About claralieu

I am a professor, writer, and visual artist. I write an advice column for visual artists called "Ask the Art Professor" which is featured in the Huffington Post. I currently teach in the Illustration Department at the Rhode Island School of Design. My studio practice explores isolation and mental illness through drawing, printmaking, and sculpture.

Rare Optimism

Inherently, I consider myself to be be an extremely skeptical pessimist. I think part of it is a defense mechanism that I employ to “protect” myself from bad news. Which is why in the rare instances that I feel optimistic, I know that something is actually happening for real.

I’ll admit that the most challenging part of Art Prof is maintaining my daily faith in the project.  I have never felt such an intense conviction about any project in my life, and yet Art Prof has also been a project that has tested all of my limits in patience and optimism. Some days it’s too easy to feel like no progress is being made, and I’m creating content in my own little black pit.

Which is why due some recent developments (which I can’t talk about just yet!) have been a monumental boost that have given me a renewed confidence in the future. I’ve had countless moments in this project where we were so close to a major breakthrough, only to have things fall apart with a deafening thud.

Last night I had a the final Skype call of the year with the TAs, and it was great to step back together as a group and reflect upon what has happened this year, and where we want to go in 2018. What’s been interesting is that two TAs mentioned that when I show up with good news, they’re excited, but also not surprised. Which is incredible that their faith in the project and belief in what we’re doing is so strong.

When I step back and look at 2017, it’s crazy to me that Artprof.org hasn’t been live for a year yet. (we launched in February 2017) On one hand, I feel like it’s been live forever, on another, it feels like the website is just getting started.  I’ve been really focused in the past year on simply beefing up the quantity of content on the website, and it feels like the content is now substantial enough that I can breathe a little more and redirect more of my energy towards achieving long term funding for the project.

Despite our Kickstarter campaign in 2016, we’ve burned through those funds.  Financially, we are barely surviving on a very thin thread, but we’re still here, and the community we’ve worked so hard to build is growing every day. Creating content and brainstorming new ideas and formats has always been the easy part, getting funding and sponsors is a completely different story.

Despite my struggle to maintain my daily confidence in the project, I couldn’t be more proud of the team at Art Prof.  They’ve lifted me up, brought ongoing energy and innovation to the project, and are the rock that I’ve come to rely on.

When I first envisioned Art Prof in 2014, I always imagined it as a solo project that I would have to carry on my own. Today, the thought of working on Art Prof by myself is inconceivable. Now, the project is so much bigger than one person, and everyday I’m inspired by what we’ve built together.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. Artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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Artist Conversations


When I remind myself that I started thinking about Art Prof back in 2014, it seems incredible to think that we’ve been working on Art Prof for 3 years.  Not only has the time passed very quickly, but the project continues to change and evolve so much that I constantly feel like we are just getting started.


The most significant change in our tutorials is we have shifted away from one person tutorials to tutorials that feature two people.  I got the idea from Jacques Pepin’s series Cooking with Claudine, where his daughter Claudine was on the set as a student learning and asking questions during the show. We were amazed that these two people tutorials were a billion times easier to shoot, as all of the pressure of being the only person speaking on the set was taken away.  On top of that, these tutorials also seem much more informative because someone is there to ask questions.


It’s also fun because even though I’m the Art Prof, I get to be on both student and teacher in these two person tutorials.  Not only do I get to learn so many new techniques, but I like that this emphasizes that even when you work professionally, learning is still ongoing!


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. Artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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Art Prof on NPR!

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I’m a major NPR junkie.  I listen to Morning Edition with Bob Oakes every morning in the car, to the point where I know all of his word pronunciations to the smallest detail.

So you can imagine it was a very, very big deal for Art Prof to be featured on WBUR’s Morning Edition last week!

We loved that the reporter stated in the segment that Art Prof is still in a “punk rock” phase, because that really does sum up where we are.  Despite the fact that we have video content that is polished, curated, and professional, anyone who visits our shooting space can figure out quickly how DIY our production is.


Yes, I wish we had enough funding to have a real production studio, full-time staff, and much more.  Tom and I joke about having our outfits already picked up for when we appear on the Today Show some day, but both of us have been in complete agreement for a long time that we are GOING TO THE MOON with Art Prof.

Looks like NPR brought us just a few steps closer.

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ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. Artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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Something Out of Nothing


Lately I’ve been listening to the NPR podcast “How I Built This.” The stories are really inspirational and engaging, but what I wasn’t expecting was to see so much of what my life is like today, reflected in other people’s stories. Listening to the stories from companies like Air BnB, Kate Spade, Angie’s List, and more, I was surprised by what was consistent in all of these stories.

Every person spoke about their venture taking a minimum 3 years to get off the ground, using their home to some ridiculous capacity because there were no other options, and going humbling/menial tasks where you practically have to get down on your knees and scrub the floor yourself while singing for your supper.  Hearing Kate Spade explain how she was at one point, packing and shipping all of her hand bags herself from inside her apartment certainly sounded familiar!

Most of the time I’m too busy to do any amount of thoughtful reflection on Art Prof. However, this week I was at the Goetemann Artist Residency at the Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester, MA and I actually had some quiet hours to think more philosophically than usual.

When I first started thinking about Art Prof 3 years ago, I remember almost everyone who I mentioned the idea to responded with: “Why don’t you just teach a course on Lynda.com?” or “How about trying to teach on Skillshare?” Yes, those certainly would have been the more practical routes, but in my mind, none of those were ever options that I seriously entertained.

This past week I’ve had to say goodbye to an incredible team of summer interns who did amazing work all summer and produced really exciting new content for Artprof.org.  We produced a short documentary on this summer’s interns, and one intern commented how he was fascinated by watching how you “create something out of nothing.”

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Project Idea video on linoleum printmaking with intern Anjali Shankar


There are days where I want to tear my hair out with frustration when things are difficult.  I’ve had a few situations that were really upsetting and extremely difficult for a number of reasons, but for the most part, those are rare blips in the scheme of things.

The rest of the time?  My actions can’t keep up with my mind, and I feel an intense urgency working on Art Prof that I have never even come close to experiencing with any of my other work. I always swore that I would ever go near sleeping the hours of a RISD freshman ever again, but apparently, if the work you’re doing is compelling enough, you’ll do ANYTHING to make it happen.

Art Prof has been incredibly humbling, more so than anything else I’ve ever experienced. I’m not someone who hesitates much about doing what I have to do to make something happen, but Art Prof has brought this to a whole new level. I’ve had to trust complete strangers, ask for favors that I really should know better than to ask for, dealt with people who wanted us to fail, had the doors slammed in my face, (metaphorically) increased my rejection rate about 50000%, and received deafening silence from more groups and people than I can count.

And yet somehow, I’m having the time of my life.  

I wake up everyday with so much excitement for what I’ll do next, to the point where I’m actually bummed out when it’s time to go to bed and I have to stop working.

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ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. Artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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The Future of Artprof.org


Since launching Artprof.org, it’s been thrilling for me to watch our creative community grow. When I’m having a crummy day, I re-read viewer testimonials, which always gives me a lift. Here’s one that made me laugh out loud: “I’ve replaced Netflix with Art Prof Instagram Live videos.”  Now that’s a compliment!

In our staff group, we have many lists.  One list stands out: my queue of 34 videos that have been sitting on my server for weeks, some even for months. Why?  We don’t have the funding to hire a sound designer to do the sound mixes. (that’s not even counting the hundreds of hours of footage that have been shot, but not edited!)

With the exception of 2 interns this summer, I have done all of the editing since we started.  Not because I knew anything about editing, but because if I didn’t do it, no one else would. (only took me a year to learn Premiere!)

After being on sabbatical, I’m returning to teach at RISD in September. With my teaching schedule, I know that I won’t be able to keep my prior production schedule. The only solution is to hire editors and sound designers.

If everyone on this email list donated $5 a month, we could easily pay our TAs, editors, sound designers, a web developer, and cover critical expenses. Beyond that, we can show you what we are REALLY capable of!!!

One fundamental premise of our mission was for Artprof.org to be 100% free. I really, really don’t want to have to set up a paywall, but we’re at a point where we may have to. I literally have 20 years of content stuck in my head that I want to share with you! I care deeply about this artistic family and I want so much for us to keep thriving.

Clara


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. Artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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Art Prof Draw Along!

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We’ve been experimenting with Instagram Live Video at Art Prof, which has been a fun new format for us to connect to our viewers.  After getting feedback and troubleshooting the format, we are pleased to announce our Art Prof Live schedule through the end of the summer!

We strive for our video courses to be comprehensive and high quality, but the consequence is that without a large production staff, our courses are very time consuming to produce.  Art Prof Live is our solution to this situation, and it’s an exciting platform because our teaching will occur in real time, and gives us closer interaction with our viewers.

Get a sketchbook + pencil and draw along with me TONIGHT @ 9:30pm EST on Instagram Live Video! Post your drawing with #artprofdrawalong on Instagram, and we might feature your drawing on our Instagram.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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Will Art Prof Survive My Return to Teaching?

Artist profile on Judy Brown, the latest release in our Emerging Artist section.


I was on sabbatical from RISD this past spring semester, so the last time I was teaching on campus was way back in December 2016! As much as it was wonderful to finally have the head space to think clearly during sabbatical, it’s also been lovely to come back to campus.  I missed seeing former students and colleagues on a weekly basis. (I’m not an artist who can sit in the studio by myself for 8 hours every day.)

However, my life is very different from where I was in December 2016. The difference? Artprof.org, which didn’t exist before I went on sabbatical. This summer I’m teaching studio courses 5 days at week at RISD Pre-College. While my schedule is still densely packed with my commitments in teaching and Art Prof, I’ve got an incredible team of interns who are producing written columns for our Emerging Artists section, writing thoughtful and constructive comments on Artprof.org, creating video content for future use, and much more.

Most importantly, I have 2 Assistant Editors, Monika Hedman and Anjali Shankar, who are burning through our vast stock of video content, which has been huge in terms of getting new content released. The preparatory editing process is extremely tedious, and having that part of the process lifted from my shoulders has made all the difference in the world.  Despite that support, there is still plenty to do. I’m still doing heavy lifting in the second half of the editing process. I’m compulsive about keeping our high standards of quality that regardless of my 2 Assistant Editors, the process remains very time consuming.

However, this fall I’m returning to RISD, and I’ll be teaching 2 courses in the Printmaking department; Relief Projects and Senior Print Workshop Seminar.

I’m worried.

The teaching load in the fall is a little less than what I’m doing now, but the big difference is that my amazing team of interns are going to disappear in the fall, along with my 2 Assistant Editors. I’m scared that we won’t be able to continue hiring our incredible staff of Teaching Assistants, maintain content production at a reasonable pace, and keep Artprof.org 100% free.


Our options aren’t pretty.

We could stop hiring our Teaching Assistants, and lose an extraordinary team that make Art Prof what it is. We could set up a paywall on Artprof.org, which in my opinion basically destroys our mission to provide a free visual arts education for everyone. Or our content production slows to such a pace that we release a tutorial only once or twice a year. And that still includes myself, my partner Thomas Lerra, and Alex Hart all continuing to work on a volunteer basis.

I have only 2 months to figure this out.  Despite our push for donations on our Patreon, the donations have been very slim.

Which is why I’m going to ask you, if Artprof.org is a resource you are learning from, please consider a monthly donation to keep us alive. Even $1 a month will make a difference! 

Consider this: if every person on our mailing list gave us $1 a month, none of the hypothetical scenarios will happen in September.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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