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Kevin Barker ’13

Kevin Barker ’13

Lasting impressions

By Tina Lincer

In winter 2017, Sandra Wimer, senior lecturer in visual arts, was curating an exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints – or moku hanga – when she reached out to Kevin Barker ’13. She vividly remembered his passion for this ancient Japanese printing technique.

In fact, one summer, thanks to Wimer’s encouragement and success in securing funding, Barker was able to travel to New York City to work with noted moku hanga artist Takuji Hamanaka.

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Now Hamanaka was coming to Union as a guest artist whose works were in the show Wimer was mounting with Sheri Lullo, assistant professor of art history.

“I know you did your senior thesis project using the technique of Japanese woodcut and that your project involved the theme of vintage style tattoos,” Wimer wrote to Kevin. “Prof. Lullo and I will be teaching a class in Japanese woodcut. We have curated a show, and actually, Takuji will be coming as a guest artist.”

Currently a graphic designer in Sydney, Australia, Barker, Kevin was delighted to hear from his former professor.

“That class sounds like it would be so much fun,” he wrote back. “My woodcut printing project was definitely the highlight of my senior year. And I really enjoyed learning from Takuji that summer.”

Over the next few days, the email exchanges flew between Schenectady and Sydney as the pair reminisced and caught up.

Kevin related that he’d put his interdepartmental major in visual arts and Japanese to good use right after graduation.

“I moved to Tokyo and started my career as a graphic designer,” said the Armonk, N.Y., native. “After about three years, I moved to Sydney and started a design position at a video and digital production agency called Elastic Studios. I’ve gotten the chance to work closely with some big name brands like Barilla, Subaru, Kia, and eHarmony, so it’s been a pretty exciting past few years.” 

“Goodness!” Wimer replied. “You have accomplished quite a bit in the last four years.”

For Kevin, the unexpected missive from his alma mater was a welcome reminder and validation of his printmaking days, when hours spent in the studio seemed like minutes, so involved was he in the artistic process.

In fact, he credits the time he spent in Wimer’s class as having a significant impact on his future.

“Professor Wimer instilled in me the importance of organization. Learning how to properly plan out an art project has been vital to my success as a graphic designer. Graphic design is all about being prepped for the next step, so learning about discipline and workflow in a classroom setting gave me a huge advantage when I started my career. It’s second nature to me now whenever I start a new project. It’s so important that I make it a point to teach junior designers about the importance of this, too.”

And while his flourishing design career has left little time for woodcut work these days, “I’ve been coming up with ideas for new projects over the years, and this email might have just given me the inspiration to finally get back into it.”

“I was always impressed with the way you worked on your senior project,” Wimer said. “Every week you had a new print for me to look at with you. In fact, I use you as an example with my other seniors, letting them know what a solid work pattern looks like.”

Said Kevin: “I had a lot of fun working on my prints every week.”

“I hope you may have some time to make more images,” Wimer said. “If you do, please share them with me.”

“I have my tools with me here in Sydney,” Kevin said. “I’ll definitely keep you in the loop for any new projects that I start!”

For student and mentor, lasting impressions are clearly what matter.