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    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Thought I'd throw an overview of the Illustration Academy and TAD out here. I was in Kansas City for the full run of both of these programs and it was a pleasure, as usual, to work with such dedicated teachers / professional artists and students.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    One thing that always gets me is how much of a student even the instructors are. For years we have come together to teach at the Illustration Academy, and now TAD. Many of these artists have been my heroes for years, since I was in art school myself. I never thought I'd get to meet them, much less have the extreme honor of calling them friends. But each and every one of them comes to these programs because they adhere to an age-old dictum: "Pay it forward".

    Below, Mark English demos for the Academy students.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, John English demos for the Academy students.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    We've each had in the course of our careers individuals that have made all the difference to our growth as artists. I was constantly hitting the phone book in New York City calling my heroes who graciously invited me into their studio and their lives and discussed my work and how to make it better. When I mentioned that there was no way to repay them, they told me to pay it forward. Apparently I'm not alone.

    Below, Gary Kelley at the Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Above, Gary Kelley gives a simulcast lecture between Richmond, Virginia and Kansas City.

    Below, Gary shows off his new Barnes and Noble murals to the students.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, Gary's pastel demo.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    I look forward each year to attending the Academy / TAD. It's the place where I recharge my batteries. These artists are my family. We all bring our "A" games with us and we spur each other on to greater challenges. We also have a lot of fun. We laugh constantly and pranks are the order of the day. And through it all art is supreme. We're all there to take what we do to new heights. And each year another group of dedicated students gets added to that extended family and we get to watch each other grow.

    Below, Chris Payne.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, Chris skewered by Mark English.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, Chris's demo, wherein he skewers me!

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Sterling Hundley skewered by Chris.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Anyway, I had an incredible time and wanted to share some of the images I took while struggling to share the accumulated knowledge of so many teachers and students. Hope you enjoy the ride as much as we all did.

    The Illustration Academy began before TAD this year and ran concurrently with TAD later. The Academy was held this year in Kansas City at the location of the new Pod for TAD, and in Richmond, VA at the location of the new Pod there as well. I didn't visit the Richmond Pod this year but have heard from several of their students who later came up to investigate the TAD that they had a blast and had as immersive a time as those students in KC.

    Brent Watkinson, as usual, gave some incredible lectures that simplify composition and color, among other things. Once you sit through one of his lectures your head's screwed on just a little bit better.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    One of Brent's oil paintings.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Jason Manley worked with the students at the Academy and the TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Terry Brown, past director of the Society of Illustrators in New York for 20 years, came and gave an incredible lecture on the history of illustration.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    The pod is located in what is known as "the Bottoms" here in KC. This is an old area full of old warehouses and factory buildings, home of the old stockyards, one of the last places settlers would visit before crossing the Missouri river on the way to their new lives. The Pod building is an odd-shaped building and we have the entire first floor of it. Inside it totally reminds me of my art school drawing rooms at Pratt Institute. I was there in the early, early '80's and the place was very rustic. Old factory buildings that were not glitzy in any shape or form, but that made it all the more full of character and seemed to enhance our need to create.

    One of the things that has always differentiated the Illustration Academy from other schools, besides the caliber of the instructors, is the immersive aspect of everything we do. Students are encouraged to plaster their walls with inspirational work, postcards, tearsheets, posters, etc. Each student's space becomes a microcosm of their world and their influences. One can walk from station to station and pick up new influences and a different artistic vibe. There you might find ways of approaching the same assignment that would never have otherwise occurred to you. It's a wonderful sharing of knowledge without even having to say a word. Pretty cool.

    Materials are left out, as well as computers and books. We've never had an instance of theft by students in the Academy, as far as I know. We have had things stolen by outsiders coming in, but it's been very, very rare. I can think of only one occurrence, actually, from several years ago. Students can stay as late as they wish (many stay over night) and can come in when they wish as well. One student will generally be entrusted with a key.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    There's always an energy in the studio. Something is usually going on. When we get into the thick of things there's lots going on at once. Students are working, instructors are milling about trying to help, and there might be a photo shoot going on in the back room, or someone might be transferring a drawing, someone cooking some food or cutting boards down. A guitar might be pulled out and tunes shared. Some students might be outside in the lawn chairs just chilling out enjoying the air.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Brad Rigney talking with a Simon from Australia who will be attending the full TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Two nights a week (three when TAD started) we have life drawing for two or three hours. EVERYONE draws. Mark English would come in and join us every drawing night. Very cool. In the beginning we focused on the Academy approach, which is all about seeing the silhouette of the figure and simple value structure. But the drawings are really interesting. It's all about seeing effectively. If you've participated in any of the Discovery classes, you probably were introduced to this approach there. It's a great way to see the figure in its entirety. The poses are not long, at the most 10 or so minutes. But it's surprising what students are able to accomplish.

    Later, near the end of the Academy, John (English) allows me to take over the drawing and push the quick gesture work. We do five-second gestures and build slowly up to, say, two or three minutes. It's fast work, but incredibly effective in getting people to respond to the figure in front of them and not to get into any holding patters with their drawing. They have to make decisions instantaneously and commit to the lines they're putting down. It'll wear you out. But it's exciting too.

    The way the Academy runs is unique. Aside from the full-time faculty a professional artist will come in for one week (say, Gary Kelley). He gives a slide presentation of his work and career, then gives his assignment. This year Gary's assignment was to illustrate the color blue. He then works with students for that week on the entire process needed to carry a job from initial assignment, through ideation (thumbnails, etc), to completion of the final piece. The students usually have only two or three days to finish the final. Most of the work is on the front end, thumbnails, ideation, composition, color, etc. Students work throughout the weekends, to the critique of the job on Monday.

    Below, Anita Kunz (after having just been awarded the Order of Canada) arrived to work with the students.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Anita and Alex (another Canadian) stand at attention for the Canadian anthem.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Another professional artist arrives and, being the new set of eyes, critiques that job. And the cycle begins all over. During all this work, demonstrations are given by the visiting and full-time faculty. There's never a dull moment.

    Below, one of my monotype demos for the students.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, my oil demo in progress.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Instructors this year included: Mark English, Gary Kelley, Chris Payne, Anita Kunz, Jason Manley, Jon Foster, Brad Rigney, Terry Brown, Marshall Vandruff, Sterling Hundley, Andrew Jones, Francis Vallejo, Trey Bryan, Jane Radstrom, John English, Brent Watkinson and myself (George Pratt). Quite a crew!

    Below, Marshall Vandruff teaching Anatomy to the TAD students.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, Andrew Jones wowed students with his presentation, then did a demo to top it all off.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Andrew Jones hanging out with students after his demo.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Andrew chilling out later that night, sketching on the sofa.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Sterling Hundley's demo.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Francis Vallejo speaks with the students and does a demo.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    For relaxation students could hit the Kansas City sights. We also were invited a couple of times to Mark English's home where we had hamburgers, beer and soda, plus the advantage of getting to see his studio piled with art in progress. Unbelievably inspiring! Several students also brought in musical instruments and would play out at the front of the building or behind the building where we had a grill.

    Below, from left to right: Andrew Jones, John English, Mark English and Marshall Vandruff at Mark English's studio.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, Mark English brought his dog Tug in. He became the students' mascot.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Below, students and faculty from TAD and Academy hanging out at First Friday in Kansas City.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    At the end of each Academy we have a raffle and let students pick out various pieces of art produced by the instructors. This year we gave away over 80 pieces of art (drawings, paintings, monotypes, prints) that took four rounds to complete. Each student got at least three pieces!

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Last night of the Academy.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    The introduction to TAD also began while the Academy was in session and was held at UMKC in Kansas City. There were 18 students for that program and I suggest anyone interested in hearing a student's perspective should read through Andy Brinkman's post on his blog. He had a great time there and is an incredibly dedicated student.

    First day of TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Andrew Jones sketching right before the final crit for TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    John English and Andrew Jones during final crit for TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Sterling Hundley during final TAD crit.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Final TAD crit.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.


    So, rather than drag this out even longer, I'll finish with a pile of sketchbook images and hope that it gives you a good sense of the fun and work involved in this grand undertaking that is TAD and Academy!

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.

    Photos and reflections from Illustration Academy and TAD.


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  4. #2
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    Thanks for sharing all this.

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    looks awesome guys and girls xD

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    Amazing George. I was waiting for some of the photos to surface.

    What a great experience. It was friggin' amazing

    -Evan

  7. #5
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    Oh my god. That's amazing. o__o

  8. #6
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    Really awesome stuff, I wish I would've been there.

    Looked like a fun, informative time.
    "Wake up. Work hard. Stop being a loser." -Dave Rapoza

    [ DeviantArt Gallery ] :: [ Inexorable Artistry ] :: [ CA Sketchbook ]

  9. #7
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    Holy Hell!! These are awesome pics and lots of artwork. O_O *feeling woozy*

    *RRHH!!* Hurry up New Year/January...I want to go to school.

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