ART PROF: Visual Art Essentials with Clara Lieu

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts.
Learn visual arts in a vibrant community for people of all ages.


Visual artist and RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu has partnered with Thomas Lerra from WGBH Boston and a team of 6 Teaching Assistants and 10 Interns to create a free, online educational platform for the visual arts.

Clara Lieu, Visual Artist & Adjunct Professor at RISD    Thomas Lerra, WGBH Digital


Mission
In most schools, visual arts education is meager or simply does not exist.  Outside art programs are not affordable for most people, and are primarily isolated to higher education institutions.  ART PROF provides the chance for a global community to access to a high quality visual arts education for free.  People of all ages can learn visual arts at their own pace through ART PROF.


Now we need help from YOU to make ART PROF free for all.
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Site Features
visual encyclopedia of art supplies • short-form video lessons in drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture interactive video critiques • trusted advice from the Art Prof and Teaching Assistants  assignments & lesson plans • professional development resources • diverse artist community • audio critiques of user artwork   galleries for user artwork • contemporary art & art history

Preview of some of our site features by looking at our Crit Quickies, Audio Critique PacksPortfolio Video Critiques and Ask the Art Prof


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Teaching Assistants
square_Sara  square_Casey  square_Annie  square_Lauryn  square_yves  square_Alex
Sara BloemCasey Roonan  •  Annie Irwin
Lauryn Welch •  Yves-Olivier Mandereau  •  Alex Rowe

Our experienced team of teaching assistants are emerging artists who work in a diverse range of fields:  textiles, illustration, painting, drawing, comics, sculpture, installation, ceramics, and more. Teaching assistants will review user artwork submissions, do audio critiques of user artworks, and respond to your questions with professional advice in our interactive audio forums.

Interns
Anna   Makoto   Annelise   Enrico   Janice
Julia   crit_Vuthy   Olivia Hunter, Intern   Jordan McCracken-Foster, Intern   Tatiana Florival, Intern

Anna Campbell • Makoto KumasakaAnnelise YeeEnrico Giori • Janice Chun • Julia Orenstein • Vuthy LayOlivia Hunter
Jordan McCracken-Foster •  Tatiana Florival

Our interns are current art school students who brainstorm ideas, enhance site content, and develop outreach strategies. Their majors include architecture, printmaking, furniture design, jewelry, drawing, painting, graphic design and more.


ART PROF is a personal undertaking by Clara Lieu and Thomas Lerra that is not supported, sponsored, or endorsed by the Rhode Island School of Design or WGBH.

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Video Critiques for Professional Artists & Art Students


Since I expanded my video critique program to include professional artists a few weeks ago, I’ve critiqued many more portfolios. Above is a recent video critique I did for a professional artist.

Many of the artists who have contacted me for a video critique have commented about how difficult it is for them to find trusted feedback on their artwork. One artist said that since they are not enrolled in a degree program or art class, and don’t live in an area where there is a strong artist community, it was really tough for them to find someone who could provide a professional evaluation of their artwork. In this way, these video critiques are a good alternative to being in school and/or taking a class.

I also do video critiques for students working on a portfolio for college/art school admission, you can watch a sample below. If you are going to be applying for college/art school next year, now is the time to get feedback on your portfolio, while there’s still plenty of time to make changes.  Many students wait until a few weeks before their application deadline to get a video critique. Consequently, there’s no time left for them to improve their portfolio before their application deadlines, so start as soon as you can!

Video critiques are 30 minutes long for a review of portfolio of 8-20 artworks for a $60 USD fee. You can watch more sample video critiques and get info here


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


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


ART DARES
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.

Falling on My Face

Final Crit

Lately, I’ve had to learn a huge smorgasbord of skills in areas I have zero experience. Over my past decade teaching at the college level, I’ve become very accustomed to being the one in charge and having or finding a solution for every possible problem. I’ve found the process of acquiring these new skills to be a refreshing change.  Instead of helping my students get back on their own feet, I’m now the one bumbling around, falling on my face left and right.

When I was a student at RISD, I was so appreciative of my professors who gave me the opportunities to mess up for the sake of trying something new and bold.  As a professional,  I’ve found it much more difficult to take big risks because when you stumble, it’s in front of the whole world.  In school, I was insulated from all of my creative endeavors being on public display. There was an extraordinary freedom I had as a student that I didn’t appreciate enough at the time. I think that’s why I tell my students upfront on the first day of class that the reason they’re in school is to make mistakes. For many students, that’s a huge relief.  Many of my students have been trained their entire lives up until then to be “correct,” which of course has no meaning in the visual arts.

Final Crit

I constantly talk to my students about the importance of failure in the creative process.  While I firmly believe in this point of view, it’s one thing to talk about it, and it’s another thing to actually walk the plank the way I ask my students to.  I’ll admit that I had forgotten how incredibly disorienting it can be to do something you have no clue about, and to be in a constant state of confusion.  I haven’t felt this awkward since I was 12 years old. I have accepted that basically everything I do in this project has to be done wrong a minimum of three times before I make any progress. Somehow, doing a task badly a few times helps me see a good solution much more clearly.

I go ice skating with one of my friends frequently, and her six year old daughter just learned to ice skate last year. The fear of falling paralyzes a lot of kids when they first get on the ice, so many kids just stand there because they’re so afraid of falling.  My friend’s daughter let herself fall every time she was even close to being even remotely off balance, and the result was that she quickly got over her fear of falling.  In fact, once she figured this out, she seemed almost enjoy the fact that she was falling down every two minutes.  (snow pants helped too) She quickly got over her fear of the ice and was skating in no time.

I like to think that I’ve borrowed my friend’s daughter’s pre-emptive mindset.   I tell myself that I’m required to fail first, so I don’t even bother trying to get things “right” on the first few attempts. I can welcome failure and wade through my mistakes much more quickly. It’s an odd balance of feeling totally perplexed and yet being incredibly exhilarated at the same time. Who knew that being really bad at something could be so fun?


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


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


ART DARES
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.

Dybbuk

Dybbuk

Dybbuk, by Ephraim Moshe Lilien, 1874–1925

When you’re an artist, it’s so important to have artist friends who have an inherent grasp of why you do what you do.  I have a friend who was a year ahead of me at RISD, and I always love our conversations because she completely  understands the artistic impulse.  I don’t have to explain anything to her, she just gets it.  She is incredibly energetic and lively, and  I love feeding off her enthusiasm.

A few weeks ago, we were discussing that compulsive creative rampage that artists get possessed by.  She’s the same way; once I get stuck on an idea, I can’t leave it alone.  I develop this sense of urgency in my work that I have to satisfy.  I get so intensely focused that I give up a lot of personal time and comfort to fulfill the work.

My friend said that when she was a teenager and she got into that kind of mode, her mother would call it dybbuk.  She described it as an uncontrollable creative drive that burns inside you.   I looked up dybbuk later, and it was even darker than my friend’s description:  “Dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. It supposedly leaves the host body once it has accomplished its goal, sometimes after being helped.” (Wikipedia)

I absolutely love that feeling. When I’m in that frame of mind, it’s like everything around me disappears.  I’m so riveted by the work that I don’t even want to get up to eat lunch.   That’s really saying something- I’m a big foodie, and I spend most days day dreaming about the next time I get to eat. The drive is strong enough to the point that I can almost start to understand why those Silicon Valley engineers drink Soylent so they don’t have to interrupt their work.


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Last Thoughts of the Semester in RISD Illustration

Final Crit

I finished up final reviews with my sophomore Illustration majors in my “Drawing I: Visualizing Space” course at RISD today.  At the end of every semester, I ask my students to reflect upon their time in my class and do a written self-critique.  Although I’ve read hundreds of these self-critiques over the past several years, I always find them to be inspiring and enlightening.  Below are some excerpts from my students this semester.

“I have learned that ideas will come if you are patient.”

“Thumbnail sketches are very helpful and will save you hours of time.”

“Not every artwork is a success, and I do not need to attach myself so emotionally to every piece.”

“Ideas do not come from nowhere, they need time to grow.”

“The preparation of an artwork can make or break a work.”

“I have learned that I have to accept mistakes.”


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Ask the Art Prof: How Can I Balance Planning and Spontaneity in My Artwork?

Chipboard Personality Sculptures

“I paint based on my intuition, and I usually do not know what the message of the painting is until the draft is down. This usually evolves over a few weeks, with new insights and connections happening. I feel rather out of control, and my tutors say I should finalize a plan and then execute it. Instead, I modify during execution. Is there some balance between planning and going on impulse that is ideal? “

The key is to strike a balance so that planning and spontaneity are mutually supportive. You can maximize the benefits of both by organizing your time and fostering work habits that will allow these two approaches to complement each other. I organize my time so that I have periods that are dedicated to loose experimentation that are balanced by periods of executing finished pieces. Managing these periods in this way keeps me focused and provides a well-rounded experience.

The ability to think and work in an unpredictable manner is most useful in the beginning stages of an artwork. This approach significantly expands the range of work you can create, and is especially critical when brainstorming ideas for your artwork. From a practical standpoint, it’s crucial to limit the physical execution of the artwork to small scale sketches. This strategy allows you to quickly make fundamental, sweeping changes without the consequences of wasting expensive art materials or needing to start over a time-consuming piece. You can explore many options without investing large amounts of time.

At this early stage, spill everything on paper and entertain every option without passing judgment prematurely. Maintaining flexibility is hugely important; you have to give yourself the freedom to react to anything that arises and then run with it. If you are too fixated and on your first ideas and unwilling to make impromptu changes, you will shut down potential options that might have been great.

An impulsive approach can lead to fresh and exciting ideas that might otherwise not come up. Excessive planning and thinking can sometimes paralyze your creativity. The equivalent would be a baseball player who ruminates about how to hit the ball, when really, no amount of thinking will help when the ball is being thrown at you at 85 mph. I frequently tell my students to turn off their brains and just touch the paper with the charcoal. Start a physical action and then let yourself react to those actions in the moment. This approach will get your creative juices pumping and push your progress forward.

However, you can’t do this forever, and ultimately you have to arrive at a cohesive vision. At a certain point, you will start feeling scattered and overwhelmed. When jumping around becomes detrimental to your process, it’s a signal that it’s time to start making decisions and nailing down what you want to do.

If the preparatory stages of your work was substantial and exhaustive, fabricating the final pieces should be fairly straightforward and smooth. In my own artwork, executing the final pieces always takes much less time than the planning stage. Frequently I spend months, sometimes even up to a year brainstorming and sketching. As a result, I reap many rewards; my preliminary work is comprehensive enough that by the time I’m ready to make the final pieces, I’ve anticipated and ironed out almost all of the problems. I can concentrate exclusively on the technical aspects of interacting with my art materials. This allows me to work without the distraction of troubleshooting unresolved issues.

Keep in mind that fundamental, sweeping changes at the execution stage can be disruptive, expensive, and impractical. You can waste a lot of time and art materials, and end up doing a lot unnecessary backtracking. Once you’ve spent $300 on canvas and paints, and invested 12 hours working on the painting, it can be painful to discover that deep into the process, you want to scrap everything and create a pastel drawing instead. Once in a while, the situation can be so dire that starting over really is the only solution. After all, no one wants to squander their time beating a dead horse. So, be thorough in the brainstorming stage, and avoid this situation if you can.

I’m not saying you can’t make changes while you execute the final work. Inevitably, new challenges emerge that you couldn’t predict, and you have to build in room for adjustments. Modifications made at this point should be minor, so that they enhance the overall work without sabotaging your progress.

Sometimes major changes are just not possible because of a professional commitment you’ve made. When I’ve spent a year creating a body of artwork for a solo exhibition, I cannot make hasty decisions one month before the exhibition opens. Despite a burning desire to investigate a new idea, I’ve had to immediately reject radical changes because it was just too late. Running with a last-minute idea at that point would have been foolish, and I couldn’t risk everything I had accomplished.

Take the initiative to exercise both spontaneous and planned approaches in your work process. If you limit yourself to only one way of working, you’re missing out on everything the other has to offer. Let these methods influence each other in a positive manner, and you’ll begin to achieve a balance that will make your overall studio practice more fluid and coherent.


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


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


ART DARES
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.


Related articles
“How do you keep pushing yourself to get to that next level?”
“Would you improve more if you took art classes than just studying on your own?”
“How do you break out of your comfort zone?”
“How do you get out of thinking you can’t get any better?”
“How do you develop patience for learning curves?”
“When do you let go of an idea?”
“How do I help my daughter reach her potential in art?”
“How can I study to become a professional artist on my own?”
“How do you begin to think conceptually as a visual artist?”

Ask the Art Prof: How Do You Begin to Think Conceptually as a Visual Artist?

Scratchboard Project

“As a visual artist, I have never been able to work serially. I feel stuck in a rut that seems impossible to break out of. I thought working serially might help me break out of it but here is the problem: I have never worked conceptually before. I don’t put any specific emotion, concept, feeling or anything into a painting or drawing. How do you begin to think conceptually as a visual artist?”

Unfortunately, many art students are taught to learn technique and content separately. They are instructed to first focus exclusively on mastering technique because they are told that they are “not ready” to address the subject matter of their artwork. The consequence is that students develop technical proficiency, but in terms of content, their artwork is vapid and meaningless. This is a common problem that many beginning artists face.

Portrait Painting

To think conceptually, find a compelling reason to create your own original content. As an art student, it took me many years to figure out exactly why the content of my artwork mattered. I devoted all of my energy towards learning how to paint realistically, and didn’t spend any time thinking about my subject matter. I had always been fairly confident in my painting skills, but my senior year at RISD, there was a student in my painting class who created breathtaking paintings which were incredibly vibrant. I felt extremely discouraged because no matter how hard I worked, my paintings just couldn’t compare to hers in terms of technique.

When I started working professionally, this experience just became even more pronounced. Eventually, I had to accept the fact that there were always going to be people who had stronger painting skills. The only way I was ever going to distinguish myself was through my ideas. This realization provided the motivation I needed to start generating my own content.


Below is a video tutorial on how to brainstorm, sketch, and create a drawing from beginning to end based on our October Art Dare.

Learning how to think conceptually is tough for many artists. The process is unpredictable, and there are no answers at the back of the textbook. Some concepts will flow easily while others will have you banging your head against a wall for days on end. In the beginning, I can guarantee that you will fail much more than you will succeed. Keep in mind what works for one person may not work for another. Be prepared to go through a lot of trial and error before you find a system that works for you. Here are some concrete actions you can take:

1. Develop both technique and content in every artwork.
Creating a piece that strikes an effective balance is exceptionally difficult, so this approach will be rocky and frustrating at first. Inevitably, you’ll create pieces that are strong technically but weak conceptually, and vice versa. Even if you’re unhappy with how things are going in a piece, push through and keep developing both aspects. Resist the temptation to revert back to creating pieces that only focus on technique.

2. Put everything on paper.
For many people, brainstorming means sitting down and running thoughts through your head. This is never productive. With no physical record of your thoughts, it’s impossible to get any perspective on what you’re doing. Instead, keep yourself active by sketching and writing as you think. Reserve judgment on your ideas and just let everything spill out on paper. Often times I will think an idea is stupid in my head, but when I sketch it out on paper, the sketch demonstrates a lot of potential. On the flip side, there are ideas that sound great in my mind, but are terrible on paper. You won’t know until you’ve seen it on paper. This article I wrote about brainstorming goes into specific actions you can take to initiate the process.

3. Aim for specificity.
The more specific your idea is, the more engaging it will be to your audience. Subjects that are too broad come across as generic and vague. I once had a student who said she wanted to concentrate on “20th century themes” in her project. Her topic was so immense that I had no clue what her project was about.

By contrast, one of the most intriguing topics I’ve seen in class was a student project that was about Korean face massages. (see image below) According to the student, the Korean face massages she received were extremely painful and the specifics of her vivid descriptions captivated the class. The fact that her topic focused on one area of the body within the context of a specific culture provided a strong direction for her project.

GK10a

4. Push your ideas to evolve.
Many artists terminate their brainstorming process prematurely. My students tell me all the time after sketching just one or two ideas, that they have found the best idea. Good ideas don’t happen immediately, your concepts need to go through multiple stages of development to fully mature. Give your concepts time to be transformed, manipulated and adjusted.

5. Recognize and avoid clichés.
If I had a dollar for every art student who drew a clock to represent time, I could send my kids to college for free. Clichés happen because an artist didn’t take the time to think beyond the most obvious response. If you do an image search on Google of your subject, the same image that appears over and over again is the cliché. When I start brainstorming, I intentionally sketch out the most clichéd image I can think of. Once I identify what the clichés are, I can eliminate them and move onto something that is more unusual.

Actively think about your subject throughout the entire duration of creating an artwork. With enough practice, thinking conceptually will eventually become a permanent part of your artistic process.


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


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


ART DARES
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.


Related articles
“How do you keep pushing yourself to get to that next level?”
“Would you improve more if you took art classes than just studying on your own?”
“How do you break out of your comfort zone?”
“How do you get out of thinking you can’t get any better?”
“How do you develop patience for learning curves?”
“When do you let go of an idea?”
“How do I help my daughter reach her potential in art?”
“How can I study to become a professional artist on my own?”