Student writers, student illustrators come together for collaborative project

Oklahoma Baptist University Student writers, student illustrators come together for collaborative project

By Payton Clark, Arts Editor

Dogs, diversity and depression. Short stories and artwork come together to students in two separate classes with real life experience.

This semester, artists from professor Joshua Brunet’s Advanced Topics in Art class have collaborated with writers from Dr. Brent Newsom’s Intermediate Fiction Workshop to create illustrations for short stories. Monday, April 24 at 7 p.m. artwork and excerpts from the short stories will be featured in a show and reception in the GC.

“I want my students to realize that by supporting and networking with artists in other fields, they’re able to find new audiences and connections that might benefit you professionally and creatively,” Newsom said. “I hope my students embrace every chance they get to do something creative and something that will challenge them to produce something excellent, and I think that’s what this project has done for them.”

According to Newsom, the collaboration between his and Brunet’s classes was simple, with a short story and pairs of artists and writers working together to express the story’s meaning.

“My students wrote stories in a form called “flash fiction” or very short stories, one to two pages usually,” Newsom said. “The illustration students then took the stories and will create one illustration for each story. One writer has been paired with one artist, and their creations will be hung in the GC with a reception held Monday night.”

While it would be difficult to feature entire short stories for the audience to read, Newsom says there may be an electronic alternative.

“The stories won’t be there completely, but we’ll post an excerpt from each story beside the artwork based on that story,” Newsom said. “If we can work out the technology, we hope there will be a url or QR code to scan and read the whole story if you wanted to.”

According to Brunet, the vast aray of ideas like two competing dogs, topics of suicide and depression, and coming to a new culture, make this show very diverse.

“I think it’s going to be a full range of work,” Brunet said. “The stories were all diverse, and the artwork was just as diverse. It should be a pretty interesting show, with something for everyone.”

Within the collaboration, students had to work with minimal initial communication, and could meet after interpreting the stories themselves.

“For our project, the illustrators didn’t have any input on what the stories would be about, they just received stories and had to work from those,” Newsom said. “They did have the opportunity however to meet the writer of the story and share their initial ideas about what they thought to portray in their illustration, and the writers could give some feedback to ensure that the story is understood.”

In class, Brunet says they’ve discussed multiple illustration styles, leaving it up to the artists to determine how to best interpret the stories.

“Some of them chose to go more conceptual or editorial illustration where they may not necessarily be a moment in time within the story, but it encapsulates the whole idea or theme,” Brunet said.

“Some decided to go more narrative, where the illustration helps to tell the story. It’s interesting and gets the viewer to want to read the story and find out what’s happening, but it’s telling a story. Since the fictions were so different and there were such a variety, I think it was a good idea to let the students figure out what would be the best way to showcase the writing.”

Brunet thought Newsom’s idea for a collaboration provided a great opportunity for his students. “Not only do students get the chance to read a brand new piece of writing and try to interpret it on their own, but they also have this great experience where they get to collaborate with the author,” Brunet said. “Usually for class projects I’ll find things where the author is unknown, or they’ve passed away, where there’s not an interaction between the two artists. So we do talk about collaborating with the author, but it’s hard to make that happen, but this is the perfect scenario where the illustrator got to meet with the creative writer.”

Coming from his experience in a graduate school poetry class, Newsom believes this collaboration with an experienced illustrator like Brunet will be beneficial for writing and art classes alike.

“This is the first time, and I hope the first of many, for this collaboration to happen,” Newsom said. “This is Professor Brunet’s first year as faculty, and we haven’t had an illustrator on staff in the past, so I thought it would be great to take advantage of his presence.”

Newsom believes collaborations like this are what makes his job as a writer so interesting.

“One of the things I’ve found really gratifying professionally, and as a writer, are opportunities to work with artists in another genre,” Newsom said. “Whether that’s co-editing a magazine, or working on an opera with Dr. Vernon, to me that’s really energizing and it gives a new audience to my writing.”

Brunet agrees that collaboration helps to refine skills and make one a better communicator.

“It’s good to have that kind of feedback, it makes you a better communicator with your artwork and it will make sure that you’re saying what you think you’re saying,” Brunet said. “It’s a back and forth process, and collaboration really is the name of the game with lots of voices coming together to get that final project that everyone sees in the end.”

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