(Bouguereau’s Atelier at the Acadeemie Julian, Paris Art by Jefferson David Chalfant)
This post is inspired by a discussion (more like a rant) I had with friends on Facebook. It was about the current state of art schools (specifically at universities) and the growth of ateliers in the United States. I decided to turn my angry rant into an informative post for potential art students. It’s going to be a long post.
So what are ateliers?
Ateliers is the French word for workshop. These workshops were for apprentices and students to learn the necessary art skills to work under a principal artist. This was common practice for European artists from the Medieval period to the 19th century. Several famous artists studied under master artists, such as Michelangelo (he studied under Domenico Ghirlandaio when he was 13 years old). Currently, ateliers are modeled after old European private art studios. These smaller studios include a master artist(s) who teach a small number of students. There are many world renowned Ateliers all over the world. These studios include the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art (LAAFA), the Florence Academy of Art, the Art Student League of New York, and many more.
You can read more about ateliers here.
Why do I think ateliers are better than universities?
I do not want to nark on art schools too much. However, I think there are serious problems with the current state of art schools. I believe there are better options for students, and that includes the ateliers. Here are some of the reasons I think ateliers are better than art schools:
1. Ateliers are cost effective. Art schools (even at public universities) are pricey. A student can pay anywhere near $10,000-$20,000 at a public university per year. At a private institution you’re racking up to $50,000 or more. At ateliers, you’re only paying per class. Most classes (even the GREAT ones) can cost up to $300-$1000.
Sure, working artists can work comfortably, but we’re not doctors. So why should we attend art schools at med school prices?
Personally, the most I have paid is close to $1000 at Gnomon School of Visual Effects, and the least is $180 at the American Animation Institute. Both of these studios are excellent for an art and design education.
2. You do no need to turn in a portfolio in order to take a beginning art class at most ateliers. Most studio art classes only need a portfolio for advance classes, such as the Concept Design Academy. Beginners, intermediates, advance students, hobbyists, and career changers can take a class! In fact, it is encouraged at ateliers to repeat classes. So you will never feel left behind. As long as you have the money and determination, you are never denied.
Unless you apply in the last minute. Now that is your fault.
3. Students are not stuck taking irrelevant art classes. Generally speaking, students can learn what they want at ateliers. They pick and choose what classes they want. This is great for students with full-time and part-time jobs. Whereas, universities pick what they want students to learn. Sometimes these colleges teach classes that are not related to the student’s career goals. That’s a waste of time and money in my opinion.
4. Students who study under ateliers tend to pick classes based on the effectiveness of the teacher instead of how prestigious the school is. Even the most well known art schools and universities have crappy teachers. Again, college is expensive. Why pay ineffective teachers to teach you art? Like I previously stated, that’s a waste of time and money.
What type of school did I attend?
I attended both.
At my 4 year university, there was a higher focus on experimentation and philosophy. I think these aspects of art are fine. I also think they are very important. However, all potential artists need to learn the foundations clearly (i.e. figure drawing, perspective, color theory, etc) in order to succeed as working artists. The problem is that the universities are stuck on their elitist ivory tower, and are not preparing art students for the real world. They are rushing through the foundations (i.e: my school didn’t have a perspective class or a color theory class), and are focusing on experimenting.
I knew I wasn’t prepared to become a working artist when I graduated from my college. So I took a one way ticket to California, and attended classes at several different art studios. These studios included the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, LAAFA, Concept Design Academy, and 3 Kicks Studios. All of these schools have well known teachers who are preparing students for the real world. I have a long way to go, but these ateliers are helping me become a successful working artist
So… should you go to an atelier?
Well, that is up to you. Pick what’s best for your career. Do the research. I have already listed quite a few ateliers. I also posted a link to some of my favorite online art schools. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. You’re trying to become a working artist, not a doctor.
Hopefully this informative post will help you guys in your journey as artists. I honestly do not want anyone to go into debt with mediocre art skills.
Remember to draw everyday.
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