Fifty Projects, One Process


Aspen Kelly, They Fight—this project uses animals to explore inner psychological and emotional experiences.

Tyler Friesen, Butthurt—a thirteen page comic about a planet with a butt for a sun that some worship and some despise as a metaphor for the Trump presidency.

Mitch Hallman, Jazz V.1—part of a series of illustrations deconstructing jazz instruments which were also animated and used for a live performance.

Lillian Carver, Flash Sheet—one image from a set of flash tattoo designs with dark, humorous, spiritual, bodily undertones.

Janie Mahr, Frankie—part of a series of illustrations made for Frankie Magazine.

Duration: 3 weeks
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

In an effort to get students focused on the process of making rather than the results of a work, I decided to reorganize my projects to be driven primarily by process over outcome. At the beginning of Illustration II, rather than offering the students a series of predefined projects, students are given access to a set of over fifty different project prompts. The prompts are categorized by common areas of specialization within the field of illustration (things like animation, documentary work, publishing, and editorial design). The students self-select five of these prompts during the semester. Every project follows the same overall process but the prompts send students into wildly divergent directions. This leads to greater variation in the results and yet an underlying structure that allows for critique, focus, and feedback. The projects draw from broader sources of information and research which lead to more meaningful and substantive conversation about the work. At each stage of the process, the students also write a short note–the kind of thing that might be included in an email to a client or collaborator that helps explain the ideas and direction of the work as well as the twists it takes.
Project Sheet with Rubric 
Project Prompts

Learning Objectives

Through this process, students:

  • Develop a process for image-making that honors research, ideation, visual testing and production of a series.
  • Demonstrate the ability to write and speak about illustration with clarity.
  • Prove the ability to generate, support, and utilize research to drive individualized thought and ideas.
  • Engage in multi-disciplinary thinking and develop communal support systems as they experiment in areas of strength and weakness alongside their peers and draw support from one another.


Students submit the following: A final product in appropriate media/resolution based on their choice of prompt. Quality documentation of each phase of the process including ideation sketches, notes, initial comps and final product A small presentation file that brings together their full process and allows the student to pitch their work to the class. Three short "email notes" articulating the choices made and the intent of the project.


  • Becoming a Successful Illustrator by Derek Brazil and Jo Davies
  • Article-length readings that are introduced on an as needed basis (i.e. If I notice a struggle with ideation, I assign a reading that will allow us as a group to conduct a rich ideation session such as Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Thomas McEvilley).


This process has allowed the students a great deal of freedom in self-determining their process while also providing them some structure or substance to react against. That has been incredibly helpful. Many of the projects emphasize creation of work in a series which I think is highly valuable, but am reconsidering because I would like to place even greater emphasis on creative research.

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