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Back To Art School: Cojo Gets Some Adult D.I.Y. Underground Education

coursehorse-headerNew York, NY – Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I always thought my institutional education ended when I got my BFA from The School of Visual Arts, and that unless Columbia or some other institution of higher learning decided to email me with an offer of a full tuition scholarship to their MFA painting program (Yale, Columbia, UCLA, Bard, Carnegie Mellon, RISD, California Institute of the arts, CUNY – Hunter College, MICA, Pratt, VCU, SVA, Cooper Union, Art Institute of Chicago, Cranbrook, Oberlin College… email me) then my school days were over.  When Katie Kapler from CourseHorse contacted me last month as a fan of ArtSucks and offered to send me to a few art classes my first thought was: “This is as close to a full tuition as I’m gonna get this week, so wtf, why not?!”

The selection of adult art classes they offer in New York City is huge.  I decided I was gonna take two classes. I wanted to take one “hands on” workshop class where I would get a little dirty, and learn a new art skill. I also wanted to take one informational class where there would be an instructor who would dump knowledge on you, and you would be able to interact and hopefully get more informed about the subject, with a group of your peers.

Let’s start where I started, the “hands on class.”

a29The first class I chose was called DIY Printmaking.  One of the valuable skills I always feel like I missed picking up in my undergrad was silk screening (a class they also offer) and the ability to make small self pulled prints, and xerox transfers.  The class was happening at Brooklyn Central, a small art studio in a multi-studio underground complex in Dumbo, Brooklyn.  I made the stupid mistake of trying to drive there.  Although the class was starting at 6:30 and I was only a 30 minute drive away, leaving an hour to get there isn’t enough time when you factor in NYC rush hour traffic, so I ended up arriving five minutes late, luckily there was still one other student who arrived a few minutes later than me  so the class hadn’t started yet.  Best bet is to take the subway.


The class was taught by the lovely Caitlin Wheeler, who is a visual artist and veteran printmaker.


The website suggested some materials you could bring to class “If you have images that you would like to experiment with during class, we encourage you to bring them! You may bring B&W photocopies in addition to laser prints or magazine/newspaper cutouts. Believe it or not, photocopies from old Xerox machines work best! If you plan on transferring text, you will need a reverse copy of your image.”  I wanted to approach these classes as a novice would, to give an accurate experience of what it would be like to go blindly into an adult art class with just a pencil in hand.


As it turns out they are prepared for this having stacks and stacks of photocopied black and white images for you to choose from if you didn’t bring copies of your own art.  They also had a nice selection of materials to print on including wood, canvas board, and fabric.  Gel Medium Regular Gell (Gloss or Matt) is the key ingredient to most acrylic transfers.


The sponge brush and the common kitchen spoon are also key tools in print making.  The spoon, as I learned, is used in every level of printmaking.  The first thing we learned was acrylic xerox transfers.


After learning how to get this reversed photocopy image onto the wooden board I used a damp natural sponge (colored sponges leave color residue on your print) to moisten the paper.


Then using my finger I started pushing away the damp paper, and like magic the ink from the photocopy had transferred from the xerox onto the board.  This is nothing shy of magic.


The class was lead by example, first the instructor would explain the materials, and how they work, and then would demonstrate the steps it takes to make the transfer .


Caitlin demonstrates what happens if you use a colored sponge.


After we see it done correctly, we all have a try.  After you make one,  can continue making them throughout the class, as each one takes time to dry, you are learning new techniques while your earlier pieces are drying.


You can see the strange guy in the Fez is now fully transferred onto wood.


Next I transferred this silhouette of a tree onto canvas board.  I wanted to see how well all of the fine line work would transfer, and it all transferred perfectly.


The more advanced form of DIY printmaking is an form of lithography that involves xeroxes.  This is really amazing. She started by creating a field of lithographic oil paint.


The idea would be to transfer the solid black and white image onto paper, using the red paint.


Gum Arabic keeps the color from sticking to anything but the black ink.  Rolling layers of paint onto the ink builds up a dense, even coat.


The process is pretty tricky.

a11  a13

In the last step the original black ink from the photocopy remains on the paper, while the lithographic colored ink transfers to the new paper.  This is really a fascinating process, and a fun class to take.


I got to experiment with it, using some other images.  Caitlin took these photos for me.



a24There is a first time for everything.   After I was done I took a few shots of the other students trying their hand at it.


This artist brought her own drawings.




A lot of people made some new friends.  I talked a bit with the other students afterwords.  Only a few of them were artists who like me wanted to see how this applied to their work.  One person was given the opportunity to take the class as a gift (you can buy classes for your co-workers, friends or family) and a few of the others had made New Years Resolutions to get out and learn new things, and now that the weather was nice they were starting to take various classes and make good on their resolutions.


I met Justin William Lin, the Founder of Brooklyn Central as I was headed out the door.


b1A few weeks later I got to attend my second CourseHorse class called BREAKING INTO ART WORLDS at Brooklyn Arts Space in Gowanus.  Unlike the printmaking class, this was a class of mostly artists in their mid-thirties, all women (myself and the instructor excluded).  A lot of them were working in commercial art,  design, web, or a different medium, or had just gotten their MFA and were looking to make the leap into the fine art world.


The course was lead by painter and art writer Jason Stopa.  At the beginning of class before everyone had arrived Jason was asking what everyone had done that day.  Oddly enough this class happened to be the day after I had broken the story on ArtSucks about Kenny Scharf being arrested so I was in the middle of a crazy shitstorm of other press linking to my site, quoting me, and crediting me as the source, so it was a chaotic day.  He told me he had actually read the article that morning on ArtSucks, so that was wild.


This was an interesting class as it broke down the various politics and networking venues that exist in the art world.  It also focused on each individual in the class and what we hoped to achieve in life, in five years. What is realistic, and what we would need to do to achieve the goals within the current system.


We talked about grants, group shows, solo shows, studio visits…  It was a very lively and interactive discussion with people asking questions, taking notes, and bringing up their own hard learned life lessons.


We talked about art residencies, lectures, subsidized studios, internships.   When the conversation shifted into talking about the art fairs, he read off a list of the fairs, and I had to add a few to his list just from memory…and I also interjected (probably like a jerk) that if anyone has any questions about the art fairs I have attended nearly all of the NY fairs in a press capacity for the past 4 years, so ask away.

Some of my fellow art bloggers may be pleased to know that your blogs are reputable press venues which are actually taught in classes.  Aside from the major art publications, the Art Blogs mentioned by the instructor as art blogs to pay attention to were HyperallergicWhiteHot, TwoCoatsofPaint (Sharon Butler mentioned by name), and Art F City (Paddy Johnson mentioned by name). I had to consistently mentally tell myself to back off and stop chiming in throughout the class. But I did manage to squeeze in some valuable insights from a seasoned art blogger’s perspective.

He also mentioned the Bushwick Open Studios, 56 Bogart, and 1717 Troutman (which I had to correct him, as being in Ridgewood not Bushwick).


This was a very informative class for someone, as the title suggests, wanting to break into the art world.  If you are new to NY and need a B12 shot in the ass as to how things work, I recommend this class.

My problem is that every time I get into a conversation with people about the inner-workings of the NY Art World (Art World(s) with an s really, because there are 4 or more of them that only rarely overlap) I realize how much I actually know about it.  Just by going to shows, art fairs, meeting artists, art writers, reading, researching, painting, blogging etc.  It’s always kind of shocking to me to know that I could really be teaching a class like this if I wanted to, and that being in the field is the best form of research.

After the class I got to talk to several of the artists and take their pictures.


Artist Laurie Sumiye had recently finished a sculptural installation with the natural grasses that once grew on Manhattan Island before we covered it over with buildings and concrete.  She mainly does web and tablet app design and is moving to Portland and wanted to brush up on the fine art world before she got there.


Artist Maya Hardin is a printmaker who does metal etchings.  She is carried represented by one printing press but was wanting to see about the possibilities of showing in a solo gallery setting, and having her prints represented internationally.


Artist Ashli Sisk just got her MFA from Montclair State and moved to Manhattan.  She had two solo shows in the past few years and is looking forward to participating in a lot of group shows and wanted to see where to take her career next.  She is also working towards completing a new body of work.


Artist Melissa Capasso focused on her art career, and wants to see what to do in the next year to achieve her goals.


French artist Veronique Gambier was looking to learn about the New York art world, and how it differs from the art world in France.


Artist Myra Kooy was looking for a way to take her success in crafting into fine art in some sort of interactive music, art, and performance “happening.”


Photographer and make-up artist Rina Dweck recently completed a self-portrait 365 day experiment where she did 365 different extreme make-up designs on her own face and documented them with iPhone selfies for an entire year [Project Face].

In closing I’d like to thank CourseHorse for hooking me up with these fun experiences, and I recommend taking a class or two.  You may think you are in your 30s and your classroom days are long behind you, but it does feel good to throw on your smock and college thinking cap from time to time.  Get you out of your studio and meeting other creative people looking to pick up new skills, or learn the things you want to learn.  And it can never hurt to make a few new creative friends.

Written by Cojo “Art Juggernaut”

(If anyone else wants to contact me with cool art classes, art trips, or adventures: here’s my email address)

I’ll add all these artists to later, I gotta run to this art awards ceremony thing…ttfn.

Written by
Cojo Art Juggernaut

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Artiholics, Art Sucks, and the soon to be launched podcast Artist In Repose, Cojo "Art Juggernaut" (Colin C. Jorgensen) is a NYC based artist, art writer, and occasional photographer.

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