Advice on possible art school routes?
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Thread: Advice on possible art school routes?

  1. #1
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    Advice on possible art school routes?

    Heya, sorry to be a bother, but I'd like to ask a few questions of anyone out there if they're willing to listen and answer.

    I'm a 20-something young man who wants to be a (digital) illustrator and concept artist one day, and I'm currently researching on possible art schools to attend in the following year or two. I've been self teaching myself slowly, learning what little I can from online sources, and attending some local classes in down town Hong Kong.

    Ideally I'd like to attend a school in the states, preferably either the LAAFA, or Art Center or some equivalent. But I'm afraid (And rightly so), that my foundation skills aren't suitable for Art Center, so should I go to the LAAFA and build upon them first, and then go to Art Center? Or should I just go to Art Center straight away? But the problem is that I don't want to waste money, as I'm not exactly rich. Or does anyone else have any suggestions as what to do?

    Speaking of other suggestions, I've looked at the Academy of Art University's (San Francisco) online courses. Are they any good? Or are they rather unimpressive and aren't worth their salt?

    The next question I'd like to ask is regarding visas: I've got an Australian and Thai passport (Dual nationality). I don't have much access to information, as my father died some years ago, and he was the most knowledgeable person in the family, and my mother does not know much about the subject. But how would I go about getting a visa to study at an art school in the united states?
    Do I go through the United State's Government and get a visa from them first? Do I go through the school and get a visa through them? Or do I have to contact both the school and the United State's Government? Sorry again, I don't know where else to look for this information, and would rather not lurk through the byzantine maze that is the US's web page bureaucracy labyrinths for that information. Even if I tried, I'd probably never find it myself.

    Another question, this time about the jargon that's used for describing the courses and programs available at the art schools and colleges. Needless to say, I can hardly understand the technobabble. Well, I understand it, but I don't understand it. What jargon should I look for for a course that entails creating illustrations, character designs, environment designs, concept art, etc, using a tablet in conjunction with photoshop and painter? Do I look for it under Illustration courses, which already have what I described, taken into account? Or do I look under Digital Arts? (I tried looking at 'Digital Arts' under some courses at some schools, but it's not what I had in mind or described).

    One last question, this time about the proficiency in portfolio requirements for Art Center, and other art schools in general. How demanding are these schools of their applicant's artistic skills and portfolios in general? I'm building up mine slowly, but having never gone to an art institute or school, it's not that great (Then again, I have a tendency to look down on my own work, so it could be better than I expect, but it might not be good enough to beat the competition). What would be the best thing to do?

    Thanks everyone

    -J

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    Why not talk to Art Center's international studies admissions person? I'm sure they have someone who is more than familiar with what their requirements are for entrance, familiar with the incoming level of people, hopefully familiar with the class descriptions, but more importantly for you... a working knowledge of navigating the immigration issues. Call them up directly and get the information first hand. Get an email address from them so you can at least send some samples of work over for them to look at; not the final portfolio for entrance but ask them to kindly review your work to see if you're coming in at the right skill level.

    I'm sure they'd either recommend you take some additional classes if they thought you were weak or if you'd be ready to dive right in. Remember they're looking to see if you've at least got basic foundation skills. While any art school would love for you to come in a superstar, they'd also love to have you come in raw and hungry as well. Part of the reason you're attending their program is so they can teach you new skills as well.

    Part of those basic skills should be an ability to draw the figure well, know perspective, and be able to draw from observation. And your portfolio should be able to demonstrate these skills as well.

    Good luck.

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    If you need to build up your skills before submitting your portfolio, I would suggest a state college. You can probably get pretty decent foundational training there and it is a lot less expensive.

    I haven't taken any of the Academy of Art University's online courses, but I know two people who are/were instructors for those courses and they are good instructors.

    Regarding visas, schools have lots of experience dealing with international students so they know the ins and outs of the process. They are probably the best people to ask.

    About course and program descriptions, it's hard for me to say because each school is different. I would stay away from anything that sounds like layout or graphic design. (Not that those aren't good, heh, just not what you are probably looking for.)

    Again, every school is different regarding portfolios. I remember a discussion here recently about a few schools with open enrollment (no portfolio). Maybe somebody else remembers where that was? For a portfolio, I would include a lot of observational drawing, i.e. still lifes, figures, things outdoors etc. You can include some imaginative things if you want, but I think they are more interesting in seeing your grasp of the basics. You can also post your portfolio on CA for feedback and people can give you advice what images you should remove and what needs to be fixed up.

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    I'm from Max the Mutt Animation School in Toronto. We offer a four year Diploma in Concept Art for Animation and Video Games that starts with a very strong foundation year (Visual Arts Literacy). This is an in depth program designed with input from artists at top companies, instructed by working concept artists, visual artists and animators. Our tuition is reasonable, class size is small, and we value dedication and professionalism. In September we will be running years one and two of this program. We have, however, graduates of our animation diploma programs, which are and have been very successful, working at top companies such as EA and UbiSoft. We have been visited by Rockstar, in fact it was because of their interest that we decided we could best serve the needs of concept artists by devoting an entire program to them. We include traditional fine art as well as illustration, and preparation for both 2D and 3D concept art. We are very excited about this program! Check it out on our website.

    Last edited by Maxine Schacker; February 27th, 2008 at 06:41 AM.
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    I've got dual nationality/passport kind of thing too (Thai and Canadian), but I didn't have to get the visa because I used the Canadian one to enter Canada. It's pretty awkward at the airport immigration though as they think I'm a Canadian who never been out of Canada but are about to leave Thailand. I feel like a dumb secret agent from a comedy movie.

    I think for the passport, you should go by the Australian one because it's much easier to get the Visa to western countries compare to the Thai passport. But using both is OK too from my experience.

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    Thanks for the responses everyone, I'll follow the leads that you all suggested.

    One more thing, concerning medication and medicare, or the American and Canadian equivalent. I currently suffer from depression - it isn't as crippling as it was a few years ago, where it was absolutely devastating and I was no better than a comatose vegetable. I'm a lot better now, but I still am on medication.

    Actually, nevermind, thanks a lot everyone I'll just ask the admission's person about all this, they probably have to deal with students with medication histories as well, so they'll probably know.

    There is a local Hong Kong art school that I'm interested in, but the higher level programs aren't as diverse or varied as the ones in the States. But the 1 year foundation course interests me a bit, so I might take that.

    I'll build up more of my portfolio and post it in the critique subforum and get some reviews there. Thanks for that suggestions Emily G, I'll do that.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply StoryboardDave. As for the foundation stuff you listed at the end of your post, I think I'm ok with figure drawing, somewhat ok with perspective (I used to draw blocks apon blocks of perspective cubes when I was younger as a form of doodling in class, so I know a little bit, but it probably wouldn't hurt to learn more), but somewhat lacking in observational drawing, so I'll be doing some more of that now.

    Thanks Maxine, I'll check out the school. I'm always skeptical of college recruiter claims, but I'll take any lead I can .

    Ah, heya enrigo, how's it going? Yeah, I'll definitely use my Australian passport, as the Thai passport and nationality doesn't have as much weight as the Australian passport and nationality.

    Once again, thanks to everyone for taking the time to reply.

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    Always question and look into things for yourself! I'm not a recruiter, but I am the school's director. Just remember, that sometimes people are telling you the truth!

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    Thank you Maxine,

    From the courses available at Max the Mutt, there's two that I'm possibly interested in - "Comic Books and Graphic Novels," and the Concept art course. But before I get ahead of myself, where can I find information on how much these courses will cost per semester? I've scoured the website, but I can't find it. It's probably hidden away on some page which I haven't been able to find yet, or not quite publicly available. Could you direct me in the right direction?

    Also, how much of a balance is there between traditional pencil and paper mediums versus digital wacom tablet and photoshop mediums in these two courses? I'm interested in improving my skills in both, but would want to make sure the latter is available as well.

    Thanks

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    If you send an email to Van Olson, admissions@maxthemutt.com , and ask for tuition information he'll send you all the information. If you apply and are accepted, you will receive a contract (by Ontario law) for the whole program. This ensures that your tuition will not increase while you are in the program. I know that year one is $10,000 (Canadian dollars).

    All international students must have health insurance. I'm not sure which provider(s) we recommend. If you attend school in either the USA or Canada be sure to find a local doctor and get him/her in touch with your doctor in Hong Kong! There are stresses involved in any major life change, even a positive one. You will be a long way from home and it will help if you know where to turn if you need assistance.

    Our philosophy is to teach everything by hand before computer applications come into play. Check the curriculum and you'll find a variety of computer based courses. We are a career College and we teach everything the industry has indicated to us is required for entry level positions. However, traditional drawing and painting skills,in both fine art and illustration, are essential for success as a concept artist. Learning computer programs is not enough. You need the background to know what choices to make when using those programs.

    I should tell you that we treat the school environment as if it is the workplace. We grade on professionalism as well as course content. We need individuals who can work independently but are also good team players. There is a dress code, and any behavior that wouldn't be acceptable at work is not acceptable at the school. We all need a sense of humor, and a positive attitude. The workload is frequently stressful and making art in general has its frustrations. We are not the right school for everyone, but people who are looking for a positive, focused, serious environment are very happy with the education they receive. If you have questions about this, feel free to ask Van when you email him. We are not into negativity or the love of violence at all.

    Last edited by Maxine Schacker; February 29th, 2008 at 09:24 PM.
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    Thanks for the information Maxine,

    I'm still researching art schools, but so far I've got 3 in mind. The LAAFA (For it's traditional work), and a tossup between Max the Mutt and Art Center for illustration/concept design/comic book drawing/commercial drawing.

    I'd like to develop my hand and traditional drawing and painting skills first - Does MTM do much of that for the first year? And if so, by how much? My drawing is somewhat ok, and my painting is lacking. I can capture the essence of a painting well enough, but my forms are not that clear.

    To be honest, I love to join, but I have a rather bad inferiority complex when it comes to my work and my portfolio. I know, like Storyboard Dave said, that schools don't require you to have professional entry level portfolios right off the bat, but I still can't help feel inferior (That's what my current medication regime is for, for my depression). It's a tale I'd rather not get into.

    Thanks once again, I'll try to improve my portfolio before I do anything else. That is it I don't hang myself first out of despair .

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    Don't even joke around about that! Your life is a gift. I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but I do know that the odds of any one of us getting born in the first place are huge. It seems to me that we need to respect the potential we are born with, do our best to develop it and ourselves, and try to contribute in a positive way to the world. You have no obligation to be a genius.

    Your self respect should be based on your courage in dealing with whatever hand life has dealt you, playing that hand the best way you can, and, most important, your respect for yourself and others.

    As far as learning to draw and paint is concerned, if you have a love of art, are visually sensitive (not everyone is) and are willing to work very hard, you have the potential to develop. It helps to be a in a well thought out program and to be taught by people who have traditional representational fine art skills. These days there is a shortage of both programs and qualified instructors. Look for a program that will give you a strong foundation. Max the Mutt's first year is devoted, in all diploma programs, to visual art literacy, i.e. developing traditional, representational fine art skills.

    You have to understand the tremendous untapped resources we all have. Our brains are incredibly flexible. To a great extent we create ourselves. When you apply yourself consistently to developing certain skills, your brain actually changes! Have faith in our innate ability to learn. It won't all happen over night and you'll have ups and downs, failures and successes. That's just part of life.

    Last edited by Maxine Schacker; March 2nd, 2008 at 06:54 AM.
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    Thanks for the kind words Maxine, I really appreciate it.

    Just in a bad rut as I've gone three days without producing any worthwhile art, in two figure drawing sessions, 1 portrait session, and 1 quick study painting session.

    It's good to know that MTM has a good foundation program, it's definitely interesting me more and more.

    In the next few days I'll post up my portfolio here in this thread. I'm not confident enough yet to post it in the critique center yet, as I don't have enough confidence (Same reason I don't post a sketchbook yet, that and I don't have enough skills to make it worthwhile on the eyes). I'd like your opinion if it's good enough to generally get into art school, or if it needs some more work.

    Actually, thinking about it more now, I'll do it first thing tomorrow when there's enough natural light in my room.

    Thanks once again Maxine, I'll try to be more optimistic .

    -John

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    Here's some photos from my portfolio, I just hope I don't embarrass myself here.

    My painting skills are still somewhat fuzzy, I'm trying to improve at the moment, taking classes and trying to paint once every few days now.

    Attached Images Attached Images                                    
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    Hi Rabbi Satan,

    I can give you some advice about what I would do with your portfolio, but I can't tell you whether or not it will get you accepted into a school. That will be based on the specific criteria of the school.

    The goal is to remove the weaker pieces and keep the stronger ones. As you do more stronger pieces, remove the weakest ones and so on. You want to show a good range of skills, especially when it comes to observation from life.

    Some of the pieces are not quite there, but could be acceptable with a little bit of work. Or you can choose to move on and do something better if you feel that would be a better use of your time than working on older pieces.

    This is just my opinion and what I would do if I were you:
    The beach scene--this painting is still a little rough. It's hard to tell what is going on. But with some more work it could be improved and be included.

    The seven still lifes--These are some of the strongest work, in my opinion. They show that you are observing from life and interested in learning the basics. The best one is the one with the yellow rose in the vase and the red rose on the table. If if were to take one out, it might be the one with the jar and the red fruit.

    The character design--I like that you are including something imaginative here. There are a few anatomy problems that could be fixed. Right now the sizes of the lower legs are not the same and the arm on the right-hand side seems a little small. I would add one or two more imaginative pieces or take the imaginative stuff out together. On it's own, it looks a little bit out of place and the realistic stuff is more important, I think.

    The eight figure drawings and one cast drawing--It is great that you are including figurative stuff, as I think many applicants may not have had a lot of experience drawing from the model. I think the best ones are the person with the back towards us, the portrait of the person with a scarf on their head, the man facing us with his arm on his knee, the cast drawing, and maybe the reclining woman.

    I would spend some more time on the cast drawing, really refining it and working on those shadows. This is an academic-type drawing and I think it would be a great thing to show. You probably can't go back and work on the figure drawings because the poses are over, but I assume the cast is still there and you can have the luxury of really spending a lot of time on it.

    The figure drawings I did not mention do have some errors in them, usually with the head. The head is either not in proportion with the rest of the body or it doesn't seem quite finished. This is something to watch when you do your future figure drawings.

    The last four drawings--I'm not quite clear what I'm seeing here, but it looks like master studies and some drawings of some objects? I think these are all good things to include--they show you are studying both from life and from other great artists. Just be sure to label which ones are master studies. The last two in particular are looking really great, especially the one with multiple figures where you have blocked in the shadow shapes. That one's really nice! For me, the weakest one is the one sitting next to the figure that looks like it has ink applied to it. I just can't tell what is going on here, so I don't think the picture is reading well.

    Other things I would like to see are some sketches from life done outside. Things like buildings, trees, people at the mall, animals at the zoo, etc. This will help round out your portfolio and really add something, I think.

    You are moving in the right direction. I think the types of things you are focusing on are the right things. You may need to get some more experience at a state or community college if you are not accepted into the school of your choice at first. These schools are usually a lot less expensive and can get you up to speed on the basics and get some help from an instructor. I wish you the best of luck.

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    I wouldn't entertain going to Art Center until you have a rock-solid foundation under your belt first. Reason being is if you're going to be dropping upwards of $100,000 for your education, it'd be in your best interest to get the basics out of the way first before enrolling so you can use the time that you normally would have allotted for fundamentals on more advanced classes. That way you get the most bang for your buck.

    One alternative that you may not have entertained is, if you can't get into Art Center, you can build a hodgepodge program of sorts from the ateliers and smaller schools here in the Los Angeles area. Fundamentals you can have hammered into you from LAAFA or the Watts Atelier down near San Diego. Concept design can be learned from the School of Visual Effects and the newly opened Concept Design Academy run by Kevin Chen. Whatever isn't addressed between these schools can probably be filled in with any number of specialized workshops that pop up here and there.

    Doing it this way has the advantage of giving you in the long run a much more affordable education and arguably stronger foundations. The downsides are that you won't get a degree in the end, and you'll have to push yourself even harder to network as you don't have the luxury of having the built-in support web that a big-name art school has.

    But if your budget's tight like mine, it's certainly a worthwhile route to consider. Let me know if you have any questions about LAAFA or the Concept Design Academy - I'm currently taking classes at both schools.

    Best of luck. And don't give up!

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    Thanks sfa, but the main problem with the smaller schools is the Visa requirements to get into the US. I'd love to attend the LAAFA, but I'd like to know if I can get a student's visa through them?

    Actually, scratch that, I'll send them an email right now.

    I'll check out the concept design program at SVA

    Thanks.

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    http://nick-artcade.blogspot.com/200...portfolio.html

    I've heard Art Center is getting a little lax in their portfolio acceptance.
    You might be worrying unnecessarily.

    I believe it would be harder to get into Massive Black's art school then
    Art Center:
    http://conceptart.org/?section=school

    I don't know, it's all relative.

    My personal preference would be to go to LAAFA first. Some of those instructors teach at Art Center as well. At the very least you'll get inside info if you take a couple of semesters at LAAFA

    Last edited by NoSeRider; March 4th, 2008 at 07:59 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoSeRider View Post
    http://nick-artcade.blogspot.com/200...portfolio.html

    I've heard Art Center is getting a little lax in their portfolio acceptance.
    You might be worrying unnecessarily.

    I believe it would be harder to get into Massive Black's art school then
    Art Center:
    http://conceptart.org/?section=school

    I don't know, it's all relative.

    My personal preference would be to go to LAAFA first. Some of those instructors teach at Art Center as well. At the very least you'll get
    inside info if you take a couple of semesters at LAAFA
    Ah, the CA Atelier. It's actually my dream school, but my portfolio is nowhere near the level that it would take to even compete with the others vying for the limited space in the Atelier. Which is why I didn't even mention it earlier, as I'll never get in. Even by some freak occurrence where I do get accepted, I read that the CA Atelier isn't a valid school recognised by the US Govt. to give out student Visas to.

    Thanks everyone, I'm getting quite a lot of good advice in this thread.


    (As for the Art Center school, if the link's considered a lax portfolio, I don't want to know what a good or excellent portfolio is like, that'll just feed my inferiority complex)

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    Max the Mutt will cost less than half and offers a program that can hold it's own with most of the schools you mention. Take a good look at the website. Massive Black's atelier has posted excellent work, no doubt about it. Max the Mutt has a broader base since we prepare students for 2D as well as 3D and for animation concept art as well as concept art for video games.

    The problems you are having are related to understanding process, and basic representational visual language. If you can come to Toronto for the month of July, we offer an intensive that would get you on track to go home and continue to work on your own. Tuition is very low, class size is small and as a non-diploma course, it is open to the general public. There is also an evening painting class.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxine Schacker View Post
    Max the Mutt will cost less than half and offers a program that can hold it's own with most of the schools you mention. Take a good look at the website. Massive Black's atelier has posted excellent work, no doubt about it. Max the Mutt has a broader base since we prepare students for 2D as well as 3D and for animation concept art as well as concept art for video games.

    The problems you are having are related to understanding process, and basic representational visual language. If you can come to Toronto for the month of July, we offer an intensive that would get you on track to go home and continue to work on your own. Tuition is very low, class size is small and as a non-diploma course, it is open to the general public. There is also an evening painting class.
    Thank you Maxine,

    Is the beginning about the second paragraph in regards to my portfolio? If it is, could you clarify a bit more as to what's wrong with it? And if it's suitable to submit to MTM for submission?

    And where on the MTM website can I find some more information about this intensive course in July? Under workshops?

    Thanks

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    The July "Learn to Draw" intensive should be listed under workshops. I know people have enrolled already! if you don't find it, drop Carla Drmay an email, cdrmay@maxthemutt.com. She can send you all the details.

    You have several qualities that we value. First, you really want to do this. Second, you are making a real effort to teach yourself. Third, you are open to criticism and have asked for it! It took courage for you to post your work despite your fears, and you did it!!

    Learning traditional skills is a developmental process. Given that you can deal with frustration, are able to deal with delayed gratification, take direction, and work very hard my guess is that you will have what it takes to develop your skill base.

    A few questions: have you been teaching your self or are you taking classes?
    Are you planning to look for a school for Sept '09? Have you looked at Robert Beverly Hale's ""Drawing lessons from The Great Masters," Nicolaides' "The Natural Way to Draw," "George Bridgman's Complete Guide To Drawing From Life" ? Also look for "Hawthorne on Painting."

    Recognize that what you want to do is no less difficult than learning to play the violin. You don't start out playing Mozart violin concertos. I would have to set out an entire course of study for you to give you the information you want and I can't really do that very well as a quick reply. If you look for an old thread of mine under fine art studies, I think it was called "Thoughts on Painting and Color," or something like that, you'll find entries from me about process.

    Do keep in touch, and tell yourself every day that you can do this, because you can.

    I hope this is helpful.

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  22. #22
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    As I look at your figurative stuff, it seems as though you handle the contour drawings a lot better than you can draw "from within". Think about drawing the figure's spine and getting the gesture down first before you start building up the figure with the cubes, spheres and tubes.

    The analogy I always use is having the chassis of the automobile and then adding on the wheels, engine & accessories. You have to start with the chassis first. Starting the other way around just makes for a wonky looking piece.

    Be aware of your proportions.

    Look up some good Figure Illustration books for rules of thumb and go off of that as well. Realize that drawing the human figure is one of the most difficult things; you need to be able to connect limbs, be aware of how gravity affects the body AND still make it look real. It does take practice so don't stop.

    Keep up the solid effort!

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