R Studio and Students in Minted’s State of the Art Challenge

Minted artists are incredibly supportive of each other; they critique each others’ work, give suggestions, celebrate others’ wins, and often become good friends. Many see Minted as a type of “design school” and a valuable source for learning and inspiration. So it’s very fitting that we’re writing today about a Minted relationship that incorporates education on a whole new level! Longtime Mintie Renée Stevens of R Studio is a professor at SUNY Oswego in upstate New York. We were so happy and flattered to hear that last semester, she encouraged her graphic design students to submit their artwork to Minted’s State of the Art Challenge.

In a challenge with an incredible 1,044 art submissions, two of Renée’s students won Minted Editors’ Pick prizes! “The Mess” by Emily Hinckley and “Townie” by Melissa will both be up for sale on Minted.com soon. We see Minted as an artistic community, first and foremost, and nothing makes us happier than seeing artists take a risk and learn through the challenge process.

Emily, Renée, and Melissa

 We were lucky enough to get to hear from Emily, Renée, and Melissa about their Minted experiences and about the inspiration for their work.

Tell us about why you encouraged your students to submit.

Renée: The students are both Sophomores in the Graphic Design program at SUNY Oswego, up on Lake Ontario in New York.  I assigned the Art challenge as extra credit to the student in my Type and Image class. I explained my connection to Minted, and it also corresponded with my Minted visit this past October, so they knew where I was, and what I was doing, and also what I learned while I was away. We went over the Challenge, how to download the templates, and I offered students feedback as they prepared their submissions. I also sent the links of their submissions out to the wonderful community of Minties during the Critique phase so that they could get feedback from them as well.

What inspires you to teach the next generation?

Renée: They do. Each and every student I have is what inspires me to keep teaching. The most rewarding thing to me is that moment when you are working with a student and you see the spark, that they understand what you have been talking about, and from that point on, their perspective as a designer has changed. Knowing I had a small part in that is what makes my job not feel like work at all. I love that I am able to pass on what I know and love to others. My grandfather was an amazing Professor, and I have always aspired to be like him. He taught me that the best teachers are the ones where the students don’t even realize that they are learning. That is my teaching philosophy. If I am having fun, chances are my students are too, and that is how learning should be. Especially in the field of visual communication that I teach. I am fortunate to have a nice balance between being able to create on my own, and then to step into a classroom and help inspire the next generation of students. And to be perfectly honest, they teach me a lot too. They keep me up to date on what movies to watch, news events, trends, and always blow me away with the way they think and push the boundaries in their work.

What inspires your work?

Emily: Trying to figure out life as a young adult makes its way into my work through visuals and text. I’m really inspired by mixed media artists including Pam Garrison and Sabrina Ward Harrison. I love incorporating textures into my pieces, so small papers and other hand-touched (typically paper) objects can be found embedded in paintings, especially if they have personal meaning.

(The Mess features a handwritten envelope addressed to me from my grandfather, as well as a print of e.e.cummings’ poem “i love you much (most beautiful darling)”)

I strive to put positive statements in my art, simply because I personally intend to display it, so I’m also heavily inspired by positive mantras and words of wisdom I stumble across through reading, music, or other mediums.

Melissa: I have always found the “downtown” or “city” scene really interesting and intriguing and when I came across this view, I just had to take a picture of it.  In the original picture you’re able to see and recognize the names of the different buildings and stores and I wanted to distort that, to make the viewer question a well known space.

Renée: Being a graphic designer and photographer, I am a very visual person, so I am inspired by the things that I see all around me on a day-to-day basis. I love to be outside and I find a lot of inspiration there, from walking in the woods, to gardening, to being in my kayak on the water. My surroundings really inspire my work. I always tell my students to take a different path to their next destination when leaving class on the days I assign new projects, as I believe that new and fresh surrounding help spark creativity. Being a new mother, I find I spend a lot more time on the floor, this has inspired me to see the same things from a different perspective (and also makes me realize I need to vacuum more!) Another place I find my inspiration is in music. I always have music on when I am designing, and I find when looking back at my work that I can hear that song in my head.

How did it feel when you learned you had won an Editors’ Pick?

Emily: I was completely shocked but immediately so happy! It’s a crazy rush to have your work validated like this. I shared the news with everyone I was with & then called my family and friends who helped me out by voting for my piece on Minted. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to get my work out there on a larger scale, rather than just school related events.

Melissa: I was actually really shocked when I found out that I won, let alone won editors pick.  I feel very honored to be chosen by the editors of minted.  It feels good to know that although my art work wasn’t a favorite of the voters, that someone else thinks it’s great.

Any parting thoughts, general impressions, or advise for others?

Emily: This experience has been really rewarding. I’m so glad Renée introduced our class to Minted and encouraged us to submit pieces for this challenge. Melissa and I are definitely indebted to her for that. To see that my personal work is good enough to win an Editor’s Pick in a contest like this, against many others, is the validation that every artist looks for, and it’s also the motivation every young artist needs to keep at it.

Melissa: I found it extremely helpful that when submitting files that the directions were very clear and straightforward and that templates were provided to make sure file sizes were correct.  I also appreciate how the designers of minted as well as the editors have a say in who wins, to give a variety of opinions.  Although the process was time consuming, like anything else, it was also very simple and I would encourage anyone to try it!

Renée:  As a Professor, it is my challenge to instill passion into my students, and that is why I wanted to encourage my students to enter this Art Challenge with Minted. The more real-world experiences they have as a student the more they will have an understanding of their future career, but also the more passion they will have towards their work. Having an opportunity to have their work seen and critiqued by the Minted community is an invaluable experience that I am glad that they were able to have. I am so proud that two of them had the experience to have their work selected, and I think that also inspires their classmates as well. I have been a part of the Minted community since 2009, and I am happy to be able to pass that on to all my students. I never pass up an opportunity to teach, especially when they don’t even realize they are learning.

  1. Carrie ONeal

    Congrats Renée!! What an awesome accomplishment for your students! I know you’re incredibly proud, as you should be. I wish I had a Professor like you-back in the day…but I’m even happier to have you as a friend. So thrilled for you.

  2. This story embodies all that is good about Minted. So inspiring. Congrats to all 3 of them.

  3. Kim Dietrich Elam

    Great post! Congratulations to all of you and welcome to Minted! Great job, Renee.

  4. Mary Jo

    Beautiful art in such different ways. What a nice recognition to start your art careers. Best of luck Emily and Melissa.