Posted in art school advice, art school life, comic reviews, study abroad

Hong Kong Week 1


So, if you would like the short version of my week, check out my travel comics, which I’ve collected into a moment on Twitter here.

For the long version… classes started Monday. I was super terrified. There’s seniors in both my classes, my HK Comics class is 5 people (one of which is a photo major) all of whom are natives to Hong Kong and know each other really well. My professors are both really nice and super legit. Here’s my comics professor’s portfolio site. He’s given me so many great tips on how to make things look good in photoshop really fast. My travel portfolio professor was a war artist in Iraq! He follows me on instagram and comments nice things on the assignments I post on there.

It’s amazing how after such a short time I already feel so much more comfortable drawing environments and cityscapes. Because I have to draw them. A lot.

I’ve been to the Bird, Fish, Flower and Ladies’ markets in Mong Kok, the art supply store in Yau Ma Tei, and the bars in Lan Kwai Fong (I’m legal here!). Also, swing dancing near the Macau Ferry stop, and the Gold Coast Beach today. I don’t swing dance but my roommate’s obsessed and dragged me with her so she didn’t have to take the bus by herself. I’m slowly getting the hang of the bus system here.

We had a Food Tour yesterday, and I tried egg tarts, pineapple bread, hong kong style tea, fish balls and shu mai, a fancy fruit tea, and takoyaki. My favorite was probably the egg tart, but everything was really cool. We went to the markets with my travel portfolio class on Wednesday, and I tried fried pig intestines on a stick then. They tasted okay.

I have way too many pictures of all of these places and I don’t want to go through them all for this blog post to be honest. Just check my twitter, @mashazart.

Thursday night we went bar-hopping, which was a first for me. We started at this place at the top of the Ritz hotel called Ozone, which was expensive, but very fancy and with a very nice view. I had an…okay-tasting drink, and forced myself to drink all of it because it was almost 20 USD and I felt guilty spending so much money.

Then we went to Lan Kwai Fong which was not fancy at all. Very loud, lots of people grabbing me and trying to sell me things. But we danced at a place for a while and that part was fun. Getting back was not fun. We missed the bus and ended up grabbing a taxi and got back to Gold Coast at 5 am. Then I got on the bus for the food tour just 5 hours later. It Was Fine.

Here’s some of the drawings I’ve done for Travel Portfolio so far. We have to fill 40 sketchbook pages of various sizes by monday, which is intense. One of them has to include collages of ~ephemera~, meaning paper scraps and things we find around the city. Also writing. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in a short time, and that I have the leniency to play more than I usually do.

On a related note, here are my tips for making good collages, learned from AP Studio when everyone was doing the collage thing for some reason:

  1. booklets, newspapers, thing with small text are textural elements. Those words aren’t gonna be read by anyone not even if you highlight the important stuff. The arrangement of the words on the page will impact the final composition more than what they say.
  2. Try to have a focal point the rest of the composition is founded around.
  3. Repeat similar elements throughout the piece to generate cohesion.
  4. Cut out background elements like the sky. Put in something else instead. Art.
  5. Try to create a narrative with the images you choose.
  6. It is not illegal to draw and paint in addition to cutting out and gluing bits of paper in a collage.
  7. Colored label stickers are great.

I kept all these things in mind when making my 4 collage spreads for class. I might do one more because I don’t like my second one very much, but I don’t want to run out of ~ephemera~ and I’d rather wait until the next assignment is officially assigned.


In comics class, I drew this illustration for a concept I’ve had brewing for a while, a few years now, actually. We have to create an IP from zero to pitch-ready in the 5 week term, and it has to be connected to Hong Kong somehow. I decided to work with my millenial hell concept because the hell landscape could easily be reimagined to be inspired by Hong Kong street architecture. My professor helped me a lot with the coloring of this. First, my inspiration board.


Here’s what I came up with, inspired by all of that.

I’m fairly proud of it.

Also in comics class Howard Wong local comic book writer came in and talked to us and gave everyone individual feedback on their concepts and it was super cool, I learned so much, what a cool dude.

Our Resources folder for that class contains rips of Blade Runner, Akira, and an episode of Samurai Champloo.

It’s kind of amazing.

Also, my prof told us all to read Bakuman, and I have made it through 6 volumes so far. It’s kind of sexist at the beginning, but overall very funny and interesting. I like getting an insider’s look on the manga-making process. It certainly seems like a better system than the US comics market.

Tomorrow, I’m meeting a good friend at Causeway Bay, which is super exciting, both because I haven’t been there yet and because my friend is a great person I haven’t seen in a while.


Posted in art school advice

ALMOST DONE! Momocon and RenFest

I want to go home so bad but I still have 3 days of classes to go! And then a day of lounging around in my aunt’s apartment because my flight’s Saturday morning, haha. But because it’s finals week, it’s been a very eventful series of days.

Last Monday in my SEQA class, we did an exercise where one person pencilled a sketch and someone else inked it. I drew Wonder Woman on the moon, holding a teddy bear. My friend Michael inked it.IMG_20170524_121111249.jpg

On Tuesday, I went to an LP concert with some friends from SCAD Savannah. I’d never been to a concert like that before, so it was a very interesting experience. Very loud. But fun!IMG_20170523_212807830.jpg

Thursday we had our Late-Night Brunch to celebrate the kick-off of finals week. It was okay, but I was very tired so I kind of hated being there. I do love free brunch at all times, though.

And then I had a very fun weekend! On Saturday, my good friend Regan picked me up and we went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival, where we walked around and looked at all this cool handmade medieval fantasy type stuff. I got a lot of character design inspiration and impulse bought some hairclips and some boots.

Sunday I went to Momocon. It felt weirdly small, like the convention center was way bigger than it really needed to be for the amount of people. I saw a surprising number of Homestuck cosplayers, and I bought some stickers, prints and charms, from friends and strangers. I went to the Women in Animation panel that morning, and it was really really cool. IMG_20170529_151108556.jpg

This was my favorite cosplay at the entire con.IMG_20170528_134214529.jpg

I also got to see some high school friends and played a board game called Dominion with them? And Dance Evolution. They had Happy Synthesizer and I learned that dance in 8th grade so I was really excited and I did pretty well at it I think.

And then today right before class the editor of our student media organization stopped me to give me this! I didn’t know that was a thing but I guess it is!


Mermaids of the Week, inspired by my daily life and my fandoms because I’m running out of ideas as this month comes to a close.

Also, some sketchbook doodles that I like.


it’s thunderstorming outside now, and I’m done for today.

Posted in art school advice

Calarts animation portfolios =/= Art School Portfolios

Just hear me out for a sec okay.

Calarts character animation has an insanely low acceptance rate. Like, over a thousand people apply every year, and between 60 and 70 get in. That’s a 6-7% acceptance rate, on par with Princeton and Yale universities.

This means that, unlike most art schools with acceptance rates of over 50%, Calarts is picky. Calarts wants students who already know how to draw. That’s the defining thing. They want students who have creative and interesting styles that don’t look like anyone else’s stuff, but also have a very, very good grasp of anatomy and color theory and how to stylize things so that they would actually move in a believable way when animated. Calarts wants people who are almost ready to enter the animation industry, but want to go to college for four years before they actually do so. Therefore, their portfolio requirements are extremely specific: a sketchbook, a selection of figure drawings, and Other Work that shows you can do visual development and character design and storyboarding pretty well without them needing to teach you.

Most art schools are not like this. Most art schools have rigorous foundations classes that will, in fact, teach you all the fundamentals Calarts wants you to have nailed down five years before you apply. What those schools want from your application portfolio is proof that you’re willing to learn.

Your figure drawings can suck, your designs can be sloppy, but you have to show that you want to experiment. Use a lot of materials, draw a lot of different things in different styles, try collage, try sculpture, try photography, try as many things as possible. And spend time on your pieces. Having the fundamentals is great and will probably help, but what’s more important is that you have a passion and a desire to put time and effort into the art that you make.

Also, for Calarts, you’re applying to a very specific program with a very specific direction. Most schools, you indicate an area of interest on your application, but you don’t declare a major until you’ve actually been there for a few terms. A willingness to explore and experiment with things that aren’t directly related to animation will make those schools think you are right for them.

Someone messaged me to look at their application portfolio for SCAD. It was all figure drawings in colored pencil on newsprint, a character turnaround, some plain backgrounds, and a storyboard. I could immediately see this person applied to Calarts. I could also immediately see that a) they did not get in and b) this portfolio would not get them in anywhere else without other things to back it up. Figure drawings and concept artwork for one simple animated movie don’t show enough training, which art schools like because it means you’ll do well in the foundations classes, or enough of that willingness to learn, to experiment, to break out of your comfort zone and try shit that scares you. Which Calarts also wants, of course, they just want controlled experimentation in a very specific direction.  Think of it as being more willing to do anything because you’re still growing and figuring things out as opposed to being more set because you’re more developed as an artist and actually know where you’re going.

Sidenote: Regardless of where you get accepted to and where you want to go, art school’s expensive and you would 100% be better off getting some credits and honing your skills at a community college for a few years and then transferring to wherever it is you want to go. Don’t let anyone tell you you Have To go to real college right after high school, they’re a bunch of lying liars. Literally all but 3 people out of 20 in my color theory class last quarter transferred in from somewhere else. Plus if you wait a little you’ll have more time to develop your skills on your own and be that much more ahead of the curve when you do apply places.

TL;DR don’t send 20 2-minute figure gestures to SCAD/ SVA / MICA and expect to get an acceptance letter and a full ride.

Posted in art school advice

ATV Fest and other stuff!

Hi guys! ATV Fest is happening right now, and it’s awesome! Nickelodeon’s Writing and Artist Program is promoting on campus, and I got free stuff and a really helpful conversation about TV storyboarding and future careers. I also have tickets to screenings of Imaginary Mary, Scandal, and When We Rise, all happening today, and I’m going to try to get into a panel on writing for television tomorrow at noon.
For most of today, though, I was in life drawing, where we had open model sketching and then a demonstration on life drawing in ink and watercolor. It was fun, but challenging. Especially because the paper I got didn’t dry as quickly as the paper my professor did the demo on, so my first watercolor came out really muddy. This ink one’s my favorite, though.

Other life drawing things: lukewarm crit on self-portrait, but he really liked my drapery study that we did in class!

Color Theory: We’re starting a new project where we design a coat of arms for a fictional nation we come up with, and studied for the midterm quiz next week. I finished the Complementary and Tonal Progression scales, and also did the Josef Albers-inspired exercises where we had to make two different colors look like the same color, and the same color look like two different colors.

Computer Art: Logo was very well-received, and we’re starting a new project where we have to model something in Maya. I’m doing Hadrian’s Villa, but I have to create concept sketches for it and write out how I want to do it and also what exactly I want to do. I can do that tomorrow, probably. It’s due on Tuesday, so there’s plenty of time.
Outside of class things: I read the memoir of Orange is the New Black and it was very different from the show, but I liked it. I also read The Book of Lost Things by John Conolly and that was unnecessarily dark. I did Hourly Comics Day, and if you’re following me on twitter @mashazart you would’ve seen all of these already, but if you’re not then here they are again. I couldn’t figure out how to paste these two images in so I just decided to make them all links haha yeah.
I drew some illustrations for the Monsters zine Marksmen is doing, and I’m really pleased with the use of color in them.  Only posting one, though, you’ll have to get the zine for the full experience! I also did some concept sketches of the three main characters in the monster story, too. The concept is basically millennial demons in hell. I know, unparalleled genius that no one has ever thought of before. (That was a joke.)

Oh wait, I have some life advice to offer to everyone: use your library, and make friends with your librarians. Libraries have endless wells of information, librarians are shy and eager to help, and if they like you they can extend your due dates and find books for you when you need them and that is EXTREMELY USEFUL.

Posted in art school advice, art school life

People Drawing done 3 ways

HI I’m still drawing a lot, and I’ve been working on lots of different things to build up my skills this winter break. Winter break is suprisingly boring when it starts a month before all your dearest and geographically nearest friends’ breaks start. So I’m going to talk about three ways I’ve approached the drawing of people in this past week to improve different skillsets, and to train my eye, hand, and brain.

The first is life drawing. I went to the Monday Night Life Drawing session at the Princeton Arts Council last week (not this week tho. 2 tired) And drew from a live model. The poses were between 3 and 20 minutes each, allowing for sustained observation of the model and anatomy. I’ve actually been going to life drawing things on and off for about two years now, so despite what my well-meaning college upperclassmen friends keep telling me I’m very comfortable in front of a nude model.

I used Strathmore Charcoal paper for these, and charcoal and conte pencils. I also left my erasers at home but the girl sitting next to me let me borrow hers, bless her heart.

Here’s some of the short poses I liked.

And the longer poses. Sometimes I remember to write down how long they are. Sometimes I do not.

Not gonna lie, I like the life models at SCAD more than these models. The SCAD ones are practically living statues, and the Life Drawing Coordinator Michael can hold the same standing pose for like half an hour without moving at all. This one kept moving very very slightly such that my initial sketch of where everything was did not match where everything was twenty minutes later. Very unfortunate.

I like to think I’ve gotten significantly better at life drawing over the last two years, but looking back, the only thing that’s really improved is my sense of proportion. Which is also important, but I wish the change was more noticeable after all this time.

At least I learned how to draw feet and faces better.

One of my first figure drawings from November 2014.

So the first way of drawing people that I’ve talked about is drawing people from sustained, long-term observation.
Today I practiced a different method of drawing people. I sat at the front counter in a Starbucks and drew the people walking by. I didn’t have more than a few seconds to look at any of them, so it was a race to capture the gesture and feeling of everyone I saw. I added the yellow to create more visual interest in the page, and tried to use shapes to create more character in these quick drawings.

Then two girls I knew from high school but wasn’t friends with came in and sat down next to me at the counter and I was very stressed for five entire minutes. Anyway.

The third method of drawing people isn’t really drawing people at all, it’s creating characters from imagination and making them look like real people. I have a script written out for a story idea I’ve been playing around with for a while, and I decided to make myself get more comfortable drawing the characters, since I hope to spend a lot of time with them and maybe eventually create a graphic novel or a webcomic around them. Consistency is important for cartoonists, in the sense that a character has to look like the same character from every angle and pose. So to work on that, I created animation turnarounds for the three main characters from the short comic script I’ve written out. They still don’t look exactly like I want them to look, but I’m getting better, and that’s what matters.


So the moral of this post is: practice drawing things from observation, but also from imagination. Because both things need to be practiced.

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 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.