Chris Payne named as Program Director

We are pleased to announce Chris Payne as the new Program Director. “C. F. Payne” has been one of the country’s most prominent illustrators for over thirty years and been recognized with two of the Society of Illustrators’ highest honors, The Distinguished Educator In The Arts Award in 2012 and the Hamilton King Award in 1995. Payne was also the recipient of the Georgette and Richard Koopman Distinguished Chair in the Visual Arts by the University of Hartford in 2012-13.

Payne’s work has received numerous Gold and Silver Medal Awards from the Society of Illustrators of New York and Los Angeles, Communication Arts, Step-by-Step Graphics, Print, How, the Society of Publication Designers and the National Cartoonists Society. His clients include Time Magazine, the U.S. Postal Service, Rolling Stone, GQ, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, MAD Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Campbell’s Soup, Super Bowl and World Series programs, Money Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Cincinnati Reds, Boys’ Life, The New Yorker, and regular features for Reader’s Digest.  He has illustrated twenty children’s books including those by celebrity authors John Lithgow, Steve Martin and Astronaut Mark Kelly, and his picture books have been on the New York Times bestseller list. Payne’s work is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and he has regularly lectured and exhibited his work across the United States.

Payne has served as Illustration Department Co-Chair at the Columbus College of Art and Design and was recognized with the title of “Professor of Distinction” by that institution. Payne was also a founding board member of the ICON Illustration Conference, served as president of the Cincinnati Art Directors Club, and he chaired both the Society of Illustrators 38th Annual Competition and the Society of Illustrators Museum Committee.

The Hartford Art School’s MFA in Illustration program was founded by internationally renowned illustrator
 Murray Tinkelman and his wife Carol in 2006.  Through their combined efforts as Director and Program Manager, the program gained national prominence and established a low residency model that other graduate programs would follow at the university. Payne taught in Tinkelman’s low residency programs at Syracuse and Hartford since 1991 and is committed to honoring and upholding the high standard of excellence that the Tinkelmans established at the University of Hartford. 


Susannah Strong (class of 2015) Awarded $25,000 Fellowship

Susannah Strong (class of 2015) was one of four chosen recipients of the Rhode Island Foundation's MacColl Johnson Fellowship. She was selected from about 200 applicants by a panel of four out-of-state jurors who are practicing writers and editors, and is the first graphic novelist to win.

"The fellowships provide $25,000 awards, allowing recipients the freedom to concentrate on their art. The money helps them take time off from work to write, rent studio space for the solitude needed in their work, pay for workshops, head off in new directions. There are probably as many uses as artists."

"Susannah Strong's debut graphic novel, "Moth," is the story of twin sisters who are separated when a tragic fire in a circus tent kills their parents. Worse yet, the girls, through an accident, caused the fire. They must grow up apart, individually dealing with the loss and their fault in it.
"I am drawn to the peculiar and uncanny, both in literature and in the visual arts," says Strong, 47, of Exeter, who draws graphic novels and comics. "When not certain what to make of something, I enter a state of wonder and curiosity.
"Likewise, I hope to lead my readers into worlds that are both uncomfortable and strangely familiar. ... If my work inspires readers to wonder, to ask questions, and to reflect upon the human condition, I consider that the highest personal and professional success."
Strong, a native of Houston and a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, took the long road to the job of graphic novelist.
In her 20s and 30s, Strong, who earned a master's of visual arts from the University of London's Goldsmiths College and won the Murray Tinkelman Illustration Award while getting an MFA at Hartford Art School, was a visual artist who worked on sculptural and installation pieces for museums, galleries and alternative display spaces. Her work included multimedia installations and even full-room presentations with sculptures, drawing, videos and digital sound.
"In the case of the rooms, I created solitary environments in which the viewer became the object, implicated in the meaning of the work through the act of participation," she writes in an email interview. "One of the enclosed rooms I built within a gallery space contained a six-foot-high rectangular trough of peat, topped with live sod. The effect upon opening the door and entering was one of walking into one's own grave."
But while enjoying her work, she tired of creating pieces that were only available for short periods, and only to those who came to check out the exhibit.
In her 30s, she started concentrating on work that was "more accessible," she says. While she extended her visual work deeper into the world of words, she realized narrative was always a strong part of her work. And while a visual artist, she wrote regularly, compiling as many "journals packed with writing as I have sketchbooks full of drawings."
Some of her favorite graphic novels are "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, "The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch" by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and Frans Masereel's "Passionate Journey," done in woodcut in 1919 and, she says, one of the earliest examples of contemporary graphic novels. Among comics and strips, she cites Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo in Slumberland," George Herriman's "Krazy Kat," and Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes."
With the Rhode Island Foundation fellowship, Strong is reducing her course load at Salve Regina University, where she is an assistant professor of art, as she finishes "Moth" and finds more time to send it around to publishers. She is also working on several short comics.
"... I am in the emergent stages of finding my voice in this medium," she says. "Fortunately, this is the nature of the fellowship's intention — to allow emerging creatives to develop and strengthen their work. ... I have the feeling that where I end up in this novel might not look anything like where I currently sit with it."
To view some of Strong's work, go to"

Read the full article here.



Food Fortunes


Congratulations to class of 2016's Josh LaFayette on the release of Food Fortunes, published by Chronicle Books. Josh worked at a tireless, accelerated pace, completing over 80 illustrations in a short time...and it is certainly reflected in the quality of the finished product. Josh wrote about the development of the project and how it relates to his experience in the program: 

"My original idea for the food-based tarot came about as part of a daily drawing project I was doing in 2013. I thought it would be a clever way to poke fun at the mysticism in tarot by suggesting that “The Universe” was telling the viewer to eat pizza. I really had no strong concept aside from “tarot but food.”

I did about 10 of those food-as-tarot illustrations for myself in 2013/2014 and brought them in as my main focus for Alice “Bunny” Carter and Dennis Nolan’s “Dream Assignment” class. Bunny and Dennis really pushed me and helped me expand what each illustration could be and what they could all mean together. They truly shook the foundation of what I thought the project should be. Within months of that class, an editor at Chronicle Books reached out to see if I had anything that I was looking to publish. After collecting myself from the floor and subduing my zealous shouting to a low, joyous murmur, I was able to send Chronicle the work that I’d done with Bunny and Dennis. Long story short, they loved it :)

The project morphed a bit as I worked with Chronicle, but the core of what Bunny and Dennis taught me made it all possible. Dennis continued to help along the way, and I got great feedback, direction, and lessons from my thesis advisor, Bill Thompson, as well as infinite support and critiques from my classmates that really made these cards the best versions of themselves.

I entered the Low Residency MFA in Illustration program feeling self-conscious about referring to myself as “an illustrator,” but with this project alone—and the lessons learned from the professors and students along the way—I know I’m an illustrator now, and I don’t mind telling you!"

Food Fortunes is available here.



In Memoriam: Murray and Carol Tinkelman

While we continue to mourn the loss of our program's founding power-duo, Barabara Steinberger, Director of Internal Communication, published a fitting tribute to Murray an Carol via the University's UNotes Daily:

"Internationally renowned illustrator Murray Tinkelman, creator and director of the prestigious Low Residency MFA in Illustration program at the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School (HAS), died on Jan. 29. His wife, Carol, who was the former program manager for the MFA in Illustration, passed away just a few weeks earlier.

Together, Murray and Carol Tinkelman made the University’s MFA in Illustration a prominent and highly regarded program attracting top illustrators from around the country. “Alumni from the program have received national illustration awards and have gone on to teach illustration at colleges and universities around the world,” HAS Dean Nancy Stuart wrote in a letter to HAS faculty, staff, and board members announcing Murray Tinkelman's death.

The program that the Tinkelmans started in 2006 has served as the model for other low residency MFA programs at the Hartford Art School. Carol Tinkelman retired last year, and Murray Tinkelman had planned to retire in June 2016.

“All of us are deeply saddened by the deaths of Murray and Carol Tinkelman,” said University of Hartford President Walter Harrison. “They brought the Low Residency MFA in Illustration program to the University and the Hartford Art School, managed its transition with skill, and established it as one of the most exciting and dynamic graduate programs of the University. They were beloved by their students.

“In my mind, they were inseparable,” Harrison added. “Murray was the program’s inspirational leader—he was one of the most highly respected illustrators in the world—and Carol kept everything humming. They were both very important figures within the Hartford Art School and the University, and deeply valued friends and colleagues among their students throughout the world.”

Murray Tinkelman had a long and distinguished career in illustration. In 2013 he was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, joining legendary artists such as Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Maurice Sendak, and Charles Schulz. The Society of Illustrators also recognized Tinkelman with the Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award in 1999; at the time, he was only the third person to be recognized for his teaching excellence and contributions to education. More recently, the Norman Rockwell Museum honored Tinkelman with its 2014 Artist Laureate Award and celebrated his work and career with an exhibition.

Prior to his appointment at the University of Hartford, Tinkelman was on the faculty at Parsons School of Design and Syracuse University. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design in 2013.

HAS Professor of Illustration Bill Thomson has known Murray Tinkelman both as a colleague and as an inspirational teacher and mentor. As a student at Syracuse University in the fall of 1982, Thomson took Tinkelman's "Introduction to Illustration" course. "Taking that one class determined the course of my entire life," Thomson said.

"Murray was a living legend in the field of illustration. While his recognition for his extraordinary artistic talent and accomplishments were richly deserved, Murray was so much more than that," Thomson added. "On a personal level, Murray was the father of my illustration career and I loved him so very much. Words seem so inadequate to describe what he meant to me and so many others.

"He blended his vast knowledge of illustration with a genuine love for his students to change all of our lives for the better. While his loss is a tremendous blow to all of us, Murray's influence will live on through each of his students in the work we do."

Professor of Painting Power Boothe, who served as dean of the Hartford Art School from 2001 to 2010, helped the Tinkelmans start the Low Residency MFA in Illustration program at UHart, along with Thomson and several other faculty and administrators.

“They (the Tinkelmans) were an extraordinary team,” Boothe said. “Together they created an astonishing MFA program in Illustration at the Hartford Art School. Carol was the Mom, she oversaw the details and welcomed every student with open arms, and Murray was the visionary, as well as 'spiritual leader.' Together they led a program that became the envy of other universities across the country.

“What could not be duplicated, however, was how they lived their lives; art for them was more than a profession—it was a way of life,” Boothe added.  “Every one of us who worked with Carol and Murray, and especially those who had the good fortune to be students, were changed forever by knowing them. With their absence, the world is a much poorer place.”


The Walt Disney Family Museum Appoints Alice A. Carter and Courtney Granner as New Education Co-Directors

Congratulations to Alice "Bunny" Carter and Courtney Granner, longtime friends of our program, who have been appointed as co-directors for the Walt Disney Family Museum's education department!

Ms. Carter is one of our summer contact period faculty members and Mr. Granner has been a guest presenter in our San Francisco contact periods. Also during our trips to the Bay area, the two have invited our students to their home to view their extensive illustration collection. Their appreciation for illustration history and illustration education is admirable and contageous. 

Click here to view the press-release posted by the museum. All the best on their new positions!


Fuzzy Baseball



John Steven Gurney (class of 2017) will have his first graphic novel for young readers published via Papercutz this May! Check out the website for his book.

"Fuzzy Baseball is John Steven Gurney's first graphic novel for young readers. It tells the story of The Fernwood Valley Fuzzies and their quest to finally defeat the dreaded Rocky Ridge Red Claws. The action packed story is full of humor, and in the end the reader might actually learn a few things about baseball strategy.

John is the author and illustrator of the picture book Dinosaur Train, and he is the illustrator of over 140 chapter books, including The A to Z Mysteries and The Bailey School Kids."




University Feature on Christine Kornacki

Class of 2016 student, Christine Kornacki is featured on the University of Hartford's homepage, with a great article profiling her journey as an illustrator.