The Art Connection Academy - Illustration Academy

The Illustration Academy 

June 1 - 27 | KCMO Studio | Kansas City, MO

During the summers of the past several years, The Illustration Academy has brought together some of America's most accomplished and best-known illustrators to share their insights and advice with students. The students range in age from eighteen to sixty years old and have come from not only the United States, but as far away as Hong Kong, England, Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, and Argentina.

Unique to the illustration field is the fact that a graduating student is thrust into the market place and forced to compete with established illustrators. The mission of the Academy is to shorten the gap that exists between the student and the working professional. This problem is resolved using a rigorous hands-on approach implemented by the faculty. The students work through each assignment with a logical step-by-step approach to produce finished illustrations. Driven by real-world examples and deadlines, the students are encouraged to focus on concepts, techniques, and to pursue a personal point of view to make their work unique. Along side the technical demonstrations of media and life drawing skills, the Academy focuses on the functional business practices in the field of illustration. These include self-promotion, advertising, contracts, taxes and accounting.


Life at the Academy

The Illustration Academy is an intense workshop of "immersion" into the art world. Each day is full of studio time, presentations, demonstrations, drawing time, and research time. Many evenings early in the workshop are reserved for sidebar demonstrations by the faculty. These may include the use of color, photography, lighting, composition, etc. Notes are taken and hands-on demos are used to show effective practices that assist the student in their work immediately.

The full time faculty is available for the entire four weeks during the workshop. Faculty will be working with students on a day to day basis, with the visiting artist changing from week to week. During the past 18+ years, many of The Art Department instructors have been a "guest instructor" at The Illustration Academy. The roster of instructors changes slightly during each session. Check out their bio pages to learn more about the artists that teach at The Illustration Academy.

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A Typical Week at the Academy

Monday: A typical week starts with the new visiting artist critiquing the assignment produced from the week before, which was given by the previous visiting artist. For example, Gary Kelley may come in on Monday morning to critique the assignment given the week before by Chris Payne. This brings in a fresh set of eyes and ideas from a leader in the profession. A new assignment is given before lunch. That afternoon, the new visiting artist shows a digital presentation and originals of their work. You see from 80-160 images that may span 35 years of their career. That evening, research and thumbnails are used to generate ideas for the new project. During the artists stay, each student may have the artist look at their existing portfolios for a critique from the best.

Tuesday: The thumbnails are individually critiqued by the visiting artist and some of the full-time faculty. That afternoon the visiting artist gives a demonstration of their techniques used in illustration or painting. You see the way they start, solve problems, and work to different stages of completion. Studio time takes us up until 7:00, and figure drawing begins. Two hours of figure drawing with the faculty as they demonstrate the preferred technique to learn a new way of seeing and drawing. This particular technique was shown at the first Illustration Academy by Mark English. After drawing, the students resume studio time. As you can see, it has been a 12 hour day so far...It is a rigorous and demanding schedule for faculty and student alike.

Wednesday: Sketches are critiqued and some students are allowed to progress to the next stage. Most students need further development or research. The day is spent in studio working on the assignment. Each day, some unstructured "personal" time is scheduled for students to do research, photography, etc. The evening may have an additional demonstration or used as studio time. The days are long at the Academy, but the energy and excitement of a room full of people working towards a common goal keep the level of enthusiasm high. Students are required to work in-studio to maximize student-teacher contact, and to learn from others, and so others can learn from them. Also, impromptu demonstrations by the faculty may occur at any time to help resolve some common problems in technique.

Thursday: Much the same as Wednesday, with the addition of figure drawing at 7:00 p.m. Another two hours of learning to see more effectively and learning to draw more effectively. Studio time continues after drawing. The students are now working on the final illustrations.

Friday: Mainly this day is used for studio time. The faculty is continuing to help students with challenges and problems on several stages of the finished assignment. Some students have time to do more than one finished piece. Others struggle to make the deadline of Monday morning. Students range widely in age, technical ability, and process. It is all part of learning and helping each student get the most from the experience. The visiting artist often leaves Friday p.m., so closing remarks and good-byes are said.

Saturday: Studio time is the main part of this day. The students are not required to be at the Academy at a certain time during the morning. The faculty is available for part of the day, but no fixed schedule is required. Usually two faculty members are available on the weekends.

Sunday: The same as Saturday. The faculty often comes to the studio late in the evening to check on progress and to aid those students with last minute difficulties. Students are available to make those last minute touches to make their illustrations professional quality.

Monday: The new visiting artist arrives to critique the assignments and the cycle begins again. Although everyone wants to have a quality piece of artwork for the critique, we emphasize that the process of going through the entire week is of the most importance. If the student only gets the assignment partially completed, the actual lesson was the process of learning all the correct stages along the way.

The enormous amount of information gleaned from the academy is indescribable. From the nuts and bolts of drawing, to the business talks of taxes, self-promotion, and e-commerce, The Illustration Academy itself unfolds as a process of learning to be a better illustrator and image maker; and a better person as well. Business ethics are emphasized and personal looks at the lives of the illustrators are held in high regard.

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Figure Drawing

The Illustration Academy holds figure drawing classes two nights each week, featuring costumed and nude models. An innovative approach is used, stressing the silhouette of the form. This teaches the student to view the entire figure as a unit, and to focus on the overall shape. This technique can then be translated into every aspect of drawing, design, and painting.

The Illustration Academy is based on drawing, and drawing skills are emphasized as the genesis of personal work and better concepts. The best artists, whether abstract or photorealistic come from a working knowledge and understanding of drawing. The instructors draw with the students in class so you can watch as they "practice what they preach." Sit side by side with some of the best drawers in the country as you learn by drawing the figure two nights a week. The Illustration Academy will point you in the right direction to learn and understand the types of things that make your drawings better, and get you on track to compete at a professional level.  Check out the supplies you will need here!

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The Illustration Academy
6027 Lockton Lane
Fairway, KS 66205

Phone: (913) 579-1139 OR
Phone: (816) 682-5154

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© 2014 Art Connection Academy

Illustration Academy