Chuck Pyle, Director of Academy of Art University’s School of Illustration, named Society of Illustrators Distinguished Educator in the Arts 2015

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Beloved longtime Academy of Art University instructor Chuck Pyle will receive the Society of Illustrators Distinguished Educator in the Arts award at a ceremony in New York City on May 8, 2015.

Artist Chuck Pyle, an instructor at Academy of Art University, his alma mater, for nearly 40 years, has long been recognized by students and faculty as a generous, provocative, and insightful mentor who eschews the one-size-fits-all method of teaching.

Now he’s earning nationwide attention as this year’s Society of Illustrators Distinguished Educator in the Arts, an honor that, according to the Society’s website, denotes he “has attained the highest standards of academic achievement and has demonstrated interest in and capability of furthering the Society’s educational programs.”

Director of the Academy’s School of Illustration since 2003, Pyle is best-known for his dapper appearance, dry wit and accessible style of teaching – as well as his popular Clothed Figure drawing classes that feature costumed live models and a strong emphasis on shape, lighting, and shadows. His passion for the art of storytelling through imagery is summed up in the advice he gives to students on a regular basis: “Look for new ways of saying things.”

Pyle, 61, is a California native who resides in Petaluma, Calif., with his wife Tina. In addition to teaching and serving as Chair of the Society of Illustrators’ Educators Symposium, he maintains a robust freelance illustration career to uphold “street cred” with his students. Yet he’s more inclined to boast about their successes than his own.

In any given week, Pyle can be heard rattling off the latest achievements of alumni from the School of Illustration. He’s overwhelmingly proud of their diverse career paths in fields ranging from video game illustration to graphic novel and children’s book illustration.

“I don’t want cookie cutter graduates. I want strong individuals who are adapting and have a clear idea of who they are and where they’re going,” he said.

The testimonials of Pyle’s students highlight his dedication to his craft:

“I think part of Chuck Pyle's genius as a teacher is that he never stopped being a student. There is something incredibly inspiring about a man who never stops trying to be better even though he appears to be the best.” – Dylan Vermeul, current student, School of Illustration

“He works tirelessly to inspire us, to challenge us, and to make sure we have every resource imaginable to be the best that we can be. Like, does he even sleep?” – Aubrey Williams, BFA Illustration 2014

“Chuck’s masterful talent as an illustrator matches his uncanny ability to fulfill the role of fatherly, nurturing professor to those students who respond best to that type of guidance; and vigilant, fiercely dedicated instructor to others, never shying from telling students what they needed to hear – not what they wanted to hear – building them into far stronger artists in the process.” – Aaron John Gregory, BFA Illustration 2014

“I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Chuck Pyle's support and guidance.” – Eda Kaban, BFA Illustration 2012

“Chuck Pyle has always been and always will be to me more than the genius director of the School of Illustration, more than an incredibly passionate and patient teacher, more than an amazingly talented draftsman and lover of the folds, gestures and lines. He has been to me what Professor Dumbledore is to Harry.” – Valerio Fabbretti, BFA Illustration 2014

A longtime fan of Pyle’s, Dr. Elisa Stephens, President of Academy of Art University, said, “Chuck Pyle is an extraordinarily perceptive and patient teacher with the ability to recognize a student’s needs and tailor his teaching approach to meet those needs. We are so fortunate to have him at Academy of Art University and are grateful that the Society of Illustrators also recognizes his invaluable contribution to education and the art of illustration.”

Pyle is represented by Lindgren & Smith in New York, and depending on a client’s need, his work ranges from dreamy, all-American Norman Rockwell-esque scenes to noir-influenced covers for crime novels. Past clients include Microsoft, Safeway, Avis, Sun Microsystems, Reader's Digest, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Atlantic Monthly, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, Penguin, Bantam, Houghton Mifflin, Seattle Opera, and the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology.

Pyle likes to think his students will “pay forward” the wisdom he has imparted – part of a cycle he has perpetuated – thanks to the impact of his own mentor, the late Academy of Art instructor Barbara Bradley. It was Bradley who advised an 18-year-old Pyle: “Try illustration, you might like it.” Years later, she invited him to teach alongside her. And after a 35-year friendship, it was Pyle who wrote a tribute to Bradley when she won the Society of Illustrators Distinguished Educator in the Arts award in 2007, the year before she died.

Now that it’s his turn to accept the award, which was established nearly 20 years ago, Pyle admits, “It’s a validation of the continuous searching for how to better access and train each illustration student.”

“My students are doing better art than I can do. That means I’ve totally done my job.”

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Jennifer Blot