How to be an Artist Without Going to Art School
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    How to be an Artist Without Going to Art School

    I wrote this for my blog, but thought I'd repost (a slightly edited version) here. I don't mean to spam up CA.org with my blog posts, but I think some people here might find it useful:

    Aspiring artists these days have it pretty darn good. Sure, we can complain about a lousy economy, a highly competitive field, and the loss of several fields of illustrations (thanks in large part to the stock photography/illustration industry). But the fact is that much of the entertainment industry is doing extremely well, the field, while only accepting of high caliber work, is ripe with work, and new fields are opening up for artists to fill. So stop your whining. We’ve got it good in the 21st century.

    It astonishes me how many resources artists have at their disposal these days. Yet most of my classmates never took advantage of any of them! Gah! It drives me crazy. Here are some of the great (affordable) resources available for people looking to avoid art school (with all of its good and bad qualities), or those who are in art school and not learning enough.

    Books
    Books are cheap, plentiful, and absolutely packed with information. I’ve learned countless things from reading books. If you’re lost on what books to buy, you can start with my list of 10 books every artist must read. The beautiful thing about books is that there are ways to read them without paying for them thanks to these wonderful things known as “libraries.” I know you’ve probably forgotten about them, but look around and see if there’s one nearby. You might be surprised how good their collection of art books is.

    Video Tutorials
    I’m a big fan of video tutorials. So much so, in fact, that I made my own. I attribute much of what I know about art from watching videos. They can seem like a lot of money at first, but the value you’ll get out of them is unmatched. It’s like getting to look over the shoulder of artists far better than you. Here’s a few great places to start with. There are bajillions out there, but these are high quality ones:

    Gnomon Workshop – Huge array of subject matter available. Drawing, painting, sculpting, 3d modeling—you name it, they’ve got it. Be sure to check out their color theory dvds. I learned a lot from them. Oh, and you might get lucky and find some of these in a well-stocked library.

    The Art Department - Awesome collection of videos that even go to support this awesome site. As a long-time CA.org member, I'm always psyched to support the site in any way I can.I'm always psyched to support the site in any way I can.

    Glenn Vilppu – This guy is probably one of the best living figure drawing instructors. And to our great benefit, he’s put out a series of videos! I haven’t had the chance to watch them all, but what I have seen have been fantastic. This man knows his stuff. Odds are he’s a lot better than the figure instructor you would get if you went to art school. Trust me, I had my fair share of… “special” figure drawing instructors.

    As I said, there are tons of good ones out there, so feel free to share in the comment section.

    Online classes & workshops
    Sometimes we want classes—there’s something about one-on-one interaction and assignments that seems natural when you want to learn. And now there are sites that you can go to for online classes with some incredibly good artists. The first that comes to mind is CG Master Workshops. They offer both workshops (more in the vein of video tutorials) as well as master classes, which are 8-week courses taught by industry pros on their unique specialties. I’m planning to try one out when I get a chance.

    Conventions
    If you’re not going to art school then you’re missing out on some important networking potential. It’s very easy to be trapped in your room working on learning your art, completely forgetting that you need to also get out there and meet some people! The art world is fairly social and getting to know the other people working in the industry can greatly help your own career. Illuxcon, PAX, and Gen Con are a few to look at.

    Forums
    In the art school environment you’re constantly surrounded by your peers. People share advice, chat about artists, and hurl insults/critiques towards other’s work. But locked in your cave you can easily miss out on this. So if you’re looking for some input on your work or just want to chit-chat about art with other fairly serious artists, then check out some of the great forums out there. CA.org, CGHub, and CGTalk are three of the big ones. I’ve got accounts on all three, but I’m mainly active on CA.org. Because it's the best.

    Blogs
    Using Google Reader (to keep some semblance of sanity) I follow hundreds of blogs. Many of these are artist’s blogs that pretty much only post pretty pictures. But a few post more in-depth content. Three blogs that every artist should read:

    Gurney Journey – James Gurney is the man. He also is very good at writing about art and sharing his vast wisdom on the subject. So good, in fact, that he wrote a couple books on the subject that you should totally buy.

    Muddy Colors – This is a group blog of some of the top names in the industry. The topics range from business to technique to theory. It’s somewhat new, but it’s already proven itself as an invaluable resource for aspiring artists.

    ArtOrder – Jon Schindehette, AD over at WotC, runs ArtOrder in his spare time. It’s packed with good articles already, and also hosts regular challenges. They’re not only fun challenges, but also great tools to get exposure. Anyone wanting to work on D&D or Magic should lurk around this place.

    Museums & Galleries
    One nice thing about going to art school is you’re forcibly exposed to lots of art. If you’re not in that environment, you need to make an extra effort to get that exposure on your own. Find local galleries and check out the work, and make trips to museums on a regular basis to stare at the work (or even do studies of it). Non-art museums are great too. Natural history museums can be hugely inspiring places.

    Life Drawing
    Draw, draw, draw! Nothing beats drawing from life, and nothing will hone your skills like drawing the human figure. It’s fun, challenging, and I’d even say downright necessary. Find a local group and go regularly. Once a week is fine, but more would be better. If there aren’t any around where you live, then set up a space, hire a model, and advertise it online. Odds are there will be other artists who want to come and draw with you.

    Workshops
    At the end of the day, there’s nothing quite like training under amazing artists. There are tons of workshops you can travel to and get an extensive education in a short time. Some great places to check out are Watt’s Atelier, LAAFA, and the Concept Design Academy. It’s a bit of a time & money investment, but entirely worth it. I’m considering attending the Illustration Master Class next time around. It’s a week long intensive course with some of the biggest names in the industry acting as your instructors. Everyone I’ve talked to that has gone in the past has said that they’ve learned more in a week than they learned during their four years in art school. I've heard similarly awesome things about the Illustration Academy.

    Just because you’re not going to an art school doesn’t mean that your education is lacking! If you have the devotion and the willingness to put some money towards your education, then learning art is very, very feasible. In fact, I’d say there has never been a better time to learn.

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    Oh thank god, when I read the title I was so sure this was going to be one of those threads again.

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    Between this and the pros-and-cons-of-art-school posts, I think I'm just going to start linking your blog every time a question about art school comes up...

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    Maybe I should consolidate Noah's threads to "Things you better read, and don't cry when people yell at you if you didn't " thread - sticky post.

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    this is awesome man, very useful info : o

    -We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

    -Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.

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    It makes me very happy that only one of the links I didn't already visit regularly. More learning, yay!

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    once again, an excellent resource. Between this and your blog I think I'm set for a while

    >>Sketchbook<<

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    It's progress, NOT perfection.
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    This should be stickied!

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    Yeah I've been off the fence lately whether I should go to art school or not -- I don't want debt. Seems like you can learn most of the stuff you need to on your own....might just go to a public university for cheap tuition + scholarships. :3

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadlyhazard View Post
    public university for cheap tuition + scholarships. :3
    I went the public education side for a 2 year transfer and I still had to get loans. maybe it's because I live in Miami.

    Question:
    Does drawing yourself self-portrait and/or body, body parts count as life drawing?

    Last edited by Flashback; July 15th, 2011 at 07:05 PM.
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    Man, this is so useful! Thanks a lot for sharing it to us newbies!!

    Nada importa morir, pero no vivir es horrible.
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    I have a S.KETCH.BOOK.!!

    and a blog (with animation stuff): http://animatedskycat.blogspot.mx/

    and a tumblr (with random stuff): http://arturoarias.tumblr.com/
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    Oh look, a list of things I didn't get at uni!

    Sketchbook | Art Blog | Portfolio

    True progress means matching the world to the vision in our heads.
    But we always change the vision instead.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flashback View Post
    Question:
    Does drawing yourself self-portrait and/or body, body parts count as life drawing?
    I don't know, are you alive?


    Tristan Elwell
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    I don't know, are you alive?
    Even if he's dead, it would still count as drawing from life. ;-)

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    Sticky please! Every member of CA should read this! Thank you for posting!

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    Quote Originally Posted by blogmatix View Post
    Even if he's dead, it would still count as drawing from life. ;-)
    I think if he's dead, he becomes a still life.

    Or better yet, a French still life - "Nature Morte".

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    Thanks for this post! I always kind of figured Art School wasn't entirely necessary unless you're doing architecture or whatnot. Useful, but not necessary. And I never really thought of PAX as something artists would go to. Huh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    I think if he's dead, he becomes a still life.

    Or better yet, a French still life - "Nature Morte".
    If he IS dead, he`s NECROING big time...O.o...

    OT - Something tells me this way of art education is much cheaper as well...and being a big cheap that I am, all I can say is - Huzzah!


    Also, sticky pls kthnxbai.

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    Probably, I'm not entirely sure.

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    lol didn't you just get stickied in the 'Art Discussion', I should bookmark your posts in a folder on my favorites and call it "The Teachings of Noah Bradley"

    Last edited by ArcZephyer; July 16th, 2011 at 11:26 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    I think if he's dead, he becomes a still life.

    Or better yet, a French still life - "Nature Morte".
    Isn't the term "drawn from life" used to denote drawing from direct observation, as opposed to working from a reference photo? Or is it drawn from life only when the subject matter is alive?

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    drawn from life means direct observation

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    What if a zombie draws another zombie?


    Tristan Elwell
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    Assuming that the Zombie has hands to draw with,
    Arms to guide the hands,
    Bodies to attach the arms,
    Eyes to see the model,
    A mouth to tell the model to stop eating people's brain and sit still,
    Then I think sir that you have a paradox.

    But, it's undead, which is neither dead nor alive. Besides, to draw from life is to draw from observation... the drawing Zombie would only need to be able to see, and to be able to draw. I only hope that we don't have some kind of Zombie Titanic scene on our hands.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    What if a zombie draws another zombie?
    then you know zombie armageddon has happened and we walk and draw with the undead for eternity or until our drawing parts fall off.

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    This is why I do all my zombie drawings from photos.


    Tristan Elwell
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    So this was drawn from life then. I guess it does sound better than saying it was drawn from death.

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    lol a thread about how to be an artist without going to art school quickly changes to a conversation about zombies, priceless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blogmatix View Post
    So this was drawn from life then. I guess it does sound better than saying it was drawn from death.
    OH. VERY GOOD POINT.

    Does anybody know on what grounds it would be possible as an artist to find a Cadaver museum to draw from? The only one I can find in My Uni is only available to surgery students which sucks because I've only been in there once with an old Bioengineering group I studied with and it's an amazing resource, but without a surgery thingymalicence they won't let me in. Any other way equivalent for doing so?



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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    I think if he's dead, he becomes a still life.

    Or better yet, a French still life - "Nature Morte".
    In a lot of (European) languages literal translation of their still life drawing and painting term to English would be "Dead Nature"


    Quote Originally Posted by Beeston View Post
    OH. VERY GOOD POINT.

    Does anybody know on what grounds it would be possible as an artist to find a Cadaver museum to draw from? The only one I can find in My Uni is only available to surgery students which sucks because I've only been in there once with an old Bioengineering group I studied with and it's an amazing resource, but without a surgery thingymalicence they won't let me in. Any other way equivalent for doing so?

    I gather more and more and more art schools here in the US are getting away from actual cadaver use in their artistic anatomy classes. One of the teachers said it's not really necessary. I suspect it may be getting tougher and tougher to arrange, and replicas are getting more sophisticated.

    Last edited by Conniekat8; July 16th, 2011 at 03:02 PM.
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