BFA Illustration Student Published by ‘The New York Times’

April 11, 2014

On April 9, Amanda Konishi went to bed a promising BFA Illustration student. On April 10, she woke up a published illustrator.

AKphotoSSIt all started back in January with a class visit to The New York Times arranged by BFA Illustration faculty member and alumnus Stephen Savage (MFA 1996 Illustration as Visual Essay). As part of a course on “spot” illustrations—those seen in most daily newspapers and weekly magazines—Konishi and her classmates toured the art department with Alexandra Zsigmond, the deputy art director for the Opinion Page, who offered the students the opportunity to take on an assignment later in the semester.

Fast forward to April, when The Times reported on a family with two young children who had to be rescued at sea during an ill fated vacation. On April 8, Times art director Sarah Williamson had a brief for the class: illustrate a selection of letters from readers reacting to the news, under the heading “Weighing Life’s Risks, on Land and Sea.” Students had six hours to turn in their sketches.


Williamson chose Konishi’s work, and it ran as the only spot illustration on the Editorial Page, opposite an illustration by seasoned illustrator Yarek Waszul on the Op-Ed page.

“The tone of the piece needs to match what the editors think the article needs, whether it be uplifting or serious,” says Konishi.

Work by two of Konishi’s classmates, Roselyn Jerome  and Virginia Martinez, earned honorable mentions.

“It’s tough to be thrown into the mosh pit with other students,” says Savage, a longtime contributor to The Times, and author of several hit children’s books, including Polar Bear Night (Scholastic, 2004), Where’s Walrus (Scholastic, 2011) and Little Tug (Roaring Brook, 2012). “But the students were thankful this was a real-world exercise.” Normally an illustrator world work with the art director through several iterations for completion, while this was a winner-take-all situation.

As for the future, Konishi says, “I’m open to most directions, but I’m going to start with editorial illustration. As long as I get the privilege to make pictures.”

Images: Amanda Konishi, photo Stephen Savage; Konishi’s illustration for The New York Times.

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