VCD Student Artwork Prepares to Take Flight


 When Abby Ullman arrived at Kent in 2019, it was as a marketing major with the plan to be an author. Little did she know her path would lead to a double major with Visual Communication Design – and her artwork appearing in an acclaimed, award-winning, best-selling board game.

Growing up, my dream was to be an artist and write books. I drew my own pictures and had stories to tell with them. My favorite medium to use is watercolor and colored pencil.

Looking for ways to channel her creativity, and interested in learning more digital art techniques, Abby decided to minor in VCD. It was in her Intro to Studio class that Jillian Coorey encouraged her to switch from a design minor to a major, leading to her double majoring in both marketing and design. The guidance of faculty member David Wilson, who teaches Illustration, Design and Graphic Narrative, helped Abby make her illustrations better and more dynamic.

Painting of a Cedar Waxwing, a brown, yellow and blue bird
Abby's Cedar Waxwing
Painting of Ruby Throated Hummingbird, a small green and white bird with red colored throat
Abby's Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Then in January of 2023, Abby’s  father, a big fan of gaming (so much so he has custom built shelves at home to hold all his games) came to her with news. Stonemaier Games had just announced a contest related to their most popular game, Wingspan, a bird-based board game in which players try to create a successful wildlife preserve through attracting the best birds to their habitat. Because of the popularity of Wingspan fan art, Stonemaier was running a contest for fans to submit their own illustrations of one of the birds in the original deck or the three regional expansion decks.

Successful submissions would be printed and sold as a promo pack and for each pack they make, Stonemaier would donate to several bird-related charities. 

"I signed up to paint the Cedar Waxwing," Abby said. "I had approximately 2-3 weeks to paint the bird and submit it. It was very therapeutic to watercolor after a long day of work and class...I submitted my painting in February." 

But there was a complication.

After the submission deadline, Stonemaier contacted Abby with bad news. Someone had already painted the Cedar Waxwing, and their illustration had been accepted. Since they really liked her illustration, however, they asked if she could paint another from a list of birds still needing a submission. 

Luck was on Abby’s side: one of the birds still needed was the Ruby Throated Hummingbird – and she had painted that same bird for her mother the year before. She submitted her second painting, and Stonemaier liked it so much they picked it to be in the first fan art pack. 

As a contributor, Abby will get a free pack of these cards which will go on sale in late 2023. Wingspan players all over the world will get to see Abby’s Ruby Throated Hummingbird.

"I think being on the design team for a board game would be fun to do someday," Abby says. But still, she continues to pursue her dream of writing and drawing her own books in the future.



Update: The Fan Art Pack was released late 2023, and can be purchased online.

Box art for Wingspan board game Fan Art Pack
POSTED: Tuesday, August 29, 2023 12:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2024 02:04 PM