Baylor Art Student Brings a Poem to Life (Part I)

Charles Guittard and Grace Daniel

Introduction by Charles Guittard (BA ’64):

On Dec. 29, 2017, the final piece of a three-department collaboration (art, history and English) was put into place: Baylor senior art student Grace Elizabeth Daniel handed off her draft illustrations to UPS. December 31 was the deadline for Grace to earn a bonus for completing her first professional assignment, the illustration of a short poem I authored. The poem, “A Ph.D.’s Reverie,” tells the story of my grandfather, the late Frank Guittard, who migrated from Ohio to Texas in 1886 and taught history at Baylor from 1902 to 1950. I hired Grace in April 2017 to produce 15 illustrations for this narrative poem, which was published on in early 2018.

What follows is the first part of a two-part interview of Grace done by Randy Fiedler. (“RF” and “GD” denote Randy Fiedler and Grace Daniel respectively). Part I addresses the illustration assignment. Part II, included in a separate blog post, addresses how Grace became an artist from her childhood on, her years at Baylor in the art department, and her aspirations for the future.


RF: Grace, how did you come to take on this somewhat unusual extracurricular project?

GD: My drawing professor Greg Lewallen asked me if I would be interested in doing some illustrations for a poem. To find out more about it, I decided to meet with Charles Guittard to see what might be expected of me. When this came up I was very busy with my courses, and had practically no spare time.

RF: Had you ever taken a paying art assignment before?

GD: Never — this was my first. Initially, the idea was really daunting, but I finally decided that the opportunity was too good to pass up. I was also afraid that if I didn’t take the assignment, another student would.

RF: What was attractive to you about the offer to illustrate a poem?

GD: One of the main things was the opportunity to collaborate as an art student with another Baylor department, namely, the Department of History, to create something. I found out later that the English department had also helped Charles with the final wording of the poem. So, the fact that three departments were collaborating on this made the assignment really special. I had always wondered why the art and drama departments never seemed to do projects together. since they are in the same building.

RF: How were you able to illustrate a poem that told a story beginning in 1886 and ending in 1931, featuring real people you had never seen or met? And how were you able to correctly depict the clothes people wore during that period in your drawings?

GD: Well, Charles and I first met in Burleson Hall and discussed the assignment. He provided photographs of his grandfather Frank Guittard and of Frank Guittard’s parents, and he talked me through the story in the poem and the characters’ motivations. I also went online and researched period clothes and other period objects, such as the train Frank took to Texas in 1886. Charles also indicated the particular scenes in the poem he wanted illustrated — for example, the scene early on in which Frank Guittard and his parents are gathered at their kitchen table to discuss sending Frank to Texas as a land scout. And the scene later on when the reporter asks Frank if he intended to retire. And, of course, the library scene where Frank sees an apparition of his deceased mother he had been very close to. That turned out to be one of the most interesting to draw.

RF: Did you just draw the figures from your imagination using the photographs?

GD: Oh, no. The process I chose was to use some of my family members, my roommates and my neighbors to pose for various scenes in the poem. I would photograph them in various positions suggested by the scenes. One of my neighbors became the main model for Frank because of his tall, masculine stature. One session was pretty comical. I ended up placing him in front of an overturned coffee table wearing a blue bathrobe to lay out the scene at Stanford when Frank in his academic gown received his Ph.D.

RF: When did you add the faces? Were they difficult to draw?

GD: After I had laid out and sketched the scenes in pencil using my photos, I consulted Charles’ family photos to add the likenesses of Frank and his parents. The faces were a challenge, particularly in some cases the eyes. Then I would ink the illustrations after Charles said he liked them.

RF: The illustrations are so striking. How did you achieve that effect?

GD: I chose to do the illustrations in a style that was reminiscent of intaglio prints, hoping that would reflect the zeitgeist of the poem. Then, I had to decide on the orientation and layout of all the drawings early on and ensure that they would all look good as stand-alone drawings, even though they would be embedded in the text of the poem. And to establish visual flow, I opted for a mixture of horizontal and vertical flow. I also decided to build all the drawings up together simultaneously from my preliminary pencil sketches rather than do one illustration, finish it, and then move to the next.

RF: That sounds like it was a complicated process.

GD: It was definitely nerve-racking at times.

RF: How did your collaboration with Charles Guittard work? For example, did you work together closely? Did you talk or meet frequently?

GD: Charles and I worked closely together on the first illustration, which shows Frank Guittard on the train to Texas. I actually did that illustration before we reached our agreement for the assignment. I remember Charles really liked the sketch, but said he didn’t think Frank had a moustache when he left Ohio. So, I deleted the moustache. After that, Charles would just give me an idea and I would run with it until shooting him a draft, sometimes of several scenes at a time. After our initial conference in Burleson Hall, we had maybe one or two short telephone conversations and thereafter communicated by text and email. I spent many hours on the assignment, but I was able to space the work out over eight months and keep up with my schoolwork. On most of the illustrations we went through multiple drafts to get the illustrations perfect. I did a lot of erasing and revising to accomplish what Charles wanted for the poem.


This interview continues in Part II.

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