Illustrator, Stephen William Schudlich has a dark sense of humor. “I like visual puns, tongue-in-cheek; things that may be a little bit abrasive. I don’t draw cute things,” he says.
A fourth-generation Detroiter, Schudlich draws inspiration from the highs and lows of the city that raised him. “I see heartbreaking things in Detroit, societal breakdowns, failures. … I inform people of that in a visual way,” he says of his art. “I like to illuminate things.”
The director of exhibitions at the Work•Detroit gallery, run by the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, Schudlich takes it as his mission to do just that.
Schudlich recently oversaw an exhibition of “city speculations” with an international bent including artists from Detroit, U-M faculty and Austria. Schudlich says the exhibition showcased “impact and connection in an urban setting. What sort of languages are being spoken to reach people in inner city areas? How do we reach kids?”
One memorable element was an animated film chronicling the creation of a superhero. “This is something that’s relevant to those kids,” Schudlich says. “In this day and age, Detroit could use a superhero.”
Schudlich received his Bachelor of Science degree in fine art from Valparaiso University in 1985. After graduation, he worked at graphic design studios in Detroit and produced freelance illustration work for Comedy Central, eBay, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He received his Master of Arts degree in graphic design from Wayne State University in 2007 and began work at U-M in 2009. He also teaches at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
Juggling his various commitments makes for a busy lifestyle, but a rewarding one, he says.
“If you enjoy what you’re doing; the clock just goes,” Schudlich says. “If I have too much administrative work to do in a day, I have to do something that scratches that maker’s itch — be creative somehow. At the end of the day, I’m designing or creating something.”
He is the creative director for a Detroit-based, private-venture black humor publisher, Rotland Press, which he says provides an essential creative outlet. “You have to have something that’s just yours,” he says.
In his six years as director of Work•Detroit, Schudlich introduced the benefit of an artistic experience to visitors from diverse walks of life, and he hopes the gallery’s audience will expand even more.