Teamwork is key at OCSA digital media showcase – OCRegister

Team projects in an art classroom really do work. At least they do in digital media.

Started fours year ago, digital media, one of the newest conservatories at the ever-expanding Orange County School of the Arts, is now seeing its first class of graduating seniors.

Digital media teacher Patrick Williams, who taught animation when he first came to OCSA, says digital media grew out of collaborations between the visual arts and film and television conservatories. Its intent is to remain flexible in order to address changes in the industry.

“Our students have a much more contemporary commercial art experience,” Williams said. They frequently work in groups, as opposed to the typical art class, and the goal is to teach them problem-solving and critical skills in addition to the ability to animate and model 3D objects.

Some of these group projects were on display April 5 at the digital media spring show, along with a fluid representation of the entire digital media process – from inception to implementation.

It’s a process that has many steps, to be sure.

Senior Jake Tribe admits that he wasn’t very motivated by 2D drawings during his first years at OCSA and found difficulty in everything being drawing-based.

“Three-D made more sense to me,” Tribe said. And eventually it empowered his hand at 2D. The 3D stage needs developing, like sculpting something out of clay, he said. Beginning with 2D means seeing the project through from start to finish.

Tribe, whose colorful art was hanging prominently on a wall in the gallery as well as printed in 3D, has been accepted at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games and Animation.

The show also featured several charcoal drawings and lots of brightly colored designs, and even some students’ notebooks were displayed on the walls. Much of the inspiration for the process comes from fellow students, but there’s always room for pop culture references.

Erin Choi, a ninth-grader who designed Pokemon-inspired chess pieces for the show, said there isn’t the competitive undercurrent in digital media that there is in visual arts.

“You’re giving each other your own skills,” she said as she pointed to the other chess piece designs on the wall – each unique while distinctly similar in a way that made the whole display seamless.

Fellow chess-piece designers and classmates Maggie McKelvey and Sophia Montalvo agreed.

“It feels like a huge community,” Montalvo said. “It’s very open, which lets my creativity expand.”

Even the parents recognize the camaraderie among the digital media students. Michelle Hughes beamed with pride as she talked about her daughter, Serena, and Serena’s friend, Kellsey Tamaru, both seniors.

“(Digital media) differs from visual arts in that it’s about teaming together,” Hughes said. “Traditional visual arts is more about what you can do.”

Kellsey’s mom, Suzanne, said Kellsey started off just drawing cute animals, but digital media brought out her talent. “By sophomore year, she knew she wanted to focus on character animation,” Tamaru said. Kellsey will be attending CalArts in the fall, and many of the other graduating seniors will attend art colleges as well.

Over the past four years, the conservatory has grown from 20 to 80 students, Williams said. “So we will be adding some new classes that focus on more specific areas, such as toy design and sequential illustration.”

Williams said they also regularly bring in professional artists and take the students to studios like Blizzard and Sony so they can see what a real work environment looks like.

Alex Heideman, a junior, is already grasping the concept of staying true to one’s own artistic creativity while working with another’s. He teamed up with Drew Denny in a world building project, which took up a large portion of two walls in the show and featured several students’ work. The task: Create a brand-new world from scratch, landscape and all. Heideman and Denny chose a world with a hostile environment filled with harsh conditions like acid rain.

As they discussed how they came up with the idea together, working out the backstory of their new world and eventually creating the colorful images that would represent it, their synergy was palpable.

“It’s about telling stories and figuring out how to tell those stories,” Heideman said.


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