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About Traditional Art / Professional Clara LieuFemale/United States Groups :iconr-i-s-d: R-I-S-D
 
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Clara Lieu
Artist | Professional | Traditional Art
United States
I am a professor, writer, and visual artist. I am a blogger for the Huffington Post, where I write an advice column for visual artists called "Ask the Art Professor". I currently teach in the Division of Foundation Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the past I have taught in the Illustration and Printmaking departments at RISD, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, at Wellesley College, and at the Lesley University College of Art and Design. For four years I was the Director of the Jewett Art Gallery.

My studio practice explores isolation and mental illness through drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. Recent exhibitions have been at the International Print Center New York, Bromfield Gallery, the Danforth Museum of Art, the Currier Museum of Art, the RISD Museum of Art, and the Davis Museum and Cultural Center. I have received grants from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and the Puffin Foundation.

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Final Crit

This week I’m writing student progress reports for my freshman students at RISD.   I always write the reports within a week after final reviews; if I wait any longer, my thoughts aren’t quite as crisp and I have a harder time being specific in the reports.

I had 40 students this semester, so writing these reports is very time consuming. I can’t write the reports in one sitting either, I have to spread out the writing over several days so I can come back and revise the reports with a fresh eye.  I try to be succinct, but once I start writing, I find that there is so much to say.  This approach takes more time, but I think it’s important to explain things thoroughly to make sure that the report is coherent.

I also understand how meaningful these reports are for the students.  I know this because I was a RISD student once, and I vividly remember the tremendous impact these reports had on me.  Reading the reports cemented my progress, and provided a sense of accomplishment that made all of the late nights worth it.

Today I unearthed my own student progress reports from when I was a student at RISD. The reports shown below were written by Fred LynchAlba Corrado, and Fritz Drury, all of whom are now my colleagues.

img441 - Copy (2)

I was petrified of Alba Corrado when I met her the spring semester of my freshman year in 1995. Her teaching methods and assignments were vastly different than what I had experienced in my 3D class in the previous semester. I was terribly worried that I wasn’t equipped with the technical skills and thinking strategies necessary to surviving in her class. Alba revolutionized my thought process and understanding of 3D concepts. Eventually, I discovered that she was a brilliant teacher who was also a lovely person.

img441 - Copy

When I took Fred Lynch’s class over Wintersession in 1996, I was a complete wreck. I had a miserable experience in the fall semester of my sophomore year, and decided to switch into the Illustration department. Fred’s class was the one requirement that I had to make up in order to change majors.  I had no idea what to expect, and at the time, I didn’t even really know what illustration was. I didn’t feel confident about switching majors either.  A friend of mine switched and I followed him because I didn’t know what else to do. Fred’s class turned out to be a pivotal moment in my time at RISD.  His class was refreshing, exciting and highly stimulating.  I didn’t know that group crits could be so challenging, and yet have me laughing throughout.  I couldn’t have asked for a smoother, more inspiring transition into the Illustration department.

img441

Fritz Drury’s class was my first drawing class in the Illustration department in the spring semester of my sophomore year. After taking Fred Lynch’s class over Wintersession, I was all revved up and ready to go.  Fritz’s class fulfilled every creative craving I had.  I couldn’t wait to get started on my homework assignments, and class sessions fostered a new level of engagement with my work. I knew then that I was finally in the right place.

YW10

There is always a wide range of skills in the students who enter my freshman drawing course at RISD. Some students have never worked with charcoal before, others have a strong grasp of composition, while others struggle with gesture drawing, and so forth. For most of us, it’s easier and much more satisfying to just keep indulging in the skills we’re already good at. After all, who doesn’t enjoy success? As a contrast against that natural impulse, I encourage my students to directly confront their weaknesses in order to exercise the muscles they’ve been ignoring, or didn’t even know existed.

While every student has their weaknesses they’re working on, the one skill that none of my students seem to have across the board is brainstorming. Even strong students who have exceptional drawing skills struggle tremendously with brainstorming.   In fact, many of these students have an even tougher time because they’ve been using their drawing skills as a crutch to compensate for their lack of thinking.

SL10c

In the past, when I’ve asked individual students about what actions they are taking when brainstorming, I have to admit that I am frequently appalled by their work habits. One student told me that when he’s brainstorming he looks at Tumblr, while another student said that they listen to music and eat. I’ve watched students in my classes during work sessions literally sit in a chair, tap their fingers on the table, and quietly grumble to themselves.

Without fail, the three top brainstorming problems that I see in my students every semester are:

1) Choosing your first idea. 
I am always surprised when students tell me that they are certain that their first idea is the best one. When there is literally no means of comparison, how can you be so sure? This is the equivalent of going to a buffet, tasting one dish, and then deciding to eat only that one dish for the rest of the meal. I honestly can’t remember ever going with my first idea; most of the time the first idea is cliche, obvious, and literal.

2) Staying stuck in your head.
Students frequently judge an idea in their mind, and then they eliminate that idea in their head before that idea even hits the paper. You have to literally see an idea down on paper to be able to clearly judge whether an idea has any potential. There have been so many instances where I thought that an idea was stupid, and then realized after seeing it on paper that it actually did have merit.  On the other hand, there have been many occasions where I was so convinced that an idea was great, only to discover later that the idea was no good when I saw it on paper. There’s no way to predict the outcome of an idea, and you’re just choking yourself if you never give the idea a chance to come to fruition.

3) Ending the brainstorming process prematurely.
In the second half of the semester, I shift gears with my homework assignments and give my students two weeks to work on one drawing. (prior assignments are only one week long) For many students, their first impulse is to assume that with double the time for the assignment, everything will be so much easier.  Consequently, they blow off the first week, which is supposed to be dedicated entirely on brainstorming and sketching.  Most learn the hard way that there are major consequences to doing minimal work in the first week; these students essentially double their work load in the second week of the assignment because they severely underestimated the kind of investment the brainstorming process demands.  Ideas take time to evolve, they require persistence and tenacity to fully mature.

JH6

There is a common misconception that to get a good idea, it’s just a matter of waiting around to be struck by a moment of inspiration. I strongly disagree, innovative ideas don’t just magically pop out of nowhere, you have to be tenacious and push for those ideas. Brainstorming is not a passive action, you have to be aggressive to get results.

I once had a student who was having an extremely hard time coming up with an idea for an assignment where I ask students to create a drawing based on one of their routines. I exchanged several emails with her over the course of the week. In her first email, she kept insisting that she had no ideas at all.  I asked her to list routines she had, but the ones she listed were generic and vague, such as going for a walk, and sleeping. I kept telling her that the ideas were thin and boring, but she continued to reply with more routines that were again, too general. Then, after about the sixth email, she flooded her email with eight dense paragraphs, describing several routines associated with serious issues she had during adolescence. The ideas were there all along, but she had to dig deep over a period of time to unearth them. The final drawing she created for this assignment was one of her most poignant, compelling pieces of the semester.

VL6

So what are the actions you need to take to effectively brainstorm?

1) Put everything on paper. Resist the temptation to judge your ideas as you write.  Let yourself throw up on paper, and then edit your ideas later.

2) Divide your brainstorming over several days.  This allows you to return to your ideas with a fresh eye. Avoid marathon sessions.

3) Play word association

4) Look up dictionary definitions of words related to your topic. I am frequently surprised by dictionary definitions, especially of common words that I assume I understand. Dictionary definitions can stimulate other thinking strategies.

5) Talk out your ideas with a friend. Having to verbalize your ideas out loud to someone else will motivate you to distill your ideas in a coherent manner.

6) Turn off the Internet.  Music is fine, but otherwise, brainstorming should be: you, a piece of paper, a pencil, and your thoughts.

Final Crit

The semester is in its final days at RISD, and today I’m reading through written self-critiques by students in my freshman drawing class.  I always find these self-critiques very insightful.  Although my preferred means of communication with students is face-to-face interactions, I do find that a written format does open up an opportunity for some students to say things to me that they might be too embarrassed or nervous to say to me in person.

Below are some excerpts from those self-critiques.

“Currently, my motto is, if i’m afraid of it, I should probably do it.”
“I learned that every choice I make matters.”
“Even if the planning is perfect, if you fall short on execution, then the entire project will fall apart.”
“Ideas will change throughout the process.”
“It is absolutely okay to fail.”
“I learned that a good concept can’t save you, and neither will flashy technical skill.”
“I realized that art is not only about having the techniques in making the art, a big portion of it is also knowing how to think.”
“This semester I learned that I can’t just sit around waiting to be excited.”

Final Crit

For many of my freshman students at RISD, choosing a major can be stressful.  Even after they’ve officially declared their major, many students still have doubts about their choice at the end of the year. More and more, it’s become clear to me that no matter what major they choose, that experience will ultimately be valuable.

I was an Illustration major, and while I did take a diverse range of courses atRISD, I eventually focused my last two years on figurative oil painting.  After graduation, I continued oil painting for another four years.  It has been nine years since I picked up a brush to oil paint, and to this day I have only completed one professional illustration job. Does that mean all of those years I spent learning illustration and oil painting were wasted? Not at all; one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that every experience I’ve had has made a contribution to my artistic growth. Even circumstances I resented or was skeptical about have enhanced my progress.  Over time, I’ve amassed a wealth of experiences which allows for my skills to come and go in response to what I’m working on at the time.

The video series I’m working on right now is proof of that. I’m basically tryingto write down literally everything I know.  Every course I’ve taught, every artwork I’ve made, every exhibition I’ve organized, every article I’ve written, etc. will inform this project. This is an enormous undertaking, and every time I sit down to write, I’m overwhelmed by how much I have to share. The project is a culmination of everything I’ve learned in my entire life.

Final Crit

This week has been packed with final crits in my Freshman Drawing classes at RISD. I’m always amazed that as much as things have change, some things remain fundamentally the same. Every May, I see the same emotions that I experienced as a freshman in my students. My students are deeply immersed in their experience right now, so it’s impossible for them to get any perspective on their freshman year because it’s too close to them. I, on the other hand, have had 17 years to ruminate on my freshman year at RISD, and it got me thinking about my answer to a question a student asked me during a Q&A on the last day of class:  “What do you want us to take away from our freshman year?”

My answer to that question is that even though I demand that my students invest tremendous time and effort into creating and critiquing their artwork freshman year, ultimately, it is not the artwork that is most significant.  In fact, I stress to my students that within a year or two, the final projects they worked on this week won’t matter to them. Some might see that as a negative outlook, but I see it as being positive: if that final project isn’t important to you later on, it means that you’ve moved on to greater things.

Final Crit

I describe to my students where the artwork from my freshman year went: some of it I sold at open studios events or at a yard sale, some of it went into the recycle bin, some of it to the garbage, there is one pile of newsprint drawings packed into a portfolio sitting in the back of a closet in my house, and there are two plaster sculptures that are sitting on my fireplace mantle.

So if the artwork ultimately doesn’t matter, what does?  It’s the thinking strategies, the work ethic, and the mindset that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. My greatest hope for my students is that after finishing freshman year, they feel empowered and completely capable of dealing with anything that gets thrown at them. After my freshman year, I felt like I had gone to hell and back.  As difficult as freshman year could be at times, nothing intimidated me anymore. I knew that no matter how challenging the circumstance was, I would find a way to handle it. Today, I know that I will never miss a deadline, and if there is any doubt in my mind that I might not meet a deadline, I simply say no. Freshman year at RISD stretched me to extremes that I didn’t even know existed, and I developed an acute understanding of just how far I could push myself. These are the qualities that I use every day.

You can view student portfolios with artwork from my Thursday and Fridayclasses on my Flickr page.

Final Crit

Final Crit

Final Crit

This week I’m writing student progress reports for my freshman students at RISD.   I always write the reports within a week after final reviews; if I wait any longer, my thoughts aren’t quite as crisp and I have a harder time being specific in the reports.

I had 40 students this semester, so writing these reports is very time consuming. I can’t write the reports in one sitting either, I have to spread out the writing over several days so I can come back and revise the reports with a fresh eye.  I try to be succinct, but once I start writing, I find that there is so much to say.  This approach takes more time, but I think it’s important to explain things thoroughly to make sure that the report is coherent.

I also understand how meaningful these reports are for the students.  I know this because I was a RISD student once, and I vividly remember the tremendous impact these reports had on me.  Reading the reports cemented my progress, and provided a sense of accomplishment that made all of the late nights worth it.

Today I unearthed my own student progress reports from when I was a student at RISD. The reports shown below were written by Fred LynchAlba Corrado, and Fritz Drury, all of whom are now my colleagues.

img441 - Copy (2)

I was petrified of Alba Corrado when I met her the spring semester of my freshman year in 1995. Her teaching methods and assignments were vastly different than what I had experienced in my 3D class in the previous semester. I was terribly worried that I wasn’t equipped with the technical skills and thinking strategies necessary to surviving in her class. Alba revolutionized my thought process and understanding of 3D concepts. Eventually, I discovered that she was a brilliant teacher who was also a lovely person.

img441 - Copy

When I took Fred Lynch’s class over Wintersession in 1996, I was a complete wreck. I had a miserable experience in the fall semester of my sophomore year, and decided to switch into the Illustration department. Fred’s class was the one requirement that I had to make up in order to change majors.  I had no idea what to expect, and at the time, I didn’t even really know what illustration was. I didn’t feel confident about switching majors either.  A friend of mine switched and I followed him because I didn’t know what else to do. Fred’s class turned out to be a pivotal moment in my time at RISD.  His class was refreshing, exciting and highly stimulating.  I didn’t know that group crits could be so challenging, and yet have me laughing throughout.  I couldn’t have asked for a smoother, more inspiring transition into the Illustration department.

img441

Fritz Drury’s class was my first drawing class in the Illustration department in the spring semester of my sophomore year. After taking Fred Lynch’s class over Wintersession, I was all revved up and ready to go.  Fritz’s class fulfilled every creative craving I had.  I couldn’t wait to get started on my homework assignments, and class sessions fostered a new level of engagement with my work. I knew then that I was finally in the right place.

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:iconsandrapelly:
SandraPelly Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Your work touched me greatly.   It left me   speechless and stunned and at same time I felt as if someone finally understands. I  hope you have defeated your demons because I am still figuring mine.  Seeing your work gave me extra push to  sort myself out  and express myself more.   Thank you. 
Reply
:icongoatqueen:
GoatQueen Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2014
Did you ever do something on how to ship art once it's sold?
Reply
:iconclaralieu:
claralieu Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I haven't, but mostly because there are already tons of articles out there on how to ship your work when you sell it online.  It also depends on what online site you're using. If you want to know, Etsy has a lot of information on how to do it. 
Reply
:icongoatqueen:
GoatQueen Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2014
ok ty!
Reply
:iconmiguelopazo:
miguelopazo Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I like your gallery, I feel is like a representation of many episodes on my mind
Reply
:icon33m:
33M Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014
after vacation I was delighted to see your newest deviations come through....Wonderful work.  I learn very much from your work and your writing.

M
Reply
:iconimfragrance:
imFragrance Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014   General Artist
Your blog is very helpful ! Thank you for your helpful advices.
Reply
:iconodistrait:
Odistrait Featured By Owner May 21, 2014
I just finished going over a few of the post on your advice column and watching a portion of your lecture video. It has been truly inspiring so far and I will definitely share your advice column with the teacher who oversaw my work at the magnet art school I attended in high school, so that other students might benefit from your advice. I hope that's okay.

thanks again,

Jean
Reply
:iconclaralieu:
claralieu Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Of course!  I am delighted that you found the columns and video interesting.  Thank you!
Reply
:icongoatqueen:
GoatQueen Featured By Owner May 10, 2014
Hey,

Since you used a lot of Dura Lar in your works I've always wanted to try some.
I found some in the art classroom so I jumped at the opportunity to use it. I have to admit, I really like it and I want to keep on experimenting.
 
Here's the work.
graveyardbat.deviantart.com/ar…

I did another work using the paper, but I haven't uploaded it yet.

Have a nice day!
Reply
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