Editor’s note: During the past offline graduation exhibitions, the exhibition area for the Picture Book Studio from the School of City Design in the exhibition hall of CAFA Art Museum was full of visitors. Both adults and children were curious about “picture books.” Although “pictures books” are usually taken as books for children, actually, “picture books” do not only touch children, but adults are also more deeply touched by the innocence. Whether at home or abroad, there are few independent majors in picture book creation and the creations by the Picture Book Studio of CAFA are also loved by the “big friends.” Students from the studio have won many international awards. In this section, CAFA ART INFO invited Yang Zhong, Feng Ye, Xiang Hua, Feng Xu, Zhao Mengya who instructed the graduates together at the Picture Book Studio to talk about the “graduation season” and what they were concerned about picture books.
Perhaps as they said, “Rich emotions and an optimistic attitude is the positive energy that the art of picture books brings to people.” “Creating at home has become the best way to survive the pandemic and ease anxiety.” The positive and relaxed attitude may just be able to bring a trace of young and fresh art as well as healing power to friends who are concerned about graduation exhibitions in this special period. As is known to all, picture books are generally based on the creation and reading of paper books so what adjustments will be made after the graduation exhibition is moved online this year? What other funny “stories” have they created? What surprises will the popular Picture Book Studio bring to us this year?
A brief introduction to the faculty members of the Picture Book Studio from the School of City Design, Central Academy of Fine Arts
CAFA ART INFO: This year’s course in teaching and the graduation exhibition have become very special, thus more attention has been paid to the process and guidance of students’ graduation creations. How about the completion of thesis presentations by students in the Picture Book Studio? How many students graduate from the Studio? From your perspective, what is the communication process of the entire instructions for thesis presentations like?
Yang Zhong & Feng Ye: Although the outbreak affected the normal teaching of all schools, the immediate response to online teaching in China was very timely and effective. It forced teachers and students to transform and accept new teaching models. Because each major of each college has its own characteristics and presentation methods, the requirements and counseling for the final presentation of graduation creations are also very different. From the perspective of our Picture Book Studio, teachers and students can communicate smoothly through video or image communication and the progress of students’ creations was also very smooth.
The students relayed their creation of the “Studio Family Portrait.” At the moment we cannot meet each other, we “took a graduation photo” with our brushes!
There were 14 graduates in our studio and they were led by the mentors divided into three graduation design teams. According to the specific situation of their own group, the counseling group set up a weekly meeting time. From the beginning of the school in September, after three months of content polishing, to the mid-term meeting on December 30, all of the 14 students had completed the creative topic selections and drafts of storyboards and 5 students completed the drafts of storyboards and determined their expressive methods, and they entered the stage for the drawing of the original manuscripts. 7 students completed the final drafts for storyboards and entered the stage for expressive method confirmation and 2 students were polishing off the drafts for storyboards.
Before the winter vacation, the progress of our students was pushed a step further than before. Each student set up a WeChat communication group with their tutors. During the winter holidays, the teachers and students of each group continuously communicated through WeChat. The only impact of the pandemic was that some students left a lot of painting materials in school which affected their creation plans, but fortunately, teachers and students communicated online in a timely manner, they adjusted the creation plans and proceeded smoothly with the creations. In the last semester of the graduation creation, teachers and students frequently communicated through online meetings and WeChat. On May 8th, the final collective viewing of the final graduation creation was conducted and the content requirements of the online exhibition were arranged and the completed works of 14 students were also displayed through online publicity.
Students relay the creation of “Studio Family Portrait.”
Because our creation is based on the picture book model, the overall frame size is relatively small, and only a small space is enough for creation, which is a relatively controllable environment. As people have not been able to go out during the pandemic, staying at home and creating have become the best way to survive the pandemic and ease curiosity. Therefore, the achievements by the graduates in 2020 are very rich and diversified and each of them will make the readers feel the artist’s own all-out and sincere input.
“Intracranial Roaming Guide” by Zhan Xinyuan
Where does our brain consciousness come from? Why do microscopic neural activities produce such macroscopic cognitive behavior? Congratulations on getting the opportunity to follow the intracranial rover—“Mechanical Sheep 001” into the brain and explore how the small “three-pound universe” works. “Intracranial Roaming Guide” introduced the principles of the brain from the systems of weather, world geography and world civilization. Combining abstract concepts such as emotions, memory, thinking and consciousness with theoretical knowledge of brain science and psychology, corresponding to figurative images such as weather, geology, transportation and creators and extending to a strange intracranial world.
CAFA ART INFO: From the perspective of students, how does the pandemic affect students’ creations? Will they get some inspiration from this huge “abnormal” impact on everyone in the world and society? Can you give us an example based on students’ specific assignments?
Xiang Hua: The sudden pandemic has really affected the students and teachers who were working on thesis presentations. First of all, it is psychological. The students returned home for the Chinese New Year, but they never expected that they would not return to school, thousands of miles away from their teachers and classmates. At first, they would definitely feel at a loss. Many students’ materials were left in school and they had nothing for their creations. It can be said that they encountered unprecedented difficulties. Fortunately, the graduation creations of the Picture Book Studio started after the summer vacation. Before the winter vacation, their creations went through a semester of story polishing. Teachers and students have high-density face-to-face tutoring and most students have already determined their drafts for shooting and styles, and started drawing he final drafts. The “good tradition” with the early opening of the studio and intense tutoring played a good role during the pandemic. When the students calmed down and continued to create at home, teachers could still use online teaching and WeChat group tutoring at any time to help students solve one problem after another and ease psychological tangles.
Past Offline Teaching / Online Teaching in Picture Book Studio
Picture book creation is a job that tests endurance. Many subjective and objective factors can affect the progress. Teachers adjust their own status in a timely manner, find ways to cope with it and act as the “backbone” for their students, so that thesis presentations can be successfully completed. The students from our Picture Book Studio are very cute and progressive children. During the pandemic, they calmed their emotions, found ways to communicate with their families, overcome various difficulties and found information, materials and printing companies. In the end, none of them were left behind. Moreover, they comprehended the deep feelings we strive for in picture books in a more intuitive way, which is what our teachers hope to always convey to them: insisting on a firm belief at all times, they do not have to complain about the environment and overcome the difficulties of this age with their creations.
Online communications between teachers and students
We feel that rich emotion and a positive attitude are the positive energy brought by the art of picture books. During the process of graduation creations, students from our Picture Book Studio have experienced an unusual graduation season. All the works of these students show such a positive power, such as Zhang Yue’s “Spring Blessings” (offering help to others and at the same time helping himself to grow), Cao Meng’s “Granny’s Hat Shop" (winter is coming, providing the world with warmth), Sun Yi’s “Home” (the world is ever-changing and the warm memory of childhood is always at the root), Liu Jiayi’s “we love love” (beyond the scars, we always believe in love).
Zhang Yue’s “Spring Blessings” (offering help to others and at the same time helping himself to grow)
Cao Meng’s “Granny’s Hat Shop" (winter is coming, providing the world with warmth)
Sun Yi’s “Home” (the world is ever-changing and the warm memory of childhood is always at the root)
Liu Jiayi’s “we love love” (beyond the scars, we always believe in love)
CAFA ART INFO: At present, there are great differences in technical operations, audience groups, viewing methods, etc. between the exhibition hall of museum and the virtual online viewing room. The exhibiting effect of a picture book which is based on the presentation of a book is somewhat affected, so how should students adjust themselves to deal with two different forms of exhibition? Are there any new changes in the presentation?
Feng Xu: It is increasingly difficult to tell and define an online exhibition from an offline exhibition at the moment. The future exhibition format will not be limited to this. From my point of view, there is no essential difference in the presentation whether in a virtual viewing room or concrete exhibition hall. Artists should pay attention to the essence of the exhibition. The essence of the exhibition is the exchange of information between exhibitors and visitors, promoting a series of social activities such as observation, education, and experience.
“Shadow” creator: Qi Xiangyu / storyboards
We all have our own shadow, followed closely, sometimes obediently, sometimes stubbornly, sometimes introvertedly, sometimes publicly. He never left us, he is so familiar that we often forget his existence. He just waited quietly until he was rediscovered. Sometimes we want to get rid of him, like getting rid of an old friend who is becoming more uncomfortable to get along with, even wanting to kill him... The shadow is our black mirror image, keeping silent in the dark, it shows the general silhouette in the light which reveals our lonely nature.
“Food Honor Certificates” by Wu Meixi
If you want to issue honorary certificates to foods that are closely related to people’s lives, what kind of "honorary" certificates would each food receive? The taste and smell of food are impressive and they all have their own characteristics. Eggs are nutritious foods that everyone loves and are closely related to many philosophical experiments; and onions, which always make people cry, is it a proof of touch? The author chose a total of twelve foods to issue certificates with different contents for them. It is an interesting picture book that re-explains some of the foods around us through unreasonable definitions.
Artists should pay attention to the information to be conveyed by their own works and at the same time, how to make a full display and expression under the existing conditions. If your work is as eye-catching as the sun, it will rise daily as usual. The future is bound to be an all-round and diversified form of exhibition experience, with simultaneous developments whether it is online or offline. The intertwining of reality and the virtual will only make excellent works more known, felt and loved by the public.
CAFA ART INFO: This year is the first time CAFA has launched the “Online CAFA” virtual art museum. How do you view the future development of this new form of graduation exhibition? What impact did it have on students’ work?
Zhao Mengya: The undergraduate graduation exhibition of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2020 adopted the form of online exhibition. Under such a special objective situation, CAFA can design virtual exhibitions in this futuristic form, which is very innovative and experimental.
“The Phase of No Phase” by Huang Yifan and the Experimental Process of Paper Mold
On the one hand, the impact on students’ work is that most picture books are shown in the form of paper books, hand-painted original paintings, related hand-made surroundings and tools for showing the creation process. The virtual exhibition of this time may relatively weaken a certain sense of actual experience, such as the texture when flipping through prints, the rhythm of reading stories during page turning, the exquisiteness of viewing the original painting, etc.
But from another point of view, in order to maximize the viewing effect, we have made the audience feel the complete sense of each work more comprehensively and used presentation media. For example, each student showed the complete story in the form of a video image, accompanied by background music that matches his style of work and interpreted the story to be able to display the entire work more clearly and comprehensively while making spectators feel the work itself.
“Shards Among the Stars” by Liu Shuhan
Baiwu is an employee of Star Express, serving many remote galaxies, and this time his friend Starr also joined the adventure. During the mission, they saw a wonderful planet and completed various interesting missions. At a stop on the way, they met a star and uncovered the story of Starr's past.
Screenshot of “Spring Blessing” by Zhang Yue
The missed little blessing meets the little fox in the small noodle restaurant, helping the small noodle restaurant to gain popularity and through its own efforts to change its own story.
The Creative process
In addition, the students carefully used clips of videos and photo in the creative process to record their creative process in detail and finally edited it to form a complete creative process record, which can make visitors more intuitive and offers a deep understanding of each author, to further understand the creative story behind the work. These are very good summaries for the students at the graduation stage. They can complete and show their achievements in their own research fields through their novel creations.
“Special Paradise” by Yang Guanqi
A dog came to heaven, led by an angel cat, walked through the paradise of various animals and finally found the one that belonged to it.
“Little Spider Who Can't Weave Web” by Zheng Shiying
The little spider Tiaotiao was teased because he couldn't weave a round web like other spiders, and sadly was left behind. But he used his own silk thread and unique weaving method to help the small animals who encountered difficulties in solving the problem. While meeting many good friends, he gradually realized his unique value.
“Singing Doll” by Fang Jingxin
“Moon Goddess” by Zhang Xueying
What will the Moon Goddess do after climbing up to the sky every night? It turns out that she helps people fall asleep. In any noisy, melancholic or warm mind, the Moon Goddess will always bring a soft moonlight to help everyone fall asleep.
“The Sun Shop” by Tian Ziqian
The handsome Mr. Sun has a beautiful shop full of weird gadgets. What use are these gadgets? In one transaction after another, Mr. Sun helped the animals gain happiness and comfort, and received help and change.
CAFA ART INFO: Graduates who participated in the graduation exhibition this year were very special. For an “online” session, do you have any special wishes for them?
This is a special period, this is a special session. Our “home” creations corresponded to each other. “Staying at home” is a physical imprisonment but “tranquil state of mind” is a focused and attentive state.
Although we stayed “at home,” we should have a pragmatic and stable sense of learning; we should be immersed in the creation of picture books to pursue simplicity and reach a profound original intention. We live separately and we stayed at home from winter through to spring. The teachers and students could not meet each other but their thesis presentations never stopped. We overcame the difficulties and tried to turn over to meet the blue sky. The graduation exhibition is both the end of school and the beginning of a more extensive and in-depth study.
Online Exhibition of Picture Book Studio
14 graduates from Picture Book Studio showcase their hard work over a year in this space;
14 graduates now fly from here to the vast sky of the picture book world.
Growing together with the world, they record the different flashes of youth with this special exhibition form.
Keeping the innocent heart and never forgetting the original intention of creation.
You belong to a very unique “online” class of 2020,
Don’t forget each other, always come home and visit us!
Interviewed guests: Teachers from Picture Book Studio
Interviewer: Editor Zhang Yizhi
Interview Time丨 Early June 2020
Image provided by teachers and students of Picture Book Studio
Translated and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
A Brief Introduction to the Picture Book Studio: The predecessor of the Picture Book Studio, School of City Design, Central Academy of Fine Arts, is the Graphic Information Design Studio, established in September 2004, dedicated to the design and publishing of graphic books. In order to further clarify the professional characteristics and academic direction, it was renamed the Picture Book Studio in 2011. It is the mission and responsibility of the Picture Book Studio to cultivate the creative force of the younger generation who can understand picture books and publishing with the ability of planning, editing and painting. After all, there is a gap between Chinese culture and overseas culture and the glory of the 100-year history of the picture book does not belong to us. How can the local Chinese culture and values be conveyed to contemporary children and adults through vivid and interesting visual expressions, so that the combination of pictures and texts can be expressed in international expressions. At the same time, the local culture can also be exported abroad in the form of picture books, which is exactly the role and significance of the Picture Book Studio.