Monday, March 20, 2017

Draw Without Borders

-By Arnie Fenner


Above: The principals of the original Illustrators Workshop. Left to right: Robert Heindel, Fred Otnes, Robert Peak, Alan E. Cober, Bernie Fuchs, and Mark English.



"Giving back" has always been a generous aspect of the art community. Knowing the struggle to make and maintain a career (or to simply improve skills and craft), artists routinely share their expertise with others to help them in the pursuit of their goals. Sometimes there's a cost (as for a class or workshop), sometimes not (as at a convention), but the value of what professional artists and illustrators give is significantly greater than any charge there might be for the knowledge offered.

Recognizing that formal art schools often only take students so far, Mark English joined with a group of the country's star artists in the late 1970s to form The Illustrators Workshop. Its impact was immediate and immense and the good it did influenced others to create similar educational experiences over the years.



The Illustrators Workshop eventually transitioned into The Illustration Academy under the guidance of Mark's son John and, though there have been ups and downs, their mission to help artists achieve sustainable careers has continued unabated. With instructors like C.F. Payne, Karla Ortiz, Victo Ngai, Jon Foster, and Mark himself, TIA offers a nurturing environment that helps bring the best out of its students.

Now they've launched an exciting new charitable arts program for women artists outside of the United States. Here's their idea:

"We recently invited a young Iraqi woman named Nahrain to attend one of our online workshops. Only hours from a war zone, in an environment barren of art education, this individual strives to advance her abilities as a comic book artist. Despite societal, institutional, and frankly criminal barriers, she was still able to connect and learn from professional illustrators through our online platform. This moment embodied the profound and empowering ingenuity online education can unlock. It reminded us how interconnected our world has become and yet how unbalanced our liberties remain. 

"As a small organization, we are fortunate to be part of an international community of profoundly talented artists. We are hoping that you can help us deliver art education to aspiring women artists from regions of the world that discourage or prohibit the progress of women in the visual arts. We believe this is a global issue, but we hope to focus our mission on regions and communities that are in critical need.

"We firmly believe everyone deserves the right to pursue their dreams. We are in a unique situation where we have the ability to empower individuals who have been stripped of that right. We are calling this project Draw Without Borders."





Top: John English. Bottom: TIA instructor Gary Kelley.

The Illustration Academy's plan is to offer free online instruction to artists living in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Iran and Turkey. Uninterrupted internet access might be a challenge overseas, but who wouldn't want free instruction from Gary Kelley or George Pratt? The arts can be as controversial and divisive a topic as any these days, but it can also build bridges and promote understanding and compassion. The arts can open doors for communication that politics often close and bolt.

I've lectured at the school; I've poked my head in during various summer workshops and have always come away amazed by the passion of the students and instructors alike. "Draw Without Borders" is an extension of what the Illustration Academy has always tried to do and a sincere effort to offer something positive to those without.

You can hit this link to the the Academy's website to learn more.

3 comments:

  1. That top photo was taken in Paris at Reid Hall when they held the workshop there. Nice memories.

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  2. Can you imagine getting to teach with Mark English? Never thought I'd have this opportunity. This is a great cause. I hope it takes off.

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  3. Nice article, loved the whole concept. We should have such workshops more often. Thanks for sharing it with us and keep us updated about the work at workshop

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