New Tutorial Set: “Small Sparks”


Last weekend Art Prof TAs Lauryn Welch, Alex Rowe, Deepti Menon, and Casey Roonan came to my house for a 5 days of shooting. Our retreats are really intense, require serious concentration 24-7, are exhausting, but they are also a total blast.  All of us live in different places, so we really only get together a few times a year to shoot our video content. What’s been really exciting is that with every retreat, we’ve become noticeably more efficient with our time, and our work flow is much faster than before. It’s wonderful to see our team settling into a stable familiarity in the process that wasn’t there when we first got started.


It’s still incredible to me how much we managed to pack into 5 days.  Deepti shot a tutorial about how to create an animation piece using an eggplant, Alex did a tutorial on ink wash drawing which involved American colonial history and an on site visit to a farm to hang out with sheep, Lauryn showed us how to mix coffee grounds into acrylic paint to make a painting inspired by BBQ squid, and Casey showed us all kinds of ink technique that involved roadkill and toilet paper.


While we still want to include the basics on, we’re really excited about these quirkier tutorials that are a new hybrid of artist documentary and tutorial.  In our research, the video content out there is either exclusively a documentary (such as the PBS series art21) or a purely technical tutorial.  The idea of combining both documentary and tutorial in one is really exciting, as you’ll get the change to understand the initial inspiration for our work, but also have the opportunity to see every step of the process explained, using ordinary materials that are accessible and can be done in your own home.

We see Art Prof as a platform that is constantly growing, even since our site launch this past February so much of our mindset has changed. Ideas for new content formats keep coming up, which is exciting, but also frustrating at the same time.  With our extremely limited post-production staff (me, and Alex Hart occasionally) we just don’t have the man power to produce video content as quickly as we want to. We desperately need a sound designer, but without sustained funding that isn’t an option for us right now. (please consider a monthly donation to our Patreon!)


Now that Art Prof has been around for 3 years, we felt it was a good time to create a short “Making of Art Prof” documentary for people to see what happens behind the scenes.  Even thought our content is of professional quality, I’m not sure people realize how DIY Art Prof really is!  We shoot in a room right next to my kitchen, we scrape together whatever art supplies we own, we cook meals together, and make do with situations that are less than convenient. (I’m too cheap to buy comforters for everyone, so all the TAs have to bring their own comforter when they stay here)

Naturally, our retreat wouldn’t be half as fun without our guinea pigs, Bubba and Fluffy, who are now the official Art Prof mascots!


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

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2 New Drawing Tutorials


by Clara Lieu

I came up with the idea for Art Prof way back in October 2014, and it still constantly amazes me how far we have come since that idea first floated in my head. Way back in the fall of 2015, we shot a portrait drawing in charcoal tutorial, which I always imagined was going to be the featured tutorial when we launched the new Art Prof website.

In recent months I’ve been reviewing our content, as we prepare for our upcoming site launch.  Looking at this 2015 tutorial, it felt completely out of place within the context of all of our new content.  This 2015 tutorial (photo below) was really my first time on camera and it really shows if you watch this tutorial compared to our new content. I was very nervous at the time, so I heavily scripted every single sentence.  On top of that, I knew absolutely nothing about the video editing process, so I had no idea what could be done in terms of post production. It was exciting to learn so much, but as we all know, those first steps in a new experience are always awkward and challenging.


On the set of my first charcoal drawing tutorial, shot in 2015

In the 2015 tutorial, I worked with an editor and sat next to him to edit the content and add additional content like diagrams, terminology, etc. to the video. I guess the equivalent would be if I traveled to Turkey, and needed an interpreter with me every second I was there to get around.

By comparison, I am now fluent and could navigate Turkey entirely by myself: I know all aspects of the tutorial process and can think through the process much more quickly and efficiently.  I’ve spent countless hours learning video editing, and while I’m no expert, I can competently edit a video with little help.  I don’t script the tutorials at all.  I literally write down about 10 bullet points I want to cover, (see photo below) and then everything else I make up on the spot. Doing the tutorials ad lib is about 2% of the work I did on the 2015 tutorial, it’s about 1000 easier, and the results are significantly better.  When I scripted the tutorials, it made me nervous and stiff. Now, my approach to what I say is very similar to how I teach in my classes at RISD-completely spontaneous and unscripted.


I slaved over that 2015 tutorial, and put in a mind boggling number of hours into it, between the planning/shooting/post production, etc. Most of those hours were difficult and frustrating because I was so new to the process. However, I had to face the fact that this tutorial was going to be a major sore thumb within the context of our new content, so as painful as it was, I decided to scrap the 2015 tutorial and shoot all new tutorials for the new website.

I’m enough of a perfectionist that I’m willing to part with material I invested tons of labor into for the sake of maintaining consistency and quality on the new website. The 2 new tutorials are on how to draw a still life and self-portrait using Caran d’Ache crayons. With my new skills in video editing and being on camera that I’ve been honing for 2 years now, I think these new tutorials are a vast improvement.


Drawing in color is such a great way to get acquainted with color without having to break the bank paying for tons of painting supplies. I think so many people think about drawing media as being only black and white, and don’t even consider very often that you can really learn a lot about color through drawing.  Using color in drawing is a good option especially when the large number of painting supplies is too expensive, or if you haven’t taken a painting class yet. (in my opinion, painting really is one of those techniques where if you don’t have proper training, and don’t know exactly what supplies to purchase, it really is insufferably difficult to do)


The self-portrait drawing tutorial demonstrates how to draw a self-portrait from life.  I was surprised that when I looked up “How to draw a self-portrait” on Youtube, that there is no video that shows you how to draw a self-portrait using a mirror.  Every video showed the artist drawing from a photo of themselves.  I found one video where the artist held a mirror in his hand, but didn’t use it.  (why are you holding a mirror if you aren’t going to use it to draw a self-portrait?) I am hoping this tutorial fills a gap-because clearly, there is a huge one when it comes to drawing a self-portrait from life.

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.

Researching art tutorials

I was teaching at RISD yesterday, and was able to carve out time to have lunch and dinner with two other RISD faculty. I talked to both of them about my “pie in the sky” idea of creating a show for fine artists which would feature tutorials on techniques and approaches in visual art. Both of them were very encouraging about this idea and it got me thinking that maybe I’m not crazy, and maybe this really is something I should seriously think about pursuing in the near future.

While I enjoy writing my advice column “Ask the Art Professor” for the Huffington Post, I have come to the realization that the format of a written advice column is limited when it comes to the visual arts. Yes, there are endless topics to be discussed, and I do intend to continue the column-but-ultimately to truly drive an idea home it seems like the format for talking about visual art has to be, well, visual.

I’ve been doing some research, trying to get a sense of what has been done before in how-to art shows.  All of the videos I’ve come across have been embarrassingly awful, demonstrating terrible approaches to drawing that offer both cheap shortcuts and incredibly inefficient ways of working. Or, I’ve found a few select documentaries that depict someone who is a contemporary master of an extremely difficult, specialized technique. (for an example, watch this video about engraving) While these documentaries are really great and fascinating, the techniques being shown are so advanced and require such high end facilities that for the average person, the technique is totally inaccessible.

In thinking about how I might approach this, I’ve been considering cooking shows as an analogy to what I might want to do. I love to cook, and hands down my favorite chef is Jacques Pepin.  I’ve watched his shows and cooked through many of his cookbooks throughout my life. He embodies the perfect balance of accessibility and mastery in his cooking shows. In his demonstrations, he delivers content in a distilled, simple manner that anyone can understand and actually put to practical use.  He provides solid, fundamental ideas but is also extremely detail oriented.  I hate recipes that say “salt and pepper to taste.”  By contrast, Jacques Pepin always tells you precisely how much salt and pepper to put in. Simultaneously, he is undeniably a master chef, and does amazing things that I will never be able to do as a home cook.  (I will never, ever, be able to chop garlic like he does.)

I think there is a void in the fine arts that I could potentially fill, and it’s exciting to think about the possibilities.