Crit Quickie #23

Check out Crit Quickie #23, featuring an acrylic painting installed as a ceiling tile by @millishighart@millishighart.  Critique by TA Annie Irwin.

Crit Quickies are 1 min. audio critiques on the Art Prof Instagram. Submit! Post your art on your Instagram w/ @art.prof, & #critquickie. Watch more Crit Quickies in this playlist on our Youtube channel.

We accept submissions from artists in 8th grade and up. If you’re an art teacher, you’re welcome to submit on behalf of your students!


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Drawing Experiments

by Clara Lieu

The very early stages of a new project are always so exhilarating, because literally every effort is a chance to explore unknown territory. There’s an incredible freedom when you know there is no pressure to put together finished works for an exhibition.

In reviewing the first few drawings in this new series, I didn’t think I was doing enough with the tearing of the paper. Not only did I want the drawings to become much more sculptural, but I could see that I was tearing too carefully around the image.  I had been hesitant to rip right through the image, probably because I was worried that I would lose the image altogether by doing so.

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I am always very conscious of whether I am truly taking risks in my artwork.  As an art student, I know that I held myself back a lot because I worried far too much about ending up with poor results.  Consequently, I ended up with a lot of drawings that were reliably aesthetically pleasing, but that didn’t do much in terms of attempting new formats. Still, it’s one thing to know that you should take risks, and it’s another thing to actually do it. To initiate that process, I told myself that this new portrait was a “sacrificial” drawing, that I would tear right through the face to see what might happen.

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I’m mostly pleased with this experiment, because I do think that the graphite drawing and tears are more fully integrated.  In the previous drawings, the drawing and the rips didn’t interact very much.  However, something was still missing, the drawing still looked a little too flat.  I wanted even more depth and surface to work with. I realized as I was running on the treadmill last night (many artistic revelations seem to occur when I’m exercising) that what these drawings need is multiple layers of tissue paper.  Layering the tissue paper makes sense, given that human skin is composed in layers.

Another part of this last drawing experiment was filming myself and speaking about my process while working on this drawing. I’ve been creating drawing tutorials for Art Prof, but the objective behind those tutorials was to teach universal drawing skills that could be applied to any artist’s individual style.  The video I created to accompany this drawing experiment is quite different, in that I speak about my own specific process and artwork. I was hesitant at first about making this video, as I didn’t want people to interpret the video as a message that I think people should draw like me. Fundamentally, I believe that drawing is a very personal activity, and ultimately every artist has to forge their own approach.  I was surprised that many people were very receptive to this process video on my Instagram, so it’s something I think I will do again.

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In terms of the subject matter of the elderly nude, I still feel that my understanding of the subject of aging is very superficial at this point. Right now because it’s so early in this project, I’m focusing on experimenting with my format, materials, and drawing process. Once I’ve worked out these aspects to a more coherent stage, I’m going to start speaking to local nursing homes.  I have absolutely no idea where that could go, and I know it will be anything but a simple task to get people in nursing homes to pose for these drawings.

This is also one of the few projects where the images came before the content, it’s much more common for me to have a subject and then to invent images to match the content. However, it’s exciting to think about the true meaning of these drawings to slowly emerge as I create the pieces.


Related Articles
My Poisonous Checklist
One Simple Purpose
A Burst of Artistic Inspiration for the First Time in 2 Years
Anticipating a New Drawing Project
Drawing Again After a Two Year Drought


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Keep Looking For Your Dreams

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by Alex Rowe

When I was an art student, and even a year or so after I graduated, I had a very rigid idea of what my work and my life as an artist would look like: I would illustrate books, and only books. End of story. Spoiler alert to all of you young artists out there: this is not the best course of action. Pursuing a specific dream, like book illustration? Totally fine! Limiting yourself professionally and creatively? Not so much. I fell into the trap a lot of young artist fall into: limiting my work by keeping my dreams too narrow. Whether by not taking some classes because they didn’t fit with my goal, or even not drawing some pieces I thought of because they didn’t work with the portfolio I wanted, I was limiting myself as an artist.  

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The problem with staying focused on a goal is that we sometimes ignore the directions that our work is trying to take us, and when we stray too far away from our true work we loose focus on why we make art in the first place. A career in art is not a simple trajectory. There are many turns and surprises that it can take us that we don’t even expect!

In my case, some of my jobs out of school were t-shirts and logos for local bands. I had to learn a lot of things about design that I neglected to learn earlier, but this work brought me more and more joy as I completed projects. The key is to be open to these surprises. Let go of your dreams in order to find them again. Ask yourself, why do you make art? I think you’ll find the answer is much more broad than any specific goal that you’ve set.

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How do you avoid being trapped in a goal that’s too specific? Simply be mindful of your artwork, of what brings you joy, and what your artwork is trying to tell you. Don’t try to make your work fit a specific goal, but try to find a goal that fits the kind of art you enjoy. In my experience, as I let go of the assumption that I knew what I wanted to do, I’ve been having so much more fun making my work again! And you know, that reinvigorated love has made me still work on a portfolio for book illustration – as well as other things.

Fear not: as grim as the career of an artist may look at times, there are more ways than ever to get your work out there and make it work! I found little success when I was just looking at book publishers – but now that I’ve started meeting local bands, interacting with small businesses, and even joining a gallery (trust me, the last place I thought my work would fit!) I’m slowly finding people who I can work with as an artist. Be honest with your artwork, and the right venue for it will come.


Related Articles & Videos
My Poisonous Checklist, by Clara Lieu
One Simple Purpose, by Clara Lieu 
Crit Quickie #20, Alex Rowe
Crit Quickie #21, Alex Rowe
Crit Quickie #19, Alex Rowe
4 Artist Critique, Oil Painting, Alex Rowe
4 Artist Critique, Figure Drawing, Alex Rowe


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Professional Artist Portfolio Critique #2

Video critique of professional artist Traci Turner’s portfolio


by Clara Lieu

Many people think that being an artist is only about creating the artwork.  Actually, there are several other aspects of being an artist that can carry almost as much weight. Critique is a huge part of the creative process for artists.  The opportunity to get advice on your artwork is critical towards an artist’s growth and progress. Inherently, all artists are stuck in their own heads when they produce their artwork. No artist ever gets to a point where they no longer need feedback on their artwork.  For this reason, it’s impossible to see your work objectively, which is why it’s so important to get a fresh set of eyes to look at your work and evaluate where it’s going.

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Even though I’ve logged over a decade as a professional artist, I still have to take initiative to seek out my artist friends and colleagues to critique my work. Frequently, they’ll point out some aspect of the work that I hadn’t even thought of, or was super obvious to them, but that I was oblivious to.

Unfortunately, unless you are enrolled in a studio art degree program, there are very few opportunities to get trusted, professional feedback on your artwork.  From my research, I’ve seen that there is a lot of content on Youtube about people talking about how to speak at a critique, and describing how a critique works, but the problem with this approach is that it only goes so far. Ultimately, one needs to see a critique to truly understand what a critique entails. If someone explained to you verbally how soccer was played, you would understand technically what the game involves.  However, until you actually got on a soccer field and physically kicked a ball yourself in a real soccer game, your understanding of soccer would remain superficial.

Student Artwork, Drawing Foundations, Clara Lieu, RISD Pre-College

Group critique at RISD Pre-College


Currently, there is almost no content online which shows an actual art critique.The content that I did find was either completely out of context, or so poorly put together that it was basically useless. The other places I’ve seen art critiques is in online forums, but the problem with this context is that 1) the critiques are typed which is inefficient and not as impactful, and 2) the feedback is coming from sources you can’t necessarily trust and 3) people rarely want to critique the artwork of others-the vast majority of these forums are flooded with artists begging for a critique, but no one is responding.

This is why here at Art Prof one of our initiatives as an educational platform is to show audio and video critiques of artwork submitted by you, our audience. Sometimes artists will think that a critique is only useful if it’s their work being reviewed.  On the contrary, my students at RISD are always commenting how much they learn and gain from watching and listening to a critique of another student’s artwork.  In some ways, it can be easier to watch someone else’s critique because you’re removed from the process and can see the critique more objectively.

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Painting by Traci Turner

Above you can see a portfolio critique I did for professional artist Traci Turner.  Stayed tuned for more critiques!  Prior to our launch, we’ll continue releasing Crit Quickies, 4 Artist Critiques, Interactive Video Critiques, Art School Admissions Portfolio Critiques, and Professional Artist Portfolio Critiques. Get more information about our critiques and how to submit your artwork here.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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RISD Pre-College, Drawing Foundations course, Summer 2016

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Clara Lieu teaching her Drawing Foundations course at the RISD Pre-College Program


by Clara Lieu

RISD Pre-College ended a week and a half ago, and already, the program feels so far away. Teaching RISD Pre-College is like stepping into a time warp which exists in a different universe than the rest of my life.  During the school year, I generally teach at RISD only 1-2 days a week, whereas for RISD Pre-College I teach studio classes 5 days a week. The schedule is really intense, especially since I commute 1 hour each way from Boston, but I always find the program to be incredibly rewarding.  I attended RISD Pre-College in 1993, and it was a life changing experience that still continues to impact my life today.  You wouldn’t think that a 6 week program could affect your life so deeply, but the intensity of the experience and tremendous growth one experiences is simply remarkable.

Now that I’m a teacher, I experience the program from a completely different point of view: the 6 week length of the program is challenging because it’s so short compared to a usual college semester. For each Pre-College studio class, I only see each class six times, which is nowhere near enough time to truly master any technique. (during the school year, I see students for 12 times-double the length of a Pre-College course) Since I know there are limits to what I can teach in just six weeks, I focus my efforts on getting students to grasp fundamental ideas that they can then further apply in any future context. I remind students that they have the rest of their lives to learn how to handle a brush well, and that ultimately, what I’m most concerned about is to teach them how to think about their artwork.

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Most students who attend RISD Pre-College are not prepared for the rigorous work load and the mental challenges that come with brainstorming and thinking through the complex stages of each project. It’s a huge adjustment during the first few weeks which is tough for everyone. However, in the third and fourth week, you begin to see some fundamental concepts start to really sink in.  By the last week, it’s amazing to see those concepts take root in the students’minds and flourish.

Speaking to one of the students the last week, they told me that the most important lesson they learned at Pre-College was that every action they take in their artwork should have intent. This student explained to me that before coming to Pre-College, they never took the time to think the art making process as being a series of deliberate decisions.  Generally speaking, they didn’t think at all while creating their artwork, it was almost a mindless technical exercise. Most of the process was random and had no specific motivation or rationale behind it. Knowing that this student grasped this concept, I knew I had done my job.

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The close bonds I develop with my classes and students is very poignant. The first week of class, you are complete strangers who work quietly in the same room.  The last day of class, you’re hugging, laughing hysterically, taking silly selfies, drooling over hot celebrities together, and bawling your eyes out.  The emotions as just as intense for me as they are for the students. I have never found it easy to say goodbye the last week.  As a teacher, I feel that I am just starting to really know the students in that 6th week, and then all of the sudden, we’re gone. We leave campus and return to our “normal” lives.

Thank you 2016 RISD Pre-College students, for keeping my life exciting and fun, and for inspiring me with your tremendous passion and energy!  I miss all of you and will treasure those precious weeks we spent going to hell and back together.

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ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Drawing Again After a 2 Year Drought

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by Clara Lieu

It’s been 2 years since I made any artwork.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t make any artwork until I really wanted to, and when it would be fun again. I never suspected it would take 2 years to get me back into my studio practice, and that certainly is the longest hiatus I have ever taken from my studio work. Part of me felt terribly guilty for not producing any artwork for so long, but I really needed that time away to reset.  Turned out it was worth the long wait, because as I had hoped, an idea for a new drawing series naturally emerged this past June.

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All I know at this point is that I want to do nude drawings of elderly bodies. Sometimes I have a strong idea for a project, and I have to work hard to find the right images to communicate that idea.  This time, I know what the images are, but I’m not sure yet what concept is behind this series.  I am trusting that the ideas will eventually reveal themselves as I continue to draw and learn more about my subject.

Eventually, I want to collaborate with local nursing homes on this project so I can draw people from life, but it’s so early in this series that I need to experiment and sketch for a while before I get to that point. I just needed to get my feet wet first, so I started by working with Sheila, an artist model at RISD who I first met as a freshman in 1994. Sheila and I become good friends my senior year at RISD, and we stayed in touch for many years before I returned to teach at RISD in 2007.  Today, she models for my classes at RISD, and I cherish our conversations. So it was so lovely to have a reason to draw Sheila again.

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I’m using graphite powder, 6B and 9B woodless pencils, a kneaded eraser, and an eraser stick to draw on tissue paper. I’m surprised that I chose pencil; in general I don’t care for pencil much because especially with my students, people stiffen up a lot when using a pencil. My way around this is to begin the drawing by digging my bare hands into graphite powder, and then pushing the powder into the surface of the drawing with my fingers. The graphite powder is horrifically messy, but it allows me to cover large areas of the drawing very quickly, and then go back in with the woodless pencil to solidify details.

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I chose tissue paper because of how thin and fragile of a surface it is, and I liked that it could crumple, much the way that elderly skin does. At first, I was frustrated with the tissue paper because it was so fragile that I felt like I had to walk on eggshells as I drew.  I am usually pretty physical and aggressive when I draw, so it felt strange to draw on a paper that I knew could fall apart at any second. I could feel myself holding back my drawing process, which I knew wasn’t going to get good results.

Last night, I realized that if the tissue paper wanted to tear during the drawing process, I should just let it tear.  When your materials want to do something, you should let them run their natural course, at the very least to give it a shot and see what happens. Not only was the drawing process much more lively, but I think the rips in the draw contribute to the overall atmosphere of the piece. The drawing also has an irregular shape, which I’m surprised I’ve never done before.

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The practical aspect of these drawings helps too:  the supplies are minimal and not hazardous, so I can easily work at home. These sketches only take about 1 hour to create, so they are not too time consuming to create.  Given that I have crazy amounts of work to do on Art Prof everyday, that’s a huge difference.

These drawings remind me why I wanted to be an artist in the first place, something I haven’t felt for several years. For the first time that I can remember, drawing is fun again.

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Related Articles
My Poisonous Checklist
One Simple Purpose
A Burst of Artistic Inspiration for the First Time in 2 Years
Anticipating a New Drawing Project


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

FB   Youtube    tumblr    Pinterest    LinkedIn    Instagram    Twitter    snap_chat   email

Crit Quickies are Back!

Crit Quickies was on temporary hiatus while we ran our Kickstarter campaign.  Now that the campaign is over, Crit Quickies are back!  Crit Quickies are 1 min. audio critiques on the Art Prof Instagram. Submit! Post your art on Instagram w/ @art.prof, & #critquickie. Watch more Crit Quickies in this playlist on our Youtube channel.

We accept submissions from artists in 8th grade and up. If you’re an art teacher, you’re welcome to submit on behalf of your students!


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

FB   Youtube    tumblr    Pinterest    LinkedIn    Instagram    Twitter    snap_chat   email