Illustration Senior Wins Prestigious Scholarship from Society of Illustrators

James Tierney's re-illustration of 'King Azaz the Unabridged' from 'The Phantom Tollboth' selected for honor from more than 6,200 entries

March 24, 2010

James Tierney, a senior Illustration major at the University of the Arts, has been selected from among more than 6,200 students as the recipient of the 2010 Nancy V. Rhodes Roberts Scholarship from the Society of Illustrators.

In addition to a $4,000 prize, Tierney will have his depiction of "King Azaz the Unabridged, ruler of Dictionopolis and lover of words" – a character from the 1961 Norton Juster-written, Jules Feiffer-illustrated childrens adventure novel The Phantom Tollbooth – included in the Society's annual student competition exhibition May 5 – 29 at its headquarters in New York City.

"The Society of Illustrators is such an important fixture of the illustration world, and the competition is daunting," said Tierney, a native of Oxford, Pa., and 2006 graduate of Oxford Area High School, who was recently hired as a junior designer by Penguin Press in New York City. “The amount of talent emerging from illustration programs these days is amazing, so I feel extremely lucky to even show up on the radar at this point in my career."

Tierney re-envisioned Feiffer’'s King Azaz (below) with a long white beard, sitting in a throne that has a capital "A" atop the chair back. His overcoat is adorned with letters in various scripts, his crown has vowels on each of its five half arches, and he is wearing a pinky ring with the letter "Z" on it. The assignment came in a children's book class taught by University of the Arts Illustration faculty member Robert Byrd, who illustrated the 2008 Newberry Medal-winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (Candlewick Press).

The Society received more than 6,200 entries from 250 art programs from across the nation for the competition. Of those entries, just 195 were selected for the exhibition and only 33 received cash awards. Seven students received the maximum $5,000 prize for their work.

"Considering the number of entries to the annual student competition," said University Illustration department chair Mark Tocchet, "this is really a significant accomplishment for our students. The fact that James received one of the top scholarships speaks of the genuine quality of his work and his ability to communicate his vision to a professional jury of the highest caliber."

Founded in 1901, the Society of Illustrators is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to "the promotion of the art of illustration – past, present and future." It has over 1,000 members worldwide and is headquartered in an 1875 vintage carriage house on New York's Upper East Side.

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