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News . Feature Stories . Pushing my imagination: Q + A with Illustration major Cassandra Jerman

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September 05, 2014

Pushing my imagination: Q + A with Illustration major Cassandra Jerman

What's your earliest memory of making art?

Painting the walls of my dad’s house when I was six-ish, like painting PICTURES all over. I could go back earlier but I think this was really the defining moment for me realizing, “You can do anything you ever wanted to." He had white stone walls in the basement where he bought me craft paint and cheap brushes, laid out a tarp and said, "Okay, now GO," and I remembered all the cartoons and realities that specifically said, "DANGER. NOT ALLOWED". But he assured me it was fine and man, I really tore that wall up. It also helped me to establish friendship at that age, since I was super shy. I could bring a neighbor kid over and we would just do our thing down there. He had me do my bedroom door, too-- a big crude looking butterfly that’s still there, signed and dated, with a funny little black oops-mark hanging off the wing. I remember asking to buy white so we could fix it, and he said, “Hell no, just keep rolling with it. You’ll look back on that in 50 years and think its the best thing.” And it really is. I always show it off whenever I ever stop by with a friend.

Did you take a lot of art classes in high school?

I took an art class every year in high school but didn’t get serious until my junior year, when I took Berea's (Now Berea-Midpark High) Visual FX and Design class. I was apprehensive because there were big haunted house animatronics, electric chairs, and monsters in the shop, which weren’t really my thing. That class, though, and Mr. Byz, opened me up entirely in terms of pushing my imagination and learning that people do value the art of young people, and that young people can make more professional work than professionals. It closed the gap and made us feel like we could get any job or be on any show we wanted. My senior year I spent three or four hours a day working on my art. I was known for tracking clay and being covered in latex.

Why did you choose to attend an art + design school?

In high school, I wasn’t interested in making art 'my life' at the time. Then, one day I saw my art teacher painting at his desk something in a similar format as a watercolor painting I had recently done, and I asked why. He told me that he was inspired by what I had done and that he was 'replying' to my work. My French teacher also wrote a beautiful poem in response to one of my paintings, both of which I still have. That was huge for me and put me on an entirely different level with them. It was no longer a student-teacher relationship, but rather a conversation between artists, musicians, and writers. That's when I knew I could do it.

What made you choose CIA?

I wanted to go out of state but I didn’t want to experience 'dorm life', which I thought would be really mediated, and I was really independent.

What made you choose your major?

I came into CIA wanting to sculpt, but I ended up finding the idea of the fine arts too 'concept driven' for me. I was interested in working with - and for - other people. I chose Illustration, and although I sometimes think that I’m an Illustration misfit, I think I bring something to the table: Charisma.

Is having your own studio important to your education? And how about interaction with classmates, is that important to your education?

As a freshman without a studio, looking at the older students made me 'want' a studio, as if it makes you a 'real artist' or something, and that was a really exciting part of foundation year as well as the first days of being a sophomore. It’s very helpful in projecting yourself to your classmates and faculty in a way that goes beyond face-to-face. Everyone loves going through each other’s studios. I believe I’ll always need some kind of studio, as a 'world away,' of sorts. It just helps put things into perspective and gets you ready to get down to business. Student interaction is also incredibly important. I was a commuter my freshman year, and I felt very isolated, so I spent a lot of time in the dorms. It’s essential to bounce your ideas and experience off of someone who is going through a similar journey, I believe, to be able to feel a healthy momentum with your work.

How are your relationships with CIA faculty different than your relationships with your high school teachers?

No difference. I feel every teacher is trying to achieve the same goal at heart when it comes to their students, and I was very fortunate to have a lot of teachers, both in high school and at CIA, who would bend over backwards if it could help me get even a step close to what I needed to get done. I could compare each faculty member at CIA with a teacher back at high school.

Have you had any internships? If so, where and how did you like it?

I did some artist-assisting one summer, and a few book covers for a local author another summer, and it was nice. Just any experience doing something you haven’t done before is valuable.

How do you like Cleveland?

I really love it here. I work in a small inn so I’m always going back and forth with travelers about our cities and finding that there really is a lot that Cleveland has to offer if folks would only reach out and experience it. Every town here is different than the one that borders it, 10 minutes east is a new world just as it is 10 minutes west.

What would you say to a high school student considering attending CIA?


Talk. Ask. Reach out to 10 CIA students from different majors and have a good solid conversation with every single one of them. Tell these students what you’re interested in pursuing and what you’re looking for in a school, ask them for names of other people they know who is taking a similar path, and reach out to those students too. It can be so hard for anybody to find a place that feels okay and comfortable, that goes for school-hunting too, but its incredible what you can resolve just by reaching out, asking questions, and finding common ground. 
I’d also say to talk to the security guards every day. They’re all incredible people with incredible stories.

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