Graduate Spotlight Features - Visual Arts

Caricature artist draws on basics

vpa-BerningMarsha Berning had a well-established career as a caricature artist, working for theme parks including Sea World in Orlando, Florida. It was a profession she learned on the job after answering an ad in the newspaper. Thirteen years later, she had risen through the ranks to management, a position many people would envy, yet she always wanted to know more about her field.

She came to the Department of Visual Arts at Greenville Technical College to expand her skills. With family in the Upstate, she explored a number of arts programs in the area, deciding that Greenville Technical College was a well-kept secret. In the program, she learned the computer end of art while perfecting the basics, a combination she says is critical.

Entering the classroom after years away was a transition, but for Berning, the size of the Greer (now Benson) Campus and the atmosphere in her program made a big difference.
"I had some culture shock when I first enrolled," she says. "Some people out here confused me for an instructor, but the campus is beautiful, and it's small enough to where you can get to know everyone. I've had some wonderful instructors: Shane Howell, Jim Horner, Blake Praytor, and Julie Tysver, with whom I've had some challenging but rewarding classes. The program is by no means easy, but I've learned so much in my brief time there."

Berning, who entered the program as an artist and will leave a better educated one, says making her way in the world as an artist, perhaps in web design, is her idea of a dream job. "A lot of people want to be artists, but they give up and take unrelated jobs because they don't think they can do it, or they don't have the desire, or they've lost their vision," she says. "To be able to do what you enjoy is, I think, incredible."

Growing program means expanded options

vpa-BurmanAmanda Burman graduated from Greenville Technical College's Visual Arts program a few years ago. Now she's back, trying to decide whether to pursue a bachelor's degree in graphic design or to change directions and become an art teacher at the elementary level.

Since earning an associate in arts degree with an emphasis in graphic design in 2003, she's been busy with freelance work in graphic design. The only problem, she said, is that the assignments are "feast or famine," keeping her so busy at times that she hasn't had the opportunity to pursue full-time positions in the field.

"The more I promote my business, the easier it seems to find work," she said. "But it's more difficult to finish all the jobs I have coming in in a timely manner."

While Burman enjoys the challenge of many aspects of graphic design, her favorite area, designing logos, has evolved into a specialty. "I particularly enjoy designing logos because you have to come up with a really simple, poignant image that immediately communicates to people what the company's about," she said.

Burman's interest in teaching stems from memories of art teachers she had as a child. She remembers enjoying art classes because they enabled her to express herself and be creative more than any other subject. The teachers she has had in the Visual Arts program have been memorable, too. "I felt I was in the hands of really capable instructors," she said. "They've all worked in their fields, they've been teaching for many years, and they really know what they're talking about."

As she decides whether to join their ranks by becoming an educator or to stay in graphic design and go for the next degree, Burman is excited about growth in the Visual Arts program that gives her new options at Greenville Technical College and new opportunities to transfer her credits to a four year college or university. "The program is growing steadily," she said. "The options available have really expanded during the years I've attended Greenville Tech."

Marketing major plus photography

vpa-SinclairRebecca Sinclair was always one of those people who takes pictures of others. And even though she enjoyed it, photography was her hobby - not something she took seriously. When she finished a bachelor's degree in marketing from Georgia College and State University, however, she realized that she wanted photography to be something more. So after six months as a graduate, she enrolled in college again, this time in the Visual Arts program at Greenville Technical College's Benson Campus in Greer.

In the program, she found a small, close-knit group of students who supported one another. "We all just really worked well together," she said. "It wasn't like anybody was necessarily better than anyone else. Everybody helped the others out."

Rebecca felt her instructors were accessible, something that enabled her to master photography skills. "Blake Praytor, the instructor I had most, was very knowledgeable and if you ever had a question, you could just go and ask him. He made it very easy," she said.

Now Rebecca, who graduated in December, is looking for a position that allows her to utilize both of her degrees. She's glad that she quickly realized how important photography was to her and that she won't be someone who spends years unhappily working at a job that doesn't fit. "I may change jobs within the photography field," she said. "But I feel that I'll always enjoy doing this."

Web site designer to high-paying specialty

vpa-SmithMichael Smith wasn't certain what to major in when he entered college in 2001. All he knew for sure was that he liked computers, and he enjoyed art. In Greenville Technical College's Visual Arts program, he found a way to combine those two interests.

When he graduated two years later, finding a job was a pretty simple process. He went on two job interviews and was offered a position after the second with Utopia Marketing. There he sets his own hours and takes on the projects that interest him, usually in web site design and print design including brochures.

Recently, Smith decided to take his web site design skills to the next level, a move that will improve the work he produces and increase his rate of pay. He enrolled in Greenville Technical College's new Web Site Design certificate program, a 13-course curriculum that teaches computer graphics, digital photography, and design skills specific to the Internet. "I especially like the computer animation course," Smith said. "Animation will allow me to create more complex and interactive web sites."

Just five years out of high school, Smith has what he considers the ideal job. Though his plans include using his associate degree credits toward an eventual bachelor's degree, going straight for the education that would earn him a job was, he thinks, the right path to follow. "I'm confident that if I need to move on and find another job, I have the skill set I need," he said. "I've come this far, and I'm happy with what I've accomplished."