To Melanie Reim, acting associate dean of FIT’s School of Art and Design, illustration isn’t only about drawing, it’s about thinking. “When you draw something, you really infuse your opinion about it,” she says. “It’s about thinking and assessing what’s important and how to put that in the forefront of your picture.”
Here are 10 other things we were surprised to learn about Reim’s work and career:
1. She was honored with the Society of Illustrators 2018 Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award in May, of which she said, “So many of my teachers have been recognized before, so to be on the shoulders of them is just startling and amazing.” She is also on the board of directors at the Society of Illustrators, as education chair.
2. Reim loves to document events whenever she can (such as the Women’s March in Washington, rallies, gatherings, etc.), and she works fast—the more people, the better. During graduate school, she studied with an animator, and then took workshops at Disney World in Florida and in various locations in New York. “At Disney, we had to draw 100 people a day before we walked through the gates, which is how I got to draw people so fast. I don’t like speaking in crowds, I don’t like big parties, but you put me in the middle of a demonstration and everything else gets zoned out. I feed on it.”
3. Reim loves drawing the figure and loves teaching it to students. “And that leads to everything else,” she says. “I don’t care if you’re going to be a magazine designer or a packaging designer; if you have experience drawing the figure, [then you have] the greatest understanding of shapes and against shape and layout.”
4. But if you know her, don’t ask her to draw you. “My drawings are not pretty,” she says. “No matter how elegant a line I try to draw, that’s just not me. It’s guttural and dirty. I don’t like to draw people I know—it always turns into an awkward moment.”
5. She was trained as a K-12 educator. “I wanted to come to an art school in the city, but my parents thought that was too ‘crazy,’” she recalls. “Instead, they insisted, I should pursue a teaching degree, something to fall back on.”
6. Reim has been teaching at the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design in the Dominican Republic for the past 17 years, and received a Fulbright Grant in 2006 to teach illustration there and to guide them through curriculum and assessment structures. “I couldn’t speak a lick of Spanish,” she recalls. “I learned how to say ‘nice to meet you’ and ‘turn your pelvis’ so I could speak to the model. But I think the liberty in that intensive environment has fueled what I’ve brought to FIT and vice versa.”
7. Reim’s documentary work is part of the Air Force Art Collection in the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and is featured in several books about drawing and illustration, including Art of Urban Sketching. And her work has appeared in many solo and group exhibitions, including last year’s Another Woman’s Life at Nassau Community College.
8. A few years ago, she helped students found the Urban Sketchers club at FIT. “Having them understand that these drawings in their sketchbooks can become published work, that’s really important.”
9. Come September, Reim will be an artist in residence at the Cincinnati Zoo, and one of her drawings will appear as a banner in New York City in the Garment District—she was one of 90 selected from an open contest.
10. Her favorite medium is a Pelican 200 cartridge fountain pen.