When I was in art school at CCA(C), I never quite fit in, artistically speaking. I had lots of friends, but since the classes I was taking were all fine art classes, I was sort of out of place. My work was always being called “illustrative” a grave insult in the world of the fine art academy!

That's me in my art school days, looking scared of my own work.

Now I’m back in the academic world, doing a little teaching at the SF Art Institute, and just finished my first class, an introduction to illustration using digital tools. And I guess it’s appropriate that most of my students were people just like me born illustrators working in an almost exclusively fine art-oriented school. Which, it turns out, is not such a bad place to be if you’re an illustrator!

To give them a sense of the “real world” of the working illustrator, I made each assignment a “job” from an art director and for extra realism I attached an imaginary dollar amount tagged to each assignment. The students did a total of five jobs, ranging from editorial illustration to fashion illustration to my favorite assignment, the gig poster, which I saved for their final. They did some great work!

Read on to see some examples of their work…

Artwork by Jonny Thomas

Artwork by Elise Inferrera

Brian McHugh

Artwork by James Calder

(I made a small tweak to this piece sorry James, couldn’t help it!)

Artwork by Charlotte Cunningham

Artwork by Madison Meyer

So, you might be wondering why I say that the world of fine art can be a good place to study, even if you’re interested in illustration. Wouldn’t it make more sense to study illustration at a school that specializes in that? Well, I think that the fine art academic environment really affords students a chance to think creatively, with incredible freedom. At art school, it’s still really a matter of “anything goes.” And that is a really great thing for a young student. When you’re just starting out, you don’t want to get bogged down worrying about “the market,” or worrying about style and fashion and all that. You need to be free to develop your voice, which is really the most important thing for any artist, whether doing commercial work or not your voice. How do you speak, and what do you speak about?

Anyway, I’m quite happy to be contributing to helping these budding artists find their voice. And I’ll be back it at for the fall semester of 2011!