We’re already doing a Reflection?!

It’s crunch time!  Week Seven is here, and now it’s time to separate the boys from the men!  The excursions have died down a bit and now we have more time to work on our projects.  Good thing, or we might all end up insane by the time the Symposium rolls around.  

I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to hit the ground running and collect my data well before most of my peers, but the goals that I’ve set for myself seem lofty for what I can accomplish in the next two weeks.  As of right now, I have three or four illustrations that I’m happy with, and four more to go.  Luckily for me, the next mediaImage I’m working with, charcoal and pastel, will go by relatively quickly compared to my paintings, and should expedite my process.  Focus and time management haven’t been an issue, but finding time for myself has.  It’s easy to become so engrossed in a project and eight weeks is a substantial amount of time for a “go” mentality.  To not melt down, I’ve learned to reward myself and break up the monotony of living in a work environment with casual time with the Fellows, the other research programs, and my friends and family.  

I’m ecstatic about the feedback I’m receiving from my peers and mentor about my project and their thoughts have contributed greatly to the evolution of my work.  I am extremely proud of my project right now and how much it is turning out like I have envisioned it when I applied for the program.  I’m not nervous about its execution, but if I’ll have to exclude images to to constraints in allotted space.  While there is still much work to do, I say bring it week 8!  



Reflection on Leadership

The 5th week of our program was characterized by more leadership training hosted by Dino Martinez.  We had two days with Dino, covering extensively each of the five practices of leadership:  model the way, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.  For this prompt, we were asked to identify which we personally have had the most difficulty executing in our leadership practices and in what ways we have learned to over come that.

Being an art major, I’m used to working by myself and for myself.  Critique is the only time we really need to interact with people, and that’s extremely useful in itself, but doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of offering experiences with working with other people.  You either respect their advice or you don’t.  The same principle applies when tasked with a group assignment in other classes.  I hated those projects, my fellow classmates did nothing to dissuade my preconceived notions of laziness and unreliability on anyone buy myself.  I could only trust on myself to get things done, and while I knew it would live up to my standards it would just leave me bitter when grades came out.  

I know that some of my fellow Fellows have this same problem as well.  It’s difficult when you want something done a certain way to let others help you.  You risk it reflecting poorly on yourself, but cause yourself so much extra stress on top of other homework and life in general.  This program has taught me just by being around my peers in this and the other research programs that there are competent people who will work as hard if not harder than I will, and their standards are just as high as mine.  They’ve allowed me to trust more in others, and that I can loosen my grip of control a little bit on these situations.  I have to be able to trust the people I’m working with and those who work for me that they’ll do whatever it is to the best of their ability, and that we’ll succeed as a team and grow together.

One of my other difficulties in this section was asking for help.  Call it ego, hubris, or stupidity, but I thought I should have all the answers if I was placed in charge of something.  I wasn’t comfortable talking to someone and admitting that I had no idea what was going on and was overwhelmed.  I’m surrounded by very intelligent people who know much more than I do, and they’re assets to me.  I can allow myself to be vulnerable, to ask questions, because I know they won’t throw it back in my face but really help me and offer sound advice.  It’s a difficult aspect to overcome after years of allowing it to cultivate, but I do believe I can enable others to act, because if we’re all working together, than everyone grows together as well. 

Loredo Taft Retreat

Before leaving for our weekend retreat at Lorado Taft, a few of the Fellows and me were fairly apprehensive about leaving our projects for a whole weekend.  Work needed to Imagebe done, sources needed to be read, and I had my drawings to worry about, but after a hefty breakfast at Egg Haven with most of my cohort, we boarded the bus with awaiting our collective experience with the other research groups.  Some of the apprehension centered on our

We had some time to ourselves after settling in, and I managed to get myself into a short hike before our first workshop, and I had so much fun with my group of Larissa, Tom, Jake, Sumeet, and Usmon (Spelling is more than likely wrong, but I didn’t want to leave them out) on a photo-shoot adventure.  We met for our first workshop, all of which were very helpful in the development of our ideas and research thanks to Kim, Shannon, Steve, and Dave.  For our meeting, I didn’t sit next to any people in my cohort, and started becoming more Imagecomfortable in this new environment.   physical and therefore social distance with the other two groups, SROP and REU – they live together and we’re on our own floor left to our own devices.  I know I was worried about being an outsider, but I learned that nothing brings people together faster than sharing a meal or bunking barracks style.

The dinner bell rang and a half hour later everyone was full.  The food that weekend was delicious; the staff at Lorado Taft provided us with welcoming accommodations, and made our stay extremely pleasant.  I did end up eating dinner with the McKearn Fellows that night, but I made sure to not limit myself to one comfort zone, and most of that shift started with Frisbee.

After dinner I finally put my camera down and found a spot in the circle.  We were playing with about twenty people and three discs going at once, so we were forced to call out the names of our Imageintended targets to avoid casualties.  I learned some names of those I had missed before and strengthened connections with those I had previously met.  These same people, my peers and fellow researchers from different groups gave me support for our next workshop, which I gave back in kind.  The meals became more integrated, and I made sure I was with Shannon and Steve to talk about the trees on our excursion to White Pines.  We learned the differences between elms and hickories, what plants are tasty to eat, and exactly how prolific and annoying poison ivy can be.  Those shared experiences brought our little group a little closer together.

When we got back, Zack, Taylor and I went swimming in the Rock River, and luckily we all came out unscathed.  Our last workshop was really great, and allowed all of us to be vulnerable in front of everyone and realize there was no judgment; that we’re all in the same position and can be great assets to each other

It was such an exhaustive yet quick trip.  I learned much about my project and where I wanted to direct my research paper, how to identify my own validity and that of my sources, and to convey the bulk of my project in ninety seconds or less!  Most importantly however, and what I’ve been eluding to this blog post, is that I learned the people I’m with are more than capable of boosting me to make myself a better researcher and vise-versa.  Being a leader in most cases isn’t about the individual, but the people who’ve helped them along the way, and know I learned a lot from the new friends I’ve made in the Taft retreat.


Work In Progress

Hey guys!  So I’ve been working on an illustration about the American Honey Bee and it’s more than exceeding my expectations.  With my final presentation, I want to show some of the steps leading up to my works.  This is one of my first Photoshop illustrations, so I have as much to learn with my process as it may be insightful for someone looking in.  I’m only going to post the first picture of the process, the very rough sketch (I promise I am MUCH more finished than this) and also to show that all art starts somewhere.  Without further ado, my rough sketch!Image


Stay tuned or join me and the McKearn fellows August 8th to see the finished piece!


Summer Project Summary


Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning I head out with my camera case,  sketchbook, and pencils.  Starting from the Residence Halls, I make my way to the East Lagoon, noting the animal life I see along the way.  If I think something’s really extraordinary (which is basically everything) I wield my camera and digitally capture the beast.  If it’s relatively slow moving or there are numerous subjects on hand, I’ll do quick sketches.  This can go on between 5 and 7 hours during those days, all done so I can build a database for myself for all the creatures I find along the way, and I represent them in a variety of media.


I do this because I hope to show my viewers the unnoticed beauty that exists at NIU, beauty that surrounds them, and that all it would take to notice and appreciate this beauty is a very slight shift in perspective.  With my research I hope to build connections to NIU, especially for those who don’t find ways to become involved in the University.  I want to be able to show these students that there are worthwhile facets of NIU wherever they look, even in the environment around them.



Through some of my research, I’m learning that people can be influenced by their environment in positive ways, like the literature review on Wooing the Earth by Stephen Kellert I’ve been reading.  The ideas presented in this work, like that environment affects people just as much as people affect the environment, and that “people possess a fundamental need to achieve an intimate connection to the places where they live, an impulse that resides at the core of their inclination to woo the earth” (713).



I’m finding really great connections between biology, art, and social psychology through my research that I hope gives my project that much more substance and difference in what I’m trying to achieve.   I’m also finding that the more I talk about my project to my peers, the more people I have ask me to go out on a day of shooting and discover what they had missed, even if they frequent all the locations I explore.  I have already found that people want to have these moments of discovery for themselves, and they do value the life on campus, but all it took to turn on the proverbial light was for someone to show them it was there the whole time.  I swear, nothing gets more reaction than when I tell people that I’ve found at least three different species of turtle, when they didn’t know any were there in the first place!  It’s been a fun journey so far, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of my research takes me.


Thanks for reading, see you next week!


Ethics and Illustration

Ethics is the code of conduct that you hold yourself to and expect others to follow.  As an Illustration major, most of our ethics have to do with copyright, and respecting basic plagiarism etiquette.  Nobody has ownership over an idea, but they can own an image, character, logo, or anything more corporal than thought, and that’s the code of honor that artists follow.  Normally if issues of copyright come up, the offender doesn’t know it’s an issue and is more than happy to take down the image.  If the situation becomes more heated than that, lawsuits could be ordered to protect the integrity and lively hood of the artist.  

For my project, I’m using my own photographs so I won’t have to worry about borrowing too many things from one source.  I’m building my own database of images, much like I hope to do in my professional career, to keep my ideas and illustrations original, creative, and ethical.  

Etiquette Training in Chicago with Alumni! 6/19/2013

Wednesday the 19th my fellow McKearns and myself headed up to Chicago for some etiquette training.  I was fairly surprised we were there early because of the traffic we hit, but I should give Julia and the McKearn staff more credit for being on top of things.  Once we got there, we did what any travelers who head out to the Windy City do:  visit Millennium Park and pose in front of the bean.  After a quick trip to Starbucks for some refreshments, the gang and I made our way to the Aon Center.

I don’t know how many times my ears popped going up to the 80th floor, but such drastic changes in pressure come with the efficiency of a fast elevator.  I don’t know about everyone else, but walking into the room were Liz Bockman was going to go through our training with us was fairly intimidating.  Going into it, I was fairly confident in my dress and knowledge I had gained from the professional seminars I’ve attended through my fraternity, but as Liz was going through the rules I felt less confident in what I was wearing (specifically my tie and shoe choice) and about making small talk.

When we were practicing our tag lines on each other, I was paired with Liz first, and my mind went blank.  I was so embarrassed, but Liz guided me through it, and when I went on to my second and third attempt, it became much easier to start conversation.  From her, I learned that no one’s innately gifted command of a room or even the art of small talk.  It takes practice, and like an art, years of trial, repetition, and refinement until it becomes almost secondary, but I also learned that those skills are not exempt from my capacity.

It really helped having Kim, Stephanie, and Julia as well as the Fellows there.  Despite differing levels of education on etiquette, we were all in the same situation and it was comforting that others were learning just as much as I was.  Howard Blietz, the alumni we spoke most to at the lunch, was very enjoyable company and interesting conversationalist.  I felt at ease with his jokes and witty comments, but was also thankful that the lunch itself was still a practice environment to feel things out and go over what we had learned.

With lunch done, we took pictures and said our goodbyes, got on the bus, and headed back to DeKalb.  After that afternoon, I believe the tools we gained will be great assets for the rest of the program and throughout our professional lives.