Without Whom

I've been thinking a lot about my college years lately, mostly because my old friend Rey recently started a mass e-mail chain with a variety of friends and fellow alumni reminiscing about the professors who influenced us the most. Lately, things keep reminding me of my age and the passage of time. I read an article about the final issue of the Tim Drake Robin series and couldn't believe that comic had been around for 16 years, or that the character first appeared twenty years ago. It seems like yesterday. I had a similar experience after chuckling at a Matrix reference in the mind-blowing thrill ride that was the (season?) finale of the ever-awesome Chuck. Perusing message boards after watching the show, I caught a comment from someone who pointed out that it's already been 10 years since the first Matrix movie!

So time flies, and memories make us feel like we're always where we were, even though we're all so much further from there now. I'll share some of my professorial recollections here, keeping names anonymous of course:

Professor B was the first one I met with, who reviewed my portfolio a few months before I started, and steered my parents and I in the direction of a graphic design career. I didn't even know what “graphic design” was at the time and thought I was going to learn to draw comic books. 17 years, 1 university, and 3 companies later and I realize it was the right move. Professor B also taught me a lot about drawing, from blending light and shadow in charcoal to rendering negative shapes, the space between objects, so we could draw what we actually saw, not what our brains expected to see. And the guy is an amazing photorealistic airbrusher too.

Professor R was the Dean of the art department, and an excellent illustrator himself. The last semester before I left the school to tackle an internship was the first one in which I finally had an opportunity to take one of his drawing classes. He taught us about professional illustrators, showed us what people were rendering beyond comic books, to raise the level we were striving for. He could draw with pencil on mylar, a great skill given the risk of smudging.

Professor H taught us color theory. She was tough old bird who demanded perfection in all of our swatches. Our color mixes had to match hers exactly. We were all a little horrified that she would sometimes lick a brush to give it a perfect point, but perhaps watercolor paint was non toxic since it never slowed her down. It was a hard class to endure as Freshman, but those of us who stuck with the program still hold the benefits today. I can sit in a meeting with my marketing team and make valid arguments in defense of my color choices.

Professor S taught us graphic design before our school got a computer lab. I had to do calligraphy and letter things by hand, and learn to mock up various formats with a metal ruler and an X-acto blade. I'm glad I have those foundation skills and still use some of them in my career today.

Professor DG brought us into the modern age with computers. He was a bit of a nerd and a nervous laugher, but he had real world experience and a wealth of digital knowledge. Though I appreciated the skills Professor S imparted, I never would have had the patience to stay in this field if it hadn't gone digital.

Professor D was a friend of Professor R's, a young guy working professionally as an illustrator who brought not only new techniques, but real business sense to his classes. We learned about dealing with clients and how to market ourselves professionally, in addition to innovative new techniques and use of the tools our other professors had given us.

My Peers were My Peers. My interest in art started in 2nd or 3rd grade as a competitive thing, me trying to draw robots as well as the kids in my class who could draw. It evolved into something more serious, and it helped that I had friends with the same interests to push, challenge, or help me, whether making fun of a drawing and goading me to be better to just helping me understand some of the more complicated lessons.

There's one more professor I'll refer to as “Jordan” since I can't remember his name but know he was a big Michael Jordan fan and spent a class discussing him when he retired from basketball the first time. Jordan taught an English literature and creative writing class which I took as an elective, and part of the class involved keeping a daily journal of sorts. Every day we had to write a page or so about something, anything that was on our mind. It could be about family or food or popular culture or whatever we felt like writing about, just so long as we wrote. At the end of the semester, he offered to write a recommendation if I ever went to grad school or pursued my writing, but I stuck with the graphic design major. Writing is still important to my career, from understanding the content of the ads I design and having a stronger marriage of pictures to words, to simple communication whether writing letters to prospective employers or efficient and clear e-mails among coworkers once I was employed. And, as I look back, I'm realizing that those sheets of looseleaf with hastily scrawled thoughts written on them were probably an ancestor to this very blog. And that's pretty cool.

So here I am, an art director by day making money, and a blogger by night sharing my thoughts and maintaining my sanity. I owe it all to my professors and my peers, without whom I wouldn't be here.


Blogger Lorna said...

what a nice tribute; and as usual, you're insightful. Isn't it amazing the impact teachers can have?

4/29/2009 9:11 PM  

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