02/06/2015

Art school confidential

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Making art is tough. Sure, sometimes there’s some B.S. that comes with it (“It’s just abstract, I swear”), but from conceptualizing a piece, creating it, and possibly even redoing it, there’s a lot of work and, in some ways, a lot of bravery, too. Just ask any artist out there. We may not know what Caravaggio or Banksy have to say on the matter, but we reckon we’re not far off the mark.

Even harder is the process of learning or even teaching it. Going to art school isn’t like learning algebra; 2x + 7y isn’t equal to Picasso. The Philippines has over a hundred universities and colleges that offer courses such as Fine Arts and Graphic Design, so a lot of us are clearly into the creative arts. But how do you teach someone how to be more creative, anyway?

We turned to visual artists Tof Zapanta and Tata Yap to help us figure it out. Tof is a design faculty member at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s School of Design and Arts and Tata is a graphic design lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University, so  they know a thing or two about teaching art and creating it. According to them, even tried and tested methods (both in teaching and creating) yield different results, despite tons of practice. Why that is so, we’re not sure. Art’s pretty tough to crack that way, but that’s also what makes it kinda fun.

“I believe you need to be well-versed in the craft to be able to execute your idea. That way, you will be able to touch people in a deeper way.” — Professor Tof

TECHNICAL KNOW-HOW

Learning art: It may seem intimidating to walk into class with your peers who can draw more than just anime. You gotta chillax and remember one thing: you’re there to learn.

Professor Tata says: “I’m quite particular with teaching the technical principles of my field because I remember I’d always say to my students that at the end of the day, you will always have your technical skills to rely on.

Creating art: It doesn’t matter if you’re making a Pollock-esque splatter painting or noodle art — technical skills definitely count. It’s not the only thing that’ll make you great, but it does separate legit art from a random doodle.

Professor Tof says: “I believe you need to be well-versed in the craft to be able to execute your idea. That way, you will be able to touch people in a deeper way.”

THE CREATIVE PROCESS

Learning art: Art and design teachers are usually more concerned with helping you develop your artistic process than just teaching you technical skills. It’s the path you take that encourages you to think out of the box and create something that deviates from the norm.

Professor Tof says: “As a teacher I try to develop the designer as a whole — conceptualizing and executing. I never spoon-feed my students, like I may know an answer to their design problem, but never tell them. Of course, they may have a better idea, and that’s definitely good.”

Creating art: This is when you can literally let your imagination go wild. Seriously, go nuts.

Professor Tata says: “As an artist, I developed a certain style after many years of trying out all sorts of things and doing them in repetition until I found consistency.”

DEVELOPING A STYLE

Learning art: They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so it’s only normal to take parts of an art piece or an artist’s style you admire as you are learning the craft.

Professor Tata says: “It’s unavoidable to have whatever’s the trendy style of art or design recurring in their work. When I notice a particular style repeating among my students, I’m always frank to caution them that they have been duplicating the styles of each other, to be wary of plagiarism.”

Creating art: When you are finally making your own art, it’s only right to make it your own. But it’s still cool to take cues from your influences as inspiration.

Professor Tof says: “If you are looking for inspiration, look for it from a different medium, like film or literature. See it from a different perspective.”

“It’s unavoidable to have whatever’s the trendy style of art or design recurring in their work. When I notice a particular style repeating among my students, I’m always frank to caution them that they have been duplicating the styles of each other, to be wary of plagiarism.” — Professor Tata

MANAGING DEADLINES

Learning art: Deadlines suck, we know, but you can’t always justify your creative process as a reason not to follow them. That A+ isn’t gonna wait forever.

Professor Tata says: “In my personal case, deadlines encourage creativity. Limitation encourages creativity.”

Creating art: Of course, having a creative process is what makes you an artist. Even with all the work piling up, there should still be time to let it flow without the burden of a deadline.

Professor Tof says: “You should have personal projects that would act as the bigger story (of your creative growth) without a deadline. (Kind of like a) TV that unfolds little by little as it progresses.”

GETTING FEEDBACK

Learning art: Nothing sucks more than your teacher pushing you to excel, but that usually means they see something in you and your work that you can still develop. If they didn’t care, that’d probably be worse.

Professor Tof says: “Feedback is very important, because as someone mentioned in Whiplash, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.’ Learning and improving only stops when we believe that we’ve learned or achieved everything that we can be.”

Creating art: You might think you’re the sh*t, but hearing feedback from fans (and sometimes, even your critics) can help you see your work in ways you’d never expect.

Professor Tata says: “The artist is not always correct, and that our ego is often our worst enemy.”

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