Expressions of creativity take many forms. Riding on soundwaves into our ears and souls. Surprising our taste buds. Providing a soft place to sit while we get lost in a book. Tricking our eyes in trompe l’oeil graffiti. Hiding in plain sight on our phone screens. Impalpably changing the ways we do things.
Welcome to a miniature sampling of expressions by NMU alumni in creative careers. We couldn’t possibly include you all in our paper constraints, so please, let us know of your work and what inspires you. Send us a sample and a link and we’ll expand our gallery walls at nmu.edu/northernmagazine.
Joy Bender-Hadley ’03 BS, ’84 BFA
Art Educator & Artist
Artist/Art Educator at Aurora Artworks,
Art Teacher at the Marquette Alternative High School
“My life and my environment inspire me daily! To be able to live, work and create in the Upper Peninsula is pretty amazing. A few artists I find inspiring are Marc Chagall, Peter Max, Karen Barbour, and Betty La Duke.
Often my images are thought about for weeks, months, even years before I put anything down on canvas or paper. My recent animal canvas series was like that. I like to participate in quiet sports and I knew I wanted to create a series including kayaking, biking, and fishing. I enjoy working in a whimsical (almost folk art) style. So as my idea was brewing, I started sketching out and searching for some of my favorite critters of this region.
Some of my series, though, happen quickly while exploring different mediums. Since I am an art educator, I have experience working in all different media. I created 185 images in 185 days as an exercise. My tendency is to get very detailed. I wanted to push outside that and attempt to simplify. I used cut paper, paint, collage, clay, birch bark, and photographs during that process. Through this I grew as an artist. My watercolor landscapes with birch bark were given birth through that exercise.
I have grown as an artist, a teacher and a person through NMU. I continue to take classes, stay in touch with fellow students and teach those who may go on to study at Northern. It is a resource I still look to for knowledge. I may be getting older, but I am a lifelong learner. I know that I can go to any of the professors to get input today. I am so proud of the growth within the Art & Design Department and the DeVos Art Gallery. It is a gem.”
Find Joy on Facebook: Aurora Artworks or WOW Art Studio.
Jacob Rosenburg ’09 BFA
“Everything is an inspiration, but for the most part it is Detroit. A lot of the posters I do have nods to Detroit and the state of Michigan. Keeping it local is what I think gives these posters a sense of originality.
I am constantly thinking of ideas and things that I would like to create. I usually look at architecture, packaging, current events. After that I usually draw a rough and write down notes on my phone since I have it on me constantly. Then I illustrate it out on the computer in five or six variations and choose the one I like most.
Communication is key to good work, and I think that is one of the most important things that I learned at NMU.”
James Farrel ’08 BFA
Brooklyn, New York
“I specialize in sports, fitness and action photography. I am inspired by people pushing themselves to the limits. That limit point is the moment that makes the best images—where they are worn down and not thinking about the camera. The subject is just concentrating on what they know how to do.
I really look at every photo shoot, whether it’s in the studio or on location, as how I can make these images as dynamic as possible. For me, the most important aspect is the authenticity of the moment of each photo. I want them to be real moments, not something that was put together like a puzzle.
I grew up working for my stepfather at a one-hour photo store in Petoskey, Michigan, and knew at a young age that I wanted to work for myself. Having the drive and wanting to make new work is much harder to do when you are not your own boss. The hustle of living in NYC and having to create to live is motivating enough to keep me working hard to make new work.
NMU was a stepping stone into eventually moving to NYC and owning my own business. If it wasn’t for my move to Marquette, meeting a great group of fellow students, friends and faculty that helped push me along, I would never be where I am today.
Right now, I am in the process of some new portrait work but I am also trying to remember to photograph my family and friends around me because we all change and age and I know I’ll have those happy memories to look back on in the future.”
Farrel has worked for such clients as Forbes, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Armitron Watches. He shot the groundbreaking cover of the September 28 issue of Women’s Running, the first U.S. fitness magazine to feature a woman wearing a hijab on its cover. (Coincidentally, that same issue also featured alumni Tori Sager ‘00 BS, ‘06 MAE and Mel Charbonneau ‘02 BS, founders of the Fellow Flowers running community, in an article titled “Women Who Are Changing the Game.”)
Clark Stanton ’11 BFA
Noah Schloss ’11 BFA
Twisted Media is a multimedia house that works in 2D and 3D design, interactive programming and composition for integration. Most notably, they make the animated graphics that characters interact with in movies and television shows. The Twisted Media Chicago office is helmed by two NMU alumni, Clark Stanton and Noah Schloss.
“Before taking this job, I [Noah] didn’t really understand how much goes into creating your favorite TV show or movie. Our job at Twisted Media is to design the digital world actors interact with. It’s always an interesting problem to solve where the outcome is crafted by an amazing number of nuances. Every computer screen, text message, phone call, holographic display, and Tony Stark (Iron Man-esque) heads-up display, is carefully crafted to reinforce the plot and storyline. You’re kind of putting a puzzle together while simultaneously creating the pieces.”
Clark Stanton took over the television side of operations for Twisted Media and worked on a variety of shows including: the Chicago PD, Fire, and Med series, “Empire,” “The Librarians,” “Scorpion,” “Agent X,” “Powers” and “Bloodline,” among others. He has completed work for feature films including The Tank, Geostorm, and Independence Day Resurgence. In the latter alone. he created more than 400 computer-alien computer interfaces and other screen displays.
Eric Schleicher ’09 BFA
“As a freelance cinematographer, I am most inspired by the stories of people I meet on a daily basis. Everyone has an interesting story if you take enough time to listen and get to a deeper level with them. Traveling and spending time outside your bubble of comfort is very important to making unique work. Outside of my own exploring, Vimeo, Instagram and podcasts keep me mentally stimulated.
My main focuses are documentary and music video. The creative process involves collaborating with directors, producers and other members of the crew to create the best version of a project that we can. Pre-production, location scouting and working out issues that may arise before a shoot are key to a shared vision and a successful project. During the shoot, I try to make myself and the camera invisible so that the end viewer is experiencing the truest action from the subject or talent.
The most valuable part of my NMU experience was the ability to experiment and collaborate with people from different departments. Post-college, it becomes harder to experiment unless you make a conscious effort, because you don’t have the tools or a built-in group of people to try things out with. It’s from that desire that I met a group of filmmakers in Minneapolis who were coming together to make weekly live music videos (Pitchfork’s City of Music Channel) that became a continuation of my NMU education. My first job out of college was a recommendation from a photo alum I collaborated with often at NMU and the connection that launched my freelance career in Minneapolis came from another NMU photo alum. You never know who you meet in school will affect the rest of your life.”
Kelly Wendels ’14 BFA
Until recently I’ve worked the majority of my post-NMU career designing in the outdoor lifestyle / retail industry. Over the last few months I’ve transitioned from working in-house to agency work, which has given me a chance to press my limits as a designer outside the outdoor consumer industry and tap into tech, entertainment, food & drink, and so on. Agency work is so broad it’s amazing. It’s really a case of “the good, the bad, the ugly.” One day you come in and have a branding deadline, deck deadline, website deadline all due end of day and you just go full nose-to-ground-and-do-it mentality. Everything moves a million miles an hour and you end up pushing yourself to a limit you didn’t know existed - which is what life is all about.
Over the years I’ve realized that being a designer is one part working your butt off & putting massive hours in, one part faking it, one part total failure, and three parts coffee. In business school they taught me that employees are the first face people see of the company — but let’s be real: design and branding are. When you open a magazine or scroll through Instagram, what draws you to read that ad or toss that picture a like? Exactly, it’s whether or not that image jumps off the page, pulls you in, and ultimately inspires you to be someone better. You’re doing more than selling a rain jacket — you’re representing and complementing the company’s mission statement and making it a movement people genuinely want to be part of.
My time at NMU was off-the-wall amazing. I started as an NMU varsity soccer player and ended up graduating with this amazing network of incredibly inspiring peers that still very much play an integral part of my day-to-day life. After venturing cross country and meeting people from all corners of the world; I can still honestly say there is no place as welcoming and wonderful as Marquette.
“Wild places and the contrast between the beauty and the harshness, which I see to be a metaphor for life, particularly inspire me. The story is in the contrast between emotions like joy and pain, or weakness and strength.
For me my creative process is always changing, just like the environments I am thrown into. My most prized creative asset is versatility (maybe suffering, endurance, and patience as well). Sometimes my creative process is organic and it flows natural and smooth like a calm river. Other times it is chaotic, high speed, high risk, run and gun, or any combination of those. Both sides of this dichotomy can produce great material, and both can produce junk. What I am learning, and what is ever-evolving for me as a cinematographer, is how to maintain a balance between a purely documentary approach to shooting in the present moment, and one that is more directed and takes into account the past, present, future, and the overall idea and concept. When you focus too much on the story you want, you miss out on what’s actually happening, and when you only shoot in the now, you forget to focus on what it means in relation to the big picture, so it’s a balance.
Since I was in middle school, I’ve had a passion for capturing the world around me through video. Not just to preserve a memory, but more importantly, to tell the story. My style has evolved over the years, but ultimately my passion remains the same. Of course NMU taught me the foundation for my career in digital cinema with solid technical skills, and a fundamental knowledge of art history and theory, and it did this with a talented staff and a state-of-the-art facility. But most importantly, NMU did something for me that I don’t think any other school could have done, and that was to teach me those skills in an environment that truly inspired me and changed the way I live my life on a day-to-day basis.
For the last three years I have been directing and shooting for a nationally airing TV show, “Jim Shockey’s Uncharted,” which airs on The Outdoor Channel. It has taken me to 28 countries on 6 continents. The show is about modern-day explorer Jim Shockey and his journey through wild lands and the people that call these places home. We are currently shooting the fifth season.”
“I’m currently working at Rally Interactive in Salt Lake City, Utah as a designer specializing in digital products. I believe in creating experiences that engage and motivate people to be more perceptive of the world around them.
Everyone from design to engineering at Rally is passionate about the outdoors in one way or another, so we strive to make products that encourage people to get outside and explore.
I’ve seen a shift in the use and culture of technology since I was a kid. Society is becoming more dependent on staying connected with others on their devices. I strive to design software that allows people to foster a sense of self and make the most out of their time.”
Nate Maldonado ’02 BFA
At Strottman, Maldonado designs products for Lowe’s Build and Grow, Chick-fil-A Kid’s Meal and for Kroger Chef Junior. He has been employed as a designer/illustrator at Elmer’s Products, Dart Container and Crayola. Through his positions or freelance, he has done work for Disney, Marvel, Hasbro, Dreamworks Animation, Burton Snowboards and Silly Putty.
“I’m constantly inspired by good design wherever I come across it. Seeing other artists do good work essentially makes me want to emulate that in my own way. I’m influenced by people being creative, making things, and changing the way we see the world. I want to be one of those people.
In my creative process I start with whatever my parameters are and I try to use my limits as a prompt. My favorite thing to do as a designer is to solve problems.
I use whatever means to get to where the problem is solved. Sometimes this means learning new techniques or trying multiple times until I get it right.
As far back as I can remember, there was nothing else I wanted to do. I’ve always been creating, drawing, and making things. NMU completely showed me what I want to do. It took my loves and passions and made them real futures that I could have or work toward. It seems like a dream to be able to do what you truly love for a living.
I’d love to hear from my fellow alumni about any creative projects they’re working on. Currently, I’m illustrating concept boards for some Star Wars-themed wood kits!”
Nicole Morris ’11 BFA
Salt Lake City, Utah
“I have been working in the Apparel Industry for about 4 years now. I am lucky enough to have the ability to have my hand in many baskets in this world. Apparel design, tech packs, fabric sourcing, fit measurements, layout, etc.
Currently, I am an apparel graphic designer for a licensing company called Signature Products Group. SPG licenses many reputable hunting brands, such as Browning, Realtree & Mossy Oak (to name a few.) I am in the apparel department and mainly focus on Browning graphics. I do my market research to see what else is out there—and of course, what is selling. From season to season, I design into various stories. These stories are created so that I can reach a wider demographic and really hone in on their personal interests. A lot of the graphics that I create are hand-drawn, which is so fun for me. That is really what keeps me going day to day. Nothing is better than giving your eyes a rest from the ol’ screen and focusing on good ol’ fashion pen and paper. Once a drawing is complete, I scan it into the computer, refine it in Photoshop, and sometimes bring it to Illustrator in order to make a vector design. I also create “shoulder releases,” which are essentially mini catalogs that we send to our buyers between seasons. These are always fun and more specific; i.e. “Huntin’ for the Holidays” and “The Mason Dixon Line.” All in all, I have a really good job doing something that I love, and I feel very fortunate to be able to say that.”
John Berry ’11 BS
“New experiences, mixed with past experiences of my life, are usually a good starting point for my inspiration. Being in nature is usually a big one, as is the case for my Big North album. When I started recording this album, I was living alone for the first time in my life. It had been two years since I had graduated from NMU and two years since I had lived in beautiful Marquette. I had just acquired a nice full-time job, and had my own apartment, which was great, but it wasn’t the same as living minutes away from the wondrous beauty the U.P. has to offer. I used my nostalgia for a place I missed, and turned it into what became Big North. At first, I didn’t know it would become a full-fledged album that would be featured in GoPro videos, and other independent film soundtracks.
When I realized I could record with a simple laptop set up in my apartment, I went wild with it. After I had recorded the first two or three songs for Big North, I realized that I wanted to make an instrumental album, dedicated to my personal experiences I had while living up in Marquette. A lot of people have told me “Your music takes me back to hiking through Presque Isle,” or “This album instantly makes me feel like I’m back on top of Hogsback.” Hearing stuff like that is the real reward, because the music I made takes me back to those similar experiences! Once I have a decent guitar or banjo track recorded, I start layering any elements a song could need, such as bass, drums, vocals, etc. For the majority of the drums and vocals on this album, I would have my talented friend Bud Clowers record some drums and vocals in Marquette, and then he would email me the tracks of featured local musicians I needed.
The album is my personal soundtrack to my NMU and Upper
Berry is a photographer for MacNeil Automotive, which makes WeatherTech products. Listen to Big North and his new album, Moon Songs,
I‘ve spent the last few years exploring different ways to work with paper, from cut silhouettes to forms that mimic origami. I’m fascinated with the idea that objects with volume can be created from flat sheets, which led me to these paper figures.
These figures start as flat geometric shapes that I manipulate in design programs (Adobe Illustrator). Sometimes there is some guesswork on my part to get things to fit together, but I’ve gotten pretty good at the geometry behind these. After I’m satisfied with the general shape of a figure, I will print out tests to check the fit of each part, and make decisions related to thickness of the paper needed, or surface texture.
I like art and design that viewers can interact with physically, and hopefully emotionally as well. I personally find comfort in creating, and I want others to feel that. In the future, I hope to have paper figures that can be made by people of all ages and skill sets.
More Featured Work from our Creative Alumni
Janice Keegan '82 BFA
Traverse City, Michigan
Janice Keegan '82 BFA is a musician and artist based in Traverse City, Michigan. Her CD, "Firedance," is a collection of 13 original songs about the shared experiences of life's journey, set against a background of rich jazz and blues. Keegan, who composed the songs and sings on the album, also owns Keegan Design. To purchase the CD, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Janice Keegan-Music on Facebook. CDs are also available at CDBaby.com and Amazon.com.