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Behind the scenes #3 – A visit to the art school


To put it simple, I am not a great fan of art classes in institutional circumstances. I have had some really bad experiences at university and during those years I was simply incapable of creating any form of art, it all started once I was left well alone and I could paint at home whatever I liked and with whatever technique I chose.

This is one reason why it is such a great step for me that I took part in an illustration workshop last November at a local art school in Budapest. Around here  there are not many opportunities to learn illustration specifically, so when I came across the ad I just knew I had to put aside my worries and join. So, from the middle of November, a group of us got together every Wednesday for 4 weeks to learn a bit more about illustration.

What’s happening in the witch’s brew?

Probably the best thing that happened to me during these 4 weeks was that I could put aside my prjudice: art classes do not exist for the sole reason to ruin your confidence. Our instructor, Réka Holló-Szabó has been working tirelessly to figure out which technique suited us best and gave us encouragement in that precise field.

So what’s happening at a workshop like this? Basically, about 10-15 people get together and we are actively working on something. In this case, every student chose a story, poem or text that she wanted to illustrate, then created several sets of illustration based on the text with different techniques. The instructor started every class with a short presentation (about illustration techniques, cool illustrators, etc.), after which we started working on our own individual projects, while Réka was supervising us one by one.


Study themed “armcheir” 

My still existing problems with art classes…

I may have had some really nice experiences at the illustration workshop, but I’m actually still frustrated about working together with other creatives in the same room. To top it all, the art school shared this workshop opportunity with its old students, the result being that I was an outsider while all the other students had known each other before. Needless to say, this did nothing to boost my confidence. I came to the conclusion that I still prefer to work alone at home, with nobody to watch over my shoulders, have all the equipment around (and as much space as I need).

Time is my other great enemy. The school closed every day at 8PM, so by the time I really caught the flow of painting I had to start tidying up. My creative process – perhaps due to lack of practice – is a lot freer. Before starting to paint I try to make sure I have several hours ahead so if I decide to start all over again I still have time to finish, without anyone telling me to hurry up.


Why it was worth it

Apart from the fact that I stretched my comfort zone a little wider, I have also managed to try some techniques, which I would probably not have tried for years to come. Lino-cutting, for instance, is no every-day medium, and I was convinced that I was no good at ink. I was wrong. :)

I also happened to discover painting again. I’ve been so busy doing other things lately that painting has been put a little aside, but with all the tasks and homework given I had no option but to gather my stuff and start painting again. And it felt amazing!


Ink piece from the study series themed “old man”

Talking about illustration…

As for the curriculum (can you say that when you have a course of 12 hours all together..?) I still have some questions remaining (text-picture relations? digital techniques? the route of a picture from paper to print? trends today and predictions for the future?), but this course concentrated on introducing manual techniques. However, I had a little devil in my head during the entire course saying: ‘this is just like some afternoon school class for kids, isn’t it?’. I couldn’t help thinking that in 2016 (okay, 2017) I could gather most of this information from talented youtubers and bloggers, so a live workshop should have given something extra. I actually think that trying creative new techniques is based a lot more on courage and experimenting rather than supervised teaching. The thing I missed was precisely that little extra (maybe theoretical) wisdom that makes it obvious whether an illustration is amateur or professional and that is impossible to find online.

Have you read this?
How to learn to draw (again)?
Back to school – what makes a good art teacher?

What’s in it for YOU…?

I think that attending an art school is basically a good thing, sometimes even necessary. Despite some of my ill-feelings I would like to go again, there is still a lot to learn. However, it is important to know your boundaries: if you don’t like creating between specified hours or it bothers you to be surrounded by others, there is still a lot you can do at home without supervision.

Have you read this?

How to learn to draw (again)?

Továbbra is úgy gondolom, hogy rajziskolába járni alapvetően jó dolog, sőt bizonyos esetekben szükséges. Az ellenérzéseim ellenére szívesen mennék ismét, bőven tudnának még újat mondani, a Corvinban ráadásul jó a hangulat. Ugyanakkor jó, ha az ember tisztában van a személyes határaival: ha nem megy az időre menő, csoportban alkotás, akkor nem kell erőltetni.

And some finished pieces…

… or one of the illustration-sets I created. The pictures are based on a Hungarian children’s story called The dumb tulip by Sándor Kányádi

Children's illustration in watercolor




Experiences of visiting an illustration-workshop

Comment (1)

  • Romica Spiegl-Jones

    January 25, 2018 at 11:06 am

    I’m totally in love with the last two paintings (gnome? and tulips – some of my favourite flowers). If you ever turn them into postcards of some sort, I’d love to have some.

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