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Generating Graphic Designs

A visit with Deborah Huelsbergen, Associate Professor, Art Department

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: teaching illustration art torn paper identity

In an office immersed in brilliant lime green and blue, Deborah Huelsbergen sits in front of her computer screen, with its Fruitloops screen saver, digging through boxes to pull out examples of her artwork. An associate professor of art and graphic design at Mizzou, Huelsbergen highlights two recent projects--both illustrated children’s books. Up close the illustrations reveal the painstaking nature of Huelsbergen’s work, which involves tearing paper into tiny pieces and then re-assembling them into two-dimensional, textured, colorful pictures. The result is a set of stunning illustrations that compel the eye to examine the minute level of detail. Huelsbergen admits that she doesn't like to do things "the easy way." Instead, she relishes the time-consuming "hand work" of this style of graphic design.

While Huelsbergen's artwork in the areas of digital printmaking and artist books has won many awards and appeared in numerous national and international exhibitions, there is still a profoundly applied nature to it that benefits a great many people. Her artistic philosophy centers on helping individuals and organizations. She regularly works to develop logos and brochures for nonprofit organizations (especially those relating to child welfare). For example, she annually helps The 52nd Street Project in New York City by designing their publications for children’s plays, she developed an identity logo for a camp serving terminally ill children, and she is currently working with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, designing over 200 illustrations for a game titled "Let’s Make a Missouri Meal" that will be used in upcoming children’s programming.

As Huelsbergen talks—so openly and candidly—it is easy to imagine the impact of her upbeat personality and altruistic philosophy on students in her graphic design and calligraphy classes. She emphasizes the necessity of developing trust in her classrooms, that students must feel safe taking risks without fear of judgment. This kind of classroom environment fuels creative exploration for nascent artists far beyond "the grade as goal." Huelsbergen's investment in teaching and her dedication to students have been recognized by many. She has been nominated for several teaching awards and received the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in 2003. She currently serves as the director of undergraduate studies for the Art Department and is beginning a collaboration with Assistant Professor Ric Wilson, with help from an ET@MO grant, to develop a system for art students to make their portfolios available online for potential employers.