Last year I joined the University of Hartford’s limited residency MFA program, directed by the esteemed Murray Tinkelman, to get out of the studio, to work with other artists, to open myself up to new ideas - and simply see what develops as a result. In addition, focusing time and effort towards a masters thesis might lead to a significant area of new artistic growth - certainly different from what I might do on my own.
It’s been a great experience. This is the only Low Residency MFA program in the country dedicated exclusively to illustration. Just the idea of spending 4 weeks out of the year, for a period of about two and a half years, outside the studio, traveling and working with about 40 other artists is cool. I love it. Many of us know the energy one comes away with after attending an illustration conference. It must be something about spending time with like-minded illustrators. The time is divided between Hartford, Pasadena, Fort Worth, New York, and San Francisco.
Just recently in Fort Worth, the first day’s lecturers were Jack Unruh, Bart Forbes, and John Collier. Collier’s sculptures are not to be missed. Check these out: hillstream.com (click on the John Collier sculpture link on the left). There were studio visits, rodeos, trips to galleries and museums, good food, and plenty of inspiration.
I’ll put various contact info / links below for those who wish to look into this program further... Even if you only have a glimmer of interest in hearing more from a student’s perspective, call me any time at 978.495.0077.
When I first signed up, it was not without some measure of doubt of second-guessing. I’ve been freelancing for about 27 years now. I’m very busy with assignments and don’t even have plans to teach at this time (although I love the idea). Why would I put myself through what could end up being a pile of work on top of what I already have going? Well, this has been a creative, inspiring charge and, so far, that alone makes it well worth the ride.
Here are some paintings I created for my last assignment, given out at our November session in Pasadena, and critiqued in Fort Worth about two weeks ago. It was an open assignment limited in that it must say ‘L.A.’ in the feel, architecture, sensibility, etc.
Working from photo reference I took, I drew lots of sketchbook ideas, just letting it flow. From there, I prepared 5 boards of various sizes and materials and just started painting. I had not painted with water based oils before, so this was a good opportunity to give them a try.
The paintings got to a certain point, but nothing really held them together. I then decided, moments after almost being run down and permanently terminated by a texting soccer Mom in a minivan, that the common thread would be to turn them into various forms of advertising communication - a magazine advertisement, a yard sign, a travel poster, a stamp, and a matchbook cover. There was a learning curve working with the oils. These got a bit more dense than I normally like, and scanning was much more difficult.
Above: Randy’s Donuts is just outside LAX...
This is an American Illustration 31 Chosen image. Thx judges! Real Estate sign for ‘Shell’s Nail ‘n’ Hair’... Copy taken from actual classified so I’m not responsible for the spelling of lenoleum or whatever....
Ace Motel match book cover over there to your left
USPS Stamp (not)...
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce ‘Visit Sunny’ campaign poster....
Below are a quick handful of my classmate’s assignments. Some fabulous work - I think you’ll agree... I’ll post more from others in the future...
Here are a few contacts for info on the Hartford program for anyone interested. Next session begins mid-July, 2012.
Hartford Art School Blog (Squint) http://www.hartfordillustration.com
U. of Hartford web site
Carol Tinkelman email: firstname.lastname@example.org
J.S.D. email, phone: email@example.com, 978.495.0077
Rebecca SolowApril 12, 2012
I am a classmate of John's, and I definitely agree with his sentiments about the program. I have been inspired by the faculty and my classmates, and challenged by the coursework, especially the thesis project. When I was looking into grad schools, what attracted me to HAS is that you don't have to stop your life for two years to get an MFA. I could continue my freelance and other work, continue to live in NY, and be a full-time student at the same time. If you've ever thought about getting your MFA in Illustration but were concerned about having to relocate, the time commitment, etc, I definitely recommend you look into this program.
Michael D. FayApril 12, 2012
This University of Hartford MFA in Illustration program is simply amazing, but not for the faint of heart. I'm glad to be part of it, looking forward to graduating in July and sleeping the month of August.
Christoph HitzApril 12, 2012
FiedlerApril 12, 2012
Carol TinkelmanApril 13, 2012
Mike, Forget sleeping in August. The best way to celebrate and relax is to plan an active vacation and keep all the juices flowing.
Paul RogersApril 14, 2012
Thanks for posting this John, good to see everyone's work from the LA trip, I love your stamp design.
john cuneoApril 14, 2012
Great work John.
Like what your doing with incorporating the type as well. The program sounds terrific.
f ;a ' h 4 e 0 t = yApril 14, 2012
Like the chosen image.
Ellen WeinsteinApril 15, 2012
Great to see the work you are doing, John. Looks like a great experience for all.
Michael SloanApril 15, 2012
Hi John, It's good to see what you're up to, and that you and your classmates are so inspired.
John DykesApril 15, 2012
Plus, the frat parties are outtasight, which reminds me, I need to dry clean my toga before July.
Thx all -
Paul - it was great to finally meet you on the Pasadena venture. Do you recognize the model in the first painting (w/sprinkles) - why, that looks a lot like... Kenton Nelson.
Another really cool part of the program is Murray's History of illustration and Illustration in Context lectures... extensive slide presentations, accompanied with plenty of firsthand anecdotes (many hilarious)... I had no clue of many of the incredible illustrators of the past, such as some of the women illustrators of the 50's ad 60's, Lorraine Fox being one example...
Scott BakalApril 15, 2012
I've got an original Lorraine Fox on my wall here. She's was an awesome illustrator.
I am glad you are experiencing all that I experienced with the Master's programs - first in Syracuse then finishing up in Hartford which truly ended up being a 5-star program.
You also have a great bunch of people side-by-side with you - Aja Wells, Ryan, Lee and all of them. As it does with many of folks, the program has a tendency to change people's lives, not just as artists, but as people.
I look forward to seeing more installments of your experiences - and man, I wish I was able to have done the Ft. Worth trip again - being in Texas is like being on another planet to me...but with great food!
Talk soon and hope to see you around at the next artist get-together up here.
John DykesApril 17, 2012
Ft Worth certainly stands out, Scott... it really is a different country down there. See to believe. So you have an original L.F.???? Love to see that piece of workin.