. We’d discuss them and ask if it would make a great picture, reflections would be one archetype, masks as another archetype, students would create a mask and wear the mask with a costume in an environment, letterforms, words, signage, another archetypal image, the conglomeration as different letterforms as they exist in a cityscape or a roadside. The final piece of art would be letterforms. The assignment wouldn’t be genre but they would be iconic in their visual impact, come up with 15 or 20 of these things and they’d round up a semester, and students would win prizes.”

Likewise, Marcos Chin tries to keep assignments based on an archetype or inspiration versus having them read a specific article and do an assignment based on that. “I’ll give them a sentence or a word, keep it pretty open, use it as a springboard to an illustration. I want them to really experiment and create a piece that’s interesting to look at. If I give them something too specific it pushes them into certain way of illustrating or drawing. I do want them to create work that is commercial and could be published, but a lot of the work that I do, it’s not work that I really want to do, a lot of the topics aren’t super interesting, and often times the result is okay, but it doesn’t get onto my website or in my portfolio, there’s nothing interesting about it.” Many instructors also believed that one-on-one assessment, along with group critiques, were critical for the development of an illustration. In conclusion, all of these processes note the importance of taking a step back from your work and assessing it objectively, both singularly and in a group.

Doug Chayka noted the importance of writing in illustration: “Writing and verbal communication are also very important. In illustration, it’s a constant back and forth between the verbal and visual, so we need to be good explainers in both regards.” Natalie Ascencios agrees, referring back to the impact of her liberal arts background on her education, “I believe students need to take liberal arts courses much more seriously. Liberal arts courses are equally as important as those of the visual courses. I firmly believe that students must be able to reflect and articulate their thoughts on paper and when speaking about artwork or anything.” Jeffrey Smith assigns reading exercises in his classes, even integrating music listening homework into his assignments as an exercise in subject comprehension before beginning an illustration.

Beyond these components, many illustrators agree that at least one class in business and marketing is essential. Fernanda Cohen believes it’s important to combine business with skill and communication, including understanding graphic design and advertising. In her interview with Tom Allen and Barron Storey, published on-line by the Illustrators’ Partnership in June of 2001, Alice Carter addresses the issue of relating education to the current market trends. Storey states that, “the marketplace has a negative impact on curriculum, so we can’t let it dictate what we teach..” Allen continues this thought by stating: “I don’t think we should be teaching for the freelance market, because in my experience, it just doesn’t exist any more in the way that it once did.”[23]

However, above all, the interviewees articulated that the true essence of illustration was the development of personal expression and visual language. Anita Kunz stated: “it’s really critical to teach illustration as an art form. It’s personal expression.” Frances Jetter agrees, stating, “What I think is most important is individualized thinking and finding your own subject matter — learning to make interesting and provocative, personal pictures. Students need to find what they want to do, how they can be themselves, and communicate to others,” while also acknowledging that figure drawing encourages observation and is therefore beneficial. Murray Tinkelman summarizes this idea, “What’s important is helping the student discover WHO THEY ARE… visually.”

From these concepts, can we conclude a comprehensive statement, or at least a list of comprehensive topics that illustration must encompass? Jean-Christian Knaff successfully attempts this: “Keywords are analysis, comprehension, wit, communication, creativity, contemporary knowledge, self criticism and fun.” Whitney Sherman elucidates on these essential components: “Design and drawing are both key things, being able to read and synthesize reading is hugely important. You can research better, you bring a depth that can’t come from an immature or unstudied perspective. Many people like to create very complex imagery, knowing what kind of similarities/parallels/contrasts exist is important as well as understanding the connections between fields. That said, not everyone’s the same, you can’t have one prescription for every student.” Thomas Allen, as quoted from his article, “A Moving Target” in “Education of an Illustrator,” asserts that “education is not about passing on information. The educator’s job should be to liberate the students from all preconceived notions, however acquired, about illustration.”[24]

D. Frequent Student Problems

Although these methods may provide a framework for illustration students, I also asked my interviewees where students most encounter problems in their illustration curriculum. Many instructors stated that students have trouble completing the “vital preliminary work” (Scott Anderson) necessary to prepare a well-done and well-thought out illustration. Chris Payne agrees with this issue: “As a friend of mine states, “They all want to ice the cake before they bake it.”” Frances Jetter is of the same opinion, saying that it’s “important to come up with several ideas and have each one branch out to form even more aspects of looking at the problem.” Alice Carter attributes some of these procrastination issues to “insecurities, which are resolved as students become more skilled at their craft.”

Other instructors viewed drawing skills and the lack of technical training as problems. Murray Tinkelman stated that “Undergraduates have trouble drawing figures, rendering in a believable way, not everyone is cut out to be an illustrator of Harlequin romances. My mission is to expose students to as wide of a variety of situations in the illustration market and see where they fit.” Melanie Reim agrees that students need to appreciate the “ongoing attention to drawing from observation and the model.”

Overall, most of the educators viewed conceptualizing as the primary problem students had while creating illustrations. Soojin Buzelli agrees: “They struggle with connecting to the issue.” Whitney Sherman speaks of her MICA students having “grown exponentially in their ability to convey concepts. There was a time when they seemed they were the best drawers in their school but they didn’t know what they wanted to say in that drawing. It’s like cooking with the right ingredients but the wrong proportions or not knowing what you’re making. If you don’t know where you’re going with it, it’s not going to turn into anything. The school has attracted students who are more well-rounded, they’re well-rounded people who have strong interests in many other things… they’re reading and playing music and they don’t have a fear of being more than just an artist. All of these experiences make what they can produce more rich.”

Marcos Chin returns to the importance of personal voice in students’ work: “There are students who are technically really skilled and that’s their superpower and others who are better at ideas, less cliché than their peers, but I think overall the thing that I find that most of the students don’t really have a sense of what their personal voice is, don’t have personal vision, so when they create their illustration, it’s all over the place or it’s a technical exercise, only in a handful can I see their sense of uniqueness, that’s the most difficult thing to achieve: their personal voice.”

E. Technology & Education

The World Wide Web, along with digital illustration technology, has changed the way illustration is currently taught. A number of the educators I interviewed taught at the Illustration Academy, including Anita Kunz, who described the transition of the program being taught entirely on-line:

“…It was going to be on-line, but it was going the have a brick and mortar component to it, we were looking at other schools and then we decided to join forces with Massive Black, and they wanted to go entirely on-line and do courses in illustration and gaming and be a big online school. We had a discovery class in January. That was a six-week program to familiarize ourselves with the students and the process of teaching on-line, and we’re going to start classes in May. We’ll have pods in every city so they can meet one another.

“…I had my doubts about it, but it can be potentially incredibly seamless… I’m actually very surprised, I haven’t always been technologically up to date on everything, but I put my headphones on and access 160 students all over the world… Australia, Africa, some have time zone issues and have to get up at 3am for class! I think it’s the future… I think for people who don’t have the ability to travel they can learn from their own home, I think it’s absolutely the future. The like the idea of doing little pods, I think some students are still going to want that interaction.

“If you address the issue of face time, and build a multi-tiered program, if there’s on-line stuff, if there’s on demand stuff, if there’s streaming and if you have a multi-tiered education I think that’s actually a good deal. If they didn’t really understand an assignment or lecture, they can see it two or three times, so I think it’s actually really good, they can upload images to the screen, we can use the web so we can refer back to other art, we can work in Photoshop over their pictures. Those who have headphones can put up their hand, there’s a little hand icon, those who don’t can type their questions in. It’s really pretty good, it’s more seamless than I thought it would be, like I said, I had my doubts, but it’s pretty amazing.”

Murray Tinkelman also reflects on the impact of on-line education: “On-line education is decidedly different from classroom instruction, no less than the atomic bomb on traditional weaponry. It’s so mammoth, it’s virtually indescribable.” Technology affects even traditional classrooms, as Marcos Chin describes, “They have access to me outside of class time, so a lot of our correspondence happens by e-mail. I like to keep my class going week after week and not having anyone slack and keeping the rest of the class behind, revisions e-mailed to me so I can do critique by e-mail, in terms of correspondence it’s definitely affected me. I can show students different illustrators’ work and websites in class, and have immediate access to other artists works, instead of just having to rely solely on books, all of a sudden you have access to all of this information.” Other instructors agree that technology has enhanced their traditional classrooms, such as Marc Burckhardt: “Online tools have made contact with students in the periods between classes much easier, allowing for sharing of class documents, sketch reviews, and visual presentations.” Jeffrey Smith adds, “For me, it has become a kind of teaching web-site that expresses the idea behind the class in a different way than I do in the class room. It also allows me to communicate effectively with the student after the class has ended and before the next class begins.”

Soojin Buzelli noted how the Internet “puts [students] at a creative advantage. When I went to school it wasn’t so available, not everybody had their own website and people wouldn’t hire you until you were printed. Now anyone, not even out of school, can have a very polished looking website, and they can compete with the best, depending on how they market themselves on the Internet. Getting mentioned on the internet, people can get started immediately as professionals and take advantage of the system.” Almost all of the interviewees agreed that technology had a positive impact on their teaching, allowing for further communication between students and their professors and amongst themselves.

F. Textbooks

Because many illustrators agree on some number of essential components of an illustration education, I wanted to know if they used written resources in order to frame the content of their educational practices. Many of the educators had an essential list of recommended, but not required books, essentially a “reading list” that a student should complete at some point in their illustration career. Marcos Chin states that while most of his teaching derives from dialogue with other teachers, he does bring into his classroom books from a variety of fields, including typography, fashion, and industrial design, in order to access disciplines outside of illustration. Greg Spalenka also integrates a “show and tell” of books and websites into his classes. As previously established that illustration is a field that promotes the individual growth of students, Chris Payne aids this by requiring students to come up with their own essential reading lists.

Some illustrators, however, do believe textbooks would be helpful to the evolution of the field. Scott Anderson states, “Absolutely — there really should be one! I had hoped the latest book by Michael Fleishman, Drawing Inspiration, would be the one, but it is just too scattered. It’s more of a collection of interview snippets than a real textbook. I think there aren’t more of them because the best one would be written by a more established illustrator, but the established illustrators are all too busy with their careers to write a textbook.” Robert Meganck agrees that, “Yes. There should be more — currently I am unaware of any good ones, because those that know something about illustration, don’t want/or have the time to write about illustration.” Meganck says that he uses textbooks, but “only in his design classes.”

Murray Tinkelman asserts, “there should be always be GOOD books,” and holds “The Art Spirit,” by Robert Henri as well as Walt Reed’s “The Illustrator in America” in high regard. Tinkelman goes on to say, “I don’t know if there should be more books… I picked up Steve Heller’s book, a graduate student had a copy. I thumbed through it and there’re no pictures in it. He writes well, but anyone who’s written 500 books in 12 minutes is missing the point.” This idea that books about illustration must, obviously, be illustrated, is critical to the idea of the existence of illustration resources. If you take into account the illustration annuals, recommended on many of the educators’ book lists, there is a wealth of illustration “text” in visual language, including the publications of The Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, 3x3 magazine, and American Illustration. In my interview with Marc Burckhardt, he noted the importance of illustration annuals in the education of illustration students. Doug Chayka agrees that illustration resources should be primarily visual, “So much has to be learned by looking at images, maybe that’s why textbooks are used less in our discipline beyond the foundation year. For example, rather than referring students to a book on color harmony, why not just suggest they immerse themselves in Whistler’s work?”

Murray Tinkelman also points out the essential fact that in a field that is exponentially growing with globalization and the expansion of technology, many critical textual resources on illustration are not just in book form, but available on the Internet. Tinkelman recommends Drawger, the site of James Guerney, illustrator of Dinotopia, and the blog “Today’s Inspiration” (todaysinspiration.blogspot.com). He states, “For the enthusiastic and energetic student, the Internet is a boundless source of information… I don’t know if that replaces the hands-on relationship with a faculty or a book. There’s something about books that is irreplaceable.” Whitney Sherman agrees that one cannot discriminate between printed and web resources, stating, “It is important for books to exist. I don’t exclude digital or on paper, as if something not printed on paper isn’t worthy. Both forms have their own levels of prejudice. More books would be great, absolutely fantastic, more about theory and criticism of illustration, still drives format, others do research, in previous years illustrators didn’t want to teach to take away from studio time, teachers now teach more and want to teach, and may want to write and practice. There are 25–30 years of writing on design.” Alice Carter attributes the lack of textbooks to the speed of growth the illustration industry is undergoing: “I think that the pace of change in the last decade has made many books on illustration obsolete before they go to press. That’s probably why there are not more of them. I think that on-line publishing is changing that paradigm, and there are now many on-line blogs with very useful information.”

However, could the problem with the available textbooks simply be, as Scott Anderson states, that he “hasn’t found one good enough yet”? Do illustration educators themselves think there should be tomes that encompass the essential components of their field? The response to this question was extremely varied. Marcos Chin agrees while textbooks “should be available if students need to use them,” he doesn’t think they’re really necessary. “I think for me as an instructor, I really like to keep my class organic and what I teach organic, and what I teach this semester may not be what I taught before. Textbooks would make me feel stiff.” Melanie Reim does not exclude the possibility of textbooks: “I embrace the books that are published about any art when the images are meaningful and the text articulate- but, by and large, illustration is about doing and working through the process. Seeing it is the best lesson.” John Thompson agrees that, “No [we don’t need more textbooks], I think there should be more good illustrators teaching illustration.” Jean-Christian Knaff presents a compromise that a textual basis of illustration is necessary, while advanced study should be more experiential: “Probably in 1st and 2nd year. I’m not in favour of textbooks in 3rd and 4th Year. It should be up to [the students] to explore and do their own research.” I do not believe these assertions of process being the most important component of illustration exclude the idea that this process can be further defined through texts. As aforementioned regarding John Thompson and Steven Brodner’s written descriptions of processes, these are key to solidifying the field of illustration. Nevertheless, some educators even reject the idea of procedural rules, such as Frances Jetter: “I’d like to get rid of the rules. I know I hear things like the golden crescent from friends and if students use that that’s fine. None of that interests me in the slightest. It’s important that you’re really observant.”

Marc Burckhardt brings up a critical point in the demand for textbooks: “I’m not sure there is a need (or market) for illustration textbooks. It’s a field that’s intensely competitive, and far more students are trained than will be able to succeed in the market. Although educational opportunities have grown somewhat over the years, the viable market for top-tiered illustrators is finite, so the demand for teaching tools remains low.” Unlike graphic design, which arguably holds a much higher number of jobs in its field, illustration is simply a smaller field, and therefore because of a lack of demand textbooks on illustration remain minimal. Fernanda Cohen agrees that the textbook issue may be one of demand, “Publishing is very demanding, numbers wise, and I’m not sure there is that big a market for it.“ However, these statements are in disagreement with Caroline Walmsley’s statement on the success of AVA’s illustration textbook series.

V. Conclusion

In conclusion, my interviews brought to light both the vast variety and key similarities between different illustration educators’ practices and philosophies. Overall, most of the educators called for a stronger emphasis on history in illustration curriculum, including how illustration fits into the continuum of the history of art and design as well as world history in general. At the least, students need to be encouraged by their professors to do their own research in order to inform their illustration and fit it into a historical context. Numerous textual resources organized by different methods are available for examining illustration history, although there is much room for growth in this genre of literature. Several educators noted the importance of a well-rounded liberal arts education informing their illustration, in order that students become more culturally aware, creative, and better problem solvers.

Drawing will always be a foundation of illustration, but according to the feedback I received from the educators, basic drawing skills should be assumed by the time students enter illustration, and drawing classes in illustration should focus on a student finding his or her personal voice through their mark-making. Little was mentioned in my interview responses regarding technique beyond the basis of personal exploration and discovery, and most educators did not view it as central to their curriculum.

Most educators noted the importance of creating a work method and critique structure in which students explore and make mistakes in order to improve their work. This included learning the process and “grammar” of illustration by breaking it down into steps, beginning with fundamentals and working it into one’s personal vision. Several instructors believed that breaking the problem down into a written statement or sentence was essential to beginning the problem solving process before addressing composition. Analyzing syntax and how to best communicate with your audience are both fundamental concerns at this level of the work. Finally, students must work through these developed ideas through a process of roughs and comps to reach the best visual solution.

An educator’s personal experience as an illustrator was another area that is critical to a comprehensive illustration education. This comes from professors who are active in the commercial field of illustration and in the illustration community so that they can share with students not only their own experiences, but also those of their peers in the field. Ideally, education can make an educator a better illustrator and vice versa, as the symbiotic experiences inform one another.

Perhaps most importantly, educators need to establish a secure and inspiring environment that encourages individual growth amongst students, presenting them with creative challenges that encourage their personal voice to shine through in their work. In a series of follow-up questions with my interviewees, almost all believed that graduate study should consist of a balance between independent study and formal classes or seminars, ideally with a mentor or advisor for each student in order for them to further solidify the personal voice that shines through in their work.

Many of the instructors noted how technology is impacting the field of teaching illustration, both with on-line classes being offered as well as how the Internet enhances traditionally instructed classes. The instructors praised the ability of the Internet to further opportunities for them to interact with their students outside of class as well as opportunities for students to interact and receive feedback from each other. Other advantages to on-line education and technology included being able to watch a particular lecture more than once and use Photoshop to work out compositions before beginning a final. The Internet also awards opportunities for students to do their own research for projects, including finding references, inspiration, and historical background and influences. In addition, the Internet has revolutionized the way illustrators market themselves and therefore has a significant impact on the curriculum of essential illustration business courses. These tools and opportunities are important to consider when regarding the evolution of illustration curriculum and how fundamentals can be applied in new ways through technological innovation.

Instructors had mixed reviews as to whether or not a comprehensive textbook was necessary for an illustration curriculum, although almost all admitted to referring to some sort of text for their classes, and many thought that having more textbooks would be extremely beneficial to the field. Many believed in students doing their own research, while others presented books as suggested reading. Many instructors agreed upon the importance of visual resources, such as illustration annuals, as well as textual resources available on the Internet, including artist websites and blogs. Some educators believed that textbooks should be available, and may be used in illustration education to build foundational concepts for beginning illustrators.

My personal conclusions from this research are that there are indeed fundamental concepts that should be recorded and distributed through the illustration community. Themes that repeatedly arose in my interviews that should be incorporated into classroom content included: visual metaphor, the critical connections between linguistics and illustration (as discussed by Jean-Christian Knaff), including visual storytelling, cultural and historical context and relevancy, visual problem solving skills, comparing and contrasting illustration to other art fields, and research for illustration. These are concepts that are abstract enough to apply across multiple illustration disciplines, including advertising, product and package design, editorial, children’s book, and other markets. Because of the apparent influence of technology on the field, a non-traditional method of distribution of these concepts, beyond that of a traditional textbook, could be to create an on-line resource in which illustrators and educators could post and discuss how these fundamental concepts are applied to their and their students’ current illustration work, much as how blogs such as Whitney Sherman’s “History of Illustration” and David Apatoff’s “Illustration Art” blogs address illustration history and historical context.

Overall, by analyzing the collective knowledge of professionals in the field of illustration, many critical similarities and differences between teaching practices and styles were identified. I hope that by juxtaposing the variety of answers from different illustrator educators, it illuminates the value of how collective knowledge can enhance and influence the field of illustration education and begin to build a critical framework on which future education can be based. I hope that more of these exceptional educators and illustrators begin to share their knowledge of the field by creating resources to be used by students. As apparent by Andrew Loomis’ “Creative Illustration,” one can be an exceptional illustrator and be able to share his or her vast knowledge of the field to create educational resources for future generations that can push the field forward by critical examining the key principles of illustration.

“If I think even in the past year or ten years and what we saw in the popular culture, and recently seeing a movie like Avatar, change happens so exponentially, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next five years. So I think it’s very exciting, for visual artists, I think there’s certainly all kinds of opportunities in animation and gaming and stuff like that, so I think it’s exciting. Of course it doesn’t apply to me necessarily, because I’m still doing a different thing, but I think for people growing up in this culture, there are incredible opportunities.” — Anita Kunz

Addendum

In creating this paper, I have had to edit down many well-thought out interviews and profound answers. For the benefit of my readers, I have included my notes from each interview I conducted in their entirety. Please note that interviews conducted over the phone were not recorded and the text may therefore contain minor errors. I have striven to correct as many of these errors as possible by contacting the persons who were contacted via phone to verify a transcript of the content of the interview. Note that not all interviewees answered or were asked all twelve interview questions, but the questions were edited for relevancy. Both through this paper and through further exploration of the textual resources suggested by these educators, I hope to see an expansion of published material, both in print and on the Internet, regarding the field of illustration.

Supplementary Material: Complete Interviews

Scott Anderson — Westmont College and the Illustration Academy

Natalie Ascencios — School of Visual Arts and the Illustration Academy

Steven Brodner — School of Visual Arts, Fashion Institute of Technology

Marc Burckhardt — Texas State University

SooJin Buzelli — School of Visual Arts

Alice (Bunny) Carter — San Jose State University

Doug Chayka — Ringling College of Art and Design (at time of interview), currently teaching at the Savannah College of Art and Design

Marcos Chin — School of Visual Arts

Fernanda Cohen — School of Visual Arts

Frances Jetter — School of Visual Arts

Jean-Christian Knaff — Ontario College of Art and Design

Anita Kunz — Illustration Academy

Ted and Betsy Lewin — Hartford Art School

Melanie Reim — Fashion Institute of Technology

Whitney Sherman — Maryland Institute College of Art

Durwin Talon — Savannah College of Art and Design (at time of interview), currently teaching at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design

John Thompson — Syracuse University

Murray Tinkelman — Hartford Art School

Robert Meganck — Virginia Commonwealth University

Chris F. Payne — Columbus College of Art and Design, Hartford Art School, and the Illustration Academy

Jeffrey Smith — Art Center College of Design

Greg Spalenka — Artist as Brand workshop

Caroline Walmsley — AVA Publishing

Scott Anderson (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

To teach conceptual image-making skills that can go beyond just illustration purposes and make the students better all-around image-makers.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Not full-time, I didn’t have enough clients to claim that status. But I was freelancing full-time with a mix of illustration and graphic design clients, and picked up teaching part-time at first simply as a means of a small steady paycheck, and because I had a genuine interest in teaching at the institution that offered the gig.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I had attended the Illustration Academy for three consecutive summers, so yes, I would consider that to count as an educational background. I would not have any career as an illustrator without the skills I picked up there. And I would further state that I really learned how to teach illustration from my teachers in that program.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

I think the history of illustration is rich enough at this point to merit its own class, but that is a luxury for any non-trade school program. I think it’s important enough that students have some sense of the major contributors to the field that I am carving out time from what is otherwise a studio-based course to ensure there are some historical presentations thrown in.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

It’s amazing to me how lazy they can be about 1) doing sketches and 2) really putting the effort into getting good photo reference. Many students just want to go straight to finish without putting in the vital preliminary work.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

This question is a bit vague, so I’m not entirely sure how to answer. I am a believer in doing demonstrations for techniques, and in thorough critiques at the thumbnail stages in order to sharpen their ideation process.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

I think we need to be able to let our students pursue and find their own voices, both in technique and conceptual approach, and that’s not always easy to do. There is always the temptation or inclination of the educator to take on a guru-like role, and I think students are often dazzled enough that they go along with it.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

No, haven’t found one that’s good enough yet. Walt Reed’s illustration history book is a must-have for artists as a basic reference tool, but I probably wouldn’t use it in the classroom.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

Absolutely — there really should be one! I had hoped the latest book by Michael Fleishman, Drawing Inspiration, would be the one, but it is just too scattered. It’s more of a collection of interview snippets than a real textbook. I think there aren’t more of them because the best one would be written by a more established illustrator, but the established illustrators are all too busy with their careers to write a textbook.

11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?

Ideally, it should be a balance. My illustration MFA program had both and was the better for it. If anything, I think a little more in terms of formal classes would have been good.

12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.

Hard to think of a moment in the classroom, to be honest. The closest I can think of is an experience where I found out how I had impacted a student. A former student of mine is Robin Eley, who is now a very successful and awarded illustrator. I taught him at Westmont College, and years later, at my urging, he attended the Illustration Academy. In the summer of 2005, I was invited to be a guest alumnus lecturer at the Illustration Academy, and Robin was there as a student for his second summer. As part of being a lecturer, I was to share my portfolio via a slideshow presentation, and each lecturer is typically introduced by one of the core faculty. They surprised me by having Robin give my introduction, and he gave a nearly five-minute impassioned introduction where he talked about how I had changed his life. It was the kind of thing that brings instructors to tears, and was a deeply meaningful moment for me as an educator, one that I’ll remember forever.

Natalie Ascencios (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?
 
 I teach people ways of seeing today and to think critically about the history of the visual arts and how it relates to their development as an artist.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching? 
 
 Yes, I was and am a full-time illustrator. I was offered to teach at SVA once a week after having been recognized as an established illustrator. This works well with my freelance career. I took time to teach drawing because I care about the Arts and know I can challenge students to think about drawing and how it relates to the visual arts today in an alternative way. I do not have a conventional background and therefore I know I can give a lot considering I teach others what I figured out what was not taught to me. Classes integrate talks, Q&A, ‘drawing experiments/surprises’, and drawing from the figure.
 
 I know that less than 1% of students in each class freelance upon graduation. If one does freelance it is often years after graduation. Many go into other arts, change their goals, or freelance part-time alongside the income of a partner. Therefore I discuss many options at the sophomore level.
 
 I believe that teaching drawing with my methods concerning history, memory, structure and play can help guide and develop their voice as an artist in any field.

 
 3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?
 
 My background is History/Cultural Studies. I also have a degree in Illustration with a focus on painting since attending college. I went into Illustration so I could draw and develop my skills further. The BA/BFA program at that time was interdisciplinary and therefore I was able to take classes in different departments that I found beneficial in continuing my art.
 
 NYC and my social life had a huge impact on me as an artist. I was already disciplined and an experimental student when I attended the New School as a freshman. I absorbed everything around me. Overall, coming to NYC would have had an impact on me no matter what school I attended in the beginning, as I needed a new environment at the time.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?
 
 A variety of illustrative disciplines exist aside from Editorial and Children’s book- so it depends on what one is interested in. Sometimes a student may have to specialize further or change departments (i.e., forensics, set/costume design, etc…). I believe students need to take liberal arts courses much more seriously. Liberal arts courses are equally as important as those of the visual courses. I firmly believe that students must be able to reflect and articulate their thoughts on paper and when speaking about artwork or anything.
 
 I never had History of Illustration because of the program I was in. It seems like a fine course and I would encourage it. At the time, I opted for other courses in art history that interested me. I picked up some of the history of Illustration over time. If I come across any artwork that strikes me, then I look into it and the era. 
 
 In addition, all students should have one business course on writing, marketing and contracts.

 
 5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?
 
 As mentioned, I teach drawing at a sophomore level or when invited to critique student work or look at portfolios. Some things that exist are: the illustrator lacks an individual voice; composition is weak; confusion on multiple levels; dependence on photos and a digital camera; the computer; and lack of handling their medium of choice. This gets more complex as each person’s situation is quite different.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective? 
 
 I have my own methods that I believe gives a well-rounded insight to how figure drawing and ways of seeing pertains to their development as an artist.
 
 I have no educational degree on ‘how to teach’ and therefore no formal teaching methods. My methods are based on observation and experience of what I wanted and learned in school. It is also comes from some memorable teachers that I had. Having given talks over the years, I also picked up on what students seemed to want and lacked as well. So I’ve created assignments for my class to resolve problems that I’ve noticed over the years.

 
 7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?
 
 All teachers should be able to direct a student somewhere and know the student’s work habits.
 
 I am a teacher who hopes to inspire by bringing up art from all the visual arts: contemporary illustration, cartooning, architecture, fine arts, design, crafts, etc… I have many opinions on art, but my taste varies a lot and for different reasons. Some of the way I teach is very structural and is based on the history of Masters of Western European Drawing and those standards. I am open about this from day one. At the same time I bring up Modernism and Contemporary Art and Illustration/Cartooning done by amazing fine artists and illustrators without these skills; but they have the gift of concepts, storytelling and an attention to detail that is a visually engaging for modern eyes. This is something that is discussed in class.
 
 In addition, the assignments are very structural; but class and their sketchbook are to have studies from life and must be experimental. This combination gives me insight on how dedicated the student is to drawing and their art. This alongside a questionnaire helps me understand them when evaluating who they are.
 
 I do not have many biases as students are learning and I understand that exploring, repetition and mistakes are critical when learning. I do show them what I consider ‘the best’ and explain why. If a student likes or is doing that I find ‘wrong’; I ask them to explain why specifically and hope the student thinks more deeply about the matter at hand. Many approaches exist to be visually compelling, so it would be wrong for me to not encourage them to investigate something that I may not find engaging.
 

 8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they? 
 
 On my syllabus I have these recommended books: An Introduction to Perspective by Ray Smith; Human Anatomy for Artists by Goldfinger; Lessons from the Great Masters by Hale & Cole; Perspective for Artists by Rex Vicat Cole; Design Drawing by Francis D.K. Ching.
 
 I am presently putting together two book requirements on art and observation; but I’m still figuring out which books and how I’ll integrate it into class.

 
 9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?
 
 I’ve never read one, nor needed one. A big part of being ‘successful’ is to have vision, motivation, professionalism, etc. One business class is all I had for one semester and that was good enough. 
 

 10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how? 
 
 I love the Internet and am not familiar enough with on-line classes to comment. I know as a kid, I would have taken advantage of it if it were accessible. Cost is also a factor; many may not be able to afford this as a replacement for a book.
 
 I do not use it for class assignments. Nothing can replace immediate guidance and student/teacher interaction, opinions and thought from fellow students, etc. I can see how it could work alongside class. But then again, this may place an extra-burden on the teacher to post information online. This topic gets more complex of course and is a longer discussion as new issues arise as to the quality of learning.
 

 11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?
 
 If a student has excelled and feels they can discipline themselves with that type of study, I’d encourage it. I’d think a combination would be most beneficial of formal classes and independent study.
 
 I do know that a lot of people need more time to develop their ideas and in getting better at their medium. It’s a tough decision for them to go into an MFA program. Before entering a program, I’d ask the student to assess the pros and cons of it. I’d hope the student is not entering the program as a safety zone after getting a BFA.

12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.
 
 I had a student who drastically improved within one class. Her first drawing to the last one within the three-hour period was like seeing two different people’s artwork. It was amazing. I give her all the credit as she could have ignored or been too scared to take my advice. I was able to figure out several bad habits that she had and suggested her to try some things. She had the intelligence to listen and take a risk. I was very happy for her. I always encourage risk, ‘mistakes’ and repetition.

Steven Brodner (via phone)

Where do you teach?

Illustration Portfolio at SVA, teaching at FIT in the fall.
 
 What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

History… marketing… all are very important. The history of illustration is important from the standpoint of analyzing an illustrator’s statement and what they’re saying. WHY are they good illustrators? Anyone who’s told stories with pictures — that’s illustration. Avatar is illustration, major motion pictures are illustration.
 
 What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective? Do you find that students have trouble with a particular aspects of illustration?

Break it down to a sentence. Based on composition, contrast, color, and texture, learn how to make the eye travel through the picture. The illustrator should be in CONTROL of that. You have control at your fingertips, you can make this work. It’s easier to do an assignment that says: “Harry Truman was a powerful president,” it’s another thing to say: “here are the five important aspects of legislation.” You have to decide what’s first has to be the idea, and then the picture. This has got to make sense in a linear way. Think of syntax, rules that are going to connect your ideas and feelings with the cognitive process of a complete and total stranger. You have to do this in under a second; you have to do it in a way that’s compelling, powerful, witty, direct, and CLEAR. And if you can’t delivery your message in a clear, concise way, they will not give you a second chance. You do not have time, as an illustrator, you have to deliver the message right away.

Marc Burckhardt (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

To provide students with a realistic understanding of the professional aspects and expectations of the field while expanding their technical and conceptual skills as artists.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes, I began full-time freelance illustration straight out of school, and continue to be a full-time illustrator. I began teaching as a way to give back to the profession, limiting my instruction to one course a semester.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I have a degree in illustration from Art Center College of Design, but received a BFA in Printmaking and a simultaneous BA in Art History from Baylor University prior to studying illustration.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

I think illustration history as a formal class isn’t necessary, though it has value as a means of placing a student’s work in the context of a long tradition. Illustration today, however, bears little resemblance to that from even a few decades past. A well-rounded education for an illustrator today would draw more from general art history than illustration history, but would obviously depend most heavily on foundational drawing, painting, color and conceptual development courses.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Basic drawing skills have suffered in the last decade because of the reliance on the computer, and conceptual skills and language are always the biggest hurdles for students

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

A wide range of methods have to be combined to move students forward, from word lists, group critiques, thumbnail to tight sketch stages with multiple concept requirements for each project, etc..

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

It’s impossible not to teach art from a personal bias — it’s a subjective field. However, I think each teacher should strive to foster the individual student’s interests and skills rather than impose their own aesthetic preference.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

I recommend students get an updated copy of the Pricing & Ethical guidelines book as well as CA, SI and AI annuals, but they are not required. All are recommended with a thorough caveat regarding their strengths and weaknesses as teaching tools.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I’m not sure there is a need (or market) for illustration textbooks. It’s a field that’s intensely competitive, and far more students are trained than will be able to succeed in the market. Although educational opportunities have grown somewhat over the years, the viable market for top-tiered illustrators is finite, so the demand for teaching tools remains low.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

Online tools have made contact with students in the periods between classes much easier, allowing for sharing of class documents, sketch reviews, and visual presentations, etc.

SooJin Buzelli (via phone)

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

I teach one class at SVA. I was an art director for 14–15 years after I got out of school, since 1996, where I studied illustration. Yuko Shimizu used to teach this class and took on too many classes and thought that I’d bring a neat perspective to the class. She hooked me up with Tom Woodruff, the head of illustration at SVA, under the condition that it was a night class. He rearranged the class schedule so that it met once a week. Three years later, the class is set up that I treat [the students] like they are my illustrators, and hire them via e-mail, review everything by e-mail as well, and get sketches approved. The class averages 15–20 students.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

I know people from working with them… not through SVA but because I’ve been their art director. Chris Buzelli teaching at SVA next fall. They publish 30 magazines a year; I think they average around 12–15 illustrators.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

They struggle with connecting to the issue. You’re a senior and you know these things are important and coming, but until it’s right there, you’re not really paying attention. A lot of them aren’t ready for it and don’t give packet out for at least a year. It is gratifying to get e-mails with student feedback, that the class clicked a few months after I got out of school. Because a lot of them stay in New York, I run into a lot at functions. The very first class I taught, I hired some as interns, one was a full-time for a while. One assignment [in the class] is an example of an illustration from a magazine as a professional practices class, at least one student out of every class is printed, and we’ve printed four or five.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

I have my own methods that I believe give a well-rounded insight to figure drawing and ways of seeing that pertain to their development as an artist.

I have no educational degree on ‘how to teach’ and therefore no formal teaching methods. My methods are based on observation and experience of what I wanted and learned in school. It is also comes from some memorable teachers that I had. Having given talks over the years. I also picked up on what students seemed to want and lacked as well. So I’ve created assignments for my class to resolve problems that I’ve noticed over the years.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

The class is not a studio class, but I hope side result is that they become better and produce work that won’t require sketches with explanations and deliver a good product that solves the problem.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

List of books I recommend: Graphic Artists Guild handbook and Steven Heller’s books

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

It puts them at a creative advantage. When I went to school it wasn’t so available, not everybody had their own website and people wouldn’t hire you until you’re printed. Now anyone, not even out of school, can have a very polished looking website, and they can compete with the best, depending on how they market themselves on the Internet. Getting mentioned on the Internet, people can get started immediately as professionals and take advantage of the system. I think it works really well. The downfalls are as far as copyrights are concerned.

Alice (Bunny) Carter (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

Step up or step aside. (That goes for teachers as well as students!)
 
 2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes, I was a freelance illustrator full-time both before and after I began teaching. A friend who was running the Graphic Design Program at San Jose State University asked me to teach a night class, and I agreed as a favor. That was it. I was hooked!
 

 3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I have a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and an MFA from Stanford University. I learned craft at UA and theory at Stanford…. a perfect combination.
 

 4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class? 
 
 Students need to have a solid foundation in art and film history, drawing, perspective, color, composition, the principles of animation, and the physics of motion. Once they are competent with these skills, they can exercise their creativity and their concepts will not be impeded by any lack of knowledge or expertise. 
 

 5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Students often have procrastination issues that often seem to be the result of insecurity. Once students become skilled at their craft, they are usually more eager to get to work.
 

 6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

Informed practice. 
 

 7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

An illustration educator is responsible for seeing that every student in the class improves their work. At the undergraduate level, where most students are still struggling with skills, personal biases really aren’t a issue. 
 
 8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

We require a variety of texts in our classes that relate to the curriculum and specific assignments. I have attached a list of the practical books that we recommend for all our students.
 
 9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I think that the pace of change in the last decade has made many books on illustration obsolete before they go to press. That’s probably why there are not more of them. I think that on-line publishing is changing that paradigm, and there are now many on-line blogs with very useful information.
 
 10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

Absolutely. Most crits are no longer on a wall. Students post their work on a server that we access from the classroom. We post assignments, lectures, and examples in online class groups. All illustration students at SJSU can animate as well as illustrate, can make a 3-D model as well as a painted rendering, and are proficient in InDesign, Photoshop, Flash, MAYA, Flipbook, and a variety of editing software packages.
 
 11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?

Independent study.
 
 12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.

Graduation… especially when the graduates are going on to solid careers.

Doug Chayka (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

Master your drawing and design skills, look at everything, and make the business of illustration a venue for the kind of work you want to do.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

I graduated in 1996 and lived on freelance, grants and part-time jobs before beginning to teach in 2005. Teaching did not occur to me until then, I felt I had so much exploring and growing to do in my work and that I was missing some broader life experience. I’m always surprised when students say they want to teach after graduation, I think you need to go out and do things without wondering how they will impact your resume.

I eventually started to become involved in teaching because I was missing the exchange and growth that happens in a school setting, which is mostly not part from the freelance lifestyle. I continue to pursue teaching because I enjoy helping students grow and see them excited about image making, and I continue to learn more about myself and my work in the process of helping them discover their point of view.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I received my BFA in illustration in 1996, and attended the Illustration Academy in the summers of 95 and 96, which had a big impact on my development and the kind of work I was looking at. Most of the instructors there were influenced as much or more by painters and designers than by illustrators. I freelanced steadily for a few years and traveled through Europe, eventually moving to Berlin, Germany in 2000 to study painting and printmaking in Berlin, Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship. The experience of having studied something other than illustration was huge. Illustration, just like any discipline, can be incestuous and you need to always be looking at things with a fresh perspective to break out of pre-conceived ideas of how things are supposed to be done. Studying painting and printmaking in a different cultural environment helped me think about the way images can have impact beyond the traditional and narrative. I learned that shapes, forms, colors, textures are powerful vehicles for concepts and that they can tell a story that narrative alone cannot.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

An illustration education needs to have a lot of drawing, painting/media, composition and ideation. Rinse and repeat that, with increasing intensity. Illustration history is also absolutely important, but we also need to study graphic design and fine art history. It is essential to have broad knowledge of all these. Writing and verbal communication is also very important. In illustration, it’s a constant back and forth between the verbal and visual, so we need to be good explainers in both regards.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with a particular aspects of illustration?

I think the biggest challenge in illustration is in being succinct. Much student work can be over worked or overly symbolic. Getting them to get to the point can be a challenge.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

I like to vary it up between group crit (which can be long and repetitive, but I think really important to get students to see critically), individual instruction, lecture (giving slideshows, media demo’s etc), and in-class assignments. To keep things fresh you have to change up the delivery.

I think a strong emphasis on process (ideation, thumbnails, value/color studies, design exploration) is really important in the first couple years. It’s like learning grammar. Demonstrate the fundamentals first, then break away as it fits your personal way of working.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

I try to stay objective and evaluate whether the student is communicating effectively. I may not agree with the visual statement, but if the means are in line with the content, I’ll respect it.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

I don’t require that student’s buy textbooks, but would put together a list of recommended reference based on the course content. I’d include these basics on every syllabus build from there:

Henri, Robert, The Art Spirit, Boulder, Westview Press, 1923.

Shahn, Ben, The Shape of Content, Harvard U. Press. 1992

Reed, Walt, The Illustrator in America: 1860–2000, New York, The Society of Illustrators, 2001.

Heller, Steven; Arisman, Marshall, Inside the Business of Illustration, Allworth Press, 2004.

The Society of Illustrators, Illustration Annual.

Communication Arts, Illustration Annual.

3x3 magazine

American Illustration, Illustration Annual.

Modern Painters Magazine.

Artforum Magazine.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

So much has to be learned by looking at images, maybe that’s why textbooks are used less in our discipline beyond the foundation year. For example, rather than referring students to a book on color harmony, why not just suggest they immerse themselves in Whistler’s work? I’d need to apply the knowledge in a textbook to my own work before I could use it as a teaching aid.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

All of these supplements make the traditional in-person, one on one, learning environment even better. It gives students access to information that is unprecedented. We instructors may not have all the answers, but we have no excuse for not being able to tell them where they can find what they need.

11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?

My graduate experience in Europe was very open, and that was a great compliment to the formal class structure of the undergrad experience. Independent study with a strong advisor (or two) would be ideal.

12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.

As student, I had the good fortune of having instructors who shared everything about their daily working practice and their devotion to it, and I loved them for that. Art isn’t something that gets turned off at the end of the day. I hope to be always able to set a high standard for my students through the intensity of my own pursuits.

On Consistency of Style:

You’re right, there’s a lot of controversy about the consistency thing. For better or worse, I really disagree with the perspective that a portfolio has be “consistent” in the sense that it all has a similar superficial treatment. I understand that an illustrator needs to create and sell their “brand”, but a brand can defined be the way they think, not just the consistency of the outer appearance. You have to trust that your aesthetic preferences and point of view will help keep diverse approaches somewhat related. I think the question is: “What kind of work do you want to do?” not “Who do you want to work for”. There’s no one-size-fits-all career out there. I’m confident that a niche can be created for every personal kind of work.

At the moment, I’m not getting many corporate assignments or the kind that demand a predictable solution, but the clients I have enjoy my willingness to engage the subject matter and find a suitable approach for it. That is the kind of work I enjoy, whether it falls under the genre of illustration, design, or gallery work. Ultimately, I believe that this attitude will help students diversify and broaden the definition of illustration, and grow the marketplace for the kind of work we do.

Marcos Chin (via phone)

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I teach once a week on Thursdays for three hours and it’s something I always wanted to try. When I first started, I was nervous about the whole thing — over time I kind of stuck with it. I missed the dialogue and interaction with students not in the studio. I’m hoping my students get something from me, but it’s very nourishing for me, creatively. When I look at my own work, it helps me deconstruct what I do as well. It can become better later on, that was something that surprised me. I never knew what I was going to get out of it; it made me feel good to share information. I got something out of it in return. I feel proud when they’re recognized, week one to week fifteen, seeing them grow, wow, amazing. I like sharing.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I do, specifically in Illustration. I started off in the University in Toronto for Fine Arts, foundations type of courses, different types. I went to OCAD after one year… years two, three, and four were in Illustration. I learned how to visually communicate my ideas, but it introduced the idea of somebody else, the author. A mock assignment we’d create an assignment for, how to come up with concepts and ideas that had an immediate read without being cliché. Try not to be cliché, try to be clear with your message, and make the image visually powerful.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

I left university because it was too theoretical for me, 70% was theory based. I was really good essay writer, but there was not enough time in the studio. A lot of the work was too cerebral, and I was not mature enough yet to know how to concept art. I didn’t have story I wanted to tell, and went to school to study art to improve my techniques. I have a solid technical foundation, but didn’t get that in fine art, when I moved to OCAD and started to specialize I learned how to paint and draw and the techniques, taught proportions and perspective the academics of drawing, how to create to the drawing of a figure, create a mark or a line that describes how you feel about what you’re drawing, great color class, mostly working in black whites and grays, and didn’t know how to use it. In illustration I learned that. I learned how to read text and words and how to deconstruct a text, to really describe the essence of the article instead of drawing something that was a small detail. I had history of design but no history of illustration. The woman mostly talked about industrial design, not about illustration. Yeah, it is important, the history component came from my teachers suggesting look at so-and-so, and through own research and looking at illustration annuals from decades ago, but I think it helps, definitely. Lots of students I teach now do the kind of work that is informed.

Finding a style is a lot of pressure to put on students, and style will surface on its own. Be prolific.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

The class I teach is fashion illustration, the fundamentals of illustration/principles of illustration. There are students who are technically really skilled and that’s their superpower and others who are better at ideas, less cliché than their peers, but I think overall the thing that I find that most of the students don’t really have a sense of what their personal voice is, don’t have personal vision, so when they create their illustration, it’s all over the place or it’s a technical exercise, only in a handful can I see their sense of uniqueness, that’s the most difficult thing to achieve: their personal voice. When you’re learning how to illustrate, work looks similar to those who inspire you, it’s not until after you graduate that you find your own voice. Tweak work so it becomes your own.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

I don’t give specific articles to read. For example, some of the assignments I’ve used I’ve actually used myself or they’re from friends of mine, assignments have come up through discussions with them. I’ll give them a sentence or a word, keep it pretty open, use it as a springboard to an illustration. I want them to really experiment and create a piece that’s interesting to look at. If I give them something too specific it pushes them into certain way of illustrating or drawing. I do want them to create work that is commercial and could be published, but a lot of the work that I do, it’s not work that I really want to do, a lot of the topics aren’t super interesting, and often times the result is okay, but it doesn’t get onto my website or in my portfolio, there’s nothing interesting about it. SooJin Buzelli does these business magazines, filled with jargon and charts and graphs. She gives us the title of the article or the word, image based on simple text. The images are super beautiful and interesting to look at, really interesting images for a very conservative business magazine.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

I want my students to get work in some capacity professionally; I assume all of them want to be freelance illustrators. I really want them to come out of school understanding how to communicate visually, using visual metaphors, I want them to have a sound technical ability, I feel that’s a given. I want them to be able to communicate with the visual elements on their page, as I was saying, visual metaphors are really important in our industry, it’s important to communicate ideas, while this is our craft, this is our business of communication. I love beautiful work and images, but I always tell them that an image that’s beautiful and great to look at is fine, but one that has strong content, helps to engage the viewer even more so. I hope to have them understand and think about when they create their images, back to kinds of assignments I give them, if I keep them open then their voice will come out, my intent is to have them understand that, work they want to do, not work that they think will get them more work, even though they’re being hired, there should still be a kind of enjoyment when they’re picture-making. This leads into the question about biases. I know they’re not all going to have their breakthrough NOW. If they do, great, but they need to figure out the tools that are inherent within them, but they’ll discover it through the process and where their strengths lay that really describe who they are. I’m really big on them trying to express their individuality. So many illustrators whose work is very similar, those who are at the top of the game and whose work stands out stand out for a reason. They access parts of themselves and put it into their images.

I work entirely digitally and most of my students don’t, and work in completely different styles. I try not to influence and inform them, I’m open to them exploring their own media.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

No, I don’t. What I do is my ideas about teaching come from dialogue with other teachers, and books I’ve read not necessarily about illustration. “The Business of Illustration” is a good one. Whatever is inspiration for what I want to talk about that day. At the beginning of class I do bring in books, and access other disciplines outside illustration. I get typography, fashion, industrial design books and bring them into class, 2–3 books a week. The books are there over break and the response has been great. Students are engaged by certain books and discussion happens afterwards. Then the week after the students bring in a book they’re really excited about.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I don’t think there really need to be textbooks about illustration, but they should be available if students need to use them. Some painter friends of mine have other books they can go to as far as techniques… I don’t think it’s really necessary, because I think for me as an instructor, I really like to keep my class organic and what I teach organic, and what I teach this semester may not be what I taught before. Textbooks would make me feel stiff. Speaking for myself as an illustrator, my work changed from when I was a student, it doesn’t change a whole lot, but over the nine years, the work changed so much. I feel as an instructor, that’s the same way, in order to stay real to my students, I need to bring my current studio practice into the classroom, and they’ll understand and connect and engage with me more when I’m in front of the classroom, most have to do 1,2,3 day turn arounds, our industry has changed so much, and as much as we’d love to work by hand, we choose not to because we have to manage our deadlines. The speed in our studios is reflected, is mirrored in the speed of the industry changes, everything’s going so fast.

10) Has computer and internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

They have access to me outside of class time, so a lot of our correspondence happens by e-mail. I like to keep my class going week after week and not having anyone slack and keeping the rest of the class behind, revisions e-mailed to me so I can do critique by e-mail, in terms of correspondence it’s definitely affected me. I can show students different illustrators’ work and websites in class, and have immediate access to other artists works, instead of just having to rely solely on books, all of a sudden you have access to all of this information. Sending TutorMail, finished teaching one class and almost finished teaching another class. I have access to students from around the world. It was created by Gary Taxali and Thomas Fuchs. I receive e-mails from students from around the world who ask for critiques of their work and ask questions. I consider that teaching as well, the classroom expands farther.

Fernanda Cohen (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

Giving back what I wish had been given to me when I was a student. 
 
 2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes, absolutely. I was invited to teach at SVA by Tom Woodruff, the chair of the undergrad department when I was a student, one of my best professors and, now, my boss. I was so honored I couldn’t say no. 
 
 3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I majored in illustration at SVA, undergrad. 
 
 4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

Combining business with skill and communication. Understanding graphic design and advertising, besides fine arts, helps you expand your talent and cover more markets. 
 Important enough… to add depth to your style and understanding of what’s been done to use it wisely if necessary.
 
 
 5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Yes, mostly defining their own style without falling into a trend. 
 
 6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

Group critique based on homework assignments and constructive criticism, even when it’s painful.
 
 7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

Sharing your experience, including the dos and don’ts and the fun and the pain involved in our profession. Also opening minds to different horizons outside of conventional illustration. 
 
 8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

No. I give handouts I write myself instead. And I read them out loud in class to make sure they get it. 
 

 9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I think there are enough good ones out there, especially by Steve Heller. Publishing is very demanding, numbers wise, and I’m not sure there is that big a market for it. 
 
 10) Has computer and internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

I don’t teach online, but I do email my students every single week as an extra kick of encouragement, and I critique their work via email when they miss classes. So the Internet has basically added more work for us.

Frances Jetter (via phone)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

It’s an art class, nothing less (I hate the word “commercial, they need to make original, intelligent and distinctive art that communicates to others.)

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

When I started to teach in 1979 I had plenty of illustration work. At SVA, you needed to be making a living at your specialty in order to be chosen to teach. A friend, Charles Goslin, who was my teacher’s teacher, thought it would be a good idea for me to teach, and introduced me at Visual Arts. He thought it was a good thing to get out among people, and he knew that I was very interested in discussing ideas.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

My education was in Graphic Design, and I wasn’t aware what illustration was then. I ended up majoring in photography within that. The way graphic design was taught at Parsons was idea oriented, more of a mixture of illustration, not cold or corporate looking as it often is now. You came up with ideas, we were problem solvers, who could use anything, illustrations/collages, or 3-D things to solve the problem. After I graduated I started to get illustration assignments but hadn’t realized that field existed before. You were actually able to get appointments with art directors then. I thought it would be interesting to work for the New York Times.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

What I think is most important is individualized thinking and finding your own subject matter- learning to make interesting and provocative, personal pictures. Students need to find what they want to do, how they can be themselves and communicate to others. It’s good that people can draw well — figure drawing teaches observation- a good thing. No, I don’t think history of illustration needs to be taught. It would be better to include it in art history in general. Great illustration and design is part of our culture and should be recognized as much as great painting. Exciting work, work where people took chances and made an impact, should be treated as important art.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

They have a hard time coming up with a lot of sketches. I think it’s important to come up with several ideas and have each one branch out to form even more aspects of looking at the problem. Sometimes there is a resistance to ideas- an impatience. Some students are overly impressed with mindless technique.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

I think they should do thumbnails, where they are unconcerned about drawing, and get as many ideas out as quickly as possible before they disappear. Drawing can wait until later. I want them to understand that the same thought composed differently has varied shades of meaning.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

Finding what the student does well, sometimes very differently from others, and encouraging that, is important. I never like mindless work, and someone who does should probably not take my class. As far as different techniques, go, of course I have preferences, but try not to let those have anything to do with the criticism. I have great respect for hard work and people who take chances, not just playing it safe, and /or anything that is well done.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

No.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I’d like to get rid of the rules. I know I hear things like the golden crescent from friends and if students use that that’s fine. None of that interests me in the slightest. It’s important that you’re really observant. I don’t think I’m for rules in making art. You have to know some of that business stuff, like where to get a good card made, but that’s not mostly what my classes are about. People ask, “How can you teach illustration? It’s such a bad time,” but over the years there aren’t that many people who have done it anyway-they need stubbornness and patience to succeed. And that’s just something someone has. Some people want it badly and have talent, and most of the people don’t want it enough to put up with being ignored and continuing to send card and do drop-offs. What I’ve heard from students many years later is that the classes were meaningful to them whether or not they did illustration work. As an illustrator (or illustration student) when you read you need to find the essence of a manuscript. If you read for illustration maybe you become a better reader. I don’t like to format things too much because every class ends up being different, a difference mixture of people.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

No, it’s impacted the field and the students have to learn some things about the computer, whether they learn directly on the computer or if they send things through e-mail.

Jean-Christian Knaff (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

… sorry this is more than one sentence!!!

The followings have been most relevant to my teaching career and hopefully helped my students achieve performance, quality, self-respect, some kind of tactile awareness of the world around us (sustainability), and a genuine and intuitive consciousness of the role of design in the world ahead of us (future generations):

· Understanding of my students’ needs and being aware of their capability

· An attitude of opening, underlined by acute listening and communication

· Use of stimulation in their creative and technical process, leading to creative achievement

· Always being positive, constructive and encouraging

· Placing emphasis on visual problem solving

· Keeping them informed of cultural, social or professional issues, relevant to their learning (media and web related assignments)

· Emphasizing the importance of cultural roots and history (where do we come from, where are we heading for?)

· Being confident in their progress

· Using humor as a catalyst, whenever necessary (I found this to be a most useful tool in problems solving)

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes I was and still am quite well known as it were, worldwide. Teaching is part of the whole loop. I don’t believe you can be a good illustrator without teaching (…and obviously, you can’t teach without being a good illustrator).

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

No I don’t. I’m a self-taught artist. I have a Masters in Linguistics, which makes sense as Illustration is about visual language. These two are very close, actually. Common grounds are composition, grammar, placement, story telling, narrative, meaning, metaphors, etc.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

Keywords are analysis, comprehension, wit, communication, creativity, contemporary knowledge, self-criticism and fun.

At OCAD, Illustration history is part of the Liberal Studies program. And yes, it is important.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Most probably the process of bringing a concept into the visual and communicative world. That’s the hard part! It is where we try to intervene as illustration educators. The whole thing is really about language. Same thing would apply if they were writers.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

All my courses are based on students’ interaction and structured to meet their learning and creative needs. Critiques (roughs and final artworks, 1-to-1 and group), are key elements of the course. Self respect, humor, use of web search and research, creative process and problem solving suggestions/solutions are key elements to my course components, leading to an understanding of design as a rich multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary and sustainable solution to every day’s visual and unexpected issues.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

I don’t feel I’m responsible for my students and don’t think I’m playing a role. We’re all part of a creative group. I just happen to have more professional experience than them and put it on the table everyday. We go from that.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

No I don’t. Everything is based on roughs/final crits, discussions and visual presentations.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

Probably in 1st and 2d Year. I’m not in favour of textbooks in 3rd and 4th Year. It should be up to them to explore and do their own research. Curiosity is a key element, here.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

No it hasn’t. Most of my students are Internet savvy and use Photoshop and Illustrator whenever they need to further emphasize the contents of their visuals.

We have a common website called ‘My Course’ where assignments, Course Outlines, links, images, references, etc. are uploaded. This is a great tool.

11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?

Independent study, definitely.

12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.

Every day is a significant or profound teaching moment for me and my students.

Anita Kunz (via in-person interview)

I knew that you taught at the illustration Academy, where else have you taught?
 
 I’ve taught over the years at different places. I’ve taught 6 weeks workshops at my old school, which is the Ontario College of Art and Design Master independent degree program at Syracuse.
 
 What are your thoughts on online teaching and the impact of technology on illustration education?

I’ve taught consistently at the Illustration Academy for 12–13 years. It’s a summer program. It used to be two months, but students can go for a week or for the first half or the second half. It started out at Kent City, and then went to Richmond, Virginia, then we were at Ringling for a few years, and now we’re entirely on-line. It’s going to be a little bit different. The strategy is that we’ve… it was going to be on-line, but it was going the have a brick and mortar component to it, we were looking at other schools and then we decided to join forces with Massive Black, and they wanted to go entirely on-line and do courses in illustration and gaming and be a big online school. We had a discovery class in January. That was a six-week program to familiarize ourselves with the students and the process of teaching on-line, and we’re going to start classes in May. We’ll have pods in every city so they can meet one another.
 
 I can answer that right now because I had my doubts about it, but it can be potentially incredibly seamless… I’m actually very surprised, I haven’t always been technologically up to date on everything; I put my headphones on and access 160 students all over the world… Australia, Africa, some have time zone issues and have to get up at 3am for class! I think it’s the future. I think it’s the future. I think for people who don’t have the ability to travel they can learn from their own home, I think it’s absolutely the future. The like the idea of doing little pods, I think some students are still going to want that interaction.

 
 What are the negatives?

If you address the issue of face time, and build a multi-tiered program, if there’s on-line stuff, if there’s on demand stuff, if there’s streaming and if you have a multi-tiered education I think that’s actually a good deal. If they didn’t really understand an assignment or lecture, they can see it two or three times, so I think it’s actually really good, they can upload images to the screen, we can use the web so we can refer back to other art, we can work in Photoshop over their pictures. Those who have headphones can put up their hand, there’s a little hand icon, and those who don’t can type their questions in. It’s really pretty good, it’s more seamless than I thought it would be, like I said, I had my doubts, but it’s pretty amazing.
 
 Do you still do all your work traditionally?

I’m a traditional artist, but I’m completely in awe of some of the technology and what students can do with digital technology. I think there are incredible shortcuts that you can use, I think there’s a lot of fear surrounding it still, but I see it as pretty exciting.

What are your predictions for the field?

If I think even in the past year or ten years and what we saw in the popular culture, and recently seeing a movie like Avatar, change happens so exponentially, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next five years. So I think it’s very exciting, for visual artists, I think there’s certainly all kinds of opportunities in animation and gaming and stuff like that, so I think it’s exciting. Of course it doesn’t apply to me necessarily, because I’m still doing a different thing, but I think for people growing up in this culture, there are incredible opportunities.
 

 Do you think traditional media will still be in use in 50 years?

Suuuure, like when TV came out, people said oh, no one’s going to read books anymore, or no one’s going to listen to the radio anymore.
 
 Do you think illustration textbooks are necessary? There are not many comprehensive textbooks in the field.

You might actually start something like that, because there seems to be a vacuum, there seems to be a hole there. At the Society of Illustrators, they archive everything but it’s not one… you’re right, there is nothing like that. I’ve seen one Illustration textbook come out of London England. I was going to suggest you get that. I was going to say Steven Heller, yeah. For one sort of bible, no, there’s really nothing like that.
 
 Well I always think that personal expression has a lot to do with it. I think there are different styles of teaching. I think it’s really critical to teach illustration as an art form. It’s personal expression. You’re still solving ideas, you’re still solving problems, you’re existing in a culture with your own personal visual voice and your own personal experiences. So I try to get students to be as original and authentic as possible, some people wouldn’t agree with that and would be concerned with identify a solid trend. There are trends in illustration but trends come and trends go and if you’re an authentic artist reacting to your culture I think that’s a better way to have longevity in the field.

 
 You said when you went to school it was very commercial art based.

They were trying to teach us how to be a commercial artist working in a studio. In other words, doing advertising, using magic markers, and how to do technical stuff. At the time, that’s how we did things, we did color separating, which is completely redundant now that we have computers.
 

 So the modern equivalent of that would be like a class learning how to use Photoshop?

Right yeah. And even the way we were doing typography was using photosensitive paper and we’d reproduce images by using a staph machine. So it was really more of a trade school. We have to spend all of our times learning how to make stuff.
 

 Now we can just learn one or two programs and then you have it down.
 Yeah, so at that time it was how can you make a living in the field? And now you can do that but also get into the idea generation and more of the fine art aspect of commercial art.
 

 Do you think having a history of illustration class is important?

Yeah! I do, yeah. Not even illustration, but the history of art.
 
 Hole of knowledge, not required to take illustration history
 I wasn’t aware [of history] when I first started. Certainly at the beginning I was aware or influenced, I think 20 or 30 years later I don’t have to follow trends anymore.
 

 Should there be a class on markets?

Yeah! We have some of the younger artists talk about how they promote themselves. Some of our graduates who have become very successful learn strategies for self-promotion, it’s better to come from someone like Sterling Hundley who’s younger, so we try to make it age appropriate.
 
 You just want to do your own work. You can’t just send students out there to fend for themselves. There’s critical information that they need, especially now. And even just letting them know what resources that they can access, where to get free legal advice, where to get support groups, stuff like that.

 
 You keep saying concepts and concepting are really important.
 
 Idea generation is a really abstract thing and sometimes and idea can come to you while you’re running or while you’re falling asleep. But there are techniques you can use like word association or juxtaposing different ideas. You can write lists of words laterally associating the words and trying to come up with visuals that way. A lot like creative writing.
 

 Is having a formal education important for illustrators?

I hate to say it but again this is something for this time now I think it’s really good to get a really really good education and get a good degree. But back a few decades, a bunch of kids I went to school with didn’t even finish, but now we’re trying to get to a place where we can teach full time and we *can’t*. So I think if you’re looking right now I think it’s important to get the best education you can right now. I think it’s really critical. I think degrees are important but I wouldn’t have said that several years ago.
 

 Do teachers have a responsibility to the students who teach?

I do! I do. I’ve spoken to some other people who don’t, and they say that’s not our role, but I do think that’s our role. If you’re going to be taking money, as an educator, you have to do your absolute best job in the best way you possibly can to leave school and be successful. I’m amazed when other people don’t. I had an argument with somebody a few weeks ago about this very thing. I just don’t understand the cynicism. I don’t understand it. The best teachers give everything of themselves, that’s the whole point of transferring knowledge, you know?

Ted & Betsy Lewin (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

We try to bring the knowledge and experience of 50 years working in the field into the classroom.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

We are still full time illustrators. The give and take with students is very satisfying.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

We both have BFAs from Pratt Institute, and we each taught there for a number of years as part time professors. Our Pratt education helped determine the direction we took in the field.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

In the masters program at Hartford Art School we teach the children’s book segment. The course includes editorial, computer, marketing, and lectures by professionals in the field from all over the country. We feel that a class in the history of illustration is essential. We all stand on each other’s shoulders in the long run.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Not all of our students want to be children’s book illustrators so they may have difficulty adjusting to the format. Some of our students are already published children’s book illustrators.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

A hands-on, one on one approach.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

The role of an illustration educator should be to draw out a student’s natural talent, and help them direct it. Here’s where our many years in the field is most helpful. We don’t believe that a teacher should impose personal biases, but should nurture individual creativity.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

We have no required texts. We do reference certain illustrators whose work we feel would be helpful to individual students.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

We can’t answer that. We don’t know all the texts that are available. There are several we know about that deal with children’s books and they are very helpful. SHOW and TELL by Dilys Evans is a good example.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

In our classes students use the internet very effectively to do research, and some of them do their art digitally. We don’t know anything about online classes.

Melanie Reim (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

Fostering the ability to have the unique life and experiences that I have enjoyed as an illustrator is fantastically rewarding.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes, I was- I woke up one day and realized that I wanted to give back and to share what I loved doing.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I hold an MFA in Illustration from Syracuse University. My education, and the professors and peers that I met, as well as the subsequent studies that I undertook shaped not only how I looked at the field then, but continue to do so today. I maintain a close relationship with many of those people. The projects and writing that I experienced in grad school have significantly influenced and molded me as an educator.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are?

Foundations of drawing and painting from life are essential. Digital literacy as well. The rest has to move along with the times.

How important is having an illustration history class?

Critical.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Appreciating the ongoing attention to drawing from observation and the model.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

Timely, sensitive, well-prepared, interactive, permissive to exploration while instilling a professional work ethic, honest feedback and an openness to hear the voice of the student.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

Some of the above answers this- it is a responsibility to keep current and walk the fine line of instilling work ethic and foundation versus room for exploration, learning by doing which sometimes includes mistakes. A deep appreciation and understanding of what one’s tastes are versus expanding horizons, and pushing towards a strength and /or bias needs to enter on a student-by-student basis.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

I do not- however, I recommend appropriate books and constantly reference artists to illustrate the points that I like to make.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I embrace the books that are published about any art when the images are meaningful and the text articulate- but, by and large, illustration is about doing and working through the process. Seeing it is the best lesson.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

Yes, integration, immediacy and excitement.

Whitney Sherman (via phone)

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

Illustrators are different than artists in the way they think. It takes communication and a strong interest in dissemination, and there’s a collaborative component that’s a part of it. Caused by an outside need, an illustrator has the ability to translate and make visible something that was in text. I don’t have formal training in illustration, I studied photography and wanted to study graphic design, picked up design from friends who were designers, and my thesis was sequential silkscreen. I was influenced by Duane Michaels, who showed me the impact of words paired with an image. I started drawing things from my head, many were designed and planned (like what a designer would do on a page). I was interested in telling stories and in the decorative quality to drawings. Jon Lesley’s work is all about repetition, telling a story by putting things together and filling in the blanks. I worked in a place that printed on corrugated boxes, opened a design firm, drew representationally but wasn’t interested in it. It wasn’t a discovery.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

Illustration history is an important part. In many schools illustrators are marginalized, it’s like being an orphan child. It’s important to see what contemporary illustration is. Back in time, contemporary art departed from the history of fine art. Design and drawing are both key things, being able to read and synthesize reading is hugely important. You can research better, you bring a depth that can’t come from an immature or unstudied perspective. Many people like to create very complex imagery, knowing what kind of similarities/parallels/contrasts exist is important as well as understanding the connections between fields. That said, not everyone’s the same, you can’t have one prescription for every student. There are very good typographic managers. There are questions as to what constitutes “good drawing.” Is it an exuberance of marks? Is that idea clear? That the marks purvey a mood or sensitivity? Or is drawing representing accurately? It’s just a matter of where the heart is. It’s whether you’re creating a language with your marks.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

I’m exposed to MICA students — they’ve grown exponentially in their ability to convey concepts. There was a time when they seemed they were the best drawers in their school but they didn’t know what they wanted to say in that drawing. It’s like cooking with the right ingredients but the wrong proportions or not knowing what you’re making. If you don’t know where you’re going with it, it’s not going to turn into anything. The school has attracted students who are more well-rounded, they’re well-rounded people who have strong interests in many other things… they’re reading and playing music and they don’t have a fear of being more than just an artist. All of these experiences make what they can produce richer. Kids in America get on an educational treadmill and then just keep going for four more years, not understanding the realities of life and never understood costs. The ideal situation is that high school students apply and get into schools, and then defer. They’ve got a goal down the road, but can be earning money or traveling, getting themselves out of the educational process, and then going back. Now is the time to learn at a more mature level, those students are sponges, then we wouldn’t have crashes and burns, no rebelling students, if you want to rebel, why spend all this money to rebel? Why does an illustrator need a master’s degree? If you’re applying for teaching…. it’s a pure luxury to go to school. It’s a relatively new thing for illustrators … they’ve always been business-types. Reinventing, grasping new material, learning about the practice on a deeper level, now we’re really so immersed in technological and economic shifts, the magazine/newspaper business is virtually gone, where do I put this stuff that I know I want to do? Technology may or may not be answering those questions for us. What will the iPad do in terms of books and illustrators? I want to think forward and I can imagine what that can turn into. In a way none of us NEED it, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier. The community is what’s important.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?
 
 No required books. I recommend books that relate to the individual student, or supportive books. I suggest books on a style. There aren’t really any books about [illustration], except the Heller books. What is this about? What is this practice all about? What’s its history? We have the Walt Reed book, it’s like biopics, broken into decades, things don’t really work in decades. The visual history of illustration breaks it down into genres, a little more accurate and doesn’t reach backwards from there. The students to have to research things, but pinpointed visual journalism, where did all that come from? What would have led to that moment where the rise of newspapers and the need for imagery to record our history and where that intersected, the chunk of it comes from a lot of different places, now the public is yearning for imagery that they owned, I asked them to look at this process of making images that are going out there and are serving a public in some sort of way. The public buys a magazine and it gets sold out to the public, the need originated from the public, it’s made for the illiterate public, messages for the church going public, no different than the image on the cover of Time magazine. Mass communication to send a message out, even if they’re seen in the realm of renaissance painting, all of that is to mimic a set of painters that they admire, those folks had their stuff published in magazines and books and the average person in history could buy. Fine art today is a very new form, it’s a product of the 20th century, not the history of visual art, illustration is a product history meant for public consumption. Texts are important, but the requirement of certain ones is not. I have had to augment information, and had to identify books that may relate to illustration of narrative art.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?
 
 It is important for books to exist. I don’t exclude digital or on paper, as if something not printed on paper isn’t worthy. Both forms have their own levels of prejudice. More books would be great, absolutely fantastic, more about theory and criticism of illustration, still drives format, others do research, in previous years illustrators didn’t want to teach to take away from studio time, teachers now teach more and want to teach, may want to write and practice, 25–30 years the writing on design.

11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?
 
 Illustrative Practices MFA, Entrepreneurial class “The Lab” 25 copies of a prototype, total of 24 once both years are in, 12 per year, 6 credit MFA studio, studio elective… MFA studio would be very guided, modeled on assignments, but they would be more broad instead of specific, thematically based, the goals of the assignments and the case work would be directed toward : a real callisthenic stretching of conceptual idea making, how you look at an idea, how sophisticated these ideas are, and how many version of these ideas there are. A topic: exchange, and then we look at that word in a very different way, we’d be charged with … we’d have to break out of past experiences into new experiences, how classmates may broaden our perspective on that idea, talk about these, generate feedback, and generate more, create modest modelings of that… experience and actualize things in different materials, might have to work with ceramics, start engaging your ideas in the larger world of how do things get made, how do they get into the outside world?, turns into something multi-media, exhibitions on-line, gets more people engaged, outcomes aren’t predicted, but the environment the students are put in, gets them to look at ideas in new ways and work with different materials, that exposure, thesis is critique based, benefit from whoever is brought in, keep extending that community of others, but can be away from that and work individually, if a lecturer comes in to do a workshop, the critics would be brought in to do critiques, second semester of second year would be asked to secure a mentor outside of the school, would produce a book documenting their work, all the sketching and research, organize thoughts and they would make a books of this, could be designed electronically, think about page composition and illustrations and communication.

Durwin Talon (via in-person interview)

Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I have a BFA at SCAD in Illustration, MA at Syracuse in Advertising Design, MFA in Illustration at Hartford, and completed two published theses.
 

 Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

The SOI annuals for a sense of trends. Walt Reed’s book is the encyclopedia of illustration.
 
 What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

Learn history. Draw and paint. Think. Problem-solve using techniques and concepts.
 
 Being an artist is an insular job. It is a constant battle, do anything that makes it easier to win.
 
 Comics inspired art… that’s a trend. Inspired by the reference. Inspired by children’s books, I have a soft spot for children’s books and imagination. The relationship between mass communication and illustration is that it gives the viewer an intimate and nostalgic experience with the subject matter.
 
 The problem in developing style is that it won’t be yours. It’s best to look beyond style, to concept and storytelling. Whatever problem you have has been solved before. You’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re making something better or giving it purpose. You must articulate the problem before you illustrate it, then compose it.

You can only teach what you know. I started learning how to do comics and brought my personal experience into the classroom. It forces you to constantly learn.
 
 The history of illustration is important. NC Wyeth had issues with being just an illustrator; he wanted to be an artist. It’s important to love illustration, not just art.

John Thompson (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

It’s all about the creative process.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes, Other illustration teachers told me I would be good at it (After I gave a few lectures and talked with students) So I tried it and discovered I had something to offer. It also gave me a chance to articulate what I’d figured out on my own.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

I have a BFA in painting, eight years as an art director in advertising, and 36 years experience as an illustrator and painter. My actual education had little to do with it. I was hired because I was a well-known illustrator who could teach. There are five excellent illustration professors at Syracuse and none of them have a graduate degree in Illustration, let alone an education degree.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

All illustrators should know who came before them and what their contributions were. The same is true of the whole history of art. If illustrators don’t see themselves as artists, they are shortsighted.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Following a creative process that allows the illustrator to communicate with the art director at all stages and still be creative can be difficult for some students.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

I wouldn’t call them methods, but I would use the word process. Each idea and each skill builds on what the student has already learned or experienced.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

Each student should be seeking his or her own voice. The instructor should be instilling useful knowledge, but understand that there are multiple right answers to any given problem. In the field, an art director has the option of choosing a particular illustrator based on what he or she has done in the past. The art director will give them a clear understanding of the given problem and then let the illustrator come up with a solution. Teaching students isn’t all that different, except that the student is still growing and should have room to fail.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

No, I don’t require any textbook. I do require them to read. Syracuse University (as well as most schools) requires our students to take academic and other studio courses. A good illustrator should be well educated. I hand out assignment sheets.

Each assignment spells out a given problem. I give them examples of how other artists and students have solved similar problems. I usually give them a size requirement and whether it can be solved in black and white or color. The technique and materials are up to the student. I also give then a step by step creative process I expect them to follow. 1.Ideas, 2.thumbnails, 3.working sketches, 4.finished sketch, 5.final art, 6.revisions. (many of these steps can be followed by email as the year progresses)

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

No, I think there should be more good illustrators teaching illustration. When a school finds a good one, let him or her free to teach what he or she wants.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

The computer has and will have a huge impact on the field of illustration and everything else as well. I encourage good hand skills. Drawing well should be the primary goal. Today’s students are naturally more and more adept at using the computer as a tool for research, creating art and communication. I mostly use it for communicating ideas between classes.

11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?

I think it should involve both. There needs to be classes where graduate students experience one on one problem solving with experienced illustrator/educators and the graduate student also needs to develop a body of work.

12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.

Twice I have taken students to India, as part of a course I teach called Painting and Drawing India. We go there during winter break for two weeks. We then return to campus for the spring semester the students create art based on their experiences and research while in India. The work produced in this class has been incredibly creative, as well as diverse. This might be a called a «long moment», but very satisfying.

Murray Tinkelman (via phone)

Education Online:

On-line education is decidedly different from classroom instruction, no less than the atomic bomb on traditional weaponry. It’s so mammoth, it’s virtually indescribable. It’s getting close now… it might be here, the phenomenon might finally be here, the first generation of young illustrators who grew up with the computer and are using it for something other than a retread, for a decade who were retread illustrators who used traditional media and learned enough about the digital revolution to function but not use it in a way that was particularly inventive. The stuff looked up in manuals and written in articles by younger illustrators, a generation of illustrators who are pushing the limits, every media, whether traditional or digital, is best served if the results mirror what the medium can do best. Why use oils to look like watercolor? You can use gouache to look like oils… why not just use oils? People are using the computer in ways that do not mimic traditional media. I think that’s brilliant… Jean Tuttle and Nancy Stahl are using digital media in a brilliant way,
 
 Roles and Responsibilities:

Help students discover who they are and help them along that path. One should not just impose their particular prejudice or likes and dislikes on the student, like a good decorative illustrator who belittled and denigrated people who worked in a narrative style. Many people in academia and fine arts departments disregard illustration and are interested in their own “isms.” The primary job of an instructor is to be open-minded.
 
 Educational Background:

I have no educational background, no degree. I went to the High School of Industrial Art in Manhattan, the High School of Art and Design now. It used to be a better, vocational school, the only academic subjects were English and history, because of state requirements. I was ready to do freelance work at 18, went to Cooper Union, hated it, and quit after two years. It was prejudiced against illustration; it was more graphic design and fine art. I got a painting scholarship for a year at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and had a great teacher, an abstract painter, Reuben Tam… everything I know about art and illustration is included in that. He never taught anything about technique or medium or drawing, he’s my role model. A sense of logic and rationale of picture making, never had an illustration class ever, and yet I created three different illustration programs. Experience is the most important part of being an instructor, two years after starting at Parson’s I was the leader of General Illustration, then transferred to Syracuse, then to Hartford.
 
 Most effective teaching methods:

My way is assignment and critique. I like to give elaborate assignments, with a visual presentation of 200 images of possible ways that this assignment could be approached, to make it inclusive to the entire class. No class is homogeneous, no class has the same outlook. I require sketches, everybody participates in the critique, my personal way of teaching is NOT studio.
 
 Profound “teaching moment”?:

First new question! Wow… wow… the reason I’m probably having trouble with that is that. The Brooklyn Museum is a one-year scholarship, it was always, it seemed, that I was always asked by my classmates to do critiques, it seemed like they valued my opinion about their work. I guess I always tried to be sensitive to their feelings and still be honest in my comments. When I started teaching professionally, I tried to find that even in the least successful piece up on the wall, I tried to find something about it that worked, it could have been color/composition/drawing, and talk about that for a couple minutes. Not talk about all of the negative things, but point out the most egregious problems. It’s not being a liar or a hypocrite, no one’s going to absorb 20 bad things about a drawing or painting in a sitting, they’re going to go numb, the sense of appreciation, there’s no real eureka moment. There’s a gradual building of confidence in a student in what I have to say. My first experience teaching in 1963, was for a small group of malcontents who were fashion illustrators who were no longer interested in fashion, and they were so appreciative of the assignments that I gave. The students loved the class, loved me, it was a small group of 8 people, not one klunker in the whole group. My eureka moment was to realize that I could function in a formal teaching environment.
 

 Trouble areas for students:

Undergraduates have trouble drawing figures, rendering in a believable way, not everyone is cut out to be an illustrator of Harlequin romances. My mission is to expose students to as wide of a variety of situations in the illustration market and see where they fit.
 
 Other:

The hierarchy is surviving making pictures, how can you make a living making art? that is the main priority is how do you make a living and be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning. It doesn’t matter what the vehicle is but what matters is the quality of the art.
 
 Teaching approach:

The assignments that I give the students would NOT focus on medium and technique, they would focus on subject matter and archetypal subjects. One subject was that I would give a 200-image presentation on the reflected image, reflections in water, in chrome, in the mirror, wherever, and they would go out and shoot photographic reference of reflections, 35 mm slides were used and each student would present 20 images of the photos they shot of reflections. They would also have to include a human presence. We’d discuss them and ask if it would make a great picture, reflections would be one archetype, masks as another archetype, students would create a mask and wear the mask with a costume in an environment, letterforms, words, signage, another archetypal image, the conglomeration as different letterforms as they exist in a cityscape or a roadside. The final piece of art would be letterforms. The assignment wouldn’t be genre but they would be iconic in their visual impact, come up with 15 or 20 of these things and they’d round up a semester, and students would win prizes.
 
 Teaching philosophy:

To convince students that this is a legitimate field of study and life endeavor. To legitimize illustration, even in its evolving state. Every generation has its own challenges. To help the student find his or her personal voice.
 
 Textbooks:

The Art Spirit — Robert Henri, very little about technique, 1911… written from notes taken by his secretary. I have a copy in every bathroom, impossible to turn to a page in that book that’s not relevant.
 The Illustrator in America — Walt Reed

I don’t know if there should be more books, picked up Steve Heller’s book, a graduate student had a copy. I thumbed through it and there are no pictures in it. He writes well, but anyone who’s written 500 books in 12 minutes is missing the point.
 There should always be GOOD books… there’s great information available on-line. James Guerney, the illustrator of Dinotopia, is really smart and has a great website. I’m comfortable with history of illustration, I enjoy a daily blog about color and drawing called “Today’s Inspiration.” Leis Peng did mid-century illustration. Women illustrators in 40s and 50s, Drawger is a great site, very few realists, posts on a regular basis… For the enthusiastic and energetic student, the Internet is a boundless source of information… I don’t know if that replaces the hands-on relationship with a faculty or a book. There’s something about books that is irreplaceable, most of the books on illustration don’t interest me.

 
 History of Illustration and Curriculum:

The history of illustration is important, and should be introduced EARLY in the curriculum. It should be a sophomore class; I have a severe criteria for who teaches the history of illustration, someone with significant illustration experience. A contemporary illustrator has a feeling for the history of illustration; it’s the most important aspect. 99% say teach drawing. I think both drawing and concepts are fine, but don’t agree with either one. However, I’m not vehement or adamant about it, I believe live and let live. I’ve had my opportunity to teach and create programs with no interference. I’m quite opinionated.

I’m the founding chairman of the Illustration program at Parson School of Design, in 1965. I picked my faculty, and chose the best illustrators functioning in the business at that time, good illustrators and good human beings. Some of them taught drawing, Burn Hogarth, creator of Tarzan comic strip, author of twenty books on drawing and anatomy, Richard Rockwell, nephew of Norman Rockwell, also a comic artist, for a drawing class, I do believe in drawing, some of the faculty were conceptual artists, the most important thing is allowing the student to find out who THEY are personally. I don’t believe in isolating… color, concepts, everything is important, but all can be taught in a class that nurtures the student… personal visual vocabulary, the teacher should be adroit enough in his or her knowledge of composition, color, and drawing, while critiquing that person’s work to find their own vision, all of these things will come into play.

The business of illustration can be taught during your illustration class. There should be nothing but classes called “Illustration,” everything that’s important should be covered in those classes. I also direct a graduate program in Illustration, and I have separate classes on the business of freelance illustration. We do NOT teach fundamentals in graduate program, no drawing/color/painting, all the faculty (Chris Payne, Gary Kelly) mentor graduate students and help them go in the direction that they are going, their predetermined direction, not what the faculty wants to do, but what the student wants to do. I took a step back from the Hartford program, I let the student lead, and help them in the direction they’re going. Not independent study but individual initiative on the students’ part, and the faculty act more like mentors than teachers. There are incredible abuses in some schools that call some of their classes mentor classes, FIT gives credit and charges tuition for a class where the student goes out to find a mentor, someone who is acting as a guide to the student’s way, not the instructor’s way. What’s important is helping the student discover WHO THEY ARE… visually. Prolonged graduate study in drawing doesn’t make sense for decorative style. What is good draftsmanship? A person’s vision or concept.

Robert Meganck (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration? 
 
 I love it — students keep me charged. 
 

 2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching? 
 
 I was a full time designer/illustrator. I was working in Detroit, MI and tried to unionize Graphic Designers. When I failed at forming a union, I chose to move on the Graduate School — after grad school, teaching seemed to offer a steady gig. 
 

 3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career? 
 
 I have an Associates Degree in Commercial Art, A BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, and an MFA in design.
 

 4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class? 
 
 I believe students need to be well-rounded. Courses need to include: drawing (lots of it), design, typography, digital work, photography, web design, painting, business, as well as general education courses. 
 
 Yes, of course, students need to understand the history of illustration, history of design, and the history of art. Not as separate courses, but as a collective — showing how all are related, and related to history in general.
 

 5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?
 
 Of course — we only have 120 credit to prepare them for a career in a field that is changing rapidly. Most students do not get enough drawing/painting/illustration work. We can only begin to educate them — they need to continue the educational process after they graduate. 
 

 6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective? 
 
 My professional experience. I work and publishing illustrations daily. I think I understand the marketplace. I bring this experience to the classroom. I’ve often said that, “I can work without teaching, but I cannot teach without working.” 
 

 7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?
 
 Personal biases should not enter the classroom. Although, no matter how hard you try — they will. Educators need to be as objective as possible, and try to encourage a personal voice to emerge in each student. 
 

 8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they? 
 
 Yes, but only in the Design classes. This semester I am using “Typography, Form and Communication” by Carter, Day and Meggs in my typography class; “Seeing is Believing” by Asa Berger in my basic design class. Next semester I will be using “Color” by Mary Pat Fisher and Paul Zelanski to teach Color Theory. 
 

 9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them? 
 
 Yes. There should be more — currently I am unaware of any good ones, because those that know something about illustration, don’t want/or have the time to write about illustration. 
 

 10) Has computer and internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how? 
 
 Currently all of our classes are taught on site. We are looking into the possibility of offering on-line classes. 
 

 11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study? 
 
 On independent study with a serious seminar component.
 

 12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.
 
 When I was asked to teach a Digital Drawing class — I was reluctant — I loved to paint and could find no advantage to working digitally. This proved to be a misperception, as I currently do everything digitally.

Chris Payne (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

To teach a student the required skill sets in creative narrative picture making for the purposes of the illustration in a contemporary applied arts market.
 

 2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching? 
 
 Yes, I was a full-time illustrator when I was first asked to teach more than thirty years ago. I decided to teach, because I liked my experience as a student and I like the experience of learning.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career? 
 
 I have a BFA degree from Miami University. That is it. As I stated, I enjoyed my studies at Miami University. Part of it was infuriating and part of it was very meaningful. I learned the value of a good instructor and the positive atmosphere for meaningful learning a good instructor can cultivate.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class? 
 
 Drawing remains the foundation for illustration. Illustration History is next, with design, composition and color theory all coming in a very close third. In truth it is hard to take any one component out of the education process.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?
 
 The biggest problem I have with students is their impatience, They all want to paint right away and not to the preliminary work to set up the foundation of the picture before they paint. As a friend of mine states, “They all want to ice the cake before they bake it.”

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective? 
 
 I find teaching the step-by-step process of how to set up the foundation for making the picture most effective. Regardless of technique, style or point of view, the step-by-step process is relevant to all.
 
 
7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?
 
 The main responsibility is to teach a student how they can be the best illustrator they can be with their own personal voice and their own visual language. Out side of the step-by-step processes of good picture making, my personal preferences are irrelevant. It is my job to expand the knowledge of illustration to the student, not inflict them with my personal biases.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they? 
 
 Up until this coming school year I have mostly taught seniors that had me focus more on the students person direction. I have always required my students to create their own books of research of illustration and graphic design. This coming school year I have elected to teach juniors and will require the James Gurney book titled, “ Imaginative Realism”.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them? 
 
 I think there are enough books. I don’t know, maybe not enough schools seek them out. Also many schools are still stuck in the trenches of illustration being a trade and fine art being real art.
 

 10) Has computer and internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how? 
 
 Yes, but in a limited and controlled way. It best use right now is for research. But there are some good visual lessons available.
 

 11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study? 
 
 I don’t know why there can’t be a blending of the formal classes and independent study. Some folks could benefit from some more formal work, while others not requiring so much could flourish with more independent study. Graduate Studies should be more tailor-made.
 

 12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.
 
 A profound teaching moment is when a student gets that click moment when they understand the need for building the sound foundation before they paint and do the work required to make the art better. They get that click moment when they see to positive results in their own progress.

Jeffrey Smith (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

My philosophy for teaching illustration is to immerse the student in observational figure drawing, encourage the student to engage in the art of visual reportage, challenge their ability to make images for narrative, literary stories, and then explain the connection between recording, reporting, real life, and fiction.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes! I committed to teaching for several reasons; economic stability, because I thought I would learn something, because there are teachers in my family, and to give something back to students in the same way that my mentors gave something to me.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

My educational background is almost entirely in Art and Illustration. I earned a AA degree in Photography and Commercial Art from Los Angeles Trade Technical College in 1977. I earned my BFA from the Art Center College of Design in 1980. I earned my MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1986.

The impact of my education on my career was profound. Among my teachers were Alan E. Cober, Philip Harrison Hays, James McMullan, Marshall Arisman, Robert Weaver, and many other lesser known educators who taught me theories and practical applications regarding drawing, composition, design, value, color, concept and narrative.

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

Figure drawing, perspective, composition, design, narrative, pictorial concept, symbolism, metaphor, echo, rhythm, research, photography, history (of art & illustration,) illustration, and then…. Life.

An illustration history class is fairly important. But personally, I put more stock in the history of art, film, comics, photography and illustration, and how those visual art forms are often step in step with each other.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Yes of course. Students are absolutely mystified with illustration: mostly because too many of them are too young. My best students tend to be around 27 years old. They tend to have a lot of cultural information, are well read, know something about the history of art, have traveled around a bit, and they understand the connection between written and visual communication.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

The fear of god!!! Ha! Just kidding. That is a very big and broad question. I believe that empathy, and education is the best method of teaching. I mean you have to have ideas to teach well. But you also have to want to help someone. In the classroom, I often find myself imagining how to best express the idea, and the most effective way that the student can apply it, or benefit from it.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

I think the best thing a teacher of illustration can do is open their minds. Sometimes that is about observation, sometimes empathy, sometimes something internal.

My teaching is all about my personal bias and preference. But their education is about what they are willing to receive. That is why it is good to have more than one teacher.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

Sometimes I use required texts, and very often I do not. I might use a specific anatomy book if I’m teaching a drawing class that focuses on the muscles in the human body. I would use a required text if I were teaching the sciences. I do assign reading exercises such as John Cheever’s “The 548” or “The Swimmer,” or Flannery O’Connor’s, ”A Good Man is Hard to Find,” etc. I also use music that relates to those stories such as Bob Dylan’s “Theme Time Radio Hour.”

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I don’t think there should be more text books about the process of learning illustration. Text books are where illustrations appear; real life is where illustration is learned.

10) Has computer and internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

Here at Art Center, we have an on-line teaching system called “dotEd.” It is a Moodle program (if that makes sense?) It allows teachers to upload assignments, give tests, receive assignments on-line, grade the work on-line, etc. I use it mostly to post my syllabus, and the entire course week by week. This way, I can upload paintings and illustrations, and other reference that might enable the student to better understand the assignment. For me, it has become a kind of teaching web-site that expresses the idea behind the class in a different way than I do in the class room. It also allows me to communicate effectively with the student after the class has ended and before the next class begins.

11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?

Both. The first year should be the time when the particular program presents it’s philosophy through teaching, assignments and critiques. The second year should be a time when the student uses that philosophy to create work that expresses his or her own interpretation of that philosophy.

12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.

All teaching moments are profound.

Greg Spalenka (via e-mail)

1) In one sentence, what is your philosophy about teaching illustration?

I committed to empowering truth within people through art and education.

2) Were you a full-time illustrator before you started teaching and, if so, why did you choose to commit time to teaching?

Yes I was full time illustrator, as well as a concept designer in film. Teaching supplements income and its important to give back.

I learn from the students too. When the teacher is ready the student arrives, when the student is ready the teacher arrives, when the connection is complete you cannot tell the difference between them.

3) Do you have an educational background in illustration, and, if not, what was your educational background? What was the impact of your education on your career?

See my Bio- Interior Cathedral

4) What do you believe the essential components or classes of a well-rounded and complete illustration education are? How important is having an illustration history class?

Knowing where you come from and the history of your craft is important. It gives you perspective.

Your skill set (personal vision) and how you apply it to making a living is key.

Knowing who you are and what you want to say is vital and will sustain you for the long run.

Your marketing is next.

5) Do you find that students have trouble with particular aspects of illustration?

Conceptualizing is usually the toughest part. Getting people to think deeply about a problem has been a challenge over the years.

Most students want the easy way out.

6) What teaching methods do you find to be the most effective?

Straight up communication and letting them go to it. Guidance is important but I encourage independence. I am not into “hand holding”.

Students at this age need to find the power within themselves to make their own way. It’s like living. Dive into it.

7) What are the roles and responsibilities of an illustration educator? How much, if any, should your personal biases and preferences reflect in your classes?

I tell my students its all my opinion based on my experience. If they respect me then they will listen to what I have to say, otherwise they won’t.

I have learned over the years you cannot convince anyone to do anything.

If I can get them to think about anything differently then that is a small miracle in itself.

I put what I know out there for them to learn from, but ultimately they will rise and fall on their own efforts.

8) Do you use required texts in your classes, and, if so, what are they?

Generally I don’t. But I do have a show and tell at the beginning of my classes where we share books and websites.

In my Artist As Brand workshops- http://www.artistasbrand.com/

I suggest “The Designers Guide to Pricing and Marketing” by Peleg Top and Ilese Benin, and Life Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff.

9) Should there be more textbooks about the process of learning illustration? Why do you think there aren’t more of them?

I don’t think books are the answer, because so much is about learning experientially.

10) Has computer and Internet technology, including on-line classes, if applicable, impacted the content or delivery of your teaching, and, if so, how?

All teaching formats have their place. I will be embracing online teaching in the near future.

11) Do you think graduate level illustration study should involve more formal classes or should be focus on independent study?

Depends on what the student is after. I always tell my classes that ultimately higher education is about you buying time to perfect your craft and personal vision.

Then you bring it to the real world.

12) Give an example of a significant or profound “teaching moment” in your experience as an educator.

When my students turn into professionals and tell stories to their students about how I inspired them.

That warms my heart.

Caroline Walmsley (via e-mail)

I hope the following will go some way to answering your question. It may be useful for you to note is that AVA did not specifically set out to plug what we perceived as gaps within the illustration education book market, but a broader gap in educational titles that we believed existed across the spectrum of the applied visual arts. When our business was founded a few years ago we wanted to rethink the concept of the ‘textbook’ for pre-undergraduate and undergraduate students. This is an audience that is visually literate, technically sophisticated and acutely aware of good design and presentation. In our endeavor to create twenty-first-century textbooks for twenty-first-century students, AVA Academia’s titles are specifically crafted to respond to these qualities. It seemed to us that academic books about the applied visual arts should themselves be both well designed and well written, something that had previously appeared to be an either/or option for many publishers.

Our books are written by leading academic authorities, the texts undergo peer reviews and are refined through ongoing consultation and development, in order to best reflect the needs of today’s student. Designers are assigned to each title on a best suited’ basis in our attempt to ensure that the cover and page layout works harmoniously with the content it will support. Our aim is to produce titles that can be read equally well either on both a linear basis or by dipping in and out of units of interest to the reader.

To date, many hundreds of universities, colleges and higher education bodies around the world have adopted and recommended our texts across numerous courses and programs. The response from both our readership and from those academics who are promoting our titles to their students has been incredibly positive and a number of other publishers have looked towards AVA’s program for inspiration (I’m told imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…).

Our illustration titles are of particular interest as we did venture into this market about seven years ago and at this time very, very few books were available on the subject. In fact, the author whom we worked with on our first illustration title was at the time writing another book for a different publisher. That publisher was so concerned with preconceived ideas that an ‘illustration’ book would fail that he requested the term be replaced throughout the book with the phrase ‘image making’, both that book and AVA’s title were released to the market at the same time and our book (I’m both pleased and relieved to say) performed exceptionally well. It reprinted three or four times and we are in the process of publishing a second edition of it. It’s my opinion that both illustration education and publishing has experienced a renaissance over the past five years or so and I’m thrilled that AVA had the foresight and confidence to play a small part in this.

Bibliography

Allen, Thomas. “A Moving Target.” In The Education of an Illustrator, edited by Steven Heller and Marshall Arisman. New York: Allworth Press, 2000.

Apatoff, David. “Illustration Art.” http://illustrationart.blogspot.com (accessed October 30, 2010).

Carter, Alice (Bunny). “Responsible Education of an Illustrator: Interview with Tom Allen and Barron Storey.” Illustrators’ Partnership of America. http://www.illustratorspartnership.org/01_topics/article.php?searchterm=00079 (June, 2001).

Crush, Lawrence Zeegan. The Fundamentals of Illustration. Switzerland: AVA Academia, 2005.

Graphic Artists Guild. Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. New York: Graphic Artists Guild, 2007.

Griffin, W. Glenn and Deborah Morrison. The Creative Process Illustrated: How Advertising’s Big Ideas Are Born. Cincinnati: HOW Books, 2010.

Heller, Steven, and Marshall Arisman. Inside the Business of Illustration. New York: Allworth Press, 2004.

Heller, Steven, and Marshall Arisman, eds. Teaching Illustration. New York: Allworth Press, 2006.

Heller, Steven, and Marshall Arisman, eds. The Education of an Illustrator. New York: Allworth Press, 2000.

Heller, Steven, and Seymour Chwast. A Visual History of Illustration. New York: Abrams, 2008.

Hively, Charles. Nuts and Bolts: A Blueprint for a Successful Illustration Career. New York: 3x3 Magazine, 2010.

Loomis, Andrew. Creative Illustration. New York: Viking Group, 1947.

Male, Alan. Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective. Switzerland: AVA Academia, 2007.

Poynor, Rick. “The Missing Critical History of Illustration.” Print Magazine, June 2010.

Reed, Walt. The Illustrator in America: 1860–2000. New York: Collins Design, 2003.

Sherman, Whitney. “History of Illustration.” http://historyofillustration.blogspot.com (accessed October 30, 2010).

Williams, Mark Wigan. Global Context.. London: AVA Publishing, 2009.

Wigan, Mark. Thinking Visually. London: AVA Publishing, 2006.

[1] Rick Poynor, “The Missing Critical History of Illustration,” Print Magazine, June, 2010,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Andrew Loomis, Creative Illustration (New York: Viking Press, 1947).

[4] Walt Reed, Illustrator in America: 1860–2000 (New York: Collins Design, 2003).

[5] Seymour Chwast and Steven Heller, A Visual History of Illustration (New York: Abrams, 2008).

[6] Ibid, 6.

[7] Poynor, Critical.

[8] Marshall Arisman and Steven Heller, Inside the Business of Illustration (New York: Allworth Press, 2004).

[9] Graphic Artists Guild, Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (New York: Graphic Artists Guild, 2007).

[10] Steven Heller and Marshall Arisman, The Education of an Illustrator (New York: Allworth Press, 2000.)

[11] Steven Heller and Marshall Arisman, Teaching Illusration (New York: Allworth Press, 2006.)

[12] Charles Hively, Nuts and Bolts: A Blueprint for a Successful Illustration Career (New York: 3x3 Magazine, 2010).

[13] David Apatoff, Illustration Art, available from http://illustrationart.blogspot.com; Internet; accessed October 30, 2010.

[14] Crush, Lawrence Zeegan. The Fundamentals of Illustration (Switzerland: AVA Academia, 2005).

[15] Mark Wigan Williams. Global Context (London: AVA Publishing, 2009).

[16] Mark Wigan. Thinking Visually (London: AVA Publishing, 2006).

[17] Alan Male. Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective (Switzerland: AVA Publishing, 2007).

[18] Thomas Allen, “A Moving Target,” in The Education of an Illustrator, ed. Steven Heller and Marshall Arisman (New York: Allworth Press, 2000), 89.

[19] Glenn V. Vilppu, Sketching on Location, (Acton: Vilppu Studio, 2000).

[20] Heller and Arisman, Education, xx.

[21] W. Glenn Griffin and Deborah Morrison, The Creative Process Illustrated (Cincinnati: HOW Books, 2010.)

[22] Ibid, 7.

[23] Alice Carter, “Responsible Education of an Illustrator: Interview with Tom Allen and Barron Storey,” Illustrators’ Partnership, June 2001, http://www.illustratorspartnership.org/01_topics/article.php?searchterm=00079 (accessed October 30, 2010).

[24] Allen, “Target,” Education, 92.