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Alumni - Profiles - Brandon Strathmann

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BRANDON STRATHMANN - MFA in Drawing, 2007

On his work:

I work as an Assistant Professor of Animation and Entertainment Art at California State University Fullerton. I am based out of a private studio in my home in Southern California, where I am creating computer-animated films about the state of our environment in addition to teaching full time. My current project utilizes Flash and 3D Generated elements. I hope to raise awareness of pollution in the ocean with my current short film, a collaborative effort with my wife. I have worked as a commercial animator in the past, but the work I am currently focused on is personal and allows me to further my artistic development.

I divide my time between building curriculum focused on strong foundational studies for my college students, and researching and executing animation for my personal projects. I try to experience what I am working on artistically first-hand, so I travel to museums, zoos, aquariums and public spaces with my camera or sketchbook in hand. I draw every day to increase my speed and accuracy so that I can draw anything I may have to in order to explain something to my students. I strive to become a better artist so that I can become a better teacher.

On his recent accomplishments:

Two of the artworks I made for my graduate thesis are now part of the permanent art collection at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. I also donated most of my graduate artwork for charity auctions that the museum holds. This was very gratifying for me, since this institution provided me employment as an Artist-in-Residence while I was a graduate student at the Star Store campus. My artwork was also featured on the cover of the Whaling Museum periodical in Fall 2007 along with photos of me working as an Artist-in-Residence.

I was very fortunate to find a tenure-track teaching position at Cal State Fullerton during my final year at UMass Dartmouth. I attribute a great deal of this to being able to gain valuable teaching experience as part of my assistantship experiences in CVPA. I was able to build a career as an educator at UMass Dartmouth while earning the terminal degree in my field. The Fine Arts Department was incredibly gracious in accommodating my difficult schedule--something that I am grateful for to this day.

On his proudest achievement as an artist:

My proudest achievement is having created a comfortable lifestyle as an artist and educator; a career that allows me to pass on what I learned in college and at animation studios while simultaneously working on projects that are meaningful to me. I loved working as an animator and illustration artist for a decade prior to returning to Graduate School. It was a wonderful experience learning from the many art departments I worked for. But working on my own artistic vision while a Graduate student at UMass Dartmouth brought me back in touch with what inspired me to draw in the first place. It also awakened in me the need I had to produce art, for its own sake. Being able to pick what I focus on while simultaneously being forced to keep up with changes in technology and challenges faced by my students energizes me.

On CVPA:

There is a strong focus on independent and self-directed research that I was taught in the MFA Program. Professor Bryan McFarlane really advanced this path of personal development by taking Graduate Students on trips to New York galleries. This quest for artistic development forces you to look outside into the larger world for objectivity and your place in it. I traveled to New York and beyond in my pursuit to define myself as a fine artist. Though it was great to look for answers in far away places, I also found great inspiration in my backyard at the Star Store. Looking out from my fourth-floor window in the graduate painting studio, I became engrossed in the beauty of the historic whaling city of New Bedford. I bring this love of research to developing myself as an academic.

The drawing program is top-notch, from the Foundations Program up through the Graduate courses. I learned a lot of basic skills that I hadn't picked up working as an animator. Rather than being a preparatory series of exercises for painting, sculpture or illustration, drawing was treated as an art onto itself. This elevation of drawing inspired me to pursue watercolor drawing as well as experimenting with mark-making in a variety of media and methods.

On CVPA faculty:

I worked with so many talented faculty members while I was at UMass Dartmouth!

Professor Alma Davenport was on my Graduate Committee and served me well as a instructor, and she also worked hard to help me find opportunities to improve myself as an educator. She gave me the chance to teach an upper-level undergraduate course in Nature Drawing. I was fortunate to work with well-trained students from Sophomore to Senior levels.

Professor Memory Holloway helped me to build a working relationship with the New Bedford Whaling Museum. After learning of my interest in community outreach, she took it upon herself to arrange an appointment for me to meet with the director of the Education Department. This led to my part-time employment as an Artist-in-Residence and open access to the museum. This unfettered access to the natural specimens at the museum led to friendships with the scientists who were reconstructing a Right Whale skeleton and gave me the chance to learn whale anatomy from a scientist. I was also granted access to many local museums and aquariums with my professional credentials. All of this made it possible for my to extend my research of whales bones into an academic adventure that fueled my artistic growth.

On lessons learned in the "real world":

The most important thing I have learned since graduating in 2007 is that drawing is the foundation for all other forms of visual communication in addition to being an art in its own right. I found that little had changed in the years I was away from Los Angeles, the entertainment center of the world. There are still plenty of people who draw for a living, and lots of demand for people who can teach others how to draw. Drawn animation is still thriving and studios like Disney are reopening their previously shuttered studios. I had some fear that drawing may have been in the process of being phased out of the production cycle of commercial art. But whether drawn on paper or directly into the computer, there is no substitute for conveying one's ideas to another person than a drawn image.

Advice for today's students:

There are countless ways of making a living as an artist, you are really only limited by the freedom you give yourself to dream. An important thing to remember is that it is really hard to have everything all at once. It's a challenge to have a steady paycheck available at a large commercial studio while dedicating all of your time to pursuing a personal vision. Or having the time to travel and broaden one's horizons artistically with commitments to family and a demanding schedule. The key is to develop a detailed plan and schedule how you plan to succeed at being an artist. It also helps to realize that serious failures and setbacks will be part of that plan. Do not get discouraged if you spend years perfecting a given skill only to find that you still have many more years worth of study still ahead of you in order to master it--appreciate the opportunity to grow further. Do not look at the successes of others to judge yourself, take joy and pride in the process of you own development, and love being an artist.

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