Coloring Outside the Lines

Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.

Coloring books.

Granted, they are not what you fantasize about when you think about art school. Neither are they an obvious place to start when approaching a lesson in abstraction and conceptual thinking.

Yet, (somewhat to the dismay of his freshman students) this is exactly how Ed West began his  CFC (Concept, Form & Context) class this winter – by handing out coloring books and a fresh pack of crayons.

“My dad, who wasn't crazy about the idea of art school in the first place, was mad when he heard about what we were doing,” said freshman Della Paul. Other students thought it was a demeaning exercise, and protested that they were being treated ‘like children.'
“I always get some resistance when I first start this exercise,” Ed admits.

The students, and even Della's father, eventually grasped Ed’s point – that nothing is too mundane to be a source for creative ideas. As Ed sees it, this class is a journey from representation to abstraction – why not start with our earliest experience of representation?

Summed up, the journey looks something like this:

Sit down with your crayons and a stack of coloring books. Enjoy the soft, cozy pleasure of not having to think.
And then... start thinking.
Start looking.
Start asking questions about what you see.
Start responding to assumptions.
Experiment. Play.


So, after the coloring, came a series of exercises that gradually moved farther and farther away from the conventional use of coloring books.

The first exercise asked students to work with representation, but mix it up through collage. For example, an exquisite corpse:

Gradually, the collages became more this one from Mary Rountree,

Charlie Naebeck, who clearly remembers those Spiderman days,

and Sarah Banks Uffelman...


Questions are posed: The plane of a coloring book is flat – does it have to be?

Below, Della Paul and Travis Reilly respond to this question...

Next comes looking at the lines. Coloring books are basically line drawings: what do you see? How can you experiment with line?

Sol Park begins mark-making around an action figure...

In fact, if you look really closely at the lines of coloring books, you'll notice lines showing through from "the b-side", as in this image below:

To really see this, Ed had the students put the pages up against the window so they could trace all the lines, including those that showed through from the other side.

Stephanie Love's tracing produced this lovely result:

Using a projector, the students experimented with scale.

Mary Rountree enlarged her window tracing to create this...

then enlarged it further to create this....

which finally, became this...

This window line drawing...

got shredded...

and transformed into this final piece by Sara Banks Uffelman.


And so on.

Below are more final responses to the coloring book assignment. It's safe to say that all of the students ended up in a place they never could have predicted when they first sat down with their crayons.

For Ed, the final destination is not the main point – it's learning how to travel without a map. 


Ellis Mikelic


Sol Park

Della Paul


Charlie Naebeck



Charlie Naebeck


views {on Sophomore Re} views

Making review a terror or a triumph

Teshia Treuhaft is currently chained to her desk documenting the process of surviving senior year at A&D and her obsession with wood veneer.

        The past few weeks the Society of Art Students (“SAS” A&D’s Student Government) has been trying hard to think of good ways to help the sophomores prepare for their sophomore reviews in April.

        For those who dont know, Sophomore review is a process that each student at A&D goes through at the end of their fourth semester at Michigan to review their progress and get feedback on their work to date. It works as a check-in and is an excellent opportunity for the student to speak about their work as a whole, meet some new professors and be critiqued. It is a rite of passage and can be either eye-opening or terrifying depending on your perspective.

        This past week SAS hosted a sophomore review panel made up of juniors and seniors willing to share their experiences and insight. For those of you who couldn’t be in on the conversation – we’ve put together a little cheat sheet.

Here are both sides of the issue from Claire Liburdi (a little freaking out) and myself (a little advice). 

Claire Liburdi is a sophomore at A&D. She aspires to someday be a graphic designer or printmaker, and to study abroad in Italy. Claire enjoys feeding squirrels and baking delicious foods. Her fears include heights, sophomore review, and dolls.


        I’m thrilled to think that I’ll be taking stock of my work and understanding the directions I might take in the near future. It’s like I’m Harry Potter with the sorting hat, but my reviewers will suggest sculpture or furniture design instead of Gryffindor or Slytherin. Except there’s no magic or fame or tomfoolery.

At the same time, the phrase “Sophomore Review” on its own makes my heart jump. I’m terrified. When I start to really think about it, all sorts of questions keep me up at night.

What have I done in the past two years?

What am I doing with my life?

What does an artist’s resume even look like?

What happens if I forget the charming, hugely intelligent presentation I prepare for my reviewers?

What if, during the presentation, the projector falls on my head and I’m knocked unconscious? Does that cut into my 30 minutes?

What if I use that trick of picturing your audience in their underwear and I can’t stop laughing?


I’m having a mid-undergraduate-art-student-life crisis over here, so I am in the process of compiling a list of the things I have to do before April 18:

1) Organize images.

I estimate that approximately 90% of my work from the past two years has been documented in some way. Now, my challenge is to put them all in the same place, sift through them, analyze patterns, and put the pictures in order.

2) Update my resume.

Condensing my life into one page is going to be difficult since I tend to be all over the map with extracurriculars. I also need to redesign it to reflect my skills as an aspiring graphic designer. No pressure.

3) Statement

This is where I discuss where I’ve been and where I’m going. My statement is currently saved on my computer with the following content: “AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WRITE SOMETHING CLAIRE!!!!!” I have great hope that my statement will improve after reviewing my images.

4) Meet with John Luther.

What am I doing with my life, John?

5) Presentation

Goal: chill out and don’t talk too fast.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.


Teshia Treuhaft is a senior at A&D. She aspires to someday be a furniture designer, and has studied abroad in Italy. Teshia enjoys making google docs and trying to calm the nerves of sophomores about their reviews.  Her fears include finishing her IP project on time and under budget. 

1) Consider Organizing around trends, not necessarily around timeline or materials.

            The best way that I have seen students prepare is to gather EVERYTHING. If you gather every project you have, you can begin to sort through and look at a developing body of work, not a collection of projects for classes. Do you have a collection of graphic design projects or a collection of projects that all center on a certain trend? Maybe the work does center on a material exploration (veneer and bent wood anyone?) – then be honest about that. Think critically about how to present your work in a way that is logical. Sometimes these will follow chronologically, but if they don’t, it is your job to reorganize as you see fit.

            If you can’t see these trends or things aren’t fitting together as well as you’d hoped – ASK A THIRD PARTY. Make it easy for them and show them a photo dump (such as a one-project-a-slide PowerPoint) and ask them to focus on the content not the quality of photography (that can be improved later). (SAS will be organizing an open house to do this later this month.) Second, explain your work to someone prior to getting up in front of the review board. If they can point out even one moment of confusion in your explanation, you have improved your presentation ten-fold and avoided a potentially lengthy discussion about clarification and will be able to get to the meat of your work faster.

2) Tell your story (succinctly)

            Don't count on your reviewers being acquainted with your work-- lots of time students and faculty are meeting for the first time. When you tell you story, it is your responsibility to present as full a picture of your background and how it has fed into your work as possible in a very short amount of time. Draw in personal experiences. Are you considering a minor to fuel your creative work? Do you love baroque architecture? Have you studied abroad somewhere that affected your work? Pick and choose your moments but tell them about yourself and your experiences and think critically about how these experiences have affected the work you have created.

3) Don’t prepare by thinking about what OTHERS will ask, prepare by thinking about YOU.

            Consider your work; don’t spend a lot of time anticipating what you will be asked because you are leading the discussion. The best way to prepare is to have thought a lot about yourself and take charge of the presentation. The reviewers will have their moment to respond but they will only have what you have given them to go on – so prepare enough that your reviewer’s response is well informed and an interesting conversation can develop that will be helpful to you. When you have the pleasure of having three smart people who are passionate about art and design in a room with you, use it to your advantage.

4) Don’t think a bad project makes a bad review.

Show something that isn’t your best if you learned something profound and you can speak to that. This is done with caution, because you want to spin it in a way that it adds something to your narrative. Maybe it pairs with a subsequent piece that was more successful as a result of what you learned. Make sure the story about it makes sense with your presentation, It can be powerful and very mature to share with your panel how a failure pushed you farther than a successful piece.

In addition consider the following,


Research your review panel. It’s unnecessary (and not advised) to stalk them in the hallways of A&D, but you should attempt to understand their perspective just as you they will be attempting to understand yours.

Be on time. (Duh…. But really)

Consider If there are any pieces you want to show in person (and if you need a friend to help transport them.)

Dress professionally and comfortably (but don’t get that confused with boring. These are artists and designers, they value a distinct aesthetic.)


Bring a notebook to write notes.

Soak in what is being said. Be present in the conversation, even when you aren’t saying anything.

Ask for clarification if you don’t understand someone’s comment.

Thank your reviewers; they are doing you a favor by offering to share your brain space. 


If reviewers suggest artists / books / pieces to look at – DO IT. Likewise, if there is a professor that really hit the nail on the head and gave you good suggestions, ask them for more via a polite, follow-up e-mail.

Relax and reflect on the experience. 


And, finally, look out for more SAS-sponsored Sophomore Review events to help you prepare!


Design for Social Change

Collaborating with students from Detroit Community Schools

Nick is an Associate Professor at A&D and a public performer whose work is rooted in the social lives of public places.

Last fall, I taught the first of what I hope is a regular class and partnership between the School of Art & Design, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and a community school in the Brightmoor neighborhood in Detroit. The class uses the principles of human centered design to develop art and design projects that will impact the community in a positive way.

Let me try to give a concrete example to illustrate the meaning of human centered design and why it is essential for a collaboration like this.

Think of an object you use habitually—a chair, shoes, a wallet. Each of these has a recognizable and designated function. I don’t know about you, but my wallet doesn’t always work for me, and so I stuff receipts, bits of paper, business cards and other ephemera in my more capacious pockets. The chairs, they’re OK, but I find myself, like right now, sitting on the floor. 

Think then not of a chair but of asking someone what they do or need when they sit. Not of a wallet, but of how someone spends their day, what they need access to, when and how much of it.

This kind of problem solving is called human centered design.  The human centered design approach recognizes that better design solutions come from asking more questions, and getting to know a person, a place, or a situation before developing an idea.

So when we began our class with Detroit Community Schools (DSC) last fall, we began by getting to know one another. Through conversations, interviews, field trips, working side by side and sharing life journeys, the students from A&D and the students from DCS began to understand one another not as archetypes or ideals, but as complex individuals with insights and aspirations, needs and assets.

The projects we concocted together – a mobile pizza oven, a line of solar-powered bicycle lights, a shoe design workshop – are essentially all prototypes; trial balloons that we launched, together, to see how they fly.

The class is over now, but the hope is to set up an ongoing design-build program with DCS as its hub, and the School of Art & Design as a partner. Along the way, we are contributing to a movement within our school to develop links with experiential education, the community and the classroom, to generate hands on projects that link public and civic action.

Here’s a glimpse into our collaboration with the Brightmoor community, as told by the A&D design teams: 



Mobile Pizza Oven

Team; Nairi Bagdasarian, Chris MacKenzie, Ran Li, Alana Hoey, Allyson Zelinski, Vaishu Ilankamban

After spending time talking with the Brightmoor students and seeing all the amazing gardens and spaces that have been cropping up in the neighborhood, our team wanted to come up with a design project that combined the two.
We designed this mobile pizza oven for the students.
The pizza oven is an after school activity, but it’s also a way to learn about cooking and build relationships with local people doing urban farming. (Basil and tomatoes for the sauce!)
Our hope is that the mobile pizza oven will not only be an after school activity, but also turn into a great business venture for the students.

Shoe Design Workshops

Team: Zack Moscot, Jennifer Silverstein, Neil Zemba, Methula Naik, Daniel Gold

Talking with the students got us inspired to create a project that would bring together the students' interest in athletics and art and design.
Neil Zemba, one of our team members, had been a winner of the NIKE Shoe Design Competition.
We decided to do a series of workshops called 'Design Your Sneaker' that would introduce students to the skills they would need to create a design that they could enter into the 2012 NIKE competition.
The workshops were designed to also raise awareness around potential career opportunities and spark motivation for further education in an area of interest.
Our hope is that there could be many hands-on workshops in different fields between students from Detroit Community Schools and the University of Michigan. This kind of mentoring helps to disentangle the complex web of perceptions and apprehensions that students seemed to have about college.

Solar-Powered Bike Lights

Team: James Reich, Sunny Kim, Oleg Kolbasov, Stephanie Schutter, Lara Slotnick

After talking to the students and learning more about life in Brightmoor, we heard a general consensus that the young people feel unsafe in their neighborhoods at night because there are no street lamps.
Our response was to create a low-cost lighting system that the students could create themselves out of recycled materials.
We decided to create these solar powered bike lights because the students also felt stuck in the neighborhood and this would empower their mobility.
After a series of workshops, the students had enough skills in soldering, electronics, solar power and craft to create these solar lights on their own.
The students were engaged and excited, and seemed so proud to be working on something as new and complex as solar lighting.
The total cost for making each light is $2.10.


The Beatles without John Lennon

Discovering the power of the image through Photoshop

Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.

This image is slightly mind-bending the way it plays tricks with time and history. And, god, it even makes me want to cry! It does all this without using any original art work or words.

What it does use is...Photoshop.

The image was created by a freshman, Chelsea Noel. This is her response to an assignment in Seth Ellis' class, Digital Studio 1, a required course for all A&D students on the fundamentals of digital tools such as Photoshop. Seth's goal in this class was to figure out a way to teach the technical fundamentals of the program while also teaching students about the power of visual communication.

“It is a foundation course after all, " he says. "Drawing is essentially about learning how to look. Photoshop, as a tool for making and manipulating images, can also prompt students into really looking at visual information and examing how meaning is created."

The assignment above asked students to choose an image and then, using a method of erasure, alter the image in a way that significantly changes the meaning of the original.

Coincidentally, Marlene Lacasse also chose to extract a Beatle from Abbey Road. Together these images could set off another fire storm about which Beatle was most important. (Seth has no idea why this image would be hitting a chord with the young people.)


Here's another striking extraction by Hayley Tanisijevich:

I noticed how, even without the central figure, the painting still seems somehow 'pained'.

Here's an even more ominous use of Photoshop by Holly Prouty. Look how easily and perfectly the effects of pollution were erased:


In an act of mercy, perhaps, Samantha Balyeat chose to erase "Hiroshima bombers" from these men's resumés:

Here's the original:



Assignment Two: Insertion

So, "erasure" required students to get familiar enough with Photoshop to use the texture and clone tools, among others. In another exercise, Seth asked the students to alter an exisiting image through insertion.

Marlene Lacasse's insertion effectively depletes all terror from Yves Klein’s famous photo, “Leap into Void”:


The image below is actually of this School of Art & Design back in the 50s. Hayley Tanisijevich's grandfather attended the school and she chose to insert herself into this scene from the past.

Here's the original photo, which she found in the MLibrary Online Archives.

Lonny Marino applied her considerable drawing skills to the exercise. She drew a sketch of herself to insert into this picture in order to suggest an alternative narrative for this poor governess.

Here's the original:



Photoshop is brilliant and scary. Let's hope Seth's students continue to use it as a tool for good and not evil.



Life on the Road: Self-Portraiture

Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.

13 states. 23 cities.

Erika Hess is the new recruiting officer at A&D. Her new job has her living out of a suitcase and communing with strangers in airport lounges and hotel check-in counters. She travels to high schools around the country, talking to prospective A&D students and high school art teachers, and representing A&D at National Portfolio events. 

A practicing artist herself, Erika soon realized it wouldn't be easy to keep up with her creative activities on the road.

So she came up with a plan – a small plan,  but a plan that would keep her away from C.S.I. reruns and help her stay connected to her right brain.

She decided to document each hotel room experience with a self-portrait. Rules: use any mirrored surface to capture the composition and, wherever possible, use the hotel's provided stationary and pen.

Here's a sampling of Erika's life on the road, as told by Erika herself and her pen/pencil.

(And make sure to check out Erika's work when-not-on-the-road here.)

Cincinnati. This was the first hotel I stayed at on my travels, and I had a lot of time to draw. They gave me this strange room with three bedrooms, but it did have a great view of the city. This piece is drawn from the reflection in the windows to capture the grid of the buildings.
Kalamazoo. So actually I dashed this one off in the rest stop but this picture is important to me. It was my first time traveling through Michigan. It was cold, so I'm wrapped up in a hat and scarf. The pastel design behind the sketch is from another drawing I did in the parking lot of Interlochen Art Academy the day before.
Houston. I was exhausted at this point in my journey. I was staying at a really disgusting hotel, right next to a shady liquor store, near the airport and a way from downtown. I felt relatively stranded and isolated being away from everyone in the city.
Chicago. This was one of my favorite hotels during my travels. It had high ceilings and beautiful old windows that looked out over the water. I happened to be there during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations which were happening right beneath the windows. At one time, they lit candles and placed them in red lanterns which floated up past my windows. They chanted all night... I also like the stability of this composition which reflected the symmetry in the room.
Boston. I like this picture. It was the first time I'd had a good time in Boston since grad school. I was about to go out to meet old friends so I was ironing my clothes.
Queens. In New York I stayed with a friend in Queens. I'm sitting on her bed and the mirror is in the closet. It's slightly off-kilter - maybe because it's a home not a hotel, a real place with real stuff around me.
Philadelphia. A hotel with a bathrobe - wow. It's amazing how a bathrobe can give you that sense of home, even in a hotel. I kept the sign on the door in the composition though, as a reminder of where I was. The bathroom had this great wallpaper that I really loved which I wanted to include too.
Queens. I kept returning to my friend's place in Queens. I wanted to give her a drawing to keep, so I included her in this self portrait. She's been a friend for about 10 years and the New York trips gave me a chance to connect with her again.
San Francisco. I had no time during this trip, I just flew in and flew out. But this hotel did have stationary, and I did visit the art museum, so I included a map of the museum in my portrait.
Sarasota. My dad lives in Florida. This was my last trip on my tour. It's also possible that it could be the last time I see my father. The drawing ended up being very stylized and symbolic. It reminds me of the Saint cards you pick up when leaving a Cathedral. There is something final in that action and image to me. After that, I returned to Ann Arbor, and I'm getting a chance to settle in - at least for a little while - now that the application period has closed.


Technology, Entertainment and .... Fine Arts?

TEDxUofM taps the A&D students for some amazing poster artwork.

Teshia Treuhaft is currently chained to her desk documenting the process of surviving senior year at A&D and her obsession with wood veneer.

        At TEDxUofM, we have been thinking about ways to incorporate the amazing painters, printmakers and illustrators at A&D into the TED realm for quite a few months now. Arguably one of the best things about UM Art and Design is that each student (whatever their medium) coexists and works side-by-side students that create in completely different ways. 

        Similarly, in TEDxUofM, it is less about who a specific speaker or attendee is and more about the fact that they share a common passion for ideas, inspiration and innovation. Naturally, they all express themselves in different disciplines, much like the students of A&D all express themselves in different media, but I’ve always felt a common thread through the school of A&D and TED.

        This year, instead of having one of our amazing graphic designers (and they are amazing) simply put together a poster; we asked 13 amazing artists and designers from the school of A&D (many of whom may identify as ‘fine artists’ but I don’t like to label) to come up with what they wanted to see on a poster. They could work in any medium, any size and create whatever they wanted with a Red, Black and White palette. Here is a snap shot of the results – check them out all around Ann Arbor in the next few weeks!

And for gosh sakes – register for this amazing event, the application is open now!!!

Paul DiStefano

Sam Levy

Annie Hyrila

Megan O'Neil

Jill Brandwein

Rachel McGuffin

Trisha Previte

Ellen Rutt

Emerson Schreiner

Katie Eberts

Ubin Li

Laura Gillmore

Martyna Alexander

Ryan Herberholz 

Also - If you haven't had your poster fill, there is a neat little Egress show over in Slusser Lounge



A Song for Primary Season

New Demo Scene from Liberty's Secret

Andy Kirshner is a professor, composer, performer, and filmmaker who makes work about thorny social, political, and existential questions.

Here's another test scene from my political satire-in-progress, "Liberty's Secret: The National Security Musical."

Hope you enjoy it.  I'm going to be reshooting the crowd scenes the first week of March, so if anybody would like to be an extra (in exchange for whole wheat pizza), please let me know.  You'll get to dress up as a political delegate and make lots of noise.


Table vs Chair

The Fight of the Century

Teshia Treuhaft is currently chained to her desk documenting the process of surviving senior year at A&D and her obsession with wood veneer.

        So the fact of the matter is that as artists and designers, exhibiting work is part of the game. The other fact of the matter is that as an undergraduate artist or designer it’s really hard to exhibit work because all of your time is dedicated to making the work. Showing it off is inconvenient while you’re in school. 

        Well, Ryan Herberholz (senior in A&D) decided to do something about that. After spending a few years hitting the ground looking for viable gallery space to use, he realized something had to be done about giving undergrads the opportunity to show work without needing to fill an entire gallery by themselves – something that most of us don’t have enough work to do yet.

        With that (and the thoughtful support of Rebekah Modrak) the new student group A.D.E.O. was born (Art and Design Exhibition Organization).

        A.D.E.O. works with the existing student government in the Art and Design School to give student curators space to propose their own exhibitions curate these shows and get first hand experience hanging them.

        Right now the fledgling group has taken over the Slusser Lounge to show student work and installations on a weekly rotating basis in the Egress 11 shows. This way students can have a quick turn around (and all the learning experience that goes along with that) without proposing a show months out.


        The current show was proposed by myself and fellow Furniture friend Dylan Box to throw down in true furniture style posing the age-old question, 

Table or Chair?

        I think it’s pretty clear that my allegiance will always be to Chair (The superior competitor…) but you should go see the show yourself. 


        Come check out the contenders, strap on your boxing gloves and place your bets for TABLE vs CHAIR. 

Note: No Chairs or Tables were harmed in the curation of this show.



Veneer Obsessed (In Action)

Wooden Business Cards

Teshia Treuhaft is currently chained to her desk documenting the process of surviving senior year at A&D and her obsession with wood veneer.

In defense of my ‘obsessed with wood veneer’ reputation,

Veneer really is very cool.


This week I worked on some professional things (I hope John Luther reads this) for the Annual A&D Portfolio Expo happening on February 9th.

In preparation for the expo, and hopefully an eventual career someday, I did a test run of some veneer business cards I plan to make. Hopefully I can give to important people who might pay me lots and lots of money or accept me into their graduate schools.

Here are the results, laser cut out of maple burl veneer! Unveils a New Look for 2012

Informing and Transforming

Teshia Treuhaft is currently chained to her desk documenting the process of surviving senior year at A&D and her obsession with wood veneer.

        I really think one of the best things that Michigan has to offer is the TEDxUofM conference (we can be honest - I'm little biased).  TEDxUofM is great not only because it brings the amazing people in the Michigan network to share their experiences for a one day celebration of inspiring Technology, Entertainment and Design, but because it also is a complete labor of love for the volunteer students who put on the show. Counting myself among those students – I can say for a fact, they are some of the most interesting, talented and intelligent peers I can ever hope to encounter.  The theme this year is 'Inform / Transform' and will prove to be the most elaborate event to date. 


        As it happens, instead of waxing philosophical about the amazing work that TEDx does, I can show you the beginning of what we have been working on. 

        This past weekend the new TEDxUofM site was unveiled and includes TEDtalks from the past few years. 


Click Photo to View Website


        If youre still not sold here is my personal favorite talk from 2011, featuring AJ Holmes, Alie Gordon and Carlos Valdes,

        Check it out and stay turned for more updates from TEDx!