Mia Hershberger is a senior majoring in graphic arts: illustration. In her four years at Taylor, her distinct illustrative style, hardworking nature and teachable spirit have left a mark on the Art Department.
Hershberger’s passion for art started at a young age when her mother introduced her to it.
“She had me painting since I was in the high chair,” Hershberger said.
She grew in her prowess as an artist as she continued to fine-tune her skills in high school. Expectations were placed on her to follow a career in art, but she looked at alternative options as she grappled with the feasibility of having a career as an artist. Taking a gap year to discern and pray about it, she settled on pursuing a career in illustration.
A friend recommended that she attend Taylor, and upon learning about its stellar illustration program, she did.
On arrival at Taylor, Hershberger’s perspective on illustration changed.
“I had this prefabricated picture that illustrations were only made with watercolor and pen,” she said.
This was what she began with due to her familiarity with watercolor and pen. However, she was exposed to different techniques that ranged from cut paper to photography to oil painting through studying historic artists, which began to inform her style.
J. C. Leyendecker in particular shaped her style. He was an illustrator in the early 20th century who worked in oil paint. “His art was so angular, and he used so much line work [...] that kind of gave me the confidence to use more angles and more surprising colors and texture than I would have before,” Hershberger said.
Hershberger describes her current style as abstracted realism, with her preferred technique being watercolor and pen. When illustrating people, straight-line construction is used with an overarching theme of cross-hatching with a pen over watercolor. Her illustrations boast a variety of bright colors and angles and flat lines where you wouldn't expect them to be on organic forms.
Her style is a result of four years of receiving instruction and practicing her skills under the tutelage of the Art Department and its many professors. In the first two years, she learned the ground-level techniques such as proportions and how to draw people, paint, use a paintbrush and mix colors. As she got into the higher-level classes, she was encouraged by professors in a more specific way as they highlighted her strengths and pointed out areas of repetition in her art.
“Getting a good critique that was both very affirming and also offered a very specific room for your growth was helpful,” Hershberger said. “It increased my confidence in what I was doing.”
Professor of Art Jonathan Bouw and Department Co-Chair and Assistant Professor of Art Laura Stevenson were two of Hershberger’s most influential instructors. Bouw gave her great critique and confidence to deal with the business side of illustration, frequently helping her with sample contracts and negotiations. Stevenson aided in sculpting Hershberger’s technique and developing her own style.
Assistant Professor of Art Ryan James said, “Since her start at Taylor, Mia has shown remarkable dedication to her art. She consistently puts in the time and effort to improve her craft, which has paid off tremendously.”
While at Taylor, Hershberger’s art won the Taylor University Metcalf Open 2021: Best of Show and Taylor University Metcalf Open 2022: Best of Show.
She has painted live during chapel alongside a worship team, and recently had her senior graphic arts show.
“I loved feeling like I was helping lead other people into worship,” Hershberger said. “I felt closer to God.”
For her art show, Hershberger painted a piece titled “intellectual pursuits” where she painted five individual rectangular panels that depicted the various things she is interested in — plants, pottery, gothic architecture and landscapes. The fifth panel is a self-portrait that reflects her growth as an artist.
Upon graduation, Hershberger plans on moving back to her hometown of Souderton, Pennsylvania, as she seeks to increase her illustration portfolio of clients.
“I very much like to complete things that I set my mind to. So part of me is like, ‘I will be a failure if I don't make it as an illustrator.’ But the other part of me is like, ‘No, you won't, do your best.’ And I’m going to try, and we’ll see,” Hershberger said.