Students have designs on creativity at showcase

Grand Canyon University animation student Yesenia Thomas, who spent the summer as an intern for Phil Vischer Enterprises (Vischer is known for "VeggieTales"), displays her demo reel and animation designs at Tuesday's Senior Design Showcase.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Grand Canyon University animation student Yesenia Thomas is a storyteller.

But her medium isn’t words, it’s animation.

At Tuesday’s College of Fine Arts and Production Senior Design Showcase, just a few of her smiling, bright-eyed characters dappled her display table: a seafaring fellow sitting on a barrel; another fellow, with a perky nose, in boots and tights raising a sword, and a red-headed kid yanking some gummy, gooey cheese off a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Some of Thomas' drawings.

“I just LOVE to create stories, and animation is a great way to convey that,” said Thomas, who specializes in narrative work and sharpened her animation skills during an internship in Illinois over the summer for Phil Vischer Enterprises. Vischer is the co-founder of Big Idea Entertainment, known for the children’s series “VeggieTales” (the series that made Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber famous).

“I have a lot of influences,” Thomas said as she flipped through a book of some of her illustrations, turning to pages that showed a 1930s style of characters with black-bead eyes. “Disney was a big, early influence, but any animated show, like Warner Bros. and web comics.”

She also showed her demo reel – an animation on a computer screen of sushi. One of the rolls, with cute animated eyes and a smile, nestled between chopsticks.

Advertising and graphic design senior Alyssa Moran incorporates handwritten calligraphy into her work.

Fellow COFAP design student Alyssa Moran sat at her table ready to put pen to paper and create a prettily written artwork for visitors.

Moran is going against the grain of technology in her work in some instances by incorporating calligraphy, which she creates the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper rather than using a calligraphy font setting on her computer.

“I like connecting with what I’m doing,” Moran said of the tactile motions of writing. “On a screen, you’re so disconnected from it. I like being more hands-on. I don’t like to sit and watch something. I HAVE to do it.”

Moran launched a small calligraphy business that’s just getting off the ground.

Jaxson and the 14 other Senior Design Showcase students will graduate on Friday.

Her design table at the showcase was dappled with words and phrases written in calligraphy: “You’re my lobster” and "Grace," complete with swirls and twirls. Some of her printed work incorporates the handwritten calligraphy.

“We spend so much time on the computer that I feel like we have to disconnect from that for a while,” said Moran, who has been employed as a graphic designer for Vineyard Church for the past two years while going to school.

COFAP student Loren Jaxson showcased her designs, a group of cards featuring characters inspired by various cultures’ mythology, such as one card she based on Icarus.

“I wanted to see how far I can push my creativity. I said I’m going to go for (making) all 78 (cards),” she said.

And graphic design student Eric Vingerhoets did something unusual at the event by making his table interactive. Visitors could use a stamp featuring his design – a finger wearing a hat – on a blank white coaster.

The finger wearing a hat is based on Vingerhoets’ Flemish last name, which, when translated, means “finger hat.”

“I love building systems,” he said of creating a whole marketing program through design. “If there’s one poster, why is there just one poster?”

Eric Vingerhoets created an interactive activity for Senior Design Showcase visitors -- a make-your-own coaster.

Vingerhoets already has landed a job before graduation, for DBSI Inc. in Chandler.

Thomas, Moran, Jaxson and Vingerhoets were just a few of the 15 COFAP design students showcasing the work they’ve done during their time at GCU before walking the graduation stage on Friday. Also featured were web design graduates Riley Warr, Sabrina Ricksecker and David Calvert; animation graduates Jessica Ottley, Hector Garcia, Mary Clayton, Ty Metcalfe, Kailee Cardinal and John Dinwiddie; and advertising and graphic design graduates Anthony Hughes and Mariah Salazar.

Assistant Professor of Design Sheila Schumacher said digital design and advertising graphic design are where students these days are finding opportunities for jobs: “I have one student, Sabrina Ricksecker, in General Dynamics. There are jobs in advertising agencies, manufacturing … our 3D modelers will end up there.”

About 60 more design students will graduate in the spring. Schumacher said digital design and advertising graphic design account for about half of the college’s 1,000-plus students.

Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


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