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Art at home continues for CSULB illustration and animation majors

Students and faculty in the School of Art’s Illustration and Animation track at Long Beach State share how they have adapted to a virtual semester due to the nature of their work.  

Beomsik Shim, associate professor of art and program head of animation, said that he believes that solitude is a big part of the creative process for all artists.

Art by Janelle Lucero, a first-year animation major. Art courtesy of Janelle Lucero.

“I think the problem is the length of solitude under the pandemic and the lack of choice,” Shim said. “I personally believe solitude can be a great creative resource when it makes the balance with the interaction to the world around you.”

Janelle Lucero, a first-year animation major, said the illustration and animation department has definitely been a little bit easier than expected with the transition to virtual instruction.

According to Shim, the animation program prepared 40 Wacom tablets, a brand of drawing tablets, to lend to senior and upper division students that didn’t own equipment and programs for their courses.

All equipment was funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that was passed by the U.S. government in March to allocate financial support for institutions of higher education. 

But students like Lucero had to sign up for grants to cover expenses for the equipment she needed for class.

Art by Janelle Lucero, a first-year animation major. Art courtesy of Janelle Lucero.

“Drawing programs, a drawing tablet pen, anything like that, I feel like a lot of students relied on the school to provide those items and [CSULB] have them but just at affordable prices,” Lucero said.

According to Mark Michelon, associate professor and program head of illustration, some faculty are still having to adjust to a virtual semester.

“We’re actually having to put a little bit more time into the virtual sessions,” Michelon said. “Whether or not it’s because we’re reinventing ourselves or that it actually requires more.”

Some students who were more used to illustrating on paper or canvas and not digitally have had to adjust, which Michelon said can cause work to be turned in that is not as strong.

But a sense of community is still very present in the illustration and animation department, even during a virtual class, according to Michelon. He said that illustration can work for virtual classes as it gives students more time at home to work on projects.

“I’ve been so happy to see that everyone is using the [Zoom] chat,” Michelon said. “They’re bouncing back and forth. They’re really respectful and building people up.” 

Art by Jose Amador, a fourth-year studio art major and vice president of SOSIA. Art courtesy of Jose Amador.

The Society of Student Illustrators and Animators at CSULB also tries to maintain the community by frequently having virtual general discussion meetings, movie nights over zoom and reminding members of job and internships opportunities. 

Jose Amador, a fourth-year studio art major and vice president of SOSIA, said that having someone else within the same field as you to bounce ideas off of each other is essential.

“As artists we tend to be more comfortable working on ourselves and just relying on ourselves,” Amador said.

Amador said that participation in the club is not what it usually is from a normal semester but says committed club members are active as much as possible.

“I know people want to come in and help in the club but students get caught up with other stuff,” Amador said. 

Students who are about to graduate are also thinking about their careers.

Art by Jose Amador, a fourth-year studio art major and vice president of SOSIA. Art courtesy of Jose Amador

Both Lucero and Amador said that they both are concerned about potentially graduating into a world with less jobs for animators.

But the animation industry has kept their footing during the pandemic, according to Shim, since a lot of the animators’ work can be done from home.

“As many people got stuck at home since the pandemic, the demand for home entertainment and art content is getting higher,” Shim said.

Shim said that there are a lot more opportunities after college, such as working for IT companies, or starting a small animation, game or design studios.

“I would recommend for graduates [to] keep the pace as you have done and planned, but at the same time, think out of [the] box for more opportunities newly created through the big change by pandemic,” Shim said.

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