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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A 2 Year Artistic Roller Coaster Ride

last_blast

In 2014, I had a fleeting thought for a project that seemed like complete pie in the sky. As an artist, ideas for projects float in and out of my brain.  Some ideas are stay for about 3 minutes, some linger and hang out for a week or so, and some permanently attach themselves, refusing to leave.

When you have those pie in the sky ideas, they’re fun to dream and fantasize about.  You think in your head “wow, that would be so awesome…” and “if only I could pull that off….” However, there’s the skeptical, practical side of my brain which reminds me of the brutal logistics of reality, and basically obliterates those pie in the sky dreams before they even get a chance to be even considered.

Well, this particular pie in the sky dream didn’t get obliterated, it survived-for a very, long time. And yes, it got me into a lot of artistic “trouble.”  I slowly started following a trail of tiny bread crumbs that started to appear in the forest.  Sometimes it was months of waiting between each bread crumb, and it was the greatest test of patience for someone who has very little patience to begin with.

Then, some wheels really started turning, and I realized that I was on a gigantic roller coaster ride that I wanted to stay on forever. Except that this roller coaster was in complete darkness, and it didn’t have all the tracks ahead finished yet. I was moving on the roller coaster, but frantically laying the tracks in front of me about 3 seconds before I went over them, all in the dark.

Sneak Peek

And then before I knew it, I realized that the roller coaster had grown so big that I couldn’t do it by myself anymore.  I needed a partner and a team:  a fantastic, superb group of art students, emerging artists, and numerous professionals who could help me build the tracks, shine some light on the roller coaster, and make pie in the sky real. This is the most extraordinary group of people I’ve ever worked with, and I cannot remotely come close to accurately expressing my tremendous gratitude towards their tenacity, perseverance, and faith in our project. Without my team, pie in the sky would still be an idea floating in my head, or it would be a mediocre effort that lasted for a few months and then drifted away.

This has been the most exhilarating, terrifying, stimulating, difficult, electrifying idea I have ever experienced in over 15 years as a professional artist and teacher. Every time I thought I had just finished climbing Mt. Everest, I was told “You have to climb Mt. Everest again.” I would finish my second climb, come back to the bottom and be told “Sorry, that wasn’t enough-you have to go again.”  Every time I thought I had reached a milestone, or pushed myself as far as I could, the challenges only grew increasingly larger and more difficult, and I had to rise to the task in a way that in a way that was unprecedented in my life time. On top of that, I had to keep this project top secret for TWO YEARS.  I’ve been jumping out of my skin, and can’t wait to release the hounds.


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.

Crit Quickies vs. Audio Critique Packs

by @ter_ars_zawitkowska_

I’ve been very excited about the way that Crit Quickies has picked up over the past few days! I think it’s wonderful that submissions are coming in from artists of all ages, backgrounds, locations, and styles.  That’s one aspect of being an artist that I think is very unique to our field:  your background, age, body type, etc. doesn’t dictate whether you can be an artist.  Compared to other fields like athletics, or acting, where if you are just 2″ too short, or if you don’t have the “right look” for the movie role you’re auditioning for, you can always make art no matter what.

Eloise_Shelton_Mayo    Heidi Neff, acrylic painting "Untitled (Resistence)"    Jeff Wrench, Acrylic Painting

If you enjoy our Crit Quickies, check out our Audio Critique Packs.  (Click on the three images above to hear each artwork’s Audio Critique Pack.) We gave away 4 free Audio Critique Packs over the past month, so each winner got a 2-6 minute critique from 4 different professional artists each.  While the Crit Quickies are fun, as you can imagine, there’s only so much you can squeeze into 1 minute of speaking!  The Audio Critique Packs let us go into much greater depth and detail in the critique, so check them out. Our giveaways are over, but you’ll see on June 14 that there will be further opportunities to get an Audio Critique Pack in the future.

Making art doesn’t have to be a gigantic expensive production either.  The artistic process can be as humble as doing a pencil sketch for 10 minutes a day in a small sketchbook-you don’t have to construct a 20′ high bronze public art sculpture to be an artist. Keep those submissions coming, and keep your eyes peeled on my sites on June 14 for our huge announcement-I promise you won’t be disappointed.


by @collins_cameron


by @melissaeuler


by @emilybtenet.art


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.

Crit Quad #1: Jeff Wrench

Jeff_Wrench

Jeff Wrench
“Chelsea Rose”, acrylic paint on wallpaper and paint chips, 11″ x 17″

“This painting is from an an ongoing series of portraits on wallpaper and paint chips, based on my snapshots or (in this case) photos provided by someone I’ve met online. I’m trying to paint intuitively and quickly. I am interested in rough, semi-abstract marks and colors that still converge into convincing and recognizable images. The found background is another source uncertainty in the process and opportunity for happy accidents. If successful, I think such an painting can ‘vibrate’ in the viewer’s mind, and maybe excite the imagination in ways that a realistic rendering would not.”


Casey Roonan, Teaching Assistant
Casey Roonan, Illustrator & Cartoonist
“Stay open, and keep asking yourself questions, and try to really be conscious of all the decisions you’re making.”
Mentioned: Lucien Freud, Alice Neel


Sara Bloem, Teaching Assistant
Sara Bloem, Multimedia Artist
“I want more information about how you’re choosing the subjects of these pieces.”
Mentioned: Jean Arp


Lauryn Welch, Teaching Assistant
Lauryn Welch, Painter & Performance Artist
“I love the idea that something can be seen both as a collection of patterns, as well as having a character to it, like an identity.”
Mentioned: Jenny Saville, Euan Uglow, Chantal Joffe, Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard


Clara Lieu, Visual Artist & Adjunct Professor at RISD
Clara Lieu, Fine Artist & Adjunct Professor at RISD
“I want to know more information, more specificity, for example, where did you meet this person online?”
Mentioned: Frank Auerbach, Lucien Freud, Francis BaconOskar Kokschka


Follow up from Jeff on our critiques:

“Clara, this was great for someone like me — I’m not in school and I haven’t really found a way to get thoughtful input on my art. And mostly when I’ve found someone who I trust to give input, it’s been about the actual painting process — while much of the input here was about concepts. So that was new/surprising/interesting to me. Many of the critique comments highlight things I hadn’t explicitly thought about, so I am excited that pursuing these ideas may lead me to some interesting development. Thanks to all four of you!”


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.

Ask the Art Prof: How Do You Compose an Artwork More Rich with Details that Will Catch the Eye?

Scratchboard Project

“I have a question about composition, how do you make an artwork more rich with details that will catch the eye?”

Details are what dazzle and impress viewers in an artwork, they’re basically the fireworks at the end of an event.  However, what many people don’t realize is that details can only successful if they are supported by a strong composition. Without the structure of a compelling composition, details will fall apart and lose their context. Composition is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of making art, but unfortunately it is one fundamental skill that is notoriously overlooked.

Seduced by details, many artists will place far too much emphasis on specifics in the early stages of a work when really they should be concentrating on the composition. It doesn’t matter how amazing your details are if you have a lousy composition, so don’t even think about details until your composition has been solidified. (For more information about how to sketch compositions, read this article I wrote about preliminary sketching.)

The French neo-classicist painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres is renowned for his astonishing detail in his oil painting portraits.  He painted details that seem virtually microscopic in the textures of the clothing, hair, and lace in his artworks. Most people are enthralled by the extraordinary level of detail in his paintings.  They don’t take the time to recognize that the choices he made in the composition of his painting contribute just as much, if not more, to the effectiveness of the piece as the details do.

Jean August Dominique Ingres

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Below is a list of three primary objectives to consider when composing a piece, followed by concrete actions that you can take to get those results.

1) Lead the viewer’s eye to continually move throughout the work
A strong composition should get your eye continuously moving from one place to the next. Your eye should bounce from top to bottom, side to side, and inhabit every single piece of the composition at some point. Avoid placing your subject matter in the center of the piece, as this isolates all of the visual activity to the middle of the page. In general, symmetry also makes for a less engaging composition because it’s predictable and too consistent.  Let your composition surprise your viewers.

2) Make every part of the artwork important
I had a piano teacher who used to say “make every note special“.  It seems like an impossible task when you think about how many notes are in a piece of piano music, but the point is that every note in a piece of music has it’s own special role to play within the delicate balance of a work.  Assign roles to different parts of your work so that some are large and dramatic, whereas others are quiet and subtle.  A composition won’t work if everything is big and loud.  Fabricate sections of the composition to contrast against the rest.  All of the parts of your piece should work together and feed into an intricate web of relationships. Have your composition so complete and tightly woven that the removal of even one section would cause the balance to fall to pieces.

3) Be visually dynamic
Keep things visually exciting in every moment in your composition. One concrete action you can employ to make this happen is to implement diagonals anywhere you can. Diagonals fabricate a sense of action and movement, whereas horizontals and verticals tend to appear static and stiff.  Cropping your subject matter can also make the image appear grander and more dramatic. Leaving the entirety of your subject matter confined to the four edges of the page feels stale and boring.

raft_of_the_medusa1332528297967

Gericault, “The Raft of the Medusa

I’ve always felt that Gericault’s painting “The Raft of the Medusa” is one of the most striking compositions ever made. This piece is an astonishing 193″ x 282″ with life size figures, (make sure to see it in the Louvre in Paris before you die) and is propelled by it’s remarkable composition. If you examine the piece, it’s essentially a series of diagonals that slice up the composition very dramatically. With their thrashing limbs and desperate gestures, each figure points and leads to another, ending with a climactic finale in the figure at the top waving a rag.  There are quiet movements like the soft transitions in the sky, contrasted by brutally dark and powerful forms in the human figures. All of these areas work together to create a boldly balanced composition that Gericault’s horrific details flourish within.

Once you have a strong composition set up, you’re ready to tackle details.  Be selective about where you put details, and distribute them sparingly throughout your composition. Too many details in a piece can make a composition feel cluttered.  You don’t want to create a situation where the details are constantly competing for a viewer’s attention. Allow for large, ambiguous areas in your composition where the eye can rest temporarily. Think about details as little treasures that are to be discovered when looking at a piece.

st-peter

Caravaggio, The Crucifixtion of St. Peter

In this Caravaggio painting above, one of my favorite details is the pair of feet in the lower left hand corner. Not only does Caravaggio paint the veins and skin folds of the feet with intense detail, but he takes the time to paint the dirt on the feet! The simplicity of the dark, shadowy background around the feet allows these details to emerge beautifully. Not only is this detail stunning, but it also provides a visual description that enhances the depth of the narrative.


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 Videos
Youtube Playlist: Video Critiques on Art School Admissions Portfolios
Youtube Playlist:  How to Draw a Portrait with Charcoal and Cross-Hatching
Youtube Playlist:  Crit Quickies, 1 min. critiques on artworks


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“How can I tell if I’m skilled enough?”
“How do you find your own individual style?”
“How do artists manage to get their soul out into images?”
“How do you develop an idea from a sketch to a finished work?”
“How do you learn the basics?”
“Is it bad to start another piece of art before finishing another one?”
“How do you work in a series?”
“When and how should you use photo references to draw?”
“How do you know when to stop working?”

 

Ask the Art Prof: Does Painting What You See Limit your Artistic Possibilities?

elizabeth-winthrop-chanler-1893

John Singer Sargent


“Can depicting something as it plainly appears be limiting in terms of artistic possibilities? Should we try rather to draw or paint not only what we see but also improvise and decorate from imagination?”

Yes, I think depicting something precisely as you see it is extremely limiting. Not only is it limiting, but there is nothing artistic about just copying what you see, it’s essentially a mindless, mechanical process.   If your objective is to simply reproduce precisely what you see, in my opinion, you may as well get a camera and shoot a photograph.  In our time, we have so much technology that allows us to instantly replicate high quality images, so there is no reason for us to try to transform ourselves into glorified xerox machines.

Even though there have been incredible advancements in technology, people are still painting and drawing. So you have to ask yourself, what is it that distinguishes the human eye and hand from a machine?  What does a drawing or painting have to offer that a machine produced image will never possess? The difference is interpretation and opinion. The greatest artists who worked from direct observation offered an opinion. They had something they wanted to say about what their subject, and used their technique to communicate that opinion.

lady_agnew

Portrait painter John Singer Sargent painted portraits from direct observation for nearly his entire career.  Despite his paintings’ elements that are rooted in reality, there is a quality that is so deeply compelling about his portrait paintings that goes beyond just replication.

Back in 1999, I saw a major exhibition of Sargent’s work at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston which exhibited all of his major works. Walking through the exhibition, I was struck by how the paintings had a vibrancy and energy to them that seemed more real than life itself. His paintings created the illusion of what I like to call a “heightened reality”. The paintings were more than just images, and experiencing them was like hearing the sound of their breath as you passed by each portrait.

I don’t think the answer is to necessarily improvise and decorate from imagination. I think that would potentially clash with the observational part of the process. Rather I think the better route would be to concentrate on what your personal view is on the subject and to express that opinion.  Do you love your subject?  Do you hate it? Do you think your subject is ugly or beautiful? What is ugly to one person may be beautiful to another.

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Student portrait drawing, charcoal

One example of the range of contrasting opinions that are possible on the same subject is when we do portrait drawings in my freshman drawing class at RISD. You have twenty art students, who are all drawing the same artist model. Although the physical features are fairly consistent throughout everyone’s drawings, each drawing always has a unique take on the model. One student will make the model appear menacing and angry, another student represents the model as quirky and whimsical, while yet another student will draw the model with a tranquil demeanor. Every drawing communicates each individual student’s opinion and view of the model, creating a unique perspective.


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 achieve a luminous effect in a painting through color and value?”
“What is the practical meaning of color theory?”
“How do you compose a striking painting with color?”
“Is hard work and experimenting continuously such a bad thing?”
“What can a painting student to do be relevant in a digital world?”

Ask the Art Prof: What is the Practical Meaning of Color Theory?

04hopp_CA2.600

Edward Hopper


“What is the practical meaning of color theory? Granted, I’ve seen the theory, the contrasting colors, complementary colors, cold ones, warm ones, etc. etc. But can’t quite make a connection with practical uses, what one can actually do with this knowledge? As my own works use rather vibrant colors, I thought that it’s not too good to go years making them, and not knowing what’s going on with the colors ‘behind the scenes'”

This is the challenge with information and practice: it’s one thing to gain knowledge and information, it’s another thing to practically apply that information to one’s studio work.  I see the same issue with people who are trying to learn anatomy. People spend all of this time learning about the anatomical structure of the human body, they learn all of the muscle names, and yet when it comes down to actually sitting down and drawing, they don’t know how to actually use that information in their drawings.

When I was learning color in art school, I initially didn’t understand the point of complementary colors.  Sure, complementary color pairs like red and green are across from each other from the color wheel, but really, why does that matter? The way to find out why that matters is to see how other artists take that information and to analyze how they put that theory into action successfully.

Print

For complementary colors, I think one of the best artists to look at is the American painter Edward Hopper. Hopper consistently used complementary colors to create dramatic contrast in many of his paintings.  You may not necessarily notice it right away, but if you’re looking for it, those complementary color pairs are definitely there. In this painting of a gas station below, Hopper uses a large quantity of a dark green for the background and gets the relatively small gas station pumps to pop out of the page by using a highly saturated red.  The same thing happens on the right side of the painting with the dark crimson roof of the building against the bright green of the tree. Even the base of the pole with the sign on top us painted red at the bottom against the background of green trees.

GAS

Edward Hopper

Once you’ve taken the time to notice and deconstruct the color strategy behind several paintings, it’s time to implement that knowledge into your own work. The most effective way to see results is to do a series of hands-on exercises which highlight each specific color theory idea you’re trying to understand.

I had a painting teacher my sophomore year at RISD who completely transformed my ability to understand color. My grasp of color had previously felt aimless and random, and after taking his class, things finally started to make sense.  When we started his course, he set up a series of three still lifes which were intentionally limited to objects within one complementary color pair.  For example, the red/green painting would have a lime, a red apple, green grapes, with a pink cloth in the background.

By isolating this complementary color pair, this exercise got me thinking about the relationship between red and green, and got me to understand how red and green could work together in a painting to create various effects. For example, I never knew before I did this exercise that mixing alizarin crimson and viridian green created a deep purple that appeared to be black when painted opaquely. I always just used a straight ivory black for anything that I wanted something to look dark.  This new mixture had a richness and vibrancy to it that the ivory black could never have, and it’s a combination that I continue to use to this day.

On a fundamental level, color theory is all about relationships between colors, and understanding what those relationships are is key to implementing color theory into your work. Doing these color exercises sharpens our eye for color and teaches us to create color strategies for our future works.

Ultimately you will segue out of these color exercises and move into your own work.  While one may develop a more intuitive approach to color eventually, that essential foundation of color theory will always be there, and will continue to influence your decisions. Armed with that color theory information and experience, you will be able to find reasons behind why you make the color decisions that you do, and your actions will feel less arbitrary and scattered.


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 achieve a luminous effect in a painting through color and value?”
“Does painting what you see limit your artistic possibilities?”
“How do you compose a striking painting with color?”
“Is hard work and experimenting continuously such a bad thing?”
“What can a painting student to do be relevant in a digital world?”