LAWRENCE — Barry Fitzgerald, approaching 30 years as a professor of illustration and animation at the University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design, advises patience for students eager to make their mark in Hollywood or any other high-level artistic enterprise.
Lately he’s been modeling it too.
This spring, he hit a kind of long-sought trifecta.
Inspired by communications efforts despite the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, he created a group of paintings titled “Interrupted” which he showed in January at 30 South Gallery in Pasadena, California.
This started a kind of log rolling process.
Some the paintings were chosen by the jurors for inclusion in the special edition of Communication Arts magazine, Illustration Annual 63. The winners’ works were featured in the May/June edition of CA, as it is known.
Soon after, Fitzgerald learned that some of the same works had also been chosen for inclusion in the upcoming American Illustration 41, another collection of the year’s best work in the field.
And finally, the work will be included in the annual issue 19 of 3X3 magazine. The magazine will publish an online gallery of the winners’ work this fall and a physical companion piece in December.
While he called them “some of the big guns of illustration contests,” Fitzgerald said he was especially happy to be included in CA 63. “I’ve been chasing it my whole career, and finally I can tick this box,” he said. .
A few of the pieces from the same touching group of works are on display through July 29 at Studios Inc.’s main gallery in Kansas City, Missouri. The opening of the show was timed to coincide with the June 29-July 1 ICON11 illustration conference held in Kansas City.
Through his long tenure, which includes reviewing curriculum applications from high school students, Fitzgerald said he can see interest in illustration remains strong.
“I think it’s just the increased amount and access to visuals that aren’t photo-based,” Fitzgerald said. “You have video games; you have animation in every way, shape and form. When I was a kid, cartoons were limited to Saturday mornings, and now there are networks dedicated to cartoons, and other networks dedicated to adult cartoons.
“And so there’s just more demand, and I think it’s because there’s more influence.”
Fitzgerald enjoys working with a variety of mediums, including acrylic paints and colored pens and pencils, often within the same illustration, as in “Interrupted”. He said he was focused on teaching technique, and style (“the S-word,” he said) would follow.
“Don’t worry about that,” he said. “It will work itself out. You almost can’t stop it from coming out, because you do.
Keep working on your craft, Fitzgerald told students, even if you don’t land your dream job at Pixar right out of school.
“I always tell students to aim for the stars, you know? Go big! But if you don’t get it – and the reality is there’s a good chance you won’t – that doesn’t mean you should give up on that dream. It just means you have to keep trying and then make the most of the opportunities that come your way as you work towards a goal.
Image: Paintings from the “Interrupted” series. Credit: Barry Fitzgerald