By Katie Webb Arts & Entertainment Editor
Vibrant, color-blocked, mosaic images composed of 35 sheets that are 11 inches by 17 inches hang on the walls of the FORM gallery this week, Dec. 9–13. The show, “Vector Variegations,” is the senior art show of fine arts major Samuel Branch.
President of HAGA, the Hofstra graphic design club on campus, Branch can, without fail, be found in Calkins either teaching fellow design majors, designing the sleek posters for FORM gallery or running around, taking photos of everyone and anything happening in the building. Art is his life, to the point where his fellow artists inquire as to whether he has slept in the past few days. The answer, as of late, is no.
But the lack of sleep was worth it for his senior project. Using a collection of photos he had taken over the past few months, tough, playful and ethereal feminine figures, Branch recreated his images as graphics through an extensive editing process in Photoshop.
Manikins were another source of creative inspiration for Branch.
“My mom is a fashion designer, she has a lot of heads and busts lying around, so one night I just went to the living room using my laptop in the dark to illuminate the profile of a manikin because I didn’t have any lighting equipment, and I started painting the figure,” said Branch.
After painting the image on a tablet, he pushed his ingenuity further, creating paths in Illustrator, finite lines resembling topographic maps now composing the visage of the manikin’s profile, adding depth and perspective.
Some pieces Branch left alone, not adding the color blocking in order to highlight the intricately designed yet simple, streamline-looking characters he created. The women, like heroines on graphic novels, have a high-intensity energy due to the warm colors, while the cool blue- and lavender-toned pieces have a sweet, serene appearance.
Branch’s skill is largely self-taught. Hours of diligent program training gave him the basic knowledge set. Still, there were two professors that reshaped his way of thinking about design.
Alex Roskin, aprofessor of fine arts, design and art history, challenged Branch, reinforcing his work ethic.
“I was immensely frustrated taking his class, but I wanted to know the programs he taught so badly, so I started teaching myself,” said Branch.
After countless hours in the Calkins design labs, he has nearly mastered programs that other students left the studio in tears attempting to use.
“Roskin ended up telling me, ‘hey, this is actually the best Form Z drawing I’ve seen’ in the 15 years he has been teaching here,” said Branch.
Christie Shin, a former fine arts professor at Hofstra, was the one who ultimately changed his perspective on design.
“A lot of the design students are tentative with regards to Illustrator, they just want to stay in Photoshop. But after her class I acquired pen tool skills, and I understood that there is a prerequisite for quality in the design field,” said Branch.
Branch has a background in art theory. He knows the intricacies of designing intelligently. Though they are a crucial aspect of the field, many designers have to fight to have their ideas valued, as opposed to just being another tool for a company.
“I don’t want to be the type of designer who is the mouse, the hand, the tablet, the tool that everybody else uses,” said Branch.
An aspiring creative director, or better yet, collaborative member of a design studio, Branch’s main attraction is working for a place where his talent as well as intellect can be of use. From head designer of a video game firm to layout designer at a magazine, the possibilities are vast for an open-minded, immensely dedicated, thoughtful designer like Branch.