By Day By Night, Ali Cowley – Media Design School

2 years ago by

By Day By Night is an interview series that profiles graphic design tutors from design schools throughout New Zealand. We learn about their role as a teacher and their own personal design practice.

Today we hear from Ali Cowley who works at Media Design School



What is your official title at work?
Art Tutor in the Bachelor of Creative Technologies degree.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your career path, and how you got into teaching?
Ever since my Dad showed me how to sketch as a kid drawing has been a passion of mine. I have fond memories of art during my school years and in fact found that art, especially the art classroom, was my sanctuary. Art is cathartic and has helped me in many ways like being creative in areas such as illustration, storyboarding, animation, hip hop backup dancer, dance tutor, deejay, acting and directing which subsequently allowed me to make a living from my talents.

I’ve taught animation production at a few animation schools, worked in animation studios, freelanced, even pitched my original IP to disney tv, henson company to name a few but it was during a Polynesian driven initiative called Creative Natives I connected with Frances Valentine former CEO of Media Design School and joined the faculty there.

Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or research are you involved with?
Freelance work-wise I have been working on opening titles for series web tv and pitching to subscription channels. Currently I am working on an art catalogue book from an art exhibition. I’ve curated during the urbanesia festival 2016 called Altered egos featuring 5 Polynesian Pop Culture artists (including myself). I also have a funded research app development project called Play Kindly that focuses on Pasifika early childhood parenting. My personal projects involve using game engines to develop short films and comics.

What project are you most proud of and why?
When I work with fanau and friends on projects that is when I am most proud because I can share my creativity with them.

Last year I directed a short documentary called Meet Munch Jr about my son who is on the spectrum. This was a proud moment to direct my son and to have an all Polynesian crew. You can still see this documentary on the loading docs platform.

How does your personal practise feed into your role as an educator?
Well, it’s directly feeding my experience to my students so I’m giving them real-world stories of what is expected of an artist at a professional level.

What are you inspired by, and how do you keep the momentum for your personal work alive?
I am inspired to be an independent storyteller and to find creative ways to be free and to not be restricted.

How do you balance these two roles (educator and practitioner)?
To add to this answer I also think I balance being a husband, father, son and brother. I think it is important to mention these things because they all intersect each other but they also balance each other out. For example, motivation to provide for the fanau feeds motivation to work. This then intersects into the educator in me and when engaging with over 50 students to deliver a lesson I’ll call on my industry experience but try to mentor these students as if they were my kids.

Are there any particular benefits and/or challenges?
There always are benefits to balance but life can be unbalanced at times and it’s a constant balancing act. Most of the time it’s balanced so I’m quite content.

What are the best bits about working at Media Design School?
I get to be my creative self and explore techniques with my students. Also, there has been acknowledgement to Polynesian culture over the years in research so I appreciate the level of important engagement to my cultural heritage especially through the gaze of futurism. Also, the people there are great and really supportive.

And, finally, where can we see more of your own work?


Interview with Altered Egos Artists about The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate

App development

Check out my Documentary Meet Munch Jr


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