The MFA Visual Narrative Department is off to a strong start and its inaugural class is chock full of talented students. One of them is Jennifer Goldstick, a Chicago native who is currently in New York City for the eight-week summer intensive portion of the program. SVA Close Up decided to chat with Goldstick about her influences, the value of storytelling, and how her summer’s going so far.
How did you first become interested in illustration and how long have you been drawing?
I have been drawing since I was about three years old. I remember in nursery school there was an area with a playhouse, an area for building blocks, a water table, and an area with easels. I would spend the majority of my time at the easels, painting sailboats (exclusively). I first became interested in illustration as a career in college, when I felt very torn between studying English and studying Art; to me, they were so incredibly intertwined. I tried an English major first and ended up switching to the art school. I knew I wanted to tell stories, but I didn’t know how yet.
I remember feeling inspired to work in narrative sequence when a former professor at Washington University in St. Louis, John Hendrix (SVA alum), brought Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid on Earth to the studio. I didn’t even know something like that existed, and I thought it was just beautiful, from the story, to the artwork, to the layout. Exciting stuff!
What attracted you to the MFA Visual Narrative program and how’s it been going so far?
I was very attracted to the idea of focusing on visual storytelling content itself in a way that is not driven by any particular medium. To me, the story is the hero, and the medium just an end to support the means. I had been browsing graduate programs since graduating from undergrad in 2009, but nothing had ever resonated with me until I read about this program—I read the description and the curriculum and I thought, “THIS is it! This is what I have been waiting for.”
The program has been going fantastically. The classes are so deeply explorative and rigorous, the faculty is passionate and enthusiastic, and we have the most committed and spirited inaugural class. I had hesitations about being in the first wave of students to experience the program, but my hesitations were quickly dispelled after meeting these amazing people on the first day. The student body has a diverse set of viewpoints and comes from a wide range of backgrounds (from photography to illustration to infographics), and yet we all operate under this common denominator of visual story. [MFA Visual Narrative Department Chair] Nathan Fox has done an excellent job putting this all together.
Why is storytelling important and what kind of stories do you like to tell in your work?
Great question! I think that, ultimately, storytelling is important because it is unifying and lends itself to emotional connectedness. Ironically, one thing I’m looking to do in the program (among other things) is to play with this idea in my own work. I would like to try and tell stories that are disconnected and through that evoke a sense of loneliness or sadness. How will I engage a viewer if my stories are disengaging, you ask? This is TBD; I will let you know in 2015 when I graduate.
In my professional work as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, I have taken a lot of corporate information graphic projects. In personal work, I like to make comics—and I started to find that these two pursuits are actually highly correlated. I like to think about stories that might be best told in an infographic-comic. For some reason I have been enjoying telling semi-autobiographical stories in my work lately, and trying to determine the best sequential breakdown or graphic to apply logic to nonsensical happenings or personal history.
What inspires you as a visual artist? And what artists have influenced you the most?
I feel inspired by good stories, whether that is in real life experience, or reading the stories of other authors or artists. I am inspired by formal elements of a story, too, like pacing and rhythm. I like manipulating these elements to convey something experiential and emotionally complex or delicate. My most favorite graphic artist of all time is Chris Ware, who I mentioned earlier. I also feel inspired by other comic artists like [Bernard] Krigstein, and [George] Herriman. I feel influenced by the Italian Futurism movement in fine art right now, I think want my work to comment somehow on technology, but to be clear I am not a Fascist.
As an artist, where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
I think I would like to see myself expanding into new markets with infographics. I may want to go editorial with it, but also into new territories and applications yet to be explored (things I haven’t even thought of yet). In 10 years, I would like to be a part-time teacher of something art-related, part-time freelance info-comic maker, and part-time human.