Professor Wins International Illustration Awards

Published: September 28, 2018 | Author: Parker Rawlins | Read Time: 2 minutes

Professor Hala SwearingenHala Swearingen, assistant professor of illustration at Southern Utah University, recently received recognition for her pieces “Jackie Paper” and “Little Flowers” in the 2017 Hiii Illustration competition. Hosted by the company Hiiibrand, the international online art competition is open to all illustrators and creative professionals, as well as students and teachers around the world.

Swearingen believes that for illustrators, one of the best ways to promote their work is to submit artwork into annual competitions. “I tell my students that if you don’t enter, you will never get in,” she said. 

A few years ago Swearingen came across the Hiii Illustration competition and was drawn to it because of the excellent reputations of the jury members. She first entered in 2015 and got a piece in as “Best of the Best” (Top 10). This year, with 1329 entries from more than 50 countries and regions around the world, Swearingen walked away with two awards for her pieces “Jackie Paper” and “Little Flowers”.

When speaking of her process in creating these art pieces, Swearingen said that paper sculpture is an “experimental” process. Each piece taking approximately 100 hours to complete.  

“You try things, and then try again,” she said. “There are a few fundamental techniques, but after that, it’s all inventive. The building process is fun, but always full of an underlying anxiety. Just one drop of glue or one wrong move and the whole thing is fit for the trash.”

Hala Sweringen's book puff magic dragon“‘Jackie Paper’ started out as a dragon character I designed for a coloring page years ago,” she said. “I felt like it was too cool to end there. I added a bit of story and made it Jackie Paper's magic dragon Puff.”

Now a paper sculpture of a girl in a mushroom forest holding a moss flower, “Little Flowers” began as a sketch of a bug in a patch of mushrooms. “Once I sculpted the mushroom background, it was just so intriguing that I decided I needed to do more with the piece,” explains Swearingen. “Again, I added the story; a tiny girl daydreams while picking moss flowers amidst a tiny mushroom forest.”

Swearingen said that while she enjoys some parts of the creative process along the way, her favorite part is having the final piece in her hands. “I created these two pieces to prove to myself that I could be a paper sculptor,” she said. "I am a trained painter, not a paper engineer."

Swearingen’s advice to aspiring artists who want to break into the illustration industry professionally is to first, master your craft. “Practice making art until you can make art that is professional in quality,” she said. “Then create a portfolio of exactly the kind of work you want to be paid for and promote it to exactly those people who will want to publish it or buy it.”

Read more information about SUU's Illustration program.

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