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Alumni News

Lorraine Tuson

Frank Newfeld: Legacy of pushing the limit

October 28, 2015

By Lorraine Tuson (Illustration, Interpretive, 1984)
Professor, Illustration, Sheridan College

The first class I had with Frank Newfeld left my brain exploding. He was challenging all our preconceived ideas and I was thrilled. I went back to my basement studio stumped in a good way! I knew nothing about Frank at this point except I had met someone whose class I was probably never going to miss if I could help it.

The course was called Conceptual Process and it was there that he introduced the “Personality in a Box” assignment. The task involved a non-traditional portrait of a well-known person and we were to integrate the idea of the box element also. I remember my friend's solution to this problem which was a fabulous, poetic, and mysterious interpretation of E.E. Cummings, contained in a crate lit from inside. Mine, on the other hand, was a tragic solution to David Bowie. A failed sculpture with two different coloured eyes bought from a craft store. This assignment remains close to my heart as it has turned into an amusing anecdotal story that I share with my students about how badly one can mess up and still survive. "There is not one of you who can make mistakes any worse or ridiculous than mine," I tell them. Then I invite them to prove me wrong.

There was never a question in my mind that I would major in Book Illustration and Design in my last year. I would be guaranteed to have Frank teaching. He brought in his published, original illustrations, the pen and ink and scratchboard pieces that he had become very well known for. His Grasshopper illustration always stayed with me and I recall many students trying to emulate his style. Of course, we saw Alligator Pie and originals from that book.

Frank would talk about the rhythms inherent in book design, the relationship between image and type, hierarchies and flow. His assignments were varied and challenging and his critiques pointed, perceptive and always peppered with his wit. Graduation year, the class bought Frank a bow tie to add to his collection; I don't know if I ever saw him without one.

I went on to work in a large publishing company, putting what I had learned into practice, and for many of those years was the art director, directing a team of designers and working with many freelance illustrators and photographers.

When Frank retired, I designed and hand-bound an enormous book with woven signatures and asked faculty to create an original piece of art that would be tipped in by me. Everyone was on board. The book was stored in a matching box that I made and presented to him at the end-of-year show.

Frank’s focus on the challenge of ideas and the art of illustration continue as central themes in Sheridan’s Bachelor of Illustration program today.

Frank Newfeld is a former faculty member and Head of Illustration at Sheridan. He became a Member of the Order of Canada in September 2015.

Learn more about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Illustration program