As a teenager, Susan Giangrande crafted Muppets out of foam and fleece and put on puppet shows for her siblings and their friends. Though Giangrande now works with a different medium, her love of art persists.
Giangrande, Frontline Manager of Paresky Commons, is the woman behind the intricately drawn designs that decorate the Paresky windows. Using only computer-printed images for reference, Giangrande creates many detailed designs that give regular Paresky meals an engaging edge.
“[I’m] trying to find a better way to display what we have [to eat]. In order to get more information out there, I started to draw what items [the food represents],” said Giangrande, who has worked at Paresky for five years.
Each bright painting conveys humor as well as artistic intricacy, stemming from Giangrande’s passion for visual art. Since the age of five, Giangrande has developed her artistic skills through oil paint, pen and ink, pastel and fashion illustration.
“A number of years ago, I went to the School of Fashion Design in Boston. I was going nights. I actually did take some of my material down to New York, and I was going to go for a children’s wear design,” said Giangrande. “They wanted me to move to New York, but I was married at the time, so I wasn’t about to move to New York. But they liked the illustrations a lot.”
On campus, her smiling cartoons and remarkably realistic designs are widely recognized by students and faculty for their lighthearted nature and their ability to break up the monotony of waiting in line.
“I feel like it adds a whole new level of fun to eating,” said Jerry Li ’14. “It’s nice that [Giangrande] has a place to show her art, because I don’t know where these little pictures of food and themes would fit. I do talk about them with my friends; whenever there’s a really cool one, I always wonder, ‘How does she do it?’”
Whenever she is having a hard time incorporating images like professional sports teams or cultural events into her images, Giangrande says she usually relies on her past personal experiences for inspiration. For example, many of Giangrande’s season-inspired art has depicted Charlie Brown. Just recently, to celebrate Halloween, a drawing of Charlie Brown and Woodstock was featured on a glass cover in Paresky’s Upper Right.
“I think I draw a lot from Charlie Brown because I grew up with it. It’s just part of my past. I love it. I think it’s this innocence; it’s just a bunch of kids together having a great time with a great dog!” said Giangrande.
Giangrande uses thick poster-paint markers to develop her pictures, taking about 15 to 30 minutes to complete each piece. Starting with a white outline, she then fills in the image, adding color and detail before blending the colors in order to add shadow and depth.
Angela Tang ’16 said, “It’s the little things that are really special. They can cheer up someone’s day. I know when I walk into Commons and see [Giangrande’s art], I smile. I don’t smile at them just because of pretty they are, or how detailed they are, but also because someone took the time to brighten your day with art!”