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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo

Going where the wild things are: Illustration students see St. Louis

Art students reflect on weekend trip

This semester, Illustration 2 students are putting theory into practice, exploring their field by creating a children’s book or graphic novel of their choice.

The only catch? One prominent character must be an animal.

Thus, in true children’s book fashion, the class took a weekend field trip to St. Louis, where a visit to the local zoo was followed by quick stops at both the St. Louis Art Museum and the City Museum nearby.

“It was so much fun,” illustration junior Katie Bernard said. “I definitely learned about how difficult drawing from life can be but [also] how beneficial it is.”

Drawing from life was something Bernard had practiced before in her time at Taylor — but then, her models had been posed people, not live animals. 

The difference between the two types of models definitely took a moment to adjust to.

“For a large majority of the time, you've got five seconds before they [the animals] move on and do another thing,” Bernard said. “So, you have to learn how to either be very patient and wait for them to return to that pose, or you’ve got to learn how to just draw things on the fly …  Also, I've just never drawn animals before, so this was kind of a new experience for me.”

Drawing animals from life was also a new experience for sophomore Lorien Gaither, who, despite focusing on creature design within her art style, had never been to a zoo with sizable encounters.

When Gaither noticed the animal she planned to use in her book wasn’t at the zoo, this prior knowledge also allowed her to adapt. 

“I’m using a deer,” Gaither said. “So, I then went to the zoo and just kind of looked for things that had similar body shapes, like antelope, or like zebra [or] other hooved things. And then I just drew a bunch of them so that I could get the body type down to shape them.”

For Gaither, the adaptations of an animal are one of the most important points to nail down, as it reflects not only a key characteristic of the animal’s physical aesthetic, but reveals a deeper understanding of the animal’s functions as well. Teeth reveal diet; feet give clues to the animal’s home and environment.

Of course, Gaither also enjoyed being able to utilize her biological knowledge at the City Museum’s aquarium, and her passion for history at the St. Louis Art Museum.

The art museum was one of the more impactful places for sophomore Calvin Lewis as well. 

“I guess I'm sort of always in the mindset of looking at artwork as a story,” Lewis said. “My favorite pieces were ones that looked natural, that looked like they were a snapshot in a broader narrative.”

The narrative each artist chose to share was different. As Lewis explained, many modern artists choose almost abstract or ambiguous stories, while old masters reflected on themes of religion, patriotism, politics or functionality. 

Lewis himself hopes to reflect beauty in his work, offering up his Christian values in a way that’s approachable even for a non-Christian audience. Like the pieces at the museum, he wants to share a snapshot of his faith.

And as illustration majors, that ‘snapshot’ emotion is the primary goal of an artist’s work. 

It’s part of why the St. Louis trip was so important, becoming a snapshot of its own for each artist to live into for just a few days: a preview of another place, another artwork, another species.