Arriving in Amherst, I had the impression this was a special place to host the class. The campus of Amherst college seems like an education-based themepark with manicured grounds and immaculate period buildings.
Checking into the dorm, I picked up my keys and nametag. Glancing at the other nametags waiting to be claimed I recognized many of the names of the other students, and immediately had the feeling that the talent level of the students was going to be quite high. I was expecting only a handful of other professionals, but there were perhaps 25% professional fantasy illustrators and 50% returning students out of 85 attendees. The IMC is now on the radar for serious aspiring illustrators, and rightly so.
Inside one of the studios...
The first day was art school deja vu. After settling into 2 different studios, we posted our sketches up for a day-long critique session. Preparations ranged from thumbnails to completed paintings. The instructors assigned to each studio went through their criticism and suggestions for each sketch. The next day or so was a battle to decide what improvements we had the capacity or inclination to address and to make necessary changes. Many students had full computer/printer setups in their dorm rooms which helped them to adjust their images and facilitate planning. Without a computer, and after spending 2 hours waiting for a photocopy at the print shop, I made the decision to not fight my lack of tools and to just have fun with my project.
Wall of sketches...
Rather than thinking of my illustration as a portfolio piece, I wanted to just use it as an opportunity to try some new things without the pressure of professional results. I made my first color study in oils on a small version of my drawing. Ideally, a few variations of mood/lighting and color should be explored on even smaller panels, but again, I wanted to experience the week without getting bogged down on any one task.
Reference and color study...
The next few days consisted of this routine:
- Sleep in until around 10am
- go to studio and see whats going on. Squeeze out paint. Start painting.
- Eat lunch
- Paint a tiny bit
- Eat supper
- Paint until bedtime... usually around 3am.
We seemed to be eating all the time. Since the college was being operated for a number of summer groups in addition to the IMC, we were on a strict cafeteria schedule. It was a combination of not burning any calories sitting all day, and being fed bountiful, awesome all-you-can-eat food. I tried to have salad routinely, but I also had just as much pizza and ice cream. The food was like going to a quality buffet; not like the creamed corn and "tater tots" I was expecting.
The twice-a-day lectures were a good mix of practical and theoretical. One of the talks was on getting good reference photos by using professional lighting equipment. The stunning action shots that were taken as demonstration have convinced me to step up that aspect of my craft.
Other memorable lectures included discussions on business issues, color theory and "talent"... which BTW is "total crap"...
Faculty of the IMC: (from left) Donato Giancola, Scott Fischer, Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Jeremy Jarvis, Dan Dos Santos, James Gurney, Greg Manchess, Irene Gallo.
The artist faculty members also had paintings on the go; which is a good way for students to witness technique and discuss methods with the instructors. My respect and awe for the instructors grew enormously in the presence of their creations...
I had fun making my painting. I used my fingers to smudge alot, enjoyed the freedom to be loose, and basically just gained some experience as I work towards the goal of using oil paints for professional work.
By the end of the week, I hadn't learned to paint masterfully or had my world turned upside down by shocking new information. The experience of the IMC was more a rounded, cumulative absorption of information based on being in an epicenter of illustration excellence. The students and faculty are a caring and sharing community with a common goal, which I'm glad to be a part of.
Another account of the week can be found here: