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Dept. Of Aesthetics Blog


What Happens When Art Teachers Don’t Have The Answers?

Have you ever had students ask you for help with their artwork, and you *gulp* didn’t have the skills or knowledge they were seeking?

This happened to me not so long ago. I had an elementary student who wanted to make people look like they were flying through clouds. I suggested that he place some clouds in front of the figure, and some behind. He came back a few minutes later with the suggested changes and insisted it still wasn’t “right”.

The truth was, he had a very clear image in his head of this super realistic drawing of a hero flying through the clouds. But I didn’t have these realistic drawing skills he was asking me to teach him. I had given him everything I knew after just a few rounds of coaching, and I was at a loss figuring out how to help this frustrated child achieve his vision without asking him to settle for something less than he was striving for.

The Frantic Search

That night, I frantically researched the internet and every art book I owned trying to find the answers to “How to draw a guy
flying through clouds.”


Then I went to the bookstore, and found Juliette Aristides’ Classical Drawing Atelier and Classical Painting Atelier.
Within the pages of that book, my entire world flipped upside down and sideways. I discovered that anyone can learn realistic drawing and painting skills that studies with someone who has what is called “atelier training”. I decided right then and there that I wanted this magical “atelier training”. I wanted to be able to help my students achieve their artistic goals. I never again wanted to feel the ineptitude and insecurities I felt that day when I couldn’t help my student draw exactly what he intended.

Joining An Atelier

The next thing I know, I moved to Seattle and train with Juliette Aristides​ in her atelier. (This is why I always tell people that her books are dangerous! They compel you to learn what your heart has been looking for all these years.) Unfortunately, this meant that I would have to take leave of the teaching profession in order to commit myself to full time study for 4 years.

While I was studying with Juliette, my art teacher friends noticed the transformation in my skills, and they started asking me how they could learn too. But most of them could not leave their jobs in order to train full time.

I wanted to find a better way for art teachers to access this knowledge and training – a way that wouldn’t force them to make a choice between keeping their job and learning realism skills

Spreading The Knowledge

And that’s why I started teaching a monthly drawing and painting class every First Thursday. I also started the Summer Teacher Atelier, a program that provides atelier training for art teachers in the summer months when they have their breaks.

But that wasn’t enough for me. These art teachers were working so hard, they deserved to earn their degree too! After many years of work (and a few false starts!) the summer training program for art teachers is now ACCREDITED by the federally recognized accrediting agency, NASAD through a partnership with the Florence Academy of Art.

This means that now art teachers can learn in the summers AND earn their Master’s Degree in Studio Art.
This means art teachers can up their realistic drawing and painting game AND get that sweet pay bump for earning an MA.
​This means that art teachers can gain confidence in their skills AND help students achieve their artistic visions.

No More Art Teacher Guilt

The journey from feeling like an inadequate art teacher to being able to provide realistic drawing and painting training to teachers throughout the country (and world!) has been an amazing ride. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! If you are ready to start your own journey down this path, check out our MA program today.

The best part about the atelier journey? I now have the confidence and mastery to help my students achieve exactly what they intend in their artwork, without compromise, and you can too.

P.S. ANYONE can learn how to draw and paint realistically at very high levels. You just have to train with someone who knows how.


Discover the man who helped change the course of art education and become a founding instructor of the Rhode Island School of Design.

“Landscape” by Edward Mitchell Bannister from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Edward Mitchell Bannister’s Artistic Journey

You can download our FREE PowerPoint Lesson on this artist here.

Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828 – 1901) made significant contributions to art and art education, and yet he is largely unknown today.

As a Black artist, Bannister often faced extraordinary obstacles to obtain high quality instruction, exhibition spaces, and other career opportunities due to widespread discriminatory policies.

In 1867, the New York Herald ran an especially atrocious article about Black artists, and one phrase particularly caught artist Edward Mitchel Bannister’s attention:
“[…] the negro has an appreciation for art while being manifestly unable to produce it.” – New York Herald, 1867

This article inspired Bannister to pursue art at the highest levels. He aggressively studied drawing and painting in private studios in Boston at the famous Boston Studio Building, as well as the Lowell Institute, an outreach education program run by Harvard.

Bannister’s sketch for the now lost painting, Under the Oaks
In 1876 Bannister entered one of the most prestigious competitions in the world for artists in the 1870’s – the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. He won 1st prize for his now-lost painting Under the Oaks. When the prize committee discovered Bannister was Black, there was talk of revoking the 1st place prize. However, the other artists insisted that the committee keep to its selection and the exhibit became a powerful rebuke of the New York Herald article’s assumptions about the abilities of Black artists.

​Despite Bannister’s incredible success, he was originally blocked from entering the art exhibit where his 1st place painting was displayed. According to historian David C. Driskill, it was

​“not until [Bannister] identified himself as the painter of Under the Oaks was he admitted [into the exhibition].”
Bannister continued forging a successful pathway as an artist throughout his life, and eventually became a founding member of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). RISD was widely regarded as one of the most prestigious art schools in the country during his lifetime, and is still well-known to this day. The university a lasting testament to Bannister’s vision and educational legacy.
Mandy Theis is a licensed art teacher and Director of the School of Atelier Arts. You can follow her on Instagram @mandyfineartist.

​​What are the twists and turns in your art education journey? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.


“Atelier” is simply the French word for “studio”. It is a place where artists train in order to master realistic drawing and painting skills. Today, this French term continues to be in use, as that is where most American painters acquired their realistic drawing and painting training throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.



In How to Draw a Rose Part I, we discovered how to correctly identify the proportion and biggest shape of our rose. In Part II, we will use these big ideas to find the rest of our lines and shapes.

Step 1: Find the next biggest shape

Once you have successfully found the biggest shape of your bloom, you now want to determine what the next biggest shape is. When looking at the petals, which petal is the biggest?

Once you decide on your biggest petal, use the same method of simplifying it into one big shape that we used on the bloom as a whole. Remember to use a small number of straight lines that describe the shape of your biggest petal.

Step 2: Use follow-through lines to draw the next biggest shape

We want to replicate this shape in our drawing, but we have to be careful. If we do not think about how this smaller shape relates to the whole, we are likely to put it in the wrong place or make it the wrong size.

Luckily, there is a method artists use to correctly place smaller shapes within bigger shapes that is called a follow-through line.

follow-through line is a line that extends beyond the shape it is describing until it hits the proportion box​.

By extending the line we are trying to place until it hits our proportion box, it makes it waaaaay easier to translate that line to our drawing because we already know how to translate lines that hit the outer edges of our box. (Not sure how to do this? Check out How to Draw a Rose Part I)

Step 3: Use follow through lines to translate the entire shape to your drawing.

Step 4: Erase back the lines you no longer need

Step 5: Repeat for your next biggest idea

Use this same method for your next biggest idea. Sometimes big ideas are the next biggest shape that you see, such as the petal we just completed in Step 4.

Other time, the next biggest idea can be something more abstract. In the image below, the two green lines represent a different kind of big idea. They are showing the separation of the top plane from the side planes.

This is a big idea because conceptually, it is very important for artists to be able to think in terms of big planes when adding the shading (more on this in a future post).

Use follow through lines to correctly place the green lines on your rose drawing.

Step 6: Use big shapes as landmarks to refine your outer contour line.

Once you have a few big shapes placed accurately in your drawing, it gives you the reference points you need to start adding the ins and outs of your outer contour line, or outermost shape.

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Step 7: Continue using landmarks to add smaller shapes into your drawing

Look carefully at your biggest ideas and their relationship to the outer contour lines. What smaller shapes fit in which in-between spaces?

​Ask yourself how high and how low each smaller shape is within the whole.

If you get stuck, use a follow-through line to help you identify where a smaller shape belongs.

Step 8: Continue adding smaller pieces to the whole

Now is the time to be extra patient and thoughtful. Make sure you ask yourself lots of questions before placing each smaller shape. Good questions to ask yourself are
1. If I look at the rose as a whole, how far to the left or right is this shape?
2. If I look at the rose as a whole, how big or how small is this shape?
3. If I added a follow-through line to one edge of this shape, where would it hit my proportion box?

Step 9: Clean up your drawing

In order to draw this rose accurately, we made a whole lot of lines that we no longer need in our final drawing. These are known as construction lines. When we are done with our drawing, you want to clean all these lines away so that you have a nice, neat end result.

If you drew with heavy lines and are having a hard time erasing, a trick you can use is to trace your drawing onto a clean sheet of paper by holding your original drawing up to a window. It’s not cheating if you are tracing your own drawing!


The end.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that you now have a beautiful drawing of a rose. Remember, though, that I didn’t really teach you how to only draw a rose. This tutorial is really teaching you a method of drawing that you can apply to anything  you want to draw.

What subject are you going to apply your new drawing skills to next? Let me know in the comments and happy drawing 🙂


Why a rose?

Roses inspire many people and are one of the most desired subjects people wish to draw. In this article, I will take you through every step of drawing a rose using a block-in method. By following this drawing method, you will learn a process that you can apply to any rose you wish to draw.

I am using a photograph for clarity in this post, but I strongly recommend that you draw from life using the same process that is demonstrated here.

Although this lesson shows you how to draw a rose, it is really teaching you a drawing method that can be applied to anything you want to draw!

The overall concept is to work from big ideas to small ideas. So let’s get started!

Step 1: Identify how much of the rose you want to draw.

In this demonstration, we are going to focus on drawing just the bloom. To start, we need to identify the top, bottom, and sides of our bloom.

Place a dot at the highest, lowest, furthest left, and furthest right most point of the part of the rose that you intend to draw.

Then, draw horizontal and vertical lines through your highest, lowest, furthest right, and furthest left dots to create a box.

This box is called your “proportion box” and represents the height vs width of your bloom.

Step 2: Draw the proportion box on your paper.

Is the box taller? Or fatter? It’s fatter. Now is it a whole lot fatter, or just a little bit? It’s just a little bit fatter. So you need to draw a box on your paper that is just a little bit wider than it is tall.

​The size of this box doesn’t matter, as long as the proportion of the box is accurate to what you observe in your subject.

Step 4: Find the biggest shape

When drawing realistically, you always want to find the biggest ideas first. In this case, we want to identify the biggest shape of our bloom. This is often called an ​envelope.

An envelope is a small number of straight lines that describe the biggest shape of our subject. These lines should be big and not small. It is easy to get distracted by all the little ins and outs of our subject, but notice below how all the little details can be encompassed in one big shape.

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Step 5: Translate envelope to your drawing

Now we want to draw this shape inside the box on our paper. Remember, your envelope is touching the top, bottom, and sides of your box. A common mistake is to make the envelope small and floating inside the box. Remember that your box represents the highest, lowest, farthest right and farthest left most points. This means that the envelope must touch the box’s edges in order to be accurate.

​One way to translate the envelope to your drawing is to use the 0-100 method. This method asks if the bottom of your box is zero, and the top is 100, where is the envelope line hitting?

Step 6: Envelope method #2

Another way to translate your envelope is to look at the negative space it creates. The negative space is the shape that is made between the subject and the box. With this particular envelope shape, there are lots of triangles that are made in the ​negative space.

Step 7: Envelope method #3

Sometimes, you need to translate an envelope line that is not directly touching your proportion box. In this case, our point on the upper left of the rose is not touching the outside box.

The secret? Extend the line until it does touch your proportion box. This is called a ​follow-through line.

Step 8: Complete envelope shape

Every rose you draw will be unique, so it is good to understand all three approaches to creating your envelope shape. Use your favorite approach to finish the last translating the last line of our envelope shape to your drawing.

Step 9: Clean up your drawing

It is important that you keep your drawing clean as you go. You do not want to get confused as more lines are added. Erase the extra “noise” that you no longer need.

Congrats! You now have an accurate proportion and shape of your rose.

Next week on our blog, we will show you how to complete this drawing. Too excited to wait? Join our newsletter for a FREE PowerPoint that takes you through every step of How to Draw a Rose!

How did you do?

How did your rose turn out? Is this your first time using this drawing method? Did it work for you? Let me know in the comments below 🙂


Anyone Can Draw + Paint Realistically

The School of Atelier Arts teaches realistic drawing and painting skills to art teachers and aspiring artists all over the world through online art classes, art video tutorials, free art lesson plans, and our NEW Master’s of Art Degree Program!

Have you ever wanted to make your artwork look “real”?
Ready to take your drawing and painting skills to the next level?

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What Can We Do For You?

The School of Atelier Arts believes anyone is capable of learning how to draw and paint, and no previous drawing or painting experience is necessary to participate in our programs.

Don’t wait to start your training! Every day you put off your drawing and painting training is one day lost for creating your best work.

Academic Director and Principal Instructor, Mandy Theis, holds both a BFA and BA in Art from Montana State University, and has trained classically with prominent artists of the atelier system.

​A certified K-12 Art Educator, Mandy is Director of the School of Atelier Arts, Co-Founder and President of The Da Vinci Initiative, Former

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School of Atelier Arts partners with the Florence Academy of Art to provide the MA in Studio Art. All enrollment for this program is through our partner, the Florence Academy of Art.

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