WATCHING MOVIES is more than a pastime for Ben Moy. He has turned his hobby into an art form.
The Howard Community College art student is not a filmmaker; he is a computer illustrator, and his artwork is inspired by the films he sees. He takes the mood of each movie and turns it into an image on paper.
Moy, 25, is one of five student and alumni artists whose work is on display in the college's Invitational Art Exhibit. For three years, the summer show has featured five outstanding students and alumni who have been nominated by the art faculty. This year's show includes ceramics, painting, drawing, photography and digital art.
Moy, who is from Silver Spring and lives in Kings Contrivance during the school year, renders his images digitally, using the Illustrator program.
"I really like the movie posters from the '30s and '40s, and I am trying to emulate them," Moy said. "If I just aped them, that would be cheating. So what I like to do is combine that style with things that are thoroughly modern."
The pieces he submitted for the show were inspired by popular and lesser-known films alike, such as Minority Report and Unforgiven, the French film Amelie and the Chinese film In the Mood for Love.
"Art expresses emotions you can't explain in words," Moy said. "In my images, I try to get the mood of a movie rather than a scene. So for example, in the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood's character wants to give up killing. He is called back to do one more thing. So that image is of disembodied hands going for a gun. The hands are to show that he is being pulled back into the whole deal. The real poster is a picture of him standing there.
"I wanted to do an abstract picture for the Chinese film. The story is about two people who fall in love, but are married to others. ... The image is an Asian-style ink rendering. It shows two bodies that almost form a heart shape, but not quite. It is two people springing out from one organic shape but still being separate, still distant."
The exhibit is as diverse as the college's students.
Ellicott City resident Karl Avellar, a retired electrical engineer, is showing still-life and landscape paintings.
"Painting is something that has been an interest most of my life," he said. "I used to see a painting and say, 'I can do that.' Then I would go to a art class and find out I couldn't. I would get frustrated and stop - until I got to HCC. The instruction at HCC is exceptional. I still get frustrated, but not to the same point. I never felt I was progressing until I came to HCC."
HCC alumna Gail Handelmann, a professional photographer living in Marblehead, Mass., is showing her photographs. For Handelmann, taking classes at HCC turned into a career-changing experience.
"I had a career in science," she said. "I was a physiological psychologist. I worked for the government and various universities. I always carried my camera. I traveled a lot for business. When I realized that photography was my favorite part of my job, I knew I had to do something."
Handelmann started taking classes when her two children were in elementary school.
"I thought I was setting a good example for them showing them how I studied and did my homework," she said.
After completing a degree at HCC, she studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
"Photography is a compulsion for me," she said.
The images on display include night images, such as lighthouses or bridges with lights. "I look for strong geometric shapes when I shoot pictures," Handelmann said. "The color and composition catch my eye. With photography you instantly recognize something that seems important. You have to act quickly and take the picture. It's a gut feeling."
For Handelmann, things have come full circle: The college purchased one of her photographs for its collection. "It's probably going to hang in the college's new science building," she said.
Oakland Mills resident Ian Coleman, 23, also changed careers as a result of the classes he attended at HCC. But his was a much earlier change. As an engineering major, Coleman was required to take one art class. The rest is history.
"There is such a maturity to Ian's work," said James Adkins, director of the college's art gallery. "He is the youngest person in the show, but you would never know from his paintings. He is extremely talented and a joy to work with."
Coleman's still-lifes and landscape paintings are on display. "It's nice to be recognized for the work you do," Coleman said. "When I found out there were careers I could do with my art, I knew that was what I would do."
Molly Creel of Glenwood is considering a somewhat smaller career change. She is an elementary school teacher in Howard County (returning after a one-year hiatus during which she took art classes at HCC) and is considering becoming an art teacher. Her ceramic vases and abstract clay pieces are on display in the show.
"It's a challenge to create a three-dimensional image and be successful. It's a different challenge than drawing and painting, the area where I feel most comfortable," Creel said.
"The idea of the show is to recognize people at HCC who have done a good job as a student," Adkins said. "We want to reward excellence. Students like these set the standard for the class and the department."
"HCC is a real gem," Handelmann said.
The show runs through Sept. 4.