Instructor Spotlight: Sue Willis

Willis was born in Chicago and received her MFA from The Tyler School of Art. Her work reflects her deep appreciation for animals and the natural world and the importance of biodiversity to the survival of our planet. She’s exhibited widely, and her current installation project will be exhibited at The New York Public Library this year.


Professor Willis Teaches:

HFA 097 55A      Basic Sculpture


FullSizeRender (5)FullSizeRender (6)Current Project: 

Prof. Willis is currently working on an installation entitled “The Upper Worlds” for The New York Public Library, mid-Manhattan. Her concept will be installed in the giant display windows on 5th avenue and 40th street, and throughout the library’s installation space “The Corner Room”. The exhibit will consist of habitats of life-sized wildlife sculptures in porcelain and faux fur, and a few human sculptures. The installation will honor the exquisite beauty of life, and is a testimony to the people’s empowerment as a unified force to protect our world.

Teaching Philosophy:

Making art is one of the true joys of my life. I tell students to immerse themselves in the process without fear, and to experience the clay’s supple plasticity and sheer joyfulness in the process of sculpting. Self expression is one of the keynotes of my class and it’s magical to watch their expressiveness emerge. So many students tell me they didn’t realize how much they would love working with clay or how skilled they would become in modeling form! My students’ opinions are very important to me. Often I ask for their feedback on my own artwork concepts, as I feel it’s important that my work communicates to them, and our discourse teaches them how an artist thinks. I care deeply that they feel happy and fulfilled, and it’s thrilling to share one of the greatest joys of my life with my students.

The Dodo
L’Huffington Post Italia
Oubliette Magazine
NHK Tokyo

Blogs and digital archives:
Feminist Art Base: Brooklyn Museum, Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art
Digital Archive: National 911 Memorial Museum
Artist profile; FIT Art and Design Blog: “White Wolf at Brooklyn Waterfront”

Hey! That wasn’t supposed to change!


“Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”
-Benjamin Disraeli (British writer and politician)

I think this quote is legit; it relates to my experiences at FIT so far on many levels. But, before I talk about what has changed, I’d like to share a homework assignment from my class, Life Drawing for Middle School, that I’m proud of with you guys.

First homework assignment.

First homework assignment.

I had to copy this work from a famous artist. It was a master drawing, which is a drawing that is so accurate and complete that the artist barely had to have a model in front of them. Copying objects has always been one of my strengths in art and something I’ve always enjoyed doing. Stay tuned for more drawings to come!

Anyways, I’ve been drawing for quite some time now. I have realized that what really matters is how well you can draw from imagination and not how well you can copy a picture. Well, too bad for me since I sometimes have trouble drawing a human being that has 206 bones and 640 muscles. Yeah, it’s daunting. Speaking about daunting, my teacher Demetrio Belenky, is always telling us that the human body is never concave, but always convex. This means that the organs and bones, etc. inside of you are always pushing out, not caving in. In addition, he says that the human body is the most complex thing for artists to draw. Wow, thanks for building my confidence.

Okay, I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy here, but I’m just very grateful that FIT is helping me develop my skills in imaginative sketching. Visualizing what I want to draw isn’t my problem, nor is thinking or looking like an artist. It’s actually getting what I see down onto the paper, and so far, I can definitely see some improvement. So, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone (which is a good thing when it comes to creative work) for a change. Instead of copying mostly 2-D figures, I’m now drawing more complicated and realistic 3-D figures. It’s difficult, but boy is it worth it.

I could go on about my challenges with drawing from imagination, but I think you’d rather see some of my artwork.



Measuring the body for correct proportion.

This was a long pose - 20 minutes.

Long pose – 20 minutes.





Well, see you guys next time, as I continue to change on this fantastic journey!!


First Studio Shoot Experience and Final Project Progress

Hi Precollegers!

Over this past weekend I had the opportunity of conducting two photoshoots for my class at FIT. One was in the studio here at school, and my second one was the next day, to show progress on my final project. This post will be divided into two my two shoots, and to describe my experience with both–obviously I will include some photos for you all, too.

On Saturday I participated in my first studio shoot, and while some parts were obviously hectic, it was a very rewarding experience. After setting up lights, reflectors, backdrops, and props, the half of my class that was shooting this class spent the rest of our time shooting each other. At one point we borrowed mannequins that were just chilling in the hallway and used them for comical photos that actually came out pretty well. It was overwhelming at times when having to quickly switch from a digital to film camera, and having to balance modeling one second, to helping someone reflect lighting correctly the next. The only major issue I had while shooting was how warm I became after a while due to my jacket and hat that I kept on because people wanted to use me as a model because of my interesting outfit. Hopefully the final pictures will prove that me overheating will have been worth it–I have a pretty good feeling that it was. Personally, the easiest things to shoot were the headshots, just because the only focus of the photo was the upper body and they could be the most simplistic photos, style wise. I had a great time taking headshots of one girl in my class because she has insanely beautiful curly red hair and porcelain skin, which highlights her bright blue eyes even more. I loved using the reflectors to correct the lighting of the shots; I never realized how much of a difference good lighting could make. Here are a few of my favorite shots from Saturday–both serious and joke photos:

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On Sunday I was determined to start my final project, which is a series of photos surrounding a theme of your choosing. I have decided to center mine around societal beauty standards—cliche, I know, but I will go more in depth about my concept and execution of my idea in my final blog post of the semester, dedicated to final projects. My close friend Anna agreed to be my model for this shoot, and she was the perfect choice. This shoot could be slightly controversial, due to minor nudity (don’t worry she is in nude underwear and bra), so I’m only going to post photos here that don’t show too much skin. The shoot didn’t take long to set up, being that it was mostly taken in my bathtub, but it took FOREVER to clean up. Glitter will go everywhere and anywhere and I owe Anna big time for doing everything that she did for me. Only the most genuine friends will agree to let you strip them down and smear glitter on their face and stick it on her tongue for aesthetic purposes. I wouldn’t be surprised if she still was finding glitter in her underwear a week later. I still have to shoot part 1 of this project with Anna (parts 2 and 3 are what I shot Sunday)–I’m sure she’ll be ecstatic to know that now I have to take pictures of her with a glittery face in PUBLIC!! Here are some of my favorite and audience appropriate photos from this shoot:

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Let me know your opinions on both shoots in the comments below–have any of you ever created controversial art?

See you next week!


The FIT Surprise

No, I’m not talking ice-cream.

The Surprise Factor

Up until February 27, I thought I was alone and had a weird passion for computer graphics and digitized drawing and art. To my amazement, I was surrounded by geeks (really cool ones) like me when I entered room C230 and it felt pretty awesome. Kind of felt like my second home (JK, my second home is Starbucks… whose isn’t?) Anyway, I was really shocked to find that people my age shared the same passion as I did and it felt really comforting to know that I wasn’t alone. Sharing ideas and looking at others’ work for inspiration really helped me in a creative sense and way of thinking.

The Expectations

I thought I was a decent artist in the field of fifteen year olds out there, but as I always do, I was and still am looking for improvement. There’s always room! I’ve come to take precollege classes to improve (obviously) but also to get a real grip on digital design platforms and learn.

Unexpected Changes

One thing I did not expect to change was my open personality. And, actually, it changed for the better: I’ve done nothing but become more open since I am around people who I’m comfortable with. Usually it takes me a while to get to know people and become comfortable with them even though I am typically an open book, and, literally in one class, I found a group of people who scream my style! I have seen nothing but great things since the start of classes and it keeps getting better.

The (Developing) Hardships

Drawing has always been a weak spot for me, and I never really paid attention to it. I kind of just tried my best and made do with what I had in the past. Adobe Illustrator involves a lot of drawing… more than I’m comfortable with. But truly, the class is helping me learn to love it and tolerate it.

However, one thing that really scares me is the digital pen. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about (if you are into graphics, you know the scare I’m facing), it’s a only a stylus. A stylus of death!! First, a drawing pad is plugged into the computer, and then you take the wireless pen and draw with it on the pad. It sounds super easy but it’s really frustrating and hard to learn, especially on a program based on vectors and straight lines.

A quote from my struggling friend, Sarah M.,

“When you first start using it all you want to do is scream because the smallest movement can mess you up, but it gets easier eventually… I hope”

Sorry ya had to read so much! It’s good for the brain!
Until next week,
Joey Criscione

Family Input on Precollege Experience

imageSalutations Precollegers!

I’m currently blogging to you all at 5:30 am from my airport, on my way to visit a college in the culturally rich New Orleans! Being that it is Monday and this is set to post on Tuesday, I have very limited time to get this blog post done and uploaded—therefore, I have decided to blog about a very simple topic for this week—my family. My parents and sister have been nothing but supportive on this artistic endeavor that I have taken upon myself this semester. My parents have been good enough to drive me to my train station at 7:15 every Saturday morning (even though they could be asleep being that the weekend is their only break from early rising—they both work in the city, too). In the afternoon, I rush from class to my train to get home at 2, only to have to rush to my 2 o’clock shift at work, and of course, I couldn’t do that either without one of them waiting for me at the station. My younger sister, although not able to physically assist me, has been morally supportive and has been my biggest cheerleader. She is a very creative and imaginative person, so watching her older sister travel to the city every week to create something that she is passionate about must be neat (I can only imagine, obviously). She has actually shown her own interest in what I have been doing, and I can imagine that she will be taking a precollege course sometime before she graduates high school, too. I can always count on my family to give me feedback on my work, and my parents have been very excited about this course due to the fact that they both have taken film and darkroom classes before. Last class it took me about 3 and a half hours to fully develop and print a single (final) photo in the darkroom. After various trials with different time and contrast variations, I finally figured out to let my paper be exposed on a 4 contrast level for 24 seconds (film photography terminology, everyone!). I am very pleased with how my final product turned out, and the only regret I have is that I printed on glossy paper instead of pearl finished.There isn’t that much of a difference honestly, but personally I like the minimalist touch that the pearl finished paper adds to the print. The next time I restock in photography supplies, I’ll be sure to pick up some pearl, but for my first time, glossy is totally fine. Sorry about this post being on the shorter side, next week I’ll be home from college visits and I will have much more to talk about, considering next week I get to start shooting for my final project! Attached is the final print of my black and white film photo of my friend from my class, Natalia.

Until next time,