Saturday, June 27, 2009

THE ILLUSTRATION ACADEMY

This week I played hooky for a few days to sit in on lectures at the Illustration Academy in Sarasota, Florida. The Academy assembles some of the most talented and successful illustrators in the country to discuss their work and teach young artists in hands-on sessions.

I had the pleasure of listening to presentations by
Mark English:



Sterling Hundley:



Gary Kelley:



Anita Kunz:



and
George Pratt:



If you tried to single out some distinguishing characteristic that accounted for the success of these illustrators, it was certainly not the way they marketed their services. (They had very different techniques.) Nor did they work in a common style-- they used a wide variety of approaches. It was not the stage of their careers (their ages range from 33 to 76) or the medium they used (some painted with computers and some painted with roofing tar). It was not their geographic location (they came from all around the US and Canada) or their gender or their politics. Yet, this group repeatedly won top awards and received choice assignments from the premiere publications.

So what did they all have in common?

It seemed to me that they all shared a deep curiosity about images and the interplay of form and content. Each of these illustrators had the enthusiasm and energy to cast their net again and again for fresh inspiration, exploring new themes and media. This, more than any career roadmap or promotional strategy, seemed to be their common ingredient. Not one of them lapsed into using a repetitive formula. I was surprised at how much of their work was self-generated; one persuaded a symphony orchestra to team with him in an experimental show of projected images to accompany Gustav Holst's
The Planets. Another went on a pilgrimage to the backwoods of the Mississippi delta to develop a project on the blues. Their broad intellectual curiosity added a richness to their illustrations that seemed to distinguish them from illustrators who took a more perfunctory approach.

Finally, I would like to add one other observation about my experience at the Illustration Academy. I've spent enough time around the New York art gallery scene to develop an extreme distaste for the phony hocus pocus that often accompanies the creation and sale of art. Sure, I respect the mystery of the muse-- my skin has tingled at the feel of her breath on the back of my neck-- but I can't stand it when her mystery is exploited to inflate a price or glamorize a particular artist. Many artists and art galleries today operate like the high priests in ancient times who cloaked sacred activity within a mystic tabernacle to keep the uninitiated awestruck.

The artists at the Academy, on the other hand, de-mystified everything they could legitimately de-mystify. They had a healthy respect for the role of the muse in creating art, but they did not expand her role for their own self-aggrandizement. Instead, they spoke in honest and functional terms about the genesis of ideas and the ways that art communicates. It was as clean a discussion of the making of art as I've heard in a long time, by people with a sincere interest in passing along helpful information to younger artists, and it reminded me why I like illustration so damn much.

52 Comments:

Blogger Diego Fernetti said...

Wonderful post. George Pratt is one of my all time favourites!

6/28/2009 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Hundley, the rest ain't worth a second glance, awards or not... And Hundley still can't draw hands...

6/28/2009 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that the Anita Kunz who does the New Yorker covers? This looks like a different style for her. What is she like? She is an inspiration to me as an artist

AP

6/28/2009 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Bruce said...

Sounds like a great program. This illustrators are the cream of the crop. Is this related to the old illustrators workshop?

6/28/2009 3:00 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

First anonymous, I remember your comments from an earlier post. I did not expect to persuade you back then to adopt my views about the way Sterling Hundley draws hands, but I at least hoped to persuade you that when you take a position you have to be prepared to articulate a reason for it. Nevertheless, I am grateful to you for helping my traffic statistics back then because every time you wrote a comment, a dozen people wrote in to say that you were a moron.

Thank you for drawing the connection to your previous "hands" comments. Now I won't waste any effort taking this new comment seriously.

6/28/2009 3:14 PM  
Anonymous JL said...

I love that Pratt painting! What is it from? Did they show their original paintings at the school?

6/28/2009 3:16 PM  
Blogger Diego Fernetti said...

Well, since it was mentioned... What about a "One lovely drawing" post about hands?

6/28/2009 4:01 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Well, David, it didn't take long for what should be an elevating and inspiring post to drop down to what the hoi polloi likes and dislikes. But in their defense, Abe Lincoln said something like..."the Lord must have loved the Common Man because he made so god-damned many of them"...or something to that effect.

Before encountering the ensuing mosquito swarm, I was indeed buoyed up by your writing on the the Illustration Academy and the true generosity of spirit (something unknown among the carping anonymoids) of these obviously skilled and dedicated artists. How wonderful of them to share the many worthwhile bits of wisdom they have accumulated over their term of their practice and how in direct opposition that is to the inability of the Common Man to have anything of enough value that would compel anyone to walk across the street to see, let alone take off to the wilds of Florida to witness.

Again, thank you for taking us along with you. I appreciate it.

6/28/2009 7:46 PM  
Blogger ARMAND CABRERA said...

David,

Another great post.
I have to say that your comment pointing out illustrators finding the best way to communicate by exploring different media and styles is true. This is where gallery artist fail miserably. Many find a hook and repeat it over and over like some one hit wonder group touring the country for fifty years playing their only top one hundred hit. Yet illustration is always looked down upon. I think it is mostly a lack of facility by artists without illustration backgrounds. They do one thing, it sells; they keep doing it. So much for the higher ideals of fine art

6/28/2009 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Marc said...

"they do one thing, it sells; they keep doing it."

And the galleries support it for not only that very reason but because it also helps in public identification of the artist's work.
There's such a large muddy sea of artists out there fighting for recognition in the fine arts, and the persona of the artist is often judged to be of foremost importance.
I could be wrong, but one imagines in the illustration field it's a little more "get me the guy who did so and so for Joe whatisface."
The work is first, not the artist.

6/28/2009 10:08 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Another good post David, and I think you're right about what makes them good illustrators, which is also what makes good illustration hard to do. It is very easy to settle into the easy approach of doing things, but good illustration challenges the artist not only in technical skill, but in a intellectual / conceptual (I hate the word, but can't think of another way to say it) way.

6/28/2009 10:18 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

I'd love to hear these illustrators talk. I've admired Hundley since you introduced me to his work. Do you recommend this program for recent graduates from art school?

6/28/2009 11:44 PM  
Blogger Francis Vallejo said...

Moran: Yes. With sincere honesty I can guarantee you will learn more at the 7 weeks at the Academy than all of your art school experience. I can validate that statement with my experience: I am attending the Academy for the 2nd time now (just graduated form art school a month ago), and both times have been phenomenal. Not just in terms of technique, but how to live your life as an artist, and your most important attribute: your brain. They really give you the opportunity to think about this art that you are creating, and why you do what you do, along with what you have to say.

David: It was a pleasure to meet you, if only briefly. Thanks so much for maintaing this blog, and for keeping people thinking.

best,
-francis

6/28/2009 11:55 PM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

"Many artists and art galleries today operate like the high priests in ancient times who cloaked sacred activity within a mystic tabernacle to keep the uninitiated awestruck.
The artists at the Academy, on the other hand, de-mystified everything they could legitimately de-mystify."


Too true. So many "fine" artists have nothing to say about technique; so many illustrators are treasure troves of useful information.

I once had the chance to show George Pratt some of my work for critique, and he quickly identified a flaw in my work that I'd never seen addressed in any art books. Sound advice, on the spot!

6/29/2009 1:22 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Gary Kelley is fantastic. I've admired his work for a long time.

6/29/2009 1:28 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Barron Storey seems to be a key influence on many young(ish) illustrators from the states today. i did a search of your blog but couldn't find any mention of him... are you a fan ? Pratt and Hundley both seem to bear traces of his influence.

you might also like Andrea Wicklund who's work has touches of both Storey and Fuchs.

6/29/2009 4:34 AM  
Blogger Yung Kee Hui said...

Must have been a treat. Sterling Hundley is one of my favourites (and I second the comment on Barron Storey).

On closer inspection of the Hundley piece you presented, I just happened to notice 'Galt Macdermot's' name is mis-spelled!

6/29/2009 5:45 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Diego-- I agree that Pratt does excellent work. What I did not realize until I heard him speak is that he also has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the graphic and popular arts. I was particularly impressed by the fact and that he is engaged simultaneously on a variety of projects-- documentary films, photography, graphic novels, historical investigations that take him to Mississippi, Romania, Auschwitz-- he is an endless fountain of activity.

Second anonymous (AP), yes, that is the one and only Anita Kunz. I thought about using one of her well known New Yorker covers as my example, but I really like this piece and thought it would show some of her range.

Bruce, I believe that Mark English was the original inspiration for the first Illustrators Workshop, and he provides continuity today. Interestingly, some of the faculty for the Illustration Academy were students in the old workshop. That tells you something.

6/29/2009 6:44 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

JL, most of the speakers either brought original art with them or (even better) created it right in front of the students. That's a good example of what I mean by the openness of the program. Nobody tried to cloak their work in a mystic veil. They created pictures out in plain view. I watched Mark English draw three figure drawings from a model, talking the students through each step.

Diego, I am certainly an admirer of well drawn hands, and I've done a post or two on choice examples, such as Mort Drucker's work. You could be right, it may be time for another.

Rob, thanks for the thoughts (and the sympathy). I know from your book, The Illustrators Bible (which I tracked down after you began commenting on this blog) that you have a similar philosophy of teaching.

6/29/2009 6:56 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Armand.

Marc, Chris Payne made a similar remark to me during the break. Students had asked a lot of questions about how to price work, when to discount, how to build the right kind of reputation, how many postcards to send out, etc. and Payne remarked that the important thing-- the "pinnacle"-- is the work. He said that if an illustrator can deliver great quality consistently and on time, the rest will all take care of itself.

Matthew, I was impressed with what you call the "intellectual / conceptual" side of these discussions. These were highly literate and articulate people who took that component seriously and the conversation moved seamlessly between Picasso and Norman Rockwell.

6/29/2009 7:08 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

MORAN, I wasn't quite sure how to respond to your question since I haven't taken the classes and I am not a graduate of an art school, but it looks like Francis beat me to it. You could not ask for a more reliable guide than him.

Francis, thanks for pitching in here. I'm sorry we never really got a chance to talk when I was down at the Academy-- I would have loved to stay longer but I had to race to the airport because of other obligations. I enjoyed meeting you and look forward to seeing you again in the future.

6/29/2009 7:18 AM  
Blogger Haylee said...

I'm incredibly bummed that I couldn't be at the Academy this year to be able to meet you, David! I've always been a huge fan of Illustration Art's blog. I hope you will be attending next year's lectures so we may be able to meet.

6/29/2009 10:06 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Thanks, Francis!

6/29/2009 11:15 AM  
Blogger Peter Breese said...

Great post! A few thoughts:

I agree that illustrators must adapt and change with the palette of the society they hope to enchant. However, I often experience tremendous downward slides when I express a new evolution in my style. For this and other reasons, the torrent of pressure to repeat your "unique" style can sometimes be overwhelming.

In addition, like most systems, networking and money are the kings that rule over us. The extra time I would utilize for evolution is awash in marketing.

Do you have recommendations to the greenhorn drowning in the instant - give it to me now - consumer market that devised Facebook, blogger, twitter, etc...? Though I agree with Payne's comment, the work doesn't exist if it is never seen.

Thank you so much.

6/29/2009 11:17 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Francis, if you could, how would you define the difference between the Illustration Academy and art school?

6/29/2009 4:16 PM  
Blogger kenmeyerjr said...

You lucky dog! I would have been thrilled to see ONE of that group!

6/29/2009 7:07 PM  
Blogger kenmeyerjr said...

I should add that I WAS lucky enough to see one of the group (Hundley) speak, here at SCAD, and he was literate, personable, and more humble than you would think.

6/29/2009 7:12 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Peter, I fully understand what you mean by the downward slide. The strange thing that I have found is that sometimes I will attempt to use a new medium in an illustration, it works really well, I get excited, the next illustration I try to use the same medium and I realise I don't know how to use it. Much sobbing ensues.

But then I realise that experimenting, succesful or not, is part of the fun of illustrating.

6/29/2009 7:29 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Does anyone have an answer to Rob's question, who has attended the Illustration Academy and art school? The faculty alone seems like an excellent reason to go, and I will probably apply next year but are there other differences? Francis, do you have an opinion about this?

6/30/2009 1:34 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/30/2009 5:56 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Matthew, I would say that one should not experiment on assignments. The commission was granted on the basis of being able to adhere to a given set of standards. It's unfair to the client to present them with something that may be vastly different from what they were led to believe they'd receive.

If someone did that when selling you a car or a fishing pole or a suit, it would be called "Bait and Switch."

Experimenting should be done in the same way we expect with cars, fishing poles and suits...one prototypes, not on altering items the client has ordered. I understand the urge to press one's ideas on the unwilling, but you have to admit that it's a form of arrogance that we artists feel justified in having because we feel we're infallible in our judgments.

6/30/2009 5:57 AM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

I agree with you Rob, but I was in the fortunate (or not, depending on your point of view) of working for a newspaper who did not have a real art director (instead, we had journalists/editors who were generally pretty apathetic about the end result, as long as it was done by deadline and wasn't going to offend anyone important). The only arbiters of our finished work was ourselves (myself and the other illustrators). If the experiment didn't work, we would just rework the illustration in a "safe" style. I know that amount of freedom is rare and I tried to take as much advantage of it as possible.

6/30/2009 9:02 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Haylee, you are very kind, and I appreciate your words very much. By next year I could be tarred and feathered by an outraged readership, but you never know.

Peter, you raise some excellent questions and I hope we get some helpful responses. I know what you mean about taking chances when your work evolves to a new level. There are no guarantees for either you or your clients that an evolutionary change will work out well. Illustrator Bob Heindel used to say that it irritated his representatives when he tried something new, because it made his work harder to sell. It did not "look" like a Heindel. But the great illustrators seem to be the ones who are willing to re-invest the capital they have built up. As for recommendations, I am sure that many readers are closer to the action than I am. I have built a protective circle around my most important, personal art to insulate it from harsh market forces. And I was impressed by the number of illustrators at the Academy who had a separate category called "personal art" that seemed to serve as an incubation chamber for experimentation until they felt a new approach was able to withstand market scrutiny.

6/30/2009 12:48 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence, Barron Storey and Francis Livingston spoke just before I arrived. Chris Payne spoke after I left. I am sorry I missed them, and the other artists who spoke.

Yung Kee Hui, you either have an eagle eye or an unnatural affection for 1960s broadway theatre.

Rob, an interesting question. You should probably explain your own pedagogical history so that Francis knows the question is coming from someone with a professional interest.

6/30/2009 12:59 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>You should probably explain your own pedagogical history so that Francis knows the question is coming from someone with a professional interest.<<<

You're right, David. I don't want Francis to think that that I am baiting him. Far from it. The Illustration Academy sounds as though it's very much in keeping with my beliefs about the art of illustration having a basically practical nature that is particularly appealing to the practical nature that has always defined that which is American (look to the philosophical writings of James and Peirce to see philosophical practicality defined as distinctly American).

I was reading an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education at http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=9rj47slj8l5ycmlvmykjnl1r43dg1hxb in which a Ph.D. working on a post-doctoral fellowship at University of Chicago (no back-water cow college) realized that he was ill-prepared to get a job. While rebuilding his motorcycle, he realized how intertwined the mind and the hands were. His enquiry led to him opening a repair shop in Virginia and writing the book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.

This is a work of true scholarship and it very much parallels my deepest feelings about the very special place occupied by illustration. A few years ago, the realist painter, Graydon Parrish, thanked me for being an illustrator. He said that it was we illustrators who were the frontline in keeping the skills and techniques of realistic work alive.

Before I address the pedagogical background, let me say that I began as a strong adherent to the Shavian dictum…”those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” It certainly displays mordant Shaw’s wit but is it true?

My early background is sure to give David fits of apoplexy. At age sixteen, my first real art teacher was the influential Abstract Expressionist, Hans Hofmann. I spent a summer in Provincetown, living in a youth hostel, studying with Hofmann and meeting some of the luminaries of the art world. Both Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell were particularly kind to me. Among that group, I was known as “the kid who can draw,” but I threw myself into trying to understand spatial concepts that bordered on philosophical musings. It would be difficult to see their influence in my work, but it’s there.

Hofmann was a great teacher and God or Nature, in a rare act of justice, gave him a lasting fame in his later years. Art school (the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston) was a jumble of good and bad. It seemed that those of us destined to work in the field of art, ran away from school after a year or two. Larry Poons and Kaffe Fassett are fellow runaways. We were fortunate because most art schools were (and still are) places of employment for marginal artists. The reality is that the success rate for art schools and, especially, art departments of liberal arts colleges (the idea of an old master with a master’s degree is an endless source of mirth) is abysmal. That’s why I was interested to learn if the Illustration Academy had the practical trappings of a trade school (hey, don’t look down your nose. We’re manual workers in that we work with our hands…unlike brainy guys like Bernie Madoff).

continued...

6/30/2009 4:13 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

...2 continued...

Once I was able to get past Shaw’s snobbery, I decided to try to teach. Guess what? It’s difficult! It took me a while to learn how to do it with any effectiveness. I was urged to put some of what I know into books and Watson-Guptill published them for years. I’m now with Random House but W-G had The Illustrators Bible in print for seventeen years and I am assured that it has had its effect. BTW it’s now a Google Preview book, with several chapters available online, free. I also wrote a book about my first love…gouache. At that point I teamed up with CompuServe to found The Artist Forum. At that point Artist Forum was the largest online source for art-related info on the net. It had 62,000 paying members and provided a tidy source of income. There are now much larger art-related fora on the net, but they’re free and that has the same weight as signing your name “anonymous.”

What has become my strength is the technical end of making art. I actually went back to school to study organic chemistry in order to better understand what was going on at a molecular level. Kewl! I was a good solid illustrator with lots of books and magazine to my credit. When the field began to decline I switched over to portraiture (portraits and western art are the illustrator’s version of The Elephant’s Burial Grounds). Not to be a downer but, I don’t envy you guys coming up. There are fewer opportunities and the money is DEFINITELY not there. Still, it’s important that those headliners at the Illustration Academy keep the torch lit. It’s a tribute to the love we have for this field that they take the time to guide the next generation of practitioners.

6/30/2009 4:14 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Rob you've seen a lot. What's the difference between art school and trade school? Are you saying that arts schools fail because of what they teach? My school has one professor who teaches the old skills. I want something better.

6/30/2009 4:53 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob, while I did not observe the studio classes. I think I heard enough during the lectures to respond that the answer is probably yes, the instructors at the Illustration Academy are not ashamed to focus on the "basically practical nature" of what artists / illustrators do, and how students might translate that effort into a socially useful product that gives a young artist food to eat and a car to drive. I would shy away from the term "trade school" because no matter how apposite, the term carries so much baggage that it would take 10 pages of disclaimers to correct all of the bad connotations and misimpressions.

I guess I would say that much of what I was hearing was closer to carpentry than alchemy, which is a good thing. Let me tell you, when you sit in a darkened room and see Gary Kelley's images roll out to the booming soundtrack of "Mars, the Bringer of War" from Holst's The Planets, the "basically practical" aspect of art does not in any way lessen the thrills and chills of the over all result.

And if you respect the workmanlike portions of the process (or the "soulcraft" as your motorcycle repairman would say) then you end up with a much cleaner and more honest appreciation for the legitimately transcendental parts of the process (I'll see your William James and raise you Ralph Waldo Emerson).

6/30/2009 6:40 PM  
Blogger Francis Vallejo said...

Rob and Moran: At this point in my life, as a new graduate, I feel that art school was more of a excuse to hang around other artists for 5 years. I didn't learn much from actual classrooms and teaching, but instead I grew the most from living in tiny dorms with 4 other passionate illustrators as we tried to out do each other every night. I learned a little from my teacher George Pratt in the classroom, but I learned incredible amounts informally outside the classroom working on paintings, and scouring over books. So in reality I have $120K worth of loans to pay back so I could hang around artists and have facilities to use. I'm fortunate now to be at a computer at the Academy as I write this, but it scares me to death to be out in the "normal" world with no art buddies constantly around. That community is the main benefit of art school. Every time I speak to a friend from school who has moved back home, they emphasize how uninspired they are because they are in their own illustration bubble, and no one keeps them inspired. As far as teaching you anything, art schools are lousy. They are a business like anything else and they are out to make money by dangling new computers to all the students and giant new buildings. It's scary to research their business practices and see how much propaganda they use to draw in students.

J.S. Sargent attended Carolus Duran's classes for free in Paris because it honored Duran that Sargent was willing to learn. On the other end, it honored Sargent that Duran was willing to teach. Modern art schools have lost that spirit. It's about shuffling students through the classes and helping them get jobs. Getting a job is great, but that shouldn't be the end all, be all. What about creating quality, meaningful pictures? That is what the Illustration Academy is concerned about. They want you to take a illustration gig, and not just fulfill the project, but make a picture that is going to mean something. A picture that pushes the medium forward and sincerely is an expression of yourself. I had maybe 3-4 teachers at my college that even mentioned this, with George Pratt being the most prominent proponent.

Sam Weber spoke during the lecture week that David mentioned. At the end he had an advice section. He stressed surrounding yourself with other passionate positive people. That is the basic philosophy of the Academy. It's a constant rotation of some of the best illustrators in the world, and 30-40 passionate young illustrators. You are not going to come across someone in figure class that is joking the whole time, and talking about their favorite video games while they work on a horrible digital painting (*cough cough*). Everyone here wants to be here and the work is a reflection of that.

I should mention that I'm not completely against art school. And I'm only really talking in terms of illustration. The one I attended is really one of the best in comparison. But they aren't necessary. If you only work on classroom assignments you are doomed. If I knew what I knew now, I may have followed a different route.

Probably the best thing you can do is to find a mentor. It's no accident that most successful artists throughout history have had a prominent figure in their lives that molded them as artists. Seek out that artist, don't wait until you happen to fall into his or her class at an art school.

cont.....

6/30/2009 10:02 PM  
Blogger Francis Vallejo said...

But if you are pursuing a career in illustration, the Academy is the best thing you can do for yourself. The relationships that I have formed here are some of my most cherished and will keep me inspired for many years to come.

Hope this helps! cheers!
-fv

ps. I suppose an addendum to this would be that I am attending The Repin Institute in St. Pete, Russia in the fall. It's a 6-7 year program and is the closest thing to the techincal instruction the Golden Age illustrators were getting after the Academy. Leyendecker had his European instruction and Rockwell had Bridgeman, etc. They received the classical training that eased the technical aspects of picture making, and allowed them to make vast images only limited by their imagination. One of the the problems I have with modern art instruction is how broad and vague it is. When you come out of art school you have a million mediocre skills since you were required to take so many classes so you'll be "hire-able." I do wish that the basics would be emphasized more in art instruction. Almost universally in modern times, it is up to the students to do outside studies.
pt.2


It's no wonder so many people are in awe of illustrators like Cornwell. But he was taught by Dunn, Fechin, and Brangwyn. All extremely solid technicians. That solid foundation needs to be brought back.

Sorry if I digress in my comments. I'm inspired by how eloquent David and many of the commenters are, so If I'm a little sporadic, please accept my apologies.

6/30/2009 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Montalvo Machado said...

Hi David,

First of all, congratulations for the blog, which has become a reference among illustrators all over the world.

It was a pleasure meeting you a the Academy, even not having the chance to extend the conversation as I'd like to. It was indeed a very busy week.

I'd like to add a comment based on my personal experience at the Academy, which I fully attended in '97 and '98: it changed my life.

I had 15 years of professional experience back then, and nothing in my carreer, before or after those two occasions, had such a huge positive impact on my work.

I owe most of what I do today, and what I am as a professional illustrator, to those artists at the Academy.

It was an honor to have them as my mentors then, as much as it is now to have them as friends.

The very best weeks I have ever had in my life.

6/30/2009 10:58 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Francis, thanks very much for sharing your observations. Although I seldom mention such intangibles, the importance of having a passion such as you have lies at the very heart of good art of any kind. I'm pleased to note that such passion is not limited to the young.

I applaud your plans to study at the Repin institute in St. Petersburg. The recent work coming out of there has been lively and inventive, not the same old atelier stuff.

Have you investigated the Ashland Academy of Art? That's driven by a passionate Russian (well, he's from Baku so that makes him that wonderfully passionate creature, an Azerbaijani. I had one for a student and he was on fire).

To show that passion can extend all of your life, another student has retired from a lifetime practice in psychiatry to study what has always been his first love, painting. After much searching about, he's starting as a full time student at Ashland.

From what you and David said, that lifelong passion was on display from all of the crackerjack illustrators teaching at the Illustration Academy. Seeing that is a priceless lesson. Sadly, that well-founded passion is lacking in so many art schools and, worse, art departments of colleges.

It's interesting to note hints made by your observation of the differences between students drawn to traditional means and those drawn to the digital. It will be interesting to see what evolves from the digital milieu. It's still too early to see a new aesthetic arising, although I think it will happen, just as it did when photography finally broke away from the aesthetic of the easel painter.

David and Moran, you're absolutely right about the baggage that comes with the term "trade school," although I think that you know what qualities I mean when I use it. The attitude of a student in trade school is very direct and practical whereas so many students at art school waft around in a hobbyist-cum-therapy mode, seeking something so ill-defined and ineffable that almost guarantees it will never be found. The trade school mentality contains definite goals and standards. For the aspiring illustrator, having well-defined goals is all to the good.

6/30/2009 11:28 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

anybody else wonder about the logic (and ethics) of training more and more potential illustrators (often at great personal expense) for a 'career' in a field already saturated with out of work illustrators ?

7/01/2009 7:04 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Francis, thank you very much for your honest thoughts. I have been thinking about this a lot and I can tell you know what you're talking about man and I respect that you are willing to share with us. I don't live in an area where there are a lot of other artists to be positive with, but the internet helps.

Did you find a mentor at the Illustration Academy? Those are some great artists but I bet they are pretty busy.

7/01/2009 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sound words, Francis. I have loans too and I am hoping I can make it as an artist when I graduate.

7/01/2009 11:03 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Montalvo-- thanks very much, it was good to meet you and I'm glad to hear that the Academy had such an impact on your work.

Laurence-- "anybody else wonder about the logic (and ethics) of training more and more potential illustrators (often at great personal expense) for a 'career' in a field already saturated with out of work illustrators ?"

Actually, I am pleased to report that this issue was discussed repeatedly and candidly. That's one of the things I respected most about the Academy; nobody spoke in euphemisms. Illustrators who had triumphed over the odds spoke with talented students who seemed, for the most part, undeterrable (which is how you'd better be if you want to become an illustrator or a rock star or a Hollywood movie goddess.) What can I tell you? The odds of success are much better than playing the slot machines in Vegas, yet far more people do that.

7/01/2009 4:04 PM  
Blogger jayday16 said...

I think George Pratt is the man! this work of art is great! i love it

7/01/2009 5:22 PM  
Blogger markmors said...

To Bob Howard,

You seem to not like the contemporary atelier system. Why is that? Are there any American schools that you like? I can understand why you dislike ARC--they are rather overbearing in their dislike of anything they do not dub realism.
Also, were you actually able to watch Kline and the others work?
Thanks for your time.

7/01/2009 7:04 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>You seem to not like the contemporary atelier system. Why is that?<<<

I judge them by the successes they produce. Revisiting the days of the horse and buggy during the age of space exploration strikes me as a bit unadventurous. Kinda like those guys who keep going to school and never dive into life outside the protective confines of the classroom. It's what they've been doing since kindergarten and they seem afraid to leave the comfort of the classroom.

>>> Are there any American schools that you like?<<< I like SVA when Nicolas Uribe and James Jean went there. I have their printed portfolios in my treasure chest. I look for great things from RISD no that Miida is at the helm.

>>>Also, were you actually able to watch Kline and the others work?
<<< Yes, but mostly we played softball. Those men were very kind to me and treated me well because I drew well at such a young age. After that summer in P'town, I visited them in New York. Because they were older men, they were always "Mister Kline, Mister Motherwell, Mister Hofmann."

Because my natural bent in art was so different (and they were so advanced) I can't say that they were much of an influence. However, (Mister) Hofmann's color theories have stuck with me. Pull-push is useful for anyone working with color on flat surfaces.

7/01/2009 10:01 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David, i hope you do a post on James Jean so we can hear some opinions of the new wunderkind.

7/02/2009 9:28 AM  
Blogger Trey. said...

nice post-

The academy simply gives you a space to work in. You do not have to move your supplies every three hours-back and forth from class to dorm to class. You simply sit there and get to work. At art schools (recent graduate with Francis) its all about getting you in, getting you out! Not many teachers cared about what I was doing unless I bothered them to act otherwise-

The academy offers something no art school can,
and you must go to witness it!

Thank you for the posts


-Trey Bryan

7/03/2009 1:27 AM  
Blogger Gringo said...

Nice review on the Academy. I don't get why people are comparing the academy with normal art school... it's so different. The first is an intensive seminar/workshop with the top pros, the other is for teaching you the basics. I don't think one can replace the other... I'm kinda surprised that Francis, in my opinion, didn't think his art school was good enough for him, besides the overall creative "push" he had with his roomates/classmates, & FYI (Ringling College of Art Design - one of the best BA programs in illustration anywhere). At least I felt that while I read his words. Of course 120k of education debt can make anyone overall dissatisfied.

About Barron Storey, his work is worthy of a blog post David. I'd love to hear what you think of his work!

7/05/2009 6:47 PM  

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