Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovator – Alexander Solomon

Image of Alex Solomon drinking from a metal cup

Alexander Solomon is a recent awardee of the innovator award at Centralia College. He is an artist and Assistant Professor of Art and Graphics at Centralia College. He is being recognized for his innovations in teaching art, including his recent research and development of a Computer Graphics 2 course, where students make 3D and 2D models used in video games.

Alex merges traditional  with modern and, in fact, surmises the two viewpoints are not contrary to each other, but work together. In his own words, Alex states:

I’ve been encouraging a more holistic approach to art for my students. Traditional ways of making art (drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture) and newer ways of making art(digital painting, 3D rendering, vector drawing, photo-compositing) are not opposed. They are synergistic. Being able to draw well on paper informs your ability to draw well on a computer. Drawing on a computer is a quick way to test an idea that you plan on drawing on paper later. They are all tools used to make the same thing. Art. Students should know the right tool for the right job.  Making art in a variety of mediums changes the way an artist thinks and feels about their work. They get special insight into both their own motivation for making art and how the medium informs the message. I want my students to be challenged intellectually and also technically in their craft. Well rounded.

Keeping this philosophy in mind, Alex set out to create 2 new courses that seemed to oppose each other:

With this in mind I’ve created 2 new courses that are almost diametrically opposed. Computer Graphics 2 and Printmaking. The printmaking course utilizes a traditional etching press and techniques that date back as far as the 15th century. Students will learn how to soak papers, run the press, create acid etchings, relief prints, t-shirts and screen prints. Printmaking is process-oriented and technical. When art student’s hands are busy, interesting things tend to happen with their work. The second course, Computer Graphics 2, builds on the skills developed in Computer Graphics 1 but focuses specifically on making art for kinetic, interactive art; video games.  Students will learn to make 3D models for 3D games using Maya and 2D sprites for 2D games using a variety of programs. Computer art is, by definition hands off. It’s a more intellectual approach to making art with fewer barriers to getting a finished product. Making art on computers often changes the art that students make art by hand. Sometimes the artwork that students make by hand becomes more gestural and messy; a kind of celebration of the lack of control that you have outside of a computer. Sometimes students see digital art as a challenge, an exactness that they should be able to accede or at least mimic with their hands.

When asked how these innovations have affected students, Alex had this to say:

I tend to ask my students to do the same thing in every class. I ask them to make something visually dynamic, intuitively interesting, successful and self-contained. They then proceed to use different tools to make something visually dynamic, intuitively interesting, successful and self-contained. At first, in 2D Design we try and figure out what those things mean. Students have to define those terms and many others terms on their own and test out their ideas by making simple, black and white drawings that they present to the class. As students take other courses like Photography, Computer Graphics or Drawing, the goal is the same but they have to adapt and work with the limitations of that medium. As they work through different mediums they develop preferences for specific tools, they start finding a voice and they are able to more eloquently express themselves both visually and verbally.

We’re very excited to have Alex and his innovative teaching here at Centralia College, and it is with pleasure that we bestow this award to him.

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