MassArt Illustration

March 3, 2020
by alice.stanne

Virtual 3D Illustration – Day of the Dead Skulls

In Mexico, it is tradition to make clay or sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead. These sculptures are elaborately decorated with a variety of motifs.

How does one reinterpret an ornamented skull? That’s the problem posed to students in the Virtual 3D Illustration class. This project asks students to sculpt a skull and decorate it in any fashion they prefer. The decorated elements are applied by way of hand painting and the use of found or pre-made designs that are applied like a decal.

After applying color, students mask the design and inflate the colored areas. This gives the appearance of raised paint.

After completing the sculpting and painting phase using ZBrush, the skulls are taken into the render engine called Keyshot where they are given a porcelain appearance. Shelves and a brick wall are created to display the skulls. A kind of ‘class portrait’.

January 22, 2020
by alice.stanne

Fights: One Boys Triumph Over Violence

Associate Professor Joel Gill, new faculty in the Illustration Department, had his new book released recently!

Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence, is Joel Christian Gill’s visceral and deeply affecting memoir chronicling his youth and coming of age as a poor Black child in a chaotic southern landscape of rough city streets and foreboding backwoods during the crack cocaine boom of the 1980s. Propelled into a world filled with uncertainty and desperation, young Joel is pushed toward using violence to solve his problems in a troubled environment at home, school, and in social interactions. But, fighting doesn’t always yield the best results for a confused and sensitive kid who yearns for a better, more fulfilling life than the one he was born into.

Watch Joel on Boston’s WCVB CityLine 12 pm on Jan 26th

…and he will be signing his book at:

Comiccopia from 1-3 on Feb 1
Harvard Book Store on Feb 7 at 7pm
Bookery In Manchester NH on Feb 15th at 7pm.

November 19, 2019
by alice.stanne

Dora Wang Interview

Interview By Professor Scott Bakal

Minru ‘Dora’ Wang is an award winning illustrator and graduated from MassArt in 2018 with a BFA in Illustration. During her senior year at MassArt, she applied for the Illustration as Visual Essay MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in New York and is currently in her second and final year of the graduate program.

I often get questions from current students about whether or not to get a Master’s Degree. It’s a tough question to answer and a very personal one. I wrote an article about it that you can find on Muddy Colors.

While I was in New York City recently for the American Illustration annual event, I stopped by SVA and visited Dora’s studio to catch up and talk about what’s been going on since she graduated and her experience working toward a Master’s Degree. Here is part of the conversation.

Scott: Hey Dora!

Dora: Hi Scott!

It’s great to see your studio and your Master’s Thesis in progress. Before we talk about it, can you give everyone a little background? Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Hangzhou, China. It is a beautiful city covered with greens. I guess this is why I love drawing plants, and green is always in my art.

I love the Green Tea from there!

Yes! It’s a big deal in my town.

Were you always an artist?

I was not always an artist. I had a very fun childhood. When I was little, my mom encouraged me to learn all kinds of things like music, art, dance, sports, etc. I am very grateful to all these skills I learned because they built my hobbies and choices for the future.  When I was in my first high school, I started thinking about what I want to do. After going through each hobby, I decided that art will be my life career. I started learning how to draw in my sophomore year. Then, I transferred to an art high school and started my artist path.

What made you decide to come to the U.S. for art and why did you pick Illustration at MassArt?

My mom was working at the University of Rhode Island when I came to the U.S. I did not plan to stay in the U.S. However, I thought it would be a great chance to experience a different culture. I came to MassArt after I graduated from South Kingstown High School in Rhode Island.

My initial plan was to major in Jewelry Design.

Really? I had no idea!

Yup! In my freshmen year, I also took a painting class and a printmaking class, and almost went for those majors. Finally, I went to the Graphic Design Open House and got a chance to be on the 9th floor studio. I was really attracted by all the beautiful illustrations in the studio space. In that moment, I knew this is something I want to do. I just want to draw.

I always felt like picking illustration as my major was my destiny because I did not know illustration until the last second.

Wow! A similar thing happened to me. When I went on my interview for undergrad, I signed up for Advertising because I didn’t understand majoring in Illustration was a thing. The reviewer, seeing I painted everything, even the letters on the book and album covers in my portfolio, explained what illustration was to me. I went for that immediately!

So cool!

You really seemed to prosper in the illustration department. You worked incredibly hard in the classroom and outside the classroom. You even took Skillshare courses and had work exhibited around Boston while in school. Where did your work ethic come from?

I think the desire to create is mainly what pushes me to keep doing work. I enjoy the feeling of making things. It is like building my own world, and everything I create belongs to me. Interest is the best teacher. I learn because I want to not because I have to.

That’s very admirable.

At some point, you started asking me and a few other professors about the idea of getting a Masters Degree. What prompted you to want to pursue it?

I decided to apply for a graduate school. Many of my favorite illustrators graduated from the Illustration as Visual Essay MFA Program from the SVA, like Yuko Shimizu, Hyesu Lee, Sam Weber, and one of my professors at MassArt Wesley Bedrosian. Wes showed me his work from the MFA Program, and told me what he learned from the program, which was very helpful to me to determine my wish to go to the same program.

How has it been going so far?

From the past year studying here, I think I definitely made the right choice. New York is an amazing city with fabulous people. I especially like the museums here! There are always new shows and new events. I have chances to meet with talented illustrators and artists. In my opinion, getting a Master Degree does not only mean that my illustration will be improved but more importantly, it also brings me to the business field and helps me to build connections with people.

I seriously want to thank you and everyone at MassArt for giving me a fantastic undergraduate study experience, which made me really want to stay in school for a couple of more years and to learn more about illustration.

What have you discovered about yourself and your art going through the Master’s program?

After a year’s study at the MFA program, I found the story part is also very important because it is the soul of the art work. I think a lot about what illustration is, as a language, as a way to communicate. I have been developing my artistic theory using what I learned since last year.  Also, this program really helps me to explore different ways to draw, and try to find my voice.

Now that you’re getting close to graduating next Spring, what are your plans for the future?

I am interested in doing children’s books and making toys! I hope to tell my own stories, and show my little world to other people.

I’ve been seeing a lot of children’s related work on your site recently…

Yeah! Also, teaching is also something I would love to do. Having a master’s degree will help with that but the whole program with build my artistic mind and the experience I gain will support me to lead young illustrators if I do decide to teach.

Now that you’ve finished MassArt and nearing the end of your Master’s experience, what advice would you give Seniors about to graduate as they develop their business in illustration?

My advice would be to always create good work and do not be afraid to reach out to people. I am still pushing myself to make progress on my work, I think the work quality and connections with people are equally important. Also, going to museums, art book fairs, bookstores, and the school library really helps.

Thanks for chatting Dora. Good luck with the rest of your thesis!

Thank you!

Dora Wang Website

All artwork © Dora Wang. All photography © Scott Bakal.

November 7, 2019
by alice.stanne

Urban Sketching and Plein-Air Painting

The November 2019 issue of The Artist’s Magazine is in bookstores and libraries now! The issue includes a feature story by Illustration Department teacher, John Roman, “Urban Sketching and Plein-Air Painting: Descendants of the Renaissance.” In the story John traces the roots of these popular genres back to The Renaissance.

The article also highlights the plein-air paintings of two MassArt Illustration Professors: Paul Olson and Frank Costantino, as well as urban sketching illustrations by MassArt Illustration Seniors (2020): Elizabeth Ogle, Cherish Springer, Dani Stratton and Pallavi Rawla that were created for John’s (Spring 2019) section of Technical Illustration.

It’s great to see our Illustration seniors’ work reproduced in a national magazine! Congratulations to the students and teachers involved!

Pallavi Rawla (BFA’20)

Elizabeth Ogle (BFA’20)

Dani Stratto (BFA ’20)

Cherish Springer (BFA’20)

Paul Olson, Visiting Lecturer

Frank Costantino, Visiting Lecturer


May 21, 2019
by alice.stanne

Arlington International Film Festival Poster Contest

This semester Robert Maloney’s Experimental Illustration class collaborated with the Arlington International Film Festival to illustrate the image for their 2019 film festival poster. This year Biana Bova’s piece was chosen as the winning design.
Here’s what Biana had to say about her approach to the project. “My goal for this piece was to capture the energy and fun of this incredible film festival. The punchy colors and explosive collage immediately grab the viewer’s attention while the little details—such as vintage cameras and ticket stubs—narrate all the elements of the festival. The outlines of the continents on the human figure symbolize everyone from around the world who are participating.”
All the posters on display can be seen in the slideshow below:

AIFF Posters 2019

May 20, 2019
by alice.stanne

Sustainability Posters

This spring the Illustration Department collaborated with MassArt’s Sustainability Fellow, Jane Marsching, on a climate change assignment given to six sections of the Sophomore Illustration class. These 85 Sophomore Illustration students used the recent IPCC report as a prompt to create poster images that address the dire challenges that the City of Boston and the MassArt community face around the topic of climate change.

The posters were be exhibited on campus in the windows of the Treehouse Residence Hall.

Images from the poster exhibit can be viewed in the slideshow below:Sustainability Posters

April 26, 2019
by alice.stanne

Earth Day 2019

Scott Bakal, Associate Professor in Illustration, was honored to be commissioned by the U.S. State Department to create the 2019 Earth Day poster which was sent to U.S. Embassies around the world to promote environmental programming. This year’s focus is on pollinators!

April 5, 2019
by alice.stanne

Society of Illustrators Student Selections

Congratulations to the Illustration students who were accepted into this years Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Exhibit!

From the Society: In a competition which can kick start a career, students bring their most sophisticated, well-crafted and original work to be tested. A jury of professional peers, including illustrators and art directors, selects the most outstanding works created throughout the year. Pieces are accepted based on the quality of technique, concept and skill of medium used.

The following students have been accepted into the show which will be on display at the Society in May.

Title: Derealization
StudentEllie Fortier
Medium: Acrylic on board
Instructor: Bob Maloney

Title: tarzan
StudentLiam Mahoney
Medium: hand drawn ink/ digital color
Instructor: Mark Reusch


Title: Pigeons
Student: Maude Njoku
Medium: Etching
Instructor: Nona Hershey

Title: house #1
Student: Jesse Scott
Medium: Graphite
Instructor: Malgorzata Zurakowska


Title: 1056 Ramsdell Drive
StudentJustin Valliere
Medium: 3 Color Screenprint
Instructor: Catarina Coehlo

Title: Dreadful Catastrophe
StudentJustin Valliere
Medium: Colored Pencil & Digital
Instructor: Robert Maloney

Title: City
StudentDora Wang
Medium: Pencil & Digital
Instructor: Irena Roman

Title: Miss Cactus
StudentDora Wang
Medium: Pencil & Digital
Instructor: Wesley Bedrosian








February 28, 2019
by alice.stanne

Anthony Palocci in the MoMA Design Store

Congratulations to Visiting Lecturer Anthony Palocci, whose work is currently being featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Store!

This MoMA Exclusive, original five-color screenprint, Voice-Operated, Hands-Free 5-Channel Walkie-Talkie with Headset Mic, was created by Anthony Palocci Jr. in 2019 as part of Kayrock’s limited edition FreshPrints! series. Palocci received his MFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York in 2012 with a concentration in painting and drawing. 

“I found this walkie talkie while cleaning out my grandfather’s house in the woods of New Hampshire after he died. I like thinking about hiding in the woods and speaking to him on a two-way radio, ‘Ciao, Nonno. Is it time for supper?’ I am interested in the geometry of packaging and the architecture, structure and tactility of older technologies, I find their power as objects to be used, handled and manipulated a rich source of contemplation.” —Anthony Palocci Jr.

January 31, 2019
by alice.stanne

Virtual Tableware

Popular new elective Virtual 3D Illustration has been serving up some incredible projects, including a recent assignment to make a set of crockery that could include vases, cups, bowls and plates. Students used a virtual lathe to extrude the shapes, assign a material and decorated with a painted motif if desired. The challenge of this project was to make a family of sculptures that all relate visually in some way. Students also had to consider the layout and placement of the group of objects as a virtual still life.

Virtual 3D Illustration - Crockery