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How to Draw: You Need Atelier Training

What are Ateliers?

​Ateliers are specialty art schools that train students in realism drawing and painting skills. Essentially, they teach you how to draw and how to paint anything your heart desires by sharing everything you need to know about the craft of making art.

Learning how to draw is the same as learning every other skill. There is no magic to it. But if you want to learn how to draw at a high level, you need to train with someone who has the skills you are looking for and devote time and effort to learning it. You can find people with high levels of drawing training willing to teach you how to draw in places called “ateliers.”

Below, you can see an example of my drawing of a plaster cast before attending an atelier and after attending an atelier. Ateliers are VERY good at teaching you technical drawing and painting skills, and attending one is the best way to efficiently master the art of realistic drawing and painting.

My drawing completed at an atelier, under the guidance of an atelier trained artist.
My drawing before attending an atelier, created by reading books about atelier training.

What is Atelier Training?

Ateliers are often lead by one teacher who inherited hundreds of years of collective artistic information from another atelier-trained artist and master draftsperson.

For example, I (Mandy Theis) trained with Juliette Aristides for four years in Seattle, WA. She trained with many artists, including Richard Lack in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Richard Lack trained with R.H. Ives Gammell, who trained under William McGregor Paxton, who trained under Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose lineage goes all the way back to Jacques-Louis David

This YouTube Video explains the history of atelier training and its contemporary applications. You can find an accompanying PowerPoint presentation here.

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Where did Atelier Training come from?

Although my personal atelier inheritance stems from the Paris ateliers,  atelier knowledge is a collected body of skills and ideas that comes from many different places.

For example, in Western art the primary mode of showing depth in a picture plane is to use linear perspective. But that is not the only way to show depth in a picture plane. In Japanese ink painting, artists developed a way of showing the depth of a picture plane by changing the hardness and softness of the edges of their subjects. For example, a mountain that was intended to look very far away would have a soft, fuzzy edge to account for atmospheric perspective. The Impressionists in particular adopted this technical idea into their work and it became part of the collective body of atelier knowledge within ateliers that trace their lineage through William McGregor Paxton, an American Impressionist.

​Just as the collected body of math knowledge has multiple origins (Arabic numerals and the Pythagorean Theorem just to name a few), atelier knowledge has multiple origins. The intent behind ateliers is to collect and share what is known about technical art skills with the next generation of artists.

Historically, ateliers made it very difficult and nearly impossible for women and minorities to access atelier knowledge. Despite the gatekeeping, many women and minority artists managed to pursue atelier training and leave a lasting mark on art history.

A prominent figure who overcame challenges to acquire atelier training was Augusta Savage. She was one of the first Black women to be accepted into ateliers in NYC, and later won a fellowship to study sculpture in Paris. When the committee found out she was Black, the fellowship was revoked. She managed to make it to Paris anyways, and eventually opened her own atelier in Harlem. There, she trained many artists that became the bedrock of the Harlem Renaissance art movement.

One of the goals of the contemporary atelier movement it to provide equitable access to artistic knowledge so that all artists have free choice in what techniques and skills to utilize in their own artwork.


The School of Atelier Arts

Now that I have atelier training, I run my own art school, School of Atelier Arts, to help teach others how to draw and paint. I teach people how to draw and paint through my newsletter,  art lesson plans, my blogonline art classesYouTube art tutorials, and professional development for art teachers. I focus my attention on bringing this knowledge to art teachers because I care about all students having equitable access to artistic techniques and information.

Most ateliers are not accredited. However, the School of Atelier Arts partners with The Florence Academy of Art to offer a Master of Arts degree in Studio Art. Now, students no longer have to choose between learning how to draw and paint and pursuing a degree. You can study atelier techniques intensely AND earn your degree with our accredited MA program.

Anyone who is interested in learning how to paint in a realistic manner or in a classical tradition is highly encouraged to attend an atelier. You are unlikely to learn these skills in traditional universities and schools (with the exception of our MA in Studio Arts program in partnership with Florence Academy of Art). You must go where the knowledge is, and realistic drawing and painting knowledge is in ateliers.

School of Atelier Arts – Classical Training for Contemporary Artists

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