Prof. Robert Young’s ‘Dog in a Cowboy Hat’ lesson turns into a zine and exhibition

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Thursday, November 10th, 2022

Dogs wearing cowboy hats, a whimsical example used in the classroom by Illustration Chair Robert Young, have been imagined into reality and have taken over the first-floor CORE Gallery… all thanks to a summer project by Class of 2023 Illustration majors. 

The dogs are customers in saloons, howling campfire songs, appearing out of dreams, creating chaos with cats, swimming in pools, hanging out at the ranch, and so much more.

But let’s back up a bit first, to look at how this canine show hit campus. 

The zine: “Dog in a Cowboy Hat.”

Young uses the image of dogs in cowboy hats as a way to show the difference between a limiting approach of an illustrator treated as a hired hand in which the artist is merely an extension of the client — and a more contemporary and sustainable approach, in which the illustrator collaborates with a client “as an integral part of the problem-solving process for both concept and content,” Young explains. “If there is a dog with a cowboy hat on it (in this situation), it is coming from a joint effort between the client and illustrator.”

In other words: when a client asks you for an illustration of a dog with a cowboy hat, collaboration is key. 

Senior Illustration major Kendall White and the rest of her cohort were well-versed in their professor’s “canines in cowboy hats” example. So she said a group decided to put together a zine over the summer, using any Illustration senior who wished to take part, as a gift for Young. “I’ve wanted to do a zine or large collaborative project with my class for a while,” White says, adding the goal “was do to it over the summer since we did not have to worry about other class deadlines.” An email was sent out, a Discord was created so they could communicate about the project, and nearly a dozen seniors dug into their imagination and pulled out cowboy hat-wearing dogs: dreamy, playful, grizzled, weary, or fierce, the only common element is that they’re all wearing wide-brimmed Western hat tugged on over (or around) their floppy ears. 

But the zine, they decided, wasn’t enough. “Not only would (a show) look good on everyone’s CVs,” White says, “but it was a way to show students that they can hold group shows. Sometimes I think we are limited as students, but we are able to host shows and work on projects together.”

Once everyone’s images were gathered, White laid them out in InDesign. Fellow senior Veronica Camp made extra assets like a tattered paper texture and small design elements. “After the file was laid out I just sent it off to Blurb and the rest is history!” White says. 

Dog in a Cowboy Hat is open in the CORE Gallery through the end of the semester. Artists in the exhibition include Shannon Bray, Veronica Camp, Sami Halfpenny, Xenon Honchar, Paige Mosher, Alexis Oldt, Mandi Powell, Josh Samuelson, Hunter Snider, Jasmyn Stokes, and Kendall White.