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As an artist, many things inspire me.


This book is about different processes. It will describe my personal development as an artist and how I came to create my thesis work Stray a While. It will describe my journey towards the project and my journey away from it. Because Stray A While is a product of a collection of influences it will make sense to describe how I arrived at making the book and how the making the book was a learning process itself.


My Workspace 2012-2014


I did not approach graduate school with a final project in mind. I had come to school to solidify my technical skills, to expand my practice, and to figure out what sort of illustrator I ought to work towards becoming. When the time came to start thinking and proposing ideas for our thesis project I still had not settled into my role as an illustrator. I had a collection of influences, however, and I began to consider who I would like to emulate. I have always respected Maira Kalman. I loved her loose, narrative work and the curious quality of her work. I ended up proposing a series of illustrated essays that would explain common phenomena and human invention. The goal was to build a collection of these types of images and to create a short illustratated book. That was the first proposal of many.


Maira Kalman, Dog Reads Book, 1999 Gouache on paper 17 1/4 x 13 1/2 “


Personal work Textile and Pattern Design ILP MFA year one, 2012-2013


At this time I had finished my first year of graduate school at MICA. The first year is organzinged by a series of short assignments and workshops. I had learned about paper engineering, printmaking, publishing, animation, and had fallen in love with patterning and textiles. My mind was still a spinning with potential creative directions for the thesis year. I had embarked on two very different internship that summer, one at Schwartz & Wade, an imprint at Random House books and another at Rodrigo Corral design studio. I wanted to investigate editorial and publishing industry and to try to imagine my place within those worlds.


My experience at Rodrigo’s studio was the polar opposite to that at Random House. Random House was a huge corporation in midtown Manhattan, Rodrigo was a three person operation in his college apartment in the East Village. I started the summer expecting to seriously engage with my experience at Rodrigo’s-my projects there had the air of fast paced editorial work whereas my tasks at Random House were far more rudimentary. As the summer progressed, however, I found myself growing more excited by my time with picture books and less enamored with the editorial type work.


A collection of Redrigo Corral’s book covers Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux 2002-2012


A sample collection of art from Schwartz and Wade Catalog that I worked on in the summer of 2013.


My work at Schwartz & Wade was simple. I corresponded with artists, handled art deliveries and returns, and made sure the slush pile was a reasonable height. I most often worked with the original art. This was thing that impacted me the most. Even though I was spending most of my time packing and unpacking the art, I was able to see the incredible range of artists that Schwartz & Wade acquired and how the final art developed. I saw work from Giselle Potter (Sugar Wouldn’t Eat it) Sophie Blackall (The Mighty LaLouche), Tad Hills (Duck and Goose), Chris Appelhans (Sparky!), and from Red Nose Studio (A Beginners Guide to Running Away from Home). By the end of the summe I was convinced I wanted to make picture books. But, I had a problem: how would I reconcile my desire to make picture books with my current thesis propopal?


Wildwood by Colin Meloy illustrated by Carson Ellis Harper Collins, Balzer and Bray September 25, 2011


Coincidentally, I read the book Wildwood as the summer came to a close. The book is written by Clolin Meloy and illustrated by another one of my favorite illustrators, Carson Ellis. I understood the book to be a perfect solution to my own thesis project problem. The format of an illustrated novel could lend itself well for me to created somewhat elegant imagery while working towards fiction and the picture book world.


Thus, I began the year with a story proposal for an illustrated novel about a a set of twins who grow up and whose lives drift apart. It was a personal narrative that I had wanted to infuse with fantastic elements. I love poetic narrative and I had wanted to see if I could create a sort of a poetic illustrated novel with sequential elements. I wanted to treat graduate school as an opportunity to explore personal, not commercial work so I was not interested in extreme plot points.


Character sketches for thesis project one September 2013


Book Dummy and sketches Fall semester 2013


As time quickly passed however, I found myself being overwhelmed with the scope of the project I had created for myself and began to struggle with organizing and illustrating the story. I had been spending a great deal of time writing and thinking and very little time illsutrating. It wasn’t working. I realized I was having a great deal of trouble creating the characters. These twins were the crux of the project and I was several monthes into the work and still had not given them faces. It was at this point I began to realize how important character design can be.


Spread sample Book Idea One Fall 2013


In the meantime, I had been creating independent work for a gallery show in Philadelphia. I had been thinking a lot about time passing and the lack of control I was experiencing with my thesis project. It occurred to me that natural elements were an apt way to describe the sort of helplessness I was feeling. I began to create a series of work that contemplated the seasons. I submitted the first two pieces I had finished to the Society of Illustrators for their annual competition. I submit regularly and had never heard back.


Chapterhouse Gallery Philadelphia PA Fall 2012


Autumn Scene Watercolor, Digital 15 x 17� Fall 2013


Winter Scene Watercolor, Digital 15 x 17� Fall 2013


Spring Scene Watercolor, Digital 15 x 17� Fall 2013


Summer Scene Watercolor, Digital 15 x 17� Fall 2013


Then something strange happened. I won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators for the autumn scene I had created. It was a stroke of luck and, in retrospect, I see that it enabled me to have the necessary confidence to re-evaluate my project. Not long after I won similar accolades from American Illustration, Communication Arts, and Creative Quarterly. These awards further reinforced my confidence. During the midterm we held a critique with Chris and Soojin Buzelli. The two could sense my struggle with my thesis work and, at some point, said “maybe this isn’t your story. Maybe this, pointing to the award winning image, is'. Unbeknowst to them, thier feedback was the catalyst for my new thesis direction.


I began to redesign my project over winter break. I kept the major themes of the work: friendship, time, change, but wanted to overhaul the format. I wanted to simplify. I finally returned to the idea of the picture book. I started to imagine large format wordless book. It was essentially the opposite project that I had initially proposed, but I now know that I had to go through the process of starting to that first book to understand how to get to the simpler version. I have noticed a pattern in my process: I often struggle through something complicated in order to to ultimately make something simple.


I often struggle through something complicated in order to to ultimately make something simple.


I began to research worldless picture books. I understood from the first semester that in order to make something visually compelling and narrative, I might have to start without words completely. That would be the only way I could prevent myself from becoming overly concerned with the writing and thinking aspect-a problem from my initial attempt.


I chose to keep the process relatively simple. I would use a medium that I was very familiar with: watercolor. I wanted to use the computer to help refine the work, but wanted the project to feel warm and tactile. I maintained that I wanted to keep the project non-commercial. In order for the work to remain unfettered by its marketability, I strove to make the work as artistic as possible. It became an art book itself. I imagines that the structure would be one long tapestry like work and bound in a circular fashion. The structure would inform the meaning of the work, it would indicate the circular nature of time and echo its infinite quality.


Process work winter 2014


Process work winter 2014


Process work winter 2014


The following are several samples from the book itself. The book ended up being a full 36 pages and can be found at strayawhile.com

Stray A While page sample Watercolor, Digital Fall 2013


Stray A While page sample Watercolor, Digital Fall 2013


The Exhibition Imagining showing my work in a gallery setting was a challenge. I wanted to be able to explain the project visually and especially emphsize the nature of the process. I ultimately created a small process space in addition to showing the book in its circular form and spread out. The written wall text further explains: Stray a While is a visual meditation on time, change, and the cyclical nature of life. It’s a picture book about leaving and finding a home. It’s about the steadfastness of friendship despite inevitable change. This project embraces the passage of time and celebrates the idea of journey. Its form is simple enough for open interpretation and contains seamless circular bind, and, when spread out, can be read from any point. The inspiration for this project is two-fold. Part comes from a place of literary influence, from books like Weiner’s Flotsam to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Glaser’s The Conversation. Another part comes from Jacoby’s interest in biology and nature. In fact, before making Stray a While, Jacoby created a study of seasons. She originally used these images as cornerstones for the book. Process is integral to Jacoby’s project. The table placed in this display enables you, the viewers, to investigate the studies and sketches Jacoby created along to way to making Stray a While. You may peruse the table at your own pace-feel free to get lost in it.


Thesis gallery space Spring 2014


Thesis show space Spring 2014


Now that this project and my graduate school experience is concluding, I am striving to maintain a career as an illustrator in addition to prusuing work in the publishing industry. My primary goal is to spend this summer generating as many ideas for commercially viable picture books as possible and to create a series of pitches and a few manuscripts. If all goes well I aim to have several dummies to shop by mid summer. At the moment I have several characters I’m enjoying imagining. There’s Inky Pete, a fretful bat who doesn’t listen and gets separated from his flock, a boy who wakes up and can’t stop singing, and a story about a boarding school for cats that has a lots of rules. I also have another horizontally formatted book idea to match Stray A While. That story is based on Herman Hesse’s folktale The City. It’s a simple, but beautifully written story about growing up and breaking down of urban environments.


I have several freelance clients in the works at the moment. I just published a piece with The New York Times, I am in the middle of working out a series for the September issue of Kinfolk magazine, I’ll have a piece published in Julia Rothman’s companion book to The Who The Where the What (Chronicle fall 2014), I may be working with an old musician friend of mine, Mary Lattimore on a series of 7” for her and Anthropologie has asked me to do a series of book covers for thier 2015 season. I am also working on sketches for the Hudson Valley Seed Packet Series and would like to do a book about my home in Baltimore: the compound. I need to build my freelance client list, particularly with science and literary magazines. I am attending ICON 8 illustration conference this year. I also hope to attend next year’s SCBWI winter conference with a children’s book oriented portfolio.


The following are work sample from recent editorial work. Over the past several monthes I made work for Until Now Magazine, The New York Times, Julia Rothman, and for Nobrow press’s magazine themed “It’s Oh So Quiet”.


Editorial work for Until Now magazine Winter 2014


Editorial work for The New York Times Spring 2014


Book work for Julia Rothman Chronicle Fall 2014


Book work for Nobrow Press Magazine 9: “It’s Oh so Quiet” Spring 2014


I would like to note the incredible advice recieved from our guest critics. To Josh Cochran, Zachariah O’Hora, Kristen Nobles, Guiseppe Castellanos, Chris and Soojin Buzelli, Julia Denos, Jon McNaught, Alex Spiro, and John Hendrix, Jillian Tamaki, Erich Nagler and Martha Rich. Thank you for your inspiration and for sharing your wisdom.


I could not have done this work without the support of my peers and teachers here at MICA. I would like to thank them especially for their patience as I felt my way through this project. So, to Lydia Nichols, Eric Leland, Rebecca Bradley, Jaime Zollars, and Whitney Sherman:

Thank you.

Sarah Jacoby MICA Illustration Practice Thesis Process Book 2014  

This is a process book about Sarah Jacoby's thesis project: Stray a While. Stray a While was created at the Maryland Institute College of Ar...

Sarah Jacoby MICA Illustration Practice Thesis Process Book 2014  

This is a process book about Sarah Jacoby's thesis project: Stray a While. Stray a While was created at the Maryland Institute College of Ar...

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