A Learner at Heart Pursues Her Art
Associate Degree in Illustration
Marketing Coordinator Lynne Adams has been growing in leaps and bounds in her AOS in Illustration program, with her drawing and painting skills earning widespread appreciation from instructors. How does a busy working professional, a mom, and a volunteer in her community, find the time and the inspiration to develop her art? We interviewed Lynne to find out.
Q: Lynne, your creative journey began as a marketing coordinator. Can you talk about how you first got involved in design?
Long story short, I was a single mom trying to find a balance between working full time and being home when my son needed me. I just knew I needed to be home when he returned from school and so I made the move from a full time position in the medical field to temporary work status. While the pay was a lot less, this allowed me to better control my schedule. In late 1995, as my son was entering his junior year of high school, and after many temporary placements in various companies, I landed in an engineering firm that would be my forever work home. After several months as a temp, I was offered a full time position. There was a nice family atmosphere in this firm and I thought it was a good fit for me and the timing was right to go back to full time work. I’ve been with them 22 years now and this is where my graphic design journey starts.
As a marketing coordinator I was tasked with putting together attractive proposal submittals. With each submittal I tried new layouts and design. Not having any training, I was just feeling my way through the process. I worked in Microsoft Word, and let me tell you, that was challenging. Our original submittals didn’t have many graphics, but as I added more images and tried to lay out a better looking page, Word just couldn’t handle the project anymore. Finally, we explored real design software. At the time we opted for Quark. I sat in on a presentation and then went back to my computer to explore it. There was no formal training, just what I picked up in the presentation, but it was enough to put me on the right path.
The more familiar I became with the program, the better I could lay out my design. When I switched from Quark to Adobe, I started with Illustrator and Photoshop. I read a few books, explored tutorials and best of all, I sought out volunteer opportunities where I could use the software in real world marketing projects that were not engineering focused.
Q: Did you have any formal training? How did you pick up the skills you needed?
At this point, I didn’t have any formal training at all. I’ve always been able to read a book or watch a tutorial and pretty much get it enough to actually start using the software. When I made the switch to Adobe, I started with Photoshop and Illustrator. To gain additional experience I sought out a local high school and volunteered to design their sports program books. I also designed a few tee shirts and the school logo that they still use today. I was just learning the software and each time I put together a new book I made myself try something different. I trusted my instincts when designing the pages. Even though my design was not great back then, I was able to develop my skills as I gained new knowledge.
When I moved to Florida from Kentucky in 2006, I wanted to learn InDesign. I was able to learn the basics of InDesign quickly with an online course from another college. Again I sought out another high school and offered my services in order to put that knowledge to work. I now use that program almost daily in my job. Quite honestly, I still watch a lot of tutorials and look at a lot of magazine layouts. I take pictures of layouts, color palettes, and little details that inspire me. I’m driven to constantly take my work to another level.
Q: In your bio, you talk about a turning point where you realized you needed to study drawing but had been putting it off. Why the attraction, and why the resistance?
The first time someone asked me to design a logo I was stuck. I took on the challenge, knew how I wanted it to look, but just didn’t have the skills to draw it myself. I would spend a lot of time taking clipart apart to see how it was drawn. I remember the day I figured out how to manipulate points on a line in Illustrator. This was such a tremendous day for me. I muddled through teaching myself a little at a time. I finally found an Illustrator class online and that really opened the digital drawing door for me.
When my world really changed though, was in 2010. While sitting in my office working one evening, a thought popped into my head that I should draw … with paper and pencil! I was amused and promptly dismissed it. When I was a child I would doodle, but I had never drawn before.
A few months prior I had taken a class centered around the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment and our unique innate talents. I must have been subconsciously thinking on that over those months. I was certainly open to exploring any talent I might have. During that class I was really awakened to what a talent is. When you know what makes you talented and unique then you have the power to perform better in your job. You open yourself up to new opportunities as well. And when you add knowledge and skills to those talents you really maximize the best of yourself.
Drawing scared me because I was lacking that knowledge and skill to make it work for me. But the thought nagged at me for a few more weeks before I finally gave in. I bought some paper and pencils and decided to prove to myself once and for all that this was a silly idea. When I sat down to draw for the first time, I chose a photo of my son from when he was a baby. It wasn’t great, but amazingly, it wasn’t bad either. I was excited and apprehensive at the same time. I didn’t know what I should do with this. The logical next step was to invest in some classes. I attended five drawing classes in a local adult education program. That wasn’t very convenient for me so I started searching for ways to learn online. I followed several artists and would watch their tutorials over and over. From there I found Sessions College.
Q: You’ve really done some amazing work in the program. How have online classes helped you develop your skill? How does your program fit in with the rest of your life?
Thank you so much! Honestly, online classes have been a blessing to me. I work full time, volunteer, and spend consistent time drawing and painting. My life can get a little crazy. With the online classes I can work from the convenience of my home instead of running off to a campus class. There are plenty of opportunities to ask the instructors questions, and interact with classmates. I love the structure of having a weekly deadline, but within that week I can work at my own pace. The lectures are good and cover the topic of the course well. I’m a learner at heart, so I do supplement my lectures with additional tutorials I find online. I also like to follow other artists to pick up tips and tricks. Because I was self-taught and had hacked my way around design, I decided to attend Sessions College in order to fill in the gaps. This has given me much more confidence in my design decisions and my skills have developed beyond what I thought I could do. I can already see a huge difference in my work.
Q: As you approach the final quarter of your program, what are your goals on graduation?
I started at Sessions in the Digital Arts Certification program. When I finish this Illustration Degree Program, I am going to pursue a certification in Graphic Design, as well as Fine Arts. I will continue in my current job as I’m just a few years from retirement and I really love what I do there. Last year I started entering my art in gallery shows and have won several awards. I’ve also been fortunate to have completed several portrait commissions. I would like to be a great portrait artist so I will continue down that path in the mediums of oil, graphite, charcoal and pastel. I’m looking forward to adding watercolor this semester. Doing what I love is a blessing and I see myself continuing all of this for as long as I’m on this earth.
Q: Some say art cannot be taught, or cannot be taught online. What would you say to those people?
I would say that if you believe that, then you are making that assumption without all the facts. Learning to draw does take practice, consistent practice, and patience with yourself. There is so much knowledge out there for us to use. You have to give yourself time to learn it and then put it to use by practice, practice, practice!
Sometimes when I’m starting a new drawing I freeze for a second and wonder if I can really do it. Even after I’ve completed many drawings. Then I remind myself that I have the knowledge and skill to get me where I want to go with that project. If I want to try something different with the drawing, I just research online other artists who have used that technique and I watch their tutorials or I just stare at their art to see if I can figure it out.
When I had my first online painting class here at Sessions, I wondered if I was really going to be able to learn how to paint in this online class. But the lecture was laid out so well and the instructor was encouraging and quickly answered any question I emailed to him. And I was able to send him my progress to critique before I submitted my assignment. It was a smooth experience.
I have taken my work to a new level with online learning, with the flexibility and freedom to study when it’s best for me.
Sessions College offers all kinds of online art and illustration programs to help you develop your art and illustration skills. For more information, visit our Associate Degree in Illustration, Digital Arts Certificate or Fine Arts Certificate programs.
Gordon Drummond is the President of a Sessions College, where he is Director of Instructional Design, among many roles. He's passionate about education, technology, and the arts, and likes to surround himself with more talented people.