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.
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
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
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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