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Renowned Illustrator David Huang Guides Upper School Art Students on a Journey of Self-Expression

Renowned Illustrator David Huang Guides Upper School Art Students on a Journey of Self-Expression

By Fish Tung, Assistant Communications Officer

In February, the Upper School Visual Arts department hosted David Huang, a Taiwanese artist and RISD graduate, for a week-long residency as a visiting artist. Bringing his expertise as an accomplished illustrator and designer, Huang adopted a practical, hands-on approach to lead students through a series of workshops centered around the theme, "The Identity on/of My Tongue."

Expressing his enthusiasm, Mr. David Badgley, the Upper School Art Teacher, highlighted the inspiration students derived from working closely with Huang. “Having a talent like Mr. David Huang to collaborate with our students has been truly inspiring. His approach to exploring identity through cultural preferences and choice of snacks serves as a powerful catalyst for self-discovery, creative expression and celebrating the nature of third culture kids. It validates and embraces who we are while sharing what we love to eat as individuals.” 

Throughout the week, students participated in a series of workshops that seamlessly integrated traditional and digital art tools, crafting compositions that delved into the complexities of their third-culture identities. Tailored for students in the AP, IB, and painting classes, the workshops prompted participants to explore their personal narratives and visual choices. Both introductory and advanced design students were guided through a branding exercise. 

In addition to the workshops, David Huang delivered an artist talk open to the school community to share his artist journey. He recounted his childhood in Taiwan and move abroad, his time in art school, and his start as a freelance illustrator in New York. He emphasized how art school actually helped him “unlearn” what he thought fine art should be and “not let the constraints of technicality get in the way of my creativity.” It also gave him “time to mature my voice.”   

He shared his commission work from the New York Times and how he creates visual metaphors for editorial illustration and highlighted the quick turnaround time needed to be successful as a working professional. He shared other commission work including his notable collaboration with Chobani for the "Perks for Poll Workers" campaign during the November 2020 presidential election. Students seized the opportunity to engage in discussions about their creative journeys with Mr. Huang, gaining valuable insights and feedback from the esteemed illustrator. 

The workshop sessions centered scale and proportion, drawing from observation, developing foundational line work, and then importing into Procreate to add color and dimension digitally. Students from Painting, AP, IB art classes spent their first day composing a puzzle like composition, sketching and finalizing with a grease pencil. The second session involved adding color to these line drawings, offering students the freedom to experiment with tools such as grease pencil, micron pen, fountain pen, marker, and digitally add color and texture in Procreate. The subjects included a wide range of local Taiwanese snacks and beverages, providing inspiration from diverse and colorful packaging and designs as well as specific snacks that the students brought in to represent aspects of their unique personalities and tastes. 

The collaboration extended to the Graphic Design and Honors Advanced Design classes, who undertook the challenge of creating branding for a pop-up restaurant. The project encompassed elements like food carts, five-star dining, fast food, family-friendly options, diners, food trucks, brunch, breakfast, dinner, and lunchboxes. The creative process involved brainstorming, gathering ideas, following thoughts and inspirations while painting, and ultimately transforming them into a cohesive visual narrative. 

Reflecting on the residency, Mr. David Huang shared, “I aimed to make the experience relatable and practical for the students. Art is not just about grand pictures; it’s about the everyday process of expressing oneself.” 

Student feedback echoed the insightful nature of the workshops. A student from the AP Arts class noted, “The workshops helped me see art as a way to tell my story. Mr. Huang’s guidance made it feel achievable, and the different tools we got to experiment with added a real aspect to our learning.” 

The workshops not only inspired creativity but also offered students a tangible connection to their learning through the diverse tools and subjects explored. The workshop allowed students to share an aspect of common identity since everyone needs to eat and everyone has a favorite food that they enjoy immensely or dislike wholeheartedly. Food is an excellent tool of visual and verbal communication. The experience served as a catalyst for self-discovery and creative expression, providing them with a unique opportunity to explore the intricate facets of their identities through a blend of traditional and digital art techniques, and leaving students with a newfound appreciation for the art of storytelling through visual mediums. Students were encouraged to celebrate those aspects of cultural identity that help define who they are and honor the diversity of cultural heritage we each carry.