On the importance of student press for illustrators and artists

Staff Editorial

On the importance of student press for illustrators and artists

Cristian Fowlie // Production Manager

I began illustrating for the Capilano Courier halfway into my three-year diploma program at Capilano University’s fabled IDEA School of Design [Illustration/Design: Elements and Application].

As Illustration and design students, we were cloistered in a Mac-lined lab in the Arbutus Building, and rarely made contact with the outside world. We were career-driven students, and the IDEA program offered a rigorous curriculum that kept us in class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with evenings dedicated to an endless barrage of project deadlines. While I learned so much from that creative bootcamp, the greatest education may have been at the Capilano Courier.

Since January 2013 I’ve illustrated 69 spots, 10 covers, 21 columnist portraits, produced 44 issues as Art Director, and 18* (and counting) as Production Designer. Now, I’ve written 14 pieces too apparently. Because illustration is a field that rarely offers work – much less paid work – for young artists, every opportunity becomes a learning experience. There aren’t many co-op placements or internships for illustration students, and rarely any full-time positions outside of the gaming industry. Often, artists work in other fields for decades, moonlighting as illustrators and hoping to turn their passion into a day job.

Illustration by Rachel Wada

I may be sad to finish my last semester at the Courier, but I’m thrilled to say I’m working full-time as an illustrator. I owe much of it to the opportunities from this newspaper and its staff. There’s Cheryl Swan, the previous art director that commissioned my first spot – which was trash – but she still gave me a second chance. There’s Andy Rice, the editor that hired me as art director when I graduated from IDEA with no prospects (hint: just bring in beer). Or Carlo Javier, who has a great future as a talent agent because of how aggressively he brags about me to unsuspecting victims.

Not only did the Courier give me chances to hone my craft, the publication also provided a platform to showcase my art. I was surprised to hear that art directors from national publications like the Globe & Mail and the Walrus discovered my work by perusing through student press publications. My cover for the feature “Exploring the Deep Web” by Carlo Javier, earned an Applied Arts award. I even had the chance to illustrate the EP cover of future-Polaris-Prize-winners Indigo Indigo, when current Arts and Culture Editor Rachel D’Sa, found me in the pages of the Courier.

As Art Director, I was able share this platform by commissioning art from a new generation of illustrators. CapU students were recognized at the 2017 JHM Awards, hosted by the Canadian University Press. Both Austin Leeg and Rachel Sanvido received nominations for Illustration of the Year, with Leeg claiming the award. When it was suggested that I paint two bulky newspaper boxes that crowded our small office, I was able to commission frequent contributors Wolfgang Thomo and Juliana Vieira to live-paint the boxes at CapU’s annual back-to-school street party. Working at the Courier has made me part of a legacy of talented artists. Local legends like Shannon Elliot, Katie So and Syd Danger have all illustrated and worked at the Courier. Last summer, I was happy to recommend the illustrious Rachel Wada to take my position as art director, and I know she’ll continue this legacy.

Even beyond professional development, the Courier has included me in a community that barely existed at CapU. The school infamously gutted the Studio Arts program back in 2013, and likes to keep its creative programs in separate corners of the campus. With a lacking arts community, a full-time class schedule and no breadth courses, there wasn’t much opportunity to connect with students outside of my program. Now I happily consider my co-workers friends and I look forward to drinking beers, hearing the hot campus gossip and debating best rap albums on our Friday production days.

In the coming weeks, the Courier will be gearing up for another Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) referendum, with part of the vote looking to increase the budget for the newspaper. Last year, we weren’t able to squeak by with enough votes. While I may not be able to vote this year, I hope I can testify to the importance of student press, in my own creative career, but also for CapU’s future generations.

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