J David Deal | Teaching
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Teaching

So the conversation starts like this:

“A Design Conference? In Portales?”

“Where’s Portales?”

“Just south of Clovis.”

(silence)

“115 miles west of Lubbock.”

(silence with a wince)

“265 miles east of Albuquerque.”

(silence with a scratch)

“85 miles northeast of Roswell.”

“Oh! I’ve heard of Roswell!”

(silence with a nod)

This is how most every conversation starts when I talk to someone about presenting at the Pixel to Paper Design Conference at ENMU in Portales, NM. And THAT my friends is the reason we have a design conference in Portales. It’s in the middle of nowhere. The only reasonable way to get my students contact with design professionals is to bring the designers to them. This year’s conference will be our 3rd. I am into my 5th year of teaching. Do you see the math? All I can say is…I wish I had started it earlier.

What follows is a letter that, with the help of the fabulous Bryan Hahn, we sent out to all of our Art Majors and Minors:

Hi Dudes! (we didn’t really say dudes)(or did we?)(anyway…proceed)

I would like to personally invite you to the 3rd Annual Pixel to Paper Design Conference hosted by the Department of Art and AIGA-ENMU on Friday, Oct. 21, 9-4 p.m., in the Art and Anthropology’s lecture hall 110. The purpose of this conference is to bring design professionals to campus so that you can hear their life stories, see their work, ask questions and to make professional networking connections.

For graphic design majors and minors attendance at the conference is imperative. Our guest speakers are design professionals doing what you want to do in the future. Be inspired by their work; learn about their path from school to vibrant career and equally important, network with them. Attending the conference provides an opportunity to make a professional connection, one that may prove to be beneficial once you graduate. You will have someone you can seek advice from or obtain an interview with.

Although this is a design conference, visual art majors are highly encouraged to attend. Meet creative visionaries who are shaping the visual culture that surrounds you each and every day. Listen to them talk about the creative process and be inspired by their work. Visuals and ideas form one area of art can help to inform you about your own work; you never know what will inspire you next.

Admission into the Pixel to Paper Design Conference is free and attendees are welcome to come and go as needed. If you have a class on Friday but want to attend please contact me directly and I will gladly provide a letter to your professor asking for permission for you to miss class so you can attend the conference. This year’s conference includes the following guest speakers:

Steven Brower (stevenbrowerdesign.com)

Brower is an award winning graphic designer, author and currently a faculty member at Marywood University. He has been art director for The Nation, Print Magazine and The New York Times and has been honored by AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), Art Directors Club, The American Center for Design and has work in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

Kristin Carlson (thinkallday.com)

Carlson is the founder of Think All Day, a graphic and web design studio located in Santa Fe.  She began her career in arts marketing at W Architecture and Alvin Ailey in New York City, and holds a dual Bachelor of Arts in art history and visual arts from Columbia University. She is also the recipient of a study grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for study in London.  As a founding member of The Design Corps in Santa Fe, Carlson also serves on the organization’s Advisory Committee. She is an AIGA New Mexico board member, CreateAthon team lead and Inspire Santa Fe mentor.

Bryan Ellison (funneldesigngroup.com)

Ellison is Chief Visionary Officer and co-founder of Funnel Design in Oklahoma City. He has worked in all areas of design including branding, advertising, and interactive and app, but his primary role is the research and expansion of new technologies and programs to ensure his firm and clients are consistently ahead. Ellison’s firm was been recognized in numerous publications including Print and Communication Arts and received an Emmy® award for creation direction.

Brandon Murphy (calibercreative.com)

Murphy is principal and creative director for Caliber Creative in Dallas. He attended the University of North Texas, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in communication design. Murphy has focused his work within the corporate and retail sectors having opened his own firm in 2008 with partners Bret Sano and Erin Fletcher. His body of work has been recognized in award shows and periodicals including Communication Arts, Graphic Design USA, Graphis, HOW, Print and The AR100. Murphy has taught at the University of North Texas since 1999.

Please make plans to attend this exciting design conference by marking your calendar for Friday, Oct 21. I look forward to seeing you there.

Above: Ocean Park Series #105 by Richard Diebenkorn, Modern Museum of Fort Worth

So how is it that it took me 33 years to discover the abstract impressionist artist Richard Diebenkorn.

I will discount the first 18 years of my life since, though art was available to me, and I did pursue it, it was at a pedestrian level of understanding. No art history in high school and minimal art classes were available where I attended school.

So surely I must have heard his name referenced at some point during my BFA studies at Louisiana Tech University in rustic Ruston (see what i did there). After all, I took 2 Art History classes! I will accept that I was not the best student at that time but, I did get passing grades…in my art classes. It must have been the professors fault for not mentioning his name and showing me his work and demanding, and I mean demanding, that I pay attention and see his work like I had never seen anything before. Yes! That’s what should have happened. It would have changed the course of my career that very day. Or maybe not, or maybe they did, maybe I wasn’t ready, not open for the experience, not willing to let someone else guide me to a place I had never been.

Then, for the next 29 years of my life, I was on the graphic design side of the art world. Gulping down any visual reference I could get, from designers and fine artists, galleries and museums. I mean, I visited a lot of museums in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Portland and Rockland, Maine. Some (most) of these museums have Richards work in their collections! How did I miss it? How could I not have seen or even been slightly distracted enough by his work to at least read the description card next to a piece of his work and taken notice of the painter. I don’t know. I don’t get it. I just don’t understand how it could have happened.

So, it’s 2008, I am taking a painting course called “The Practice of Painting” at the Maine College of Art, in Portland, Maine. The teacher, this wonderful teacher named Diane Dahlke, led the class. I was talking with Diane about how I would like to get looser with my painting, still use landscape as my inspiration, but abstract it. So she recommends that I go to the schools library and check out a book about this artist named Richard Diebenkorn. I said “Hmmm… never heard of him.” I know, I know, I probably had. So, I find this coffee table sized book titled Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series. Get settled at a table all to myself. I opened the book. A hush came over the library. The clouds parted to reveal a full solar eclipse. Birds took to wing. Angels on high. Bells tolled through the country side. I had found my touchstone, my unknowing mentor… my Polaris. Totally shaken by this discovery I think to myself, “Hmmm…must be a new painter.” Oh Hell no! He has been painting and exhibiting his work since 1946. That means his work has been available to me for my entire life…my entire life!

Well, that was my first experience (that I know of) with Richard Diebenkorn’s work. This discovery makes me wonder who else have I totally overlooked. Art, music, literature, so much to explore and as I close out my fifties I wonder how much time do I have to discover. My advice to my students? Don’t shut anything out. You’re too young to hate any form of art. Maybe you don’t understand it…that’s okay. Just be open to seeing it and I mean really seeing it. Someday in the future you may find your own Diebenkorn. I may not be around when you do. So I am going to say it now… I told you so!

Now it’s back to the studio to paint and maybe look for a new discovery.

So… who is this Joan Mitchell person?

 

Some extra tidbits

A great article about a new catalogue of Richards work,

‘He’s Entering the Canon’: Richard Diebenkorn Foundation Will Issue Catalogue Raisonné This Fall With Yale

I have a feeling I may have to save some dollars for that one.

A few books in my collection…

Richard Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Richard Diebenkorn, The Berkeley Years 1953-1966

Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico

Continuing my adventure of teaching design to students who hope to, one day, be graphic designers…

My student asked for some help with a magazine layout she was working on. Immediately I saw 3 design issues that were easily solvable. A few years ago, I would have told her how to fix them and congratulate her on her beautiful work. This approach was my go to way of working with junior designers in the professional workplace where time was money and deadlines loomed.

As I have gained experience teaching design classes I have found that there are better ways when working one on one with a student. I have realized that I have started to lead a student to the solution instead of defining it for them. “Lightbulb!” What I do is define the overall problem I am having with the design (such as lack of hierarchy, typographic contrast or visual dynamics) and then let the student themselves verbalize their way to the solutions. Sometimes this can be time intensive and frustrating for both teacher and student but I believe that my design students are getting better faster because of this approach.

On a few occasions, when the frustration peaks, I will set up a similar design problem and, with the student(s) looking over my shoulder, design while verbalizing my thought process, design, brand, typographic and conceptual considerations and talk about about how each decision affects the other aspect of the design. Really fun for me and, I hear that, it’s illuminating for the student.

Now when it comes to correcting issues in craftsmanship that will become production problems I just flat out say “fix this and don’t do it again”. Sometimes there is a cut and dry right and wrong!

I don’t know, maybe everyone teaches this way, but I like it.

Thanks to Kaitlyn Roberts for the photo and Zheng Luo for listening.