Christine Kornacki is the honored first artist interview in our new CAT NIP SERIES. Artists take many different roads in their learning, teaching and ‘doing’ careers, and I thought it might be fascinating to share a few of those adventures and stories with you. There might be one or two that would sound good to you readers at this point in YOUR careers, or you might pick up a tid bit of great information along the line.
Christine Kornacki, seen here on a trolley in San Francisco, has been a ‘CAT’ artist since 2008. Happily not long after joining us, she was chosen as the first FEMALE artist (!) for an American Girl Doll book illustrator for Cecile and Marie-Grace, the A.M. New Orleans girls. Quite an exciting way to break into children’s illustration! And several lovely books graced with her oil paintings have followed. BUT she wanted to go back to SCHOOL and get even better………
Tell us about how your Masters Program is set up Christine:
The Hartford Art School Low Residency MFA in Illustration is truly unique compared to other programs for illustrators. Designed and run by Murray Tinkelman, the program provides students the opportunity to meet and work with leading illustrators from all over the country without having to put their careers on hold. It is the only Low Residency MFA dedicated exclusively to illustration. Unlike other programs, we only meet three times a year for a week or two, spending most of that time traveling to different parts of the country and meeting and learning from other illustrators.
In the summer we meet for an intensive two weeks of classes at the Hartford (CT) Art School. There we take a variety of studio classes such as Children’s Book Illustration, Advanced Digital Illustration, History Of Illustration, and Marketing and Promotional classes. In between Classes we are visited by local illustrators who share their unique paths in the illustration world. There two weeks are designed to stimulate and enhance your skills.
In the Spring and fall we travel to different cities. Over the two years we will visit New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dallas. These traveling trips are a week of non-stop lectures and studio visits by leading illustrators in that area. These weeks are designed to open your eyes to the vast world of illustration.
Meanwhile, we are traveling and studying with other working illustrators from all over the world. I have created deep and lasting relationships with those living in Ohio, CA, Oregon and even Latvia. I’ve learned valuable information from each of them…working alone we can forget how valuable these relationship really are.
We spend the time between our travel periods working at home. A major part of the program is a thesis project we are developing. At the end of the two years we have to present a portfolio in our desired field. For me, my thesis will be a series of children’s book stories that I am writing and illustrating. I’m n constant contact with my thesis advisor, artist Bill Thomson. We are continually emailing back and forth about my progress.
Tell us why you chose this program particularly and why at this point in your career: A few years ago I had decided I needed to push my career to the next level. I’ve been working successfully, illustrating children’s books for many years, but I knew there is always room for growth. I really wanted to begin writing my own children’s books as well as illustrating them. I need a program that could help stimulate and focus my intentions. I looked at several programs, but none of the others provided me with opportunity to learn and grow without having to put my career and life on hold to go back to school. I didn’t want to take online classes. I work at home alone all the time so I wanted to have real-world in-person connections with other artists. This program gives me the drive to advance my career, get outside of my comfort Zone, and continue my life and career simultaneously.
Tell us more about the highlights of your intensive trips: While I knew traveling was a part of the program, I didn’t expect the eye opening experiences I would take home with me! On our San Fran trip we spent one day visiting the studio and private collection of illustrator Alice “Bunny” Carter; the next day we had presentations by Lou brooks and Robert Hunt. In NYC we met everyday at the Society of Illustrators, visited the studios of children’s book illustrators Ted and Betsy Lewin, then followed with lectures by Donato Giancola, Peter DeSeve, and Yuki Shimuzo. These are just a few of the big names I could mention! At night my classmates and I would hustle around the city visiting local museums like the Legion of Honor and the MET of Art etc! I am halfway through the program now and looking forward to LA and Dallas!
What educational breakthroughs…or advise…did you personally experience?
During each presentation the artists share how their careers have changed over time. It’s incredible to see how the work of illustrators Like Nancy Stahl and Lou Brooks have truly evolved with the times. The one all-inclusive big theme each speaker mentioned was how they got their big break. Almost every artist told us a story about how they did a personal project that lead to an explosion of their careers. It’s these personal projects that illustrators did for their own fun and pleasure that truly let them shine. That’s when your portfolio can grow to the next level and clients can SEE our real enjoyment in our work.
What artist(s) that you have met had the most influence on your development in this course? There are so many artists! Donato Giancola, Robert Hunt and C. F. Payne’s work are absolutely stunning and they are a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. But I have to say that children’s book illustrators Ted and Betsey Lewin, and Dennis Nolan Have made the biggest impact on me. All three of them have worked with me on writing and developing stories. Story writing is a beautiful new world that I have immersed myself into this year and it’s been extremely eye opening. The times I have spent with all of them have changed my life and work in way I could have never predicted.
I am halfway through the program now and I feel that my work has already grown by leaps and bounds. This program is a magical combination of classes, lectures, and pure inspiration. I am exploring things like story telling and building content between the lines in each new painting I create. The time I have spent with my classmates, faculty and visiting artists is priceless!
Thank you so much for sharing Christine! I don’t know about you readers, but I’m looking forward to hearing more about the second half of the program perhaps! Certainly glad CATugeau agency will be a part of her future as well!