What happens when poetry, artistic talent and biographical angst meet in Prof. John Nickle’s fifth semester Illustration class? One example is Rebekie Bennington’s mind explosive self-portrait, suggestive of the “agony of sensual chisels,” “lilac shrieks” and the “scarlet bellowings” of E.E. Cummings’ poem “My mind is.” The poem ” says Bennington, “makes references to color andexplores how art can be used as a vehicle for self-discovery, something I very much relate to.”
For Nickle’s Materials and Techniques class assignment, students were to apply classical painting techniques to a contemporary treatment of a portrait using acrylic paint.
“I like the raw energy and rough texture of Rebekie’s mixed media self-portrait,” says Nickle. “It gets at the heart of the E.E. Cumming’s poem. Rebekie is an accomplished cartoonist and usually works in a very different, elegant but more detached style. This shows that she has artistic range.”
Bennington had previously been crafting what she calls “tight, reference-based paintings,” such at “Death Bath,” also a vibrantly colored acrylic. It’s message is very direct. “It is an exploration,” says Bennington, “into the dangerous self indulgence of drug addiction.”
Her self-portrait was a return to mixed media. “I began by gluing down torn paper and then attacking the canvas with acrylic paints and colored pencils. I found old sketches to incorporate into the piece,” she says.
my mind is a big hunk of irrevocable nothing which touch and taste and smell and hearing and sight keep hitting and chipping with sharp fatal tools in an agony of sensual chisels i perform squirms of chrome and execute strides of cobalt nevertheless i feel that i cleverly am being altered that i slightly am becoming something a little different, in fact myself Hereupon helpless i utter lilac shrieks and scarlet bellowings.
—E. E. Cummings, from “Portraits, VII,” in “E. E. Cummings: The Complete Poems”
If anyone could design a couture Easter egg, it’s New Orleans born Maggie Norris. Maggie’s Rosebud Corset Egg (giant, bejeweled, and red velvet covered), is inspired by Peter Carl Fabergé’s Imperial Rosebud Egg. There’s no downside as suffered by Fabergé’s last royal customer, Tsar Nicholas II. Maggie’s egg will in fact, benefit two charities.
Watch here the hatching of Maggie’s egg. The event is a component of Fabergé’s Big Egg Hunt.
Maggie, who served as a guest judge for last year’s senior fashion show, was an inspired choice for the Fabergé event. A couture designer as well as an event coordinator, she has given her egg design classy treatment, and along the way garnered publicity for the charities, Studio in a School and The Elephant Family.
Maggie Norris (above) giving a sweet kiss to her freshly hatched egg. Her work, egg #040, is doing well. So far, bids for it have reached $500.
Mashable.com’s weekly Vine Challenge produces a frenzy of infectious animation snippets on topics like creepy fantasy creatures, Jack-O-Lanterns, playing with food, and talking cars. The more sophomoric the topic, often the more sophisticated the response in the form of six-second animated, blooper style shorts. Illustration students easily met the time limit to demonstrate: how a burger eats itself, the crush of a dinosaur, and a monster’s phobia of butterflies–a condition called lepidopterophobia.
“Crushed” by Ella Fastiggi
On April 2, Mashable.com’s creative producer Jeff Petriello and company animators visited Prof. Dan Shefelman’s Illustrator Mentor Special Projects class to discuss Vine initiatives and work with students.
“Burger Monster” by Lauren French
“Vine is a smartphone video app. It’s used as a short-form animation tool,” says Shefelman. Vines (6-second videos) at their best can be particularly intriguing to illustration junkies and their geeky followers.
“Mashable is interested in student illustrators making Vines,” says Shefelman. “The bigger picture is that Vines are so user- engaging that including them increases the engagement among their own followers. Petriello is an early adopter of all social media because it engages Mashable users.”
“Vines are compared to Tweets. Nobody thought at first that messages limited to 140 characters would be useful, nor does everyone think six second videos are useful. At their best however, they are engaging indeed, and FIT students nailed it,” says Steve Ross, editor of Broadband Communities magazine. His publication serves the industry that makes the bandwidth for this stuff possible.
The Snapchat app allows you to draw pictures on your cellphone or tablet (see above) and share the results with friends. To experience more, download Vine on your smartphone and search for #creaturecrawl.
“A Horror Story” by Grace Batista
But not all apps are for everyone. “There’s nothing I could video for six seconds that anyone would want to see,” says fabric design student Ashley Ray. “Who wants to see you and your friends running through the streets screaming?” But someday fabric designs may be animated with six second videos while people wear them.
But the trend is going strong. Out of weekly Vine challenges come Vine celebrities and the promise of a big payday. “The students were happy to hear that animators are being paid five figures to make Vines,” says Shefelman.
It’s so well executed: the bright-eyed sideward gaze and razor thin eyebrows. Teal-colored nails the right degree garish. A hidden expression behind a fantasy novel and an overall noir feel. “It was a process of learning when to stop, so as not to overdo certain details,” says Hiu Lim of her “Portrait of Christine,” created in Prof. John Nickle’s fifth semester illustration class.
Part of Lim’s process was to create a grisaille, a painting executed almost entirely in monochrome. “It was very helpful in establishing the values and the overall warmth of the piece,” she says. “The undertone helped bring a brightness to some parts of the skin and clothes.”
“Portrait of Christine” is on display on the third floor of the Pomerantz building. “I first saw Hiu’s work in the second semester and I am quite impressed by her growth as a painter,” says Prof. Nickle. “In just the fifth semester she is painting at a very high skill level.”
Says Lim “The painting was really a great learning experience.”
Holding a teddy bear hostage while flaunting an arcade machine gun and goggles may be a geek’s mojo. It’s also a characterization of video game-obsessive Hyoung, a close friend of student illustrator Giancarlo Alicea. “Hyoung has a vivid imagination and a wry wit. He’s a happy guy who is also serious and driven,” says Alicea who sought classical means to capture his friend’s duality.
“Hyoung Uncommon” was a product of “classical portraits re-imagined,” Prof. John Nickle’s assignment for a fifth semester illustration class. Students applied classical painting techniques and a “contemporary spin,” to an acrylic painting. It struck Alicea as an opportunity “to make a post-apocalyptic video game character seem magnanimous.”
Alicea chose a pharaonic pose and an undefined background, so that the focus would remain on his subject — a trick of the old masters. “The lack of extraneous detail helped focus the piece.”
Says Prof. Nickle, “The portrait of Hyoung is both sensitive and comical.”
Alicea completed an early drawing, “mapping the value relationships and figuring out composition.” He then worked on an “in-progress monotone painting,” a technique “of painting in values first in order to glaze in colors on top. It helps give the final painting good luminosity.”
“I love seeing the sketch with the finish to reveal some of his process,” says Prof. Nickle. “Giancarlo made constant revisions to the finished painting, which continued even after the semester ended.”
From the earliest concepts to the actual painting, says Alicea, “Prof. Nickle was a source of wisdom and support. Without his help I wouldn’t have had ‘Hyoung Uncommon’ in my portfolio.”
In January 2014 Trupal Pandya and Alexander Papakonstadinou, 4th semester photography students, traveled to Ethiopia to document the vanishing tribes of the Omo Valley. The tribes’ way of life is already stressed by hunting restrictions (tourists can hunt game, tribal members cannot). Soon a new dam will flood the valley as well.
“I was working with Magnum photographer Steve McCurry, who does a lot of trips to Omo Valley,” says Trupal. “He had just come back from Ethiopia. I was looking through his pictures and found them inspiring. That’s when I decided to document the tribes in my own style. I wanted to bring studio lighting to the remote areas of the Omo Valley to create modern-style portraits.
“We found that the way the tribes dressed, and their lifestyle, is still traditional. Visually the tribe members were very beautiful to us. We wanted to document that before it vanished. It is already under stress from globalization and development. Dress is changing, customs dying.”
“Every time the strobe went off the people thought that it was draining their blood and made them uncomfortable, so it was a difficult thing to do,” says Trupal.
Alexander shot in a completely different style, black and white 35 mm film. “My way of shooting was more documentary. What’s happening in their everyday life, capturing their expressions without them knowing, focusing on details, finding patterns. It helped me realize how uncluttered their life is. There’s no materialistic pleasure. It’s peaceful.”
Trupal and Alexander spent 10 days travelling within the valley and had the chance to reside with some of the tribes, which brought them closer to the culture.
“We were really lucky to find the right fixer who gave us access to these tribes,” Trupal says. “We took huge sacks of coffee or corn whenever we went to a tribe so they would let us stay. Sometimes it was money, sometimes clothes, sometimes food. It was always a bartered thing.”
They visited the Benna, Mursi, Hamar, Arbore, and Ari tribes. “Our tents were right next to their huts,” says Alexander. “We ate the same food. We exchanged food. We gave them canned food in exchange for their local chicken and lamb. They didn’t like the canned food of course.”
“We had a lot of mentoring,” said Trupal. “Our professors really inspired us to do something out of the ordinary.” Alexander and Trupal credit Ron Amato, Jessica Wynne, Brad Paris, Max Hilaire, Brian Emery “and all other faculty who played a role.”
The students showed tribal members some of the photographs they took; for some it was the first time they were seeing themselves in a digital form. They are planning to go back to the Omo Valley with the prints with a touring exhibit in their villages. “I’m planning on doing this with tribes of India as well” says Trupal, who grew up in Gujarat.
From now to the 4th of April some 40 of their photographs are in exhibit at the Marvin Feldman Center, Fashion Institute of Technology (C Lobby). There is a sense of regality to them. And that beauty in its natural form is what they want to show the world.
Trupal and Alex will be there to talk about their photos on the 25th of March from 6 pm onward.
Opening: Trupal Pandya & Alexander Papakonstadinou “Vanishing Tribes of the Omo Valley” photos in FIT C lobby, March 21 – April 4
No one knows what a couple might be thinking in a classical painting. But we sure know what their artful counterparts are thinking in Lynn Albrink and Laura Arnold’s modern replicas for their Match.com ad campaign. It’s something like “I really like this girl. How do I get her to the altar?” Or, “He’s hot. I’m so lucky I could pinch myself.”
“It’s about finding your perfect match to show that dating and even the experience of finding ‘the one’ can be fun,” says graphic design student Lynn Albrink.
The project grew from a Fine Art’s-related assignment: go to a museum, find an artwork you like, and create an ad.
When Albrink and Arnold saw René Magritte’s surrealist painting of raining men, they had an idea. It could be reworked to represent a single woman watching men pour out of the sky. Such easy picking! And a perfect metaphor for an abundance of eligible men one might hope to find on match.com
Albrink and Arnold continued with their match.com theme for the next assignment in Professor Frank Csoka’s Foundation in Advertising Design class. “We used the same idea to create an entire campaign for match.com,” says Advertising Design student Arnold.
They weren’t the only ones enjoying themselves. “It was an amazing and interesting experience working with Lynn and Laura on the ‘Girl on the Swing’ ad,” says Annie Yang who modeled for the ad. “It’s funny when I picture how I had to sit on a cooler while holding one chopstick in each hand. They even threaded a string through my black dress and pulled it back to give it the effect of movement.”
Professor Csoka oversaw the ad campaign with great enthusiasm.”There are so many works of art with couples, the thought was that this campaign could go on forever.”
The complete project, with photos and details of how the project was completed, is in the 5th floor hallway between the D and E buildings.
Albrink and Arnold from Rheine, Germany and Innsbruck, Austria respectively, met in class last semester. They are currently working on another project together and talking about starting a business after a few years of industry experience.
To see photos of the progression of the match.com campaign and other works they created together go to: lala design on Behance
Arriving at the topsy-turvy carnival spin and colors for her “Solar Spin” photograph is part of a process Prof. Vanessa Velez DeGarcia has tested for years. “The technique is called digital solarization and I do it in Adobe Lightroom,” says the photography professor whose work was in the “New Views” Art & Design faculty exhibit.
“Solar Spin” by Vanessa Velez DeGarcia
Solarization was popularized by surrealist photographer Man Ray. According to Practical Photoshop Magazine, Ray’s “darkroom assistant Lee Miller accidentally turned the light on while a print was in the developer. The quirky results saw a partial reversal of the tones in the image.”
Professor V, as her students call her, now applies solarization digitally. What’s better, it’s incorporated into her Digital Darkroom course, offered in the Photography Certificate program. “I usually teach it when we begin to explore the tonal curves panel in the software,” she says.
Velez DeGarcia is a native New Yorker. “Solar Spin,” taken at Coney Island’s Luna Park, is part of a series.
“Yes, I was born in New York City. My mom and I lived in Washington Heights until I was nine years old. After graduating college I moved back and now live in Brooklyn. I love New York City. I just wish my parents were here too.”
Professor V has also taught Photography Basics and Saturday portrait photography and Photoshop courses. To see her portrait photography go to: VeesVision.com