From Campus to Canvas: Illustration Students Accepted to Competitions

Two students from Sacred Heart University have been accepted to the Illustration WEST 62 competition, one of the top two major illustration societies’ competitions in the country. Junior Marissa Mele and senior Rylee Turner were both recognized for their illustrations created in Prof. Jack DeGraffenreid’s class.

According to their website, “The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles (SILA) was founded in 1953 by a handful of Southern California advertising artists and designers primarily to promote the professional status of illustration art as well as foster both philanthropic and educational goals. From this small beginning it has grown to a very productive membership whose work is seen locally and nationally by millions each year inall printed media, television, films, the Internet and gallery exhibitions.”

One of the pieces accepted to the competition was Mele’s watercolor creation “Brushing Teeth.” It was awarded the Gold Award – The Phillip Hayes, “I love it, I think it’s terrific,” $1,000 scholarship.

“Although it is a snapshot of something as casual and simplistic as brushing your teeth, the reference photo felt so personal and as though you were looking into an intimate moment. I wanted to try to capture that nostalgic feeling in painting it and like to think that I did,” said Mele.

Mele was also recognized for her colored pencils piece entitled “Bruins.” “I chose the action shot of Charlie McAvoy from the Boston Bruins as I remembered all the fond memories I have with my dad, watching them play together. For me, this piece is a reminder of this and dedicated to my dad for all he has done for me,” said Mele.

With both pieces taking around two months to create, Mele is ecstatic to be recognized for her hard work. “Winning these awards means the absolute world to me, it is a dream come true,” she said.

“In both Mele and Turner’s illustrations, there is a masterful handling of the mediums,” said DeGraffenreid.

Turner believes her achievement is a testament to the saying that “everything happens for a reason.” She started her journey as an illustration on a whim, just trying to fill up her schedule after failing a nursing class. What began as an attempt just to fulfill a requirement, ended up being a passion.

She now has almost completed her minor in illustration and has been nationally recognized for her white pencil piece entitled “Miles.” This portrait of Miles Davis was inspired by her grandparents’ love of jazz. Turner chose the reference photos due to its visually pleasing nature and how she felt it connected her to her grandparents.

“Rylee’s rendering of the legendary Jazz musician Miles Davis displayed a very dramatic use of lighting with her application of the wax based white pencil on a sheet of black Canson paper. Her illustration was not only recognized by the SILA WEST 62 competition but by the Society of Illustrators of New York’s Annual Student Scholarship Competition as well,” said DeGraffenried.

“If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be a nursing student and an artist, I would have laughed at them. This achievement means a lot to me,” said Turner. “It speaks volumes about our illustration students and our Department of Art & Design to have multiple acceptances especially when you take into consideration our students are competing against major art colleges and larger universities throughout the country,” DeGraffenreid said. “Since 2004 we have had 81 separate student acceptances into these two most prestigious illustration competitions in the country.”

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