Tag Archives: Art Institute of Boston

Bird Attack!

The very first project I assigned my freshman 2D design class at the Art Institute of Boston was a “Bird Attack” in cut-out black paper against a white background, and I must say that they weren’t terribly thrilled with the idea. I could clearly see them thinking “aren’t we in college? what’s with the kindergarten assignment?” But the critique the following week built a foundation for all subsequent discussions. What does a horizontal line do? What does a vertical line symbolize? Which arrangements will create the most tension, depth, and speed? In other words… how can we use seemingly simple shapes to compose our content before we ever start to draw? In the projects that followed I was delighted to see that their ideas took leaps and bounds forward as they started to think about the picture plane in a whole new way. (For a fabulous introduction to this, be sure to pick up Molly Bang’s Picture This.)

Which, oddly enough, directly relates to THE EXPEDITIONERS, because while reading the manuscript I found that Sarah Stewart Taylor had given me just that assignment: to draw giant vultures attacking the four main characters as they travel downstream on a river. If only I’d made the assignment that much more complicated for my students!

I poked through the files of my brain trying to remember our in-class discussions. Diagonals create tension. Sharp shapes are perceived as threatening. I can use the oars and wings to tilt the movement of the composition. I went through countless versions of this drawing, trying not to completely disappoint myself after having forced my students to attempt the same problem. I also imposed upon my husband at least twice to pose as a terrified teenager. It turns out he’s quite good at imagining fictitious birds attacking him while sitting on a storage bench in a 10th floor New York apartment.

I finally came up with a solution I liked to use as the foundation for the final line art for the drawing. As for drawing the actual attacking birds, the turkey vulture proved to be the most helpful reference. Vultures are mostly scavenging birds, and turkey vultures have evolved bald heads and huge, unseparated nostrils as adaptions to stay clean and stay breathing while diving head first into the bloated bellies of dead animals. Turkey vultures also have a six foot wingspan (!!), not quite as large as these birds but certainly a good place to start. I’m quite relieved that facing-off with a vulture is not part of my foreseeable future!

Schulz Library Blog Interview

Last week, cartoonist/librarian Jen Vaughn invited me to contribute to the Schulz Library blog with an alumni interview. Thanks so much Jen! Here’s a little excerpt on the undergraduate class I’m teaching, or read the entire interview here!
What have you been up to since you graduated from CCS and moved?
Katherine Roy: I am teaching a new class at the Art Institute of Boston (AIB) called “Form, Content & Context,” which is basically a cross between 2D Design and Visual Thinking for undergraduate freshman in the Foundation Studies department. Each week or so we’ve done a project exploring a new element of design, including shape, line, texture, and value, soon moving on to color. My 10 students have completely different levels of artistic and concept development experience, so it’s been a challenge for me to learn how to frame the parameters for each assignment in a way that gives them a focal point, while also encouraging play. I feel like my job is really to teach how to SEE, and in return I get to revisit the way I see and make and explore through art. It’s my first time teaching at this level, after lots of experience with kids and adults, but so far it’s been incredibly rewarding.

Which assignment turned out to be your favorite?

KR: So far the texture assignment has been, I think, most successful, which is funny because it was the one I felt most uncertain about. I started off by stealing an idea from one of my drawing teachers, Jeff Fisher, who sometimes has his students wrap a commercial-sized trash can with a long piece of paper, and then the students move AROUND the model, drawing AROUND the trash can, keeping it oriented to the model while circling the room. The result is a distorted but very dynamic drawing that forces you to think about connections in space, and editing while you draw.

Students working on barrel drawing.

To translate this into a design assignment, I started by setting up a large still life in the center of the room, and had the students do two drawings on the trash cans, using paint and charcoal, as they circled the still life. From there they had to choose the one that was working the best, and then collage textures back into it (rubbings, drawn textures, etc) and incorporate value to create a completed piece. I was very pleased with some of the final pieces— you never know how students will respond to something so unconventional, but the unfamiliarity forces students to try thinking in a new way, which is exactly what (I think) Foundation Studies should be about.

Student work by Sophie Lizano