The Illustration Arts Forum this week turned out to be a real adventure and, in the end, a terrific experience. Due to what has been termed "Snowmageddon" by the media, Thursday was the worst day to travel since 911; the entire Eastern seaboard was locked down under several feet of snow and ice, and over 5000 flights were canceled. Unfortunately, Jon Foster's flight was one of those on the cancellation list.
Helen Dardik's original flight was to leave her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario at 6:50am and connect at Philadelphia. She got a call from the airline on Wednesday that her flight had been changed due to the weather in Philly; she would leave even earlier in the morning and connect in Toronto instead. Thankfully, her flights made it through and she arrived safe and sound about 3 hours earlier than originally expected. Many thanks to Renee Rivas and Pat Bollin for meeting Helen at the airport and feeding her before bringing her to SCAD.
Helen gave a very inspiring and enlightening talk at the auditorium space at the beautiful new Digital Media Center. She showed examples of her pattern work, spoke about her inspirations, and the pros and cons of working with an agent. Her experience with agents has been a very positive one, which is contrary to what we have heard from several other visiting artists. She spoke about the business of illustration as well, and why maintaining copyright is so important, and how licensing your work can bring substantial financial rewards.
Helen also gave us a bit of insight into her working process and technique; she doesn't sketch, but dives right in with Adobe Illustrator and creates shapes and patterns on the fly. Later, she confided that she regretted not having added that she sketched for over 20 years in order to refine her style to the point where it became second nature. So kids, do not try this at home! By all means sketch! Perhaps after 20 years, you won't need to any more.
We had a few minutes after Helen's talk to chat with her.
Friday morning, Helen gave a demonstration of her Illustrator techniques.
Portfolio reviews were scheduled for Saturday morning, but the roads were quite icy in many areas of the city, so for safety reasons, those were canceled.
Thanks, Helen, for spending time with us and sharing your talent, your wit and your insight. We hope you had a good time in spite of the cold and snowy weather. And thanks to Mike Lowery for making sure that Helen was taken care of after the snow came and trapped some of us in our driveways.
We were all disappointed that Jon Foster couldn't make it down to the Forum, but there was nothing we could do. Thankfully, we have in our town a world-class illustrator and wonderful human being, Bill Mayer. I made a sheepish phone call to Bill and told him of Jon Foster's flight cancellation, and asked if there was any way he could come in and talk to our students about his work on extremely short notice. It's no surprise that he said yes; he would try to put something together and do whatever he could to help us out. And, it's also no surprise that he was amazing. He drove in despite the snow and blew everyone away with his artwork, his humor, his warmth and his sensitivity.
He brought in a stack of prints of love letters that he has sent to his wife Lee over the years. He had secretly collected them from her drawer, scanned them, printed them, and is having them made into a book for her Valentine's gift. What a guy; it's not only a touching tribute to his love for Lee, it's also an amazing window into the mind of a creative artist who is constantly exploring new ways to communicate visually. It's the reason his work remains fresh and vital, even after 40 years of making art and illustration.
Bill spoke about the creative process, and how he uses his sketchbooks to capture ideas on paper before they disappear. He also said that illustrators shouldn't take themselves too seriously; we're not curing cancer or saving the world, we're just communicators who are fortunate to be able to make a living making pictures, even silly ones that start out as a sketchbook page with stamps and a few lines that ends up winning a Gold Medal in this year's Society of Illustrators Competition.
Bill's SI Gold
and a better look at the artwork
Thanks, Bill, for braving the weather, and on no notice at all, taking time to share your work and your insights with all of us. We are very lucky to have you as a friend and a neighbor, and will always be grateful for that.