My Visit to Auburn University

Last week, I had the pleasure and honor of participating in a symposium at my alma mater Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction. The title was “Outstanding Women in Design,” and I was invited to represent the school of Graphic Design alongside 6 other graduates who represented their respective disciplines. I had the chance to meet and chat with some great women, all successful in careers ranging from Architecture to Building Science to Urban Planning and it was inspiring to say the least!

Below are Dean Dan Bennett, Lee Ann Gamble of G+G Architects and Myra Deyhle, Interior Architect/Designer of LRKI was so impressed with both of these women’s portfolios and their aesthetics.

 I also met Leslie Norvell, a Landscape Architect from Philly; Rebecca Burleson, a builder of enormous amazing projects; Shayla Jones Beaco, an inspiring City Planner and Heather Bailey an Industrial Designer and engaging speaker.
My talk was entitled “Making a Career of Creative Freedom,” and along with showing my portfolio and talking about my work as an illustrator, I also hoped to offer a little inspiration to students headed towards careers in design and illustration.


One theme I heard repeated a few times over the course of the day was the importance of finding out what you love to do, whatever it is that is really you and using that as your guiding force along your career path. It seems self-explanatory, but I think it’s one of the great challenges of having a creative career.

Knowing who you are and what you do best (usually because it’s something you love and have a passion for) is the ticket to finding fulfillment in your career. And I don’t think jobs or assignments always provide the best ground for exploring those things for artists and designers, so you have to make a real effort to seek it out on your own, even as you are working and doing your best to pay the rent.

In some ways, that is your “career in creative freedom,” and it runs parallel to your work career, it’s the place where you spend years in a quest for what resonates deeply with you and time developing your talent and showing what you can do with it whenever you can. I’m amazed at the opportunities that come out of the work I do on that parallel path. And while I’m working there, I’m a little free-er from the pressures of other people’s expectations, is it on schedule? Will somebody else like it? Will it sell? We all have to give ourselves creative freedom.

Aside from that, Auburn is just a lovely place to be in the fall.

And here’s a place filled with lots of happy memories of art school. Biggin Hall. 1950.

And just on the opposite corner from Biggin, a tradition at Auburn, lemonade from Toomer’s Drugs.

I was lucky to have some great professors in the design program to inspire me at Auburn, John Morgan, Ross Heck, Ray Dugas. I rely on the solid foundation in graphic design training I got there, along with the opportunities to study other studio arts like printmaking (Charles Munday), painting, ceramics (Gary Wagoner) and photography. And who could get along without art history? The other great thing about art school at a big university like Auburn, is that you have ample opportunities to explore other fields of study like literature and writing, sociology, music, physics and I benefited from all of those. Among the working illustrators I’ve met over the years are many interesting, smart people with a lot going on in their imaginations; all those different classes, explorations and tangents can broaden your possibilities. If you want to know more about the school, check out Auburn’s new graphic design website designed by Professor Wei Wang.

And thanks to my husband for taking all the pictures!!