This year celebrates the Art Institute of Boston's centennial. A small art school who has grown with big ideas. The AIB Illustration department continues to make their marks in today's creative industry. We had a chance to ask Susan LeVan, Chair of Illustration, what's to come in the future for students and the program.
The AIB Illustration Department just celebrated their Centennial Birthday with the AIB Illustration & Animation Faculty exhibit? How was the show? How has the AIB Illustration department evolved since becoming Chair person.
The show is great just to see the range and quality of our facultys' work. The department is always evolving – just as it did under my predecessor, Robert Kaufman. Illustration is a dynamic and competitive field, and the department is constantly working to strengthen the basic skills and knowledge that will serve each student while anticipating changes in markets and student interest.
Here are a few new courses faculty have created over the last three years to serve changes in the field: Alternative Comix & the Graphic Novel; 3D Illustration; Concept Art; Surface Design Drawing; Animal Anatomy Drawing; Illustration Now (built to give first semester students a sense of the breadth and excitement of contemporary illustration.)
How would you describe the personality of AIB Illustration program? What traits make AIB Illustration a successful place for emerging artists to thrive and grow?
The personality of the department is a complex mix. We believe as artists that play and hard work are the same thing – we are disciplined and love to have fun. We value both the traditional and the new, and seek a dynamic balance of concept, skill, knowledge, passion, self-direction, communication and professionalism. We create an environment that allows students to experiment in diverse ways, to try lots of things or focus on one thing. We help students develop along the path or paths that fire them up, and to develop a voice that's authentic and strong.
The illustration industry has changed dramatically over the past decade. From editorial illustration to custom toy design, nothing is out of creative reach. The Illustrator has become visionary. How do you see the career of a Illustrator fitting into our world today?
To paraphrase my interviewer, Ryan Maguire, there is no longer a thing called "illustration" – at least as traditionally defined. Contemporary illustrators are visionaries who travel wherever their creative imagination takes them. We encourage students to follow the flame wherever it leads and to assume that everything they learn, do, see, care about will feed their work.
Are there any contemporary professionals you see working in today's markets that are redefining the role of the Illustrator?
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston is currently showing Brazilian street artists Os Gemeos who represent one of the many kinds of work contemporary illustrators are doing http://www.icaboston.org/exhibitions/exhibit/os_gemeos/
In addition I chose the artists at Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York and asked Illustration faculty members Margi Kimball and Keith MacLelland to add some more. The list could be pretty endless as new illustration is expanding and thriving all over the world.
Lynda Barry http://www.marlysmagazine.com
Jon Contino http://joncontino.com
Kate Bingaman http://katebingamanburt.com
Ray Fenwick http://rayfenwick.ca
Peter Arkle http://www.peterarkle.com/#
Dominic McGill http://mcgill.aeroplastics.net/index.php
Rob Ryan http://www.misterrob.co.uk
Keil Johnson http://www.kieljohnson.com/kieljohnson.com/PROJECTS.html
Takashi Murakami http://www.takashimurakami.com
Clayton Brothers http://www.claytonbrothers.com
Mark Todd http://www.marktoddillustration.com
What trends do you see happening in today's illustration market? How does the AIB program respond to those market demands?
I've mentioned a few of the courses we've recently developed, and there are many exciting new ones on the way. I think it's most important for illustrators to stay awake; be aware of what's happening in and around you whether it's interior perceptions or global events; keep learning and growing. Self-direction is key: do what you love and don't accept conventional limitations. I like our Illustrators to look at South African artist William Kentridge who stubbornly resisted his conventional art training and brought together two disparate forms that he loved (drawing and film) and created something wholly unique and powerful.
AIB is moving! The new home of the AIB Illustration department will soon be in Cambridge. That is exciting news! What are some things that Illustration students can look forward to see in their new home?
Illustration has already taken advantage of our new Porter Square location. The Junior and Senior Studio courses are now held in the newly remade and amazing! space within University Hall, and this has allowed everyone in the classes a chance to claim an individual studio space. The studios are either ventilated "easel" spaces or "desktop" spaces for students working in non toxic media and/or working on laptops. The plans for the new building are even more amazing and the Illustration and Design departments will be sharing classrooms in a loft area in what was once the attic of the church – huge skylights and original wood beams are just two of the architectural features. The new building will afford students facilities that are both functional and beautiful and that will encourage new ways of working and collaborating as artists.
What advice would you give young artists who are looking to become professional illustrators in today's diverse creative markets?
Talent is the ante into the game. Every professional has ability, but what brings success is passion for what you're doing, hard work, fearlessness (aka the willingness to do what scares you), awareness, self-direction, professionalism and respect, and the secret knowledge that work and play are the same thing.
Thank you to Susan and the AIB Illustration department. We look forward to seeing the talent of AIB Illustration grow into the next hundred years! – Ryan Maguire, AIB blog editor