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


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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.

Beyond the Classroom

Accordion Bookbinding Project

I’ve been teaching studio art at the college level for 11 years now, and lately I’ve been noticing that there’s been a shift in terms of my relationship with my students.  In the very beginning of my teaching career, none of my students had graduated yet, so I didn’t have a lot of interaction with students who were alums. Today, the freshman at RISD who I taught in 2007 have now been out of school for five years, which is long enough that my interaction with them after they leave RISD has changed a lot.

After a class ends, my students stay in touch with me to varying degrees: some students I literally never see again, some I run into on campus, others I’ll get a cup of coffee with to catch up, some have an identity crisis at some point and need advice, I’ve provided job references, hired alums to help with some small jobs related to my studio practice, and I’ve even had a few students call me on the phone in tears.

My relationship with my students changes tremendously once they are no longer in my class.  Once a student leaves my class, there’s no longer a grade that is looming over their heads.  When the grading situation no longer exists, I’ve found that it makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere and I can relate to them on a more casual basis.

When a student becomes an alum, my relationship with a former student shifts again. After all, we’re working both in the same professional world now.  I remember when I was still in graduate school that a music professor once told me “eventually you and your former professors will become colleagues.”  At the time, that seemed like such a strange concept, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around regarding one of my former professors as a peer. I was still in student mode, so I still felt intimidated by my professors, even with ones I really liked.

Opening reception

Me with one of my former RISD professors back in 2012 at a solo exhibition I had.

For many years, I was the former student who made the effort to stay in touch with my former professors after school.  I’ve known several of my former professors for 20 years now.  I see two of them regularly, and I greatly cherish my friendships with them. Now, I’m the former professor, hearing from my former students who reach out to me.

My experience in studio art classes is that art professors and art students go through so much together. (especially at RISD) In every class, I go to hell and back with my class several times, all of us trying to stay in one piece along the way. That experience alone is enough to create a special bond.  However, just because I interact with a student in a positive manner in the classroom, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a friendship will grow afterwards. I’ve had many students who were absolutely phenomenal in my class and accomplished extraordinary work, but who I didn’t connect with beyond the classroom.

To foster a connection after school, you have to be able to relate in a completely different context. (i.e. not in a classroom setting)  When a student truly connects with you as a person and stays in touch with you over many years, it’s really special. With 11 years of teaching behind me now, my friendships with my former students have developed a depth that I could never have anticipated. I’ve had some pretty intense conversations with former students which have been extremely rewarding. For me, this is one of the best parts of being a professor.


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.

Video Critiques for Aspiring and Professional Artists

RISD Section 19

Due to popular demand, I am now expanding my video critique program to include video critiques for aspiring and professional artists, in addition to video critiques for students preparing a portfolio for college admission.

Many artists of all ages and levels of experience have emailed to me over the past few months asking for me to critique their artwork. The people who have emailed me have said that they have no one who they can ask for feedback on their artwork, so I am pleased to be able to provide a solution for this need.

Each video critique is 30 minutes long, covers 8-20 artworks, and costs $60 USD. Get more information here, and you can watch a sample video critique of a student’s portfolio for college admission below.


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.

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Linoleum Block Printing

Patience and Faith

Linoleum Block Printing

By nature, I’m not a patient person. I’m compulsive about getting things done immediately whenever possible.  I worry that if I don’t do a task as soon as possible, that I’ll end up with an overwhelming amount of things to do and something will ultimately get missed. That’s my inherent character, but I’ve learned throughout the years how important it is to have patience as an artist.

Right now, my RISD Project Open Door students are working on linoleum block prints based on Op-Ed articles from the New York Times. The process is very time consuming, and will take about 6-7 three hour classes to complete.  There’s brainstorming, thumbnail sketches to make, the carving of the linoleum block, and the printing process. The pacing of this project is odd.  In the beginning when you’re sketching and carving the linoleum block, the process is really slow and at times it feels like you’ll never get there. Carving the linoleum blocks is not a process you can rush either.  Not only is rushing through a safety hazard, but everything you carve is permanent, so you have to be very deliberate and confident about where you choose to carve.

Linoleum Block Printing

When the linoleum carving is finally finished, and you ink up your block and pull the print, it’s a magical moment where your image suddenly appears in an instant.  It’s a startling experience, because you spend so much time sketching and carving, and frequently the printed image looks very different from what you anticipated.

Linoleum Block Printing

After pulling that first print, students give me puzzled looks when I tell them that they’ve still got a long way to go.  I’m always pushing my students to spend more time with their pieces, and to truly bring their works to a full finish.  I find that many students are fundamentally doing very good work, but many of them stop prematurely. It’s as if you were running a marathon, maintaining a good pace, but then stopped at mile 10 and didn’t bother to cross the finish line.

Ultimately, when you work professionally, bringing something to a full finish can be more critical than the quality of the work itself.  If an art director is on a tight deadline, and they have to choose between an illustrator who who can pass in a finished piece and an illustrator who can’t finish by the deadline, which do you think they’ll have to pick?  I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”, and at one point she describes a poster they have in their office that says “Done is better than perfect.” Ideally, I want my students to achieve both quality and finish, but it’s important to realize when you work professionally how crucial the finish part is. If students never have the experience of completing an artwork all the way while they’re in school, learning that lesson while you’re on the job is an unpleasant surprise.

I’m always talking to my students about developing patience in their work.  I have to push them to find the motivation they need to continue working on a piece they thought was done. Sometimes that extra hour or two on a project can be all the difference in the world. Although I am well aware of how important that extra time on a project can be, it’s still so hard for me to apply this principle to myself.

In my projects, I always have ongoing questions in my head that asks whether a project just needs more time, or whether I’m beating a dead horse and really should just get up and walk away. It can be very trying to tell yourself to stick with something when your impulse is to get up and leave. I think the hardest part is that to have patience, you also have to maintain a strong faith that your project will keep moving forward in a positive way. So maybe faith is more important than patience here, because as long as you have faith, the patience will come.


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.

Less is More

Accordion Bookbinding Project

When you teach, it’s one thing to know your material, and another to know how to translate that material into a digestible format that actually sticks.  Over the past few years, I’ve learned that less is always more when it comes to teaching.  The natural reaction for many teachers is to provide as much information as possible.  This is especially true when you’re teaching an introductory course because there’s so much that needs to be covered. When you have a lot of expertise in your field, it’s easy to forget how overwhelming even the most simple concept can be at first glance. I’ve found that students can quickly drown in information, and that it’s much more effective to offer small morsels that are given at incremental stages.

The other day, I was digging through some old syllabi from when I first started teaching, and I was startled by how different they were than the syllabi I use today. I used to explain every possible scenario that could happen in a syllabus, but I’ve discovered that once the syllabus is longer than two pages, students won’t bother reading the syllabus at all. So I have the option of having 1) a short syllabus that students will actually read, or 2) a syllabus that explains everything, but that doesn’t get read.  Take a wild guess which option I use today.  Certainly, there’s a compromise because a shorter syllabus limits your content, but if that’s the difference between being read or not, that’s a compromise I’m willing to make.

Despite my experience with less is more, I always struggle with balancing content when I teach. Part of me always wants to add more content, but I’ve seen that students are quickly overwhelmed by large quantities of content. I think for many teachers, adding more content is in some ways a kind of insurance policy.  We worry that if we cut back on content that our students will miss the point, so we pad our content with supplementary information that isn’t critical.

I’ve seen concrete evidence with this project that small bites that are succinct and straightforward can have a tremendous impact.  If a small bite piques a student’s curiosity and stimulates a craving for more, that in itself is much more valuable than having every fact crammed down your throat.  If you bombard students with too much content all at once, not only will they not retain that content, but they won’t come back for more. I think about those first bites as appetizers in a meal.  A good appetizer stimulates your senses, doesn’t fill you up and spoil your appetite for the entrees, and makes you hunger for more.  Once you get your students to crave that information,  it opens all kinds of doors where you provide those details that you initially suppressed.


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.”


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