Thursday, 4 September 2014

Smart School Week One

So I've just finished with my first weekly class with the exceptionally bubbly Iain McCaig, whose personal manner is as lovely as people told me it would be! My brain is buzzing, between this and the Rebecca Guay session I sat in on the day before, I am very fired up to embrace what is a fairly new concept for me. To follow my real love in art. To. Just. Be. Me. 

The two classes were handled very differently, but the end message was almost the same. Find what you love doing, look at your influences and learn from them. USE REFERENCE. Keep  thumbnails loose!

There's so much I could write up, but I'll try to keep it to short, salient points for the TLDR crowd!


Recurring theme of this class was that there's no one who can do you, like you. You are unique. If you want to work in the entertainment industry, then entertain. Tell stories. Even if you think you're  the most boring artist in the world, then at least that's something special and something you can embrace.

Stop guessing what people want from you, especially when it comes to your portfolio and the jobs it may or may not get you. Don't think in terms of jobs or what will sell. Create what you love and  people will respond to it. 

I was inspired watching Iain doing a study but turning the study into a character even as he sketched -  even in the simplest of gestural lines, there was something to be told about the character of a  face by the way you add lines, or creases, or arch an eyebrow. What was interesting was when it came to looking at our pre-course homework, he was much more focused on our personal stories  we'd told in words and looking at the art almost as a secondary backup to that. He was focused on finding the narrative in our lives and how we can pull from that. For me, it's about embracing the  magpie I've become, that I can pull from all these amazing sources I've been inspired by and worked on and create stuff that's just *me*. I don't have to choose between styles, because I can use  my love to both to create something that's unique. 

If you're not sure who you are, then take an hour each day to sketch. Only sketch things that you love, that you would - and I quote - 'run naked in the snow to see'. 

The other awesome quote I took away from the session was "Perfection is counter-intuitive to creating things that communicate." I've worried over perfectionism for a long long time. It's a chain I'm  more than happy to break. 


Rebecca was just like her art. Soft, demure, elegant and deep. It came across that she really loves teaching and I'm already sold on her class if I sign up for another one in the future. She was  invested in finding out what it was that really inspired her students, probing things like what mediums they enjoyed/were fluent with and what inspiration made their hearts stop. What do you respond  to and who works in the medium you want to work in? 

She was very into the art and giving personal feedback on the pre-course assignments, helping students see where their strengths lay and how to add elements to make that image even stronger. I  really love the fact she didn't alter drawings all that much, just pushed things around and added visual interest to the pieces. I swear every single work went from a cool drawing to an awesome  conceptual art piece, or, if the student was pretty competent (Kim Kincaid!) she helped push good pieces into extraordinary pieces. 

Reference was stressed as being important, including the use of lightboxing. If it makes the piece better, then no method should be out of bounds and that you should always try to learn from the  methods you employ. I also loved the fact she was a great believer in the strength of simplicity, citing the Spectrum covers as great examples of works of art that don't need a lot going on in order to  be emotionally impactful. 

I'm only one week in, but I think I'd already highly recommend SmART School. It's clear these guys are super focused on the students and the work they produce and I'd imagine that each tutor brings his or her own special touch to proceedings. I loved Iain's bubbly, excitable nature, like that of some kooky old wizard who just loves telling you every story he found in his day. I found I resonated with much of what Rebecca told her students and *every* influence and inspiration she mentioned, I found myself going 'wow' at. The price is much higher than a lot of online courses,  but it's SO worth it for the sheer enthusiasm and excitement it's generated in me for art, even just one week in, and even taking out the sheer caliber of the people who teach there. 

Conclusion thus far? AWESOME!


  1. Thanks for writing about this Sam! I really want to do SmArt School so it's great to hear what it's like. Iain and Rebecca are awesome, enjoy the next few months in the class!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing!
    I can relate with the problem of finding your own personal voice while receiving a huge amount of inspiring input of every kind. Oh so much.
    I'm so happy I read this, seriously. I have come to a point where I can barely recognize what I love to do - I'm heavily influenced by what would sell and general tastes of the masses.
    I'll definitely try that 1-hour-sketching-per-day tip.

    I hope you're still happy about the course as it goes on! Keep up the great work :)