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Last month the Society of Illustrators hosted its 13th Summer Illustration Art Academy in collaboration with NYC Parks. This is a completely free art camp offered to children ages 9-13 attending NYC Parks Recreation Centers. It is made possible through grants and donations. For two weeks students learn different art techniques by professional illustrators and comic artists and use museums and public parks as their learning labs. All art supplies, trip expenses, and lunches are provided daily. 

On day 1 illustrator Eva Redamonti familiarized the students with their art supplies. They were introduced to blind contour drawing and participated in two warm up exercises – a blind contour drawing of a frog and a blob art challenge, pushing them to see shapes in unconventional ways. Eva then assigned an illustration “commission” from National Parks Magazine to create a cover which they finished in Central Park and took inspiration from their surroundings.

Day 2 was spent at Wave Hill, a public garden and community center located in The Bronx. After a morning tour that encouraged the students to use their five senses to explore the gardens, Illustrator Nikki Scioscia shared her book Sentient Sidewalk: Lessons from New York City’s Wild Medicinal Plants. She then performed a botanical illustration demonstration and the students were provided hand-made booklets to fill with their own drawings of the flora and fauna.

On day 3 illustrator Chad Wallace led a still life drawing workshop. He began with a demonstration on how to draw each object then helped the students individually. The second half of the day was spent exploring the American Museum of Natural History and drawing in their sketchbooks from the dioramas. Some of their favorite animals to draw were the African mammals and the sharks.

The theme for day 4 was landscape and cityscape illustration. After viewing a presentation of different landscape and cityscape examples, Illustrator Diana Schoenbrun asked the students to create their own. After lunch everyone took a trip to  the New-York Historical Society. The students were particularly interested in viewing and drawing in the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps. After spending some time there, they visited the rest of the museum, including the Under Cover: J.C. Leyendecker and American Masculinity exhibit.

Day 5 was spent at Materials for the Arts, the largest creative reuse center dedicated to supporting arts and cultural organizations, located in Queens. After a tour of the warehouse, art educators Will Niedmann and Niceli Portugal led a morning and afternoon workshop. The first was a collage workshop. Will asked everyone to use recycled materials to create an image that was photocopied and turned into a collagraph. It was then made into a collective zine. The theme for the second workshop was water pollution and took inspiration from the spanish word malagua, meaning jellyfish. When broken down, the literal translation is bad water. The students made their own malaquas using materials that are thrown away and create water pollution.

At the start of the second week, on day 6, illustrator Selina Alko led a mixed media workshop. Using a combination of newspaper, paint, and magazines, the students created an accordion book filled with art inspired by the theme summer.  In the afternoon everyone visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art for a tour and to draw in their sketchbooks. Their favorite place to draw was The Astor Chinese Garden Court.

Day 7 was the last day using and exploring collage. Illustrator Stephen Kroninger asked the students to create a self portrait, either literal or figurative, using a mix of images that reflect who they are. After presenting their work and explaining to the class why they chose the images, it was time to visit the Museum of Arts and Design. During their self-guided visit they explored and drew images from the exhibits, Funk You Too!, Generation Paper, and Craft Front & Center.

Day 8 was all about posters with illustrator Melinda Beck. The students looked at different posters and created their own by completing the sentence “I am _”. Using pencil and colored pencil the students made unique posters saying “I am happy”, “I am a potato”, “I am an artist”, and more. After lunch it was time for a visit to Poster House for a tour of the exhibit Black Power to Black People. Afterwards they made their own posters expressing what is important to them. Some of the topics were immigration, equal rights, climate change, and bullying.

Day 9 began at the Museum of the Moving Image. After a behind-the-scenes tour, the afternoon was spent at Socrates Sculpture Park with Illustrator Ed Murr creating comics. Many students took inspiration from the scenery and others enjoyed viewing Ebb of a Spring Tide, an exhibition of new sculptural works by Mary Mattingly exploring our relationship to coastal ecosystems and the shifting nature of rivers and water lines.

The final day, day 10 was spent at the Society of Illustrators with Materials for the Arts teachers John Kaiser and Niceli Portugal. The first project they worked on was learning how to paint the human eye. They used acrylic on canvas and learned step by step how to draw, shade, and highlight the eye along with making them to match their own eye color or just their favorite color. Then, they moved on to making standing animal figurines out of found scrap construction paper and file folders. They made alpacas, dinosaurs, hippos, fish, unicorns, you name it! They were enthusiastic to get right into each project and loved presenting what they were working on to the instructors and classmates. They were eager to take them home and show their families.

The Summer Illustration Art Academy is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Society of Illustrators would like to thank our generous sponsors Blick Art Materials for providing art supplies and Upstate Merch for donating t-shirts!

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