George Pratt’s Demo

July 6th
Tomorrow is my last day at the Academy. It’s 2:20 AM. Just got back to the “mansion” with the huge mango tree in the backyard stocked with large, green mangoes. What a tease. If they were ripe, I’d eat 3 of them right now. My stomach is growling, and although I’m exhausted, I’m high on inspiration. We stayed late with the students to help them with their assignment. They should all be going to finish tomorrow.

This week has flown by. Every day so full from sunrise to hours after sunset. I feel a lot right now. Exhausted, but completely alive. I’ve been needing this renewal. Out of the mountains for a week opened me up more. New people stepped into my world, and old friends returned. It was a new experience to be in the instructor spot here. And with that, came a lot of growth. Thanks John, for the opportunity.

The students have to be worn out. This is week 6 for them of the same intensity. We gave them the assignment on Monday: Illustrate a double page spread for Chapter 3 of Pinocchio. Tuesday we held concept sketch crits, and Thursday we did composition/value sketch crits. We had two, 2-hour figure drawing classes during the week, and both Doug and I gave our slide show presentations. On Wednesday, Doug did a killer demo–he painted a portrait in oils and knocked it out in a little over an hour. Damn, he’s good. The rest of the time (minus a beach party on the 4th and some outings for drinks) was spent talking about art and artists, ideas, techniques, portfolios, websites, life, traveling, etc, etc.

I forgot to mention–these students are extremely talented.


John jokingly gave me a hard time for starting a demo at midnight that last night. I didn’t have anything planned, and honestly, I was too nervous to do one earlier in the week. I don’t have a set technique when I work. So I started a small, simple demo for a few interested students, but soon there were about 25 students who gathered around. It was spontaneous and organic. I collaged papers (both collected and ones I painted prior) with glazes of transparent acrylic washes and matte medium; adding and subtracting; not trying to control everything and letting accidents happen and letting layers beneath show through. We talked about illustration and art and freelancing and life. At some point, a circus-like castle surfaced from the shapes and textures. It wasn’t really about the image but more about the process. And so, the demo wasn’t as scary as I thought after all, and I think the students got something out of it…or at least several of them told me the next day.

One thing I think the students really got from Doug and I was inspiration to travel; to take some time to “chase the light” (as many artists have been known to do throughout history); and to have experiences of their own. And I gained a ton of inspiration from the students–their hunger to learn and discover, their boundless energy, their many questions, their love for experimentation, and their focus.

It’s funny. So many teachers in my life have told me how much they learn from their students, and the more I’m in this “teacher” role, the more I experience this. It’s pretty awesome–the exchange that happens…I’d like to do more. I came home so jazzed about art that Patrick and I talked about me going to grad school…in Europe maybe. Ahh, that sounds pretty awesome, eh? Guess time will tell what choices we make.

One interesting thing that came from sharing my work with the students was their observation that all of my life (my childhood, traveling, places I’ve lived, things I’m interested in) are very visible in my work. Doug had said there doesn’t seem to be any separation. I never thought of it that way, but I guess my art is a recording of my life and things I’ve experienced. So much of my imagery and writing has come from traveling and experiencing new things. (Ever since I was little, I wanted to be like my dad who was a world traveler.) One of the students asked me if I was a painter or a drawer. I guess I’m both. Plus, a storyteller.

To wrap this post up, I just want to say that John, Brent, George, Sterling and Doug are awesome–really caring, down to earth people who are incredibly passionate and talented artists. (It was great to spend time with you!) And John’s family, too, Marcia, Rachel, Austin and Matt, who are like my family. And one last awesome highlight of my trip–was meeting Mary Grandpre who inspired me like crazy. I’m still wowed.

A note to professionals out there, the Illustration Academy holds a one week session in the spring at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Also, a few highly recommended books of the week:
Iassen Ghiuselev’s Pinocchio
Iassen Ghiuselev’s Alice in Wonderland
Steve Johnson’s Alphabet City
Sara Fanelli’s Pinocchio

Oh, and a picture…

Doug Chayka, John English, me, & Brent Watkinson

Hope you enjoyed the recap. Soon coming–the students’ Pinocchio illustrations…