Creativity Conference helps artists to “Stretch”

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Photo credit/ Kelsey Van Horn

Floyd Cooper demonstrates his process, subtractive of illustrating, in which he erases paint off of an illustration board.

Kelsey Van Horn, Staff Writer

The Stretch Creativity Conference gave students and faculty the ability to hear three well-known artists speak about their careers to students and faculty.

Denise Bosler, Floyd Cooper, and Drew Friedman, the visiting artists, presented their work and gave their advice on Friday, March 28 in the Latour Conference Room of the Nazareth Student Center.

According to the Art Department web page, the Stretch Creativity Conference is “a chance to take a break, stretch your mind, be entertained and inspired by award-winning designers and illustrators.”

The Stretch Creativity Conference is based on the Kean University’s Thinking Creativity Conference, which began in 2004.

Marywood’s Director for the MFA Program for Working Professionals, Steven Brower, who taught at Kean University for six years, introduced the idea for the Stretch Creativity Conference to Marywood.

“I think that students who are going into either graphic design or illustration really need to understand what the field is, and that it’s wider than the local area and wider than their own experiences,” said Brower.

This is the third year that the Marywood art department hosted the conference.

About 50 people attended this year’s event, which according to Brower, was down from previous years.

He said the art department is still trying to figure this out, but the department did not invite high schools, like previous years, or fully advertise to the public, which could have helped boost the attendance.

Christine Medley, assistant professor of graphic design, helped to organize the event, along with other art department faculty members.

Medley said the event is great, because it gets the whole art department involved, especially the students, who design posters and help promote the event.

“It’s a nice break from classes and just to get inspired and motivated,” said Medley. ” To hear people’s personal stories and to see what they do and how hard they work. I think it just opens people’s eyes.”

The day began with a keynote address by Denise Bosler, an author, graphic designer, illustrator, and professor at Kutztown University. She spoke about her life and career. She said a big part of her success is because she is a self-professed “overachiever.”

Bosler directed her presentation toward the students and gave advice on how to reach goals and “fill your tomorrows.” Filling your tomorrows means that each day you do not do something productive, you are losing time because there are only so many tomorrows.

Floyd Cooper, an award-winning children’s book illustrator, demonstrated his method of illustrating with a subtractive process. Cooper starts with a wash of oil paint and then he erases the image out of the paint instead of adding to it.

Cooper showed his works and discussed with students how he got his start in the industry of illustration and the struggles he faced being an African American artist being expected to only illustrate African Americans.

Drew Friedman, a comic illustrator and caricaturist, concluded the conference. His work has been featured in major U.S. magazines and newspapers, like The New York Times andRolling Stone magazine.

He presented his works and told the audience the perks and hardships of the illustration field. For example, he spoke about handling situations like being sued for artwork, because of copyrights or as in his case, poking fun at celebrities.

Despite the low attendance, Rachel Hines, freshman graphic design major, enjoyed the event.

“I would definitely go again… I’d like to be able to see more people in the industry, because obviously everyone has different points to bring forth, and that’s always good for learning,” said Hines.

At the end of the presentations, the artists were available for a book signing and a meet-and-greet.

Kathryn Bondi, a working professional in the graphic design industry and an adjunct faculty of graphic design at Marywood, said she gained inspiration from the artists as well.

“For people like me, I’m in the field. I like seeing what other people are doing. What are my options? What could I be doing?” said Bondi.

Steven Brower, the catalyst of the event, said he would like to make positive changes to bring in a bigger audience for next year’s Stretch Creativity Conference. These ideas included making the event a two-day workshop and formally inviting people from outside of the Marywood community to attend.

“I hope we can continue and make it grow. I hope we’re able to actually turn it into two days, and that the students remain enthusiastic about it,” said Brower.