Review of Classical Drawing Atelier by Juliette Aristides by Sherry Ross

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Review of Classical Drawing Atelier by Juliette Aristides

by Sherry Ross

Published Sunday, January 1, 2006

Juliette Aristides has written a seminal work for the advancement of art with her book, Classical Drawing Atelier: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice, published by Watson-Guptill Publications, NY. This review by Sherry Ross outlines its contents and significance.

Juliette Aristides has created a seminal work for the advancement of art with two books: Classical Drawing Atelier and Classical Painting Atelier.

What makes Classical Drawing Atelier so unique is the specific choice of drawings used in conjunction with the intelligence of the text. Aristides has placed side by side, page by page, wonderful examples of drawings by many of the known masters of previous centuries as well as illuminating examples of drawings of many present day masters of the realist tradition. Aristides is herself a remarkable draughtsman and artist and she has selected a few wonderful drawings of her own making for the book. Much to the viewer's delight, these contemporary drawings visually impress and inspire, and together with the masterpieces of other eras, the combined impact creates a powerful and integrated template for instruction and the appreciation of skilled drawing as the backbone of all great art.

The fact that contemporary artists are included in this book is a revolutionary decision which successfully brings home the point that masterful drawing is still alive and has been saved from extinction by a few dedicated individuals such as Aristides herself. These living artists are part of a growing movement, new renaissance in art which has brought the power of realism and the atelier method full circle and back into the art world of today. By including contemporary drawings, Aristides has helped demonstrate to the aspiring artist as well as to all lovers of art that only through the tradition of realism can the highest level of artistic significance be achieved. This same technique will be used in Aristides book on painting with abundant and remarkable full color plates, a book destined to also become a classic.

To include contemporary artists in a guide to traditional drawing is also a philosophical statement on a vision of art for the future and this understanding brings us to a discussion of the text. The text, interspersed with delightful quotes from many of history'"s greats as well as contemporary masters, is not only instructive on a technical level, but is actually a ground breaking philosophical treatise that places the realist tradition into a historical context and analyses why this tradition is not only relevant today, but the necessary foundation for truly great art of the future. Aristides writes with refreshing clarity and a confidence based on sound principles in an historical framework that she has obviously spent a lot of time researching and contemplating. She accomplishes this with assurity, but never with a didactic or superior air, and her theories and arguments create a meaningful and significant philosophical impact. Her ideas, which flow naturally and logically, generate thought and are useful tools for all those who find themselves arguing the importance of the realist tradition. Let me give you a few examples of Ms. Aristides writing style and artistic view:

Often times in order to advance one must look back. Like technology, art is built upon what happened before and influenced by what happened around the time of its creation. Each new technical discovery and stylistic invention paves the way for the next — generating either an affirmation of what has come before or a reaction against it. By looking back at the art that was created during previous eras we can connect with past masters, learn from their accomplishments, and create a new art for our times without reinventing the proverbial wheel.

New art movements based upon artistic reactions to prior traditions have been responsible for much of the innovation in the art world. However, in the culture climate that exists today this pattern of receiving an artistic heritage and either building on it or reacting against it has been broken. Many contemporary artists acknowledge no relationship at all to the art of the past. This failure to acknowledge what is in fact our common heritage is, in my opinion, a major weakness of much current art.

Rising artists are frequently expected to tap their knowledge directly from the ether, disconnected from history and labor. However, when the instincts of the individual elevated above education, the artist can become stuck in a perpetual adolescence where passion outstrips his ability to perform.

The atelier movement attempts to rebuild the links between masterpieces of the past and our artistic future. As such, it sets a different course than the one prescribed by the establishments of the modern era. By reinvigorating art education we can give the next generation of artists the tools that have been lost or discarded over the last one hundred and fifty years.

Once a student knows how to draw, lack of skill will not hinder the development of personal vision. We can learn from the past not by blindly adopting historical methodology but by interpreting it and adapting it for our own needs,

A figure drawing needs to be more than just technically proficient; it must have a strong gesture or expression that contains life and feeling of purpose. When this challenge is handled by a master, the result can be sublime. For many, there is nothing more rewarding to see than a compelling representation of the human figure. Neither is there anything more difficult to accomplish.

Unlike a cake, which has a recipe that, if followed correctly, will produce a consistently good dessert, a drawing has too many variables to predict any one outcome ... unfortunately, there is no quick trick that will enable the student to avoid traveling the long road necessary to becoming a well-trained artist.

Juliette Aristides is herself an extraordinary draughtsman and an artist with a deep and well-rounded education in the atelier method of painting. She is also truly committed to the atelier movement. She studied at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and various private ateliers. She is now the instructor of the ARC Approved™ Aristides Classical Atelier at the Gage Academy in Seattle, Washington. In 2003 Aristides was awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Grant. Her work can be seen at the John Pence Gallery in San Francisco and here at the Art Renewal Center's Living Masters Gallery. Aristides lives in Seattle, Washington.

Below I have listed a selection of pages from Classical Drawing Atelier. Please take a look at a few of them to achieve a fuller understanding of the scope of this book. Please consider purchasing Classical Drawing Atelier, A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice at this book at theARC Store and help support ARC's Scholarship Fund and Programs.

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