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D. Peters asked: "Ok, random question. A bunch of art teachers are debating whether or not learning how to use a ruler and how to draw things to scale is still a needed skill for today's artists. Some argue that with technology, we no longer have the need to learn how to scale up or down by hand. Others say that even with the technology, there is still a need for artists to learn how to draw and shape to scale by hand. Opinion?"
|Jeanette in my basement studio, which I occupied 1985-1991|
I feel nearly all practical skills are worth learning, even if a computer can do them more efficiently. The more skills you master, the stronger you are as a person and as an artist. Consider, by way of example, the skill of mental arithmetic. If you can accurately add a column of numbers in your head, you will use the skill all the time, even though that function is readily mechanized by calculators.
I suppose teachers of art rightly worry about which skills are more worth teaching than others, given the limited time they have to prepare a group of graduates for the real demands of a job marketplace. Most art teachers I've asked about this question have told me that both
traditional skills (such as perspective) and computer skills (such as Google Sketchup) are worth learning, but the problem is the limited class time available to teach it all. Many digital animation studios want animators who have some training in hand-drawn or stop motion animation because it gives their digital work more grounding.
The path of learning is different when you are teaching yourself. You will teach yourself whatever skills you need to match the demands of a given project. Project-based self-teaching is fueled entirely by your personal obsessions. It may lead you to a rare mastery of a forgotten art, such as ornamental glass art.
In this new Internet economy, the people who succeed are those who—lured by the happy demons of curiosity—learn a suite of skills, including both digital and traditional skills, that makes them different from anyone else, and thus indispensable to society. And because we're human, we might wish to learn skills that have no immediate practical value whatsoever, such as juggling, piano playing, wood engraving, or knitting.
On Thursday I visited the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts as a guest of the department of Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD), where I gave a lecture on Worldbuilding.
The IMGD program at WPI is designed to provide students with both programming expertise and art knowledge so that they're well rounded in their approach to interactive design.
One of the professors is Britt Snyder (left, with a Jordu Schell sculpt between us). Britt has worked as an artist in the field of video game development for the past 13 years, with clients like SONY, Blizzard, Liquid Entertainment, Rockstar, THQ, and many others.
He teaches 3D modeling, digital painting, and concept art.
WPI was one of the first to develop a program in game design, and is one of the top-ranked academic programs in the field. Since the department is part of a larger engineering school, there's always a focus on blending art and technology, with an eye on fostering close working relationships between artists and programmers.
Students get to jump right in and participate in hands-on projects and collaborations, creating games, virtual environments, interactive fiction, art installations, collaborative performances. They are encouraged to invent entirely new forms of media.
I was thrilled to be invited by PhD candidate Jia Wang
to try out the virtual reality mo-cap lab, dubbed "Phase Space."
I am wearing a stereoscopic head-mounted display and holding a tracking constellation (basically a souped up Wii controller with very precise tracking points).
The myriad sensors mounted on the outer frame follow the exact 3D movements of my head and hand-held wand, turning me into a St. George with a sword facing off against a dragon, or whatever.
Small fans mounted on the outer frame can generate the effect of wind, so that the player can feel completely immersed in a virtual environment.
Enrollment will be limited to 15. Max will give individual critiques and studio time with live models. Garin's atelier is a congenial place to be during the work sessions and during the off-time, when students can bond around good food and conversation. There are rooms in Garin's historic house to accommodate some of the students.
Max and Garin have asked me to come by for an evening to talk a little about multiple figure composition.
For more information:
By the way, Garin and his studio are featured on the cover of the current issue of American Artist Workshop magazine.
The editor of American Artist magazine recently asked a group of
artists, teachers, and administrators to describe "The Perfect Art School." The new September issue publishes the answers.
Here's my answer: "The perfect art school would nurture skill but not ostentation, knowledge but not dogma, and tradition but not conventionalism."
We experimented with your method of gamut masking and mixing color strings. We used pages 123-131 in Color and Light, and also referenced pages 106-107 and 116-117.
For the exercise I brought in some simple photographs for them to copy, because I wanted to take the drawing element out of it, so they could concentrate on the color scheme. On the morning of class I went to the MICA library to find a color wheel to use.
In flipping through all the books about color, I could not find a single good color wheel that went to grey in the center. So we had to use the small color wheel in your book on page 75. We used index cards and tape to make the masks. As you can see, some students' first instinct was to photograph it with their phone and bring it back to their seat.
I had each student draw the subject twice. We did one small painting in one color gamut, and then their homework is to do another painting of the same scene in the other gamut. Pretty much exactly what you did in your video with the CircusCircus sign.
And now I've been inspired to incorporate these ideas into my own painting as well. I'm working on a New York 1940s maritime scene that would be perfect for a cool gamut.
Thanks for the great ideas! ---Patrick O'Brien, MICA
If other instructors are doing class projects based on ideas in Color and Light, please send me photos and a description, and I’ll try to share them on the blog.
And if you want to use Color and Light
as your course guide, please let me know. At our little web store, we can offer you discounts on group orders, and I can sign them for each of your students.
MORE INFO:Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
signed from my web storeColor and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
All photos by Patrick O'Brien
Previously on GJ:My painting demo for Patrick's class at MICA Jason Dowd's use of C&L at LCAD
On Wednesday I visited New Hampshire Institute of Art for a demo and lecture. The school occupies 12 historic buildings in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire.
NHIA offers BFA programs in Ceramics, Painting, Photography, Interdisciplinary Arts, Arts Education, Graphic Design, and Illustration.
Kristina Carroll teaches courses on Science Fiction/ Fantasy and Worldbuilding. Above are some samples of student work. Kristina says: "Good technique is the foundation of all illustration, and concept is the heart of it. Regardless of style or subject matter, by learning the tried and true methods of the old masters and developing a strong process, students will acquire the tools to develop share their ideas clearly."
NHIA is also hosting a small show of 25 original Dinotopia artworks, including "Dinosaur Parade" (above, frame by Troy Stafford
), "Garden of Hope
," "Dinosaur Boulevard
," "Small Wonder
," "Up High
," and "Waterfall City
." There are also a few preliminary sketches and reference maquettes. The show, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, contains a completely different set of artwork from the recent show in Connecticut. The NHIA museum is located at 77 Amherst Street and will be up through March 13.
Lines and Colors announcement of the show, with closeups of Dinosaur Parade
R. Ives Gammell (1893-1981) carried the torch for academic painting in mid-20th century America. He published Twilight of Painting in 1946, an argument for the value of traditional painting skills that he found lacking in the art world* around him.
Gammell makes an interesting point about art teaching:
“A painter’s training does not consist primarily in instruction as to the handling of his materials. Such knowledge is extremely important, of course, but it is not the main thing. The essential purpose of a painter’s training should be to equip him with the means of solving any problem suggested to him by his creative impulse.”
He argues that all painters must begin their inspiration with the visible world, and that “a sound tradition of painting is, perhaps more than anything else, an attitude toward the visible world, and its teaching seeks to make that world more understandable and more accessible to its disciples.”
He describes bad teaching as that which makes the student follow canned formulas for painting, or as he says, “ready-made interpretations of natural appearances and recipes for rendering them.”
Above: Gammell: “The Law,” 1936.
How would Gammell address those higher goals? How, exactly, does the teacher equip the young painter to respond to the creative impulse? What good would such guidance be if the student didn’t already know how to stretch a canvas, and apply paint? Especially in a world where basic practical knowledge had been mostly lost, isn’t it the duty of an art education to have mastery of the mechanics of paint and brushes, perspective, anatomy, and accurate drawing?
As I understand Gammell’s argument, he would agree that it’s the teacher’s duty to help the student through all of the mechanics, which take years of dedicated effort, ideally in a small atelier.
But it’s the rare teacher that is able to equip the student with the higher tools for bringing their dreams into focus, and for manifesting them in a way that is right for that student’s unique sensibilities.
Once the practical foundation is laid, teachers can offer students proven strategies for shaping their dreams into material form. The process of developing sketches, preliminary studies from the model, and so forth, is a time-honored procedure that has served artists with all sorts of visions and styles.
*Note: Gammell’s view of the art world scarcely includes the field of illustration. Although he mentions Howard Pyle in passing, he ignores his contemporaries such as Andrew Loomis, whose Creative Illustration
was published in the same year as Twilight of Painting, and he doesn’t acknowledge the Famous Artist’s Course, which was
Yesterday I visited University of the Arts in Philadelphia for the second time. The first time was in the winter of 2010, right on the eve of the historic snowstorm. I was delighted to return with all new lectures, and to meet a whole new group of students.
The head of the illustration program is illustrator and graphic designer, Mark Tocchet, who created the award-winning digital painting “Lover’s Pass,” above.
Here I am with Mark (and a reference skeleton) from the last visit.
Over the years, the school’s illustration program has been led by legendary instructors, such as Ben Eisenstadt (1906-1996) and Henry C. Pitz (1895-1976). The celebrated graduates have included Richard Amsel, Jerry Pinkney, and the Berenstains, creators of the Berenstain Bears.
The illustration program has been ranked among the top three in the nation by US News and World Report.
In between my lectures on color and composition, I did a twenty-minute portrait of Mark with water-soluble colored pencils, while he and the students watched the projected image on the screen.
Thanks, UArts, and keep up the great work.
University of the Arts, Philadelphia
Mark Tocchet's website
Two days ago, I visited Maryland Institute College of the Arts (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland to visit the oil painting class of Patrick O'Brien and James Warhola
My old pal James agreed to go under the lights for a portrait demo that lasted an hour and thirty minutes. As the students gathered 'round, I set up my portable pochade easel on a camera tripod.
James took off his glasses and put on an antique beaver top hat. I laid in the basic shapes with a brush on an oil-primed canvas-covered masonite panel, 9x12 inches. I premixed a few of the main colors and blocked them in with long-haired bristle filbert brushes.
With the help of one of the students, Bethany, who loves costumes, we tried to imagine how a high wing collar and a cravat might look, so as to keep to the period flavor.
I'll do a post about the overall school at MICA later. Thanks to illustration department chairman José Villarubia
for your hospitality, and hats off to the students for your attention and great questions, to Patrick for the photos, and to James for posing!About MICAPatrick O'Brien's Maritime Art James Warhola's website Open Box M Pochade Box
Previously: Tone paper portrait of Warhola
The Art Institute of Phoenix
is a degree-granting institution in Arizona that focuses on developing professional skills in the fields of animation, visual effects, game design, fashion design, and culinary arts.
It's part of the Art Institute
association of schools, which has over 40 branches throughout North America. I visited the school more than a year ago, and I've also visited the Art Institute
Inland Empire in San Bernardino, California.Kevin Hedgpeth
is on the faculty of the media arts program. He's showing me paper sculptures of a helmet and a motorcycle made by the students. Kevin has experience in illustration, toy design, character design, and paleoart.
He likened his job as an instructor to giving the students a "Batman's utility belt
," with a variety of skills that they can use in an ever-changing job environment.
After touring the building, meeting faculty, and doing a digital presentation, I did a demo portrait of Kevin.
------Wikipedia on Art Institute PhoenixOfficial website
Previously: Art Institute Inland Empire
Luckily, the art room of the Shanghai American School had a human skeleton and the skull of a Marco Polo sheep. I had 25 minutes left in my presentation, so I thought I'd do a creature design demo.
If I could blend the two skulls together, I could show the students how to create a satyr. I started by lightly drawing the satyr skull with its eye sockets facing forward, a long nose, big cheekbones, and a prognathic mouth.
I explained how you have to think about perspective not only with buildings and cars, but with a symmetrical form like this. The horns, ears, and eyes have to line up along receding perspective lines.
(Above: sketch by Jeanette) Apart from the creature-design challenge, I find the idea of blending two different species to be profoundly exciting and disturbing. It was once the province of mythology and science fiction, but now the real science is at our doorsteps, as the following two TED talks explore.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design is a four year art school located in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts.
The main building, which is called the "tower," has the gloom of a modernist building that wasn't designed with people in mind. But the students have decorated the interior spaces with cheerful paintings of trees and faces that humanize it a bit.
I toured the building with illustration chair Linda Bourke. There are 185 illustration students, making illustration the largest major subject.
Abraham Tena teaches a course on the Human Figure in Illustration, where he has the students diagram the muscles. The school offers a two-hour open drawing session each week, both costumed and nude, which anyone can attend for free.
Andy Reach, like all upper division students, gets his own dedicated workspace. It's OK if they don't keep the space tidy. "We love it when they get messy," Ms. Bourke said.
One of the most popular classes is illustrative mask making, where the students work directly with theater professionals from Boston. Students are encouraged to experiment with unconventional illustration media, such as embroidery, cutout sculpture, animation, and Sculpey. Above is a sculptural illustration by Virginia Kainamisis
The graduating seniors put special effort into preparing their portfolio. On behalf of the students, the school produces and provides them with a set of business cards in the form of illustrated trading cards.
------Massart web site
Yesterday the students were in full swing on their paintings at Illustration Master Class
, the week-long workshop for fantasy art in Amherst, Massachusetts.
In between giving lectures and circulating to give personal feedback, the instructors demonstrated painting techniques. Greg Manchess
painted a head study of a female model in oil, with instructor Scott Fischer
looking on.Donato Giancola
painted a wizard.Iain McCaig
used watercolor for a head study of a bodybuilder model who joined us last evening for a two hour pose. Since "Tarzan" was one of the five assigned topics, he was an inspiring subject.Dan Dos Santos
and I worked side by side in oil from the model, as many of the students joined in with their sketchbooks (photo by Irene Gallo
Dan decided to shift the color range to a cool palette (left). I experimented with interpreting the same pose in an 8x10 inch oil study, and a half-hour watercolor pencil sketch in my sketchbook.
I also did a quick sketch of instructor Brom
as he gave his lecture, with Noah Bradley
looking on.Illustration Master Class
I met with the editors of Dover Publishing a while ago. They publish a lot of classic books on art instruction from days of yore. I told them that most of what I know about drawing and painting comes from studying their books. They asked me for a list of my ten favorite art instruction books with a blurb about why I love each one.
Bridgman's Life Drawing by George Bridgman
Bridgman's legendary figure drawing demonstrations at the Art Students League of New York have inspired generations of artists, from Norman Rockwell to Frank Frazetta. His dynamic, chunky form analysis reminds students of the big shapes and how they interlock with each other, which is easy to overlook when faced with the subtleties of the actual figure.
John Vanderpoel, who studied in France at the Académie Julian, offers a classical approach to figure drawing, noteworthy for its timeless grace. His approach focuses on the important planes of the figure understood in terms of simple light and shade. Male and female models are analyzed in many detailed drawings of parts, such as the head, neck, torso, and limbs. The plates are so good that it would profit a student to systematically copy all of them.
There are several different approaches to an academic art education. Yesterday, Michael John Angel of the Angel Academy of Art presented his teaching methods and philosophy.
A somewhat different approach is offered by Professor Sergey Chubirko, who teaches at the Russian Art Academy, which is also in Florence, Italy.
Rather than try to summarize Professor Chubirko’s method myself (I have not visited his school) or to presume to draw comparisons to other academies, I thought it would be helpful just to look at his drawings and to ask him a few questions about the thinking behind his work.
Gurney: Do you draw what you see or what you know?
Chubirko: I try not to copy unconsciously what I see. The most important point about the model for me is that the model must be inspirational; it must provoke my imagination for the creation of an image.
That is why I never start drawing before I see clearly the image, which I would like to show, through the model. Knowledge of anatomy and the laws of form are certainly necessary as they help me to work independently and to render my thoughts freely and quickly.
Such knowledge must be automatic so that it does not distract, does not bound imagination and, at the same time, introduce independence to the hand. This is the automatic skill that provides an artist with freedom and fluency when he works. An artist should only care about “what” to express not about “how” to do it.
Gurney: How does the knowledge of anatomy shape the way you interpret what you see?
Chubirko: For academic drawing, knowledge of anatomy and the rules of the form need profound studying at the initial stages of art education. Such knowledge should not be ignored as, for instance, knowledge of the alphabet cannot be ignored when one wants to learn to read and write.
When we learn to read and to write we start with A, B, C, after that we put letters into syllables; later we learn how to compose simple sentences, then finally – complex sentences. And, as soon as we have learnt to express ourselves freely in complex sentences, we do not need to go back to the alphabet again. We do not think about letters any longer because they are just tools for a very creative process of reading and writing; for expressing our thoughts and feelings.
Same is in drawing. Knowledge of anatomy and the laws of form is just a tool necessary for an unlimited work of imagination and creation of the artistic images.
18 Comments on Academic Methods, Part 2: Russian Art Academy, last added: 3/5/2011
Jason Dowd, an instructor at the Laguna College of Art, asked his students to paint color wheels for his Composition and Color class.
They placed the high chroma colors on the outside edge, stepping down to gray at the center. They then explored the gamut masking method outlined in my book Color and Light to generate color schemes and to analyze classical paintings.
Isabelle Moore carefully considered the color gamut before executing this magnificent master copy of the "Harvester" by William Adolphe Bouguereau.
If other instructors are doing class projects based on ideas in Color and Light, please send me photos (jgurneyart at yahoo.com) and I’ll share them on the blog.
And if you want to assign Color and Light as your course guide, please let me know. At the Dinotopia Store, we can offer you discounts on group orders, and I can sign them for each of your students.
Laguna College of Art (LCAD)
Previously on GJ: a visit to LCAD
Jeanette and I are on our way to the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts, a team-taught workshop with about 80 fantasy and science fiction art students.
IMC goes on for a whole week, but we’ll be there just two days. I’ll give the Color and Light talk tonight, and a brand new lecture on Composition tomorrow.
I’ll also be presenting the composition lecture in a seminar this October at LAAFA in Los Angeles.
Composition has traditionally been taught in abstract terms, using concepts such as eye pathways, golden section, or balancing masses. Most art schools and books teach it this way, and I believe it’s useful...up to a point.
I’m going to take quite a different approach, focusing on three things:
1. Visual perception (how do viewers really look at pictures?)
2. Storytelling (what does the picture hope to communicate?)
3. Tonal design (how can the lights and darks be arranged for maximum effect?)
My thinking draws on the science of visual perception, and on the ideas of American illustrator Howard Pyle.
Pyle revolutionized the teaching of composition by making the story paramount. Pyle’s student Jessie Willcox Smith recalled how one’s awareness of the story influenced the choices in composition:
"At the [Pennsylvania] Academy [of the Fine Arts] we had to think about compositions as an abstract thing, whether we needed a spot here or a break over there to balance, and there was nothing to get hold of. With Mr. Pyle it was absolutely changed. There was your story, and you knew your characters, and you imagined what they were doing, and in consequence you were bound to get the right composition because you lived these things. . . . It was simply that he was always mentally projected into his subject.”
If you live in Los Angeles, I encourage you to sign up early for my October lecture/demo workshop at LAAFA.
This will be the perfect material for you if you’ve developed good figure drawing and painting skills but you want to know how to develop a multifigure scene.
The Jessie Wilcox Smith quote will appear in the essay I recently wrote for the upcoming exhibition catalog called “Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered.”
Illustration Master Class
LAAFA workshop on Composition
Illustration Master Class was in full swing in Amherst, Massachusetts, when we arrived yesterday.
Here's student Mark Helwig with his dragon reference maquette, made of Super Sculpey. He told me that it's his first time using Sculpey. There are about 100 students from all over the world, some using digital, some traditional, and some combining the two.
The workshop lasts a week, and at this stage the students have already gotten their sketch approved, gathered reference, and transferred the drawings onto the painting surface. Many of the students are professionals themselves, but everyone is trying something new, sharing techniques with each other, and staying up late hours.
IMC is team-taught by a faculty of guests and regulars, so students get plenty of opinions (not always agreeing opinions) about their sketches. I'm here for a day and a half as a guest speaker.
Back row: me, Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, Irene Gallo, Scott Allie , Not Sure (sorry), Donato Giancola. Front Row: Adam Rex, Scott Fischer, Iain McCaig, Rebecca Guay, Julie Bell, and Boris Vallejo (Peter d.S. was away on a phone call).
Here's a sketch of Mo Willems, who did a slide show, explaining the anatomy of a children's picture book.
Peter de Sève did a wonderful presentation about his life in caricature and character design. Later on, Rebecca (left) treated us to a faculty supper at a Chinese restaurant, where Peter and Mo showed us other ways to think about those take-out containers.
Tomorrow we'll be beginning the three-day "Painting in Colored Light" workshop at Garin Baker's Carriage House Art Studios in Newburgh, New York.
The workshop will be held in the gallery room of Garin's renovated carriage house/barn. On his blog, Garin has been describing the vision and effort that went into fixing up the structure, which was in bad repair when he bought it.That's the "before" picture on upper left.
Look forward to meeting all the attendees!
Garin's Art Blog
More about the Workshop
More about Garin's mural work on Stapleton Kearn's blog
We wrapped the workshop in Newburgh, New York yesterday. Three days seemed like the perfect amount of time to really dive into the subject of painting in colored light.
In the painting room, 17 artists and their easels gathered around the model stand. Garin Baker, who is sitting to my right in this picture, was the host of the home/studio venue, along with his wife Clara, who prepared delicious meals and refreshments for all the attendees.
Here are two demos I did to explore the difference between white light and colored light illumination on the same model. The painting on the left is in watercolor 6x8 inches, and the one on the right was in oil, 9x12. Both were about two hours.
Students worked while I did demos, and I spent most of my time going around and trying to help people solve color mixing problems.
After an afternoon session of a semi-nude female model under strongly colored light, we finished the workshop painting the sunset light on the comparatively gray landscape of Storm King mountain on the Hudson River. We all were seeing new colors in the landscape, thanks to the studio practice.
Some students were experienced painters, but others were painting outdoors for the very first time, and they even endured a passing shower before the light broke magnificently.
Here was my 11x14 oil of the view. The workshop was a great learning experience for all involved, me included. Thanks to Garin and each of the students for your incredible efforts to make this a success.
Students: if you like, please post in the comment section any links to the images you did in the class.
And to others interested in future workshops: Garin is interested in expanding the vision of his atelier as a mecca for small, focused art workshop experiences. Let me ask: what sorts of workshop topics would you like to experience? Please let Garin know in the comments or vote in the poll at left.
More photos at Garin's blog
Carriage Art Atelier
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
No, I’m not dancing or directing traffic. It just looks like it.
My wife Jeanette did these sketches while I was lecturing at the Art Institute in Phoenix last October. She used a Japanese brush pen and no lay-in, which was very brave.
I’ll be doing another lecture / demo in Los Angeles this coming October, and there is still space in the class if you’d like to join in. This is a new talk that I’ve only given once so far (at Illustration Master Class). It focuses on composition and tonal design.
My approach is unlike most others. We’ll start by looking at what science can tell us about how we actually look at pictures, both still pictures and film. Then we’ll examine how you can design images to communicate what you want in terms of mood and drama. Finally, I’ll show you some approaches to tonal organization, which I think is the most overlooked part of most compositional theory. I’ll share lots of practical tips for artists at all levels.
We’ll have a whole evening together, which gives us plenty of time for discussion and questions, and I’ll also do a technique demo and I’ll bring books. I’ve taught at LAAFA before, and admire the faculty and students there. You might want to sign up early, as space is limited, and all my workshops have sold out.
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
Other classes at LAAFA from Scott McCloud, Nathan Fowkes, and Jordu Schell
In addition to LAAFA, which I mentioned yesterday, another dynamic young art school in southern California is Korpus School of Art, founded last July by Rebecca Kimmel. I gave two lectures there last week.
The Korpus School of Art is a small traditional atelier, occupying a single room on the third floor of a beautifully refurbished industrial building in the arts district of downtown LA.
Rebecca admires the Russian and Chinese academic figure artists, and she has a special appreciation for the old master draftsmen, especially Rubens and Pontormo.
Her school is a great place to learn how to draw the figure, either with uninstructed figure sessions or with regular classes, where you can learn the skeleton, the muscles, and the rich tradition of figurative work.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting other small ateliers that have popped up in southern California in recent years to meet the demand for training in traditional skills of drawing and painting.
One is 3Kicks Studios in Pasadena, led by Charles Hu, himself a master of figure drawing and anatomy. 3Kicks hosts a variety of instructors and classes, including Gary Meyer, Glenn Orbik, and Richard Morris.
Another is the Watts Atelier in Encinitas, California (between LA and San Diego). Jeff Watts has a small space but a big reputation for training some of today’s top painters. He has created a friendly but disciplined atmosphere, and he brings a painterly approach to figure work inspired by Fechin, Sorolla, and Frazetta.
Though I haven’t visited them all, and can’t hope to review any of them comprehensively, there are several other excellent small schools in the Los Angeles area, such as Atelier Marchant, Concept Design Academy, Gnomon School of Visual Effects, and Red Engine School.
A student deciding which way to go with their art education, should consider whether you want an accredited degree program (often necessary if you want to teach at a university later) or whether you want to select only the classes you need to build your skills. Most art jobs look at the portfo
Two days ago I received the following letter:“I am an aspiring fantasy artist, and I'm trying to figure out ways to move forward and get started. I would love to produce work for book covers. I am currently in the midst of a great research quest in search of information and ideas on how to get to that point.”
I told her that in my opinion, the best way to move forward as a fantasy artist would be to attend the Illustration Master Class
in June in Massachusetts.
For one intense, unforgettable week, a group of about 100 students stay in the dorms of Amherst College, a quiet, leafy Ivy League campus. They eat meals together in the dining commons and stay up late looking at art books.
But mainly they work. Throughout the week, each student goes through all the steps in the process of making a picture, from preliminary sketches to gathering reference to drawing up the subject and painting the finished piece illustrating one of about five assigned topics. The students choose the topic before the class actually begins, and they arrive with initial thumbnail sketches.
There are both digital and traditional students set up in three big workrooms. Many are already at a professional level
, but some are just beginning, and the atmosphere is extremely supportive and welcoming.
The group faculty offers one-on-one guidance to the students at each stage of the process. The week is punctuated by lectures, one-on-one critiques, and demos. Above are watercolor sketches I did of Dan Dos Santos and Greg Manchess. The core faculty brings their own portable studios and they each work on their own pictures right next to the students. The teachers are all really approachable people, and any of them will answer any question you throw at them.
The 2012 faculty includes the core faculty of Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, Scott Fischer, Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Irene Gallo, and organizer Rebecca Guay. This year, Iain McCaig will be there for the week, and Adam Rex, Brom, and I are privileged to participate as visiting lecturers.
At about $2,000, the price is a little expensive, but not bad when you consider that it includes room and board, and when you realize how much you can get out of it. If you can afford it, it’s the best
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Last week I visited Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) to give a lecture on composition and color.
CCAD is one of the leading art schools for training illustrators, animators, painters, and sculptors. Clockwise from above left: a gallery of student work, character maquettes, Illustration chairman Stewart McKissick with a latex foam bear head, and one of the Pirate Bears made in 3-D teacher Mark Hazelrig’s class.
Mark Hazelrig teaches popular course in sculpting and casting. When we were there, students were molding soaps and designing the packages to fit them. In a back room, they were working on a giant model of a flea.
The campus buildings are scattered across a quiet section of downtown Columbus Ohio, right next to the art museum. A giant “ART” sign spans one road in the campus.
After my lecture, I did a demo portrait of Mr. McKissick. Since it was Halloween, he agreed to let me turn him into a zombie.
On the official website, the school invites you to imagine everything "from superheroes to monsters and jokes to political statements." And that's what I love about the school: the mix of wild fun, high standards, and dedicated professionalism.
CCAD Illustration website
Coffee with CCAD illustration teacher C.F. Payne
My 2009 visit to CCAD