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Thread: The Atelier Method

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    The Atelier Method

    The other day I went to an art exhibit at an Atelier in Boston (http://www.academyofrealistartboston.com/) and I had the chance to get a tour of the school with the organizer. She talked about the program and how the students were taught at the school. When I told her that I did figure drawing in art school she said:
    "A difference between our method for drawing the figure and the one that is most likely taught at your school is that we treat gesture in a very different way. While you probably do 5-10 minute short poses, a short pose for us is about one hour long. There is an emphasis on proportion and getting it to look like the model and not so much in making an expressive drawing. Our program starts with bargue drawings, making sure that the drawing is a perfect reproduction. When the student is ready, he/she applies this concept to still lifes and figure drawing."
    I wonder if this an effective way to learn. I understand that after 2 years of doing this it is inevitable that the students will become extremely skilled. To be honest, the student work BLEW me away. The quality of the renderings and oil painting were far superior than anything my school or most schools ive looked at does. But at the same time, some drawings looked uninspired.
    Here is an overview of the program:http://www.academyofrealistartboston.com/index.php?id=2

    Does anyone here have experience with this type of education?

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    In my figure drawing classes they teach us both, gestures quick poses and long detailed poses. Each has it's own purpose.

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    Yeah...no direct experience in an Atelier...but as much as I admire the technical skill...you're right on the money about an uninspired, or even in the words of your guide, less expressive work. Bargue reproductions, 20+ hour drawings, just not my kind of thing to be honest. For some people it is, and I think they find a zen in it...you'll discover whether you like it or not. I will say one thing...and just an opinion/observation...I think you can be fairly successful in today's traditional gallery market with atelier training.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Yeah...no direct experience in an Atelier...but as much as I admire the technical skill...you're right on the money about an uninspired, or even in the words of your guide, less expressive work. Bargue reproductions, 20+ hour drawings, just not my kind of thing to be honest. For some people it is, and I think they find a zen in it...you'll discover whether you like it or not. I will say one thing...and just an opinion/observation...I think you can be fairly successful in today's traditional gallery market with atelier training.
    I personally really like doing that kind of stuff. I certainly find it meditative. I wish I had more time to do those sort of things.

    Watch this video if you're interested in learning about 19th century academia. They would basically start by doing Bargue studies (much like many artists start by drawing from photos now,) and then they'd move to drawing casts (perfectly, or else they couldn't move on,) and then finally they'd study a live model (but with ideal statues from classicalism in comparison.) They'd also study poses from pose books, all of which, although subtle, had distinct narrative meanings. I guess after that they'd start composing actual paintings, which they would do using line as opposed to color (which was a big debate among artists.)



    There are ten parts here, and it's a good talk.

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    That's cool Jake - that stuff you've been doing at the Academy is great. Like I said I think there are folks geared that way, I'm just not one of them.

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    you're right on the money about an uninspired, or even in the words of your guide, less expressive work.
    I can agree that a lot of people coming out of those schools can make pretty boring stuff, but in my mind at least that's only if you actually chose for that education to be the be all end all of your art education. I'm sure you could learn a lot by studying at one of those ateliers and then use whatever you learned to do your own thing.

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    Yeah, cast drawings and academic life paintings can the art in itself, but I think they are better use as learning tools. When I look at a Gerome painting (or at some Bouguereau's) I certainly don't think they are uninspired.

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    I've done some cast work and other academic drawing and I'm extremely glad that I did. I'm also glad that's not the only sort of education I got. The expressive, emotional side of art is fairly important as well.

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    Yeah...no direct experience in an Atelier...but as much as I admire the technical skill...you're right on the money about an uninspired, or even in the words of your guide, less expressive work. Bargue reproductions, 20+ hour drawings, just not my kind of thing to be honest. For some people it is, and I think they find a zen in it...you'll discover whether you like it or not. I will say one thing...and just an opinion/observation...I think you can be fairly successful in today's traditional gallery market with atelier training.

    jeff did you mean without atelier training?

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    I completely agree with you guys. It has been a bit of a mystery to me as to why people woould develop their skills to such a high degree but then not use them in more imaginitive or expressive directions and themes. Like painting a bitchin' Thark for example. I mean, wouldn't you?

    I've kind of come to a few conclusions about that over the years, and these are just my feelings or opinions on it...

    1) Such focused effort on technique, observation and technical ability can become a trap and dominate or wash out the creative impulse. Achieveing the highest level of fidelity and rendering becomes what it is about, rather than having anything to say.

    2) The techniques are not that difficult in and of themselves. With proper guidance and training over a few years in the methods, as well as spending 30 hours on a single drawing, pretty much anyone can learn to execute such work, regardless of creative vision.

    3) Artists with a bit too much going on in their heads would rather, or feel more comfortable producing and getting their visions down and out of their heads, so they just don't tend to go in for the super long pose stuff and academic approach.

    Not saying any of that to diminish academic effort or training, it's just what I've kind of come to in my own process. I'm actually really inerested in trompe l'oeil work and its cousin, really highly rendered still life. The artists I'm drawn to use cademic techniques but their composition, or subject makes a strong, or at least interesting statement.

    Edit: Yeah, so to follow up...I think experiencing a taste of it is a really valuable thing...then you know if that is the direction you want to go. Plus it gives you a great foundation which certainly will be of value in your journey.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    2) The techniques are not that difficult in and of themselves. With proper guidance and training over a few years in the methods, as well as spending 30 hours on a single drawing, pretty much anyone can learn to execute such work, regardless of creative vision.

    3) Artists with a bit too much going on in their heads would rather, or feel more comfortable producing and getting their visions down and out of their heads, so they just don't tend to go in for the super long pose stuff and academic approach.

    Not saying any of that to diminish academic effort or training, it's just what I've kind of come to in my own process. I'm actually really inerested in trompe l'oeil work and its cousin, really highly rendered still life. The artists I'm drawn to use cademic techniques but their composition, or subject makes a strong, or at least interesting statement.

    Edit: Yeah, so to follow up...I think experiencing a taste of it is a really valuable thing...then you know if that is the direction you want to go. Plus it gives you a great foundation which certainly will be of value in your journey.

    To add to point 2... During my tour I asked if there was an admission process to their full time program. They said no because they are confident that they can teach this to anyone. I guess if a person spends enough hours using a single medium to paint things to perfection, in a couple of years its hard not to be good at it. She said that there is a very clear step by step approach to the way they paint with oils.

    I am pretty busy with my work for school, but I am thinking about taking some classes at the atelier. Seems like it would be a nice kick in the butt in my drawing and painting foundations.

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    What they teach us in my foundation classes it that 'right now you're learning the craftsmanship and techniques' Artistry and expression, you will be working on later (3rd and 4th year for example, if one is working on a BFA.

    They do allow for some artistic expression and creativity right now too, but majority of the emphasis is to acquire a decent level of craftsmanship.

    Part of what may be happeining is that students don't always pay enough attention to fully grasp what they're doing and why. I'[m amazed, in my classes there's maybe 20% of the people who actually follow closely (if that many)... Others, I don't know what the heck they are doing. I'd hate being a teacher ... they can explain something 3-4 items and people will still go... umm, huh?

    Last edited by Conniekat8; December 8th, 2011 at 04:50 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by haljarrett View Post
    Yeah...no direct experience in an Atelier...but as much as I admire the technical skill...you're right on the money about an uninspired, or even in the words of your guide, less expressive work. Bargue reproductions, 20+ hour drawings, just not my kind of thing to be honest. For some people it is, and I think they find a zen in it...you'll discover whether you like it or not. I will say one thing...and just an opinion/observation...I think you can be fairly successful in today's traditional gallery market with atelier training.

    jeff did you mean without atelier training?
    Actually no hal...I meant I think it can give you a decent leg-up...at least in the traditional galleries. There is a real resurgence and interest over the last few years in very academic work. Either way I do think it provides a great foundation...as long as one keeps in mind that art is about communicating vision, ideas and expression...whatever that means for the individual. But, if you're vision is just another highly rendered figure slouched in a big chair...eh, yeah, nicely done...but boring.

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    I’m a student at the school you mentioned, ARA Boston. I had a tree painting in that art show. You probably didn't see it on the wall because it’s tiny, so I'll attach a picture of it. I’m also attaching it because I think it is expressive. The school never taught me how to be expressive or inspired, and this painting was not even a school assignment, but Cindy gave me an enormous amount of feedback on it. It is the first real painting I have done, and I did not know anything about oils until last August when I took a master copy workshop at this school.

    Most of the drawings from the school are uninspired because they are not works of art. They are exercises. Their priority is training you how to see, and how to think about what you see. This kind of work is often the opposite of inspiring, it’s boring and pushes you to the edge of your patience. Not everyone wants or needs this sort of thing but I found it to be worth the effort so far.

    I have never been very concerned with losing creativity. Many people seem to think human creativity is a limited resource that evaporates into nothing if you do not protect it from the outside world. I don’t believe non-creative training hurts my creativity at all. At worst it just temporarily annoys me, it’s not going to annihilate my humanity or anything.

    It’s not like creative training is immune from being annoying either. I have taken some extremely frustrating creative classes, many of which either went nowhere or forced my development backwards. The worst class I ever took was both uncreative and useless simultaneously. Every single method of art instruction has the potential to be poor quality if it’s in the wrong hands.

    However, I think expression is especially difficult to teach. How can something that subjective be taught? People like Howard Pyle seemed to teach it, but I’m not sure how. Things like value and comparative measurement are much less subjective and that is why schools like this tend to focus on those concepts. You can teach yourself basic technical skills, but it is more efficient to learn it from a class.

    I should also mention that the ARA doesn’t ignore expression or any of the deeper aspects of art. I’ve had plenty of discussions here that go beyond the superficial and into more difficult ideas like making shapes entertaining, choosing what to include and exclude from a picture, intent, emotional content, style, ect. It’s just that these things are not the first thing on the agenda, drawing accurately is the first thing.

    This particular school is very new and small. I think the only reason they don’t have any classes on advanced things like composition is because they have not gotten around to it yet. Things will definitely change in a few years.

    I learned about ARA on James Gurney’s blog. He wrote a good explanation of what they do. http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...alist-art.html

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    Thanks for the insight, Lindsay! That really helped shape my opinion on the school since I am considering taking a couple classes there myself. I really hope my original post did not sound like I was bashing the school. Again, the work at the exhibition was mind blowing and I loved most of it.

    Are you a full-time student there or do you take individual classes? Could you please speak a little about how the progression of classes is (I dont really understand their quarter system.) If you took individual classes, which one did you take?
    =)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alternative View Post
    Thanks for the insight, Lindsay! That really helped shape my opinion on the school since I am considering taking a couple classes there myself. I really hope my original post did not sound like I was bashing the school. Again, the work at the exhibition was mind blowing and I loved most of it.

    Are you a full-time student there or do you take individual classes? Could you please speak a little about how the progression of classes is (I dont really understand their quarter system.) If you took individual classes, which one did you take?
    =)
    I don't think your post sounds like bashing... it's just hard for me to resist the opportunity to prove a point about something.

    I'm a full time student. I have been here for about 2 1/2 years, although I have not finished my second bargue yet.

    Their website is kind of confusing. If I was only going to take one class it would be the bargue class, and I was actually considering doing that next quarter. The bargues are the foundation of everything else they do, including figure drawing.

    At this school everybody works at their own pace and you go on to the next project when you have finished the one you are working on now. Unlike most schools you don't move on just because you spent a certain amount of time and effort working, you move on when you achieve understanding. So the quarters only refer to the amount of time you spend in class. Basically you just show up, the program is pretty flexible.

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    thanks for clarifying jeff! this is exactly the sort of info im after - im very interested in traditional gallery work,the perfection of it etc...(and studying at an atelier) having said that we will have to wait and see if i have the patience for 40hr casts etc!

    and also just to add my chips to the pile : i kindof agree a lot of the stuff produced is a bit uninspired but as soon as people walk outside of "traditional subjects" e.g. standard still lifes/figures, im thinking theres probably a bit of a risk as far as selling pieces, or an artists reputation is concerned...but then again odd nerdrums "twilight" begs to differ!

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    Right on hal - here's teh type of gallery I'm talking about: http://www.johnpence.com/visuals/index.htm

    That is the one I'm most familiar with anyway...as far as academic tradition goes.

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    Atelier compared to writing

    Hi, I am a writer more than an artist, and I would like to add that writers write a whole lot before or while they write creatively. We have all written many, many things because writing is part of a traditional education. Most writers go through several degrees in school, because they can learn a lot of what they need to learn in that environment, are interested in various fields to write about aside from just the writing, and it's there for the taking. But all of those essays, research papers and whatever else they are asked to write do not detract from whatever stories, poems, scripts or creative work they produce either in class or out. I mean if you want an education as a writer you can't avoid writing all of that stuff, and yet you emerge as what you want or find you reach the limit of your creativity--but it's not the school work's fault. As artists, you have to be more in charge of your education and so might wonder about this stuff more. But for a writer the process just happens, unquestioned, up to a certain point. One kind of writing that is thought to stifle creativity is being a reporter, and that can happen if you try to do the two simultaneously, I've found, but to work for awhile as a reporter just got me more ready to move on to more creative stuff. I learned to write every day, got used to being published and criticized, wrote on a deadline, and most important of all, learned how to edit, on paper and in my mind, and quickly. Good reporting is also storytelling, and you learn interviewing, see things and talk to people you never would otherwise and gain fodder for stories or whatever. As Lindsay pointed out, the atelier education is sequential, and one does not go back to a stage once one has passed it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by haljarrett View Post
    thanks for clarifying jeff! this is exactly the sort of info im after - im very interested in traditional gallery work,the perfection of it etc...(and studying at an atelier) having said that we will have to wait and see if i have the patience for 40hr casts etc!

    and also just to add my chips to the pile : i kindof agree a lot of the stuff produced is a bit uninspired but as soon as people walk outside of "traditional subjects" e.g. standard still lifes/figures, im thinking theres probably a bit of a risk as far as selling pieces, or an artists reputation is concerned...but then again odd nerdrums "twilight" begs to differ!
    In school, you often don't get a whole lot of choice, but to draw and paint what is in front of you. Some students can infuse a bit of creativity into it, some can do less.

    Usually it's in the last year or two, or in a masters programs that (so I'm told) most artists find their own vision. The years of foundation and developing the skills is just that, learning the basic skills.

    There's been a several times i encountered a situation where I wanted to do something specific with a piece, because my creativity was pushing in a certain direction, but was redirected to do things in a more classical way... not because the classical way is better necessarily, but to demonstrate that I understand the basics to start with. They keep repeating - you can get more creative and start braking the rules later on. Right now, let's stick with the birds and the bee's.

    The school I'm transferring to, (LCAD - cross my fingers finances come through) I noticed this artist teaching in their MFA program, she appears to have married traditional painting techniques with very, to me, interesting and thought provoking imagery: http://www.pamelawilsonfineart.com/w....com/Home.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by velvinette View Post
    Hi, I am a writer more than an artist, and I would like to add that writers write a whole lot before or while they write creatively. We have all written many, many things because writing is part of a traditional education. Most writers go through several degrees in school, because they can learn a lot of what they need to learn in that environment, are interested in various fields to write about aside from just the writing, and it's there for the taking. But all of those essays, research papers and whatever else they are asked to write do not detract from whatever stories, poems, scripts or creative work they produce either in class or out. I mean if you want an education as a writer you can't avoid writing all of that stuff, and yet you emerge as what you want or find you reach the limit of your creativity--but it's not the school work's fault. As artists, you have to be more in charge of your education and so might wonder about this stuff more. But for a writer the process just happens, unquestioned, up to a certain point. One kind of writing that is thought to stifle creativity is being a reporter, and that can happen if you try to do the two simultaneously, I've found, but to work for awhile as a reporter just got me more ready to move on to more creative stuff. I learned to write every day, got used to being published and criticized, wrote on a deadline, and most important of all, learned how to edit, on paper and in my mind, and quickly. Good reporting is also storytelling, and you learn interviewing, see things and talk to people you never would otherwise and gain fodder for stories or whatever. As Lindsay pointed out, the atelier education is sequential, and one does not go back to a stage once one has passed it.
    Just one thing my friend. You may want to break this up into paragraph form next time. Right now, you've a wall of text which creates an instant desire for the average forum reader to not read through it.

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    jeff-thanks for the link,its good to finally see a traditional realist gallery with price estimates included!its handy to know for the future(hopefully!) and also i see no reason why it should be a secret!

    connie-had a look at the link,that lady does beautiful stuff,love the crazy women with guns!the "look" reminds me somewhat of yuqi wangs stuff,which im a big fan of,only a lot more creepy!

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    Oh, thanks for mentioning Yuqi Wang, I never heard of him before, very coool stuff. I love the moody 'tell me a story' kind of work. http://www.yuqiwangart.us/

    Not so much as in, I would put in in my living room wall (cause it would make me depressed after a long time), but more as something that intrigues me and draws me in, makes me contemplate things.

    I'd love to be able to mix the two, invent a concept character, then paint or draw it with a lot of life and detail... *and* make it in 3D

    Last edited by Conniekat8; December 10th, 2011 at 12:59 AM.
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    I'm signing up for Water Street Atelier for this January:

    http://grandcentralacademy.classicis...terstreet.html

    It is all a matter of choice if you choose to continue painting still life or add some imaginary work. You can always apply what you learn from the atelier in your imaginary work, such as color mixing and practicing control of your hand when rendering or finishing works. After all, imaginary representational painting is modeled after real forms.

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