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Adventures in Education: The Art Instruction Schools
The point and purpose of this thread is to share my thoughts and experiences during my time with the Art Instruction Schools. This is not an advertisement for the Art Instruction Schools in anyway. I'm receiving nothing, other than providing useful information as a service to potential students. What will most likely happen is that I'll end up with a cease and desist order for exposing too much information on the lessons and violating their copyright. (That's probably a worst case scenario and most likely won't happen...) I will try to be non-biased and thoughtful in all of my posts. I'll attempt to give a summary of each lesson. I will also post my progress during the roughly next three years with scans of activities and assignment, as well as assessments from my teacher(s).
I have been desiring to attend an art school with a quality illustration program that could help improve my drawing and painting skills, as well as provide me with the solid foundation that I lack. I have found a few schools that could be right up my alley, which includes SCAD in Atlanta which I've visited, but have ran into the following road blocks: money, surviving in another state with out any help, cost of living, and being in over my head in debt due to student loans. (As you can tell, money or lack thereof is the common factor.) The economy was also a factor in my decision making. I have a job here in Texas and the market here is not as bad as it could be, but would I have a job in Georgia, Florida, etc. These issues pretty much narrowed me down to only distance learning programs.
I've known about the Art Instruction Schools off and on for a few years, but I've never really taken them seriously. I've seen their print ads, website, and television commercial. About a month or two ago, I applied for a scholarship on their website and received an entry form. My thinking at the time was, "If I receive a big enough scholarship, I'll giving it a shot." (See the following post from my sketchbook: clic aqui
BTW, I still don't know how I did...
A few days later, I received a call from the school's (Texas) recruiter who wanted to interview me the next day or the day after (saturday). I picked saturday so I could have some time to gathered up some references and sketches for the interview. He came to the house and gave an exhaustive introduction (one I'm sure that the poor bastard has given a thousand times over.) as well as going through all of lesson 1. (I didn't need to bother reading the workbook afterwards.) The recruiter also mentioned that the school provides all of the materials the student need. (This is for the most part unnecessary for me since I have most everything an artist needs except for a light-box and a hot model to pose for me.) If I happen to need a pencil, brush, etc, just give the school a call and I'll receive whatever in the mail. He also showcased the artwork of numerous artists including Charles Shultz (who should need no introduction) as well as a Disney comics favorite, Floyd Gottfredson. A lot of the stuff I saw was really impressive. He also showed me a copy of the school's magazine Illustrator, dedicated to showcasing student artwork. The recruiter viewed my sketches and told me that he wasn't expecting to see anything particularly good or on my level.
After officially accepting me, he spoke about tuition. For those interested, the total tuition came down to $3,485.00. (less then one semester at the Art School of Fort Lauderdale, which was approximately $7,000+ when I first inquired and growing) I agreed to pay $130 on a monthly basis. If I were to have any issues, I should call the school and either arrange to have my payments lowered (yet extended over a longer period of time) or ask to put everything on hold until I'm able to work everything out or decide to quit. At the interview I cut him my first check for $130.
Then the formalities came along, like filling out paper work, etc. The recruiter gave me my first a package consisting of my first two lessons (workbooks), folders to protect my assignments when I send them to the school, envelopes (one postage paid), a pair of Staedtler HB (no. 2) pencils, a worthless (in my opinion, but I'm a perfectionist who has already solved that problem, that's another story) plastic T-square, a copy of Illustrator, Orientation Handbook, and a Glossary & Resource book. Roughly a week or two later I received a box consisting of a congratulatory letter, an enrollment certificate, a Student ID card good for discounts (I don't know where. I guess I should give the school a call...), and a sketchbook, and a pair of Staedtler 2B.
About the Art Instruction schools:
The Art Instruction Schools is an art school offering a home study program, the Fundamentals of Art. The program is suppose to develop the student's skills from the ground up and includes all popular art techniques. The school has been around since 1914, and was founded in Minneapolis, MN by the Bureau of Engraving, Inc to train illustrator for a growing printing industry in the Midwest. The school is accredited by the DETC (Distance EDucation and Training Council), an accrediting agency of the U.S. Department of Education. The program also has the backing of the American Council on Education (ACE), allowing for the transfer of up to 24 college credit to over 3,00 school in the U.S. (This is based on grades and proficiency show in student's portfolio...) All of the instructors at the Art Instruction Schools do have degrees, if that means anything...
I guess I've covered all of the basics and gave the CA community a proper introduction. If anyone thinks I've missed anything in this first post or has any questions, please feel free to post me. I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability.
Next time: The Gridding Fun with Lesson 1! or Divide Me a Picture in Seven Days!
Sample student artwork
1.) Cover for Illustrator magazine, "Buffalo Dancers" by Sherry Blanchard Stuart
2.) Sample art from graduate, Malone Samuels
3.) Sample art from graduate, Wayne Meineke
4.) Sample art out of Illustrator from top — down:
"Individuals" by Doris Loes
"Duke" by Michael Hartman
"Second Wave" Frank Licsko
Adventures in Education: The Art Instruction Schools
Chapter 1.0 ~ Grid Me a River...
Lesson is pretty remedial. Takes me back to my middle school days of torment. (But that's another story...) Here the jest of what we learn:
- A little history
- How to use your cheap little T-square
- Drawing badly (Need for observation)
- Framing a Subject
- The Grid
- Subdividing, enlarging, and reducing with a grid
In other words, this lesson makes the bare-bones art student take an active step above the average crappie doodle that most people (not anyone here) to creating something that's a lot more accurate with a new tool, the grid. Using this method, the student should build up enough confidence to have that light turn on, and conclude, "Hey, I can do this!"
To get us started (I'm skipping the stuff on history and the T-square), the lesson pushes the need for observation. In order to drive the point home, our workbook provides us with examples, a photo of a fish, a simplified version, a version that incorporates the use of observation. Another set of examples is a simplified (cartoonish) sketch of a woman from visual memory and one drawn with observation. Then comes our next activity, drawing a seagull. (See attachment #1)
Still looking pretty bad? Having a hard time properly fitting that scene within that rectangle? I sure did. Thus bringing us to the frame. What's the frame, basically it's the rectangle that we draw around our subject in order to isolate it and draw it more accurately. Of course we have our examples, and an activity that has involves drawing a frame, using our T-square, around a cartoon caveman. (I know exciting...)
Next up, we dip our baby-toe into the magic of creating a grid. Once we understand how it'll be used, we step into reproduction and mapping. The lesson shows use how to use points on a grid to help us map out a football. We practice this via our next activity. (See attachment #2)
From there, we learn about subdividing our grid to help us recreate smaller or complicated areas of detail. As our chapter flies faster and faster, we delve into using grids to enlarge and reduce. Of course there are more activities, but it doesn't take much to figure out what they are or could be... (I skipped them anyway. )
Next time: The Assignment
Adventures in Education:
Chapter 1.1 ~ The Cat, the Boat, and the Hero
Now we reach this lesson's assignment. The stuff our mysterious teacher over in Minneapolis will see. So what's the assignment? Well, we observe our models: cartoon dog's head, a cartoon cat, and superhero, and a boat. We choose which model to draw and use our tools the frame and the grid to reproduce the model. The workbook notes that the models are slightly smaller than the the rectangle printed on the provided assignment sheets. (which can be torn out.) Thus we must enlarge! But we (or I had) have a problem. Without PhotoShop, we can't mathematically translate the points on our grid from the smaller original to where they need to be on the larger grid. In other words, we (I) don't have any notches smaller than 1/32's of an inch. So we must use our observation skills to wing it. For me this involves lots of erasing, comparison, and erasing. I also have to note that the paper in the workbook has plate finish (no tooth), so it was an absolute necessity to sketch lightly, and to not dig in too deep unless I can commit. (This is similar to inking or creating pencils for an inker.) The rectangles printed on the assignment sheets do have a basic grid pre-printed. If you happen to need to subdivide it any further (which I did), you will draw them out very lightly.
In the end I had three assignment sheets, and drew three out of the four models:
- The superhero (See attachment #1 for the original and #2 for my final reproduction.)
- The boat (See attachment #3 for the original and #4 for my final reproduction.)
- The cat (See attachment #5 for the original and #6 for my final reproduction.)
Out of the three I thought the cat was the best among them.
Next time: Grading the Cat or How's my pussy?
Adventures in Education:
Chapter 1.2 ~ The Cat's in the Mail...
Okay let's review what we've (I've) done thus far... We learned about framing the subject, using the grid to transfer the subject, and how to enlarge and reduce the subject with the grid. Therefore we (I) had used these tools for Assignment #1...
I just received my grade for Assignment #1 earlier this week. It arrived with Lesson 3. My instructor wrote me a letter and made lots of notes on a pre-printed overlay (a little thicker than my 25 lb. tracing paper) of a correctly drawn cat. Here's what my instructor, in her letter, had graded me on:
- correct placement on the grid
- accuracy of size
- quality of reproduction
- neatness (of course)
My instructor notes that even though the lines were generally placed correctly on the grid, what I've drawn was not completely accurate. Note the green and pink lines drawn on the overlay. (See attachment #1) Also note the arrows as to which direction the lines need to be moved. We can conclude that what I've drawn has a great deal of distortion. An example of this is the cat's right eye (on your left) needed to drop some. (Compare to what I've drawn.) Another example was of the cat's tail. It should had been drawn a little higher as it curves upward.
Accuracy of Size:
My instructor says that the cat was enlarged correctly. With better observation or careful observation, as she puts it,(See Chapter 1.0), my drawing will improve.
Quality of Reproduction:
My instructor believes that the small details, curves, angles, etc were captured correctly in my version of the cat. (I think she must mean this in a general sense.) What she sees looks to be very promising. (Good. )
As a perfectionist, neatness is very important to me. When I can't achieve this goal it pisses me off and leaves me frustrated. In my instructor's view, I have achieved this.
Over all, my instructor was very happy with this first assignment. I won't argue, even though the distortions I've produce don't leave me with many warm and fuzzy feelings inside. I notice this a lot in my work. In my current assignment, a seagull (coming soon), I've had to erase it numerous times because the belly's too fat, the tail doesn't look long enough, the wing's not positioned correctly, etc. (I'll show you in the next chapter. I've make snap-shots of the process.)
Final Grade: A-
Next time: Rough It Out or Simplify My Drawing
Adventures in Education:
Chapter 2.0 ~ Shape My World
No, this isn't about touchy—feelly bull-shit, like saving the planet, this is all about freehand drawing techniques. In this lesson, we'll toss a side our grids and frames. (For now.) Our new goal is to capture life in a quick and accurate fashion. So how the heck do we pull that off?? That my friends will be all figured out by stepping through the following topics:
- A Brief Introduction and Some History...
- Basic Shape
- Positive and Negative Spaces
- Shapes and Volume
- Smooshing it All Together
Lesson 2 will provide the student with another tool in our arsenal. Probably something you already utilize to a certain extent, freehand drawing. In my opinion, this lesson with strengthen, refine, and/or add another layer of support to your artistic foundation. Maybe it will clarify some aspect of freehand drawing you didn't quite understand... (by the way, there's also a brief history lesson, but that's not so important.)
Yes! You can use squares, circles, triangles, etc outside of elementary school! So why do we use them? In order to simplify our subject. Most everything can be simplified to basic shapes. Once we realize this face, the lesson starts to split hairs. We find out that there are two types of shapes. (This most likely will be a "No DUH!" moment...) The first type are geometric shape, forms we consider man-made (squares, rectangles, triangle, etc...) The other type of shapes we can utilize are organic shape, usually soft, round, sometimes blob-like. The only grey-area between these two types is the circle, which can be thought of as either geometric or organic. The book of course provides us with examples of subjects broken down into shapes.
To aid us in our geometric break down, the lesson brings up identifying the largest basic shape. This will be our foundation for our freehand drawings. To provide us some practice, our first activity involves identifying the largest basic shape. (See attachment #1)
Next up, we're going to bring our shapes together. Since we more or less know (or we should know...) that all subject are made up of basic shapes, we can take the next logical step by combining those shapes, as we draw, to build up our drawing. Start with the basic shape, then you smaller shapes, and gradually build towards your detail. Another thing the lesson alerts us to when combining our shapes are their proportions. Proportions are the relationships between the width and height of our shapes or subject. Corrects proportions will always make for a better drawing. Along with the examples, the portion also has another activity for more practice. (See attachment #2.)
Positive and Negative Spaces:
This may also take you back. Another tool for freehand drawing to spotting the positive (the subject) and negative (area around or in between the subject) spaces. The lesson claims that spotting positive and negative spaces will help in your accuracy. We also go into depth on external and internal spaces around the subject. Example are provided for both topics discussed. Of course another activity for more practice. (See attachment #3)Believe it or not, you can use negative spaces to judge the accuracy of your work. Comparing both positive and negative spaces will do that for you.
The lesson also discuses the road block of situations where the positive and negative spaces aren't so obvious. The suggested remedy for this problem is to group all active parts of the image and either make them positive or negative. The workbook presents and example photograph. For practice, (See attachment #4) the lesson presents us with a similar situation, a series of kitchen utensils hanging from a bar. The background seems to want to complicate things. (The tile, the wooden molding, etc.) But that can be over come.
Seeing positive and negative space can be at times a challenge. Often times, the mine will already have its own preconceived notion or image of what the subject looks like. One way of overcoming this is through viewing the subject upside down. Doing so will break through what the mind assumes and let you focus on the subject with more accuracy. It'll be easier to draw what you see and not what you think is suppose to be there. (See attachment #5 for the activity...)
Next time: Shape Up Some Volume or Welcome to the Third Dimension
I hope everyone had a great Thanks Giving. Mine was laced with sugary magic.
It's been quite a while since my last post. At this point in time, I'm about to start my Lesson 4 assignment. I've also received a letter from the head instructor insuring me of my success since I've stuck around for this long. Whatever, on with the show...
Adventures in Education:
Chapter 2.1 ~ Up-side-down with a Side of Volume
I guess that's the best word to use for now. I had to re-skim what I've posted thus far. Once again it's been a while since my last post, and some things aren't so fresh in my mind. Between now and then, I realized the this threat was a great way to review what I was suppose to learn. So let's go over what's happened in Chapter 2.0:
Basic Shapes: The use of basic geometric and organic shapes to build any drawing with, always starting with the single largest shape.
Positive and Negative Spaces: We know that positive spaces make up our subject. Negative spaces make up everything else.
So now what?
Now all we have left to learn about are:
• Upside Down Drawing
• Shapes and Volume
• Smooshing it All Together
Upside Down Drawing:
This is a little trick that once again takes us back to elementary or middle school. This will aid us in our search for positive and negative shapes. What's great about this technique is that it allows our mind to see the subject with fresh eyes, forcing it to toss out our preconceived notions of what the subject is "suppose" to look like. If your at home, work, where ever, find a photo, picture, etc. Study it for a moment. Then flip it over. Now you're not thinking about the "subject" its self, but it's shape, size, values, and the positive and negative spaces.
Now on to the activity! The next page is purposely printed upside down. Unless you can read upside down, you'll most likely flip your workbook around to read the directions. The gist of it is the you'll study the upside down photo, start seeing shapes and positive/negative spaces, and just draw without focusing on the subject. (See attachments #1 for the setup and #2 for the final.)
Shapes and Volume:
As we've already learned, the objects we try to draw are made up of shapes and line. Now we add this 3rd ingredient, volume. The volume of the shape is the amount of three demential space that an object takes up. (See attachments #3 and #4.) This point is prevalent whenever you attempt to model or create subjects in any 3D modeling package. As a 2D guy, when I draw, I faked depth and volume in my work. I fake that within the bounds of width and height. (X and Y axises) But in a 3D program (lightwave, Zbrush, Blender, etc) you're force to directly deal with space and volume. (Z-axis) If you refuse, your model looks like crap. It took a long time for me to wrap my mind around the Z-axis, and to force myself to find ways to deal with depth and volume within a 3D space. Yes, you will be faking volume and depth when drawing in two-dimensions, but it is your duty to learn how to "see" that space and be able to transfer what you "see" to that flat surface. That means to understand how objects rest in space.
To drive the point home, we'll take a glance at two very different versions of a shoelace wrapped around a pencil in attachment #4. Figure 1 to our left looks like something most people will draw, something flat and without depth. The shoestring looks to be embedded into the pencil. Yeah, the artist does suggest some depth thanks to shading and value, but it still looks as if both objects occupy the same space. To our right, we can not only tell that there is a shoestring and a pencil, but we are also left without any doubt as to how they're interacting. Unlike figure 1, the shoestring doesn't share the same space, let alone the same lines as the pencil. You can see the slight shadows underneath the shoelace. You can tell that it actually wraps around up, over, and back around again.
The next step is building volume. Just like when building with shapes, you'll break down your subject into three-dimensional objects: balls, cones, rectangles, etc. Start with the biggest shape, and build up your drawing from there. (See attachment #5 for activity.)
Smooshing it All Together:
This section is as advertised. We take what we've learn and apply it to our work. We even receive a step by step demonstration from an artist the recreates a moose in pencil. Afterwards we study the student gallery on the next two pages, where the book discuses how each student applied volume, space, and positives/negative spaces in their work. Then comes the Instructor Demonstration. In the demonstration, our book breaks down the techniques used by the instructor to draw Koko the gorilla.
Next time: Shape Madness! or Pimp My Seagull