Boots on the Ground for Peace

The assignment was to create an illustration that promotes peace. “What is the iconography of war and peace? Prof. Anthony Freda asked his students “How can the icons be juxtaposed to convey an original anti-war message? How can peace be branded in a way that is effective and beautiful?”

The work was to align with the efforts of IH8War, an online gallery of protest art.  His freshmen, Principals of Illustration II students, “more than met the challenge. They created visually and conceptually sophisticated work,” says Freda. Here are eight of the illustrations with the professor’s comments.


Above, “Marissa Mahabir’s elegant brush work and line define a dynamic composition and powerful, symbolic portrayal of the war on peace,” says Prof. Freda.

Jessica Garcia “designed a striking and stark anti-war visual. Her image (below, of a boot crushing a civilian) is cleverly informed by classic 20th century poster graphics.”

student work 2
By Jessica Garcia

“The goal of the assignment,” says Freda “was to use the same branding techniques favored by propagandists to promote war and turn them on their head to sell peace.”

Turning iconography “on it’s head” is what Illustration Department Chair Ed Soyka says is at work in many of the most visually compelling images.  “The artist presents visual elements you know and puts them into a context you wouldn’t expect. It creates impact and suspense. ”

Aaron Medina
By Aaron Medina

Aaron Medina’s piece, above, says Freda, “uses dark humor and a playful visual juxtaposition (of a flame thrower emitting doves) to effectively depict the absurdity of war.”

Charles Hively, publisher of 3×3 Magazine, together with Sarah Munt, founded IH8War.  “We look for interesting approaches that first tell a story. Second (is to) compel the viewer to stop and pay attention, so he or she will hopefully embrace the idea that war goes against everything a civilized world wants, or needs.”

J Wagner
By Joseph Wagner

“The students were to create an illustration that promotes peace,” says Freda. “The goal was to make a work of anti-war art that is both compelling and meaningful.”

Joseph Wagner’s parody above of Porky Pig’s sign-off  “is a pop culture standard that gives the famous tag line an apocalyptic context.”

student work
By Ariana Zhang

Says Soyka “Prof. Freda’s students are learning ‘purposeful image making.’ It’s about using the principals of visual communication to create images that are memorable but believable as a reality.”

Ariane Zhang’s work above, “gives us a fresh look at iconic Japanese motifs,” says Freda. “A red, rising sun makes a bold backdrop to comment on the country’s war-torn history.”

student work
By Danielle Mercado

“Danielle Mercado’s original and expertly rendered image,” (above) says Freda “illustrates the overlooked plight of the animal victims of war’s insanity and destruction.”

Below “Meghan Pin Yuan Huang’s hauntingly beautiful drawing reminds us of the fragility of life and the human cost of war.”

student work
By Meghan Pin Yuan Huang

“The priority,” says Soyka” isn’t just to do an elegant drawing or rendering for its own sake, but to use these abilities to express ideas and information.

“And they’re learning from Freda, one of the country’s most outstanding conceptional illustrators, known for his powerful ability to express information and depict social issues.” They will apply this learning to ever “more advanced creative developments and professional assignments,” says Soyka.

Zhoudi Ye
By Zhoudi Ye

“Zhoudi Ye’s illustration merges icons of war and peace,” says Freda. “It’s a sophisticated and compelling advertisement for peace.”


Images used with permission

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Kristin Gates captures the cold truth about Polar Bears

For over a month in late winter on the Coney Island Boardwalk, Kristin Gates met with her Projects in Advanced Style and Media class for Sunday breakfast at Tom’s coffee shop and then went out shooting.  They were there to photograph members of the storied Coney Island Polar Bear Club.

“The ‘Bears’ come from all of the five boroughs,” says Gates. “Swimming is their version of church. They love to run into the freezing cold harbor waters in weather that would be unbearable to most of us.” Gates captured them in devout contemplation.

Photo: Kristin Gates

“After breakfast we would go to the Polar Bear clubhouse near the Cyclone,” said class Professor Curtis Willocks. “We mingled, interviewed the ‘Bears’ and made our way down to the beach and into the water.”

Says Gates “One woman I spoke to about becoming a Polar Bear told me it helped her overcome addiction and the loss of her father.”

Photography Professor Brad Farwell praised Gates’ work.

“The quiet intensity of Kristin’s photographs is a reflection of the Polar Bears themselves, said Farwell

“The act of plunging into the frigid water requires mental rather than physical strength, and these portraits convey that beautifully.” 

Photo: Kristin Gates
Photo: Kristin Gates

“They seemed to pray to the sun gods to overcome their personal demons,” says Gates.

“This wall (above) is where everyone goes after their swim,” says Prof. Willocks. “It faces the sun in the morning and at the end of the swim the club gathers there.  None  of Kirstin’s images are staged; she was just there at the right time.”

Photo: Kristin Gates
Photo: Kristin Gates

Another swimmer told Gates that the cold water helps his body by decreasing inflammation.

“For all the various reasons they come, they swim with friends and family, enjoying every moment wading into the cold harbor,” says Gates.

“After you leave the ocean,” says Prof. Willocks, “the members pause for a moment and take in the warmth of the sun, sometimes it reminds me of meditation.”

Photo: Kristin Gates
Photo: Kristin Gates

“I swam once myself and within seconds I couldn’t feel my feet or legs. But afterwards, my body and mind felt deeply relaxed,” said Gates.

When Gates graduates from FIT  she hopes to become an environmental portrait photographer. “I find beauty in capturing people in their environment.”

Kristin Gates with Coney Island Polar Bears

Kristin Composit-sr2

Black and white photos: Prof. Curtis Willocks

All photos used with permission


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On Campus Fashion Caught by CJ Colligan

“Here I was, a new student at a prestigious art school, reluctant to take my first photo. I had this idea that a photographer should only take pictures of things that are grand or important.” 

Photo: CJ Colligan: "Hepburn-esk"
Photo: CJ Colligan

CJ Colligan has forged a picture-taking style of her own. One that comes from the developing eye of a fourth semester Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VEPD) student. Politely she zooms in on the fashion evident on campus. Her work is hyper-local but with her large following on social media, her photos reach far beyond 27 Street.

Photo: CJ Colligan
Photo: CJ Colligan

“The first time on campus the visual impact–the blending of styles and the colorfulness of expression–well, I just wanted to capture it,” says Colligan. “It’s a form of presentation that we emulate in VPED. In exhibition you have to design, to visually show something or present information in a particular way.”

Photo: CJ Colligan
Photo: CJ Colligan

Colligan, who holds a BA in English from SUNY Binghamton, says she was hesitant about picture-taking until her required Intro to Photography class with Professor Curtis Willocks.

“Here I was, a student at a prestigious design school, and I was reluctant to take my first photo. I had this idea that a photographer should only take pictures of things that are grand or important. It seemed at first that nothing around was important enough to capture in a photo,” she said.

Photo: CJ Colligan

“Professor Willocks would say ‘Stop. Focus. And take the picture.’ It seems like simple advice. I took it and ran with it. Often the right photo is the view in front of you.”

Around this time Colligan became interested in the work of Brandon Stanton, known for founding Humans of New York, which combines short bio segments with photos of seemingly ordinary New Yorkers.

“His view of all people being important, no matter who they are, inspired me to change my views of photography,” says Colligan.

“I’ve found it best to be polite and ask for permission to take someone’s picture. People are generally flattered. Sometimes people think that they aren’t important enough to have their picture taken.”

Photo:  CJ Colligan

“I’ve found that at FIT, mostly everyone has something interesting to say about his or her style. For instance, I’ve found  many students interested in the sustainability of fashion. They aren’t just into prestigious labels, but new designers and all kinds of personal customization.”

Photo: CJ Colligan

Colligan keeps her subjects anonymous. “It allows me to focus on their fashion and generally allows them to feel more comfortable. It can be difficult to approach strangers, even fellow students no matter how they look,” says Colligan.

Photo:  CJ Colligan

“I want to capture the range of styles on campus. FIT is not only a fashion school, but a school for critical thinkers,” says Colligan

To follow CJ Colligan’s work on her blog:
Instagram: @FITNYC_Fashion
Behance: CJ Colligan

Photos used with permission


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Eight FIT students, a record in Society of Illustrators’ competition

Babies of wire confetti, a crowned rabbit, little girls watering topiary, a vet mechanic, and skeletal love, are among the themes of the eight FIT student illustrations selected by the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition. The field was narrowed from 8,700 entries. According to the Society, the judges made their choices based on “quality of technique, concept and skill of medium.”

“The work was enormously diverse–pen and ink, egg tempera, oil, gouache, digital, traditional. And what great individuality of themes with strong fundamentals!” said Illustration Assistant Chair Kam Mak who has organized the competition for 16 years.

Our Illustration professors offer their comments on the work:

Naya-Cheyenne Diaz-detail
Detail from Naya-Cheyenne Diaz’s “Babyshambles”

Title: Babyshambles!
Artist: Naya Cheyenne Diaz
Medium: Acrylic, Gouache and Digital
Instructor: John Nickle

“Babyshambles!” is from Naya’s series of Surreal album cover illustrations inspired by a literal interpretation of the band’s name, says Professor Nickle. “Naya first painted in acrylic and gouache then scanned the painting and completed the illustration digitally.”

Detail from Alejandro Bonilla's "Black Man's World"
Detail from Alejandro Bonilla’s “A Black Man’s World”

Title: A Black Man’s World
Artist: Alejandro Bonilla Jr.
Medium: Pen and Ink/water color on board
Instructor: Richard Elmer

“Alejandro Bonilla is a creative, young gentleman who has an artistic sensibility balanced with curiosity,” says Professor Richard Elmer who had Bonilla in his Mentor class. “He had a pretty good idea of the direction he wanted to explore, conveying conflict as he himself experienced it through contrasting color and medium. I am very glad his work was recognized.”

To see some of Alejandro’s Vines go to: Alejandro Bonilla Jr.

Detail from Jennifer-Lynn Vasquez's
Detail from Jennifer-Lynn Vasquez’s

Title: Year of the Rabbit
Artist: Jennifer Vasquez
Medium: Oil Painting
Instructor: John Nickle

“’Year of the Rabbit’ was part of Jenifer’s series of Chinese New Year images,” says Professor Nickle. “In this piece, Jennifer balances humor and tradition. She used a classic painting method with a lot of finely rendered detail, and decoration.”

Detail of Jennifer Talkachov's
Detail of Jennifer Talkachov’s “Topiary Pattern”

Title: Topiary Pattern
Artist: Jennifer Talkachov
Medium: Digital
Instructor: Daniel Shefelman

Jennifer has a delicate traditional pen and ink style and is interested in creating patterns,” says Professor Shefelman. “For this assignment she chose to work in pen and ink, then scan into the computer to change and add color. It’s worth a zoom in on her images to see the meticulous detail lovingly drawn on the topiaries.”

Detail of Nicolette Pasumbal's
Detail of Nicolette Pasumbal’s “Vet Mechanic”

Title: Vet Mechanic
Artist: Nicolette Pasumbal
Medium: Digital
Instructor: John Nickle

“‘Vet Mechanic’ is part of Nicolette’s series of curiously offbeat, imagined characters in their environments,” says Professor Nickle. “She first rendered ‘Vet Mechanic’ using an additive and subtractive method with ink on scratchboard. She then finished the piece by digitally adding colors and textures.”

To see more Nicolette’s “Greed” from Pandora’s Box go to: Misery loves company in the Pomerantz Center

Detail of Daniel Scanno's "Falling"
Detail of Daniel Scanno’s “Falling”

Title: Falling
Artist: Daniel Scanno
Medium: Pencil, Photoshop
Instructor: Stephen Gardener

“I have to give all the credit to Danny on this one,” said Prof. Gardener. “We discussed the project and I gave a little direction and told Danny to look at the recent paintings by Greg Manchess who was working with a similar theme. Danny came to class with the project fully worked out; I could only be impressed.”

Detail of Meagan Meli's "Sisters"
Detail of Meagan Meli’s “Sisters”

Title: Sisters
Artist: Meagan Meli
Medium: Egg tempera
Instructor: Eric Velasquez

Meagan Meli was in my Book Illustration class last year. She has a keen interest in medical illustration specifically medical oddities. She wrote the text and illustrated the images with beautifully rendered drawings for her book project ‘Atlas Obscura: Medical Oddities.’ In Book Illustration II she painted 11 of the interiors including ‘Sisters’ (above). The interior illustrations are meticulously painted using egg tempera. I feel very fortunate to have had such a talented and ambitious student like Meagan. Her dedication set the tone for the rest of the class.”

Read more about Meagan Meli’s work here: In Meagan Meli’s portfolio: A Forest Princess, Cyclops & Valentine

Detail of Eduardo Cuba's
Detail of Eduardo Cuba’s

Title: Waiting for the 1
Artist: Eduardo Cuba
Medium: Photoshop
Instructor: John Nickles

“Waiting For the One” was done for the Aliens Underground show that was in the Pomerantz Center lobby here at FIT.  “Eduardo plays on a double entendre meaning of the word ”aliens” as he depicts space aliens waiting for the 1 train at the 28th St. subway station,” says Professor Nickles. “Eduardo manages to capture the urban grit and grime of the subway.”

FIT student illustrations will be on display in the Society’s museum from May 10, 2016-June 04, 2016. For information about the opening repetition on May 13, go to: Society of Illustrators 2016 Student Scholarship Competition reception

For more information on our Illustration major go to: BFA Illustration

Art work used with permission

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If Lincoln’s assassination were only a cartoon…

Freshman Illustration major Jake Morse received accolades for a thought-provoking take on what happened at Ford’s Theatre. It was an assignment he worked on over President’s Day.

“I did this piece for my Principles of Illustration class taught by Professor Anthony Freda. The assignment was to combine either a cartoon or video game character with a real life figure. I changed a few characters. (Cont. below)

Rick and Morty historical fan art by Jake Morse

“For the composition, I combined the characters Rick and Morty from the TV show (of the same name) with Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. I referenced an early print depicting the assassination and inserted the cartoon characters in place of historical figures. I used Copic markers for most of the color with a little bit of watercolor for the background. The piece actually got a little attention when I posted it on Twitter. Justin Roiland, the co-creator of “Rick and Morty” (and the voices of both Rick and Morty), retweeted it so it got quite a few likes and retweets, which was pretty cool. I had a really fun time doing this piece.”

Says Professor Freda, “Jake’s piece is a clever and humorous solution. By introducing cartoon characters into this historic setting, he has created an effective parody of a vintage illustration.”

For fans of “Rick and Morty” here’s more: The lower left figure is a of character who gets shot in one of the episodes. The guy with the blue jacket, Jerry (upper left), is portrayed as a useless charter in the TV show, which he appears to be here as well.  Says Jake: “The assignment was to use irony. So I thought it would be funny, in a dark kind of way, to show a character (who in the TV show gets shot) as a witness to the Lincoln assassination.”

Follow Jake’s work on Twitter @MorseJ137


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An open invitation to Faces & Places in Fashion Spring 2016

Fashion, accessories, interior design, business and film students and enthusiasts–Get out your date books! The Faces & Places in Fashion lecture series is all the straight talk, practical advice, forecasting (with some dish on the side) that you could want from formidable industry innovators. “From design and business to digital media and editorial, there’s such a diversity of speakers—something for everyone and every major” says Sass Brown, Acting Associate Dean of Art and Design. The lectures are free and open to the public.FPIF_Spring16“Each semester I have the opportunity to bring individuals to FIT who are making conversation in the fashion industry.  Students often get very focused on their area of interest or expertise. This is an opportunity to see the bigger picture, to consider issues related to retailing, supply chain, social media, sustainability and so much more,” says Faces & Places Prof. Joshua Williams.

For more information and speaker bios, and to check for changes or cancellations go to: Faces & Places in Fashion Facebook 

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Professor Ellenbogen’s MIT Stay Wows the Boston Globe!

Science and art have more in common than most people think. A great example of this is the collaboration of FIT photography professor Keith Ellenbogen with MIT physicist Allan Adams. The Boston Globe has taken notice with a story about this innovative partnership.

We know there is beauty almost everywhere. Ellenbogen turns to the depths of the ocean, while Adams measures the dimensions of black holes. Their work shows that there are a lot of collaborations waiting to happen. What it requires is a few pioneers like Ellenbogen to bridge the gap, to make some of MIT’s relevant work known to FIT, and likewise, our campus’s work known to MIT.

Screenshot from The Boston Globe

Ellenbogen is a visiting artist at MIT’s Center for Art, Science, and Technology. Along with MIT’s Edgerton Center Associate Director Jim Bales and theoretical physicist Allan Adams, Ellenbogen is exploring new high-speed photography and underwater imaging techniques.

Almost every photographer on the planet owes a huge debt to Harold “Doc” Edgerton. The electronic strobe is just one of his many inventions and contributions to photography. For example his iconic high-speed photographs of crown-like splattering milk drops, and of bullets piercing balloons and cutting playing cards in two, are legendary.

“When you put people together and you can create a place that allows ideas to really grow, it’s the most wonderful thing,” said Ellenborgen in an MIT News article.

Screenshot from MIT News

“As a photographer I can create a level of compassion and engagement in my images that is further supported by science and conservation efforts,” he says.

As technology enriches ever more of the design world, opportunities for collaboration like those between FIT and MIT can only increase.

 To see and read more about Ellenbogen’s riveting high-speed images of a lionfish, blacknose shark and a ballonfish go to:  “Ellenbogen films what the eye can’t see”

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A bewitching holiday party!

It’s not a President’s holiday party without some alluring bewitchment from the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design department. The scene’s creators, professors Anne Kong, Mary Costantini and Glenn Sokoli are seen here getting the cold shoulder from their well packaged ice queen mannequin.  Inside, President Brown gave staff and faculty a very warm reception with many tasty treats from sweet to savory!

MARY COSTANTINI Anne Kong, Glenn Sikolki
Mary Costantini, Anne Kong and Glenn Sokoli with their ice queen!

Wishing you a great year ahead! Thank you President Joyce Brown!

Holiday party 2015
Holiday party 2015

Check out previous coverage of the President’s Holiday Party

photos: Rachel Ellner

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2D to 3D — It’s more than adding a dimension

At one time they were sculpted with chisel on marble. In Prof. Sue Willis’ 3D Design Fine Arts class, the recreation of ancient Greek reliefs are made with foam core, masking tape, glue guns and X-Acto knives.

“The challenge is to recreate the reliefs in foam core,” says Prof. Willis. “Natural variations occur as students strive to build organic form from flat geometric shapes.”

Yuyong Park

The assignment is meant to familiarize students with the fundamentals of 3D design: planar relationships, composition, light, shadow, line and texture.

Students work from 2D prints of ancient reliefs. “They cut and score foam-core, and practice techniques for creating volume and shape…and for discerning the volumes and axes of planes in relation to the whole,” explains Prof. Willis.

Yuyong detail
Yuyong Park

In the process the relief takes the 2D image part of the way into a 3D reality and then fleshes it out with complete sculpture in the round.  In doing so, the students interpret the original 2D print, adding volume, physical texture, and real shadow to create a sculpture.

Yuyong Park’s piece (above), says Prof. Willis “honors her aesthetic choice to simplify surface texture and intensify light.”

Taehyeon “Timothy” An
Tim at computer
Taehyeon “Timothy” An

Timothy’s sensitive, elaborate, planar construction (above) plays off light against shadow.

Tiffany Franklin

Tifany’s dynamic composition also functions abstractly, says Prof. Willis.  It is a great example of how students can move toward abstraction, even when starting  with literal Greek sculpture.

Tiffany detail
Tiffany Franklin

Kassandra Papa’s project (below) “rhythmically pierces space.”

Kassandra Papa

Patricia Downs (below) shows “astute attention to detail, planar axes and texture,” says Willis.

Patricia Downs
Patricia Downs

Patricia added graphite to emphasize tonal variation, and thus the three dimentionality of the work.


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A Holiday Road Trip to Help Beat Cancer

The big draws of the Holiday Road Trip pop-up shop in the Pomperantz Center lobby are the designer and vintage finds. Chanel, Shoshanna, Manolo Blahnik, Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch can all be found there.

But one can’t overlook the stylishly themed design of the shop itself, built by by Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design students.  A brief ceremony Monday recognized the weeks of design and production that went into the joint School of Art and Design-Memorial Sloan-Kettering venture. The ceremony was attended by students, professors, FIT President Joyce Brown, Dean Joanne Arbuckle, VPED Chair Craig Berger and MSKCC volunteers.

Holiday Road Show pop up shop in Pomerantz Center lobby
Holiday Road Trip pop up shop in Pomerantz Center lobby

“It’s really about the abilities of our students to create a lively, professional retail environment,” says Joanne Arbuckle, Dean of the School of Art and Design. “It’s fun, exciting and obviously successful in the corner of a very public space. And it’s all for a good cause.”

Dean Joanne Arbuckle with students and MSKCC affiliates holding scissors

“The take-away is so rich, when you consider how much design happens on the computer today,” said VPED Prof. Anne Kong.

Dr. Joyce Brown cutting the “ribbon” with help from students

“To take it to a space and have it realized three dimensionally, and then watch consumers shop, is an experience you can’t find anywhere else,” says Prof. Kong. “We really offer something very special.”

Professors Mary and Anne Kong
Professors Mary Costantini and Anne Kong with Dr. Joyce Brown

May the shopping continue…until Friday at 3 pm.


For complete pop-up shop hours and more info go to: Holiday Road Trip at FIT

Photos: Rachel Ellner

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