Syracuse University's art school has a long reputation for training artists and illustrators. Two of my heroes, Tom Lovell and Harry Anderson, graduated from Syracuse around 1930.
The campus adjoins the city of Syracuse in the center of New York State. Its hilly location gives its students lots of exercise as they travel from class to class.
John Thompson heads the illustration program. His approach is traditional and realistic. We sat in on a class as he introduced an assignment on the theme of “inside and outside” He showed slides of compositional framing devices ranging from Titian to Bernie Fuchs.
He will lead a group of students to India this winter for a sketching tour. He told me that he was in no hurry for students to learn digital tools. At the undergraduate level, the focus is primarily on drawing and painting.
Our guide Tim Coolbaugh took us throughout the rest of the art building, a modern concrete structure at the edge of the quad. Lining the hallways were huge self-portraits showing faces contorted with laughter.
The walls upstairs displayed the results of a line drawing exercise taught by James Ransome, where students used markers to draw interior scenes with figures. They used white artist's tape to erase parts of the drawings as they reconsidered their lines and explored abstract shapes.
Seniors occupied the tower rooms of the art building, which they customized with their supplies and works-in-progress.
Syracuse University also maintains the Special Collections Research Center, which has an impressive collection of artist’s papers and manuscripts, including cartoonist Roy Crane’s remarkable instructional scrapbook, assembled to guide his assistants in composition.
After my presentation, I met several of the illustration instructors including, from left to right: London Ladd, Bob Dacey, and James Ransome, and Roger DeMuth (not in picture) all award-winning professional illustrators balancing their own artwork with their teaching.
Thanks and best wishes to all at SU!