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Submitted on
April 30, 2013


27 (who?)

A NEW art school- a few thoughts

Tue Apr 30, 2013, 11:40 AM
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:…

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: 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.

  • Listening to: pandora
  • Reading: Invincible
  • Watching: Modern Family
  • Playing: by writing this journal
  • Eating: too, too much.
  • Drinking: afternoon coffee
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GeorgeCastro Featured By Owner May 25, 2013
I think it's a great idea Tom! I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

I'm always looking for affordable training, though I definitely see the worth of some of the online schools that are beyond my price range. I'm seeing an interesting dilemma of more than a few artists that are starting the route of online teaching as their full time profession, yet they only have a couple years experience. They worked at a studio for a project or two and now they want to share their knowledge? I'm sure it's useful, but If i had my pick, i'd rather industry veterans like yourself with 20+yrs experience be the ones sharing the knowledge.

As far as the type of teaching. There's so much content out there it's amazing. Almost anything you want to see how is drawn, is on youtube or similar sites. Without the interaction though, you're kinda left on your own to see if you understood what you watched and can apply it yourself. I deal with this a lot because i'm not in a class setting when i try to learn drawing. It's usually from books and dvds and online videos. It's a method that works, but i think at a slower more trial and error pace.

online classes that do have interactions and instructor feedback are usually pretty costly and schedule driven. Its like an actual class, just online. Like schoolism or gnomon, expensive, but at the same time what i see from ppl taking those classes are making progress at a much faster rate. The classes are usually limited to a few ppl as well like you mentioned.

So, is it possible to have the same type of interaction, allow more ppl to take the classes and still be super affordable? I don't know. Don't get me wrong, if what you come out with is lecture based videos without the interaction, i still want it! I think you bring a wealth of info on drawing, with your traditional animation background as well as drawing comics. I'm super excited to see what you come out with.

Any new updates on the training?

SweetSongBirdBeats Featured By Owner May 12, 2013
Hey Tom! Sounds like a great idea and I definitely to be part this, as an art student. Please, keep me informed about more information and details. :)
Orangeandbluecream Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Student General Artist
I'm going to the art institute and I have the feeling I'm wasting my money here.
Joespadaford Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
Something like this is great because, having taken more expensive courses you do wonder how much you have to retain based on the masses of money you spend on learning. For the money, the short forced time to work on a project, regardless of the busy schedule of life working family folks or students have. This offers a very good solution that fixes a hole in the market. Also this is very important for college students who hit up summer time and spend three months NOT drawing are at the very least learning. Many simple because there is no teacher. The 2-4 years you have to lean in school is beyond valuable and you cannot afford to take your summers off. This kind of class will all folks to have lessons, real lessons that wont eat up their money they need to save. Its like a summer class that you school teachers will love you for taking because many spend the first weeks of school just trying to get students to remember lessons. Tha waste of time and money breaks down like this: At a 30,000 dollar a year school you mostly have to take 18 credits per semester that means each credits is 833.33 a typical art class is 3 credits., there are about 12 weeks in the class making each class cost 2499. so if your teachers spends 3 weeks reteaching you the crap you forgot because you wanted 'take from break art for a summer' you will have wasted 643 dollars of loan money because you did not make the effort to learn over the summer. And since you take about 3-4 studio classes a week that nuber can range from 8330.00 for 4 classes to 7497.00 three studio classes. Thats throwing away money. That money could be saved by taking these types of classes over the summer. Just a though guys.
rem-dog Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
Think bigger, Tom. Think about the current technology. You could provide live instruction via Ustream or Justintv, give real-time red-line critiques with a cintiq drawing over the work in photoshop, you could even look at work as it's done, and talk with the student via tinychat. I'm currently at Ohio State studying to be an art teacher to (almost) do the very thing you propose. It's the best viable option out there for art educators to get any work, I think. With the homeschooler crowd, you could have quite the market, there, I think.
rem-dog Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
P.S.: Maybe you could call it an Atelier, since it's more of a master/apprentice thing, rather than a teacher/student relationship.
thelittledeadgirl666 Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Student General Artist
I was accepted into quite a few very good programs where I am, spanning between illustration, animation and concept art. But then I became quite ill. I suffer from several crippling auto-immune diseases that leave me unable to leave my bed most of the time, let alone attend school. It also prevents me from drawing on a consistent schedule because of pain and swelling. Despite all of this, I am still working hard on my dream of becoming a professional comic artist and illustrator. Having more options for school, beyond the physical buildings and expensive online programs, would be amazing for me. I know from personal experience that I tend to work better when I can get some feedback, and when I have deadlines.

I still miss being surrounded by other artists. My idea of bliss was sitting in life drawing, on those DAMN uncomfortable donkeys with my drawing board and headphones. The entire atmosphere was amazing. But I understand and need to come to terms with my own limitations now and I need to find a way to keep moving forward.

Anything new would be amazing to check out. I will almost literally try anything.
JCoolArts Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Student Filmographer
I find the best way to learn for me was to watch an instructional video where the artists face is seen part of the time mostly at the beginning and then the focus switches to the paper. It's almost as if the art instructor is sitting down and teaching a personal lesson. I find that I absorb most through this style of instruction.

A new art school with skilled masters teaching at it would be great for all, and if I ever get an extra 20/80 I'll be sure to look into myself ^^
liebestrauma Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
Tom, I've been looking around for a mentor/producer-type figure, so am definitely interested in what you and your colleagues are looking at offering :D

Short version of my story: I did a one-year animation Grad Dip 2 years ago, after having spent years as an architect. The course was animation/interactive media, so fairly open-ended and assignments were structured so you could do either animated or interactive. I went into the course very clear that I wanted to animate and make a short film....which is exactly what I did. [I think the danger with these courses is you can end up dabbling in a lot of different things, but if you don't have a clear aim in mind you can drift - one year, four years, the only difference is your debt levels]

I cringe at my student film now because it's so raw-looking, but it was made completely from scratch in one semester... and it did go on to screen at a small handful of festivals. My teachers covered a lot of ground between them: they'd talk to you about 2D/3D minutiae, editing, programming, the animation principles, character, story, sometimes all in the same paragraph. BUT. I'd worked through a couple of animation online tutorials on my own, as well as done as much drawing as I could manage on a full-time job. So I guess everything I'd soaked up over the years plus pent-up passion just sort of exploded onto the screen :D The teachers were there as guides for your own journey, but you really had to know where you wanted to go. They taught me everything I know now about story and cinematography. It's so obvious now, but I had to be told that cameras move(!)

And after all of that - my local animation scene isn't so much a pond as a puddle. Finding animation work is near on impossible, let alone finding animation work that isn't Flash puppets *and* that lasts longer than 2 months. I eventually fell into another architectural/drafting-type job, but am horrendously depressed by the thought of never being able to animate professionally. I've just started interning (unpaid) one day a week on a beautiful 2D independent film - it's quite a hit to my finances esp after 1.5 years out of work, but I can just about afford it. I'm just as grateful for the opportunity as my director is for the extra pair of hands, and he has a very fine lead animator on the job too.

Which is my longwinded way of saying, a) I'm trying fruitlessly to achieve feature-quality animation skills on my own; b) I desperately need help/encouragement/kickinthepants to make a "real" showreel; and c) there's not really anyone locally I can approach, seeing as the prevailing aesthetic is either zany-Flash-puppet or I'm-a-fine-artist-and-classical-skills-really-cramp-my-style. Help!! :D
tombancroft Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Professional Filmographer
THis is a story I've heard way too much. I am glad, though, that you keep pushing yourself to stay in the world of 2D animation you love. Good for you. I hope it pays off in wisdom and accomplishment. Hang in there!
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