Charles Miano shares how training with a master artist is the quickest way to improve one’s abilities to create art in the style of contemporary realism.
Ten Benefits of Atelier Training
BY CHARLES MIANO
There are many personal benefits of atelier training. Since time immemorial, ateliers, academies, artist guilds, and botteghe were the gold standard methods to pass on the traditional fine art craft from master to apprentice. This is no less true today, with a burgeoning of creative efforts dedicated to this artistic continuum.
Atelier training is truly an advantage, as one-on-one training with a master artist is the quickest way to improve one’s abilities. In the atelier, artistic development is more intense and more effective. Here are just ten elements of classical training that serve as a tried-and-true path to success.
1. Learning to See
The primary goal of atelier training is learning to “see” like an artist. In other words, seeing is translating the complicated field of visual phenomena by processing, editing, and passing through our human consciousness. This tradition has its roots in ancient times and continues to be the goal of all classical art education. “Seeing” for the artist, refers not to the mechanical aspects of how the eye works, but to the built-in human perception of what we see, combined with what we choose to portray based on knowledge and training. This may also involve the development of our eye–hand coordination. An artist can gain the ability to see and translate accurate proportions, shapes, values, and other observable natural occurrences into art.
2. Hidden Knowledge
Secret ancient truths passed down through generations of artists, such as figure construction, morphology, light effect principles, anatomy, memory drawing exercises, and more, can give today’s artists who master them a serious advantage when practiced. Technical expertise in the matters of materials — oils, long forgotten mediums of the masters, and pigments — will allow artists to achieve the sound craftsmanship of classical painting.
Teaching by example is the truest way to learn. In the atelier, masters and advanced apprentices who have gone through the same rigorous training lead by example and not just through theory or lectures. Instructors are able to demonstrate their own facility, which allows them to communicate ideas directly through the visual language. Both individual guidance and meaningful critique are offered regularly to keep apprentices on track. Apprentices also benefit from help in career development based on the trajectory of their predecessors.
As with any craft, much practice is needed. It takes time to develop one’s mind, eye, and hand. In some large contemporary art schools, students are not given enough time to build the skills they need to prosper and flourish. In the atelier, students can spend full days practicing their craft for as long as it may take to approach mastery. Systematic practice over a length of time is the only way in which to improve one’s technical prowess. As Leonardo said, “Constancy does not begin, but is that which perseveres.”
5. Exceeding Limitations
Inborn visual, physical, and mental limitations such as a lack of theoretical knowledge or an inept hand can often prevent growth. By targeting these weak points with hyper focus, apprentices overcome barriers to their progress toward excellence. In doing so, they may gradually build up their confidence, achieving greater strength in their work.
Skill empowers an artist. Expertise in traditional drawing and painting carries authority and can liberate an artist’s creativity. Apprentices have the unique opportunity to practice their craft every day and build their skills slowly and thoroughly. Ultimately, it is through this exercise and project-based curriculum, combined with enough time, that one sees the greatest improvement in the results of this consistent practice. “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece,” wrote John Ruskin.
7. The Business of Art
While most benefits revolve around building a high quality of one’s artwork, in due time, there is also the added benefit of learning the art business. By being in a studio environment, advanced artists are working in close association with some of the world’s leading working professionals. Advice and guidance as to how to make a living as an artist as well as networking and making business connections are an integral part of belonging to an atelier community. Professional opportunities such as finding a market, introduction to galleries, exhibitions, and teaching can all benefit an individual in their future pursuits as working artists.
The family-like community of an atelier can often have a profound effect on the work produced there. Advanced apprentices of the guild or atelier are encouraged to help the newcomers. Artists can enjoy a nurturing and encouraging environment from which to launch their artistic endeavors.
The level of atelier portfolio work is gallery quality. The achievement of a professional standard of work is a great benefit that ultimately opens many doors. Artists are encouraged to distinguish themselves as they progressively finish each project that will become a fine-art portfolio piece. These pieces set the bar high and encourage artists to hold the level and communicate the higher aim of fine art.
Becoming an artist takes considerable inner strength. Many beneficial attributes that can enhance a person’s awareness and also identity, can be acquired in an atelier environment. One may witness their strengths and weaknesses and learn how to best realize their potential both as an artist and as a human being. Personal qualities such as motivation, determination, effectiveness, improved focus, patience, resilience, and letting go of attachment may benefit one in all aspects of their life.
The legacy of classical training is proof of its value. It is a tradition that has unleashed some of the greatest artists in all of history. As our culture becomes more technologically oriented, the thirst for the natural and classical arts is becoming ever more appreciated and valued. It takes diligence and hard work to participate in this history; however, its benefits have a profound impact on both individuals and society as a whole.
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Just as in the days of the Renaissance, Southern Atelier has modeled it’s Guild Apprenticeship after the standards of craftsmanship of the old masters.
Many are coming from near and far to pursue excellence in their craft and contribute to the greater awakening of this movement. If you would like to learn more, please visit www.southernatelier.org.
Learn how to translate life into art and draw like the masters when you study “Old Master Portrait Drawing” with Charles Miano: