CalArts vs Everyone, or: is it truly equal to the praises I've read?
 
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    Talking CalArts vs Everyone, or: is it truly equal to the praises I've read?

    Hello,

    Now, I'm not trying to stir anything up. I'm a clueless wannabe-artist from the other side of the country and I have no idea of what things might be like at CalArts, and so I've no interest in its denigration. My curiousity is sincere, and my intention is to go to the best art school I can find. I've been told that CalArts is considerably "better" than "other" art schools, and that it has higher standards for prospective students than does any other art school with an animation program. I thought that an open forum would be a good place to test the veracity of that information and the consequent reputation of CalArts as I perceive it, and so...

    I know that in the course of any education, "you get what you give." Let's leave that factor out of the equation for now.

    Apart from that, however, I don't want to put any conditions or boundaries upon whatever information you choose to give. If your opinion is informed, I'm glad to read it. If it helps, however, I submit the following data about myself:

    My primary interest is animation, however I believe that technical proficiency in art is of more importance than formal instruction in the principles of animation. I believe it also necessary to add that I was not impressed by the great majority of animation in the student showcase section of CalArts' website (that I watched, which was most entries but not all of them); apart from "Watambi," most everything seemed awfully "simple" for a school that's supposed to have, according to the information given to me, standards that are equalled only by those of the industry itself. Even more perplexing, nearly all of the animations that had been singled-out for awards seemed to be of lesser quality than many of the animations that had gone without awards.
    Offhand, without searching through mountains of books and DVD's, I would say that the two instructor-artists whose educational materials have appealed the most to me are Vilppu and Mattesi. I have zero experience in painting, ink and watercolors; I have spent %100 of my time trying to learn to draw properly, and goofed about in Painter just long enough to know that I'm not ready for it yet. I am terribly keen to become proficienct in those areas as well, however.

    That's all I can manage to think of as being useful here, for now. Thanks for reading, thanks for your advice. Bye.




    EDIT: Ah, also, before some very precious person decides to tell me that my thread is pointless, I just wanted to add that it was previous searches for information on the subject as well as prior conversations with various people which collectively led to my posting this thread. I've spent, cummulatively, perhaps a week's worth of time trying to achieve comprehension of the matter, and am still not confident in my appreciation of the various factors in the situation.

    Last edited by A. Sobriquet; August 19th, 2008 at 02:56 PM. Reason: Clarified status re: searches for information before posting.
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    Have you looked at work from schools other than CalArts? Ringling's can compare, as can a few individual works from other schools, but most are terrible.

    And technical proficiency in general art, while important, is useless in animation without understanding movement.

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    Hello Meloncov,

    Firstly, thanks for being the first person out of the 40ish who viewed this to actually bother responding.

    I haven't seen any animation from Ringling that was hand-drawn, and it is in the realm of hand-drawn animation (and traditional, fine art) that my interest lies wholly. I had read that Ringling's animation program has its focus upon CG animation, which I've not a kernel of enthusiasm for and won't waste a nanosecond on for at least years twenty years hence. But I suppose that if their fine arts program were stellar, there would be little differentiating them from CalArts for my purposes.

    I specified "formal instruction" in my reference to learning animation because I believe that I personally could manage to comprehend the principles of animation through independent exercise based upon review and study of existing animation as well as the exercises in Williams' book; that is to say, I think I'd do okay without a teacher for it if I absolutely had to. I don't dispute that "understanding" is necessary, but I do recoil at the thought of subordinating the development of my drawing ability to any other sphere of study, when it is precisely the lack of quality drawing that seems to be the greatest detriment to the student (and professional) animation that I've watched.

    Basically, I'm just trying to understand what is the nature and the source of CalArts' reputation, and if the assets of that school (in terms of the quality of the facilities and of the instructors) are in fact as nonpareil as that reputation (gleaned from reading various and sundry forum posts full of CalArts-envy) would suggest.

    I've been told time and again that "all that matters is how hard YOU work," but surely the schools cannot all be equally good? If the statement above were perfectly true, then one could conceivably do no better than independent, individual study in the privacy and seclusion of their own home - and so it wouldn't at all stand to reason that we're all so keen to spend $50k-$100k on these schools, would it?

    It's nutty, I know, but I'm mighty perplexed by this imbroglio of "terra incognita" schools.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A. Sobriquet View Post
    Basically, I'm just trying to understand what is the nature and the source of CalArts' reputation, and if the assets of that school (in terms of the quality of the facilities and of the instructors) are in fact as nonpareil as that reputation (gleaned from reading various and sundry forum posts full of CalArts-envy) would suggest.

    Could it be they have some prominent alums in the business, their proximity to the industry, and maybe some great PR folks at CalArts?

    And before one falls into a school's hype and spin (that's not to say they haven't earned a measure of that hype), I would still make the trek across the country and physically visit the place. Take a walk through of the campus and see for yourself to see if it fits you.

    We can all tell you how wonderful this program is, how horrible that program is, what instructors to take & avoid- but again, it's got to fit your individual needs. All of this discussion here is in essence adding to hype or shredding a program- it needs to be taken with a slight grain of salt. What works for one person might not be ideal for another.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A. Sobriquet View Post
    I haven't seen any animation from Ringling that was hand-drawn, and it is in the realm of hand-drawn animation (and traditional, fine art) that my interest lies wholly. I had read that Ringling's animation program has its focus upon CG animation, which I've not a kernel of enthusiasm for and won't waste a nanosecond on for at least years twenty years hence. But I suppose that if their fine arts program were stellar, there would be little differentiating them from CalArts for my purposes.
    Yeah, Ringling is pretty heavily focused on CG, and if you have no interest in 3d animation, you shouldn't go there.

    Quote Originally Posted by A. Sobriquet View Post
    I specified "formal instruction" in my reference to learning animation because I believe that I personally could manage to comprehend the principles of animation through independent exercise based upon review and study of existing animation as well as the exercises in Williams' book; that is to say, I think I'd do okay without a teacher for it if I absolutely had to.

    You can learn anything through sufficiently determined independent study. But without the support structure of the school, it's difficult (for most people, at least) to devote the necessary effort, and it'll often take you a long time to figure out things that a teacher could have told you.

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    Thanks for the sober, level-headed appraisal, Dave.

    The troubling thing is, the most solid impression I've got at this point is that none of the schools are really well-suited to "my individual needs." For starters, every school with an animation program seems to expect you to share your working space without at least one other person. In the case of SCAD, you're in a huge room amongst countless others, all in a row; I couldn't work that way. The best accommodation I've heard of so far was CalArts', which has cubicles inside of trailers, but if I understand correctly you're "timesharing" that cubicle with another student - and I can't imagine switching off my momentum and walking away from an unfinished work for the sake of someone else's schedule. I'd sooner bar the doors from the inside.
    It's a multitude of disappointments such as that which cummulatively cause me, without any sources of counteracting encouragement, to regard all the schools as one sort of compromise or another, and none altogether superior to independent study.

    But as I said, the most important thing is the drawing and the fine art. There's less concern over facilities, naturally, and more over the abilities of the instructors. But I'm clueless when it comes to judging them; I haven't any idea what makes any instructor better than a book, as I've had only bad instructors in the past, at highschool and during a brief experiment with community college.

    I suppose maybe it's only a difficult answer, such as you've supplied, that can address a difficult such as mine, that answer being: go and see.

    I wasn't expecting, though for anyone to tell me "horrible" or "perfect." Just anecdotes or simple comparisons would've been swell.

    Mel: Didn't ignore you, I just didn't catch your reply until I'd sent my own to Dave's. I see your point and I agree; what I'm trying to say relates more to a matter of priorities than to exclusions.

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    Try to look at it from a school's point of view. They're a business as well. While I would've loved it if my old alma mater gave me my own personal work space it just wasn't going to be practical from their point of view. The school has to be able to serve the masses AND the individual the best way it possibly can. And if it means having people share space, a work station, supplies or whatever- that's the best that any school can do.

    The tight quarters also has its advantages and upside of working in a smaller work environment. You learn camaraderie, observe how other talented artists work, and have bonding moments. After all, these are your peers now and will become your peers in the workforce in a few years. It never hurts to build these bonds & relationships now.

    Not meaning to rain on your expectations parade here but you have to try to temper them. There won't be an ideal school. The best you can honestly hope for is to go to a place where you feel as though you're challenged- not just by the curriculum, the instructors but by your peers. This is where your maturation and internal drive come into play. Look at your options and choose the best that you can go to (or if you're pessimistic- the lesser of the two evils).

    Please also realize that since you're an artist, you'll also want more. We will never be completely satisfied. Just look at the artwork we did several years ago... we're not satisfied, even though at the time it probably was the best effort we put out. Apply this to your expectations for a school- you're just not going to be completely satisfied EVER at school. The best you can honestly hope for is that it's a solid foundation for you to climb up to the next plateau of your life. We're constantly evolving and growing.

    Accept that you want more- you'll ALWAYS want more. But whether it can be met at an art school, its facilities, and the journey itself is a very personal judgement.

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    Hmm, I find this thread very interesting. I also have been wondering what gives CalArts its hype. I've always assumed that it was just the influence of Walt Disney, the alumni, or maybe just the difficulty of getting in that made it such a... prestigious "ivy league art college", as I like to call such institutes of the same nature (ex: RISD, SCAD, Ringling, etc). But I know these speculations aren't the answer.

    Also... If the work quality doesn't seem worthy of 30k+ a year, then what IS it that makes it so?

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    I didn't like the student films on the Calarts website (but those were selected by the school). The ones on youtube are amazing!

    Stuff like Lorelay Bove's films:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVFd5tQ-AvI

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    Jennifer Hager was a recent grad there. She had some amazing work.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlXGzUouqjE

    "So now we have modeled something that will get us nowhere in life"
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    "I would say that the two instructor-artists whose educational materials have appealed the most to me are Vilppu and Mattesi. "

    If it means anything to you, CalArts has a kind of grudge against Vilppu [and what he represents as well]. (Disclaimer before I get jumped-- I'm not speaking for every single student; just relaying stuff I've heard from CalArts alumni).
    Part of their disagreement with each other was from the way they approach art; emphasizing style and experimentation (calarts side), versus the traditional old masters type of education (vilppu side).

    You said you were 1. into Vilppu stuff and 2. wanted technical training, so... just thought that bit of information might be of some interest to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tytseng View Post
    "I would say that the two instructor-artists whose educational materials have appealed the most to me are Vilppu and Mattesi. "

    If it means anything to you, CalArts has a kind of grudge against Vilppu [and what he represents as well]. (Disclaimer before I get jumped-- I'm not speaking for every single student; just relaying stuff I've heard from CalArts alumni).
    Part of their disagreement with each other was from the way they approach art; emphasizing style and experimentation (calarts side), versus the traditional old masters type of education (vilppu side).

    You said you were 1. into Vilppu stuff and 2. wanted technical training, so... just thought that bit of information might be of some interest to you.
    I haven't heard the Vilppu grudge story, but after researching a bunch on Calarts, I can totally understand why that would happen.

    I think it should be a perfect balance between experimentation and traditional. I do believe they still have 2 life drawing classes (correct me if I'm wrong please). The first class (day) is all about experimentation, distortion, and just pushing the model to its limit (drawing-wise) ala Matessi. The night class does the academic life drawing: form, anatomy, lighting, etc (Vilppu legacy). According to animatedbuzz, the teachers don't get along with each other and keep contradicting one another.

    But I think there should always be a balance between experiment and academic. Last I read (again, correct me) they had those 2 classes which is great. Only when one begins to take over the curriculum solely is when I think it loses the appeal.

    A purely Vilppu curriculum might be too academic for some, while a purely experimentatal artsy fartsy might have some academics spouting "modern art BS!"

    There should be "life" but also "drawing" in life drawing.

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    does calarts give out full-ride scholarship? whats the max?

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    All I heard is that they party more than us and have naked parties and we don't really party that much because we're a bunch of cheerless bastards.

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    As far as having your own work space is concerned, you can build or buy (inexpensively) an animation desk. Line testing can be don e at the school, or you can purchase one of the programs and easily set that up at home as well.

    In my opinion, the value of classical training can't be underestimated. In drawing, painting and just about everything else learning the "language" first, when properly taught, releases and inspires creativity and experimentation.

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    After extensive research into the subject of animation programs, I have yet to find one that fits my needs as well. So don't feel too bad, A. Sobriquet.

    I myself am trying to find a school that focuses on computer animation instead on the majority of their courses being focused on tradition 2d. However, I'd like some traditional animation classes. It's important to have structure and all that good stuff.

    Anywho....good luck on your own search.

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    I'm not a Cal Arts student myself but I've hung out there at some points for workshops. There are some pretty cool people there, and you'll learn alot from the people you bond with there.

    As for traditional training in drawing, well from my experience there tends to be more emphasis on experimenting and creativity then drawing in a classical sense. What you may be looking for A. Sobriquet is a so called "classical realist" school. Like an Atelier or something.

    The Art Renewal center (though a bit dogmatic in my opinion) has a strong belief in the training styles of the old masters and lists schools that continue to teach in those traditions.

    http://www.artrenewal.org/asp/database/atelier_list.asp

    Hope that helps.

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