The summer newsletter is here! Click the link below to see what we’ve been up to, and read an interview with new instructor Sophia Allison.
We knew artist Sophia Allison would be a great fit for our students when she showed us the lucha libre costumes she had sewn from a variety of household and commercial products. She’ll bring that creativity, enthusiasm and unique vision to her class Experiments in Drawing this summer.
We talked to Sophia about her influences, her work, and her advice for the would-be artists out there.
Can you describe your current practice? What projects are you working on or hoping to start soon?
For the past few years, I have been creating work that has to do with the physical and emotional landscape in which I was raised-specifically, the western North Carolina area. I work in a variety of media including sewing, paper-cut installations, cardboard/recycled materials and collage. Much of the work has many small components that make up a larger whole-one could say that there’s a bit of an ocd quality in all of my projects.
One of my on-going preoccupations has been a series of sewn landscape vignettes that reference specific locations on and around my family’s property in Western NC. Placing a printed digital image on fabric, I repetitively sew through the paper, forcing it into the fibers of the fabric, destroying the paper and recreating the image with thread on the opposite side of the material. The effect is two-fold: on one side, the landscape is clearly articulated; on the other, the paper image is obliterated leaving loose threads and uneven textures. The image is simultaneously destroyed and built up; it is recognized as a snapshot of a specific location and at the same time, it becomes fragmented and abstracted like a fading memory. These works are displayed so that both the front and back sides are visible.
Additionally, I have been creating a series of sculptures that are inspired by the Blue Ridge mountains. I cut up several hundred pieces of cardboard into rough, small rectangles and glue these together using foam core as a base between each section. The overall effect is an abstracted shape with undulating ridges like a mountain. I leave the cardboard unpainted; the variations in tone and color of the cardboard elevate the material beyond its humble, fragile quality. The works appear to be quite heavy and voluminous when in fact they are hollow and light-weight.
Who are some artists that you admire and how have they influenced your work?
I am drawn to artists that can work fluidly across a variety of media but turn the traditional on its head, like within the work of Pae White or Tim Hawkinson; I am always amazed at how Tim can take almost anything-plastic bags, cardboard, old tubes (to name a few items) and create incredibly elaborate, conceptual works that transcend the sum of their parts. As a bonus, his work is a big draw to people who don’t necessarily like art-I love that! I am a big fan of materials and am attracted to artists’ works that are visually stunning but then have a lot of layers to dig through-work that continues to reveal itself; these works act as a one-two punch–first to your eyes and then to your brain. An artist I recently became familiar with- Elizabeth Higgins O’Connor- uses materials like old sheets, blankets, scrap wood, thread and cut-up furniture to create large assemblage sculptures of strange animal-doll hybrids. I am also influenced by artists who use craft-aesthetics within their works such as Mark Newport. His embroidered comic book covers are beautiful as are his knit super hero costumes.
When teaching art, do you think there are unique experiences to be had in continuing education vs. undergrad or graduate school?
Oh, definitely! Continuing education is wonderful because, in my experience, most folks are coming to class with a very open perspective on things as well as a bit of maturity-in other words, they know themselves well and are ready to try anything and be receptive to new ideas and art experiences. Often times, some of these folks have not had much formal training in art-making or they are getting back into it after taking a break from it – which makes the class (and teaching it) all the more exciting. I’ve found that some of my best students came to my class as “non-art” people or not art majors; they turned out to be the ones that were most adventurous with class projects and had fresh ideas. Undergrad is usually a time for a person to start finding their academic footing and interests in what they want to do professionally-try a bit of everything and see what is appealing. Also, the typical undergrad is usually younger so they don’t necessarily have the same world experiences that many continuing education students have. In graduate school, students are honing in on a specific focus/thesis, so there’s not as much time for experimentation.
What do you hope students walk away from your class with?
I hope students will come away with an enthusiasm for drawing (and art-making in general) and a willingness to be open to new ways of thinking about art and creating work. Drawing has taken on a new life in the past few decades with more non-traditional media and concepts being explored and utilized but many underlying foundation principles still apply. Also, I hope students will learn to trust themselves in their art-making decisions and take chances that they may not have otherwise. Hopefully they’ll see that it’s perfectly OK to take a risk and fail, as long as they learned something from it and can apply this new information to their next art-making experience. One of my teaching goals is to provide students with technical and conceptual tools that they can have at-the-ready—to broaden their “art-toolbox” so they have more choices and approaches to utilize as they create work.
What advice would you have for people who are thinking about pursuing art as a serious hobby or profession?
Make art, make art and then make some more. I think there’s this false notion that in order to do art, one needs to be “gifted” or have a knack for it. What it takes is A LOT of hard work, time and a real love and true dedication to it. If you don’t like and enjoy what you are doing, how will others? There are many ways to pursue art as a profession, but it does require lots of time in the studio-time spent creating and thinking about the work one is making. It’s important too to have people see and talk to you about what you’re doing and not be too isolated in one’s studio practice; as an artist, it’s easy to work in a bubble and forget the world, but having people take a look at your work is a necessity.
Also, I think it’s very important to look at art in the flesh. Looking at images on-line and in books is great, but they aren’t substitutes for seeing art in person. It’s an entirely different experience to spend time with a work of art right in front of your nose and immerse yourself in it, trying to understand it and what the artist was doing/thinking when he made the piece. With a great work of art, this can be an almost spiritual experience!
This summer we’re happy to welcome new instructor Nick Brown. He’ll be teaching Introduction to 2D Materials and Techniques, a great class if you don’t have a background in fine art and are looking to get some helpful fundamental skills in a variety of media. Nick attended School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has had his work shown at The Drawing Center, NY; P.S. 122, NY; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; and The Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL.
By way of introduction, I asked Nick to share some thoughts about art school, his current work, and what he hopes students will accomplish in his class.
Can you describe your current practice? What projects are you working on or hoping to start soon?
Currently, I am working on a series of large-scale oil paintings based on stone chimneys in the snow. They are remnants of a high mountain community. I also have an ongoing series of red pastel drawings. These are predicated on personal imagery and feel dreamlike and foreboding.
Are there other artists who have influenced your style and interests?
There are many artists who have influenced me over the years. The ones I mostly return to worked in the middle to late 1800’s. They are often categorized as Romanticist and Symbolist artists. James Ensor and Gustave Moreau are big favorites. Goya doesn’t fit the former description but is also amazing. Haiku poetry is another source I enjoy especially for its economy and directness. Music that is driven by tone and atmosphere is also very important to me. I’ve reached a point now though where I no longer think of other artists as I work. The knowledge drawn from their work informs subconsciously I think.
You have an MFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. What was the art school experience like for you?
Attending SAIC was great. I actually went twice, for undergrad and grad. I was exposed to so many ideas and ways of working. That combined with a dedicated period of time in which to concentrate solely on art was very important. I think it heightens your technical skills, deepens your thinking and the whole process of learning becomes expedited. I would encourage any student to follow that path. Hopefully we learn our entire lives. Why not be immersed in a pursuit with little distraction.
How are you planning to approach teaching your summer class. Do you think there are unique experiences to be had in continuing education vs. undergrad or graduate school?
The summer course will be structured with demonstrations and critiques. There will be quite a bit of working time in class. The environment should be very sociable with dialog between the students as well as with me. I look forward to a lot of discussion. Continuing education is unique in that many students work full time. They have specifically chosen a particular class rather than say one that just fulfills a requirement like an undergrad student might. I think this engenders an amount of intensity and focus. People are really seeking this knowledge out.
What do you hope students walk away from your class with?
I want students to have the confidence to make work on their own and enjoy the process of discovery inherently involved in making art.
UCLA Extension Design Communication Arts instructor Masaki Koike won a Grammy Award in 2008 for his design of the “What It Is: Funk Soul & Rare Grooves” box set from Rhino Records. He sat down with UCLA Extension’s Karen Lauritsen to talk about the design project and the “Design Fundamentals” course he teaches at UCLA Extension.
Craig Havens teaches Introduction to Digital Photography, which is often the course students start out with in our program. He’s a successful and productive photographer in both the commercial and fine art field, so I thought it would be interesting to hear a little bit about his process and experience. In the below interview, he talks about his latest project, Soundings, which you can view on his website, craighavens.com. His commercial work can be found on studio642.com.
Can you talk a little bit about your Soundings project? What’s your vision, how do you set up the shots, etc?
The imagery of Soundings depicts phenomenological occurrences set mostly within the nocturne landscape. The work is created by handholding a camera for as long as twenty minutes. During this time the camera settles into a state of stillness, allowing the phenomenon to unfold while releasing attachment to the outcome of the exposure.
This state correlates to many pan-religious descriptions of epiphanies of the sublime. The final creation and display of large-scale silver prints of these images mimic the intricate rituals and resonant metals of religious iconography. In essence, I am engaged in constructing a meaningful mythology around these moments.
How is the creative process different on commercial shoots than when you’re doing your own work? Is working for clients “paying the bills”, or does it just feel like another creative enterprise?
I have always felt that the artist’s intent is the determining factor between personal artwork and professional work. My art-making fuels everything else as far as inspiration and personal fulfillment is concerned.
With regard to commercial work as a creative enterprise, it varies greatly depending on the project. For example, I just completed shooting an editorial piece on San Onofre State Beach for Huck Magazine – a beautiful surf and skate magazine out of London. It was a completely solo shoot because my client was in England and had asked me to interpret the subject matter independently. I was able to spend 3 days just walking the beach alone and meeting surfers young and old while documenting the atmosphere of this unique Southern California beach.
On the other hand, I recently shot a national print campaign for Comcast Communications that involved a crew of almost 30 people on set. While producing and delivering a shoot like that can be nerve-wracking, I am fortunate enough to be working with a lot of professional creative people who are great at what they do. In the end we had a wonderful shoot and delivered above and beyond what the client was expecting.
You just sold a piece – congratulations! What were the circumstances, and what does it mean for the project?
Yes, I was recently honored to be asked by the curator of the Armory Center for the Arts, Jay Belloli, to participate in the Pasadena Armory Biennial Art Auction. This is a great event held every two years to support the arts in LA. The event was a great success and a wonderful collector and patron of the arts who is very active in collecting photography acquired my piece. Any time a collector is willing to add an artist to their collection by acquiring a work, it affirms the convictions of the artist that there is an audience for their work. So I was very pleased to be a part of the event and am looking forward to completing the series and showing it in full over the course of the next year.
What’s something you’ve learned by experience that you wish you could go back and tell your just-getting-started photographer self?
I’ve definitely learned that making art takes patience and perseverance. I always had deeply personal reasons for creating and that has sustained me through the hard times. I’ve learned that no matter what may come, the work always continues. Over time the process becomes less and less about defining your success against exterior measures. Eventually an artist’s measure of success becomes very personal and the greatest challenge becomes the act of creation itself.
This interview between Karen Lauritsen and Jeroen Hermkens originally appeared on thewhiteboards.
Jeroen Hermkens is an award-winning Dutch interaction designer with 15 years of experience making technology transparent and easy to use for a wide variety of consumer, government, and business projects. He is the founder of Het is Simpel (It is Simple), which specifically focuses on interaction, communication, and concept design.
Jeroen has taught User Experience (UX) design online from Rotterdam for the Design Communication Arts Program since 2009. Wonder what kind of experience you’d have in the class? Recently, Jeroen put together a great page of student experiences and sample projects here from the spring 2011 quarter. Check it out!
I also asked him a few questions about the field via email:
When people ask you what you do, how do you explain it?
It can get confusing [very fast] for people if I try to explain them that, depending on the assignment, I do Interaction Design, UX Design, Information Architecture, Communication Design or Conceptual Design. I usually say, ‘I make technology easy to use’. This always sparks a conversation.
When you’re teaching UX Design, what do you consider the most critical principles that students come away with?
To trust their intuition and create an open mindset to WHY users are doing what they are doing. In the end the WHY is always something very basic.
What are companies looking for when they hire a UX Designer, both in terms of skills and portfolio?
Companies who do not understand UX are looking for nice graphics and flashy Flash presentations. Companies understanding UX look for thoughtful concepts and excellent execution.
What have students said they enjoy most about the course? What is the most difficult for them?
The main thing I am teaching is letting go of the judgements of how it should be or students think it should be. When students get this a complete new world opens up in which good UX design becomes much more easy. Students who are not able to make this step struggle a lot inside rather ‘normal’ projects.
What have you learned from teaching UX Design?
I have been involved in Interaction Design since ’94 so a lot of the theory I have discovered myself. It was very interesting to see a lot of formal documentation on topics I had figured out in my own way. Ever since, I enjoy following all kind of expert views.
Any student success stories that you know of, like someone being hired?
In my last course one of my students got his first UX Design job. He applied at a major healthcare company, had interviews, they liked the mindset he created in the course, [along with] his wireframes and the iPad2 app he designed within the course project. Over the last [few] years I have had emails from several students who got into the UX field as a result of the course.
Check out Het is Simple, Jeroen’s company.
DCA instructor and 3D type designer Andrew Byrom has been contemplating this question and isn’t convinced that YES is the answer. Hear him deliberate in this video.
For more on this topic, check out this post on his recycled desk.
This spring Roxann Arwen Mills will be leading A Perspective on Nudes: A Short Photographic Workshop. It’s a unique class that involves intensive critique and a full day of shooting models, so I thought I would ask her to share some thought on the topic of nude photography. Images from the last workshop are included throughout. Click here for a previous interview and more thoughts from Roxann.
What are some common misconceptions or assumptions about nude photography?
I think that one of the most common misconceptions is that it’s easy; there’s nothing to it. Another is perhaps the perception that nude images inherently have a sexual intention. For example, the infamous banned nude album cover of John & Yoko was not meant to be a sexual statement, but a human one. This is a distinction with which Western culture still seems to struggle, even with today’s pop-cultured highly erotized cover art, and many critically acclaimed and sometimes equally disdained images of photographers who deal with sex, or have strong sexuality in their work. In many cases the subject isn’t entirely naked, so how does one discern the difference between what many refer to as the artistic nude, and mere nakedness, or the erotic nude, or soft porn? These conversations and many more will be further examined in this 4-week workshop in order to give students a more informed view from which to develop their own concepts in approaching the female nude.
(photo by student Carol Henry)
What are some of the challenges of shooting these kinds of images?
One of the biggest challenges is often overcoming the idea that you can just pick up a camera and take a picture that says something, although this is certainly possible by sheer luck, like the Sunday painter who by accident stumbles upon an interesting process, without any clue as to what they’ve made. And in fact I’m a big fan of accidents, because they can lead us down the most interesting paths by showing us what our imaginations are truly capable of, but I also believe that knowledge is power, and that extends to making informed choices when creating art, otherwise your imagination often just repeats the past, or you cannot adequately express your vision. Just like a painter, you have to develop the skills to translate what your imagination sees. You have to know your equipment well enough to understand what it will do, and to be comfortable with it, and you have to develop the ability so see and utilize light in order to capture the complex and subtle aspects possible in your imagery, to capture something beyond the mundane. Sometimes beginners, as well as seasoned shooters, have happy accidents slip in, and in many cases they’re the best images of the shoot. They can be the most inspiring images to those photographers, as it shows them what they’re really capable of creating, and that kind of discovery can be magical. Yet when you look closer, you find that most seasoned photographers have some kind of framework within which they are working, and the technical skills to execute it, so when those happy accidents drop in they’re not lost as a single image that, no matter how interesting, has no relevance to the rest of the work. Then they can build on that image, or decide to begin a new path of investigation. I always keep a quote of Einstein quote close to my heart as I feel it resonates on many levels: “Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world…” But in reality creative photography, like creative science, demands both.
(photo by student Eleonora Ghioldi)
(photo by student Eleonora Ghioldi)
What can students expect if they sign up for the course, and what might they be surprised to learn?
This intensive 4-week class addresses the beginner to intermediate student. Students will become acquainted with a wide variety of approaches to photographing the female nude. They will also receive personal guidance to help them develop their own ideas. The course includes an in-class demo-photoshoot, with a model, before the all day location shoot. Here students will have an opportunity to learn how to give direction, and communicate their ideas effectively to the model, while at the same time learning some of the challenges of working with natural light. There will be a second natural lighting demo on site the day of the location shoot. During that day I will be on hand for personal coaching as well. We also have a guest speaker, who’s printed for some of the most celebrated nude photographers in 20th century. He’s been printing nudes over over 25 years, and has worked with such artists as Nan Goldin, Irving Penn, Sally Mann, Herb Ritts and more. He brings a unique perspective in his discussion on photographing the contemporary nude.
Students are often surprised to discover how freeing, and perhaps at the same time a little forbidden, it feels to be out in the grassy mountain landscapes working with nude models.
We ‘re born naked, and perhaps in spite of the inhibitions that are imposed upon us in Western culture, somewhere subconsciously we know that being naked is a natural state of being. Maybe that’s why we continue to be fascinated by the nude in art; even when we find an image distasteful, most of us can’t help but look at it. We all identify with the human body. And through our nakedness there is a common bond. But even in the 21st century there’s still much fear and contempt for the nude in our culture. Because of this, I believe it’s a subject worth continued investigation. I don’t believe we’ve said all there is to say about it, and I’m not sure with the advances in biogenetics and the future of technology we ever really will.
Photography is a powerful form of nonverbal communication. But I think that many students are surprised to realize that even when photographing the world in front of their eyes, it’s the world behind their eyes that is truly communicating their deeper intentions. As artists, we’re all on a quest for a sense of our inner freedom through many forms of communication. The art of photographing the nude is a wonderful and exhilarating place to begin that exploration.
Jay comes to us from a previous teaching position at Brown University. Want to learn more about Jay? Check out our interview below.
Can you describe your own artistic practice – what type of media do you prefer, what themes does your work deal with?
Right now my main focus is on painting and collage. The work has both representational and abstract elements. For me the main goal with these recent pieces is to initiate an idea within the viewer, to have the images ask questions versus posing answers or making statements. It gets tricky because ideally the questions asked are unique to each viewer, as each viewer is indeed unique. I also hope that the images are visually engaging. That they have visual presence when one comes upon them, and, if a viewer feels so moved to sit with a painting or collage for 10-20 minutes, they can actively wind their way in and around throughout the image while subtle nuances and new bits of information reveal themselves.
What advice would you have for beginning art students, or those who are considering making art a part of their lives? Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you started?
Wow, a lot, I actually taught a seminar on this subject at Brown. Yes it is difficult to forge a life where the creative act is part of your weekly if not daily existence, but at the same time if I figured it out, and number of my friends have figured it out, it can’t be rocket science. If you really want to make it happen, you’ll make it happen. I would say, perserverance furthers, always make sure you are enjoying, engaged, or challenged with what you’re doing, if not change your approach. It’s so difficult to find/carve out the time to make things, that you want to be stimulated by what you’re doing. Community has always been a high priority to me, surrounding yourself with like minds, so I would suggest getting to know your art community. Luckily for us Los Angeles has an AMAZING, thriving, international art community. We really are lucky, on a global level there are not many places for art that compare to L.A. right now. Oh and don’t walk into a gallery cold asking them if they’re looking at work. Yes this has worked for some artists I know, but it’s like playing the lottery. Sure you could win, but your odds suck, and the experience is a little embarrassing….for everyone.
What benefits and challenges does working with collage and mixed media present?
One of the main benefits I see is being able to take an image and recontextualize it. Perhaps it’s an advertisement familiar to everyone, but by cutting or manipulating it and placing it in a different context, you can take that preconceived association everyone has of that image and amplify it, subvert it, nullify it, you name it. It’s wonderful. On the flip side, I find one of the greatest challenges is the options available within the broad scope of ‘collage’, it can at times be overwhelming there are so many possibilities.
What do you hope your students accomplish by the end of your class?
In general I hope everyone walks away with a love for the creative process and the physical act of making things. Specific to collage I hope that everyone will have a solid foundation with the mechanics and materials behind making a collage (various forms of cutting and gluing, composition of shapes, basic design/layout ideas, etc..), AND, more importantly how these mechanics and materials behind collage are the vocabulary for this non-verbal form of communication which has great seductive powers.
Was there a moment when you officially began to consider yourself “an artist”?
I can’t think of a specific date. However, I do remember walking through Jonathan Borofsky’s retrospective in Washington, D.C. when I was 18 and thinking, “I might have to do this for the rest of my life.”
(paintings by Jay Stuckey, from top to bottom: Forming a Communist Party, The Apartment But It’s Different, Chinese Map of Paris and Chicago)
I used to get a lot of phone calls asking if we have printmaking classes. At the time, we didn’t, and I would have to dash the hopes of our potential students. The office was desolate, and tumbleweeds rolled by my desk. Then instructor and printmaker extraordinaire Jaime Ursic rode in like John Wayne, there was a swell of music, and now we have Monoprinting.
There are so many great things to say about Jaime, but I picked three:
1. She built the press that she uses in class. With her hands. And a car jack.
2. She has really good handouts.
3. The work that the students produced in her last class was AMAZING. Really, it was fantastic, I am not exaggerating for blog purposes. If you don’t believe me, come to our student show and see some great examples for yourself.
Here is a picture of a happily printing student, and also a shot of the final projects, on display outside the classroom.
After seeing the students’ creations, I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about Jaime’s process and background with printmaking.
How did you get started with printmaking, and what draws you to it?
My first experience was an “Introduction to Intaglio Printmaking” class that was required. I dreaded the class before I started because I didn’t want to waste time with anything outside my painting studio and printmaking sounded like so much busy work. In the end, the dread turned into enthusiasm when I scratched into my first hard-ground plate.
The graphic control of the mark making and the complete submission to dropping it into acid hooked me. I fell in love with the entire process—from preparing the plate to drawing on the ground, then dropping it into the acid, inking and running it through a press. So many ways to change one image! The idea of multiples intrigued me and the world of variations I could create by printing the plate in different ways. It was as if I was an alchemist with no idea of what I was about to discover.
What mediums/materials do you enjoy working with? Is there a particular style that you prefer?
I began to play with monoprints as compositional sketches for paintings, using oil paint cut with clove oil. Soon I realized that what I enjoyed in the monoprints was a freshness and serendipity that I couldn’t achieve in a more labor-intensive painting. The light and color I could create with monoprinting was instantly gratifying along with rhythms and patterns that I could quickly adapt and essentially recreate. Color, shape, translucence, rhythm, and figure-ground relationships– all took on new meaning. And that was before I began experimenting with different papers, plate surfaces and inks.
My style is grounded in traditional observation but I pull from and abstract my visual influences on a daily basis. I was still interested in line and mark-making, but with monoprinting I could draw with anything I found (string, floss, beads, shards, hair, pompoms, jelly bracelets, etc.) Also, I could now push into the paper and even emboss forms to create a composition that was active in all directions, not just across the picture plane, but actually into it.
For students that are new to printmaking, what kinds of assignments do you start them off with in class?
Students experiment with a variety of techniques creating monoprints with a special emphasis on using line, tone and texture. In my monoprinting class, I begin students with technical examinations of the process and we discuss successful formal strategies for composition. Students experiment with the process and use the plate as a drawing surface, practice additive and reductive inking techniques, create collographs, chine collé, etc. Along with in class demonstrations, I cover the historical context of monoprinting, a bit of connoisseurship, and the role it can play in an artist’s studio practice.
What artists or other work in this genre inspires you?
The inspiration in monoprinting for me is its spontaneity, color translucence, and how it’s a hybrid combination of printmaking, painting, and drawing mediums.
Everything I see inspires my work in some way or another.
Whether it is in the mark, touch, tone, inking, or composition, the following artists provide continual inspiration: Rembrandt, Seghers, Castiglione, Blake, Goya, Degas, Cassatt, Gaugin, Prendergast, Morandi, Picasso, Bonnard, Chagall, Miró, Matisse and Kollowitz. Contemporary artists I look to for inspiration are: Maurico Lasansky, Terry Winters, Kiki Smith, Peter Milton, Donald Sultan, Jim Dine, and Chuck Close.
The work below is by Jaime – to see more examples, visit her excellent website, jaimeursic.com.