Digital Design and Ceramics Classes Provide New Opportunities to Explore the Arts

Saint James students have gained new opportunities to stretch themselves artistically in the last two years with the additional dedicated space in the Pohanka Fine Arts Center. Two examples of the growth of the Fine Arts program include new semester-long class offerings in Ceramics and Digital Design. 


Digital Design

The Digital Design class is taking place in the new digital media lab in Pohanka. Students are using Adobe Photoshop to work on digital illustration, photo editing, animation, and more.  The class is taught by Stephen Sheredy, who graduated from Barbara Ingram School for the Arts (BISFA) as a Maryland Distinguished Scholar. He holds a BFA in Animation from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Mr. Sheredy has worked on animated videos for the YouTube channels of corporate children's brands, including Thomas and Friends for Mattel, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon, and freelance work for Fox Family Entertainment. He also teaches part-time at BIFSA and at Hagerstown Community College for advanced portfolio development.

“Creating a whole new course for students to learn digital media is an historic milestone for the school, and something unique that connects all students together based on what they consume every day,” said Mr. Sheredy. “A lot of my students want to become illustrators, animators, designers, or filmmakers. It feels wonderful to know that I have helped fill a need the SJS students have to express themselves in ways that prove valuable and essential in their professional career, working with digital software to create strong characters, tell stories, and design beautiful pictures.”

Ryan Scott ‘22, who will be attending the Rhode Island School of Design next year, has been experimenting with Photoshop the past couple of years but wanted to take the class to expand his skills with digital art.

“With the full computer lab and having the nice drawing tablets, it was a good opportunity to learn how to use all of that software, especially from somebody who is qualified and has used it in the field for multiple years,” Ryan said. “Mr. Sheredy is a good teacher and gives a lot of good feedback and tips and he really knows what he’s talking about.”

Ryan said he used the foundational skills he learned in other studio art classes, and often started his digital projects by doing a pencil sketch and then scanning it onto his laptop to then draw over digitally with a stylus. 

“You’re led by the same principles of line, shape, and color, but then it’s like using that in a digital scape with new types of brushes and new textures that can be digitally made,” he said. “There’s a lot more freedom but there’s a learning curve to it, too.”
Ryan said he particularly enjoyed the final class project because the students were given freedom to create anything they wanted using what they learned during the course.

“I took all the skills I had learned throughout the semester and tried to put them together—like different types of line work, different color combinations, filters, pretty much everything I had available,” he said.

Pearl Walker ’23 has been creating art digitally for some time, using YouTube videos to learn new software and skills, so she was excited to take the Digital Design class. 
“The thing with digital is that you get access to a bunch of different kinds of pens, and your pen movement can be like moving a piece of chalk or moving spray paint,” she said. “You also get a bunch of different colors, and you can edit more easily. So, it’s like you’re drawing on paper except you have all your color pens and utensils all right next to you.”

One of the class projects was a character design section, which included a character drawing, body turnaround, pose sheet, and expression sheet, which all help to bring the character to life. Pearl created a chimpanzee with a prosthetic leg, a character that is part of a book project that she is currently writing. 

“I was trying to figure out how her prosthetic leg works, and I was trying to make sense of what would work for my story,” she said. “It was really fun to see what everyone else did. You have all types of levels of people because some people love to draw but don’t design characters, and you see them draw a character and it’s so cool.”

Danseh Yanou ’23 has taken other studio art classes but wanted the opportunity to explore digital art. He said the hardest thing to get used to was using the stylus because you’re not looking directly at what you’re drawing.

“My favorite was the photography editing,” he said. “You could do so much with it. Even though you were given a picture, but then you could do so many different edits with it, like color, grading styles, vignettes, and stuff. It was very interesting to me.”


Ceramics

Last year, ceramics was added as its own course offering whereas in previous years it was part of the Art I curriculum as an introduction to the medium. An entire semester allows students to have a more in-depth exploration of ceramics, from hand-building projects to wheel throwing.  There is a dedicated ceramics/3D art studio on the bottom level of the Pohanka Fine Arts Center. 

Visual arts teacher Jeremy McDonald has been a part of the growth of the visual arts at Saint James for the past 13 years. The ceramics class is an exciting addition for students interested in that medium.

“We can do all of the hand-building projects we’ve done previously and still have them do wheel throwing for a quarter of the year, and they can actually learn how to center clay and throw on the wheel,” Mr. McDonald said. 

Phyllis Wu ’22 is a new student at Saint James and had taken ceramics at her previous school. She was excited for the opportunity to build on what she already knew.
“Mr. McDonald would give us projects, and I would see what kind of creativity I could add to it,” Phyllis said. “He said to make a vessel but make it not look like one. I made mine look like a piggy bank. It is a little dog, and you can take off his head and you’ll see a coin slot.”

She said for all of the projects she would start out with a sketch, and then slowly build piece-by-piece, finishing off with the detail work.

“What I liked most was that I was able to talk to everyone in the class to collaborate,” Phyllis said. “I didn’t have to limit myself; I could take the creativity that was in my head and bring it out.” 

Moses Warui ’24 said he enjoyed learning new concepts even though he struggled with the wheel. He preferred slab construction when working with the clay.

“You sketch out what you’re thinking then go to the slab roller and get it to the right thickness,” he said. “Then you cut it with a scalpel knife and keep doing that and then put the pieces together. Sometimes it would take two weeks just to get the right texture.”

Moses said that Mr. McDonald would load their projects in the kiln, and he explained that if you want to glaze your project you do it before it’s been fired, but if you want to paint, you do that after.  He particularly enjoyed working on his cell phone speaker. 
We look forward to seeing the creativity of our student-artists on display in these new formats.
 

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