‘Humanities: I am Because We Are:’ Graphic design and illustration seniors highlight the importance of community

Hannah Coco / THE GATEPOST

Ubuntu – an African word meaning to be one in a group of strangers.

This is the word that defines the senior graphic design and illustration class exhibition tagline, “I Am Because We Are,” said senior graphic design major Alexis Gomez.

The exhibition, “Humanities: I Am Because We Are,” held in the Mazmanian Art Gallery April 9, showcased 15 students’ portfolio work, all connecting back to two key terms – culture and community.

The students showcased were Gomez, Renee Marinone, Nathally Bastos, Samantha McQueen, Gabrielle Raposo, Kayla Normand, Bianca Lopes, Mark Giurguis, Chris Landry, Chris Delaney, William Pittman, Jorge Calvera, Michael Hendon, Mason Prentiss, and Dan Terrasi.

“We wanted to do something powerful, something that may bring out the FSU community within all of us, and ‘I Am Because We Are’ represents what we do in our life. … We all share something in common, and what that is, is culture. Culture is our beliefs. Culture is us. Culture is our behaviors. Culture is what we do in our lives and why we do it,” said Gomez.

He then read a poem by an unknown writer: “These interwoven veins / DNA / Double Helix / Microscopic / Binding us / All of us / Together / As one / Species / One race / Human / Me and you / Us / All / Through this common shared truth / All of us together / As one / Me and you / Ubuntu.”

In addition to their portfolio work, each student’s bio contains a word in a different language that represents part of their heritage.

Stephanie Grey, professor of art and the senior graphic design and illustration portfolio class, said the title “Humanities” is a “response to things that have been going on – on campus and in the world.”

During Gomez’s speech, he thanked Grey. “For all that you do, your passion and inspiration you bring into class honestly rubs off on us. Without your help, this would have been impossible,” he said.

Gomez’s portfolio consisted of a Morgan Freeman portrait, a People magazine template of Morgan Freeman, McAuliffe Center information posters, Gomez’s religious organization app called ONECOMMUNITY, and his proudest project – his personal logo for his freelance business, AGDESIGNS.

He said he wanted his portfolio to consist of “varieties of diversity in terms of designing” to showcase what he can do as a designer using Adobe and Microsoft.

Even though graphic design was at first just a hobby to Gomez, he said he “always had a passion for art. I always thought that abstract shapes made people think differently. … I like to really design with the mindset of making people look at it twice and say, ‘What does this mean?’”

The portrait of Morgan Freeman was designed using a variety of inspirational words and verses mixed together. Gomez said he chose the actor because of the way he speaks and his story.

For his internship with the planetarium, Gomez said Irene Porro, director of the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center for integrated Science Learning, wanted him to create posters for an exhibit.

“At the time, she didn’t really give me any guidelines. She just kind of gave me whatever and I went in and I designed this. I like it – not for the content, but for the designs I used. It’s very complex and very abstract. I also like that she allowed me to express myself. … I look at myself as a very contemporary modern artist. I love abstract things,” he said.

In the future, Gomez said he hopes to be an art director, run his own company and produce commercials.

Renee Marinone said she started her project in high school, creating different characters based on her mental health and what she was going through.

During therapy when Marinone was in high school, her counselor drew a picture of a sneaker stepping on a slug. “She said, ‘This is what I want you to do.’ I went from there,” Marinone said.

She started creating characters, separating her experiences in life with different entities – depression, anxiety, nightmares, guardians of her dreams, and omens all represented through her art.

Almost eight years after she started her project, she finished her book titled “mind” using Blurb, an online book publishing site.

“I can’t really say how I made up these characters. They just kind of appeared. That’s why it’s called ‘mind.’ It was all my mind going through that,” she said.

When discussing why she created her book, she said, “I just felt like it was something I needed to do. … I think the biggest thing is just knowing that you’re not dealing with problems that are unique. It helps to know that other people are dealing with the same thing and that you can learn to combat it through art or any kind of outlet that you need.”

Marinone said when Grey first heard about the project, she wasn’t so sure, but after she saw the book, it prompted her to have a discussion with her own family about dealing with mental health issues.

“I think a lot of people … they don’t understand it at first. But then when they see some of the stuff in the book and realize they can identify with it, it helps them understand it a little bit more,” she said.

Senior Kayla Otten said, “Compositionally, the way that Renee had put the illustrations up is a lot of vertical lines, and then there’s a piece next to them that has horizontal lines, and it’s kind of an implied grid, almost like an imprisonment.”

Mark Giurguis said when he was in and out of a children’s hospital growing up, receiving five brain surgeries throughout his life, he realized that there were certain subjects children’s illustration books avoided.

“They had no books for children about being in a children’s hospital. I thought they should do books about that focus. … I’m also a triplet and Egyptian American, and there’s no kids’ books for that, either. So, I said, ‘I can bring my perspective into those areas,’” said Giurguis.

Although graphic design is a much better option job-wise, illustration allows more freedoms while working on projects, he said.

Giurguis said he discovered children’s books through Paul Yalowitz, published children’s illustrator/author and chair of the art department.

Giurguis’ illustrations vary from scratchboard art to regular linework scanned into Photoshop, colored and printed. He uses swirly lines and bright colors, similar to Van Gogh’s, making the image pop out from its frame.

“I want to tell a story more visually,” Giurguis said.

Some of his illustrations are influenced by children’s stories such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Pinocchio,” some are more abstract, and some are his own personalized projects, such as his children’s hospital illustrations.

Michael Hendon created six profiles for every one of his comic book characters using CLIP STUDIO PAINT. He said, as it stands now, the characters are 90% done – creating small tweaks here and there, changing colors and small minor details.

Hendon said he doesn’t have any pages of the comic book done just yet, but he has created most of the storyline.

“They’re characters I’ve been developing for a lot of my life, actually – ever since high school. Some of these characters haven’t existed until a year or two ago when I made this into a serious project,” he said.

His drawing style for his comic book, “B-Team: Battle Stations!!” resembles Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” and the videogame “Undertale.”

“I thought about what it means to be kind and what it means to be a friend, I suppose – that’s the big thing about ‘B-Team,’” Hendon said.

For his project, Hendon knew he wanted to make character profiles. It wasn’t until Grey pulled him aside and showed him other students’ character profiles in past semesters that Hendon said he got the idea on how to format the profiles.

Grey said, “This is the first time these particular students have to put up a show of this significance. So, in that way, it’s the first time they get to show their individual selves. They have to pay attention to things like craft, how they’re using the space in the gallery, and all of the components that are outside of making the artwork.” 

[Editor’s Note: Kayla Otten is a staff writer on The Gatepost.]