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Monday
Sep192011

The Common Thread: Sue Coe

This fall I began teaching a 4th year grad class at Sheridan titled “The Common Thread”.

The class is designed to teach students to become the curators of their own work - because knowing and understanding the relationship between their interests and their art will help them to create consistency throughout their work.  A common thread that holds it together.

The approach is to create a series of Illustrations that draw on each student’s individual interests, impulses, influences, and inspirations with a consistency and depth that will enable art directors to recognize their potential as creative partners.

Each class starts with an examination of a relevant artist’s work and a discussion of what seems to have fed their interests, and how that is reflected in their work.

The first artist that we looked at was Sue Coe. I chose her because she influenced me as a young artist.

Dorothy Day, Esquire, 1983,artwork images are the copyright of the artist. 

Just to put the time in some kind of context- it was the late 70’s. Toronto’s punk movement was still in high gear and I was at OCA which at the time was near the epicentre of the movement in Toronto - Queen Street West. Some of us became aware of a new brand of illustration that was crossing the pond from England that was rough and raw and perfect for the time. It was so different from what we were being exposed to through the instruction at OCA and what we were seeing in the familiar publications where illustration was being used.

Sue Coe was one the new breed. Her work was raw, dark and nakedly straightforward. It didn’t involve any airbrush (very popular at the time) or fancy line work, no Vargas-type girls or references to Norman Rockwell. Her influences went farther back to Goya, Kollwitz and Dix.  It attracted my attention because it was just so different and it was being published in magazines like Esquire, The New York Times, Mother Jones, The Villiage Voice and Saturday Night Magazine, to name just a few.

I kept me eye on her and over the course of a couple of years I started to notice the “Thread”. Her work reflected issues that were important to her - poverty, animal rights, politics and the plight of victims with AIDS. The way she addressed these concerns in her work was even more impressive. It was unabashed, naked and true. So exciting. I wanted to do work like that. I even tried
.

Strike, Mother Jones Magazine, 1979 - artwork images are the copyright of the artist. 
 
President Raygun Takes a Hot Bath, The Village Voice, 1984 - artwork images are the copyright of the artist. 

Let Them Eat Cake, Mother Jones, 1984artwork images are the copyright of the artist.

 Vivisection, 1979 - artwork images are the copyright of the artist. 

After graduation I attended the School of Visual arts in NYC and had the luck to meet Sue at a studio visit. I worked up the confidence to ask her if I could come back on my own and show her my portfolio. She graciously agreed to have me come back. I honestly can’t remember the details of the conversation, but decided to remember her advice to do work that meant something to me.
Sandra Dionisi

 

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