FAIRFIELD, Conn. – More than 200 high schools students from several nearby communities were the guests recently at Sacred Heart University’s 20th Art & Design Expo. The brainstorm of Jack de Graffenried, MFA, associate professor of Art & Design, the Expo gives high school art students a chance to view the Sacred Heart student art show and to hear from a guest speaker. This year’s speaker was Connecticut resident and illustrator and designer Wendell Minor.
Minor’s distinctive illustrations have adorned the book covers of a range of well-known authors, including David McCullough, Pat Conroy, Jodi Picoult, Howard Fast, Nora Roberts, Toni Morrison and many more. Even as he encouraged the students to read, he confided that as a student with dyslexia, he did not like to read at all. He said his successful 40-year career as an illustrator surprised him, and he encouraged the young artists not to give up on their dreams. “I was not the best student. I didn’t think I had enough talent to become an artist. I didn’t test well, and I didn’t think I was smart enough,” he said.
As he shared his illustrations with the students, he returned to the same theme again and again – go after your dreams. “I didn’t have great expectations of my life and had no idea I would do what I’ve ended up doing. But I did keep after one thing like a bulldog,” he said. That determination has led to experiences he never dreamed of, including meeting with Pulitzer Prize winners, a collaboration and friendship with astronaut Buzz Aldrin, an honorary doctorate from the University of Connecticut and much more.
He pointed out that the new tools that technology has provided for artists has opened up a world of new possibilities and encouraged the students to master as many of them as they can. “The potential for your future is infinite. Be patient, and take the time to learn and grow,” he advised. “Respect the difference between the analog and digital worlds, and you will successfully balance both.”