The campus gets chalked

Illustration students went loud, bold and beautiful on the FIT campus today. Students from the senior illustration workshop recreated their classwork in chalk images on the concrete canvas of FIT itself. “The art is beautiful. I am so proud of this extension of the classroom,” says Joanne Arbuckle, Dean of the School of Art and Design, who was out viewing the work.

Carlos Bolanos illustration. Right-Corlette Douglas drawing

 A large-toothed bird morphing into a fish shares space with a dreamy-eyed boy beset with beaked creatures of his own.

Left-Grace Batista work. Right-Jenny Kim working

“There is tremendous interest from the public. You can’t get through 7th Avenue. It’s so crowded with people stopping and speaking to the artists,” said Dean Arbuckle.

Brian O’Neill working.  Brittany Falussy’s piece on the right

Prof. Dan Shefelman pondered how to amass images and video of the project that began flooding the internet. “The project is blowing up the blogosphere and I have no idea how to aggregate it all,” said Shefelman standing admid photographers and videographers filming student work.

l. to r. – works of Victoria Lane, Lachelle Lewis, James Deangelis ’13 (Illustration Dept grad & creator of original Chalk FIT logo), Hani Shihada, professional chalk artist.

Dispelled were notions that illustration belongs only in comic books and books for children.

Hannah Chusid and her creation

Hannah Chusid adds extra sizzle to her creation.

Photos by: Randi Butler

Posted in student work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amazon Fashion comes to Williamsburg

Keeping to its philosophy of following the talent, this time clear across the country, has landed on Kent St. in Williamsburg in a big way.  No sooner had Amazon Fashion opened its 40,000-foot studio, then there was a call for local talent. Studio Sessions Challenge held on October 19, involved students from four New York City design schools. Their task was to create “campaign-worthy” editorial images showcasing the online behemoth’s fall fashion picks. FIT students from fabric styling, communication and photography all lent their talent.

pre-Challenge calm

In one frantic 9 to 5 content day, school teams for menswear and womenswear selected clothes and accessories,  dressed,  styled,  and posed models for photography and design layouts.

A blur of talent 

“They had to come up with a concept and idea, and come up with a single vision,” says assistant dean  of Art & Design Sass Brown whose enthusiasm ran high for FIT participants and the for the challenge itself.

Teams were judged by a range of high-profile judges on criteria that included art direction, set design and consistency with Amazon fashion branding.

Men’s school teams presenting editorial concepts

“It felt like a pretty natural evolution for us as we build our fashion business, to anchor it to key outposts where we have access to top talent,” Cathy Beaudoin, president of Amazon Fashion told Women’s Wear Daily.

Men’s school teams presenting editorial concepts

“The value of participating in an opportunity like this goes beyond the monetary prize,” says photography adviser to the contest Ron Amato, who chairs FIT’s photography department. “It’s really about the experience of engagement.”

The site also “intends to create hundreds of jobs for local talent, from photographers, stylists and models to hair and makeup artists,” said Beaudoin.

The grill

The Williamsburg studio location is one of six for and the first in New York state. Although the FIT students didn’t take home a prize, there’s talk of an annual challenge and opportunities for local talent.

Photos courtesy of

Posted in student competition | Leave a comment

The Media Design Club in motion

So the organizers of World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship decide they want their awards ceremony preview to be media experimentation. You’re Prof. C.J. Yeh, and you say “of course” because every design challenge to this guy is “of course.”

Prelude to the World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship

The event, to be held at the Museum of the Moving Image, was ideal for motion graphics. Yeh hailed students from the Media Design Club to create an immersive environment. It meant setting up five large-scale projectors in a space where nothing can be put on walls or ceiling. They devised a tripod system consisting of “a laser tripod that can be raised nine feet high,” says Yeh. “We combined that with the boom stick for the microphone stand and hung the projector on top of that. Did I mention we had four hours?”

For the prelude, old horror flicks are shown juxtaposed with student videos, ones that pose challenges and “a call-to-action,” says Yeh. Let’s watch:

“Last Drop,” by Alexis Gallo was completed in broadcast design CD441, a course for graphic design and advertising design juniors.

“I liked that texture is being used in ‘Last Drop.’ These days given the popularity of digital tools design, projects easily become ‘too perfect’ using a lot of the digital color and shapes. In this piece Alexis hand-cut shapes, then scanned them in to get the tactile feel that is perfect for the topic,” says Yeh.

The State of Inequality,” by Christina Hogan

“What’s most innovative is the way Christina, a graphic design senior, used graphic elements as well as all the details in the motion,” says Yeh.

“Case Study: Project Dreamer,” by Annie Zeng and Cindy Leong was created in graphic design in digital media GD344, a six semester sequence for graphic design and advertising majors.

“This particular semester the final project is to create an online interactive project to support something that they hold dearly. The project authors decided to use social media platforms to remind us to  never stop chasing our dreams,” says Yeh.

And then it was on with the gala.

“It was exciting to see how the experience empowered the students. Often the conversation is between designer and designer. This competition gave them a chance to get feedback from business people and entrepreneurs. Even while setting up the show, people were curious and talking to us. They were watching our setup — seeing how in such a short time we could deliver.”

Photo courtesy of World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Posted in FIT clubs, Student Exhibit | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Gropius to Cintiq

It started with just showing dad around the workplace.  But then Tom Shefelman, 86, visiting from Austin TX, sat down to get the feel of one of the new Cintiq stations. The drawing technology, new to FIT, comes with a pen to draw and manipulate images on a touch screen.  A mangy dog and a cross-eyed character graced the elder Shefelman’s first creation.

Tom Shefelman’s first go at Cintiq

A retired  architect and practicing artist — and a student of the famous architect and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius — Tom “has had an amazing career,”according to his son, Prof. Dan Shefelman of illustration.

“As soon as the pen touched the screen, it was as if he forgot he wasn’t drawing on paper,” says Prof. Shefelman.

Artist & architect Tom Shefelman, taking to Cintiq like “a fish to water.”

Prof. Shefelman and his brother Karl come from an arts-filled home. Their mom, Janice, is a children’s book author, and Tom divided his time between his architectural work and illustrating his wife’s story books.  Karl is a New York film director and story board artist. “I’m the animator and he’s the live action guy,” says Dan.

While they’ve all seen generations of technology changes in their respective industries, Tom Shefelman never strayed from traditional watercolor for his illustration work.

“I was amazed to see how effortlessly my father took to the tablet,” says Prof. Shefelman. “Although his fingers are twisted with arthritis and some joints are fused with titanium, he has continued to draw and paint professionally into his ninth decade.”

photos: Dan Shefelman

Posted in technology | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Raves for Cintiq keep coming

It’s not a new disco, a cutting edge designer or the stylist from the Hunger Games.  It’s a revolutionary technology in the drawing industry. “Think of it as an interactive iPad connected to a computer,” says C.J. Yeh,  professor of communications design. “You use a special ‘pen’ to draw or manipulate images directly on a touch screen. Cintiq is precise. It’s pressure sensitive, too, so it feels like working with traditional media,” says Yeh.  

Illustration student Eduardo Cuba

“In Chinese, we say: ‘good tools are essential to a job well done.’  Professionals spend a lot for tools like Cintiq because they are critical to reducing friction in the creative process.  Technology is not equal to creativity, however. Technology provides the necessary support to facilitate the creative workflow. – Prof. C.J. Yeh

Cintiq is a natural evolution of stylists-on-tablets also pioneered by Wacom. In the previous version says Yeh “When you were operating the mouse, your eyes were looking at the screen not at the mouse.  In a sense, your hand and your eyes were only remotely connected. With Cintiq, you work directly on the screen so you have much more control.  You are looking at what and where you are drawing.”

Illustration student Chase Beck Michaelis

“It’s number one virtue is its immediate connection between creativity through the hand to the computer. It gets a lot of students over the hump of going digital” says Dan Shefelman, professor of illustration. 

“This is so cool,” says illustration student Naya Diaz as she draws on a Cintiq. “It’s not something you’d otherwise have access to.” Cintiq displays can cost well over $3,000.”

Illustration student Kerri Brown

“We need to be well rounded in both the traditional and cutting-edge methods of making artwork,”  says illustration student Rebekah Bennington. “While I love that the FIT illustration program has focused heavily on traditional media, it’s great to see the school embracing this awesome technology. The touch screen really helps narrow that gap between traditional media and computer media in a way that a tablet doesn’t quite manage.”

Illustration Prof. Dan Shefelman with class in the Cintiq lab

Cintiq can open students’ eyes to new possibilities in digital imaging.  I believe it is a perfect bridge into  the world of digital media for visual artists because it resynchronized the hands and the eyes,” says Yeh.

In the past, illustration student Giancarlo A. Fernandéz says he “stood staunchly on the side of traditional media…I was reared on traditional media, and for the most part work faster and more efficiently with pencil in hand…While working with a stylus on a tablet seemed to make digital work less alien, it did nothing to push me toward embracing software.”

Fast forward to Fernandéz’s first experience in the Cintiq computer lab. “For the first time working digitally seemed visceral–no need for an extensive knowledge of the inner workings of a program. This felt like a new incarnation of ‘traditional’ media. The possibilities are so exciting…Working on the Cintiq made digital work so approachable and familiar…I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the artistry that can be achieved on a screen as opposed to a canvas.”

It turns out, says Fernandéz,”Cintiq can make a believer out of even the most reluctant traditionalist.”


Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Like Mother Like Daughter

Bonnie Papernik and her daughter Anissa Lorenzi have both studied 2D animation with Prof. John Goodwin. This May Papernik will graduate with her BFA in computer animation and her daughter will graduate high school.

“We’ll be graduating at the same time!” says Papernik. “Anissa’s  got college on her mind and I like this college. FIT has these wonderful programs.”

Prof. John Goodwin flanked by Anissa Lorenzi and her mother Bonnie Papernik

Papernik has worked in the past as a video producer at Panasonic, “a somewhat creative career,” she says. “On the side, I did art videos.” But her video making came to a halt after Anissa’s birth. “I did desktop publishing but it was volatile. In 2009, I got laid off because of the subprime debacle.” Papernik decided to return to school.  

“With all my experience I could run a corporation!” she says.

While working toward her AAS degree, Papernik took bridge courses to be eligible for the Computer Animation program. “My goal is to produce an animated cartoon of my own,” says Papernik. “My big goal is to have an original program and hopefully an independent production company like Sponge Bob.

Anissa took computer animation with Goodwin this past summer in FIT’s Summer Live program. “It was very exciting,” says Anissa. “I got to be in a real cool environment. I got to meet kids my own age and look around at different programs at FIT,” says Anissa.

Mother and daughter compare notes about the animation class: They both made landscapes with gradient tools. “We animated a sunset!” said Anissa, “and then animated text.” They began with learning the basic movement tools—position, rotation, scale and transparency.

“Anissa comes from an arts background. She’s into advertising and marketing. Here in New York, it’s very applicable to the market,” says Papernik.

Goodwin recalls the first time Papernik animated her signature character Florentine. “She animated her walking the red carpet at a Broadway show. She had Florentine driven around in a limo. It was definitely a star treatment!”

Papernik is now experimenting with her character Florentine in 3D.

“I have to figure out her voice and who she’s going to interact with,” says Papernik.

“2D or not 2D” jokes Goodwin.

Posted in random shots, student work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A BFA Fair to Remember

There was a lot of meeting and greeting yesterday between perspective BFA students and representatives from the departments of Art & Design.  There were also Admissions, Registrar, and School of Liberal Arts officials in attendance, all to help third semester AAS students identify their Art and Design futures.

Fashion Design Department’s team:  Prof. Lisa Feuerherm, director of study abroad program in Milan, Chair Colette Wong and Prof. Karen Scheetz.

Prof. Larry Langham, undistracted by superhero action, discussing the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design major.

Terry Blum, Director and Prof. Kathy Neely talk Computer Animation and Interactive Media with  perspective students.

Talking ad design with professors Birgit Schwarz-Hickey and Joe Stalluppi.

 Chair Sarah Mullins talking boots, bags and bangles, and how to apply to the Accessories Design Department.

Advertising design student reps talking shop.

Lots of good communicating from the Communications Department.

 Chair Suzanne Anoushian on hand to listen and to advise.

Always time for a glam shot with Sara Petitt from Fabric Styling.

Questions were answered truthfully, whether or not you wore Abe Lincolns on your sleeve.   

For application information please go to Admissions.

Photos: Rachel Ellner

Posted in BFA Fair | Leave a comment

Talking trash with Sass

Recycling waste into a thing of high fashion embodies what couture has always stood for.  Couture design “pushes the envelope,” challenges concepts of beauty and the role of clothing. It’s been about rebellion, symbolism, a means of communication. Making trash beautiful, extravagant and risque is the domain of the eco fashion designers featured in Sass Brown’s new book “Refashioned.”  Just before her October 15th FIT book launch, the author and assistant dean sat down to discuss “recontexualizing” the discarded into a thing of lasting value and beauty. 

“Refashioned” by Sass Brown

Q. How is your current book “Refashioned” different from “ECO Fashion,” your previous book?

A. Markedly! My first book was about eco fashion writ large, a broad overview of different expressions of ecology and ethics in fashion design. This book is about designers working with recycled materials. It covers a broader range of fashion products, with more representation of accessories and jewelry designers.

Jacket made from vintage flour sacks by Mayer Peace Collection   Photo: Billy and Hells

Q. Why do eco designers need to be showcased in a book? Doesn’t it suggest that they’re a subset of fashion designers out there?

A. Eco design needs to be showcased, heralded and honored. There is cutting edge design being done, but there is not enough information about it.  Many of the designers featured in the book are emerging independent designers. One purpose of the book is to give their work a greater audience.

Made from discarded cow nipples by Rachel Freire   Photo: Kate Friend

There’s discussion about whether eco fashion should be separate from the mainstream industry. In truth, until the mainstream industry follows their lead on ethical and ecological business practices, they should shout about what they are doing, with the aim that these practices become so commonplace that they no longer require mentioning.

Vintage crystal necklace redesigned by 2ETN  Photo: 2ETN

Q. How do you go from “trash to couture?” Isn’t garbage by definition stuff we’re supposed to permanently discard?

A. Therein lies the creative challenge. How do you recontextualize waste instead as resource?  Orsola de Castro of From Somewhere tells a lovely story about visiting an Italian factory to pick up old stock sweaters to re-embellish and sell. She found instead all the wasted fabric offcuts from the cutting room floor, and so From Somewhere was born–a collection of almost entirely factory and mill wasted fabric.  It’s a real life example of how one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

Upcycled Speedo LZR racer suits by From Somewhere  Photo: Will Whipple

Q.   The book is divided into pre- and post-waste streams, or the “once loved and unloved.” Why are these terms useful?

There’s a major difference between how pre- and post-consumer waste is collected and used. Pre-consumer waste by definition is unused waste produced through the production of stuff, like fabric left over from cutting out a garment. By definition, some of that waste is luxury waste.

Eva Zingoni is one designer working with leftover fabrics from luxury and couture houses in Paris.  I’ve seen entire leather skins discarded with just a small piece cut out from the center, because that was the only part they wanted to use.

Post-consumer waste challenges are different. How do you go about collecting an individual’s waste?  There isn’t a stable resource. Then you have to clean those discards.  The greatest design challenge being how to redefine them into something entirely new! There are no single answers. That in part makes this area of design so rich, the multitude of responses to the design challenge.

Shredded decommissioned parachute dress by Kondakis   Photo: Terje Andre Ringen

Q. What type of designer’s work catches your eye? Is it the clever use of materials, or is purely based on aesthetics? 

A. First and foremost sophisticated design.  Whatever the materials being used, the end result must be beautiful.  I don’t believe that there is any need for any more ugly and boring clothes in the world. It’s irrelevant how sustainable or organic they might be, if they have already been produced.

Bag made from four sacks by Tamara Fogle  Photo: Tamara Fogle

Q.  Are there trends and styles to eco fashion, or is it all about imagination and design skills?

A. There will always be trends in fashion whether it’s expressed through ecological criteria or not. That said, there is a revaluing of good, timeless design as a matter of ethics–as opposed to fast-fashion trends.

Jacket from upcycled domestic textiles by MAYER Peace Collection   Photo by: Billy and Hells

Q. How do the restrictions to adhering to eco design standards enhance or challenge a designer’s creativity?

A. Working with waste materials constitutes a major design challenge. The designers I feature produce creative, sophisticated, intelligent designs because of the challenges that were posed.  Imagine designing a collection where the color, texture and pattern of your materials are constantly changing, and so are their shape and size!

Q. Is eco fashion out to make more than a fashion statement?

A. Yes, we’re out to change the world! The impetus behind all ecological design is to make a difference to our world, in what we produce and how we produce it. All of which ultimately comes from an ecological concern for our planet.

Traditional ribbon art from discarded materials by Michelle Lowe-Holder   Photo: Polly Penrose

Q. What are a couple examples of the surprising materials that are used in eco fashion? And when are even you surprised?

A. Steinwidder, an Austrian brand that produces a cool, rebellious collection of separates from used socks. Talk about a challenge in recontextualizing your materials!  Mayer Peace Collection in Berlin fashions a military inspired collection from turn-of-the-century used flour sacks, and km/a, another Viennese label that produces a line of men’s and women’s coats and jackets from retired prison blankets. 

Sweater made from discarded socks by Steinwidder    Photo: Klaus Fritsch

These are materials with a story, heritage and authenticity that cannot be replicated. In a time when most people have lost all material connection to their clothing, the stories that come with these clothes are beyond value.

Refashioned Edwardian styling from fabric scraps by Raggedy  Photo: Thom

RSVP to attend the Sass Brown’s first book talk and signing in the Katie Murphy Amphitheater on October 15, 2013

Posted in faculty work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Meagan Meli’s portfolio: A Forest Princess, Cyclops & Valentine

Within many of Illustration major Meagan Meli’s creations are a potpourri of themes, imagery and cultural references. Several of Meli’s illustrations are playfully dark and scary in an Edward Gorey sense. None of the design elements are left stranded – they relate to each other by way of complementary colors, placement and equal doses of quirkiness.

“Valentine” by Meagan Meli

There’s the juxtaposition of the human heart next to floral Victorian shapes. There’s the incorporation of hippy era mushrooms, a Native American-dream-weaver, Day of the Dead and woman-as-wolf symbols. Canines, feminine skeletal parts, beaks and third eyes are to be found in her works as well.

“Meagan is well into the process of developing a unique visual communication style,” says Chair of Illustration Ed Soyka. “She has a very personal approach. It appears she’s really benefited from a fine arts foundation.” 

“Cyclops” by Meagan Meli

“‘Cyclops’ is disturbing and arresting and thought-provoking,” says Illustration Professor Dan Shefelman of Meli’s illustration. It has a copper plate acid etching feel to it.”

Meli considers it to be her most “bizarre and gruesome” piece. “This is based off of a real congenital disorder called Cyclocephalus, otherwise called a Cyclops,” she says.

“Dream” by Meagan Meli

In another, a knotted bunch of wildflowers somehow fits in delightfully beneath a skeletal torso. The bottom pelvic area of the torso looks to have two fingers touching in an “Om” shape.

“I combined my favorite types of imagery into one piece to make my “Dream” illustration into something special,” said Meli. 

“Forest Princess” by Meagan Meli

“I saw this woman’s face in my head for a while before I drew her,” says Meli about “Forest Princess” (above). This is more of a sketch but I worked hard enough to say that it is a finished piece!”

Meli, who is completing her BFA in illustration, received an AAS in fine arts at FIT. “They are different worlds,” she says of the two disciplines. “Going from working abstractly to the push to working very tightly is a leap!

“Experiences in my major have helped me find who I am as a young, developing illustrator. Professors John Nickle, Don Sipley, and Dave Devries contributed to the illustrator I am today. They are incredible talents.”

“Barn Owl” by Meagan Meli

“‘Barn Owl’ is the most popular from a series of five called “Osteology of an Animal,’” says Meli.

“I can’t believe how far I’ve gotten in two years,” says Meli. “I can’t wait to see what becomes of me after these final two years in the FIT Illustration department!


Photos used with permission

Posted in student work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

White Wolf at Brooklyn Waterfront

A hauntingly stark, beautiful lone White Wolf will be on exhibit at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists’ Coalition from September 21 to October 20.  Sue Willis, who created White Wolf, teaches advanced sculpture and 3D design classes in the Fine Arts Department. The wolf is part of a series by the sculptor and painter that expresses her compassion for the natural world.  In addition to her involvement in the arts industry, Willis cares for wounded birds and cats gone astray.

“White Wolf” by Sue Willis

The exhibit includes both figurative and abstract works of regional artists working in ceramic clay. It was curated by Chief Curator for the Museum of Arts & Design David Revere McFadden.  

 “Although they struggle to survive as any creature would, wolves have been demonized and mythologized to the extent that any attempt at compromise on their behalf is met with extreme resistance.” – Sue Willis

The 20-inch Lone Wolf is unique in it’s scale as a hand-built porcelain object. “Constructing out of porcelain is like trying to sculpt from bread dough. It’s elastic and likes to slump,” says Willis.  “Porcelain can shrink from 20 to 30 percent. Lone Wolf was much larger before it was fired.”

“Harbinger” by Sue Willis

The owl or “Harbinger” is also part of Willis’ series on the natural world.

Willis’ creation was inspired by the acute decline in the country’s wolf population, which she says occurs even with wolves living in or near Yellowstone Park. “Their habitats have been developed as farmland, and with elk and deer being over-hunted, it leaves them little to eat aside from cattle.”

From Sue Willis’ Lover Series

The artist’s other works are often expressed in color. Her paintings in particular are often intensely chromatic.

The Art in Clay opening takes place September 21, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, located at: 499 Van Brunt Street in  Brooklyn, (718) 596-2507. (Meet artist Sue Willis from 3 pm to 5 pm). For gallery hours go to BWAC.

To see more of Sue Willis’ work go to

Photos by Rodolfo Martinez

Posted in faculty work | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments