Bio photos of Basya Goldstein and Mariah Plakas '23 are inside the MFAVN apostrophe brand mark with their respective works as a backdrop.

Congrats to the Sketchboard Pro Thesis Sponsorship Award winners, Basya Goldstein & Mariah Plakas (’23)

We’d like to congratulate the two winners of the Sketchboard Pro Thesis Sponsorship Award, Mariah Plakas (’23) and Basya Goldstein (’23)!

Braintreehouse and Sketchboard Pro offer a generous sponsorship award to two MFA Visual Narrative thesis students. Each sponsorship consists of a $2500 thesis award and is accompanied by a new iPad Pro and Sketchboard Pro Artist Bundle. In addition, Braintreehouse artists are made available to the students for professional advice and mentorship. All MFA Visual Narrative students are eligible for an annual Sketchboard Pro product discount that also lasts one year beyond graduation for all alumni.

Mariah Plakas is an American illustrator, animator, and graphic designer who explores ideas of remembrance. Her digital drawings and gifs explore the nostalgic qualities behind consumerist objects and the memories associated with them.

Basya Goldstein is first and foremost a student! She hails from Teaneck NJ and is a recent graduate of Stern College for Women where she majored in Studio Art and minored in English. Basya keeps a pencil on her the way a grandmother keeps a throat lozenge in her purse. She is obsessed with animation, and can talk about films and books for hours.

Both students submitted their thesis sketches and portfolios to Braintreehouse for consideration.

Here are some samples from ‘Blitzar Park’, Mariah’s thesis story:

Title card to 'Blitzar Park' has the title written in dark purple with a blue glow. A little UFO flying saucer hovers at the end of the title.
Title card for Blitzar Park.
Height chart shows three characters Sticks, Addie and Vivian.
Height chart and early renditions of main characters
The story's three characters show their personalities and their evolution from the height chart.
Character personalities and evolution of their designs

Mariah told us that the final thesis story will exist as two pieces. “The first will be a 2D animated pilot episode for a multi-episode cartoon series, Blitzar Park. The pilot will be about 7 to 11 minutes long. The second piece is the Pitch Bible, which will exist as a physical art book containing all of the behind the scenes makings of the show. It is currently estimated between 100 and 200 pages long.”

Mariah is thankful for the Sketchboard Pro award. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you so, so, SO much Sketchboard Pro! Five years ago, I saved up three months worth of paychecks from my minimum wage movie theater job and spent all the money in my bank account on an iPad and Apple Pencil so I could make digital art at home. If you had told 19 year old Mariah that she would be gifted at the age of 24 a brand new iPad, Apple Pencil, and Sketchboard Pro, she probably would have fainted. Thanks for literally changing my life not only art career wise, but also my posture has drastically improved now that I no longer have to sit in the shrimp position hunched over my iPad like an art goblin. Thank you again!”

You can follow Mariah on Instagram here.

Basya Goldstein submitted these works from her thesis story ‘Guy Island’ to Sketchboard Pro:

Title card for Guy Island shows a smiling skull and bones with a nice head of hair

Two page spread of comic shows girls dealing with gang of boys outside. Then visited by a boy they like.
Two page sketch of spread from ‘Guy Island’
Two girls approach a street vendor selling fruit. He says "Hello ladies"
Two-page sketch of spread from ‘Guy Island’
Two page spread of the comic book 'Guy Island' shows a girl in the center of a ship's bunkhouse looking nervous
Two-page sketch of spread from ‘Guy Island’

Basya’s thesis is about two main characters, Charlotte and Keira, who are best friends. “They run a seaside inn in a Treasure Island era English fishing village,” Basya told us. “Charlotte loves the life she has here, and wants everything to stay as is, while Keira craves adventure, and is dissatisfied by the roteness of her life. Everything changes when Keira gets a hold of a map to a mysterious too-good-to-be-true island called Guy Island. Suddenly Keira is given a chance to finally pursue the life she wants, while Charlotte is faced with the terrifying possibility of losing her best friend, and the stability of the life built around their friendship. Through their journey, facing unexpectedly friendly pirates and a cult of carnivorous mushroom men, Charlotte will learn to let her friend go, and understand that though friendships inevitably evolve, that doesn’t mean that they end. I’m hoping this story reassures change averse people like me, and helps them embrace the adventures awaiting them. At 42 pages it will be the first long form story I’ve ever written or drawn, something I’ve always dreamed of doing, but never had the confidence to pursue before this program.”

Basya also expressed her thanks to Braintreehouse for the award. “My goal in creating this project is to continue learning and growing in my drafting, coloring, and storytelling skills, as well as my speed, and having the iPad and Sketchbook Pro has been a total game changer in this regard. Before I would pencil by hand, scan the images into Photoshop and then ink and letter it digitally, which was a time consuming, and sometimes wonky process. With the iPad and Apple Pencil it has been amazing . It’s the first time I’ve ever drawn digitally and it feels natural, As for the Sketchbook Pro, it feels like I have my very own, portable artists desk. Thank you so so much for giving me these amazing tools, and I am so excited to use it for this project, and continue using it for many projects to come!”

Again, congratulations to both Mariah and Basya! We look forward to seeing the final projects in the summer of 2023.

Header illustration by Mariah Plakas.