Not only is Kyle Cobban the latest S6 artist in our timelapse series, he’s a respected art teacher on Chicago’s notoriously underserved south side. The second half of that sentence probably merits more props than the first. From the violence his students have been subject to, he draws inspiration from their courage as frequently as he teaches it. He’s the first in our S6 timelapse series where we show the marriage of traditional and digital illustration. The results are awesome. Watch the video below, then read through his experience teaching in Chicago and the impact it’s had on his own creative process.
How has being an art teacher in Chicago impacted your creative process?
Massively. I am incredibly lucky to be able to work with students every day who come to class with fresh ideas. As much as I try to inspire them when making art, they often do the same for me. When talking with a kid about a creative problem they are having, I will end up solving one of my own. It’s also amazing to have so many different perspectives come to the table when I am making a piece. Throughout my process I will ask my students for their opinions on what I am making. They aren’t afraid to say what I don’t want to hear, but that’s the beauty of it.
Last three ridiculous things you heard a student say?
Mr. Cobban, can you get me subway for lunch? I got cash.
Mr. Cobban, do you turn up on the weekends??
Mr. Cobban, wanna see my memes?
-Literally from just today.
Favorite cafeteria meal.
Our spicy breaded chicken sandwich is bomb.
Last big thing you learned from a student.
Courage. I teach in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in the south side and we have a population of undocumented students. The challenges these students face are much steeper then I can ever remember facing growing up. We recently had a college and career fair and had an assembly where the students came out in front of the entire school, announcing their undocumented status. It was one of the most moving experiences I have had as a teacher.
What’s been the hardest part about being a teacher on the south side of Chicago?
The hardest part of teaching on the south side is the violence. The neighborhood I teach in can be dangerous and it directly affects many of my students. It breaks my heart hearing some of their stories and what they have to deal with every day. You get to know you students so well and it can take a toll emotionally. But on the flip side the students we have are crazy resilient. They take it all in stride and still show up and put in the work. It has become “normal” to them. It’s tragic and inspirational at the same time.
Were you at all prepped from your formal education for it?
College tries to prep you, but that can only go so far. You need to be there to actually understand it. Looking at the situation from the outside can be so superficial. Each neighborhood/school is different and lumping them all into one category is silly.
Last full album you listened to.
Hope by Manchester Orchestra
How do you help students get over “creative block”?
Every student is different. Some students benefit from a simple conversation while others may need to work out different ideas via sketches. This varies so much it is hard to describe. We also look at a lot of art in class so they are exposed to a ton of different styles and approaches to art making. I’ve noticed students tend to become inspired when they address issues that impact their daily lives. When people make art they are about, it shows. I try to make our projects as relevant as possible for my kids so they are passionate about what they create.
How would you describe your artwork?
I would describe my artwork as an attempt to blend traditional drawing practices with digital media. My work will begin as a drawing with pencil and paper, and then transferred to Photoshop to be altered, reworked, finished, etc., The content of my work typically focuses on the human form. I try to capture a person in a moment of every life with a hint of surrealism. I enjoy turning mundane activities like somebody walking down the street into an interesting image. Like many artists, I want the viewer to escape from reality for a brief moment when they see my work.
Any S6 artists you’d like to give a shout out to?
John Hill is a pretty kick ass photographer that deserves more love on S6 and I always have to give a shout out to my guys Francis Minoza and Laurence Minoza from Nicebleed.
Photography by Bobby Anderson