From June 8th until the 16th, I was out in Amherst to take part in the Illustration Master Class.
My teacher at MassArt, Scott Bakal, mentioned this class back in Fall of 2011. At the time, I was going through a difficult period and feeling lost and hopeless in every aspect of my life… but IMC sounded like a really intriguing and fun opportunity. In all honesty I’m not sure I would have signed up for the class if I hadn’t been going through that hard time, but I knew I needed to do something good for myself; to push myself out of that funk and try something new. I am so grateful that my experiences back in the fall led me to the IMC: I almost think it was fate that bad things had to happen in order for something good to come!
Leading up to the IMC, I was freaking out juuust a bit. I had graduated from Massachusetts College of Art & Design, but it wasn’t an easy road for me these past four years. I was nervous about this class because not only are the teachers some of the most talented and world renowned artists in the world.. but many of the STUDENTS are as well. Where on earth would my cute little animal paintings fit in the big scary world of epic dragons and space-battles and realistic hot ladies?! These were just some of my thoughts.. but again I let my insecurities get the best of me.
The week consisted of getting to know almost 100 fellow students from all over the world, that also happen to be professional artists that have been in the industry for years. There were some children’s book illustrators, concept artists, recent art school graduates, and extremely experienced painters. Everyone was at a different level, but everyone was treated with the same respect. It didn’t matter if you were still in college or had been working in a world famous game company for 20 years. Every single person there was willing to talk, help out, critique or exchange tips and tricks. There were no egos.
I’ve never been surrounded by so many people with that much intense passion for art. It was intoxicating being with so many people who live, breathe and eat it all up. Part of me feels like art school was a bit.. soul draining.. and most people around you in school will likely not do art after graduating.. as statistics say. But to see so many success stories in one building… how could I not walk away from that inspired and hopeful? Everyone was so friendly and cool, and it just made me so excited to be a part of this community! I completely feel as if I’ve just taken my first step through the door that will be my career and future.
On the first official day at the IMC, we set up our studios and easels, and had our sketches (based on a few sci-fi/ fantasy stories that were given to us) critiqued by our teachers: Rebecca Guay, Iain McCaig, Brom, Greg Manchess, Donato Giancola, Irene Gallo, Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell, Scott Fischer, and Dan Dos Santos. If you check out these links, you will quickly realize how AMAZING these people are, and how intimidating it must be to show them your art, let alone speak to them! But they were all warm and welcoming. After critiques by these ARTGODS, we went back to our studios and reworked the sketches. For the next 6 days, we worked on the sketches until we started painting. Every day, the teachers would all walk around the studios giving helpful tips and advice to make our images and techniques better. By the end of the week, most people were nearly done with their paintings.
Two or three times a day, we would all pile into the lecture hall to hear each of the teachers speak about their career. It was so humbling to know that each and every one of these master illustrators wasn’t just born with this intense talent. Talent is not something you are born with.. you work for it. A sentence as simple as that was really the smack in the face I needed. To hear each of their stories about how they got to where they are (none of these stories was a simple success story, there were hardships and letdowns) was just so inspiring, and would immediately make me want to pick up a brush and start painting. I filled pages worth of notes and hopeful phrases given to us by the teachers. I walked out of that lecture hall knowing that as long as I stay dedicated, motivated, and try my hardest.. I can get there. I can do this. The lectures opened my eyes to see the path I would love to follow. So much work needs to be done in order for me to get there, I know.. but it all seems so much clearer to me now, and I’m excited for it!
We were also treated to lectures by THE James Gurney, an AMAZZZING children’s book illustrator Adam Rex, and Blizzard Art Director Doug Gregory. During the nights, there would be impromptu lectures or demos by any number of the teachers, who would be painting in their studios. We also had a model session, and were taught lighting tricks and mounting sketches to boards. Sometimes, we would just go to a diner at 3am for pancakes. We were constantly learning and soaking up new information while being surrounded by amazing art. Visual sensory overloooad!
On the last day at the IMC, we had an open house where people from outside the class could come and check out the art. The teachers were selling books and signing sketchbooks. We all went to a bar down the street, the High Horse, and continued to sign sketchbooks aaas well as drinkytime! By the time I went to sleep at 4am, the teachers were in the dorm lobby still signing and sketching in sketchbooks while everyone was partying or dancing with all 100 of their new friends.
I had heard amazing things about the IMC, and every single thing I heard was correct. I have never walked away from something with so much inspiration and hope. I have a plan for the next year, and many new goals I want to accomplish.
I will be back at the IMC next year, and I simply cannot wait.
Fun Story Time!
And just so you know how nervous I was to meet Iain McCaig:
He created the original character designs for Padme Amidala in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (among other epic characters.) I remember seeing those sketches in art books when I was 9 years old. And if you know me personally, you know how much I LOOOVE love Natalie Portman. I fell in love with her during the Phantom Menace, because I just freaking DIED over the makeup and costumes. So my new-found love of crazy makeup and incredible costumes.. eventually led me to LOOOVE Cirque du Soleil.. which if you know me personally..you know I’ve traveled to two countries and seen almost 30 shows, met performers and was inspired to create art because of the shows (on top of the fact that these experiences weren’t cool enough.) Creating that art led me to art school. And now back to Natalie Portman.. I would draw her stupid pretty face ALL THE TIME. I LOVED IT. This too helped me become a better artist.. and led me to art school. Thanks, Natalie Portman’s face. SO, here I am today, a babyillustrator… all because Iain created these gorgeous designs for a huge hollywood movie back when I was 9 years old. Thanks, Iain!