Toby Thane Neighbors

Big week starting tomorrow: our annual Communication Design capstone presentations, running Tuesday through Thursday. Forty-one seniors will present their projects, ranging from books to films to identity projects. Illustrators and designers.

I've been in contact recently with a former student who combines great drawing, rigorous design, a very strong sense of style, a mean work ethic and arch humor: the colorfully named Toby Thane Neighbors. He transferred in from a school in Texas. As I recall in our first conversation, on the phone, he used the word "sir" several times. Toby played football for a year–a tailback–then went beatnik as a senior, a bit self-mockingly. His capstone project was folktaley, somewhat animated, distinctive. When he left St. Louis, Toby was threatening to go herd goats in Mongolia. I almost believed him.

He's back in Texas, and western themes still show up in his personal work. I've always loved his stuff. It's abstract enough to fool you. It goes flat from time to time, always deliberately. But then you look at this array of NBA stars. He captures the distinctive aspect of each character. He describes even as he distorts and flattens.

Toby also manages atmospheric perspective really well, as shown in the Saga of Joshua Cain. His work references wood type and relief printing, the color palettes (most recently) of Push Pin Graphic publications, and other sundry sources.

So check out Mr. Neighbors' stuff at

Congratulations, Toby, on the cool new work. When are you going to design tee shirts? I'll want one when you do...