Each year just under 100 students (of all ages and all abilities) and a dozen instructors meet up at Amherst College for a week in June to attend the Illustration Master Class. With 12 hours of active instruction—a mix of lectures, reviews, and studio time—it’s a high-energy super-charged week of learning. The IMC was started by Rebecca Guay 6 years ago and remains a highlight of the year for those that attend, many who come back year after year.
Since the course is only seven days long, assignments are given about three weeks before class begins. Attendees spend those weeks working on loose thumbnail sketches. These are critiqued on the first day and then students immediately set about revising them, gathering reference, and moving into the final piece. Since I have the honor of making the assignment list, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine to focus on favorite topics and to see how different artists interpret the same material. While there is no “best in show” at the IMC—it’s the goal of every instructor to help each student imrprove their skills, regardless of current ability—I couldn’t help but to show off a few of the pieces here.
Assignment #1: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book
Assignment #2: Rjurik Davidson’s The Unwrapped Sky
Rjurik Davidson’s Unwrapped Sky, which will be published by Tor Books in the upcoming year, was a chance for the students to work with an unfamiliar story before being influenced by what the commissioned cover will be. They worked with the same few paragraphs of description and synopsis that the hired cover artist received:
A hundred years ago, the Minotaurs saved Caeli-Amur from conquest. Now, three very different people may hold the keys to the city’s survival. Once, it is said, gods used magic to create reality, with powers that defied explanation. But the magic—or science, if one believes those who try to master the dangers of thaumaturgy—now seems more like a dream.
Katie Small (Her first oil painting!)
Assignment #3: A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream
Assignment #4: Viking battle
Meant to be as wide open as the students wanted it to be.
Assignment #5: A Game of Thrones
This assignment specifically asked the artists to steer away from depicting the characters and settings as they’re seen in the TV show.
Assignment #6: Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
And Marc Scheff went rogue and did an Elektra comic book cover:
...as did Dan Cohen, with this CD cover:
There were a few more assignments and a lot more great work. It’s a privilege to be part of this program each year. My thanks to Rebecca Guay (the mastermind behind it all), my fellow instructors, and to all the students. I think it’s safe to say we all come out of it energegized and inspired...if a bit sleep-deprived.
This year’s students and faculty:
2013 Faculty: Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Rebecca Guay, Donato Giancola, Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, Scott Fischer, Irene Gallo, Iain McCaig, Lauren Panepinto, Mike Mignola, James Gurney, Scott Allie, Mo Willems, Peter De Seve.
Irene Gallo is the Art Director for Tor Books.