Myron Campbell

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?

Myron Campbell

This series is aimed at getting to know exceptional UBC staff and faculty who are doing anything but the typical day to day. Discover the stories of these UBC Vancouver and Okanagan individuals, who contribute to making UBC an inspiring place to be.

Myron Campbell is a media arts instructor in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus. After graduating from the visual communication program at Medicine Hat College in Alberta, Campbell started his career at the Banff Centre for the Arts as a web designer. He considers this time to be educational, where he learned how to conduct himself as a creative arts professional.

In 2008, at age 29, he joined the digital and interactive media company, Switch United, as its youngest ever art director. In this role he co-created two different installations for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, which were met with great critical acclaim. He was awarded ‘Best Interactive Designer’ at the Toronto Canadian New Media Awards in December 2010.

Campbell first “got the bug for teaching” while mentoring design students at the Vancouver Film School (VFS). He started teaching nights at VFS and eventually became full-time. Shortly after joining VFS, he completed his master’s degree at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, majoring in media arts. After graduation, he sought out a stronger relationship with his art practice and decided to join the UBC community in 2014.

UBC Communications and Marketing had a chance to talk with Myron Campbell about his teaching and ongoing art projects.

Q
You teach six different courses in visual arts at UBC-O each year. Can you talk a little bit about what each course covers and how they work together to offer students an in-depth artistic education?

A: The introductory courses I teach, VISA 106 and 108, introduce first-year students to artists in several areas of digital media. They create works in animation, digital imaging, graphic design and video production. I particularly enjoy teaching this class to people who think they can’t use the software or think they aren’t going to like it as much as traditional painting or drawing. I can’t win them all over but some of them start to discover a completely new outlet for expression. That’s pretty exciting.

In VISA 261 and 271, students deal specifically with making videos. We cover a wide spectrum of video production beginning with abstract-experimental films and moving to more complex narratives. The latter half of the year, students work in teams and collaborate with non-profits to produce promotional videos for their organizations. This is a particularly great project to secure client-based, real-world projects for students to include in their portfolios upon graduation.

Lastly, the advanced studio courses VISA 482 and 483 are among the most important to all BFA majors. Throughout their fourth year, students are tasked with maybe the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do: They have to become self-directed. No more assignment topics or criteria. Now they are forced to come up with their own criteria and figure out what speaks to them and, in turn, figure out what they want to say as artists. It’s not an easy task, as you could imagine. The growth that occurs is quite rewarding to watch.

Q
How does your own body of work influence the way you teach and think about design and visual communication?

A: I’ve been pretty fortunate to work creatively in a lot of different areas and mediums. I’ve been an art director, graphic designer, web designer, artist, animator, photographer, illustrator, filmmaker, print-maker, painter…. I wear many different hats and it’s this adaptability and diversity that really helps me in the classroom. I’ve now taught both art and design quite intimately and, because of my background, I feel comfortable being in a position to offer guidance to students no matter what medium they are working in.

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I wear many different hats and it’s this adaptability and diversity that really helps me in the classroom.

Q
Are there any projects you are working on right now that you would like to talk about? How do you decide what to work on next?

A: I’m balancing both art and design projects at the moment. I’m responsible for all product and package design for BNA Brewing. Also, I’ve collaborated with digital-media students in a directed-study course to produce promotional videos for the products.

I started Draw By Night in Kelowna, which is a collaborative and social drawing party that involves faculty, students, industry and the general public. Each event asks the participants to experiment and draw in collaboration while engaging in a night of networking. There have been 18 parties to date that are hosted at the Kelowna Art Gallery and the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art. I started these parties in Vancouver about seven years ago and since then, there are chapters in Toronto, Germany and Nanaimo. I always enjoy projects that engage local community in some way; this is one of my favorites.

I’m developing a new series of work centered around Robert Lake and Little Robert Lake, located west of the university along Curtis Road. Robert Lake is a natural saline lake, protected by the Okanagan Naturalists’ Club and is home to over 100 migrating species of birds. The lake and surrounding area require a balance between human and ecological life. I intend to portray a fantastical relationship with humans and this sensitive — and potentially doomed —ecological system. Blending the ‘real’ with the ‘imagined’, the piece will inform [the public about] the current state of the lakes and their inhabitants, while also promoting a sustainable relationship between humans and our environment… starting with our own backyard.

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Blending the ‘real’ with the ‘imagined’, the piece will inform [the public about] the current state of the lakes and their inhabitants, while also promoting a sustainable relationship between humans and our environment… starting with our own backyard.

Myron Campbell
Q
Which artists in the world inspire you most?

A: A number of artists come to mind. But when I really reach back, there was one that was really inspirational to me as a young child. I was a kid of the 1980’s, so Jim Henson was very important to me and still is for that matter. Everyone loves The Muppet Show and Sesame Street but it was his more personal endeavours that I was really attracted to. The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are highly innovative in their puppetry and art direction and moved away from the mainstream. I really admire that.

[Canadian sculptor] David Altmejd uses half-human creatures to explore the side of being human that is dark and monstrous. There is also a child-like naivety in his work, which helps suggests that the creatures may not be dangerous. They’re large and grotesque but ultimately fragile and tired, like giants enchanted into stone for eternal sleep. Like Altmejd, I’m also interested in our duality as animals and how animal-human hybrid characters can act as predominant metaphors for the underlying animal nature present in sentient beings.

Mark Lewis is an amazing artist and filmmaker from Vancouver. I once heard him say in an interview that he isn’t an “idea artist”. He doesn’t go into making work with a big plan. He just starts working and allows the ideas to reveal themselves in front of him. I find this idea so liberating. We all live full lives and there are often too many reasons not to make art. Statements like “I’m too busy” or “I’m waiting for inspiration” can really debilitate an artist. I like the idea of just jumping in.

Q
What do you find most fulfilling about teaching UBC students in your visual arts courses?

A: I would say introducing students to new things and watching them uncover new ways of making art that I never considered before, is the most satisfying. Helping them discover something in their practice they never knew was there or never noticed before is very energizing.

So many students come in hungry and inspired; they are like bottled lightning. They spread that energy all over the school and it rubs off on you… it’s contagious. It’s a gift to be surrounded by such stimulus year after year. I have no choice but to keep creating because the student environment is so inspiring.

It’s one of my great pleasures as a professor to witness students develop as contemporary artists making important work in a very short time. Fulfilling the degree is a major milestone, yet marks only the beginning for these emerging artists.

Myron Campbell’s creativity seems to be infinitely supplied. His work is not only imaginative but relevant in today’s societal dialogues. From overseeing large city installations, to lecturing on digital imaging and design, his work encompasses that of a true contemporary artist.

His next project at Robert Lake and Little Robert Lake will launch in May 2017. It will be installed by the Kelowna Art Gallery in the departure area of the Kelowna International Airport. For more information about Campbell’s work, visit his website.


Story Credits

Special thanks to our story partner: Myron Campbell, Instructor, New Media, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. Photography, Don Erhardt.

Story team: UBC Communications & Marketing — Cindy Connor, Online Producer; Margaret Doyle, Digital Storyteller; Paul Joseph, UBC Photographer; Michael Kam, Web Developer; Lina Kang, Web Coordinator; Adrian Liem, Manager, Digital Communications; Aida Viziru, Web Interaction Designer; Matt Warburton, Manager, Graphic Design; Mormei Zanke, Writer.

Published: January 2017