What happens when art teachers don't have the answers?
Have you ever had students ask you for help with their artwork, and you *gulp* didn’t have the skills or knowledge they were seeking?
This happened to me not so long ago. I had an elementary student who wanted to make people look like they were flying through clouds. I suggested that he place some clouds in front of the figure, and some behind. He came back a few minutes later with the suggested changes and insisted it still wasn’t “right”.
The truth was, he had a very clear image in his head of this super realistic drawing of a hero flying through the clouds. But I didn’t have these realistic drawing skills he was asking me to teach him. I had given him everything I knew after just a few rounds of coaching, and I was at a loss figuring out how to help this frustrated child achieve his vision without asking him to settle for something less than he was striving for.
The Frantic Search
That night, I frantically researched the internet and every art book I owned trying to find the answers to "How to draw a guy flying through clouds."
Then I went to the bookstore, and found Juliette Aristides’ Classical Drawing Atelier and Classical Painting Atelier.
Within the pages of that book, my entire world flipped upside down and sideways. I discovered that anyone can learn realistic drawing and painting skills that studies with someone who has what is called “atelier training”.
I decided right then and there that I wanted this magical “atelier training”. I wanted to be able to help my students achieve their artistic goals.
I never again wanted to feel the ineptitude and insecurities I felt that day when I couldn’t help my student draw exactly what he intended.
Joining an Atelier
The next thing I know, I moved to Seattle and train with Juliette Aristides in her atelier. (This is why I always tell people that her books are dangerous! They compel you to learn what your heart has been looking for all these years.) Unfortunately, this meant that I would have to take leave of the teaching profession in order to commit myself to full time study for 4 years.
While I was studying with Juliette, my art teacher friends noticed the transformation in my skills, and they started asking me how they could learn too. But most of them could not leave their jobs in order to train full time.
I wanted to find a better way for art teachers to access this knowledge and training - a way that wouldn’t force them to make a choice between keeping their job and learning realism skills
Spreading the Knowledge
And that’s why I started teaching a monthly drawing and painting class every First Thursday. I also started the Summer Teacher Atelier, a program that provides atelier training for art teachers in the summer months when they have their breaks.
But that wasn’t enough for me. These art teachers were working so hard, they deserved to earn their degree too! After many years of work (and a few false starts!) the summer training program for art teachers is now ACCREDITED by the federally recognized accrediting agency, NASAD through a partnership with the Florence Academy of Art.
This means that now art teachers can learn in the summers AND earn their Master’s Degree in Studio Art.
This means art teachers can up their realistic drawing and painting game AND get that sweet pay bump for earning an MA.
This means that art teachers can gain confidence in their skills AND help students achieve their artistic visions.
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No More Art Teacher Guilt
The journey from feeling like an inadequate art teacher to being able to provide realistic drawing and painting training to teachers throughout the country (and world!) has been an amazing ride. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! If you are ready to start your own journey down this path, check out our MA program today.
The best part about the atelier journey? I now have the confidence and mastery to help my students achieve exactly what they intend in their artwork, without compromise, and you can too.
P.S. ANYONE can learn how to draw and paint realistically at very high levels. You just have to train with someone who knows how.
Have you thought about getting Atelier training? What's holding you back? Let me know in the comments below.
Dept. of Aesthetics Blog
Mandy Theis is a licensed art teacher and atelier-trained artist. She is the former Co-President of the Washington Art Education Association and Director of School of Atelier Arts.