A Mainstream Audience for Artprof.org?

IMG_0235_Legend-Hotel
Sometimes when I doubt myself, one activity that is guaranteed to always lift me up is reading the scores of testimonials from people who use Artprof.org. When I was researching early on to see what kinds of art education sites were available, one aspect that I definitely took note of was the types of comments and reactions that people had to various types of content.  There are tons of YouTube channels with art instruction, and I noted that many of the YouTube comments generally were either one word exclamations, “Cool!” or sentences that had three words or less: “So cool!”


Which is why when I read the reactions from our users, I know that we are definitely doing something noticeably different. In fact, the reactions from my Taiwan brush pen video are even more unique in that so many come from people who are not artists.  Our other video lessons tend to be aimed more towards people who want really specific instruction and intend to take that instruction and act upon it in their own work.

That’s why I think this Taiwan video (watch it below) is a major milestone for us. The content is immensely more diverse both in terms of the visuals and the content, making the video much more like a personal narrative and has the potential to become mainstream.  Our other video lessons are still just as important to me, but they’re definitely much more niche and targeted towards a specific demographic of people.

Here are some of the reactions we’ve gotten from the Taiwan video:

“Even though I’m not an artist, I really enjoy your videos. The narrative is so interesting and informative! Great work and I can’t wait to see the next one!”

“Clara’s view of the world with an artist view is so much more detailed than my non-artistic view!”

“It is very engaging video. I felt like taking up sketching just from watching!”

“Lovely well produced video. I wanna get a brush pen!”

“Now I’m hungry for dumplings after watching the video.”

Advertisements

Happy Birthday Artprof.org!


We celebrated the one year anniversary of Artprof.org last week!  Hard to believe that it’s only been one year; Art Prof started as a one paragraph blog post way back in 2014 so I have to remind myself that technically speaking, the site really hasn’t been around for that long!

There are so many aspects to running the site on a daily basis that most days I feel like it’s a continuous game of whack-a-mole that I’m playing. However, we are moving into our second year armed with three partnerships that are really exciting:  Fredrix canvas, Tombow, and our digital partner, Cantina. So much of starting a project like this from scratch is trying to convince people that what you’re doing is worthwhile and that they should join your journey.

As the site grows every day, I’m proud that our content keeps evolving for the better. The first course posted on the site was a Drawing with Crayons course, and while I still think that course has it’s own merits, it’s a far cry from the Brush Pens in Taiwan course and the two person courses we’ve been producing like this Balsa Wood carving course below.

It can be really challenging to be constantly experimenting with different formats for the courses, as there’s a lack of stability that accompanies that approach, but it’s also incredibly exciting at the same time. Every time we make plans to shoot a new course, such as the upcoming Digital Illustration and Oil vs. Acrylic course, and we start talking through the logistics, I feel exhilarated by the possibilities and the opportunity to explore ways to present the content.

Art Prof has been so exhilarating to work on that I wake up everyday with a powerful drive to tackle what at times feels like 5 billion tasks that need to be done, but I thrive and flourish with that drive. I’ll admit that my fine arts career has really been neglected for some time now for that reason; I mean, I haven’t lifted a finger really to get into exhibitions and push my career forward the way I used to.

Ironically, that’s when major career landmarks started happening.  I was invited to show in a 4 person exhibition, “March Four Women,” at Boston City Hall which goes up this week and to my tremendous surprise, I was awarded an artist fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. I’ve applied to this artist fellowship every year I’ve been eligible (the categories alternate years) since 1998, so I was in complete disbelief when I got the phone call.

I used to obsess over every detail of my fine arts career, probably to a degree that verged on unhealthy, and it’s such a relief to have a project I am so excited about that those emotions have completely disappeared from my head. When I do make some work on occasionally, it’s almost always influenced by what we’re working on at Art Prof.  I haven’t picked up a paint brush to oil paint in over 12 years, and yet shooting the Oil vs. Acrylic course made me want to paint again.  (I seriously thought painting and I were OVER.) I got out an old canvas that has done nothing but sit in my garage for many years, and starting painting over it.

In a field that can be so unstable, unpredictable and nervewracking, I think I’ve finally found the balance and positive energy I’ve been searching for, for as long as I can remember. Looking forward to what the next year has in store for Art Prof!

Brush Pens in Taiwan

 

I’m thrilled to release my Tombow brush pen course on sketching in Taiwan!  I’ve been working on Artprof.org since 2014, and to say that our videos have evolved would be a severe understatement. Out of all the videos we’ve produced, this is one is hands down my personal favorite.  This course has all of my favorite things in the world:  drawing, food, culture, and travel!

Shooting the tutorial was the most chaotic, bare bones production I’ve ever done.  I traveled with my husband, 2 kids, and my parents throughout Taiwan and trying to find moments to draw, much less set up a camera to shoot was not easy!  Despite the almost complete lack of a production crew on this trip, (it was either it was me with a tripod by myself, or my husband doing a few minutes of hand held when we could squeeze it in) it was the most fun I’ve had in my life!

IMG_0221_Jiufen-hill

Tombow-Logo

Goodbye China (for now!)

I’m flying back to the US this evening, but I did manage to squeeze in a few hours in this morning at the Yu Garden in Shanghai. In addition to stunning buildings, there were unusual rock formations and a diverse range of plants, trees, and bushes. As always though, I was most attracted to little moments in the architecture, like these dragons who were “eating” then building, and these brooms leaning against the wall that I noticed.

There are dragons and stone lions all over China, and I had been wanting to draw one ever since I arrived. However, most of the stone lions are ones that were carved in modern times, and were usually found in front of hotels. I had yet to stumble upon one that truly had some history behind until today.

Unfortunately the one day I had in Shanghai to go out as the one day it was raining/snowing! Despite my freezing fingers and the damp conditions, I still managed to do this quick brush pen drawing of this stone lion.

This was a truly amazing trip, so many wonderful memories and experiences, I can’t wait to come back!

Sketching & Lecturing in Chengdu

I am finding that when I’m walking around a city, searching for something to draw, I have no interest in drawing monumental landmarks or the quintessential tourist attraction. There’s something generic about drawing the most obvious subject when you arrive in a city that I don’t like.

Instead, I really enjoy drawing scenes that I discover that are on a much smaller scale, like this local vendor who was selling bags of peppers, garlic, and spices.  I’m attracted to the vast array of diverse shapes and textures, seeing the bulbous pieces of garlic through the pink plastic bad they sat within. Those bags, with the sheen of the plastic juice bottles on top were a terrific contrast against each other. I loved the sheets of crinkled newspaper that were hanging out of the green bins of oranges. As an artist, you can’t ask for more than that.

I don’t have much time to devote to drawing on this trip, the school (PS One Portfolio School) is keeping me busy with lectures and drawing workshops in 3 cities: Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai. I presented to a large audience yesterday in Chengdu for prospective parents and students at their open house event.

Hidden Market in Chengdu

Yesterday the school (PS One Portfolio School) had me scheduled to do a lecture in the afternoon, so I had the morning to myself in Chengdu yesterday. A perfect opportunity to get into the city and do some drawing. At one point, I found these three women who has food carts on the street, I loved the scene of them talking together.  I sat down to draw the scene, but within 1 minute of my drawing, they all dispersed and pushed their carts in different directions. I followed one of the women, hoping that she would settle on another street so I could draw her.  She pushed her cart down what looked like a dead end, but I didn’t see her come out, so I figured I would go and see where that led.

I turned the corner and there was this incredible local market, bustling with activity.  There was produce, tofu, hanging slabs of raw meat, spices, chicken feet, steam buns, and more. I was surprised to find it, given that the area I had been wandering around in was lots of big city buildings and giant sidewalks and roads. I was so thrilled to discover the market so I spent the entire morning drawing there.

I found this man who sat and tore string beans by hand and drew him with my brush pens. He was great to draw because other than leaning back and stretching his arms out every 10 minutes or so, he basically stayed in the same position the whole time.

I’ve noticed that in China all of the street cleaners sweep the street by hand with brooms. Every street cleaner I’ve seen has their own cart or scooter, loaded up with their own supplies.  Each one is unique, and has its own personality, so I’ve really enjoyed looking at all of the various contraptions they have on their carts.

I was sure this street cleaner was about to get up and drive away, but they stopped to talk to this woman, which gave me just enough time to bust out this gesture drawing with my black brush pen.

Lectures and Workshops in China

2018-01-20_17h19_37

For ten days I’m traveling throughout China giving lectures and drawing workshops in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu!  The events are all through the PS One Portfolio school, which has locations in all three cities.

The school has provided an interpreter for me, but I’m actually surprised that my Chinese is half decent enough to communicate with the students a bit and to figure things out when I’m speaking to someone who doesn’t speak English.  I went to Chinese school for several years when I was a child (like all kids, I complained about it the whole time) and so I find myself remembering random words and phrases that I’m able to just throw out without needing to think too hard.

In recent years I’ve noticed that there are more and more students from China at RISD, which wasn’t the case when I started teaching there in 2007. It’s been really great to come to China and hear from the students about how studio art is taught here and to see the differences between their approach and mine.

The first stop in my trip was in their main office in Beijing, where I worked with 10 students over the course of two days. Being a visiting artist is such a completely different experience than what I’m used to when I’m teaching at RISD.  During a 12 week semester at RISD, seeing each other 5 hours per week, you really get to know the students very well.  By the end of the semester it’s usually emotional for all of us to say goodbye to the class. One student said to me on the last day of class:  “Do you do hugs?” (Yes, I do.)

When you step into a classroom of students you have never met before, you don’t have the advantage of knowing each student in depth, and there’s no way to anticipate in advance how your projects are going to go over. So you have to learn to quickly assess within the first hour or so what skill sets the students have, and how you need to tweak your approach in order to provide the concepts and approaches that you think will benefit them the most.

When I reviewed the students’ portfolios, it became clear that none of them had any experience doing quick gesture drawings.  Almost every drawing was a pencil drawing, drawn with extreme precision and detail, and drawn from a photograph. As a reaction to that, I had the students do gesture drawings in charcoal, directly observing their own hands.

The students were wonderful, they were really eager to learn and listened intently to my instructions and feedback. On top of the studio work we did, I also spent quite a bit of time explaining the admissions process for art schools, the differences between a BFA and MFA degree, as well as how specific fields in visual art function. (Example: the various forms of illustration such as editorial, children’s books, etc.)

I haven’t had much time to explore the cities, as I’ve been so busy working at the school.  A great reason to come back in the future!