Monday, April 13, 2009

Classical Realism

I have become obsessed recently with studying the classical realist movement in art, and with learning about the atelier model of classical artist training. Art students have suffered for several generations because they have not had an adequate foundation on which to build. My art education was a modernized novus ordo type of art education: it had many of the elements of the older, classical model, but they were rehashed and reprocessed, and run through so quickly that one did not understand why one was doing them in the first place. The atelier model attempts to correct all of that, and classical realism is the name for these types of artists. The atelier model is essentially an internship, or apprenticeship. One typically signs up for these schools and attends them Monday-Friday, 9 - 5... like a job. They last for four years typically. Some of them teach sculpture along with painting, so you come out being able to sculpt and paint well. Obviously if you do something like that all day for four years you'll get pretty good at whatever you're doing. It is a good education, and all artists should have it, but it needs to be adapted to fit within the modern university system. I can think of many folk who would like to study these methods and improve their basic skills, but could not commit to a traditional apprenticeship type of schedule. Nowadays going to college even part time is hard enough. I hope as time goes on the methods and pedagogy of these schools will get back into the traditional university system. I think if these methods merge with some of the best insights and practices of the contemporary training model something very interesting and exciting will result.


paul bowman said...

I identify with your frustration with education choices for a would-be artist — especially as they appeared when we were approaching the usual age for these choices, 15 - 20 years ago. In my own judgment, though, the confusion hasn't been unfruitful, hard as it's been on a lot of us individually. I don't think I'd wish simply to trade modernity's lively (albeit admittedly often aimless) interdisciplinarity for a recovery of technique-driven, immersive craft & industry training/traditioning of medieval-classical societies. Not sure just how I'd like to see these conflicts resolve in arts & design education, with time, but straightforward, socially & disciplinarily stricter methods of the western or eastern cultural past appeal to me less than they used to.

My little uncertainties aside, I encourage a look at excellent young friend Sarah Coffin's new blog. She's been out of college and teaching art ('classical Christian' school) for a little while, but recently elected to stop teaching and apprentice full time with her mother Jennie, who is an accomplished potter. (Sarah's dad, Jennie's husband, incidentally, is the primary pastor of New Hope Pres. in Fairfax.)

Fr Van McCalister said...

Personally, I craved a traditional apprenticeship when I was in my teens and twenties but my family was blue collar and I had no idea how to get plugged into that kind of mentoring. I ended up going to a small Christian college, that did not know what to do with an aggressive kid who wanted to major in art, theology and philosophy all at the same time. I was in my mid thirties before I finally gave up on the idea of being called to be an artist-pastor-writer. Now that I am responsible for theological education in the Diocese of San Joaquin, I am trying to encourage students to embrace ideas of "calling" that incorporate multiple talents/gifts.

Fascinating Blog. I'm impressed that you are able to manage a parish and still paint!


My smaller pieces from days past are here:

J. Gordon Anderson said...

Father: It is a challenge to do both - that's for sure! Thanks for sharing your art.

Paul: There are places that give various traditional art workshops (such as, and they seem like they would be good supplemental programs to a "mod" contemporary college art education. But they are very expensive, at least for me.... or way far away, or both.