Keep Looking For Your Artistic Dreams

Alex1

by Alex Rowe

When I was an art student, and even a year or so after I graduated, I had a very rigid idea of what my work and my life as an artist would look like: I would illustrate books, and only books. End of story. Spoiler alert to all of you young artists out there: this is not the best course of action. Pursuing a specific dream, like book illustration? Totally fine! Limiting yourself professionally and creatively? Not so much. I fell into the trap a lot of young artist fall into: limiting my work by keeping my dreams too narrow. Whether by not taking some classes because they didn’t fit with my goal, or even not drawing some pieces I thought of because they didn’t work with the portfolio I wanted, I was limiting myself as an artist.  

ameliaRGB.jpg

The problem with staying focused on a goal is that we sometimes ignore the directions that our work is trying to take us, and when we stray too far away from our true work we lose focus on why we make art in the first place. A career in art is not a simple trajectory. There are many turns and surprises that it can take us that we don’t even expect!

In my case, some of my jobs out of school were t-shirts and logos for local bands. I had to learn a lot of things about design that I neglected to learn earlier, but this work brought me more and more joy as I completed projects. The key is to be open to these surprises. Let go of your dreams in order to find them again. Ask yourself, why do you make art? I think you’ll find the answer is much more broad than any specific goal that you’ve set.

Alex2

How do you avoid being trapped in a goal that’s too specific? Simply be mindful of your artwork, of what brings you joy, and what your artwork is trying to tell you. Don’t try to make your work fit a specific goal, but try to find a goal that fits the kind of art you enjoy. In my experience, as I let go of the assumption that I knew what I wanted to do, I’ve been having so much more fun making my work again! And you know, that reinvigorated love has made me still work on a portfolio for book illustration – as well as other things.

Fear not: as grim as the career of an artist may look at times, there are more ways than ever to get your work out there and make it work! I found little success when I was just looking at book publishers – but now that I’ve started meeting local bands, interacting with small businesses, and even joining a gallery (trust me, the last place I thought my work would fit!) I’m slowly finding people who I can work with as an artist. Be honest with your artwork, and the right venue for it will come.


Related Articles 
My Poisonous Checklist, by Clara Lieu
One Simple Purpose, by Clara Lieu 


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.

Advertisements

ART PROF Intern: Jordan McCracken-Foster

737728_4074417344532_1164162091_o

The moment I knew Jordan was a true art nerd (like the rest of us who work on ART PROF) was when he told me that he once decided in high school that he was going to draw 1,000 heads and hands.  How many high school students do you know who sign on for a task like that voluntarily?  We even have proof of his drawing mission from high school:  you can see Jordan tracking his numbers in the lower right hand corner of this page of head drawings below.

page34

The first year of art school, which is when I met Jordan, is probably one of the most intense experiences you can have as an artist.  For many students, the work load is overwhelming and it’s tough to see clearly, much less make visible progress in your classes.  Jordan’s breakthrough came in the 4th week of class, when he walked into class with this beautifully composed lithographic crayon drawing of a gigantic seed pod. I had been on him in the first two critiques about his composition skills, which were dull and static. This drawing below blew the other two drawings totally out of the water. This was Jordan’s first major milestone in my class, and I still remember it clearly. You can see the other drawings Jordan did in my class here.

13467532_1131873603543367_1403558504_o

I love it when former students pop into my class spontaneously, so it was great to reconnect with Jordan when showed up to say hi one day. Another part that I really enjoy seeing is what my former students make after they leave my class.  Below is a drawing Jordan did as an Illustration major-the progress he has made since those 1,000 heads and hands in high school, and even the seed pod drawing above is tremendous! If you want to see more of Jordan’s work, you can see his Behance portfolio here. Let’s hear from Jordan now:

12346411_10205501749968883_5402349448989388470_n

“Hi everyone! My name is Jordan and I’m currently a rising senior at RISD in the Illustration department. I’m originally from Los Angeles, the place where the sun always shines and the traffic never stops. When I was in high school, I (thankfully) received a very lucrative art education program learning about figure drawing, form/volume, and things of that nature.

However, I will say that a lot of my art education also came from online platforms like YouTube and studying some of my favorite artists like LeSean Thomas, Ryan Benjamin, and Seung Eun Kim.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I came to RISD, Clara was my very first drawing professor. I’m happy to say that I am a survivor of Clara’s Freshman Drawing class. Being her former student, I can confirm that the techniques and lessons that will be expressed in this project will be incredibly helpful to any artist; and this is why we are so excited to bring ART PROF to the world! I know for a fact that ART PROF will encourage anyone out there who, like me, earnestly desires to grow in his or her art making skills. When I’m not doing art, I enjoy reading, taking nature walks, and finding a good burrito place.”

alex_portrait_hand


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.

Free Art Portfolio Review Event in Concord, MA

portfolio_review

FREE ART PORTFOLIO REVIEW EVENT
For artists of all ages!

Print

Concord Center for the Visual Arts
37 Lexington Rd., Concord, MA, 01742
(978) 369-2578

Sunday, June 19, 12-4pm

Bring your art portfolio and get 1 or more 15 minute reviews from professional artists. Unique opportunity to receive diverse feedback from several trusted professionals all in one day! Great chance for art students and professional artists seeking support on their work, and for high school students working on a portfolio for college admission. You don’t even have to get a review to attend this event-we’ll set up the event to create an open environment where everyone can see other artist portfolios, and learn from listening to everyone else’s critiques. This event is free, but registration is required to be guaranteed a review.


Can’t make it to this event?
3 more free portfolio/critique events and a major art education project are coming in June and July!
Stay tuned by subscribing to our email list.
subscribe

Still can’t come?
Check out my crit quickiesportfolio video critiques & Ask the Art Prof


Contact

Twitter     Youtube     tumblr    Pinterest    Instagram    FB    email


Portfolio Requirements
Please bring 5-8 artworks created in any media for your portfolio. Neatly organize your portfolios in advance to ensure an efficient review. We strongly prefer to see actual artwork, but we are willing to view artwork on laptops/tablets. (no phones)


Registration
This event is free, but registration is required to be guaranteed a review.
If you want to only look at portfolios and listen to critiques, no registration is necessary. Please register for a maximum of 2 slots. Register here.  If there are still slots open the day of the event, slots will be assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis at our information table. At that point, you can sign up for as many reviews as you want. You are welcome to show up the day of the event without registering in advance, however we cannot guarantee that you will receive a review. If you are not present at your slot time, your slot will be given to someone else. Feel free to RSVP on our Facebook event


Portfolio Reviewers

Clara Lieu is an Adjunct Professor at RISD, and a fine artist who works in drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. She wrote “Ask the Art Prof,” an advice column for visual artists for the Huffington Post for 3 years, and now hosts a weekly live video broadcast of the column on her Facebook page.  Watch her video critiques here.


Cynthia Katz is a photographer and has taught photography and bookbinding in the Visual Arts Department at Concord Academy for over 20 years. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout galleries in New England.


Wendy Seller is a fine artist working in digital media, painting, and photographic images. She has taught at Simmons College and RISD, and has had her work exhibited throughout galleries and museums in New England. Recently she was awarded an artist-in-residence fellowship by the Ballinglen Foundation.


Casey Roonan is a freelance illustrator and a cartoonist. Casey does editorial illustrations for the blog Narratively, and other clients. He writes and edit an anthology-format comic book called Ciambella with Mike Karpiel. Listen to one of Casey’s critiques here.


Lauryn Welch is a painter and performance artist who teaches at the Peterborough Art Academy.  Her artwork was featured on the cover of Art New England, and was recently shown in “Portraits, Expanded” at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.


Sara Bloem is a multimedia artist working in drawing and installation. She was recently an artist-in-residence at the University of Indonesia, where she worked on a series of drawings exploring multiculturalism. Listen to one of Sara’s critiques 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.

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 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.

The Visual Arts Resource that Didn’t Exist, and that Still Doesn’t 

Ed Emberley

My mother likes to tell me that I learned to draw before I learned to talk.  I drew voraciously as a child, and some of my favorite drawing books were by the children’s book author and illustrator Ed Emberley. His drawings are so quirky, playful, and incredibly expressive.  The instructions in his books are delightfully simple and easy to follow. There are so many god awful instructional drawing books out there for kids, and Ed Emberley’s books are unique, timeless classics that still resonate with me today as a professional artist.  I’ve been reliving moments from my childhood with his drawings with my own kids, who draw daily from his books. There’s something very special about seeing an image you haven’t seen in 30 years, but upon seeing it, feeling as though you drew it yesterday.

Ed_Emberley

On the back page of Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals, is the above image. I found Emberley’s statement so remarkably poignant and moving.  So often I see long, pretentious explanations for why artists do what they do. Emberley’s statement is right to the point, and so incredibly honest and genuine.

I kept thinking about Emberley’s statement over the past few days.  His words relate to the motivation for my forthcoming project, which is going to be announced in a few weeks. Essentially, my project is for me, what Ed Emberley’s books were for him.   I desperately craved a rigorous, comprehensive visual arts resource in high school, but nothing like that existed.  Twenty years later, there is still nothing out there that measures up to what I wanted as a teenager.  Now I’m taking action to change that. Don’t miss the big release, subscribe to my email list today!

On the set of ART PROF at WGBH Studios in Boston, MA


Related articles
Pie in the Sky
Researching Art Tutorials
Accessibility


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.

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.”


Subscribe to my email list! I send announcements only a few times a year.

The Right Words at the Right time

Accordion Bookbinding Project

One of my students at RISD once wrote on their self-critique, “Art is hard.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself. When you work professionally as an artist, there are the artistic challenges of creating the artwork, but on top of that, you have to build a very thick skin to handle the constant bombardment of rejection, and be incredibly tenacious despite difficult circumstances.  From my point of view, creating the artwork is the “easy” part of being a visual artist.

For me, the greatest struggle is when my confidence in my work wavers. Some days, I feel empowered and confident, my artistic vision is crystal clear, and my work ethic and energy is boundless. Other days, I feel overwhelmed, terribly discouraged, and have no faith in myself. You would think after almost two decades, I would have figured out a permanent solution, but I don’t think that one exists.

Last week I had one of those moments,  I know that fundamentally, I am extremely passionate about my work but it’s very nerve wracking to put in so much commitment and labor into something that might go nowhere.  I knew that I had to find a way to maintain my enthusiasm and optimism.

I wrote to one of my friends, Gina Perry, who is a children’s book illustrator and expressed my fears and anxieties to her.  She said that my situation sounded very similar to children’s book publishing, where you have no choice but to pour in hundreds of hours of unpaid work before you see a contract.  Her words to me were:  “You don’t achieve big things without that type of investment and risk.”

download (1)
Illustration by Gina Perry

Her words really resonated in that moment, especially because I know that she has years of experience, deep in the trenches, dealing with rejection, chasing her artistic goals.  Now I have a sticky note on my desktop with her words. When I feel my confidence sinking, that sticky note lifts me up.

Clipboard01

Visual artists have to learn to live with uncertainty and still be willing to take intimidating risks despite the lack of guarantees.  As a reaction to this, I frequently crave any moment in my life where something is guaranteed.  I love baking because I know that if I buy the required ingredients, follow the recipe exactly as written, that in the end, I’ll definitely have muffins to eat.  Unless the recipe is bad, or I make some really stupid mistake, those muffins are guaranteed. Sometimes being a visual artist is like doing all of those tasks, but then every time you open the oven, all you find is a pile of ashes. Gina got me back on track last week, and I’m hoping that sometime in the near future, there will be muffins when I open my oven.


Subscribe to my email list! I send announcements only a few times a year.