Studio Mysteries

August 24, 2009

Contemplating The Menu

Filed under: Being a Professional Artist — Tags: — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 5:17 am

I will never get tired of saying this: Los Angeles is a feast of art learnin’. My biggest advice to anyone  who is doing a self-directed study like me, is to set limits on how many teachers and how many courses you deal with at a given time. It’s so easy to overdose! I find that having two or three classes per term works great, an immersion level that propels you forward and generates momentum. But any more than that and all the new exercises and skills become much harder to absorb and retain.

Also, put together a teacher team you really like, and don’t let that team get too huge either. Here, especially, there are more fantastic teachers than you can shake a stick at. It’s absolutely painful to edit in any way, but  I think it’s important to focus and mine a select few for all the knowledge they got. Every teacher has a particular set of strengths and methodologies, and if you work with dozens, you will run out of brain room way before you get to benefit from those strengths in any kind of depth.

Looking back over the 5 months I have been studying in LA, I am stunned that it’s only been 5 months. It feels like years! Aside from adapting to a very drastic change in my living circumstances, I also took in an enormous amount of new information. Here are courses I have done so far:

  • Head Drawing with Bill Rogers
  • Academic Figure Drawing and Tonal Drawing with Rick Morris
  • Figure Quick Sketch with Steven Silver
  • Analytical Figure Drawing with Kirk Shinmoto
  • 3D Anatomy/Ecorche and 2D Anatomy with Rey Bustos
  • Still Life Oil Painting with Michael Siegel

I also took a one-day Drapery Workshop with Marshall Vandruff, and did a month of Head Drawing class and Quick Sketch workshops with Sang Bang.

That’s quite a lot in a few months! All on top of trying to obtain a driver’s license in Los Angeles, which is roughly on par with launching a space shuttle, in terms of sheer project magnitude.

So far I have signed up for three courses this fall:

  • Analytical Figure Drawing with Rey Bustos
  • Painting Fundamentals with Eric Pedersen
  • Academic Figure Painting with Grigor Chillingarian

There is a long list of other courses I want to do. But I feel like I need to sit down and really process what I’ve learned so far, before taking on anything more. I have piles and piles of notes, techniques, methods and exercises that haven’t received their due (or their blog post) yet. I don’t want that pile to get any bigger. It’s already an insurance liability.


  1. Hi Anya,

    I know exactly what you mean. I’m a student at ASL in NYC and if finances didn’t stop me I’d be in seven classes. I agree though it’s important to find good teachers and stick with them. I love reading your blog and look forward to your posts.

    Comment by Heather — August 24, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  2. Thank you so much! Art Student League is something I also drool over – if I could be on two coasts at once, I would go there too! Who do you study with there?

    Comment by Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries — August 24, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  3. I’ve been studying with Sherry Camhy. She’s a great instructor. Very motivating.

    I’m really excited because starting in September I’ll be studying drawing with Michael Grimaldi and ecroche with Frank Porcu. I’m thinking about taking a Friday night class with Dan Thompson too. I was really motivated to take the ecroche class after seeing your work. Do you feel you have a greater understanding of anatomy now? I’m hoping that with the class I’ll finally start to translate the studying I’ve been doing from anatomy books into actual progress with my drawings.

    Comment by Heather — August 25, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  4. Ecorche definitely made a HUGE difference. I stared at anatomy books for years without it making any significant dent in my actual artwork. Making the ecorche does a number of important things that nothing else can awake as effectively, I think. It’s really a brilliant innovation in terms of teaching methods.

    One, the body is not flat, it’s 3D and even though various limbs can be read as having a front and sides, really it’s all one big twisted bouquet with things going around and around and around. Thinking about it in 3D as you study really helps.

    Two, the anatomy books don’t really help understand what overlaps what, and that’s really important for drawing. The body has one contour, but structures are constantly crossing in.

    Three, it engages a lot more cognitive systems in taking in the information – instead of just reading, you also end up sketching, planning, and using your hands. The process of making a structure is the best way to understand that structure, literally inside and out.

    I also found that simply having a teacher *explain* anatomy made the whole thing come to life. The books can tell you what a structure is, but they are not as good at getting across why it is this way, and how it’s significant for drawing. The why made all the difference. My teachers also spend a chunk of the lecture showing how to apply the information in making a drawing, with demos – “here is what to think about when drawing the leg”.

    I definitely have a much better grip on the thing, and I even became so passionate about it that I want to teach anatomy classes as well!

    Dan Thompson is on my ‘hit’ list as a drawing teacher – I really love how he uses pencil to describe form.

    Comment by Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries — August 25, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  5. Thanks for all the info. I’m really looking forward to the ecroche. Though I’m a little nervous since I’ve never done any 3 dimensional work before.
    It can all be so overwhelming sometimes. There are just so many great teachers out there and so much to learn. Please keep blogging about your experience, it helps to keep me motivated.

    Comment by Heather — August 26, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  6. Useful advice. It’s easy to get carried away when drooling over courses.

    And LAAFA, don’t forget to send Anya her payment for all the advertising she’s putting your way.

    Comment by InkSplodge! — August 26, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

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