Student work selected for international SIGGRAPH conference
Wednesday, September 13th, 2023
For the fifth consecutive year, work by Pennsylvania College of Art & Design students was accepted into the Faculty Submitted Student Work exhibit at the international SIGGRAPH conference. This professional event, held this year in Los Angeles and marking its 50th anniversary, gathers computer graphics and interactive professionals and educators from around the world.
Senior capstone animated short films by Lauren Antanavage, Adan Harris, Taylor Richardson, and Rachel Sinclair were highlighted during the August conference. All are May 2023 Animation & Game Art BFA graduates of PCA&D.
The conference, says Animation & Game Art chair Natasha Warshawsky, is a “huge highlight for me every year … The research papers and production talks help immensely with my own understanding of the state of the industry,” Warshawsky adds. “It’s the best way to stay current. The knowledge informs how I update my own classes.”
This year, Warshawsky was joined in Los Angeles by Ellie Cochran ’19, another PCA&D faculty member, as well as Taylor Richardson (@candyart57) from the Class of 2023 and Francisco Mandonado ’24, Animation & Game Art. Both Maldonado, who is Chair of PCA&D’s SIGGRAPH student chapter, and Richardson attended as participants in the conference’s Student Volunteer program. In exchange for working at the conference, they are given a free full conference pass, exclusive Student Volunteer events, and networking opportunities. “Even at the very top of the organization,” Warshawsky says, “I have seen Executive Committee members mention they started as SVs and are still connected to friends they made at their first conference.”
‘For us at PCA&D, I think it drives home the importance of the Foundation year. It is so important to master the foundational skills of visual arts …’ — Natasha Warshawsky, AGA Chair
Richardson says access provided by the SV experience was incredibly valuable.
“I got to see DreamWorks break down the creation of Puss In Boots” The Last Wish,” Richardson said in an email. “They showed off their custom shaders, texture maps, and the compositing. I also attended a talk where the developers of God of War demonstrated how to use a PS5 controller with your tongue.”
A four-year member of PCA&D’s SIGGRAPH chapter where she also held two officer positions, Richardson says that chapter experience was a highlight of her academic career.
“The small community I found is what pushed me to finish my degree,” Richardson writes. “I really have to give credit to the student chapter for my growth as an artist, so what motivated me to go to the conference was the support I’ve received as a student, and the potential growth and connections I can make as a professional.”
Building those connections are something Warshawsky and Cochran, too, find rewarding. Warshawsky says new PCA&D adjunct faculty member Panote Nuchprayoon, for example, also attended the conference. And Cochran, a 2019 PCA&D graduate, says those connections “enable me to make sure that my students and I are using the most up-to-date workflows and practices in our work, and plants the seeds for innovative ideas and conversations throughout the next year.”
“It’s one thing to read a textbook or an article about the history of digital art tools and technologies which computer artists and digital creatives use every day,” Cochran continues. “It’s another thing to actually have an opportunity to meet, talk with, and shake the hands of the people who in living memory are responsible for these technologies’ existence. I think it’s easy to forget just how recently digital art became a creative field and this year’s SIGGRAPH conference helped me to put that history into a better perspective.”
A highlight of that experience, Cochran adds, were discussions that centered around how to establish and gain trust in an age of AI generation, higher-than-ever computer usage, and pervasive digital advertising.
“What does it mean to trust an essay, a letter, or something more serious like a piece of critical data or evidence, and how will the methods by which we express trust change over the next few years?” Cochran asks.
Another SIGGRAPH highlight, Warshawsky says, is attending the hugely popular production talks— this year, focused on Spiderverse 2, Nimona, and Puss in Boots. Each of the talks, Warshawsky says, had some recurring themes — emphasis on strong stylized art direction, reduced framerate animation, and other stylized effects, and less emphasis on what is “physically accurate” in favor of matching concept art and moodboard.
“For us at PCA&D,” Warshawsky notes, “I think it drives home the importance of the Foundation year. It is so important to master the foundational skills of visual arts because it carries through every part of the process. Even the super-technical jobs must be motivated by an aesthetically pleasing image.”
To watch short animated films by students whose work screened at SIGGRAPH23, click on their names below: