NLS graduate wins prestigious art illustration scholarship
Tina Sweep likes her artwork to create a subtle, low-key mood -- "something that makes you look, and then makes you take a second look." The judges for one of the most prestigious scholarships for illustration students must have liked what they s...
Tina Sweep likes her artwork to create a subtle, low-key mood -- "something that makes you look, and then makes you take a second look."
The judges for one of the most prestigious scholarships for illustration students must have liked what they saw in that second look.
In June, Sweep won the $20,000 Zankel Scholar award in its first year. She is about to begin her fourth and final year at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla.
Sweep said she learned in late May that she was a finalist for the award. The four finalists were flown to New York City for full-day interviews with judges.
"I still can't believe it really," she said this week. "I can't quite get my head wrapped around it."
The Zankel scholarship is the top award an illustration student can win, she said.
The recognition she has received through the award has opened doors for her into the illustration community. She has met some of the top people in the industry -- and now they know her.
The scholarship won't pay for her entire senior year at the private school, but other grants and scholarships she has will cover the rest.
Attending Ringling is "one of the best choices I ever made," she said. "Despite the cost, it's working out for me."
Sweep, 26, attended New London-Spicer schools and attended Ridgewater College for her last two years of high school. She also studied at Minnesota State University Akita in Japan for a year and a half.
Her teachers in high school had always told her she should go into illustration, she said. At the time, she wasn't really sure what that meant.
When she came home from Japan, she lived at home and worked at Book World in Willmar. She used that time to research schools, looking for one that would be a good fit for her.
She wanted a school that would be a good one for her education and also have a high placement rate. Ringling School of Art and Design fit the bill for her. Illustration is the largest major at the school, which would not be the case at most schools, and it has a placement rate of 96 percent.
Her parents, David and Debbie Sweep of Spicer, were supportive of her taking "time off" to work and research colleges, she said.
"They knew I'd been artistically oriented from a young age," she said. "They were so supportive. ... I guess I really got to go and prove them right."
Sweep said her education at Ringling has opened her eyes, and she now looks at the world around her in a different way.
"For me, illustration is narrative picture-making," she said. "What I really love to do is take a piece of life around me and make a story from that and represent it visually."
Sweep can list a number of contemporary illustrators whom she admires, but perhaps the best-known illustrator to the American public is Norman Rockwell, whose work was "pure illustration," Sweep said.
People who have studied illustration can work in a variety of fields, including advertising, animation, book illustration or video games. Greeting card companies recruit at Ringling, too.
"For me, I want to do freelance illustration," she said. With her own small business, she will be able to do a wider variety of work and take on jobs that appeal to her, she added.
She's hoping her dad, a businessman, will be able to offer some advice along the way.
Sweep has also prepared herself for the commercial art world by attending The Illustration Academy. The intense summer program at Ringling gives students practical experience with the demands of projects and deadlines. She credits the academy experience for helping her win the Zankel award.
Illustrators, particularly in a time of digital communication, are able to live wherever they want, she said, but she ultimately hopes to live and work in New York. There are more job opportunities there, and she'd like to be part of the community of illustrators working in New York.
Sweep realizes that the dream may come more slowly than she likes, but she feels the Zankel award and the recognition will help her move into the professional world more quickly and smoothly.
"I'm kind of hoping I can be a part of history and make my own name," she said.
More of Sweep's work may be seen on her Web site at www.tinasweep.com