Just Show up


by Yves-Olivier Mandereau, Art Prof Teaching Assistant

As an artist, it is all too easy to sit around and wait for some elusive and imaginary muse to tap you on the shoulder. If we fall into that expectation, we will never get anything done. But as Woody Allen said, “80% of life is just showing up.” That is especially difficult for us as artists, because for the most part, our studio practice is up to us. Unlike working at a cafe or an office where you have to essentially punch your time card upon arrival, studio habits have to be diligently formed to induce the creative process. Creating art is less about motivation to create something beautiful, but more about forming habits of making.

During my sophomore year at school, I got frustrated when my pottery wasn’t yielding the results I wanted. I would sit at the wheel and throw for a bit, but would quickly dislike what was in front of me. In my frustration I would go for a walk, or grab a coffee, and wait ‘till I felt inspired.’ Maybe I was waiting for the right form or shape, who knows. This went on for about a month. When I realized that I wasn’t experimenting with the material enough, I committed to 5 hours a day on the wheel. This was essentially a way to experiment all the tricks and techniques I had been compiling from online videos, and books.


Yves-Olivier on the Art Prof set with Prof Clara Lieu

What I realized was that as I was futzing around, I would get bits of inspiration and would ‘run with it.’ In the span of the week I had managed to experiment with the material, and I had enough work to fill a kiln—and I liked what I had made. None of that inspiration would have come to me had I waited on my couch for it to come. Had I not experimented to see what cooking oil would do on the wheel; or what happened when I poured lighter fluid inside a piece and lit it on fire; I would not have gotten the expansive results I had. Within all the experiments I picked my favorites, I wrote down my process for each, and crossed off experiments I had on my to-do list.

Just show up to your studio and put in the hours. At some point in between all the ugly paintings and scribbles that you’ll never show anyone, you’ll get some beautiful work.


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.

Be notified of our early 2017 site launch by subscribing to our email list.


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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 PROF Teaching Assistant: Yves-Olivier Mandereau


Our ART PROF staff likes to laugh about our initial impressions of each other. Sometimes those first impressions were perfectly accurate, and other times they were totally off.  Yves-Olivier Mandereau, one of the ART PROF Teaching Assistants, was no exception to these extremes. I didn’t know this at the time, but Yves told me later that when he entered my freshman drawing class at RISD back in the fall of 2011, that he was terrified. The majority of his work prior to art school had been in three-dimensional media, and he felt at the time that he really didn’t know a thing about drawing.

Whereas many students would have allowed themselves to be paralyzed by their lack of experience, Yves quickly accepted his limited background in drawing. Despite being out of his element in a drawing class, Yves was extremely tenacious and willing to take on anything. Yves is one of the most determined students I’ve ever had in my classes, he had an iron will and drive that I rarely see in students at that stage in college.


A group critique in my class from 2011. Yves is on the right,  in the default state of most RISD freshman. Annie Irwin, another ART PROF Teaching Assistant is on the right in the front.

In group critiques, Yves distinguished himself with his candid, honest comments which were articulate and straightforward.  When students enter art school, most of them have very little experience speaking during a group critique, and it can be highly intimidating to talk about your work in front of the entire class. Yves was critical to his class because he helped establish a level of seriousness in our discussions that fostered mutual respect and honesty among his peers.


Yves’ very first homework drawing he did in my freshman drawing class in 2011

Later, Yves was a TA for my RISD Project Open Door class, and we reconnected again a month before he graduated in 2015. I visited his ceramics studio and was surprised to see him making figurative ceramic sculpture(see below)-nothing remotely like anything he was making when he was in my class. Having a background in figurative sculpture myself, it was so great to see how he eventually found his way towards that path.  The changes and progression over the course of art school are usually quite dramatic.  Five years ago, Yves came into his first art school critique in my class with a drawing of a seed pod. (above) Today, he’s doing an artist residency at Zentrum Fur Keramik in Berlin, Germany.


“As a kid I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I think I didn’t know because no one allowed me to consider a career in the arts. In middle school, I always had the most fun in art class, yet art was never really considered a legitimate pursuit like science and athletics.

I was first exposed to ceramics in an “Art 1” class, where I learned watercolor and acrylic painting. I was hooked but didn’t see any way to deepen my exploration. My art teachers let me stay and work during lunch, but I was essentially on my own. I worked on the pottery wheel but was just making lots of little cups because that’s what I knew how to make.

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The summer after my junior year in high school, I attended the Pre-College Program at RISD, a six-week summer art program for high school students. I saved up all the money I could from busing tables and working for a catering company. The program was beyond anything I could have imagined. The intensity and depth of the classes were addictive. When the program ended, I said to myself, “I don’t want this to end.” That’s when I knew I had to pursue visual art seriously.

Having experienced the value of a quality visual art education, I have committed myself to encouraging and helping others pursue their passion. That’s why I’m here, to help other students experience a broader art education independent of school systems where visual arts aren’t supported.”

Visit Yves’ website here. (mature content)


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Giveaway #1: Free Audio Critique Pack

Final Crit

This week, one lucky person is going to win an “Audio Crit Pack,” a 2 minute audio critique from myself, and artists Sara BloemCasey Roonan, and Lauryn Welch on one of their artworks. (total critique time is 8 minutes) Getting feedback on your artwork can be challenging if you’re not in school, and here’s a unique opportunity to get trusted advice from not one, but four professional artists!

To enter, do one of the following by Wed., May 11, 11:59pm EST:

  1. Subscribe to my email list
  2. Like my Facebook page
  3. Share any post, video, or photo from my Facebook page
  4. Follow me on Instagram
  5. Retweet my tweet about this giveaway
  6. Reblog my Ask the Art Prof page on your WordPress blog.
  7. Reblog this post on my Tumblr. 

The winner will receive directions for how to submit their artwork and a text statement (maximum 100 words) or an audio recording (maximum length 1 minute) to accompany their artwork.  The artwork is due Monday, May 16. If the winner doesn’t submit their artwork by that deadline, we’ll pick another winner.

Please note that if you win this giveaway, your artwork and audio critiques will be posted here on my blog. You can have your artwork posted either 1) anonymously, 2) with your name or 3) with your name linked to your website.

Below is a sample Audio Crit Pack:

Student Collage

25″ x 15″, cut paper collage on mat board

“’I wear makeup because I hate my face,’ is a truth that drives my lengthy morning ritual. I used collage because I wanted to mimic the mishmash of packaging in my makeup bag, and to give the piece a graphic style reminiscent of magazine advertising. I used a clear paint medium on paper to create glossy lids, a razor blade to score ridges, and experimented with translucent paper.  I recreated my makeup collection, complete with labels explaining the true intention of each product, instead of its actual labeling.”

Casey Roonan, Teaching Assistant
Casey Roonan, Illustrator & Cartoonist
“You could think about it this way: What role are these elements playing on a metaphorical level?”
Mentioned: Maira Kalman, Claude Cahun

Sara Bloem, Teaching Assistant
Sara Bloem, Multimedia Artist
“Use your materials to show that tension more clearly. Let your materials tell the story too.”
Mentioned: Louise Bourgeois

Yves-Olivier Mandereau, Teaching Assistant
Yves-Olivier Mandereau, Designer, Ceramic Artist
“This piece can definitely resonate with a lot of different people.”
Mentioned:  Barbara Kruger, Mickalene ThomasCindy Sherman

Clara Lieu, Visual Artist & Adjunct Professor at RISD
Clara Lieu, Fine Artist & Art Prof
“What’s so striking to me about this piece is the absolute, brutal honesty of the text statement.”

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Art Supply Store Recommendations

As part of my “Art Supply Tips” series, I thought it would make sense to share my recommendations for art supply stores that I’ve accumulated over the years. Some are specific to the NYC and Boston area, but you can order from almost all of these stores online.

You would think artists would only need to shop at one art supply store, but I have always had to shop at several stores to obtain everything I need. In many circumstances, I have had to research and hunt extensively to find obscure materials. If you can’t find what you need, I recommend talking to store managers to see if they can help you track down an item.  The RISD Store manager once helped me find and special order 7′ x 4′ sheets of Dura-Lar that I would never have found on my own.

General Art Supplies:

Make sure you go to a professional art supply store.  While some craft stores like Michael’s and AC Moore do sell some art supplies, their inventory is very limited and items are frequently much more expensive than they would be at a professional art supply store. I happened to be at Michael’s once, thinking I might as well pick up a sketchbook while I was there. The sketchbook was $20, so I didn’t buy it, and the following week I picked up a similar sketchbook at the RISD Store for $8.


Dick Blick
Dick Blick has an excellent range of professional art supplies.  They’re the art supply store I go to first, and I can usually count on them to have the vast majority of art supplies that I need for both myself and for teaching.


New York Central Art Supply
I am embarrassed to admit that I never went to this store when I was living in NYC.  I love that they are an independent art supply store, and their paper inventory is legendary among artists.


Your local hardware store
I spend almost as much time at my local hardware store as I do at the art supply store. The art supply stores often carry the same items, but these items are almost always less expensive at a hardware store. I am always stocking up on tape, sand paper, solvents, cleaning supplies, and tools. On top of that, usually within 2 minutes of walking in the door, someone always asks me what I need.  I try to avoid Home Depot if I can, (although sometimes it’s unavoidable) I find shopping there to be really unpleasant.  I’ve had the staff there literally walk in the other direction when I was asking for help, and the overwhelming size of the store makes finding what you need daunting.

Sculpture Supplies:


The Compleat Sculptor
When I was completing my MFA in sculpture in NYC, I was constantly making runs to this store.  This store has a dazzling array of obscure tools, and everything related to mold making and casting, and much more.  The other students and faculty complained all the time that their prices are too high, and one of my teachers always called it “The Compleat Rip-off.”  However, given how specialized their materials are, the incredible selection, and the knowledgeable staff, I think their prices make sense. Their website isn’t easy to navigate, so if you don’t know what you’re looking for in advance it can be tricky to browse.  If you can visit the store in person, you’ll develop a better sense of their inventory and know how to order online more easily.


RISD 3D Store
The RISD 3D Store is like the love child of an art supply store and a hardware store.  They have a wonderful range of sculpture materials/tools/hardware supplies, and unlike hardware stores, the staff know that you are shopping there because you’re an artist. The best aspect of this store is that you can have materials custom cut for you.  You can custom order sheets of plexiglass, plywood, plastic, glass, etc., cut to any size you want, in any quantity. You can get large scale canvas frames built and stretched, and sculpture armatures constructed as well. This store is also the only place where I’ve been able to have untempered masonite custom cut. (tempered masonite is not good for artwork)

Amherst Potter’s Supply
I usually buy ceramic clay for creating sculptures from this local ceramic supplier in Hadley, MA. If you live in MA and order online, you can get your materials in 1-2 days.  If you’re in the NYC area Jack D. Wolfe is an excellent ceramic retailer.

Printmaking Supplies:

The selection of printmaking supplies available at most art supply stores is always terrible. These stores carry about 5% of what a professional printmaker needs. The printmaking supplies also tend to be crazy over priced at most general art supply stores . Once, I was desperate to buy some tarlatan, and I felt scandalized by how much I paid for a tiny scrap of tarlatan at Dick Blick.   If you’re serious about printmaking, you’ll have to order all of your supplies online.


When I was in graduate school in NYC, my printmaking professor suggested Metalliferous to buy copper plates for intaglio printmaking.  Not only were the copper plates well priced, but they had an amazing range of sizes and thicknesses of copper plates. I highly recommend visiting in person, this store is an extraordinary treasure of metal supplies.  Every nook and cranny in the store was densely packed with any metal supply you could imagine.


Renaissance Graphic Arts
I personally haven’t ordered from this company before, but when I used to teach printmaking at a college in Boston, this is where the the printmaking department purchased all of their supplies.


Graphic Chemical and Ink
This store is where I order the vast majority of my printmaking supplies, they pretty much have everything you need for printmaking. I happen to really like their etching ink, ever since I discovered their Renaissance Black Etching ink, I’ve been completely addicted.


Tools for Working Wood
In graduate school, I created a series of large scale woodcut prints.  The woodcut tools that I purchased at the general art supply store were awful; the shape of the tools was awkward, and carving the wood with these tools was downright painful.  My printmaking professor recommended Ashley Iles carving tools that were available only at this store.  I loved visiting this store, it was one of those tiny hole in the wall stores in NYC, with a guy behind the counter who was quite a character. Unlike my old tools which were straight, the Ashley Iles tools were back bent, creating a much more comfortable position for your hand when carving.  The tools were incredibly sharp, and there seemed to be an endless variety of shapes and gouges. I felt like I went from carving wood to carving butter because of these tools. At $37 a tool, (I bought 6 tools) I felt financially traumatized, but the tools completely revolutionized my woodcut technique and were worth every penny.



The Picture Place
Some artists frame their artwork themselves to save money, but nothing compares with the quality of a professional custom framing job. Custom framing is expensive, but poor framing is always glaringly noticeable and can make your artwork look terrible. Finding a good framer is like finding a good car mechanic, you either need a good reference or you have to be really lucky. When I lived in Jamaica Plain in Boston, I chose a frame shop just because it was nearby. The framers there were really friendly and helpful, and that’s where I met the framer I who I work with exclusively now.  He eventually moved to the Picture Place in Brookline, MA, and he has framed all of my artwork for over 15 years.  I trust him to make excellent framing choices for me.

Photography supplies & services:


B & H Photo Video
Generally speaking, I get all of my photography equipment from B&H.  They’re located in NYC, but they ship very quickly and usually I can get what I need within 1-2 days. The one caveat with this store is that they don’t process orders from Friday evenings to Saturday evenings, and they are closed on every Jewish holiday.

Color Services
This is a high end photography lab, they do printing for some of the most renowned visual artists in the Boston area. I have only used them once, to print photographs of my beeswax face sculptures. I was astounded by the range of options that were available in terms of paper choices, mounting, surfacing, etc. They are not cheap, but it is definitely worth it if you’re serious about getting high quality prints made.

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Ask the Art Professor: When You Have a Fine Arts Degree, What Do You Do for the Rest of Your Life?

Final Crit

“When you graduate from college with a fine arts degree, what do you do for the rest of your life?”

The answer to this question is completely unique to every person, but I can give some general pointers about things to consider that might be useful to anyone.

The important thing to remember is that while the degree will certainly open some doors for you, in the end it is all up to you. With a fine arts degree there is no pre-determined path (as compared to fields like law and medicine) to take so you have to be the one to take charge of where you want to go in life. I know people who have all sorts of fancy degrees who aren’t doing anything, and I also know people who have degrees from less prestigious schools who are doing wonderful things. The degree is what you make it out to be.

One thing that I’ve learned since leaving school is that you can pleasantly surprise yourself with what direction you go in.  One of my peers who went to school for architecture ended up doing ceramics. A friend of mine who went to school for printmaking and now does very well as a caricature artist. Someone else I know who went to art school is now a successful baker and chef. Robert J. Lang one day dropped a very successful career to be a full-time origami artist.  At the same time, I know plenty of people who are working in exactly the field they studied in school.  The idea is that anything can happen, and that sometimes it can be wonderful to embrace the unexpected.


Origami by Robert J. Lang

I know now that I’m definitely meant to teach for the rest of my life, but oddly enough, I fell into teaching by accident. When I was a senior in high school, there was this program for seniors called SPARC. (Senior Program and Alternative to Regular Classes) which allowed certain students to do a full-time internship instead of attending classes during their final semester.  I was so completely miserable in high school that I was willing to do anything to get out of going to class. I’ll admit that was my sole motivation for doing the internship. I opted to be a teaching assistant to my former elementary school art teacher, and ended up loving it.

That work experience led to a summer job teaching visual art at an arts camp for grades K-6 while I was an undergraduate student at RISD. So when I graduated from RISD, I had all of this work experience teaching elementary age students and got a job at a private elementary school in Boston. By that point I had caught the teaching bug and knew that eventually I wanted to be able to teach at the college level, which is where I am now.

Portrait Drawing

Lastly, try to strike a healthy balance of having ambition and goals, while also having realistic expectations for yourself. It’s best to go into things without expectations that are set in stone, doing so could potentially lead to a lot of disappointment and frustration. Be flexible and open to other possibilities that you hadn’t considered before, knowing that it could potentially lead you to new and exciting places.

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages to learn visual arts in a vibrant art community. Imagine all of the resources here on our blog, except exponentially bigger, in greater quantity, and in more detail. Our Kickstarter campaign hit its $30k goal on July 19!  Get info on our future launch by subscribing to our email list.

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Ask the Art Prof Live is a weekly live video broadcast on my Facebook page where I provide 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.  Ask me your questions by commenting on the live video post as the video streams, and I’ll answer right away. I’ll discuss being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more. Like my Facebook page and you’ll receive a notification when each live video begins.

Video Critique Program
I offer 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for aspiring/professional artists working on a body of artwork, and for students working on an art portfolio for college admission. Watch sample video critiques and get more info here.

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