I am, at my core, a storyteller. I write with pictures, and I draw with words. I believe that storytelling is what makes us human. Symbolic thinking, the ability to let one thing stand for another, evolved over a million years ago in hominin species. It is this ability that sets us apart. It allows us to make depictions of things imagined or remembered, to tell stories using pictures as well through use of language, or in other words, to illustrate.
I strongly believe, and I teach my students, that the role of author/illustrator comes with responsibility. We are responsible for the media we create — and when we find the narrative lacking and we don’t see ourselves authentically represented, we have the opportunity and the obligation to change it. In my courses and in my own creative practice, I focus heavily on process, ideation, and the thorough exploration of ideas. I emphasize that research and deep conceptual development are the path to complex, authentic characters and high-quality stories. It is my belief that it is vital to tell stories reflective of our experiences, our philosophies, and above all, our humanity.
I am a life-long learner. In all of my courses, I emphasize this as a core tenant of the field. This is an industry of constant change, which requires constant training to stay relevant. With that philosophy, I teach students perhaps the most important skill; how to learn on their own. We must arm students for a future that will utilize illustration outlets that are not yet fully imagined; therefore, the most critical skill sets must emphasize adaptability. The most important skills I can impart aren’t drawing or the use of software. They are strong concept development, the ability to work as part of a design team, and the lifelong love and dedication to craft that will let them express their ideas with fluidity and grace.
It is my belief that acquiring strong storytelling and design skills through rigorous practice leads to empowerment and creative freedom and that lifelong learning is the key to continued innovation and new opportunities. This foundation ultimately allows us as creators to focus on what is most important: producing socially relevant, high-quality content, no matter the medium.