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Book Recommendation

May 3, 2009

About six years ago, I was looking everywhere in the Irish Republic for a figurative arts school or atelier that could offer me a classical atelier training. Initially there was the IAFA (Irish Academy of Figurative Arts) set up by Dony McManus in Rathmines. It was exceedingly popular, but then Dony left to set up his atelier in Florence where, I hear, it is doing very well.

Where does that leave the art students in Ireland who long for the touch of realism in their work and wish to learn the techniques of the Old Masters? We now need to refer to books and the internet.  This is no raw trade-off,  since the internet has increase rapidly in volume and we can now access out-of-print books (such as the wonderful Loomis volumes), tutorials for beginners and general musings on rendering the beautiful world we see around us in our media of choice. Here I’m going to recommend two books that constitute an atelier-level education, if you care to follow them closely. The primary advantage one gains from going to any sort of art school isn’t necessarily the tuition-although that’s fantastic-it’s being surrounded by people who are excellent and are striving to improve themselves, while at the same time imparting frank criticism of your work. The internet can also do this,  in the form of forums at sites such as, and, all of which have hundreds of daily readers.  Theoretically one could follow the advice contained in the books and post the results (in the form of photos/scanned work/digital art) onto forums where you’d get that necessary critique.

About the books themselves- they’re by Juliette Aristides, who is a tutor at the Jacob Collins Atelier in Water St, NYC.  She’s listed as one of the Living Masters at the Art Renewal Center. Her bibliography includes two books, ‘Classical Painting Atelier’ and ‘Classical Drawing Atelier’. Each book is split into sections, first discussing the theory of drawing/painting, then she goes on to explain the chronology of time spent in an atelier and shows the different steps taken to attain each level in the atelier. Finally at the end of the book, there is a gallery of masterworks by current living artists.  This book comes highly recommended by the Art Renewal Centre and came to my knowledge via word of mouth-that’s how good it is. If you can, buy it.  Remember though- buying a book is the easy part, determination and tenacity to your art is the difficult part!

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