Hey everyone. I've been thinking a lot about art schools and how we learn as artists. So much so, that I'm at the point where I think I want to start an "online art school". Why the quotation marks? Because I'm still not sure if "School" is the right word for this new website I want to create. Without giving out much information because this is all a bit early, I want to talk about the motivations and goals we're trying to address with this future site. I said "we" on purpose. I have a business partner in this and his background is in creating online education (not artistic) schools from the I.T. side of things. Thank goodness also, because I know nothing about that side of things.
I guess you could say things started when I wrote my first book, "Creating Characters with Personality". While there are many, many drawings I would love to redraw for that book, I still like that book and get great responses from it because of one thing: the viewpoint I chose on that book was to teach the THOUGHT PROCESS behind how you approach drawing a character, and lesser of the step-by-step process. When I went down that road to create that book, for the first time, I really thought about 1) how I was taught art/drawing/character design and 2) how I go about the process of designing characters (or anything). We artists don't usually look too internally when we draw. "It's an intuitive process" we tell people. "I feel it", you also hear. I know I've said those things. And its true, because we go into our own world when we draw, and that place doesn't take notes very well. BUT coming out of that world and retracing those steps you took IS important to your growth. You will find mistakes made. Things you could have done better. You will learn. I feel strongly, that past elementary school age, you will NOT learn much from those step-by-step art books/tutorials that say to "start with a circle", add this line, this line, this triangle, and- voilà!- you have a drawing of an OWL" style of instruction! You will only know how to draw that owl from that angle, with those lines, with that expression and nothing more. You have not learned the thought process of why those lines and shapes were chosen to create that owl. The instructor has that knowledge but chose not to share it with you, but instead created a magic trick out of it so that when you follow those six or so steps and before you knew it- you had drawn an owl! I am going to say it here and now-that is not art instruction. It can be a hook to get you into drawing at a very young age. There are extremely simple concepts in that process that you do need to learn when first picking up a pencil and putting it to paper. The problem is that that level of art instruction has not changed for many people and is still used in high schools- and even colleges. I wrote a very popular Journal awhile back that is known as my ART SCHOOL RANT. Some of what we are trying to create is because of what I feel is wrong with SOME art schools. (Read it here if you like: [link]
This is a bit of a tangent, sorry. I am just trying to say that I've been on this path for a few years about HOW we learn as artists.
Is it by LISTENING to a lecture by a pro and seeing the examples he/she shows? Is it by WATCHING a pro sketch/ paint/ create his/her own work? Is it by receiving an assignment that is specific in its goals and drawing up your version of that assignment to show and get critiques from the instructor and/or your peers? Is it the "draw the pirate" style of copying a drawing and/or style as exactly as you can? Is it by reading all the art instruction books we can? Is it watching online tutorials by artists you respect/admire?
But the big question we need to ask is: HOW DO WE ARTISTS LEARN - TODAY?
I think its elements of most all of those questions above. What I've found, is that you can sum it up as we learn by: HEARING, SEEING, then DOING. And then DOING AGAIN.
We looked at the problems that face art students wanting to "break into" any art based industry. But rather than assume that there is only one path, the one that says you come out of high school and then attend an expensive art institute somewhere around the country/world, we said what other paths are out there? And where are the wholes? What needs fixing? Let's call these "PREVENTERS"- things that prevent you from having a smooth transition from leaving high school to obtaining that first great job in the arts. Here's what we've come up with (you tell me in the comments if you agree or not):
- Coming out of high school, you don't have a proper portfolio to get into some of the better art schools. Some will turn you away and it can take a few years before you can get accepted.
- Art Schools are EXPENSIVE, yet you graduate and struggle to get even a low paying job.
- Many leave art school ill-prepared to get the job they want. Usually, their portfolio is not adequate to get a job.
- Many art school instructors (not all) do NOT have industry experience and therefore don't know how to give assignments that are pertinent to you getting an "industry ready" portfolio.
- Online art schools by industry professionals are great, but are ALSO very expensive.
- Many of the better online art schools have a small amount of people they will accept per "class" and you have to be available during those dates- or you miss out.
- Art books are good and inexpensive, but don't give me the projects/assignments I need to build an adequate portfolio; they don't provide input when I do.
- I have to work to pay bills/support a family, I need to "do my art" on the side. I can only do it when I have free time- on my schedule.
-For PRO instructors: Why should I teach? I either can't because I don't have a BA or MA, or the pay is so low and takes so much time, I could just do freelance and make way more money for half the effort.
Lots of hurdles to get to do the thing you love and where born to do, huh?
What if there was an online destination (note: I am not saying school, schools are accredited and give out degrees), where you could learn what you wanted to in short, project-based snippets WHEN you wanted and for an affordable price? (Say, between $20-$80 per lesson). What if it also was an art community that had a peer to peer art critique system built in so that you could comment (nicely) on each others work while also having your instructor view/ comment? Much like we enjoy here on DA, you can have that in a Lesson based art instruction website. Only industry professionals give the lessons. And a wide variety of them from the comic book, comic strip, animation, concept art, video game, etc. worlds. Not only could you choose a lesson on whatever subject interests you, but you can do it at your pace and no one is going to say you HAVE to have already taken the prerequisite class before you take that one. (Though there would be ones suggested so you get the most out of it.) Suggested career paths could be given if you take Lesson 3, Lesson 14, and Lesson 39, etc. - you would be in training for a career (for example) in Concept art. For the instructors, they have a short amount of time that they put into their lessons/ filming (yes, these are video based classes) and they get the lions-share of the profits. And those lessons live on for as long as the site is around. But we don't own the lesson material rights, the author does. We are basically the itunes for your lessons. You are the artist. Instructors are encouraged to also hang out in the community because they will also have mini-sites in the destination. A place where we (as fans now, not just students) can purchase their new books, art prints, and read their blogs. Its a win-win for instructor and student. Will we get people that have never taught before, but we all WANT to? You bet. We will build the site so it is easy for them to communicate to you. Even if they still have a hard time doing emails.
It's coming. Let me know what you think in the comments. The next step, if you are interested in this is to go to my (present) site: www.charactermentorstudio.com and make sure I can reach you by hitting SUBSCRIBE, and putting your email in on the top right corner. We will read all comments.
Thanks! Tom B.