101 Things to Learn in Art School
by Kit White
“Artists assimilate a whole range of psychological, aesthetic, political, and emotional data points, and they then make forms to organize and give meaning to them. That takes skill and practice, working in tandem with intelligence and keen observation… Basic form-giving skills help the student make the bridge between thought and embodiment.”
Kit White is an associate professor in the MFA program at Pratt Institute. Here’s a sample of his insights:
“Art is continuing a dialogue that stretches back through thousands of years. What you make is your contribution to that dialogue. Therefore, be conscious of what has come before you and the conversation that surrounds you. Try not to repeat what has already been said. Study art history and stay alert to the dialogue of your moment.”
“Composition is the foundation of image making. It is the spatial relationships between all of the parts in an image. Whether a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, a video, or an installation, how a thing is composed determines its look, its feel, and its meaning. Compositional variation, like musical tunes, is limitless.”
101 Things I Learned in Film School
by Neil Landau with Matthew Frederick
“In my… twenty years of teaching, screenwriting, and filmmaking, I have been continually struck by how the creative process of filmmaking is at once painstakingly deliberate and fortuitously experimental,” writes Neil Landau, who teaches at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.
Creating a film or television program entails a variety of skills including budgeting, screenwriting, directing, acting, and numerous technical proficiencies. Here’s a sampling of the insights shared by the author.
“Film is a director’s medium; television is a writer’s medium. A movie is a one-of-a-kind undertaking: The production team and actors come together for several weeks or months to create a unique world that disappears upon the completion of filming. A strong director is essential in defining this world—form its artistic details to its broad nuances, script approval to casting, set design to special effects, and lighting and equipment to the overall visual style. A successful television series, by comparison, is long running, and production becomes rather standardized during its first season. The greatest challenge becomes the generation of new material each week, giving the gifted writer a proportionately greater opportunity to shine.”
101 Things I Learned in Fashion School
by Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick
“In my years of teaching, I have found that the greater obstacle… is not the acquiring of technical proficiency… but in accepting the need to design for real people… It took me years as a working designer to realize the importance of identifying a real living customer and recognizing what he or she will and won’t wear. Far from being anti-creative, it was for me the beginning of true creativity. For what is creativity if it isn’t to take something existing in one’s head and give it relevance in the real world?”
Alfredo Cabrera has taught and critiqued at Parsons The New School for Design, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Pratt Institute. Here’s a sampling of the insights he shares in the book.
“Simple clothes aren’t simple to design. When superfluous design elements are eliminated from a garment, more subtle considerations—proportion, line, fit—are magnified. This calls for a refined understanding of anatomy (e.g. how the neckline sits in relation to the clavicle), geometry, balance, positive and negative space, and the harmony of parts to whole.”
101 Things I Learned in Architecture School
by Matthew Frederick
Matthew Frederick presents 101 concepts in his “primer of architectural literacy.” Here is a sampling of his insights.
“Our experience of an architectural space is strongly influenced by how we arrive in it. A tall, bright space will feel taller and brighter if counterpointed by a low-ceilinged, softly lit space. A monumental or sacred space will feel more significant when placed at the end of a sequence of lesser spaces. A room with south-facing windows will be more strongly experienced after one passes through a series or north-facing spaces.”
The Truth About Art: Reclaiming Quality
by Patrick Doorly
“A bad work of art is an oxymoron, like bad skill,” writes Patrick Doorly, art history professor at Oxford University. “Art is high-quality endeavor.”
“Quality is not a thing but an event. When the subject [viewer] becomes aware of the object [art], quality describes the relationship that binds them… Beauty does not lie in the eye of the beholder, but that eye and the mind behind it form one half of the dynamic relationship we experience as beauty.”
The quality experience is preverbal. “It operates prior to intellectualization.”
The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick E. Robinson
This book explores the enjoyment of viewing art within the framework of flow, the psychology of optimal experience. Flow is an intrinsically rewarding feeling of total involvement in an activity. To be fully engaged in a state of flow, one must be skilled and challenged. The author studied museum professionals as a proxy for the more general art viewing population.
“The experience is one of an initial perceptual hook followed by a more detached, intellectual appreciation that returns the viewer to the work with a deeper understanding.”
“The best examples of objects containing such challenges are works whose meaning appears to be inexhaustible.” As one respondent put it, “‘A good painting will never be used up.’”
Four dimensions of aesthetic experience are explored: cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and communicative.
Figure Drawing For Artists: Making Every Mark Count
by Steve Huston
The two most fundamental concepts in Steve Huston’s approach to figure drawing are structure and gesture—the parts and the relationship between the parts.
“To understand and use the idea of structure well, it’s best to think like a sculptor, meaning we build our drawing and painting (as in sculpture) through a series of constructed forms… Think of it as the scaffold on which to hang your designs and rendering techniques.”
“Constructed forms automatically feel three dimensional when done well because the lines move over the form. Another way to think of it is that every mark we make, whether carefully rendered or loosely sketched, should act as a visual arrow.”
“Gesture is the connection, the relationship between the shapes… Gesture is the lifeline embedded inside any living form… This gestural idea makes your art look natural… It keeps our drawings from looking stiff, mechanical, and pieced together. It’s what gives the subject a lively and organic quality.”
Gesture is the long axis curve of the structure. “Gesture is defined by the long axis because all body parts connect end to end… Any artist who just focuses on the pieces ends up with pieced-together results. Art’s job is to orchestrate life into something powerful, effecting, and meaningful—something greater than the individual parts… Gesture is the chef’s secret sauce.”
“The longer and more graceful the gestural curve, the more smoothly the eye moves over the various forms… Always err on the side of the more dynamic. That means, if the gesture is curved, make it more curved. If the shadow is dark, make it a little darker.”