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Featured Students

What kind of student enrolls in ACN courses? That's not an easy question to answer. We have students ranging from recent high school graduates to mid-career professionals to more experienced individuals pursuing new creative passions.

One thing all ACN students have in common is that they have stories to share—stories of what brought them to ACN and stories of how the experience changed them.

Here are just a few of our students who have been kind enough to share with us their stories.

Simon Davey

ACN Courses: Introduction to Product and Transportation Design; Creative Sketchbooks, Journals and Altered Books

I’ve heard people describe my work as playful or whimsical, and I don’t really shy away from that. At the heart of my design philosophy is an attempt to truly understand the context in which a problem exists. In other words, I like questioning how and why people are using their stuff. And that means sometimes the work I create borders on the ridiculous—such as Spiteful Table, a side table/rocking chair hybrid. 

I really enjoyed taking Introduction to Product and Transportation Design with Randall Smock. His assignments and critiques were great. One project brief he gave us was to design a fan. I quickly decided I didn’t want to design a traditional desktop fan. Instead I imagined an emergency device that would assist firefighters by clearing smoke out of a building. That project taught me that there’s value in deconstructing the problem you’re trying to solve.

What resonated with me about Randall’s class, especially once I started as a Product Design student at Art Center, was the clarity with which he worked through our projects. I’d say that’s the most important thing I took away from Art Center at Night—an understanding of the foundation and the methodology that encompasses design. As an undergraduate student, I could definitely tell which students had taken Art Center at Night classes—they were the ones who had a better understanding of the design process.

Another Art Center at Night course I really enjoyed was Creative Sketchbooks, Journals and Altered Books with Mary Yanish. In a typical design class you work on one project over multiple weeks. But in Creative Sketchbooks the focus was on filling a sketchbook with several pages of mixed-media work each and every week. Exploration was very much encouraged, and it was in that course that I realized the importance of narrative and crafting a story around a product experience. It really helped me creatively and was a welcome change of pace.

To learn more about Davey and his work, visit his website.

Diego Porqueras

Course: Basics of Film

These days 3D printing is everywhere. Creatives are using this emerging technology to make everything from fashion gowns to gummy replicas of themselves. Even the President mentioned it in his most recent State of the Union address.

One man who’s made quite a name for himself in this burgeoning arena is Diego Porqueras, inventor of the BukoBot 3D printer and the president and founder of Deezmaker, a 3D printer store and hackerspace in Pasadena. Surprisingly enough, the path that led Porqueras into this brave new world began with an Art Center at Night (ACN) film course he took 13 years ago.

“I took Basics of Film with Robert Mehnert and that ended up being a big turning point in my career,” says Porqueras, who said he already had some experience making movies prior to the class but that the course provided him with a better grasp of the basics.

But that wasn’t the turning point. That happened when an ACN classmate who was working as a production assistant told the class he was leaving the country for two weeks and asked if anybody would be interested in taking his place on a few productions. “I was the first guy to raise my hand for that,” says Porqueras with a laugh.

Porqueras’ extensive knowledge of cameras (his father is a photographer) meant he was able to land one job after another in Hollywood, from developing underwater camera rigs to working as a digital imaging technician, for films ranging from the hip hop DJ documentary Scratch (2001) to the Jim Carrey comedy Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) to the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading (2008).

But Porqueras’ life took another turn when he saw a CNN news segment about 3D printing in the home. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” says Porqueras, who immediately imagined how useful a 3D printer could prove in the world of camera technicians. “Camera operators and Steadicam guys always need brackets for shots and they’re always throwing stuff together at the last-minute. I thought that with a 3D printer you could easily make brackets out of plastic that would be durable.”

An interest in learning how to use 3D printers soon developed into an interest in how to make 3D printers. And in April 2012, Porqueras introduced the world to the Bukobot, an easy-to-use open source 3D printer, via Kickstarter. His goal was to raise $42,000 for the project, which he ended up nearly quadrupling. “We’re trying to set ourselves apart from our competitors by making a good quality machine that’s also affordable,” says Porqueras of his Bukobot 3D printers, of which he plans to unveil new models at next month’s MakerFaire in San Mateo, Calif. “They might not have a super fancy cover and a nice logo, but they’ll print really, really good and they’re reliable and consistent.”

His success with the Bukobot on Kickstarter, coupled with opening the first 3D printer store on the West Coast—and only the second in the United States—makes him a natural fit for this Saturday’s Designer Technologies: Is 3D Printing Creating a New Entrepreneurial Ecosystem? event, part of the Caltech Entrepreneur’s Forum, in which he’ll be speaking on a panel along with Thingify’s Brian Arandez, LA Makerspace’s Tara Tiger Brown and Edward C. Tackett, RapidTech Director at University of California Irvine and Saddleback College.

After that, it’ll be time for the afore-mentioned MakerFaire and, if things go well, possibly moving Deezmaker a few doors down to a vacant corner unit. “The store would be twice as big which means we could have some good-sized Arduino and 3D printing classes,” says Porqueras. “Plus, it has windows on two sides. Having more light always feels better.”

Julienne Johnson

ACN Course: Collage and Assemblage

“Her work impressed me with its own combination of raw confidence and formal strategy,” said art critic Peter Frank of artist Julienne Johnson. “She knows how to put together a painting, even as she puts herself right in the middle of its fabrication.”

Frank edited Johnson’s first art book Ashes for Beauty, which documents the artist’s collection of the same name, which was the subject of two solo exhibitions at Santa Monica’s TAG Gallery in 2010 and 2011.

Johnson has taken several courses at Art Center at Night over the past few years and she credits the College’s continuing studies program with dramatically changing her work as well as her approach.

“I learned that the making of art is of great value to the world,” said Johnson. “I already knew how immensely important it was to me, but it was through Art Center that I felt empowered to proclaim it boldly.”

“I also learned to have patience with my process,” continued Johnson. “And most importantly, I finally accepted that my work was sacred—a part of me. And if I didn’t believe that, neither would anybody else.”

Johnson credits the late Franklyn Liegel, who taught Collage and Assemblage, a course she took numerous times, for driving home this philosophy within her. “I learned from Franklyn some of the best technique training available for the making of contemporary art,” said Johnson of her mentor. “I will be forever grateful. In fact, Ashes for Beauty, is dedicated to him. As was my third solo exhibition, TOUCHMETOUCHYOU, this past July.”

Johnson credits Mary Yanish with giving her permission to play, without guilt. “It was in herCreative Sketchbooks, Journals and Altered Books course that I first began experimenting with techniques I had learned from [Liegel],” said Johnson. “Mary’s soft touch and non-judgmental approach encouraged my efforts and I wanted more of her attitude to influence my work. So I continued studying with her by enrolling in her figure drawing class—more than once. The experience was delightful and joyous as my skills progressed. Because of Mary, I love drawing the figure.”

And she took that new love and pushed it further than she imagined possible in Ronald Llanos’ Figure Drawing course. “Ron insisted on more drawings than I thought I could complete in a lifetime, and he wanted them soon,” said Johnson. “It was after his first class assignment, in which I had to complete more than 80 drawings, that I began to experience a vast improvement and began to develop a stylistic approach. This occurred without my realization. It was largely due to the quantity of drawings I was creating every day. I cannot wait to get back into Ron’s drawing classes when time permits.”

When exactly time will permit is uncertain, as Johnson keeps mounting exhibitions from Santa Monica to Qatar. Her next exhibition is scheduled to open in March 2013 at the LA Artcore Brewery Annex.

“I plan on going back to Art Center at Night, just as soon as these exhibitions let up,” laughed Johnson. “There is so much more that Art Center needs to teach me. I really want to hone in on my figure drawing skills. I do miss those drawing courses.”

Zorine Pooladian

ACN Course: Lighting Design

I have always loved art and architecture. I grew up in a 300-year-old house in Iran that had high ceilings and walls covered in paintings. As a child, I remember being amazed that somebody could leave something behind that would last for centuries.

My family moved to the United States when I was 17 to give me a chance to follow my dreams. About a month after arriving in the country we visited Art Center. I loved the campus, even the experience of driving to it was exciting—I kept thinking What comes next? after each curve.

When I visited the gallery, I couldn’t believe I was looking at student work. I asked an admissions counselor about the model buildings on display and she told me they were created by Environmental Design students. I immediately wanted to apply. The counselor said I first needed to put together a portfolio and recommended I enroll in Art Center at Night.

I fell in love when I took Lighting Design with Daniel Gottlieb and Penny Herscovitch. It was one of the best classes I took at Art Center At Night. Even though light surrounds us every day, before that course I had never before thought about it as being designed.

Details of Pooladian’s Silhouette, a wire chair that “reveals itself in multiple dimensions.”

I had also never taken a course taught by two instructors before. Daniel and Penny had high expectations but they made the class really fun. I loved getting two sets of perspectives on my work. They both thought I was capable of doing something great and they kept pushing me to do better. For the final I created lighting using string and balloons. They were so supportive that they gave me an entire room near the Public Programs gallery to install my project.

Now, as an Art Center Environmental Design alumna I’m preparing a lighting project to show in New York. I’m thankful for all my family, teachers, friends and others who have supported me over the years and who are helping me make my dream come true.

To learn more about Pooladian and her work, visit Zorine Design.

Arotin Hartounian

ACN Course: Illustration Techniques

I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, but I moved to Glendale when I was 10 years old. It’s been a real blessing. As a kid, I was always drawing and experimenting with images, but the thought of pursuing art as a career never crossed my mind. That would have been unimaginable. Those opportunities just don’t exist in Iran.

I began to see things differently once I entered high school. I started taking more art classes and, with the guidance of my art teachers, I began to realize that there were real opportunities out here to be an artist. When I first told my parents that I wanted to be an artist they didn’t take it seriously because they weren’t aware of the possibilities either. Over the years, I’ve had to prove to myself and them that I’m serious and that there are a lot of well-paid, well-respected fields out there for creative individuals.

After high school I became very serious about pursuing art and illustration. I started drawing and painting every single day and exploring how different cultures throughout history have approached art making. I also decided that if I was going to make a career as a commercial artist, that I wanted to be well prepared for it. And that if I was going to go to school for it, that I was going to come out of school having all the necessary skills—not just technical skills, but the knowledge of how to operate professionally.

That’s what attracted me to Art Center—it’s well known and respected for its rigorous training and for preparing people for the creative workforce. Right now I’m studying at Pasadena City College, but I’ve taken several Art Center at Night courses and Art Center is my number one choice for where I want to go next in my studies.

Last term I took Illustration Techniques with Robert Pastrana, who showed the class what it’s really like to be an illustrator. He taught us processes for brainstorming and for making images efficiently and he explained to us the different types of jobs illustrators get in the real world. I really appreciated his approach because I want to be well-prepared for what I’m getting myself into. And that course really opened my eyes.

Roberto Galicia

ACN Course: Intermediate Transportation Design

Where I went to high school in Rancho Cucamonga, everybody seemed to get a brand new car as soon as they turned 16. But not me. Ever since I was a little boy I loved cars and dreamed of one day designing cars. But I never had the means to own a car, so I took the bus everywhere.

After high school and some community college classes, I signed up for Art Center at Night’s Introduction to Product and Transportation Design with Rimon Ghobrial. Rimon was a great instructor, and when he learned what I wanted to do with my life, he suggested I also enroll at Pasadena City College (PCC) to take classes with Stan Kong and Albert Yu, both Art Center alumni. I knew I had to take those classes, but I was worried about transportation. I didn’t have a car, so how was I going to get there? I enrolled at PCC and eventually figured it out, but the solution was ridiculous.

In order to make it to my 8 a.m. classes, my mom would pick me up from my grandparents’ house in Ontario at 4 a.m. and drive me to the nearest Metrolink station in Rancho Cucamonga. The train would leave Rancho Cucamonga at 4:30 and arrive in downtown L.A.’s Union Station an hour later. From that point, I’d wait 45 minutes to transfer to the Metro Gold Line, which would then take me to the Allen Station, about a mile from PCC. I’d arrive at campus at 7:15 a.m. with 45 minutes of downtime before classes began.

Experiencing that crazy journey made me completely rethink transportation design. Every morning, I was surrounded by so many people waiting to take that same 4 a.m. train. And at each stop along the way there were just as many people waiting to get on. And I was just a student; these people were going to work! So that made me think, wow, I really need to consider these people in my designs.

Now that I’m enrolled in my second Art Center at Night class (Intermediate Transportation Design), I know I’m not just interested in car design, but in transportation and mobility design. We don’t live in New York; we live in L.A., a super car-centric place. And people living here can’t get around easily. I’ve experienced that first hand. I want to learn to integrate new forms of mobility into the infrastructure we have right now.

Sami Hayek

ACN Course: Environmental Design

I was studying business administration when, one day, realized that I was going to have a boring life ahead of me if I continued this pursuit. At first I was leaning more towards architecture, but after researching the field I realized I wanted something more diverse, which led me to environmental design.

I knew Art Center had the best Environmental Design program out there, but I didn’t know how tough it was going to be for someone like me—coming from business with practically no design skills—to get admitted into the program. When I visited Patricia Oliver, chair of the department at the time, she asked if I had a portfolio. When I said no, she suggested I attend Art Center at Night (ACN) in order to build one.

I was lucky to have Chris Aykanian as my first ACN instructor. Chris encouraged us to go beyond and to do whatever needed to complete our educations. I took his great advice very seriously. I reached out to Art Center students, instructors and chairs from across the college, and worked hard to build my portfolio.

I really wanted to be accepted into Art Center’s degree program because I had told my father, who lived in rural Mexico and wanted me to either enroll in a serious program or come back home, that I was already enrolled at Art Center. Since environmental design sounded like something regarding ecology, it sounded “serious” enough to my father. So he believed I was going to college to save the environment, but in reality I was going to ACN and crying like a baby from working so hard.

After taking three ACN courses in a single term, I went back to Patricia and showed her my portfolio. She told me flat-out that my design skills still needed a lot of improvement. However, she found my thought processes interesting—which she said was something much harder to teach. I was accepted into the program, but on the condition that the second she saw me slow down, I would be kicked out.

She asked me, “Do we have a deal?” Yes we do, I answered. And the rest is history.

Sami Hayek ENVL ’96, is the Executive Creative Director of Espacio Sami Hayek.