March 15, 2016
Illustration duo work in storyboards, books and more
By Karen Sandstrom
Last year, Lincoln Adams and Suzanne McGinness gave an assignment to students during their two-week summer illustration class: Read chapters of “Peter Pan” and illustrate a scene.
Then they threw in a little twist, dressing as Captain Hook and Wendy and posing so the students could practice life drawing. “One thing I’ve noticed is that when students see their instructors are down for just about anything, then they say ‘we’ll take some chances, too,’” Adams says.
“Everyone just kind of nailed that assignment, too,” McGinness adds.
So who are these ready-for-anything instructors? In addition to being the team leaders of the Pre-College Illustration class, they’re professional illustrators and members of the adjunct faculty for CIA’s Illustration program.
Adams, a CIA graduate of 1998, has done design, portraits and books, and makes a chunk of his living as a storyboard artist for animated TV shows. McGinness, who graduated from CIA in 2007, published her first picture book, “My Bear Griz,” and is working on a second book now.
Their artistic styles are different, but they have plenty in common. They’re both full of fun and hard work. And they were passionate about art as kids.
“I fell in love with the Sunday comics,” says McGinness, who grew up in Shaker Heights and University Heights (Ohio). “That was one of my first exposures to art when I was little.”
Adams grew up in Canton, and says the first person to recognize him as an artist was his grandfather, who built a chalkboard for him.
“I would draw on that all day long,” Adams says. “And I remember being really anal-retentive about it. Kids would do things like draw the General Lee” — the Dodge Charger featured in “The Dukes of Hazard” TV show — “and they would draw it wrong. They wouldn’t draw the raked fastback, they wouldn’t put the spokes in.”
Adams made it his business to practice until he got it right.
“I made my first picture book for the young authors program they had at the time. And I got to meet Brinton Turkle, who was a phenomenal illustrator,” Adams says. Soon he began to understand that people could and did make art for a living.
McGinness, on the other hand, started to understand that she wasn’t funny enough to make comics. But she loved picture books, too. She took a portfolio preparation class for high school students at CIA, and kept her focus on the goal of becoming a children’s book author/illustrator.
“When I was a student here, I really geared a lot of my assignments toward children’s books,” she says. “And I did a study-abroad in Ireland, and did a full children’s book while I was there, to see, can I do this? Is this something I really want to do, figuring out image transitions, how to create story?”
After graduation, she earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art at Anglia Ruskin University in England. “I was lucky enough that while I was in school, I entered into the MacMillan Children’s Book competition and ‘My Bear Griz’ won honorable mention.”
During her graduating exhibition, the book found an agent.
When Adams was a student at CIA, he wanted to be an editorial illustrator, making art for newspapers and magazines. He recalls a moment near graduation when a local magazine editor had to cancel her scheduled appointment at the school to review student portfolios. She apologized, Adams says, and offered to review the students’ work by appointment.
Adams was the only one who followed up on her offer. “Two weeks later, I was in her office,” he says. “A week after that, I had my first assignment.”
A few weeks later, he snagged an assignment from Cleveland magazine after persuading an editor who originally indicated little interest in using illustrations. Adams had learned from CIA professors Dominic Scibilia and John Chuldenko that “No can’t be the answer you accept.” he says. “If ‘no’ is what you hear, you have to make the last thing that happens in that conversation be very proactive.”
As co-teachers of the CIA Pre-College Illustration class, he and McGinness understand that their students will come in with a variety of existing skills. So they begin with some art basics before gradually introducing illustration-specific projects.
“We literally start with a still life, black and white, and talk about composition, light, harmony,” McGinness says. “We get them through techniques and drawing principles, then we move into storytelling.”
Cue Wendy and Captain Hook — or perhaps some other characters this year. McGinness and Adams reserve the right to change up the details on a dime.
The fun and hard work are non-negotiable.
To register for CIA’s Pre-College program, visit cia.edu/precollege.
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