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Art Advice - Want to start at the beginning in a structured environment.

EncEnc A Fool with CompassionPronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
edited August 2019 in Artist's Corner
Hey all, you know me from maps and other things maybe.

I've been readmitted to my local university for Studio Art, which is what I have always wanted to do as a degree, but my enrollment status pretty much precludes ever actually getting into the courses. So I'm left with a couple of options:
  • Pray and hope each semester that I'll get into 1 or 2 of the intro courses, which right now has about a 10% or less shot of happening (but I wouldn't have to pay tuition if I did successfully get in).
  • Go to my local art atelier and take community classes for about $300 a course, with 5 blocks a year.
  • Enroll in self-directed Udemy courses.
  • Other options for instruction?

My real goal is to get structured guidance from beginning drawing through advanced digital painting and illustration over time. I'm making some money now with my various D&D related products and map commissions, but what is preventing me from really diving into that market is having a solid foundation to also do digital painting and character art. I need to not skip steps here and work my way toward it, and my hodge-podge finding freemium guides and books over the years has helped but not really gotten me the momentum I need to really improve (much less feedback).

My day job pays fairly well, and I can absorb some costs, but I'm wanting to make sure what I invest in is actually going to help my ability. What would you suggest?

Enc on


  • DoodmannDoodmann Registered User regular
    Would it be easier to get into courses if you had prereque's done? It might be worth the small investment at the CC level if it opens up opportunities for free where you are.

    The real answer is to do it a lot, and find some nice people to give you brutal but constructive critique as you do it. As far as I can tell, that's really what you are paying for in taking classes.

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  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    edited August 2019
    Yeah, the do it a lot piece I'm good with. I've been doing other forms of art for about 20-30 hours a week each week for years now. But nothing with traditional drawing and painting (and I've started hitting practice with the old figure drawing and traditional art pdfs and books I've picked up along the way over the last few weeks as well). What I'm hoping to get is regular, critical feedback, which is what I'm missing. I'm pretty much self-taught, with the help of folks on here and the occasional pinterest tutorial, and while I can do a lot of design work and photography well, I have no foundation for drawing, especially figure drawing. I've been doing nightly sketches, but I don't feel I'm progressing well with self-directed study and I'm not really identifying what habits and problems I'm stumbling on along the way.

    The entire curriculum is mostly full up at 2-year and 4-year here unless I decide to pay for regular enrollment (which sucks since I got these three free classes a semester waivers for being an employee), but that looks to be what I'll be paying for come Spring.

    Enc on
  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    For turbo-boosting your basic drawing skills, an atelier is absolutely what you want. Most of them are far more useful than most university courses, tbh.
    What are you aiming to get out of the degree? That will help us advise on possible pathways - if you're interested in going into design, for example, then a tertiary degree will be helpful, but you can probably get the foundational stuff elsewhere and use the free classes to focus on the more theoretical or business side of things.

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    So I'm pretty settled into my hobby of making art for the various D&D games I run, and I also make a small side business out of selling maps, encounters, homebrew and the like as well. What I would like to do next, both for my hobby and for monitization, is get to a point where I can do my own character art and landscapes. Both because I love doing it, and because it would be rad to show my players their characters, and because having additional art content will definitely help my digital homebrew content sell better over time (though that is really just to recoup the costs for doing my hobby).

    I have no intention of teaching, going into a pipeline, or working beyond the occasional commissions I'm doing now.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    I would be careful using profits as a motivator because the rate at which you will see improvement might be slow, even with a class. Putting your mind to it and entering into an atelier can accomplish quite a lot, but you might not see a tangible return on your investment in any short order, particularly if this is a hobby split by many other activities, a job, and a social life.

    I've for sure seen people drop into school and come out with a ton of skill in short order, but it is usually someone who hyper focuses on it for a couple years. Something to keep in mind as you weigh your progress against your monetary investment.

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    Yeah the money bit isn't really a goal so much as an eventual side-effect. I don't need to make much to cover my software and hosting costs, and I'm already there. So expectations on that front are super low. I really just want to be able to paint the places in my head and provide images beyond words and pantomime of the characters my players encounter.

  • Angel_of_BaconAngel_of_Bacon Moderator mod
    It sounds like the atelier is your best bet, from the info given.

    Obviously a class you can't get into in the first place doesn't do you any good at any price. And if you're waiting for what, years? to get into it, it'd better be somebody amazing teaching that class.
    And if your university is anything like the one I went to, it definitely won't be worth that wait. (Spent 3 years waiting to get into a life drawing class, and am told by the teacher in their 60's that they'd never studied anatomy. Swell, glad I spent those 3 years studying anatomy books on my own, as to not have the thing be a total waste of time).

    With a university, you're kinda getting whatever they want to hand out (you wanna draw D&D characters and the Intro to Drawing teacher this term is all about non-representational neo-expressionist charcoal scribbles? Tough luck! And they'll probably be a real snob about it, too), but you, as a consumer, should really use your buying power to get the education that you want. Which works out, since people that are really good at art probably have realized they can make more money teaching outside universities, and they don't have to blow a ton of cash getting a master's degree for the privilege.

    That said, even at an atelier, you're probably not going to get 100% of all the education you might need or want just from the classes offered, so you'll probably still be buying books (most of the people I know that are good at art have bookshelves sagging under the weight of their art tomes), or going to outside workshops to fill the gaps regardless of the quality of instruction. (IE: A very traditionally focused atelier may be great for drawing from life, but may lack digital instruction, or not have much to offer in the way of character design, so you'll probably have to seek that instruction elsewhere).

    If you're signing up for a class, whether it's at a college or an atelier or online or in some dude's backyard art dojo: vet that teacher. Are they producing, or capable of producing the sort of work that you want to be making? If the answer is "no", or they won't show you their own work, look elsewhere.

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    Thanks everyone, this is all super helpful and a lot to think about. I appreciate it!

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