What’s Up in IL 2?

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in Art Classes, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, Peaks Island | 7 comments

Between illustration deadlines , I’ve been teaching Illustration 2 at Maine College of Art. This sophomore level elective is open to any student, and usually includes those interested in majoring in Illustration or Digital Media. There are two sections, and mine has 10 amazing people! While Illustration 1 involves an emphasis on black and white media, IL 206 focuses on color, concept development, and putting images into context, with a design layout provided.

The first day of class students were presented with pastel pencils, colored paper and sand paper, and a grab bag of toy animals. They chose 3 colors and paper scraps, and then drew a surprise from a bag. Limitations of color can spark unexpected serendipity.


Drawings by William Kittredge



Drawings by Taryn Perry

We have begun every class with an observational drawing session of 15 – 20 minutes, with students providing one or two objects. Not only a good exercise, it’s a chance to warm up before we focus on the project at hand. Will brought in an object he had just assembled, drawn here by Peter Maloney.


Drawing by Peter Maloney


Drawing by Emily Carlson

Drawing by Emily Carlson


Project 1 involved illustrating one of 3 fables for a book jacket. Early classes include brainstorming ideas, followed by sketch development. We also had a live model session, in which some handy props conjured some fable characters.


Drawing by Taryn Perry

Warm-ups with short poses using ink captured quick gestures.


And longer poses involving more props and color.


Drawing by Thomas D’Amore

After a couple of snow days and much sketching, final illustrations were submitted in the context of the cover design. It’s an additional leap for students to work within a given layout, pairing image and text together, choosing colors to balance and contrast, while allowing room for legibility.

Illustration by Fred Aldrich

Illustration by Fred Aldrich


Illustration by Sarah Sawtelle


Illustration by William Kittredge

Illustration by William Kittredge

We moved onto Project 2, illustrating a tea package. Students were given a template, but could create an imaginary tea flavor to cover the package. This one referenced a Japanese landscape and still life.


Illustration by Andrew Moran

Sam created several individual images that she layered into her final design.


Illustration by Sam Myrdek

Thomas created a pattern of marijuana leaves for a wallpaper backdrop for his medicinal blend.

Illustration by Thomas D'Amore

Illustration by Thomas D’Amore

I brought in some deer skulls borrowed from an island neighbor for one of the observational drawing sessions.

Drawing by Thomas D'Amore

Drawing by Thomas D’Amore



Drawing by Frederick Aldrich

We met for one class in the Joanne Waxman Library, where Library Director Shiva Darbandi shared this quote:

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.” -Author Sidney Sheldon
We played a game I call Library Lines. Students draw a prompt from a hat, which is a category related to illustration, located on the shelves.
They find that area, choose a book from the stacks, and make a tracing from an image found in that book. Sam is making a tracing here.
They repeat this 7 times, tracing from other books found, so the final image is a layered linear collage. Each drawing represents several deliberate choices, each step informed by the one before. Hopefully there are surprises, such as discovering the resources at hand, while making an image triggered by impulse. Sam’s resulted in a lyrical use of text with crisp juxtapositions.
Drawing by Sam Myrdek

Drawing by Sam Myrdek


This one makes bold use of variations in line weight, with an implied narrative of violent history.


Drawing by Owen Scott

Drawing by Owen Scott

This exercise was a lead into Project 3, an editorial assignment that called for interpreting one of three magazine articles. A majority of the class chose a piece from an award-winning science magazine, Nautilus, about engineering luck into game design. Owen’s piece touches on the aspect of luck as a belief in the gods, with luck symbols lining the steps of a Mayan-like temple of good fortune.
Illustration by Owen Scott

Illustration by Owen Scott


Taryn created a slot machine with a lucky winner oblivious to the furtive mechanic behind the machine.


Illustration by Taryn Perry

Illustration by Taryn Perry


Peter illustrated a game environment in which a player’s own handle is pulled by the game, referencing a point in the article about the manipulation of players’ perceptions about chance.



Illustration by Peter Maloney


In Project 4, students were asked to create a 3D character.  For our next class, we had a surprise visitor in the form of Pepper, an African pygmy hedgehog belonging to MECA alum (and former student) Andi Croak.




She skittered about the table, but everyone managed a few sketches.


Drawings by Peter Maloney

Drawings by Peter Maloney


Pepper felt most at home burrowing into Andi’s sweatshirt.




Andi brought in a few of her recent 3D works, and discussed the materials, obstacles, and rewards of creating them.


Students began sketching ideas and playing with Sculpy and other materials.


Sketches and prototype by Sarah Sawtelle

Sketches and prototype by Sarah Sawtelle


sketches and work in progress by Sam Myrdek

sketches and work in progress by Sam Myrdek


Before the final critique, Sam brought photography equipment to shoot their pieces for a card set, which is in production as I write. For the final crit, students assembled their preliminary sketches, the photograph of their piece, the actual 3D piece, and a drawing made afterwards of their piece. Bringing 2D into three-dimensional form, and back into 2D reproduction is a circle with many layers of challenge.

Joe Rosshirt was a student when I first assigned this project, in 2008.  He went on to create several 3D characters during his years as a MECA illustration major. Now a freelance illustrator and animator, Joe currently co-teaches a Junior Seminar here, and agreed to be a guest critter.




Everyone had frustrations with materials, yet remarkable discoveries were made. I am always impressed with the efforts and perseverance of my students!


Photograph and sculpture by Emily Carlson


Photograph by Sam Myrdek, illustration and sculpture by William Kittredge

Photograph by Sam Myrdek, illustration and sculpture by William Kittredge


Photograph by Sam Myrdek, illustration and sculpture by Sarah Sawtelle

Photograph by Sam Myrdek, illustration and sculpture by Sarah Sawtelle


At this point in the semester, the class needed a break. They made a field trip to visit my studio on Peaks Island, a welcome dose of fresh air, sunshine, and a two-cent tour of the island. Plus, refreshments!





Now they are working on Project 5, the last assignment. They will illustrate a gig poster for their favorite band. They will design their own layouts and consider typography.


When we returned to class the next time, I gave a word prompt, to illustrate a word with 5 – 8 letters. I’ve given this prompt before, and I am always delighted by the results.


Lettering by Emily Carlson

Lettering by Emily Carlson

Lettering by Andrew Moran

Lettering by Andrew Moran



Lettering by William Kittredge

Lettering by William Kittredge


Next class we will draw from the model again, with musical instruments for props. Drawing from the figure is always useful, and we may listen to the bands chosen.

The semester has flown by, working alongside these nimble folks. They have brainstormed together, drawn together, and stretched themselves. It’s an honor to share the classroom with them. Onward, Illustration 2!






  1. What fun !
    They are all so lucky to have you for a teacher, Jamie !!!

    • Thanks for reading, I wish you were in my class!

  2. Awesome on so many levels Jamie! Lucky students, you have. I am missing a few of the drawings but…what I saw was great! Thanks for sharing your and your students process. Very informative.

    • Thanks for reading! Right now they are all eager to be done, with me and the class!

  3. I’m so impressed with what your students have created, Jamie. You’re an amazing teacher!

    • Thanks for reading, Eleanor! I actually try not to teach them anything, like telling them how something is done. I give them room to solve every challenge on their own terms.

  4. Wonderful post!

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