In Department of Design, Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Lectures

R. Gregory Christie, an award-winning illustrator, gave students a glimpse into his career

R. Gregory Christie,

R. Gregory Christie speaks to students about his career and what it takes to be a successful artist. (Justin Kunz)

R. Gregory Christie recently shared the secret to his success — which includes over 60 children’s books and honors like the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King honor and a NAACP Image Award — with BYU students.

Christie’s visit to students was made possible by a partnership between the Department of Design and the Black Student Union (BSU). Design professor David Habben said the collaboration has been a positive experience and that the two groups already have plans for further collaboration.

“It was a fantastic experience for all involved and I can’t speak highly enough about the efforts that the BSU does to provide a place for inclusion and expression for BYU’s black student body,” said Habben. “These students bring a wonderful combination of academic excellence and unique perspectives to our university and community.”

This feeling was echoed by the students who attended Christie’s lecture.

“What I’m most interested in is building a career in illustration, so it’s really cool to see people’s life experiences and learn a little about their style,” said Robert Bogh, a pre-BFA major. “You just get to be a part of the conversation that is art.”

Taran Trinnaman, an English major and member of BSU, also added that Christie’s lecture and the other events the artist hosted on campus.

“It was really cool to see how just a few beginning jobs, random coincidences and a good portfolio led to a connection and that just spawned more and more opportunities and just all these works of art,” said Trinnaman. “It was really inspirational to see that.”

Despite all of his accomplishments, Christie stressed to students that his journey to success hasn’t been easy.

A big part of Christie’s career has been luck; he’s done the right things at the right time in the right place. One of Christie’s biggest projects was doing the animation for “Garrett’s Gift,” a short film that was narrated by Queen Latifah.

“The first time I met [Queen Latifah], she didn’t know me and I didn’t know her. I walked up to her and showed her my work and she said ‘I’m trying to get a drink on’ and I felt so bad,” said Christie, adding that the bravery he had to approach her is what landed him a job later down the road.  

“Go show your art,” Christie told students. “It’s worse in your head than in the reality of life.”

Christie added that in order to be successful, artists need to have at least two of the following: discipline, talent and luck.

However, Christie also added that he’s hopeful for up-and-coming artists, who he says have more advantages than any other generation before them.

“There’s never been a time in the world where you have a megaphone to the world,” said Christie of the power social media and the internet can give young artists. “In these times, you don’t have to go with the system. In a way I feel that this is your world now.”

Christie ended by emphasizing the importance of criticism. “I welcome it; It means I’m actually doing something that’s pushing the envelope,” said Christie. “Not everyone is going to like you.”

He added, “People do not like change . . . Artists either kind of fall in line with what’s already out there, or they do something that’s so strange that the next generation gets it,” said Christie. “And you just have to do art because you love it.”

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