CCA's Illustrious Illustration Alumni

Lisel Ashlock, My Escapee, cover art and design

A friendly alligator on a quest to get clean, an imaginary universe of original creatures, and a depiction of the phenomenon called data scraping -- these are just a few of the concepts that CCA Illustration alumni have been challenged to bring to life.

With 167 students currently enrolled, the Illustration Program is one of the largest at CCA. Every year, students, alumni, and faculty are recognized and honored in national illustration competitions. The program consistently produces talented and accomplished artists who go on to build successful careers.

We recently interviewed four Illustration alums to see what paths they have taken since graduation and to ask them to reflect on their time at CCA.

Lisel Ashlock, Class of 2002

Illustrator/designer/art director Lisel Ashlock has developed a broad client list, from high circulation magazines such as GQ, Spin, and Playboy and media corporations such as Sony, the New York Times, and the Weinstein Group to retail giants Abercrombie & Fitch and Sephora.

Notable accomplishments

My biggest accomplishment to date was creating a book cover for Penguin Books. My dream job manifested. Another is an assignment for the insanely great design firm Stranger & Stranger, where I worked with their designers to create a custom wine label. This job is fun!

How has your education helped you?

The Illustration Program at CCA is incredible. It’s so well rounded and thorough with a great balance of technique, concept, and the business aspects of illustration. Assignments span every type of project you could get as a professional, and the encouragement to explore different mediums is amazing. At the same time, faculty are always making sure each student has a very strong core in the basics of drawing and painting.

Influences at CCA

First and foremost the late Dugald Stermer, who always had pure faith in me. Long after graduation he continued to be a constant support and source of motivation and inspiration. Other important mentors: Robert Hunt, Barron Storey, and Mark Eanes.

Favorite memory of your time as a student

Thesis days. Specifically when Dugald told me I was crazy for deciding to paint an image of a wall of books. How? Each book individually!

Advice you'd give to an illustration student:

Work. Work. Work. Besides that, create a culture, a community of other illustrators. Talk all the time. Make things together. Compare notes. Do crits, which sounds dorky, but it will keep you on track.

Carl De Torres, Class of 2003

Carl De Torres is principal of his own studio, Carl De Torres Graphic Design, a multidisciplinary firm specializing in graphic design, editorial design, illustration, and infographics. His client list is impressive -- CBS Interactive, Fortune, IBM, Time magazine, Wired -- to name a few. He’s also racked up a number of prestigious awards, including recognition from the American Society of Magazine Editors, the Art Director Club, Print Magazine, and the Society of Publication Designers.

How has your education helped you?

The simple truth is that I wouldn't be where I'm at had I not gone to CCA. I use all my illustration training in my design work -- thinking smart, coming up with visual solutions to problems.

Secret of your success?

I started out working for Wired magazine through a direct connection from CCA. Then I began to get calls for freelance work. I didn’t turn anything away -- big or small, it didn’t matter. I learned on the job.

Influences at CCA

Bob Ciano, Dugald Stermer, Baron Storey, Robert Hunt, and Mark Eanes

Favorite memory of your time as a student

The whole thing was a blur. A wonderfully creative, exhausting blur.

Recent accomplishments

Opening my own studio. It's taken years, but I just opened the doors on a new studio space in Oakland. The whole thing has been remodeled and is a wonderful place to be creative.

What advice would you give to an illustration student?

Illustration is extremely important, but don't consider yourself just an "illustration" student. And one more thing, work hard -- really hard.

Brynn Metheney, Class of 2009

Just three years after graduating, Brynn Metheney has found success as a freelance illustrator and concept artist.

Recent accomplishments

I've recently worked with Paizo and Wizards of the Coast on some exciting projects, including Pathfinder and Magic the Gathering. I was hired by Studio Hinrichs for creature illustrations to be used in the Sappi Standard 5, which was released in February 2012. I am most excited about a project with EuropaCorp, a French movie studio. This is a dream job. I can't wait to see what's next!

How has your education helped you?

My time at CCA prepared me for a lot. First, it taught me to be on time. The instructors were very concerned about meeting deadlines, which was excellent training for the industry. Second, it taught me the importance of relationships and community. My class was a tight group and most of us have stayed in touch. Having a group of colleagues really motivates me.

Favorite CCA memory

Oddly enough, I think it was the all-nighters. It was always kind of great to be up at 4 am working on something for class. Now, when some deadlines require that I stay up all night it takes me back!

What advice would you give to an illustration student?

Work on something every day. To do this [illustration] professionally, you must be relentless. You don't need to make masterpieces, but you need to keep sharp. Hold on tight to the friends and contacts you make in school. Working in the creative industry can be discouraging and stressful at times. Always remember to have fun and why you wanted to do this in the first place.

Vincent Perea, Class of 2005

Vincent Perea is currently a lead artist at Disney Mobile in Los Angeles.

Recent accomplishments

Where's My Water? is an original app that my team developed. To be a part of a team that could create something new to add to the Disney archive of characters has been really exciting. My team's recent game Where's My Perry? went to number #1 on the app store with my previous game still sitting in the #2 spot. Having one successful game is crazy; having two in a year is madness.

How has your education at CCA helped you?

My illustration training was focused on editorial illustration, which at its core is about solving problems and telling stories. Working in video games is very similar; every day there is a new challenge. Disney is very focused on storytelling and my team has pushed hard to imbue our games with story and humor.

Influences at CCA

The Illustration department is filled with great teachers; however, two really stood out during my tenure. Randy Chavez was a huge inspiration to me. All of his images tell heartfelt and rich stories and allude to bigger stranger worlds. I love visual storytelling, so learning from him was a real treat.

Richard Gayton (now retired) was such a huge influence on the way I work. He not only taught good technical skills but also exuded a strong passion for the medium. He always strove to get better through hard work even at his level of skill--and that dedication had a profound resonance in how I would approach my career.

What advice would you give to an illustration student?

Work hard and figure out where your strengths are. I encourage leaning on your strengths and using them to overcome your weaknesses.