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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The Biggest, Scariest, Most Exciting Project I’ve Ever Worked on


Throughout my life as a student, professor, and artist,  I’ve worked on numerous projects, all of which have challenged me in different ways. I’m always looking for new artistic initiatives that will build upon my prior experience, but that will get me to exercise new muscles and take on new risks that will stretch me to new places I didn’t even know existed.

My graduate thesis Digging was the first time I had considered creating an interdisciplinary project, where multiple bodies of work in contrasting media existed under the umbrella of one core concept. Wading was a project where I began to explore a new depth of emotion and atmosphere in my work  that I had previously avoided. Falling was by far my most ambitious project at that point: the sheer quantity of drawings, prints, and sculpture that I produced, combined with the deeply personal subject of my long history with depression, demanded an immense emotional and professional investment that I had never experienced before.

Clay Portrait Sculpture

My mystery project, which will be announced in a few weeks is a completely different beast than all of these prior projects.  I see this new project as a culmination of literally every single experience I have ever had in my entire life.  It encompasses the moment I was able to pick up a pencil and draw as a young child,  the rush of joy working in my elementary school art class, my anger and frustration as a high school student desperately to find a way to rigorously study visual arts, the euphoria of attending art school, teaching studio art at the elementary, high school, and college level, working as a gallery director, and finally, my ongoing studio practice as a professional artist over the past 16 years.

The tasks involved in this project could not be more diverse and different than what I’ve done in the past: I’ve sifted through archives of photos I shot 15 years ago, revisited wrinkled paper handouts given to me by my professors when I was a student, rummaged into the corners of closets to find tools and art supplies that have been hibernating for years, reconnected with former students, colleagues, and friends, and asking for help and favors from people I’ve never met before-and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Inevitably, everything I take on asks me to draw from my previous experience in some form, but this project is on an entirely new scale that for me is completely unprecedented. In general, I have a monstrous work ethic, and I’ve always been known for attacking my projects and teaching with a feral vigor that can be intimidating for some people. Relatively speaking, the intensity and amount of work I’ve invested into this project makes it appear as if I’ve been slacking off for the past 20 years.


Sara BloemCasey Roonan  •  Annie Irwin •  Lauryn Welch
Yves-Olivier Mandereau  • Alex Rowe

Another major difference is that I’m not alone in this project.  I have an amazing partner who I feel so incredibly fortunate to have met, an outstanding team of 6 former students, (see above) and a group of 9 interns.  The extraordinary momentum that we’ve built together over the past year and a half has been tremendous.  In my rough moments of doubt and worry, my team has picked me up and pushed me forward with their unwavering support and zeal. They have brought a range of expertise, opinions, and perspectives that cannot exist in one person. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, and I feel constantly energized by everyone’s collective passion and dedication to this project.

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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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Video Critiques for Professional Artists & Art Students

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

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

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

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

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages 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 for What You Want”

Self-initiative is everything when you’re a visual artist. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past decade of teaching and making art, it’s that opportunities in visual arts almost never fall into your lap.  Unless you are independently wealthy, extremely well connected, or insanely lucky, you have to take the responsibility to go out there and find and/or create opportunities for yourself.


Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006, is famous for his “Last Lecture” which he gave back in 2008.  In the lecture, he talks about “really achieving your childhood dreams.”  One of my favorite pieces of advice that he gives is to “ask for what you want.” It sounds like a statement that should be obvious, but I was surprised that when I sat down to really think about it at the time, how infrequently I actually asked for what I wanted.

There are two actions to that piece of advice:  1) identifying what you want and then 2) asking for it. Depending on what you want to do, figuring out what it is you want can be totally obvious or completely mysterious. For me, knowing what I want hasn’t been challenging, it’s the asking part that can so difficult to do.

Recently, I’ve had to do a massive amount of asking, way more than usual. Every time I ask for something, whether it’s a grant proposal I’m putting together, an exhibition opportunity, or a job, I feel like I’m walking a plank on a pirate ship.  Most of the time, I start with an email inquiry, and I have to take a deep breath before I click “send.”It’s hard to ask for things. In most situations, you’re asking someone you barely know, or don’t know at all.

Asking can be exhausting, and you have to prepare yourself to be rejected over and over again, with the high likelihood that you won’t get a response. It can get to the point where you become grateful for any response, even if it’s a no. This process can be very frustrating; it can feel demeaning when you’re constantly begging on your hands and knees all the time for even the slightest bit of acknowledgement.

I don’t know why asking is so intimidating for me despite the fact that I have evidence that asking can be effective. I try to remind myself that asking is no skin off my back. After all, the worst case scenario is either being ignored or rejected, which is nothing new.

I try to remember that you only need one person to say “yes” for all of that asking to be worth it. Even though the asking can be painful, I know that it’s possible to get results this way. I’ve landed jobs and exhibitions because I asked, asked the next year, and then the next year, until that polite rejection became a “yes.”

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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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 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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An Email that Could Have Been Written by My 16 Year Old Self

Gesture Drawings in Ink

I get emails daily from my blog readers on a diverse range of topics. Everything from questions about what drawing supplies to buy, advice on MFA programs, and concerns about careers in the visual arts.  You name it, I’ve gotten an email about it.

Once in a while, I get an email that is much more than questions.  I recently received an email that I found to be particularly poignant and moving.  I was riveted by this email because I felt that it could have been written by my 16 year old self.   While I admit that my memories of trying to study visual arts in high school still make me boil,  it’s very rewarding to hear that I am filling that same void I experienced 20 years ago for someone today. I always say that no matter how difficult a class I teach is, if I can just reach one person, then that makes it all worth it.   I’m delighted to know that I’d a meaningful impact on one of you in this way.

Here’s the email I received:

“Firstly, I would like to thank you for your blog. It has given me great insight and joy to read about your perspective on art school, teaching, and being a practicing visual artist. Your blog has also given me amazing tips that have helped me build my portfolio. I feel I owe a great deal of my confidence in my work to your writing, so thank you so much.

Secondly, I would like to share my experience in high school art classes. I am much like you described yourself in your blog post. I am withdrawn, shy, and lack confidence. Although I have always excelled in academics, I always have felt like I don’t belong in my school. Since I was little, I could not stop thinking of things to make. I loved every art class I took; I would finish a project and beg to know what the next one would be in order to think of what to make.

As I started my freshman year in high school, I saw that most people thought of artistic people as outsiders, so I felt I shouldn’t do anything artistic anymore. Although I felt I left part of myself behind, I hoped that it might lead to friends or to popularity, but it obviously was not the case. As sophomore year began, I met my Art I and AP Art History teacher. She was a wacky painter that would push you both academically and creatively to the extremes. Because of her, I rediscovered my passion for art and fell in love with the history and study of art. I have been enrolled in her class since junior year, and it has been my escape from everything that makes me anxious or sad.

This summer, I attended the RISD Pre-College program and was inspired by my peers to push my technique and pursue ideas that are outside of the norm. I thank two of my favourite teachers there for believing in my vision, but more importantly, teaching me how to believe in it myself. I have seen a resurrection in my creative process.

 I think the greatest problem in my school is ignominy that comes with being an artist. Because it is a private school in a country outside of the US, most student’s parents are politicians, economists, etc. so creative fields are completely alien to them. I see people every day that are amazingly creative and tremendously talented, but they say that they could never dedicate themselves to a creative field because they want to “have their lives matter.” I find this not only deeply troubling, but also the reason why schools all over the world don’t emphasize the arts so much; because the students don’t take advantage of creative opportunities.

At the high school level, I think an individual’s responsibility is to find what they love and explore it to the best of their abilities, but the reason why people that could be artists don’t pursue it is that the school system does not push the arts. A school should give students the opportunity to study their artistic passions and should promote the development of visual language throughout the curriculum, not only isolated art classes.”

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.

I’ve become the absent-minded professor

Charcoal Drawings of Bones

When I first started teaching at the college level in 2005, I remember staunchly pledging to myself that I was going to eternally remember and appreciate every single student I ever had.  Nothing bothered me more as a student than when professors didn’t take the time to get to know each student as a unique individual.

Now it’s ten years later, and I find myself walking around the RISD campus, bumping into students who wave and call out my name.  Once in a while I remember a student’s name, but more often than not, I have to wave back and just say “Hello” without a name.  All I can think to myself is: “I totally know you were my student, but I can’t remember your name, or what semester I had you.”

Obviously, that pledge I initially made is long gone. When I contemplate the sheer number of students I’ve taught in one decade, the numbers are dizzying. The other day I was looking at my grade archives, and I’ve now taught 25 classes of Freshman Drawing at RISD, (20 students per class) and that’s not counting all the other courses I’ve taught in the Illustration Department, the Printmaking Department, and the three other schools I taught at before.  I’m at the point now where I’ve had so many students that if you’re not in my class right now, it’s pretty much guaranteed I won’t remember your name. (and if you shave your head and/or dye your hair, there’s no chance)

I casually told this to a student once, and so he asked me how he could get me to remember him.  I told him that he would have to pull some totally outrageous stunt in class, or, be extraordinarily amazing or terrible in some manner. That semester, he put himself on a personal mission to cement himself into my brain.

Final Crit

He succeeded, and I will never, ever forget him.  He performed the most precise impersonation of my critiquing style for the entire class one day to hysterical laughter from the other students.  I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard in my entire life. He had all of my physical mannerisms, hand movements, the right phrases and vocabulary, the correct intonation of my voice, and the facial expressions down to an exact science. (apparently, there’s a point in crits where he says that I “go in for the kill” by bending my knees, lunging my body forward, and pointing my finger at the drawing) Let’s just say that I learned things about my physical movements that I never knew before. Teaching certainly does expose you to a high level of scrutiny in a way that other professions do not!

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