Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Art Education: Practice Types

Last time we talked about how to objectively judge a person’s current ability within a discipline using the Dreyfus Model. Today I’ll be giving my personal theory about what types of practice are best for students and professionals of various levels, and how to determine what type of practice is right for you.

I formed this theory by combining my own experiences learning sports, art, music, and mathematics with advice given by notable teachers of animation and art. My litmus test has been that I must be able to apply these practice methods to any subject a person might want to learn, although practicing skills is this system’s focus, not academic memorization.

The five categories I’ve identified are listed below with a short description of each and an example of the type of activity you might engage in if your goal was to learn how to draw. Remember that these are broad categories however, and may be applied to any skill or discipline.

Willy Pogany’s Life Drawing Lessons


When first approaching a subject, the concepts and working methods are all completely new, therefore the first and most basic type of practice is the type which is most widely used in the classroom: Academic practice. This would include all newly introduced or researched information which comes from an authoritative source such as a textbook, tutorial, lecture, or guide.

This type of practice is most helpful right at the beginning of a student’s study. If you find that general knowledge about the way your discipline works is absent, or that parts of the working methods of your skill are hazy or poorly understood, this is the type of practice you should engage in first. However, as soon as a workable understanding of the concepts is obtained Academic practice should be abandoned in favor of a different type to allow the student to internalize what they’ve learned.

In drawing this would be the equivalent of learning body proportions and anatomy. These are very critical and useful areas of study, but if that’s all you practice, your work can only ever look like a textbook illustration.

Public Sketching – Gordon Grant


In order to become a confident and skillful practitioner, a student must commit to hours of practical application. In sports all minute aspects of the game are drilled endlessly until each action becomes as natural as breathing. In music, scales and rhythm exercises are used as warm-ups even by highly accomplished musicians so that they become second nature. Drilling is any task which you already know how to do, and can perform repeatedly in small rapid bursts.

This type of practice is the next most common type of activity employed by students and professionals. In essence, the purpose of drilling is to gain confidence and familiarity with your working methods. A pleasant byproduct of drilling is an increase in speed and a decrease in error making. Many professionals if not most of them continue using drilling throughout their careers as a way to keep sharp.

Drilling in illustration would represent public sketching, thumb-nailing compositions, or plein air painting just to name a few.

William Lee Hankey

Quality Test

At the point where a student believes they have learned enough to become competent, it may be time to put all of their acquired skills into practice by attempting to perform their discipline to the best of their ability. In sports, this would be game day, in music it would be the concert or recital, and in art, this would represent a single piece of artwork meant to  showcase the artist’s talents.

Art made for a quality test should be made carefully, slowly and deliberately. No time limit should be imposed and the artist should be as thorough and careful as they can possibly be in order to push the limits of their ability to the extreme.

Performing work of this type may often have humbling results, revealing exactly what shortcomings the student has yet to overcome. As a diagnostic tool, this type of practice is invaluable, and also provides milestones for the student as they progress so that they can compare their current work to their past work.

Quality illustrations should  make up much of a student’s portfolio along with life drawings.

Gustaf Tenggren Comparison


After mastering the basics through the use of Academic and Drilling practice, it becomes necessary for a student to explore their own preferred methods and to attempt to expand their ability beyond what can be taught to them explicitly. Experimental practice is done to attempt to create a new work method or a unique result which is entirely the student’s own. It is important to note that this type of practice is most useful in the hands of an already skilled practitioner of their craft, but it may be useful to novices as well, as a method of discovery.

In my opinion, this is where many graduate students and professionals fail to expand their abilities. It’s very easy to copy and reproduce from textbooks, instructors, and tutorials, but it’s a very different and altogether more frightening thing to try to create a new method of working, or a new way of seeing the world.

In illustration and art in general, those artist who are synonymous with a particular style or artistic movement likely owe their success at least partially to experimental practice. The need to perform this type of practice need not be that grand however, as even small modifications to an artist’s working methods help to personalize and internalize their craft.

Albert Hurter


The last form of practice is the free and non-structured kind which children indulge in. Although non-academic and not strictly intended to improve a practitioner’s ability, freeform practice serves as a crucial way for the student to enjoy themselves with their chosen craft. Although it may seem unnecessary to list it here, I believe that maintaining a fun and creative attitude toward your work is at least as important as academic study, if not more so.

Work of this type has one goal: to make you happy. After all, why are you putting in all of this time becoming skillful if not to use that skill in a way which pleases you? Very often unfortunately it seems that the mark of a professional artist is that they draw at work but not at home, having long since ceased to enjoy what it is they do for a living. Don’t fall into the trap of slowly choking the life out of your art, have a little fun now and then!

I hope these practice methods are helpful to you or your students. Next time I’ll be talking about motivation and forming a practice habit!

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Art Education: The Dreyfus Model

Hello everyone I’m Taber, Director of Membership at Animation Resources. I’m going to be making a series of posts focused on the more academic side of artistic instruction and learning in general. This sort of information can be helpful to both teachers and students as you push yourself to improve and practice your discipline.

Preston Blair instruction

As a beginning artist it can often be difficult to objectively judge your own progress or the quality of your own work. Being able to place yourself in an accurate position of skillfulness can help you to recognize your past growth and current deficiencies so you can better target areas for improvement. But what if you can’t tell exactly what the differences are between your work and the work of more highly skilled artists?

The Dreyfus model focuses on work practices and approaches as a measure of skill acquisition. This can be helpful to both students and instructors as it tends to be entirely non-judgmental and easy to identify objectively. The model uses four qualities to determine work habits:

  • Recollection (non-situational or situational)
  • Recognition (decomposed or holistic)
  • Decision (analytical or intuitive)
  • Awareness (monitoring or absorbed)

These attributes stack one at a time to provide a framework for evaluation:


(click image to enlarge)

For an accurate measurement, ask yourself these questions regarding the above attributes. Because some of these attributes can flip between a more advanced and a less advanced state, I recommend relying on the lower state. For an example if you were trying to decide if you are an intuitive decision maker, or a rational decision maker but you do both part of the time, put yourself down as rational as a rule of thumb.

  1. When you recall knowledge about the subject, is it always in a related context with other information, or is it sometimes rote memorization?
  2. While thinking about an aspect of the subject, can you clearly distinguish between relevant and irrelevant aspects of the work, or is it sometimes difficult to tell what’s important?
  3. When planning your own work, do you need to carefully and analytically lay out the steps beforehand or can you see the entire project as a whole task?
  4. When making decisions in your work, do you have to do any problem solving, or do the answers come to you intuitively, without effort most of the time?

Once you’ve answered these four questions, find the lowest tier which corresponds to your answers, even if you choose an attribute from a higher tier. Read the Needs column from the above chart and try to focus your learning on the types of practice listed in that section. Don’t cheat yourself by practicing projects which are too complex or unstructured! That sort of practice is really only for very highly skillful artists.

This system is similar to the surface to core concept illustrated by Scott McCloud in his book Understanding Comics which I highly recommend! In the book, McCloud describes how a person who is initially drawn to be a fan of an art-form must undertake a journey to the core of that medium before being able to master and thus give back to that medium.mccloud_understanding_comics

Additionally, this same artist’s journey from surface to core is echoed in much of the advice and instructional material given to artists throughout time, from Zim to Richard Williams. In essence, this is what an “old masters” approach is. This struggle is ultimately the best way to gain skill in an artistic medium, however it is difficult and it does take time.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” -Ira Glass

I have some personal theories about the types of artistic practice activities which benefit artists the most when trying to improve aspects of their work, and I’ll be talking about that next time!

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Cartooning: Byrnes’ Complete Guide To Cartooning Part Four

Earl Oliver Hurst
Thanks to Clarke Snyder for this great Hurst ad.

We continue our series of posts on Gene Byrnes’ Complete Guide To Cartooning with the section dealing with…

Introduction by Charles D. Rice

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


Perry Barlow worked along side a star-studded group of cartoonists at The New Yorker which included, among others, James Thurber, Peter Arno, Gardner Rea, Charles Addams, Whitney Darrow Jr, Sam Cobean and William Steig. From its inception, The New Yorker was, as its founding editor Harold Ross described it, "a reflection in the word and picture of metropolitan life". The images were equal with the words, and this magazine contributed greatly to the development of cartooning. Here, Barlow discusses his ideating process for a Halloween cover.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


Von Riegen was featured in our previous post from this book, Part Three: Sketching. His gesture drawings were greatly admired.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


Earl Oliver Hurst

Earl Oliver Hurst has been profiled extensively at Shane Glines’ excellent Cartoon Retro site. Hurst was primarily a "pretty girl" cartoonist whose work appeared in Colliers, True and American Weekly. His ads for Jantzen are particularly popular among current cartoonists. If you would like to see more, there is a great book on Hurst at Amazon… The Art Of Earl Oliver Hurst

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Earl Oliver Hurst
Earl Oliver Hurst


H. Kurt Stoessel was born in 1909 in Germany, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was an illustrator and art director for several national magazines including The Atlantic. He lived and worked in Boulder, Colorado his entire career, and passed away on this day in 1984.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


You may not know the name of Fred Cooper but you certainly have seen his work. He was a letterer, poster designer, illustrator, cartoonist, writer and teacher. Leslie Cabarga describes him as the original "clip art" artist- his "big head" cartoon characters were seen in dozens of magazines of the teens and twenties, and continue to be in use to this day. For more on this influential cartoonist, see Allan Holtz’s tribute in Strippers, and Cabarga’s book The Lettering and Graphic Design of F.G. Cooper

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


We mentioned Gluyas Williams was one of the most prolific and influential cartoonists of the 1920s. His work appeared in The New Yorker, Colliers and Life. Robert Benchley wrote, "I believe that Williams’ drawings will be preserved for expert contemplation both as data on the manners and customs of our day, and as graceful and important examples of its art." For more great work by cartoonist Gluyas Williams, see David King’s

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


Robert Osborn was a cartoonist whose style influenced the UPA artists greatly. He worked with John Hubley on the film, Flat Hatting. He also did a great deal of illustration for the War Department, which we will be featuring in an upcoming post.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


Bartoli’s ink drawings appeared on the covers of quite a few issues of Holiday magazine in the late 40s and 50s. I haven’t been able to find out much information about him. Perhaps someone out there knows and will post some biographic info on him to the comments below.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning


Michael Berry contributed pretty girl cartoons to Pictorial Review, Esquire, Liberty and The New Yorker.

Magazine Illustration by Michael Berry
Magazine Illustration by Michael Berry
Magazine Illustration by Michael Berry


John Ruge’s elegant girl drawings appeared in Colliers in the late 40s and Playboy in the early 50s. His comic about an Irish Setter named Clancy was also popular.

Magazine Illustration by John Ruge
Magazine Illustration by John Ruge


Ralph Stein was the author of a collection of pinup girl art titled The Pinup From 1852 to Now. He wrote the Popeye newspaper comic in the 1950s, and was an avid classic car enthuiast. Stan Hunt was a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He attended the New York School of Art and apprenticed under Willard Mullin. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 77.

Magazine Illustration by Ralph Stein
Magazine Illustration by Stan Hunt


Richard Sargent contributed images to Pictorial Review and The Saturday Evening Post.

Magazine Illustration by Richard Sargent
Magazine Illustration by Richard Sargent


Magazine Illustration by Jan Balet
Magazine Illustration by Jan Balet
(See Lief Peng’s Flickr set for more images by Jan Balet.

Jan Balet was a childrens book illustrator who also did artwork for several women’s magazines.

Magazine Illustration by Jan Balet
Magazine Illustration by Jan Balet


Richard Taylor was a cartoonist for The New Yorker and Playboy. Frank Owen was a cartoonist for The Saturday Evening Post He was the one who came up with the original story idea for the Disney’s cartoon, Morris, the Midget Moose.

Magazine Illustration by Richard Taylor and Frank Owen

By Don Herold

Magazine Illustration by Don Herold


Gyne Brynes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Gyne Brynes Complete Guide To Cartooning


Roy Doty

Over the past half century, Roy Doty has been a cartoonist and illustrator with over 60 children’s books to his credit. He was awarded a Reuben by the National Cartoonist Society in 2006. See to see what he’s up to lately.

Magazine Illustration by Roy Doty and Jan Balet
Magazine Illustration by Roy Doty and Jan Balet
Magazine Illustration by Roy Doty and Jan Balet

Many thanks to Marc Crisafulli and David King for sharing this great book with us.

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources

Magazine CartoonsMagazine Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Magazine Cartoons.