We are well over the hump of this semester in IL 321, where I lead an intrepid pack of 15 students in the Junior Illustration Majors Studio at Maine College of Art. I met them briefly last spring after they declared their major, and gave them sketchbooks to fill for the summer. I believe in the powers of daily drawing, and knew whatever they brought back to the table would provide seeds for insight and inspiration. And I’m always blown away.

Tyler Eldridge is double majoring in Illustration and Graphic Design. Stand back!


Some students had a tough time finding the space to draw, with summer jobs and needing a creative break. Aric Gross made the most of what was on hand at his job.


Hannah Barrett captures a fierce determination in her sketchbook.


Katie Steere drew folk costumes from her maternal homeland.


For the first project, they created zines based on ideas sparked by their sketchbooks. From girl gangs to sled dogs to long-distance romance, they illustrated very specific stories.


The next project involved a circus poster. Here Kat Harris draws a nimble model during a session of life studies that informed their figurative needs.



I brought in pastel supplies for some quick color studies. This is Sami’s.


The good guys from Wing Club Press had done a workshop in RISO printing just in time for the poster project. Jennifer Olson laid out her first prints to dry.


Once again, students found totally different ways to approach the same theme. This is Rachel Breckenridge’s:


Kolby Hildebrandt’s made use of the off-register moment in her pile of contortionists.


Aric Gross allowed for color-mixing by using different paper.


The next project was illustrating an editorial piece for a travel magazine. Sami Monoxelos made the yak her metaphor for adventure.


Jennifer Olson’s zebras are a field of form and pattern.


Cara Peslak made dramatic use of limited color in this sly encounter.


The current project involves illustrating a historical narrative moment of their choice. I brought them downstairs to the Joanne Waxman Library for an exercise I call Secrets of the Stacks. Library Director Shiva Darbandi met the class with a warm welcome and a floor plan.

Students drew a call number prompt from a box, such as Fashion and Textile TT500 or Native American Art E78 – E99, and located that shelf. Then they chose a book to page through, found an image of interest, and traced it on a sheet of tracing paper provided.


They did this multiple times, creating a layered image from a variety of sources. It’s less about the tracing as it is about the finding, the searching, and the unexpected encounters with books they’ve never met.


My goal is to familiarize everyone, including myself, with the resources available and hope they found research material for their project. Their linear collages of free associations invite more complexity of visual thinking. Hannah Barrett’s drawing:


This is Cara Peslak’s:


Next the class traveled across the bay to Peaks Island for a brisk field trip. We stopped at the local barn to view the horses.


They snacked a bit before studio visits downstairs (mine) and upstairs (Marty Braun.)


Beachcombing, the best for last!


While they are still developing sketches, this week we visited the Picture This…the art and workings of illustration institute exhibit at the Portland Public Library.


The display of original illustration accompanied by process boards with preliminary sketches, notes, and references… is a gold mine of how final pieces take shape.

Look, it’s the bit of historical ephemera that sparked Chris Van Dusen’s The Circus Ship.


I delighted in finding this endearing thread from Scott Nash, curator of the show, who proved that memory stays with us, whether we know it or not.


Fellow MECA faculty Daniel Minter included an open sketchbook in his process board:


Students can relate to how something begins this loosely:


And in the veteran hands of Kevin Hawkes becomes this, a detail from The Wicked Big Toddlah.


The class was glad for a place to sit and mingle with books and each other.


I’m thrilled to be sharing MECA’s illustration studio with this tribe of students. If you want more evidence of how special Maine College of Art really is, check out this new VIDEO.


One Comment

  1. Jamie, you’re visual displays never cease to amaze me.
    This latest was amazing!
    A wonderful pictorial of your incredibly talented MECA students was the best!
    Lucky you!
    Lucky them!

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