Buddy in space joined by other Inktober characters

“It was Inktober. I was missing my dog.  I had a new sketchbook and I was designing characters. It occurred to me that Buddy is a real character I could use.” So started the month of October, or Inktober, for first semester Illustration student David Powers. Buddy would rule the roost of characters.

"Buddy" by David Powers
“Buddy” by David Powers

Inktober, a month when participating illustrators produce an ink drawing every day, was started by illustrator Jake Parker in 2009. Powers says his drawings during Inktober incorporated techniques learned in basic illustration and anatomy classes as well as some styling he discovered on his own.

“It made me think of things on the spot as opposed to life drawing. It brought me to a more realistic process of how illustration is done,” says Powers.

Ed Soyka, Chair of Illustration, took notice of the directions in which Buddy was leading his master.

“What’s interesting is he’s using drawing as a means to convey his ideas and experience visually, which is the essence of what an illustrator does as a visual communicator,” says Soyka. “What’s most exciting about David Powers is that already in the first semester he is illustrating in the way of a professional.”  

Here are highlights from Powers’ Inktober drawings.

David Powers' sketch book
Pages from David Powers’ sketch book

Inktober drawings from left to right:

1. Horned Viking:  “I was trying to capture the style and anatomy that I learned in my classes where we experiment with ink and different line weights.”

2. & 3. Animal warriors: “I thought of drawing animal heads and then personifying them. One’s a tiger and a polar or white bear. They’re concept sketches. I gave them a medieval warrior theme”

4. Space guy: “I kept adding to him I tried to make him an older veteran character. He just got done with his mission maybe. It was my first attempt stylizing smoke.”

5. Buddy in Space: “He got the whole thing started! I wondered what he could be doing. He’s always hungry. He’d do anything for food. I could just picture him in space trying to get this one treat.”

6. & 7. They’re character sketches–I tried to make them fit into the same universe. It was more experimentation seeing what worked and what didn’t.

Buddy in arms
Buddy in arms

While Powers posted his work daily on Instagram, his original sketch book has sadly gone missing. If anyone knows of its whereabouts please contact him at: David_Powers@fitnyc.edu. In return he will make a personalized sketch for you.

It would make Buddy real happy!

Images used with permission

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“ESC: Digital Artworks” are interactive pleasures for art goers

While you’re watching C.J. Yeh’s art at the Museum at FIT, the art is watching you. In fact, it’s not only watching, it’s wryly responding to your actions.

Students Kaila Smithem and Linda Chow stand beside C. J. Yeh at exhibit opening of “ESC: Digital Artworks”

One picture stops weeping when you show it some interest, and immediately goes pink and bubbly. Another is like any good self-absorbed, social media curator – it gives each viewer hundreds of “likes” followed by effusive and kaleidoscopic praise.

From "Esc: Digital Artworks," by C. J. Yeh
From “Esc: Digital Artworks,” by C. J. Yeh

Yeh’s work is not only entertaining, it can also comment intelligently on some of the major issues of the day. This required some detailed research by Yeh.

For example, when a viewer of one piece moves his or her body, a bird flies in the same direction crashing into rising bubbles. Each bubble carries the logo of one of the 450 large banks that failed around the world when the Great Recession started. Another awards the viewer on-screen gold coins when the viewer places his or her head under the image of a cap and jumps upward.

"Happiness," by C. J. Yeh
“Happiness,” by C. J. Yeh

Yeh, who exhibits widely, especially in Taiwan and New York, has more than a few digital communication tricks to get people involved with art and with social issues. 

The exhibit includes a matrix of static photos, each of the exterior of a New York City museum or of the neighborhood of a well-known artist.

"The Great American Tour," by C. J. Yeh
“The Great American Tour,” by C. J. Yeh

The photos themselves would be interesting. But Yeh ups the ante by getting inside each photo’s digital files to introduce “glitches,” — a practice known as “databending” — in this case by replacing the “@” symbol with his own name. It’s a subversive way of inserting oneself into the art scene, but also serves to symbolize the coincidental and happenstance nature of everyday life. The affects are startling and joyous.

C. J. Yeh's work looking back at you.
What C. J. Yeh’s mirror “makes” of you.

Graciously, you the viewer are never ignored, or digitally rearranged. On the way out, however, you can yell into a digital mirror to see what it “makes” of you.

“ESC: Digital Artworks” is on exhibit at the Museum at FIT until December 13.

Images used with permission.


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Art & Design students explore NYC neighborhoods

A fascinating multimedia exhibit detailing the exploration of eight New York City ethnic enclaves, is on display in the Pomerantz Art and Design Center lobby until November 28.  The rich texture of neighborhoods captured in “Culture Captures: NYC,” was documented by an interdepartmental student team this Spring.

2014 Art & Design Interdisciplinary project: "Culture Capture: NYC" now in the Pomerantz Center lobby
2014 Art & Design Interdisciplinary exhibit: “Culture Capture: NYC” now in the Pomerantz Center lobby

The displays include photo essays, digital composites, video interviews, storyboards, animation and digital publication. There’s perhaps no more appropriate a place for such an exhibit than FIT.

“I love it. It speaks to what New York City is. It beautifully captures the diversity and energy of the City, and of FIT—At FIT we’re an example of that diversity,” says Joanne Arbuckle, Dean, School of Art & Design.

Digital composite & animation of  Chinatown, Hillary Hooper
Digital composite & animation of Chinatown, Hillary Hooper

Working under an interdisciplinary grant from the School of Art & Design, freshmen from Communication Design and Photography departments researched, observed and captured images and drawings of populations in Astoria, Brighton Beach, Chinatown, Crown Heights, Greenpoint, Jackson Heights, Spanish Harlem and Flushing.

Digital composite & animation of Crown Heights, Patrick Obando Polio
Digital composite & animation of Crown Heights, Patrick Obando Polio

“I thought Chinatown was for tourists,” says Communications freshman Bea Saludo. “Every time I’d go to Chinatown with my family it was to eat and leave. We never observed the surroundings.” Saludo, whose study was on Chinatown, was keen to architectural detail and family gatherings—observations that had escaped her on visits there with family.

Digital composite & animation of Chinatown, Liaor
Digital composite & animation of Chinatown, Lior Gensler

“It’s about highlighting cultural background specific to a neighborhood and celebrating those differences. It’s about offering an enhanced understanding of neighborhoods that you know are there but haven’t always seen with a penetrating, discerning eye,” says Communication Design Prof. Christie Shin who directed the project.

Digital composite & animation of Astoria, Nancy Martinez
Digital composite & animation of Astoria, Nancy Martinez

Communications Design student Nancy Martinez focused on the Greek culture experience in Astoria. “The idea that everything links back to their roots was something really powerful. We are here, but within ourselves. We don’t forget where we, our parents, or our grandparents came from,” she says.

While the students recognize New York City as home to populations from all points of the compass, the preservation of cultural enclaves was eye-opening.

Digital composite & animation of Flushing, Cris Anne Fernandez
Digital composite & animation of Flushing, Cris Anne Fernandez

“I could not tell the difference between Chinatown and China,” said Man-Ping Wu, who grew up in South Africa and lived in China. “I knew New York City was a melting post, but the assignment got me deeper into a specific neighborhood…You don’t hear about these neighborhoods specifically.”

Digital composite & animation of Spanish Harlem, Gena Gugert

 “It’s a detailed and anecdotal approach that leads to a story, a fuller description of a lifestyle, of ordinary people in motion” says Prof. Shin

Prof. Christie Yeh and students at "Culture Captures: NYC" exhiit
Prof. Christie Yeh and students at “Culture Captures: NYC” exhibit

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Chalk FIT back by popular demand

FIT chalk artists will soon take to the outside walls of FIT. Illustration grad Angel Garcia (2013), initiated Chalk FIT today with a toothy character pointing the way to student chalk work that will begin appearing Monday at 9 a.m.

Chalk artist and muralist Angel Garcia ('13)
Chalk artist and muralist Angel Garcia (’13)

“FIT is bringing the studio outside! It’s wonderful,” says Joanne Arbuckle, Dean of the School of Art and Design. 

“In high school you have a homecoming football game. Here at FIT, Illustration is the homecoming team,” jokes Prof. Dan Shefelman who oversees Chalk FIT.

“I wanted to do a nice shape, one related to Chalk FIT,” said Garcia.  “It’s pointing to where the rest of the students will do their work.”

Garcia has created murals at Flushing International High School and at the bazaar at Junction Boulevard in Queens.

“Angel  went to school here, and now — to do something on the side of the school you attended — that’s inspirational!” says Illustration freshman David Powers from Buffalo.

Expect to see on Monday, 50 illustration seniors and 6 alums in addition to Garcia, using the FIT campus as their canvas.

Check out last year’s posts on Chalk FIT:

The campus gets chalked

Halloween lingers — not Christmas yet at FIT

Photo: Rachel Ellner

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A course with all the trimmings

Trimmings are not just for the holiday table. For students in Prof. Veronica Romano’s Professional Practice class, trimmings can cook up a design project par excellence. Romano’s Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED) students were ecstatic to find a great source of them at M&J Trimmings in the Garment Center.

VPED student Keri Collins with metallic bead trim, perfect for her display project.

“They were overwhelmed by vast NYC resources they never knew existed in the Garment District,” says Romano. “That’s so exciting to me.”

“The Garment District was once a center for industry. Today it’s one for specialty displays, props and materials,” says VPED Chair Craig Berger. “There’s a deep wealth of local stores and outlets of larger distributors. The garment industry left but the distribution of materials and products is still here. It’s wonderful for VPED students. There’s no place like it in the rest of the country,” says Berger, author of “Wayfinding: Designing and Implementing Graphic Navigational Systems.”

As of July, there were 134 trimming and button businesses in the Garment District, according to Ryan Daly of the Garment District Alliance.

“If you walk down 38 Street from Fifth Avenue to Eighth Avenue you’ll encounter 12 trimming stores on the ground floor,” says Daly. This doesn’t include M&J, which is also a hit with fashion tourists who kvell over the enormous inventory and lavish displays.  

Prof. Veronica Romano's Professional Practices class
Prof. Veronica Romano’s Professional Practices class outside M&J Trimmings at 10008 Sixth Ave.

“This trip meant the connection between the industry and classroom. It’s what I dreamed about for an education” said Christy Rappold who comes from North Carolina. “Going to school in New York is the most glamorous thing in the world. As we say ‘New York City, Holy City!'”

“How you design anything, that’s the fun part,” says Romano. “But it’s the sourcing, the execution, budgeting, scheduling, the install that’s equally as important. They’re designers but they’re also business and production people as well.”

For VEPD Prof. Mary Constantini, “Trimmings are the bling that make the beautiful details.”

Daysi Barahona, Anastasiya Malakhowskaya & Christy Rappold inspired by resources found in the Garment District.

“They’re learning how to take their concepts to production using the best resources New York City has to offer,” says Romano.


photos provided by Veronica Romano

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FIT Students Honored at White House

Chelsea Chen's dress on display next to First Lady wearing Natalya Koval's dress. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Chelsea Chen’s dress on display next to the First Lady, who wears a Natalya Koval dress. Photo: Alex Wong

Fashion enthusiasts know which designers First Lady Michelle Obama favors. Now add FIT’s Natalya Koval and Chelsea Chen to a list that includes Rachel Roy, Narciso Rodriguez, Jason Wu and Azzedine Alaia.

The First Lady spoke at the White House yesterday at her star-designer studded, student-centered Fashion Education Workshop. History will record what she wore: Natalya Koval’s midnight blue racer front, fit and flair dress. Beside her on a dress form was Chelsea Chen’s dark navy color-blocked dress with emerald, lavender and off-white panels.

“The dress that I am wearing today and the dress that you see here were designed by two [FIT] students,” said Mrs. Obama. “Natalya and Chelsea, thank you. Thank you for your creativity, thank you for your passion.  We’re very proud of you,” she said of the winners of the White House’s design competition.

Natalya Koval, FIT President Joyce Brown, Chelsea Chen outside the White House
Natalya Koval, FIT President Joyce Brown and Chelsea Chen outside the White House

It was an “OMG” Day for the FIT family.

“I couldn’t have fathomed myself in this position of having my design chosen by the First Lady,” said Chelsea. “Even for an established designer this would be a huge opportunity.”

“I’m so overwhelmed and feel so privileged to be given a lifetime opportunity to represent FIT as a student designer,” said Natalya Koval, a fifth semester fashion design student. “This is such a big life event!” Reporters from the New York Daily News to Ukrainian Vogue are lined up for interviews with Koval.

The White House was transformed — in Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s words — “into a center of creativity and collaboration for students from across the world.” Five technology-innovative workshops were led by fashion design big hitters like Phillip Lim, Zac Posen, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, Naeem Khan, and Thom Browne.

Meredith Koop, stylist for the First Lady with Chelsea Chen
Meredith Koop, stylist for the First Lady with Chelsea Chen

At the luncheon the First Lady’s comments reflected Chelsea’s and Natalya’s experience.

“The clothes you see in the magazine covers are really just the finished product in what is a very long, very complicated and very difficult process, as I’ve come to learn working with many designers,” said the First Lady.

“It might seem to be an easy process for one dress,” said Natalya, “but it took many people to take it to the level of perfect, of something you would want to see on our fashion icon Michelle Obama.”

Student designs were chosen in a competition hosted by the White House. They knew they were designing for a real “celebrity” but the name was not revealed until the First Lady had chosen her designs. 

Designer and mentor Phillip Lim, Natalya and Chelsea Chen at the White House
Designer and mentor Phillip Lim, Natalya and Chelsea Chen at the White House

Chelsea Chen, a seventh semester fashion design major, comes from a business and finance background, and says she barely knew how to sketch or sew before coming to FIT.

“I came from the tiniest, tiniest city in northeast China. When I was walking home from the meeting with the First Lady’s stylist Meredith Koop, who broke the news to us, I had a flashback of all that it took to be here — to then being present in the same room with the First Lady’s stylist and all these fabulous respected faculty members from FIT!”

Natalya Koval’s earliest muses were her paper cut-out dolls. By middle school she was creating clothes for herself. Yet emigrating to the U.S. was a long, arduous process.

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine with Chelsea Chen
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, with Chelsea Chen

A panel discussion, with a chance to network, was held just for students. The panel included Jenna Lyons, Diane von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Tracy Reese, and Edward Wilkerson with Lilliana Vazquez as moderator.

Panel discussion for students at the Fashion Education Workshop at the White House

“You’ve got to hone your skills in college or at design school; you’ve got to be willing to take some risks and you also have to be prepared to fail…a lot,” the First Lady said. “All of these are essential for the journey.”

Said Wintour, “Education in [The First Lady’s] view is the key to the whole thing.” 

“It’s very true,” said Natalya. “I would have never gotten this far without FIT.”

Chelsea and Natalia at the White House



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BFA Fair 2014: An Art & Design future for everyone

Katie Reggie with her first fabric styling assignment
Katie Reggie with her first fabric styling assignment

On October 2, representatives from the School’s baccalaureate programs, Admissions, Registrar, and the School of Liberal Arts were on hand to help students learn more about Art and Design upper division majors.

Current BFA students and alum showed their work and spoke about their transitions into BFA design majors.


“I come from a business background,” said Fabric Styling major Katie Reggie standing by her project. “I learned patience and how to do research–it makes for a good project.”

Her professor, Sara Petitt agreed. “The very first assignment in Intro to Fabric Styling is childrenswear boards. They learn how to tell a well-edited, well-conceived, visually interesting and technically perfect trend forecasting story.”

Profs. Christie Shin & C.J. Yeh
” Profs. Christie Shin & C.J. Yeh

“It’s buzzing in here. There’s lots of excitement and possibilities. There’s the right course of study for each student. Something for everybody!” says Communications Chair Suzanne Anoushian.

Prof. Bergit Schwarz-Hickey, from Advertising Design
Packaging Design Chair Marianne Klimchuk

“The energy is amazing,” says Packaging Design Chair Marianne Klimchuk.

Chair of Fashion Design Eileen Karp with student proud to wear the FIT logo

“I’m learning about the requirements, portfolios and software they’re using,” says Dhondup Tsering who talked computer animation and computer graphics with Prof. Kathleen Neely.

Prof. Kathleen Neely of Computer Animation and Interactive Media with Dhondup Tsering

Ester Zar, an Advertising Design senior and representative of the Presidential Scholar Program was on hand. “Students love the thought of being in a classroom where everyone wants to be there. There are classes specifically in film or New York architecture or American lives. I took The Invention of New York City, which was incredible.”AD-s_0195

Prof. Vasilios Christofilakos and Chair Sarah Mullins of Accessories Design

“It’s one of the most visually impactful presentations from the departments of Art and Design,” said Associate Dean Sass Brown.”

general s_0162

“The students seem hungry for information says so they can make informed decisions. They’ve done their research,” Prof. Leslie Blum of Communications Design. “They’re asking questions that show they’re thinking carefully about their choices.”

Photos by Rachel Ellner


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Interior Design “EZ Camp” attracts out-of-towners & stressed out NYers

Karen and Cynthia Blair from Seattle, WA
Karen and Cynthia Blair from Seattle

Spotted contemplating the “Mind Body Spirit” Interior Design senior thesis exhibition in the Pomerantz Art and Design Center were two sisters from Seattle.  A quick invite into their conversation gave us this observation:

“We’re impressed with the variety of technologies the students have to master,” said Karen Blair,” a professor of American history at Central Washington University. “Working from an inspiration, devising layers, and movement, and patterns, it’s really incredible.”

Professor Blair’s sister, Cynthia, has written more than 50 novels, most recently “Reigning Cats & Dogs,” a mystery series. The two were standing in front of the indoor urban campsite designs called “EZ Camp.” 

“EZ Camp” says Interior Design Chair Eric Daniels, “is about taking an outdoor camping experience and recreating it on the New York City West Side Pier.” 

The experience includes marshmallows.  Says Daniels “It’s for stressed out New Yorkers who can’t get out of the city,” and for visitors to marvel.

“Mind Body Spirit” will be on display in the Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center until October 19. The Center is located at the corner of W. 27th and 7th Avenue. 

photo: Rachel Ellner



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Waiting in the wings for Robert Verdi

Robert Verdi and Jewelry Design Chair Michael Coan

His taste is” impeccable,” as the New York Times declared in 1998. The Times also described his job title as “elusive.” The real issue is that FIT alumnus Robert Verdi has many titles: tastemaker, celebrity stylist, brand ambassador, lifestyle leader and in his own words “fearless entrepreneur and fashion superhero.”

“Few people combine personality, talent knowledge and an inherent eye for style. One of them is Robert Verdi. He’s a person one waits to talk to,” says Jewelry Design Chair Michael Coan.

And wait they did. Students and alum lined up to speak to Verdi after his spellbinding and characteristically animated talk on Monday as part of the Faces & Places lecture series curated by Prof. Joshua Williams. 

But first Verdi ecstatically grabbed a hug from his former teacher, Coan.

“He’s a phenomenal inspiration,” says Coan. As a student he was “maddening and a divergent learner. He wasn’t mainstream, but a major person of interest. He certainly challenged my skills in teaching at that time, making me aware of the creativity involved in working with “divergent” thinkers.”

Robert Verdi, FIT grad and “fearless entrepreneur and fashion superhero”
Robert Verdi, FIT grad and “fearless entrepreneur and fashion superhero”

 Says Coan, “Verdi, could gain an amazing grasp of a topic within a short period of time. I remembered how he whipped through the auction catalogs I gave him, gathering images, styles, making notes of styles he liked and styles he disliked.

…And, he knew how to make them better.”


photos: Rachel Ellner

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