Posted in art school life

This Week’s Work

This week was really eventful! Tuesday, went to an artist’s talk at the Digital Media center. Wednesday, went to Atlantic Station to buy last minute halloween stuff I didn’t end up using.  Thursday, went to a gallery reception on the 4th floor of the main building and then to the Student Activities Council Masquerade Ball. Friday, toured the printmaking studio with my design class. Wow!

And even with all this Stuff going on I still had time to make art!


Finished the impressionist copy and started the still life!


img_20161028_172412618Still life is not done but I’ll come to the drawing room tomorrow morning to finish it up. Generally pleased with how I’m doing in Drawing. I have an A! I don’t have an A in design. I’m sad about design. Anyway.



Finished and handed in this thing. Got the same critiques I always get, which is that I work too fast and didn’t refine anything enough. I don’t know what to do about that. I’m going to office hours later today to get help. Also got assigned a miniproject and a final project, both of which I’ve started, although I’m probably going to restart the miniproject later because I don’t like how it looks now…..


Here’s a sketch of my final project for design. We have to make a personal map of something important to us. I chose to map out every single book I’ve ever read, in the form of a tree. Then I took out the books I read for school and books I didn’t like because the list got too long. It’s still more than 200 books, counting series of books once. Yup. I had a lonely childhood.

So yeah!

Posted in art school advice

How to Enlarge a Drawing to Scale


This is the method my Drawing professor taught us to transfer the impressionist paintings we’re copying to our large pastel drawing paper. If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see that both my drawing paper and my reference image are covered in a grid of triangles.


It’s really easy, requires no math, and is way more accurate than the standard square grid! Just be sure to use a thin sharp pencil to do it.

Step 1: Draw Diagonal lines corner to corner on the image you want to enlarge.


Step 2: Measure from the edge of the frame to the intersection of the diagonal and draw a line straight across. Do the same vertically.


Step 3: Draw the other diagonals of your four new rectangles.


Step 4: Repeat as many times as necessary. My professor recommends at least 4 rectangles to a side for a landscape, and twice that for a figure.


Step 4: Stick your small gridded paper in the corner of the larger paper you’re drawing on, and extend the diagonal as far as you want to extend it. Draw super lightly!


Step 5: DO THIS ONCE and then remove the small picture and extend the diagonal. Drop a perpendicular line down from the diagonal to ensure the proportions of the larger image match your smaller image.


Step 6: Repeat the grid thing you did on the smaller paper.


Posted in art school life

The Week’s Work

Hey guys! I’ve decided to start a weekly thing where every Friday I’ll post a bit about my assignments and what I’ve been up to as a SCAD Atlanta student so people can get a better idea of what it’s like to be a freshman here.

This week’s actually been kind of unusual, because we’re still making up missed days from the evacuation so we had a class today when normally there are no classes on Fridays. But I went to a meeting of the SCAD Connector today (the campus online newspaper) and agreed to write an article and do some illustrations for other people’s articles, so when those are published I’ll link them here!

DRAWING 2: img_20161019_193841622 Reworked this still life and resubmitted it for a higher grade. I got a 90 on it the first round, but if I get above a 93 on my reworked piece it might go into next year’s foundation student show!


Started this pastel copy of an Impressionist landscape by Alfred Sisley. He’s my mom’s favorite, which is why I picked this painting. I’ll post a guide on how to make the grid I used to transfer the drawing sometime this weekend!


Set up this Halloween-themed still life to be drawn in pastel sometime soon eventually. Probably after I finish the Impressionist thing. I don’t want to work on two pastel projects at the same time.

DESIGN: img_20161021_162717811

This thing. Non-Objective Design featuring textures and patterns, to be done in micron pen, with a minimum of 20 hours spent on it outside of class in addition to 7 and a half hours of class time working on it. 18 by 24 inches. I’ve already destroyed two packs of microns on this. I am not a fan. But it’s due next Thursday so soon I will be free!

And in Speech class I gave a speech.

That’s my week!

Posted in art school advice

How to Sharpen a Pencil, or: Why Foundations are Important

Hey guys! It’s midterms time around here, and a lot of people are getting sick, so it’s been busy. I’m going to share a super valuable piece of advice today. On the very first day of drawing class and design class, both of my professors took some time to explain to us how to properly sharpen a pencil. To sharpen a pencil the Right way, you get an exacto knife (any blade will do but that was what most of us had) and, holding the blade at an angle, push away from your hands towards the tip while rotating the pencil slowly, exposing one to two inches of wood and at least half an inch of graphite, and then sharpening the tip to a fine point, still using the knife. My mom says this is how she was taught to sharpen pencils as a child in Soviet Russia, and how my drawing professor sharpened pencils growing up in China.


Sharpening pencils with a handheld blade is a life hack. You give yourself more pencil to work with and create a pointier tip for drawing finer details. My design professor said “you’re putting yourself ahead of the game by learning how to optimize your tools now.”

Which brings me to why foundations classes are necessary for art students.

  1.  Foundations put everyone on a level playing field

Not everyone starts at the same level. Some kids in my design class are film or photo majors who’ve never really drawn anything before. Some kids have been taking art classes practically since they were born. But if all of us are put in the same place and taught to make the most of what we have now, and if we can all learn from each other and work together, then everyone, regardless of initial skill level, can benefit from foundations instruction.

  1. Foundations help students develop good working habits

My design professor is very meticulous about things that you wouldn’t immediately consider to be important. He requires us to track how much time we spend working on our projects, take process photos, and to draw with pencil such that the grain of the paper is invisible. The reason for this, he explained, is because employers who hire talent from SCAD said that while SCAD students are enthusiastic and creative, they overwhelmingly have trouble following directions, meeting deadlines, and focusing on fine details. Foundations classes like this instill these habits early on so that, as a senior working on my final project, I can control my time and my materials better than if I hadn’t taken this class as a freshman.

  1. Foundations help students become familiar with quality materials

My drawing professor spends like, half an hour of each two and a half hour class just talking about the best pencils, the best paper, the best sharpener tool to use for whatever project we’re working on, how much they cost, where you should buy them to save money, and why he recommends them. With art supplies, a lot of the time you really can’t cut corners in terms of the cost, beyond buying from a specific location. Pastels, especially, are noticeably harder and duller the cheaper they are, so that for our pastel drawing assignment we’re not allowed to use any pastel set cheaper than Prismacolor Nupastels, and we’re encouraged to get bigger, more expensive sets if we can afford them. Learning about materials now, as a first-quarter freshman, means that I can choose where I want to invest more money now, where I should buy my supplies, and also how to use them best, lessons that will be useful in every class I take after this.

I have to confess: Drawing and Design are HARD for me. I spent 4 hours today working on a project due in two weeks.  I have Bs in both classes, which means my work is Good but not Great, and that I’m barely doing well enough to keep my scholarship.

But I think it’s important to need to work hard now, so that I have a solid foundation to build from for the future.

Posted in art school advice

How to Art School, Part 3: Picking a school

So let’s fast forward a couple of months in the admissions timeline. You sent your awesome portfolio to a few colleges you liked, you filled out your FAFSA and CSS Profile, you waited patiently and got a few acceptance letters back! With scholarships! And financial aid statements!

And now you have to figure out the hardest part. Where do you want to go? Where do you really want to spend the next four or more years of your life? Which art school is right for YOU?

This is not a simple choice. It’s never just going to be “this school is more worth it.” What does “worth it” mean to you? What is important to you?

Imagine, for a moment, your ideal college experience. Where is it located? How many people attend this imaginary college- more or less than your high school? What kind of majors does it have? What kind of clubs? Do you want to be able to study abroad? How much are you willing to pay for this college? What sort of internships, networking, career opportunities do you want?

What are the things you value the most about this ideal college?

Write it all down.

Then, think about the colleges you were accepted to.

A sidenote, if you’re reading this as someone who is still choosing where to apply: only apply to schools you’d want to go to. Application fees add up.

Also, do not apply to the Academy of Arts University or any of the Art Institute colleges. Those are for-profit schools with a 100% acceptance rate, and their absolute primary goal is to make money off of you. They have a terrible reputation and, though some students come out of there with good portfolios, the instruction is shoddy at best. Just don’t do it.

  1. Money.

If you’re the average college student, you can’t afford to pay the sticker price for your education. Don’t freak out. If your portfolio is good, and if your grades are decent, you probably got some scholarships from the colleges you got into. Congrats! Scholarships and grants are what’s considered gift aid– they’re free money you never have to pay back. And a lot of them are renewable, too! Awesome.

If you filled out your FAFSA and CSS Profile correctly, you also might have gotten work-study. This means you work for your school part-time– in the school store, giving tours to prospective students, filing paperwork in the office, stuff like that– which covers part of your tuition.

In addition to work study, you might’ve qualified for some federal loans, which are generally at lower interest rates than private loans and, though you will have to pay them back eventually, they’ll be less of a pain than private loans.

Go get your financial aid statements from all your colleges and look at the final price, including housing and cost of living, if applicable. This is the amount not covered by scholarships, work-study, or federal loans. Might as well discount the Parent PLUS Loans- those are loans taken out by your parents on your behalf, and if your parents don’t have a high income or a good credit history, they’re not a good option. My parents refused to even consider taking out such loans.

Rank all your colleges in order of lowest price per year to highest. Some colleges which have lower tuition up front give less scholarship money, so it’s really important to look at that final number. Remember, you’re going to art school. You will not be making $100,000 a year right after graduation. Check a student loan repayment calculator online to see what your monthly payments would have to be on a certain loan plan. A lot of art students go into art school thinking they’ll worry about the money later- this is almost always a terrible idea. You do not want to find yourself suddenly paying an extra $2,000 a month just in loan repayments.

  1. Location.

Look at your college. Look at the places around your college where you could get a job in your major. What kind of transportation would you need to get around the town or city your school is in– can you walk or bike everywhere, or do you need a car to get around? Are there interesting things to do near campus? What is the art scene like? Are there galleries, museums, cafes that do art shows sometimes? Would you like to live and work in that town/city after college, as a lot of graduates end up doing?

What do you think about the college campus? Do you like the ~vibe~ of the place? Do the students look like people you could be friends with?

If you can, visit all of your colleges, either before or after you apply. It can completely change your impression of a school. I thought I would like Laguna College of Art and Design, but when I visited, I found it far too small and isolated for me to be happy there, and I didn’t end up applying. This doesn’t mean LCAD’s a bad school, far from it. It just wasn’t the school for me. On the other hand, when I visited SCAD’s Atlanta campus, I really loved both the neighborhood it was in and the campus itself. The buildings were huge, cheerful and welcoming, and I could really see myself living comfortably in that environment.
If you can’t visit a school, the college website should have info about the campus size and surrounding area, as well as pictures of the campus. SCAD sent me a set of VR goggles (like the google cardboard thing? Whatever you call them) and a link so I could go on a Virtual Campus Tour, which was really cool. Find current students and ask them about the campus, how clean and maintained it is, is it easy to get around, is it safe, etc.

This is a good time to look back on your ideal college paper and see which of the schools you applied to match that list best. Also, think about how important location is to you. Personally, I value money and the type of programs offered over the physical placement of a school. Even though I love the Bay Area, I chose SCAD over CCA because SCAD gave me more financial aid and has better programs (such as a storyboarding minor and a separate program for sequential art) for the things I want to do.  

  1. Reputation.

A lot of people put reputation first, when applying and choosing art colleges. This isn’t like choosing between Harvard Law or Your State School (TM) Law. You are not guaranteed a higher-paid salary right out of college if you go to the more reputable school over the less reputable one, because whether or not you have a college degree and where you got it from is not very important to the people hiring you. Your portfolio is the #1 thing clients look at when they determine whether or not to hire you. It is not worth going into an extra 50,000 dollars of debt for a slightly more selective art college. Nevertheless, what industry professionals tend to say about a school, and the people that graduate from it, can be a pretty good indicator of whether or not an education there is worth the cost.

  1. Academics.

Do you care about your liberal arts classes? Do you enjoy math/science/other area of study that’s not necessary artistic? Is this something you care about in your college decision?

If this sounds like you, check to see if the colleges you’re considering allow you to take classes at other universities, or if you would be better off being in an arts program at a larger university like NYU-Tisch or UMich Stamps.

The most difficult thing to determine from the outsider perspective of an applicant is the quality of the art classes themselves. If you can, take a precollege course at a school you want to go to. Some schools also give you the option to sit in on a class when you visit the campus. Find current students of schools you like on tumblr and ask them what they think about their classes. Look at student work. Look at the work the student was making as a freshman, or as a senior in high school, and see how much they have improved since starting college.

Also, consider how closely a college’s programs match your interests. If you want to do comics as a career, would you rather go to a college with an illustration major and a concentration in sequential art, or a college with a sequential art major? How customizable is your schedule at a college?

Rank your schools again, best to worst, on this point.

  1. Networking

I suppose this could go under reputation, but it’s a pretty big thing by itself. If you can’t really afford to go to college but are going to college anyway, you’re doing it to get a job that will hopefully eventually pay for the college you can’t afford. Will the colleges you’re looking at get you a job? Some schools post lists of successful graduates on their websites; check those out. If you can find any such graduates on tumblr, ask them about if they thought the school they went to helped them find work in the field they desired. Some schools also post statistics that tell you the percentage of graduates working in the industry they wanted to work in within a year or two of graduation. Do companies you want to work for go to this college to recruit? Do they have a special internship plan with your college? Pixar has a special internship for CCA students. Speaking of internships, how many students get internships before they graduate? At an SVA open house, I asked the animation student representative people who were talking to us if they’d had any internships (they were seniors). Only one of the three had, at a small independent studio. I place a pretty high priority on internship opportunities, so SVA dropped down in my personal list of Colleges I’d Like To Go To.

Also, since we’re pretending you’ve been accepted to all your colleges already, join the class facebook groups. Do you like the people in those groups? Do you like the ~vibe~ you get from your potential classmates?

You still have your lists there, right? After all this researching, one or two schools should be bubbling up to the top as your best options. The more you research, the clearer your best option should become. You’ll also gain a better understanding of what you want out of your college education, and what you want to do when you actually start college. Hopefully, after breaking everything down like this, you feel more confident and secure about your future path.

Posted in art school advice

How to Art School Part 2: The Portfolio

originally published on thestudioblrcollective here
So, you’ve decided to go to art school. Now what?

You make a portfolio.

Okay, how do you do that?

  1. Research the specific portfolio requirements for all the schools you’re interested in. Do they require you to draw a specific subject (e.g., the famous RISD bike)? Do they only allow traditional artwork? Do they want a sketchbook? How many pieces do they want? What do they REALLY NOT want? (Some schools specify that they don’t want fanart in a portfolio, for instance.) Put all this information in one place (I used a google spreadsheet, but you should do what works for you.)
  2. Write down:
    1. How much time you have before your first deadline,
    2. How many pieces you must make by that deadline,
    3. What artwork do you already have that works for your portfolio and
    4. What ideas you already have for those pieces.

Writing stuff down is magical. It immediately makes you feel in control of your life and focused. Write down everything you need to do, always.

Okay. You did all that. What sort of stuff should you have in a portfolio?

A college portfolio is NOT the same thing as a portfolio for a potential employer. Employers are looking at your work to determine if you will draw something that fits their aesthetic and ideas. Colleges are looking for your potential– do you have original, creative ideas? Are you willing to experiment? Are you at a technical level that you won’t lag behind other people in the class?

So, while an art director or animation studio may be looking for how well you work in one specific style, a college would be more interested in seeing how well you work in many different styles. If you’re a photographer, do some collage work to demonstrate your understanding of design principles in a different way. If you love to draw cartoons, do some realistic paintings to show your understanding of anatomy. Have both drawings and paintings in there. There’s a ton of traditional materials that you can work with– pastels, graphite, watercolor, acrylic, oil, printmaking, ink, marker, charcoal. Choose three or four you like and do a variety of work with them. EXPERIMENT!

You’ve figured out what you should be drawing with. But what should you be drawing? The answer is, obviously, whatever you want! And also some other stuff.

Draw. From. Life. If you intend to major in anything requiring even a little drawing skill, draw from life. At least half your portfolio should be observational drawing,, and the pieces that are more imaginative should have you putting what you’ve learned from observation into practice. Still lives are great- better if they’re personal and unique to you, and better if they tell some kind of story. A detailed graphite drawing of your messy desk is so much more interesting than some fruit on a crumpled up cloth. One of my favorite portfolio pieces is a pastel still life of a bunch of white objects, that I then lit with two different colored lamps to create an interesting effect.


Other great things to draw from life include people, landscapes, interiors, and animals.

Speaking of drawing people, if you can, get yourself to a figure drawing class. Colleges love figure drawings. Nothing can teach you anatomy, posing, and people better than drawing real people doing things. It also shows colleges you’re committed to studying art and improving your craft. Include both short poses, of 3 minutes or less, and long studies of 20 minutes to an hour in your portfolio.

So now that you’ve got all those great observational pieces ready, what else should you put in?

Include at least a couple of pieces that indicate your chosen area of study. Architecture students could include drawings of buildings or blueprints (disclaimer: I am not an architecture student). Design majors could include examples of design work they’ve done in the past, like posters or logos for school events.  Animation majors could include storyboards, character designs, a short reel if the application allows. Some schools (such as Calarts and Art Center) have major-specific portfolio requirements. Take these into consideration.

The most important thing to remember, though, is to include pieces YOU like, and that represent YOU as an artist. Don’t go with something if it doesn’t feel right. Art is subjective. Go with your gut.

Make sure the work in your portfolio is recent. You really shouldn’t have anything from freshman or sophomore year of high school in there. If you’re not in high school, anything older than two years doesn’t really represent you as an artist today. You grow and develop a lot in a year or two, and you want your work to reflect who you are now.

If you’re having doubts about your portfolio, try to go to a National Portfolio Day event. These happen all over the US throughout the year. They’re kind of like college fairs, where representatives from tons of art schools look at your work and give you feedback. They tell you what they like and don’t like about your work, what pieces you should and shouldn’t include, and ideas on how to move forward. Some schools might even accept you on the spot!

If you can’t get to a portfolio day, a lot of colleges will have the option for you to come down to their campus and get an informal, in-person review there. Some colleges will even let you email your work to a counselor and receive feedback that way!  Ask your art teachers, your friends, classmates with artistic backgrounds for portfolio feedback, too. Other people may notice stuff about your work that you missed. Maybe you tend to use the same color schemes over and over, or have a habit of hiding people’s hands from view. Feedback is an important part of the creative process. Make art friends.

Look at your work together as a whole. Is it both varied and cohesive? Is it the best representation of your artistic abilities? Does it show both what you can do and what you want to do?

You can also look at accepted portfolios other people have posted online from the year before, but for me, this only served to make me more anxious and panicky about my own work, so I wouldn’t really recommend it.

Good job! You made a portfolio. You’re like, 80% of the way there. You’ll have to write an artist’s statement, probably, and send your standardized test scores and transcripts, but the most important part of the whole thing is done and you did it. Go have a cupcake.

Posted in art school advice

How to Art School, part 1: Why

Hi, everyone! I’m Masha, and welcome to Sticky Pencils! Here we’ll focus on The Art School Life, with some geeking out over comics, books and cartoons mixed in. I’m going to start this blog off with a series of posts I wrote last spring about my college application experience. I hope the high school classes of 2017 and beyond find this useful.

When I was researching art schools, I found a sad lack of resources on the internet. There was a tumblr blog post that recommended the Academy of Art university over Calarts! I saw a lot of people sending asks about specific art schools to general college app help blogs with no art school related knowledge, or asking artists from Europe what they think about attending some American art college. I hope this blog can serve as a one-stop art school related information base, so that impressionable youngsters won’t find themselves dropping tons of money on something they only have vague hunches about.

This blog will be following my adventures as a SCAD animation/sequential art student and how I stay organized and totally on top of everything (I hope.)I’m not an expert on being in art school (yet) but I AM an expert on getting to art school. When I say art school, I specifically mean art school in the United States- not an arts program at a large university or an art school in any other country. I haven’t experienced those things and am extra unqualified to write about them. Anyway, since my school’s shut down until Wednesday due to a hurricane, I’m going to tell you all why I decided to go to art school in the first place.

There are tons of articles floating around on the internet explaining why NOT to go to art school– but every year, thousands of young artists make the decision to go anyway. So should you?

There are two major reasons to go to an art school as opposed to teaching yourself online- motivation and connections.

First, motivation. Some people can lock themselves in their room and draw diligently for hours on end, weeks at a time. Some people need other people to give them deadlines and assignments to make them draw things that will improve their skills and portfolios. For people of the second kind, studying art at a college would be a good option. Personally, I work well in a school environment, so going to school to learn how to do art better seemed like a logical next step. If you’re a mostly self-taught artist, and feel like you can teach yourself to a level where you can work in the industry of your choice, go for it! I wish you luck. If you still want to go to art school, keep reading.

The second thing is connections. Are you comfortable forging friendships with strangers on the internet? Are you comfortable going to conventions with your work and contacting whoever is in charge of hiring talent in your industry of choice? Are you confident in your ability to share your art online to the point that the people you want to be hired by see it?

Art school will make those things significantly easier, and give you access to professors and fellow students who can connect you to internships and jobs. A lot of internships are only available to college students too– another reason to go to art school, or to major in art at a university.

Lots of talented people working in the art world never went to art school, such as Natasha Allegri or Lauren Zuke. Lots of other people did go to art school. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if the benefits are worth the cost.