A broad stroke of the harmoniously colorful students, faculty, and events of the Fine Art Department at the Academy of Art University. Find out more about Art in the Bay area, what goes on at 60 Federal, and our extended family of students and faculty throughout the world.

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Archive for '2017'

    Technology and Touch: Intention and Serendipity in San Francisco and Reykjavík

    Carrie Ann Plank & Robynn Smith


    Carrie Ann Plank and Robynn Smith have been investigating relationships between technology and traditional printmaking techniques, both within the realm of their personal work, as well as in global printmaking practices. A recent lecture by the two at the Íslensk Grafík in Reykjavík, Iceland inspired a cross cultural exchange of work and ideas between Icelandic printmakers and San Francisco Bay Area printmakers in relation to this space between technology and tradition.  The exchange led to a curation of the exhibition, Technology and Touch, focusing on the variety of approaches to technology in the two disparate locales. Featuring the work of Icelandic artists: Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir, Valgerdur Hauksdóttir, Elvar Örn Kjartansson, Soffía Sæmundsdóttir, Laura Valentino, and Bay Area artists: Jimin Lee, Monica Farrar Miller, Michelle Murillo, Carrie Ann Plank, and Robynn Smith, the exhibition will travel from San Francisco at the Academy of Art University’s 688 Gallery in Union Square (November 2017) to the Southern Graphics Council International in Las Vegas at the Priscilla Fowler Fine Art gallery (April 2018) to Reykjavík in the gallery of the Icelandic Printmakers Association, Íslensk Grafík, IPA Gallery/Grafiksalurinn, within the Reykjavík Art Museum building during the Culture Night festival (August 2018).  Discussions, gallery talks and workshops accompany all of the exhibitions, resulting in the sharing of contemporary technologies and traditional printmaking practices across cultures.

    Co-curators: Carrie Ann Plank and Robynn Smith Photo credit: Bob Toy

    Co-curators: Carrie Ann Plank and Robynn Smith Photo credit: Bob Toy

    The authenticity of art resides in human expression, in our ability to use tools to further our ideas. The hand refers to the individual. It is our personal mark, our connection with our humanity, our relationship with nature and the wild.  Technology is innovation; bright, shiny and complex. Since the advent of the printing press, a major technological breakthrough, printmaking has always reflected the relationship between technology and the hand. A mark is made, and through the alchemy of technology, that mark is transformed and transferred to another surface. That relationship is always there, from the Gutenberg Bible of the mid 15th century to today’s laser cutters and photopolymer plates, the best printmakers seek just the right balance of handwork and technology.photopolymer plates, the best printmakers

    Artists from the project at the artist talk in San Francisco (left to right): Elvar Örn Kjartansson, Laura Valentino, Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir, Michelle Murillo, Carrie Ann Plank, Robynn Smith, Soffía Sæmundsdóttir, and Valgerdur Hauksdóttir. Carrie Ann Plank’s Data Rondures (Large Forms) in background. Photo credit: Bob Toy

    Artists from the project at the artist talk in San Francisco (left to right): Elvar Örn Kjartansson, Laura Valentino, Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir, Michelle Murillo, Carrie Ann Plank, Robynn Smith, Soffía Sæmundsdóttir, and Valgerdur Hauksdóttir. Carrie Ann Plank’s Data Rondures (Large Forms) in background. Photo credit: Bob Toy

    Both Reykjavík and the San Francisco Bay Area function as technological giants, yet in both places it is possible to feel the primitive, powerful nature of the wild. A five-minute drive out of Iceland’s capital is a primordial landscape of hot springs and lava. Standing a few hundred yards from the Golden Gate Bridge, the power of the Pacific Ocean is unfurled in an unbroken vista, all the way to Japan. Does the proximately to such dramatic landscape affect an artist’s use of technology? Does technology offer artists new tools to express their connection to the natural world?

    Every printmaker must strike a balance between technology and touch. This exhibition explores that balance, showcasing printmakers from two cities with a striking relationship between contemporary technology and the timelessness of nature.

    Two magnificently beautiful cities, both technology and trade hubs focused on the future, steeped in tradition and full of printmakers. Is there a connection?

    This question is what motivated us to explore an international exchange between printmakers from the San Francisco Bay Area and Íslensk Grafík, the Icelandic Printmakers Association based in Reykjavík.

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    Murals and Professional Projects

    By Carol A. Nunnelly



    Fine Art and Illustration students are creating a mural for the Samesun Hostel on Franklin Street in San Francisco. Directed by Craig Nelson and Carol Nunnelly, the mural class places students into a real world project where professional jobs meet emerging art students.  Mural painting offers artists an opportunity to collaborate and work on a “Real World Project.” 

    As a part of urban renewal, the mural was requested by the property owner, Simon Sin and approved by the Academy's Vice President of Community & Government Affairs, Rebecca Delgado Rottman.  Rebecca has been a tireless advocate for murals in San Francisco and as a member of the City's Graffiti Advisory Board, she believes murals are an essential way to bring together communities, promote safety and enhance neighborhoods.

    The students will learn the business side of mural painting from costs estimating, project management, project completion and client satisfaction. Learning by doing is our motto.

    The mural painting students were asked to produce style options for the project including Art Deco and Realistic painting styles and color variations in keeping with the structure and remodeling plans.

    Themes of the Fall Semester mural include concepts that bring together San Francisco and the World. Questions asked during the brain storming session included: Where do we find the world in San Francisco? What does San Francisco give to the world?  What does the world give to San Francisco?  Exploring these ideas created the basis of the initial sketching and design work for the project. 

    The design process included reference gathering, research, and development on three paintings. Each student created an original design. These were painted to scale using measurements gathered on site of the wall.


    Design by Mykaela McGrew

    Design by Mykaela McGrew

    These color paintings show different approaches to the project. In one example we see the backstory of San Francisco. Starting in Golden Gate Park at Hippie Hill and moving through to Chinatown there are stories told of the unique and special nature of the diverse characters and icons of the city by the bay. Moving through to Northbeach, showing the Cable Cars, and Seeing Street performers, the artist Mykaela McGrew- Higgins has depicted the famous wild parrots, Tree Man, Gold Man, and she tieseverything together with rhythmic ribbons of music. There are postcards from around the world depicted in a flying scatter.


    Design by Zihao Wang

    Design by Zihao Wang

    Another painting by Zihao Wang, is a depiction of the city as a map or 3D game board. Pop up figures and icons of the city flow throughout the design. He created imagery of SF Zoo, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park and the Ferry Building with Golden Gate Bridge. 

    Design by Zihao Wang

    Design by Zihao Wang

    Xiaolu Lin created an Art Deco styled design using the Ferry Building, Japan Town, and elements of San Francisco as a graphic images flowing seamlessly throughout the design.

     By promoting inclusivity, diversity, and adventure,  youth hostel will be a place for San Francisco and the World to meet. Finding new people in new cities, this backpacking hostel will welcome guests from around the world.

    The class is excited about the mural and are looking forward to painting on site starting the week after midterm.


    Academy of Art Printmaking grads Erin McAdams (’16) and Keisha Mrotek (’15) have been putting their skills to use in their work for Master Printer Paul Mullowney. Mullowney Printing, located in San Francisco’s Mission District, publishes unique and editioned works by leading artists, using techniques that include etching, woodcut, photogravure, direct gravure, screen printing, and letterpress printmaking. The work has been an opportunity for McAdams and Mrotek to use the skills the acquired in their printmaking courses at AAU, and to develop those skills in a working apprenticeship with Mullowney.


    New Zine Class offers Conceptual Development and a Variety of Skills


    The Academy of Art is excited to offer a new class for Spring 2018: Zines: Reproduction Techniques for Communication and Expression. Zines are self-published small-run magazines, often created by artists, photographers, illustrators or anyone interested in exploring an idea and publishing it on their own. 


    Zines provide a forum to explore alternative ideas in a print format.  Communities of artists and zinesters put on annual events such as the SF Zine Fest every September in Golden Gate Park, the New York Art Book Fair, and the San Francisco Art Book Fair. Artists and publishers come from all over the world to sell, buy and trade zines.


    The Zines class gives students an opportunity to explore their current technical field, but also explore other ideas and avenues of content development. The class will use Xerography and Risography as well as collage, typography, design layout, photography, illustration, fiction and non-fiction writing to develop ideas and create zines. Sign up now for this exciting Spring class!

    Printed in Cuba

    The Fine Art Printmaking Departments hosts the exhibition Printed in Cuba at the 688 Sutter Gallery

    Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.09.10 PM
    Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.11.01 PM

    The Printmaking Department will host an exhibition from the international project Edition/Basel entitled Printed in Cuba.  The exhibition is the result of a collaborative project executed by 17 artists from the United States, Switzerland, and Cuba, during April of 2017.  The artists worked out of the Taller Experimental de Gráfica de La Habana in Havana, Cuba.  This international project focusing on cross cultural collaboration includes four Academy of Art Faculty Members: Carrie Ann Plank, Director of Fine Art Printmaking, Megan Adie, Printmaking Studio Manager, Lian Ng, Graphic Design Faculty and Barry Ebner, Printmaking Faculty.

    Here Aqui Hier


    Here Aqui Hier

    Collaborative piece by Fine Art Printmaking Director, Carrie Ann Plank, Cuban artist Janette Brossard, and Swiss artists Margarit Lehmann and Sadhyo Niederberger

    The exhibition runs from October 3rd through 31st at the 688 Sutter Gallery. The opening reception is Thursday, October 5th from 5:30-7:30pm

    Cuba meets USA meets Switzerland. PRINTED IN CUBA is an initiative by Margarit Lehmann (Switzerland) in cooperation with Aliosky Gracía (Cuba) and Lian Ng (USA). It is an experiment of artistic and sociopolitical dimensions: not Cuban art in America or Swiss art in Cuba, but joint work in a tri-national cooperation. The project brought together 19 printmakers from Cuba, USA and Switzerland to collaborate on a collection of unique prints using lithography, collagraphy, etching, pressure and relief printing techniques. The artists created layers on the same print in response to each other to result in a finished piece that does not represent a singular artist but of a collective whole. The artists participated in the project are: Alejandro Sainz (Cuba), Aliosky García (Cuba), Andreas Frick (Switzerland), Barry Ebner (USA),

    Painting the Japanese Potter: An interview with MFA student Tara Sood

    By Jesse Mangerson (FA Faculty)

    One of the most interesting aspects of our MFA online program, from the instructor’s point of view that is, is learning of the variations on Thesis concepts being completed by our MFA students. The range of subject matter that is being addressed based on culture or location keeps our work as instructors continuously engaging and diverse. Working with students located in Norway, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Japan to name a few, offers amazing insight into the places and the cultures that influence their work.

    Tara Sood is one of these students. She is an American living and working in Japan whose work and project epitomize this idea. 


    I had the opportunity to work with Tara last semester in FA 811: Process and Thesis development. Her Fine art painting MFA Thesis project is based on the work of the Japanese Potter and the firing of the Noborigama kiln.  Her work and story are inspiring to say the least. I sat down with her in an asynchronous interview about her project

    Structure housing a Noborigama kiln. Okinawa, Japan

    Structure housing a Noborigama kiln. Okinawa, Japan

    J: Will you share your Thesis statement?

    T: Japanese pottery is revered and prized in Japan. Unlike the western world where sets of dishes all matching are treasured, a Japanese household will offer their guests each a unique pottery tea cup or plate. Among the most prized types of pottery are the teapot and the bonsai pot. My next three years starting in June 2016 will be spent in Okinawa, Japan. Having access to the Japanese culture I seek to paint the art and process of Japanese potters. There will be at least 15 representational oil paintings of the figure working in their environment – outside or in the studio. The finished sizes will range from 12x16 to 30x40 inches. The information for these studio paintings will be collected through on location oil and pencil sketches and photographs. Further sketches in oil will be made working out color and composition using the references collected prior to completing the final piece. The color palette will be inspired from Japanese culture, art, and life using seasonal colors and colors with specific meaning (i.e. in Japan white indicates death, red equals a wedding or new beginning). A painterly approach will use an expressive brushstroke to explore the elements of atmosphere and light and shadow effects paired with explorations of contrast in value, color, and texture at the area of interest.

    J: Where are you located in Japan?

    Pathway to the kiln

    Pathway to the kiln

    T: The four 'kojo' - factories that I am working with in Okinawa was stumbled upon on a scouting trip with my translator and friend - Kyan Yuko.  She suggested visiting Yomitan village of potters first in my search for a potter to work with.  There are 30 plus potters in this village that run studios, factories, and kilns and it took some time to walk through and talk with some of 

    T: My family and I are living in Okinawa, Japan, a small island part of the Ryukyu Archipelago south of the mainland.  We are actually really close to Taiwan.


    J: How did you get acquainted with this group of potters?

    Making clay. Okinawa, Japan

    Making clay. Okinawa, Japan

    them.  I was looking for a potter that used more traditional Japanese methods in pottery such as the kiln built into the hillside and the overall appearance of a potter's studio close to nature.  This large quadrangle was one of the last we visited and there were signs on all the doors of 'Staff Only' and 'Please Private Entrance'.  Having Yuko-san there was essential because I would have just walked past all the studios because of the signs.  In mainland Japan signs like this are like unspoken rules and if broken it is like a breaking of trust.  But as I've found many things are a little friendlier and a little easier here in Okinawa, my translator suggested we go in and talk to the master potter.  I was pretty nervous being an American! 

    We lingered around the entrance to the most direct kojo and a worker happened to emerge with a long board filled with just formed pots and we introduced ourselves and told a little about what we were looking for and who I was.  He smiled and went to put his burden down and came back and introduced us to his sensei - the master potter of that studio - Miyagi-san.  He was kind enough to listen to my project explanation and direct inquiry of whether I could photograph him working

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    Fine Art Students paint Mural for S.F. Firehouse

    School of Fine Art students donate their skill to a dedication mural for San Francisco Firehouse Station 1 in the South Market area. The mural depicts the history of the fire department in the city and the officers who serve the community. 

    The Fine Art Printmaking department introduces a new class

    FA 499-24: SPECIAL TOPICS: 


    Ever wanted to make a zine, using Xerox and Risograph? Zines are a way to create editioned content in a reproducible and accessible format. We’ll investigate the history of zines, develop all sorts of content while exploring different formats of this democratic medium. Great for Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, Photographers and anyone looking to explore ideas through text and imagery. 

    Watch a promo video

    Study Abroad Florence, Italy

    SP17 Block layout Fine Art 11 X 17

    Artist Interview: Andrew S. Conklin

    By Sean Connor


    Could you tell us a little about your self, your history and experience with art before arribing at the Academy of Art University?

    My Earliest memories of drawing were of copying Audubon bird prints in color pencil, following the example of my older brother.  While continuing to draw, I did not consider the fine arts and occupational choice, having no clear concept of the life of a professional artist.  My first experience painting was in an undergraduate course in Chicago, and the frustration I felt spurred me to want to master the form, particularly in painting people.  Luckliy, just after that term, a friend invited me to join him in NYC, where we would study at the National Academy of Design.  I stayed in New York for sixteen years, during which I studied with a range of incredible painters.  In addition, my colleagues were also an imprtant source of inspiration.  Also critical were anual trips to Europe to see the great Western painting in situ.  Finally, my wife, Helen, whom I met while a student, and who subsequently trained as a paintings conservator, sparked my interest in the technical aspects of painting.  She and I eventually relocated to Chicago.  It was while teaching there that I was encouraged to pursue an MFA, which is how I learned of the Academy of Art's program.

    Did you have any rewarding experiences or intereactions with teachers while you studied at the Academy?

    Absolutely!  Notwithstandingmy prior experience as a visual artist and teacher, I found my understanding of picture-making deepened through the courses and the wisdom of my instructors, both in studio and art history courses.  This dedication by the Academy faculty bore fruit in my thesis project, where, in working with Sean Connor, Warren Chang and Zack Zdrale, I combinedmy interest in the human form with that of CGI technology to create a series of paintings set in a motion catupture studio.


    Are you having any upcoming shows that you'd like to share with us?


    This April, my wife Helen and I will be subjects of a two person show at Chicago's Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts.  She and I have been painting together since we met in art school in NYC, and occasionally show together.  This show will be a bit different, since it will highlight much of our working process and contain sketches, cartoons, oil studies as wall as finshed work.


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