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Welcome to Otis College.

My name is Linda Hudson and I'm the Chair of the Foundation Department. I’m looking forward to meeting you soon.

Linda Hudson

You are joining a unique community of artists and designers in Los Angeles—a wonderfully culturally-diverse city that is home to a mix of peoples and languages from all over the world. While immersed in all there is to do at the college, in your classes and beyond, you’ll also be using Los Angeles as a Learning lab.

The college is in the midst of creating a huge celebration of our 100th year of educating artists and designers. It’s fabulous that you’ll be here to celebrate with us. 

The bonds formed through the experiences of art school build friendships that last a life time. As you move through your four years at Otis College and into your professional career, know you can count on the college, your faculty, and your friends far into the future.

This summer as you prepare for this exciting new chapter in your academic life, here are some ideas and activities to start you thinking like an Otis College Art and Design student.

None of these suggestions are required, but I remember waiting for art school to begin and thought you’d like to have a head start!

1. Draw a lot - the more frequently you draw, the faster your drawings will improve.

Two female students drawing in the park
  1. Quietly observe a single familiar object such as a plant, a cup, a chair, or any ordinary object. 
  2. Pretend you are describing this object (without using the name) to a friend on the phone. How much detail will it take to describe it until a picture of the object forms in your friend’s mind
  3. Now that you’ve really SEEN this object, draw it. Don’t worry if your drawings are not perfect, that’s not actually the point of this exercise! These drawings are about learning to see and to focus.

2. Take photographs and take more!

Pretend you can only take five images of an object, scene, or person. You already know that choosing what to leave out of a photo is just as important as deciding on what to leave in! So, slow down, look carefully, and consider several possible compositions. Now, take the five photographs and ask yourself which one you'd save.  See if you can spot the visual choices you made that are most effective. Knowing what makes a photo special helps you understand more about your visual choices.

3. Visit museums - practice your noticing skills.

It isn’t necessary (or even expected) that you “like” what is currently being exhibited. The goal is to be curious about what is being shown, how it's presented, and even a little bit about why. No matter what kind of museum you visit, go as an artist/designer/urban anthropologist.

students in museum
students in museum

Is there is a tour? Take it!

  • Did you learn or notice something you wouldn’t otherwise have seen? Before you leave, write a few notes, think about what you saw.
  • What object/images/experiences ‘stuck’ with you?
  • Can you still describe them the next day? In a week?
  • See how long you can keep this visual memory alive.
  • Do you want to go back? If so, perhaps bring a friend this time, give them a personalized tour.

You might want to also look at the design of the exhibition i.e. the graphics on the walls, the catalog, the layout of the show. Every single thing you see, someone designed. Exhibition designers lead visitors through the show, often using color, temporary walls, and graphics. Exhibition design has a lot in common with designing retail space. For instance, the store designers of IKEA want to be certain that shoppers see everything, so we put lots of stuff in their blue bags. In an art or design exhibition, the curators want us to see every work in the best order and situation possible. Did the designers of the exhibition you visited do a good job? What would you have done if you were in charge of designing this exhibition?

museum sketch
museum sketch
museum sketch
museum sketch

4. Watch movies, read books, and explore the world.

When artists/designers see movies, we consider how the visual details (color, light, set design…) affect the viewer’s response. It takes some practice to concentrate on the narrative of the film AND pay attention to the sensory cues at work, but it’s a skill all creative producers develop! Here are some films with curious and compelling visuals that are fun to consider from an art and design perspective. 

The Shape of the Water
The Grand Budapest Hotel
La La Land
Won't You Be My Neighbor

Now books we think you'd like

Reading, like seeing, is another way to practice noticing. Kerri Steinberg, interim Liberal Arts and Science (LAS) Chair, and faculty from the LAS and Foundation Departments, helped put together a list of favorite books to kickstart your imagination before classes begin.

Hit Makers by Derek Thompson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Ship It by Britta Lundin
A Light in the Dark by Marla K. Benjamin
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee
Head On by John Scalzi

5. Do more noticing, everything and everywhere.

Artists and designers view the world differently and have widely different interests. Check out these practicing artists and their work:

Read a book about our planet or some other issues important to you. We want to know what you care about.

Better Living Through Criticism by A.O. Scott
The Global Forest - 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Have a great summer.

Looking forward,

Linda Hudson
Chair of Foundation