Faculty Profile Celebrating Kristin Mounts Decade as an Influential Digital Illustration Instructor
Ten years ago, the American Academy of Art welcomed accomplished artist Kristin Mount to its ranks when it hired her to teach digital illustration and anatomy courses.
Since then, Kristin has prepared students well for success. Some have become art directors at advertising and marketing firms, others have acquired staff jobs at in-house art departments, some went on to graduate school, and some are working freelancers doing advertising or editorial illustrations, and selling their work online on sites such as Etsy and Redbubble.
“The variety and quality of work former students are doing is fantastic,” Kristin proudly stated.
Kristin earned her Master of Associated Medical Sciences degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993, specializing in medical illustration. There she learned illustration techniques, medical concepts, 2D digital media, and 3D modeling.
Since then, she has created thousands of illustrations, medical and otherwise, for publishers, surgeons, lawyers, and pharmaceutical companies as a freelance artist. In 2003, she added a Silver Addy to her awards for her illustrations in an advertising campaign for the Indiana Firebirds – an arena football team.
“Working with young artists who are trying to figure out what to do with their creativity and talent — that’s a dream job,” Kristin explained. “It’s absolutely a gift to have daily opportunities to positively impact the lives of others. I enjoy teaching students about digital illustration, but also helping them figure out how to address their weaknesses and develop their strengths.”
Master the fundamentals
Besides teaching the technical skills of art, Kristin offers wise words to young artists interested in digital illustration.
“Hone your rendering abilities and don’t expect digital media to replace any of those skills,” she said. “The same foundations and fundamentals apply whether you’re working digitally or traditionally. You need to master concept, composition, form, value, color, texture and perspective, regardless of medium. Embrace, don’t avoid, learning these skills.”
This philosophy is one of many reasons why the Academy is such a special place.
“The Academy makes sure students refine their traditional art skills before working digitally,” she said. “I think this is essential.”
Look to the future
“Don’t worry too much about what exactly you’ll be doing ten years from now, because you might be using skills or technology that have not been developed yet,” Kristin stated. “Stay flexible enough to continue to learn new software and hardware. The fact is, it’s going to keep changing.”
Great illustration begins with unique vision
Kristin added that artists must have vision, and consider what ideas they want to convey and how to do so in a way no one else has.
“Illustration is about much more than just rendering skills,” she explained. “It's about ideas. Good illustration comes from your brain as much as from your hands. Editorial illustrators can translate an idea into an engaging metaphor. Advertising illustrators can influence a purchase. Educational illustrators can clarify a complex concept for a specific audience. It’s both rendering skills and great ideas that make this happen.”
It takes a village
Successful students, Kristin stated, are the result of the efforts of the entire Academy faculty.
“The faculty at the Academy is a special group,” she said. “We support each other fully and work together to make sure our classes relate to one another. Doing so enables students to make connections among concepts learned in different courses. This purposeful integration also allows students to learn that the whole is often more than the sum of its parts.”
The Academy hopes we’re lucky enough to celebrate another decade with Kristin in 2025!