500 Sheets


By Deepti Menon, Art Prof Teaching Assistant

During my junior year as a Film/Animation/Video student, I took a year-long animation course. Prior to this, I had taken the required introductory animation class, but this intermediate course was when I really discovered a new way to think.

Coming into this major, I had no prior experience animating, but knew it was a magical thing that I wanted to do. My prior artistic experiences and processes always involved a lot of meticulous planning and reworking of a single image until I saw it done. Additionally, my exposure to animation was pretty basic – character-based work with clean lines and seamlessly fluid movement. Therefore, this is how I approached my animations. I placed a lot of thought into creating the characters and story line and spent a ton of time on the details of each frame.


However, this all changed during one day of this intermediate animation course. My professor gave us each 500 sheets of printer paper and set a timer for an hour. We weren’t given any light boxes or ways to see our progress, just the paper and our pens. Our only instruction was to finish animating the 500 pages before the timer was up. To me, this was absurd. I would usually complete five frames in an hour, maybe six. Realizing my usual methods were not going to cut it, I was forced to rethink what it meant to animate. By the end of the hour, I had create a frenzy of shapes and scribbles dancing across the white page. Watching the animation, I could see the points where panic set in and the decision-making unfold.

The animation wasn’t anything like I had made before. I was amazed. Primarily, I was amazed that I completed the task. However, I was also so drawn to how the animation embodied the pace and panic of the task itself. I found that watching my classmates also taught me a lot. One student penetrated the whole ream of paper with a sharp object, creating a hole in each piece of paper that varied slightly with each page. The variety in rips created a subtle yet stunning animation that reminded me a lot of an organism breathing. Another student allowed a marker to bleed through the entire ream of paper, creating a stunning transition of ink blots transitioning and fading. I was drawn to the simplicity of these ideas and how they can create connotations with such minimal imagery.


Although my final product wasn’t something I was going to submit to film festivals, it changed the way I approached my ideas and the process of animation, paying more attention to how an artistic process can inform the content behind it. I also began to see how beneficial it was to challenge yourself with something like a time restraint. This led me to create another animation, “Shell”, where I had a time restraint and had to create movement from a static object.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts which provides equal access to art education for people of all ages and means.

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Portfolio Video Critiques for Art Students & Artists
Prof Clara Lieu offers 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for students working on a portfolio for art school admission, and for artists of any age working on their artwork. Watch a sample below, and get more info here.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories, and post select submissions on our Instagram  and other sites throughout the month. Use #artprofwip and Prof Clara Lieu might just stop by and give you some feedback! We have a special prize for art teachers who assign the Art Dare to one of their classes. More info is here.

Ask the Art Prof Live was a weekly live video broadcast on our Facebook page where Prof Clara Lieu provided professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  See the full archive of columns here. Prof Lieu discussed being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more.


Art Hacks!

For the rest of our Kickstarter campaign, we’ll keep creating new video content to give you a small preview of what ART PROF will be like if we get fully funded! One of my favorite things about being a professor at an art school is the great tips and shortcuts that artists invent totally on the fly in order to make a project cooperate, or when they’re stuck at the airport with only napkins to draw on. Sometimes, as an artist, you’ll find yourself willing to do just about anything to make your work happen!

Today, hear from our Teaching Assistant Lauryn Welch above about why “hygiene” is important for artists.  Find out from Intern Janice Chun why you might want to skip that $100 light board purchase if you need to create animation on a budget!

Consider donating to our Kickstarter campaign and help us bring ART PROF: Visual Art Essentials with Clara Lieu  to people of all ages who want and need art education, but who have no means of access. Our prototype is finished, so our final step is to raise funds to make ART PROF free for all! Even the smallest donations add up. And if you can’t donate, please share our Kickstarter campaign!

Ask the Art Prof: What Does it Take to Get a Job at an Animation Studio?


I’m a beginning art student studying graphic design, and I’ve always wanted to work in a cartoon studio setting. Places like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network that are not your normal work places per say. All my life, my family has always said that it was impossible to get a job like that, and to not even try.

Well, here I am going into graphic design, but I want to know: What exactly does it take to land that kind of job, what should my art portfolio have, and is it even worth trying???”

Animation studio jobs are insanely competitive, as there are thousands and thousands of people out there who desperately want to be working in that field. You would be competing with people who have completed professional degrees in animation and illustration, and many others who not only have degrees, but who have been working professionally in the field for some time.

Getting a job would require an enormous commitment on your part, and would require years of hard work and rigorous training. I have a number of acquaintances from RISD who went on to work at studios like Pixar, Disney, and Nickelodeon.  My memories of them during my undergraduate years at RISD is that they obsessively did gesture drawings around the clock like there was no tomorrow, and were both highly disciplined and incredibly industrious workers. You have to be prepared to devote every part of your life to this initiative, it’s that competitive.

Gesture Drawing

Gesture drawing from a life model

If all of the above sounds intimidating to you, then I would say that it’s not worth trying.  If hearing that makes you feel enthusiastic, motivated, and revved up to go, then I think it’s totally worth trying.  Do your research in advance and make sure that you know what you would be getting yourself into. This is not a job that you can work towards occasionally, it practically has to be in your blood.

One basic requirement of an animation studio position is a solid grounding in traditional art. That means having really strong drawing skills, especially in gesture drawings of the human figure and of animals. The expectation is that all of the drawings are executed from direct observation, which means multiple trips to the zoo to draw animals in person, and countless hours drawing from a live nude model. Most animation degree programs require that students take courses in all areas of animation, to build a basic grounding of the overall process of making animation.

Inside Out by Pixar

Inside Out by Pixar

Jobs in animation studios are often times very specialized, so you would apply for a position in a specific area, like storyboards, character design, backgrounds, animation, etc. Technically speaking a portfolio would generally consist of artwork that highlights that area of specialization, as well as a reel of a number of your animated works. I’m not in the field, so I’m not able to provide accurate specifics, but that’s a fairly good approximation of what would be expected in an application.

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.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy

Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.

ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

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Youtube Playlist:  Crit Quickies, 1 min. critiques on artworks

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Ask the Art Prof: What are the Career Opportunities in the Fine Arts?

RISD Section 19

“I’m studying architecture and visuals art in college which I am about to finish this fall. I took courses in graphic design, typography, illustration, and print production but I am more passionate and interested in painting, drawing, sculpting and crafting.

I don’t know any jobs that involve my interests. I’ve been having a hard time finding career path in art other than graphic design or web design. What are the career opportunities in fine art?”

If you want to work in fine arts, you have to take the self-initiative to carve your own path. The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to each person to find a balance that allows for them to maintain their studio practice while paying the bills. In order to find that path, you have to figure out just how much you want to involve your art in your paying job.  Some people like to keep their art completely separate from their paying job, while others like their art to be a part of their paying job. There are disadvantages and advantages to both options.

A former professor of mine wanted to be a fine art painter, so he opted to work as a professional portrait painter. You would think that this job would be great, since you essentially get paid to be making oil paintings all day.  However, the reality is that being a portrait painter can be nightmarish.  His clients always seemed to have a vision of themselves that had nothing to do with what they actually physically looked like, and they complained left and right about every single petty detail. He found himself creatively bound by unreasonable demands made by clients, and having to pander to their desires. This basically dispelled any shred of creativity from the portrait paintings, making the process very mechanical and constrained.

Portrait Drawing

One of my peers went to art school for animation and upon graduation landed a full-time job at a small, independent animation studio.  Sounds perfect, right? Well, it turned out that his job animating all day long (and many times all night long)  was so demanding and exhausting that by the time he got home at the end of the work day, the last thing he wanted to do was animate more. The job was consuming to the point that he couldn’t muster up the mental space or the time he needed to work on his own animation projects outside of his day job. Within a year, he had left the studio.  On the flip side, I know plenty of people who work at animation or production studios who are plenty satisfied with their work there.

There can be advantages to separating your art from your paying job. If your paying job is completely unrelated to art, you’ll have more mental space and energy for your own studio practice.  One of my former professors told me that he was a movie theater manager when he first got out of school.  He said it was a great schedule because he could focus all of his energy on painting all day, and then go to work at night. A department head at an art school told me that he was a waiter for 15 years, and during that time, produced tons of paintings.  By contrast, he now paints very little due to the administrative demands in his position as a department head and professor of fine arts. While having a job that is completed unrelated to art works for some people, there are many of us who would not be willing to be a waiter for 15 years.

Intaglio Printmaking Project

One of the most popular options for many fine artists is to teach.  Teaching works for many fine artists because it’s a paying job that involves art without any hands-on labor.  There are many benefits to teaching:  you’re instantly plugged into an academic community, and you have all of the resources and facilities of the school at your fingertips.  I’m learning from my students all the time, I enjoy connecting with my colleagues when I’m on campus, and I milk the facilities and resources every chance I get.  Teaching keeps your mind active, getting you to process and think about artistic ideas which can in turn positively influence your own art.

Just remember that making your art is a lifelong pursuit, while jobs and careers come and go. You don’t have to give up making your art to pay the bills.

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.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy

Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.

ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

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