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Keuka College News

Portrait of the Artist as a Graduate

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories saluting members of the Class of 2011. We asked division chairs for story ideas and they in turn contacted faculty members for suggestions. We believe they came up with some terrific profiles.

Johnson tells fellow seniors about her internship.

Peering up from the pages of an art portfolio, the model sports a black T-shirt with a playful design bearing a New York City skyline logo with a new addition: Bristol Valley Theater (BVT) in Naples.

To the untrained eye, Grace Johnson must’ve gone to a lot of work getting the model photographed in the T-shirt Johnson designed, then reprinting the image in her professional portfolio. But the Keuka College senior doesn’t mind admitting no one has yet pulled that particular T-shirt over their shoulders.

“I just Photoshopped it in,” Johnson said, referring to the software that has become the industry standard for photo editing.

Johnson's rack card design

After graduation May 29, Johnson plans to take the graphic design work she started during her January Field Period at BVT to the next level. She’ll start an intense, one-year graduate program in graphic design and advertising at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in July. Johnson said she was excited to find a program she considers a “hybrid” of her double major in visual and verbal art and organizational communication.

While Keuka doesn’t have a graphic design program yet, Johnson worked hard to develop experience in the field on her own, taking a variety of art classes and computer classes. Her internship was also key in furthering that goal. At BVT, she created eight other T-shirt designs and completely revamped the seasonal rack card promoting the playhouse’s 2011 season of shows.

“Every day went by so fast. I would be on my computer and not notice the hours flying by. It was never really work to me. I was never bored,” Johnson said. “I was almost a freelance graphic designer for them – that’s what I got a preview of. I think when you find something you enjoy for your job, then that makes all the difference.”

The Aurora, Ohio native was introduced to BVT, a regional theater boasting shows “live from New York” by her instructor in visual computer design, John Locke, a former BVT staffer. Locke is now director of instructional design and multidisciplinary studies at Keuka and helped Johnson make a connection with the artistic director at the Naples playhouse.

“After doing this, it just opened my eyes,” Johnson said, noting she now catches herself observing logos and designs she sees in daily life. “I think it would be cool to design movie posters or album or book covers, and work in the art realm but also promote art and theater or literature or music. I think I have a more appreciative eye just because of techniques I’ve learned in class.”

One of 8 T-shirt designs Johnson created for the theater.

According to Johnson, having both majors as a base has helped her find a career focus. While she enjoys work in the fine arts – she just showcased several large-scale charcoal portraits and related photography at Keuka’s student art show – she wants to train in more business-oriented graphics work.

“I think it’s where I’m heading and I owe a lot to my two majors,” Johnson said. “It just shows that even though we don’t have a graphic design major at Keuka, you can make your career out of anything. Your experience at Keuka is what you make of it. It’s just about where you want to go and how far you want to take your career.”

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