Maria Sterr: Animation Concept Art

My name is Maria E. Sterr. I am currently studying animation, which I like to do in my freetime. Outside of that I like to go on walks and watch TV. I am trying to do more of the former than the latter activity. 

For these sets of images the hardest part was the character turns. I was afraid that I would not be able to make the turn consistent. When I was drawing them I made sure I had guides to at least stay consistent with the height of the character. The hat was also a bit difficult since I had to figure out its relationship to the hair and earmuffs as well as how it would look at different angles for the character.

This is seen in both the character turns and expressions since I mainly kept the design of the focus character the same. I adjusted the color of her jacket and added a sweatshirt peaking out beneath the bottom of the coat and the sleeves. I did this because I wanted to add a bit more to her design. My favorite addition is the little bit of red on her nose to show that she is cold outside. This bit will only be added in the animation when the character is outside.

For the background I wanted to get the vibe of the two different locations, so I did one outside and one inside. For the one inside I wanted to do naturalish tones of brown to get the idea that it is in a log cabin like structure. I added the small details of shoes and purses in the cubbies to get the vibe that it is in use.

For the outside, I didn’t want to make the snow just white since I did need to differentiate it from the ice. I made the ice white so I would stand out better and the snow gray. The blue lines are the cracks from the skates. I put the cabin in it to get an idea of how far away it is. Other details are the fence and the lights (the black lines on the left.)

The mood board was easy once I picked out a name and font for the title. The font is called Los Feliz, but I also thought it would be cool to add a ribbon that goes around the letters. All the characters are new and were not in the storyboard since I wanted to focus on the main characters movements. They are meant to be in the background. The exception might be the 2 boys since I am thinking about making them the cause of the character falling after they zip past her. Most of them will be outside to give an idea of life to the environment. The guy holding his skates, though, will be inside. I tried to base these background characters off what I normally see at ice skating rinks: parents helping their kids skate, people with hot chocolate, the kids who are young and better at skating then everyone else weaving through the masses, and the friends who go skating for fun but one of them has not done this activity before. I tried to pick their colors around what I think worked with their design. Funny enough a lot of them were cooler colors. I do not take issue with that since it helps the main character stand out.

Lindsey Gurgul: Animation Concept Art

My name is Lindsey Gurgul and I am a sophomore in Bradley University’s animation program. I’m a transfer student, so this is my first year here. I’ve always liked drawing and watching cartoons, so I decided on being an animation major. I’ve grown up with my supportive family, who have definitely inspired this concept.

For my concept art, I already had a good idea of what I wanted, so most of it came out nice. I wanted Joey to be super simple and bright. Whereas his mom is darker and somewhat more detailed (with her eyelids and pouch) so that she wasn’t just a bigger version of Joey. For the objects, I just wanted to get down the basic idea of what I’d have to animate (the colors may eventually change). Moving on to the background, I was dead set on there being a sort of purple overlay/ background to Joey’s room, but I tried not to make it too dark so that Joey didn’t look out of place. I might actually end up changing the colors, but I’m happy with the design of it. I tried to make it look like a kid could actually use the room (by making it comfy and filling it with toys).

Happy Birthday

by Ayannah Garcia

“Happy Birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you look like a monkey, 

aaaaaaand, you smell like one too.” 

—Alex from “Madagascar” 

Happy Birthday to my courageous friend

Half of the brother and sister duo that’s a perfect blend

Who watches you in awe as you ascend

And misses you more on weekends

Happy Birthday to the person who makes me laugh

Who pranks me a lot but gave me his first autograph

Who takes polaroids and photographs

Yet still wishes he had met the Hogwarts staff

Happy Birthday to the person with whom I share blood

The person who would save me from a flood

Even though I would drag you through the mud

Because you would accidentally call me a dud

Happy Birthday from a girl who loves libraries

Who shares your birth month of January 

The girl who hates peach pie but loves strawberries

And followed your footsteps which she thinks is customary

Happy Birthday to the now 20-year-old who always thinks he’s funny

The “knight in shining armor” who makes every room sunny

Who jokes a lot about drinking bottles of honey

Don’t worry, I won’t tell them you steal everyone’s money

Happy, Happy Birthday to my brother 

A person like no other

The very one who makes my day and sometimes is a bluffer

Let’s keep celebrating birthdays one after another.

About Ayannah Garcia

Ayannah Garcia is a freshman attending Richwoods High School, where she takes part in the Pre-IB program, the Royalettes dance team, and the drama club. Outside of school, she loves to dance, read, journal, travel with family, and play with her dog. In addition to these activities, she is currently a member of the Finale Group of the Greater Peoria Illinois Chapter of Jack and Jill, an organization for young African American individuals who want to serve the community, and a member of her church’s youth group.

Grading Institutions of Higher Learning 

by Cameron Williams 

For decades school rankings have impacted how we view higher education—but is the data unreliable?

U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2023 rankings for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges. The results were not shocking with only minor changes from last year’s line-up, though Columbia University dropped from No. 2 to No. 18 due to providing false information the previous year. With seniors beginning to create their college applications and scout for colleges, an important question arises: Should students even take these rankings seriously? 

U.S. News & World Report infamously uses flawed methodology regarding their rankings for universities and colleges. Only 5% of their approach factors in how much their graduates are in debt due to student loans, and there is no factor in their methodology for how much a school costs. On top of that, U.S. News’ ranking does not factor in the employment rate of a university’s graduates. The other 95% of their ranking is based on nearly meaningless metrics, like “Academic Reputation,” standardized-testing scores, and the rate of alumni donations, which are skewed towards wealthy institutions. So, the only thing these rankings seem to reflect is the size of a university’s wallet, not the quality of its education or its graduates’ career outcomes.

Forbes Magazine has taken a different approach to ranking universities and colleges. Forbes’ criteria is mainly composed of factors such as alumni salary, debt, and return on investment. Forbes’ system has led to surprising outcomes like the placement of the University of California, Berkeley as the No. 1 university in 2022. The current United States educational climate has forced students to take the financial factors of a college education into greater consideration than in past decades. So, while U.S. News & World Report’s rankings might be useful for those who can pay out of pocket for college, Forbes’ rankings are much more practical to the average applicant. 

While the Forbes’ ranking improves on many of the flaws of U.S. News & World Report, their results should not be used to decide on a college. No student should base their college application or choice on a ranking. The only person that knows what college is best for you is yourself, not the editors of Forbes or U.S. News & World Report. College rankings are a very useful starting point for your college search. However, you must do your own research to ensure that the college you attend is the best fit for your career goals. I wish you all the best of luck. We got this!

About Cameron Williams

Cameron Williams is a senior at Richwoods High School, where he is a part of The Shield Newspaper, IB Program, and Marine Corps JROTC. He has always felt a passion for writing due to its endless possibilities for self-expression. Outside of school, he loves to read, exercise, and spend time with his two dogs, Daisy and Gracie.

The Need for a Network

by Izaak Garcia 

Networking can teach you a lot about people… and yourself.

I came into college not really understanding the true importance of building a network. I was more concerned about how I was going to learn the art of my craft. The questions that plagued my mind at the beginning of my time here at the University of Southern California (USC) were things like how to write a script, how to improve that same script, and how to pitch the script. But once I put pen to paper—or more like my fingers to the keyboard—things changed. I locked down my method to get my ideas on the page in screenwriting format, and suddenly the questions that were once so big became smaller, albeit slightly. I began to see how essential the writing of a movie was, and how the basis of all movies revolved around good writing. I could see the intricacies of characters that others had written and incorporate something similar in my writing as well. This newfound clarity gave me room to breathe, and I began to see the value of having a network. I looked around at the people in my classes, the people I interacted with, and professionals that were already established in the industry. By doing this, I realized that all of them had a strong network, regardless of their current project; so I started branching out. 

My network has grown drastically this semester alone. I secured an internship in the first semester of my sophomore year, which added fuel to the fire that was my confidence. I figured that if I could snag an internship this early, nothing is stopping me from pitching my own scripts to other people, and possibly even directing them. So, I sent a script to a student-run production called “4085 Productions,” and within two weeks they said they loved the script and wanted to produce it!

I was ecstatic, and the experience of being on set, interacting with people who were on the same page as me was something that I will never forget. And because I decided to branch out, I met new actors, directors, cinematographers, and even other writers within the production company. Something else also happened when meeting these people—I began to realize that as I talked with others who wanted to go into various parts of the entertainment industry, I needed to be unique in my craft. I would have to build a network of people who would want to work with me for days on end. It is not enough for me to only write and direct different projects. My brand needs to be distinct. I want my personal brand to reflect both in the stories that I tell, and my character as a human being, because when character is shown through the stories told on the big screen, the audience connects with it more. And it was only after I started to network that this became clear.

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California, majoring in Cinema and Media Studies with a minor in Applied Cybersecurity. He has played soccer with FC Peoria, Dunlap, and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and English for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new languages, and playing video games.

Art by Ellie Kraemer

Ellie Kraemer is a sophomore and an animation major at Bradley University who lives and breathes her artwork. Becoming a professional artist and animator has been a goal of hers for many years, as various works of digital art and experience have held a pivotal role in her life. Intrigued by the diverse storytelling prowess of interactive media, she aims to get involved in the productions of visuals for video games and animated series after graduation. You can find more of her work at 

The Monkeypox Epidemic

by Alayna Filipak

Last year, monkeypox began spreading across the world and many feared another pandemic. Learn more about this virus, its history, and how it can be avoided.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, news outlets began to pick up on a sudden outbreak of the Monkeypox virus across the globe and many feared it was the beginning of another widespread pandemic. But what exactly is Monkeypox? Monkeypox, now referred to “MPox” by the World Health Organization, is an infectious disease that originated in small mammals in Central and West Africa. It is a member of the poxvirus family, along with smallpox and cowpox. The first identified human case was a nine-month-old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970 and was then reported in eleven other African countries. Until recently, almost all cases were either endemic or related to international travel. In May of 2022, however, Mpox began cropping up all over the world and has been spreading more rampantly than we have ever seen before.

Mpox is most commonly spread between humans by physical or intimate contact with an infected person. Touching objects used by someone who is infected or having contact with rashes or scabs caused by monkeypox may cause infection, but sexual intercourse has been identified as the source of most cases since May 6, 2022. Experts from the World Health Organization believe that the decline in smallpox vaccinations, which are about 85% effective against Mpox, is a factor in the sudden increase in cases.

Symptoms of Mpox appear within three weeks of exposure, and flu-like symptoms may precede the formation of rashes near or on genitals, hands, feet, chest, or face. It may share the appearance of blisters or pimples and will scab over before healing. Headache, fever, chills, and muscle aches are additional symptoms that have been reported. Mpox can still be spread until all of the scabs have fallen off and healed over, but the illness typically only lasts 2-4 weeks.

Unlike its more dangerous cousin, smallpox, Mpox is less contagious and its fatality rate is much lower. The mortality rate of Mpox currently stands at about 3-6%, and only 20 of the 29,740 confirmed cases in the United States have resulted in death since January 1, 2022, according to the CDC. Outside of the United States, the most deaths in this same time frame have been in Brazil, having lost 14 people to the disease.

More locally, The Illinois Department of Health has confirmed 1,419 cases as of December 23, almost all of which are in the Chicago area. There have been no cases reported in Peoria so far, but the Peoria City/County Health Department still urges people to be careful of possible transmission. There are vaccinations available for Mpox that the CDC has recommended for those who have come in contact with it or are more prone to contracting it, but the World Health Organization has stated that mass vaccination is not yet needed. For the moment, the best way to avoid monkeypox is to not have physical contact with someone who has been exposed or shows symptoms. It is important to remember that, even with coverage of the virus dying out, Mpox is still highly transmissible and dangerous to those infected.

About Alayna Filipiak

Alayna Filipiak is a junior at Richwoods High School. She is part of the Track and Field team, Spanish Club, Interact Club and Science Club. In her free time, she likes to write stories and play video games. She hopes to become a lawyer in the future.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Ary Westfall is a junior Interactive Media major and Theatre Arts minor attending Bradley University. She is the social media manager for DAT, creates webcomics in her free time, and enjoys all forms of sequential art. Ary hopes to break into the comic world or find work in pre-production art for television. 

A Brief History of The Phantom of the Opera

by Anna Gross

The “Phantom” will fall silent at last.

The Phantom of the Opera, Broadway’s longest running show, is set to close in April of 2023, making it one of many musicals that have announced closing dates since June of 2022. The show first opened in 1986 on the West End in London before its debut on Broadway in 1988. Neither production could escape the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic—which has led to the downfall of many other shows and changed the theater industry forever—first with the London show ending in 2020 and the Broadway show set to end later this year. 

For the last 35 years, The Phantom of the Opera has told the story of a man with a facial deformity who haunts the Palais Garnier, an opera house in France, and eventually falls for the new star soprano, Christine Daae. The Phantom becomes her “Angel of Music,” coaching Christine’s voice and threatening the opera house if they do not cast her as the lead in all their productions. Christine does not love the Phantom back, however, as she has fallen in love with her childhood friend Raoul. The story evolves into a heated love triangle punctuated with some of the most powerful opera music of all time. 

A wildly popular drama, The Phantom of the Opera musical is based on the book with the same title by Gaston Leroux—a fictional story of the ghostly tales that took place at Palais Garnier. The musical was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the role of Christine for his second wife, Sarah Brightman. She played the lead role in the West End and on Broadway, and also made an appearance at the 25th anniversary of the show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. There have been many movies based on Leroux’s book, but only one adaptation has been made into a musical using Webber’s songs. The 2004 film, The Phantom of the Opera, follows the same plotline, yet it never reached the same level of success or praise as the stage production. Love Never Dies, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, opened in London in 2010, although it failed to start a run on Broadway after severely negative reviews of the show.

Like every show in the history of Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera has received criticism—primarily for flat characters and a stagnant plotline—yet it has managed to remain one of the most popular musicals in history. Audiences are drawn to its colorful costumes, striking props and scenery, heart stopping songs, and underestimated characters. Throughout the 35 years that The Phantom of the Opera has been on Broadway, 21 men have played the role of the Phantom, and 35 women have portrayed Christine. In October of 2021, Emilie Kouatchou became the first African American woman to play the role of Christin on Broadway.  The 25-year-old actress will continue in the role until the curtains close in April. The closing of The Phantom of the Opera marks the end of an era. Although the show is ending professionally, remember that The Phantom of the Opera will always be there, inside your mind. 

About Anna Gross

Anna Gross is a Sophomore in the Pre-IB program at Richwoods High School. She is involved in Student Council, Student Leadership Team, speech, tennis, and Spanish Club. Outside of school she loves to travel, bake, and perform as a singer, dancer, and actress!

About Sophie Liu 

Sophie Liu is a business student at the Gies College of Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is currently studying business information systems and supply chain management. Sophie loves to draw, play music, and exercise in her free time. She has been illustrating for Big Picture Peoria for the past 3 years, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon!