20 November 2008

Thompson's Tales

Growing up in San Diego, Derek Thompson was determined to become a comic book artist. So focused was that dream that when he came Otis' old location- first to participate in the pre-college program and then as an undergrad studying illustration- that he essentially ignored the "crunchy" environment of MacArthur park, graduating with a BFA in Illustration in 1994. During that time he managed to get his first "real" comic book published and he's been working and thriving in the art and design world since.

Last night Derek returned to Otis to give a talk about his own college experience, his life in the professional world and his advice to our current students. He spoke to a packed house in the Lighting Studio and I was lucky enough to catch his talk. He was engaging and entertaining, moving easily between serious subjects (how to deal with the IRS because you didn't have taxes withheld as a freelancer) and the humorous (how do you solve the problem of Jar Jar Binks?). I really appreciated both his honesty about what the art world is and is not and his unflagging spirit and belief that what is is doing "for a living" is what he was always been meant to do. It was a potent mix of encouragement and awareness that an art student should hear. I only wish I had a recorder with me so I could have taped it and then play it for families when they ask why their kid should be able to go to art school.

You may not realize how often you've seen his work and here are just a few of the movies he has worked on during his stints as a freelancer, as a staffer at ILM and currently at Pixar:

Star Wars Episode III
Thirteen Ghosts
Mummy Returns
Men In Black

You can find a lot more information at his personal site DerekMonster, his blog and on IMDB. In addition to the lecture last night he is doing portfolio reviews and group projects with our students the rest of the week.

18 November 2008

Mentors Mentioned

One of the cornerstones of Otis' Fashion program is the work it does with mentors. Each year the juniors and senior students work on projects under the direction of well known designers, giving them a real sense of what it is like "out there" in the working industry.

Yesterday the fashion blog StyleChica posted a nice piece about this year's mentors on its front page. You can read it here. Oh, and the next time you are on campus, stop by the third floor of Ahmanson Hall where there is a new display chronicling all 28 years worth of mentors- its an impressive list.

14 November 2008

From the Mouth of Youth

I've been in college admissions over 20 years now so you can imagine the amount of times I've ran through the list of criteria for getting into college. Surprisingly (or maybe not) the key factors have not really changed that much over time. Sure at Otis we have a whole additional layer in the from of the portfolio requirement but the rest of it is a familiar refrain- good grades, decent test scores, take solid "college prep" classes, etc. The whole thing can feel pretty top down at points- talking to or at students and their families so it's always nice to see a different take on the issue.

In reading the November/December issue of LA Youth whose motto is "the newspaper by and bout teens" there is a nice piece by Jennifer Carcamo, a 2008 graduate of High Tech High LA and now a freshman at UCLA. Written as an interview with her high school counselor Karyn Koven, Jennifer presents an easy to follow set of suggestions about what students can do from the beginning through the end of their high school careers.

An added bonus for Otis is that we are listed among the schools that Ms. Koven recommends to students who are considering art school! You can read the whole story here. There is a companion article about Jennifer's own college search that is also a good read.

12 November 2008

Symposium Sets the Stage

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the 2008 AICAD symposium "Artists and Designers for Change." The event was jointly hosted by Otis and Art Center and drew faculty from AICAD member schools throughout the US and Canada.

One of the things I have always appreciated about working on a college campus is access to events such as these. They represent an opportunity to engage in really thoughtful discussions about important topics- in this case artists and designers as change agents- and to hear from some truly brilliant speakers.

For me the highlight was Mel Chin's talk. His presentation of the project " Operation Paydirt" completely captured the spirit of the event- get kids to make art as an educational experience- use the awareness created by their efforts to draw a attention to a serious health issue and raise significant funds (hopefully) to make a difference in people's quality of life. If that all sounds a bit cryptic you can read about the whole thing here. I'd urge you to check it out and get involved.

All of the presentations are scheduled to be posted on the symposium wiki site in the near future.

I learned a lot from the experience and it was a very good event for Otis.