MICK KAUFER is a freelance illustrator and concept designer. Her focus and passion lie in both illustration and design, as well as visual storytelling, and she enjoys doing both in-depth historical research to support her work. She has been teaching at the Art Academy for 2 years.
Mick has always loved art, and she has been drawing as long as anyone can remember. "My parents had to take me out of a Montessori kindergarten class because the teachers couldn't get me to do anything other than draw all day. 15 years later, and not much has changed," she says.
Mick enjoys many different creative outlets but drawing and painting are by far her favorites.
Mick took classes at the Art Academy in her teen years, and she still uses the techniques she learned in her studies and her original works today. "Learning to work properly from reference has been one of the most important growths my art has had."
Her favorite part of being an instructor is experiences the student's excitement for creativity and teaching them how to harness it. "I remember being in their shoes and having this incredible passion that I was unsure how to use. It's an honor and a privilege to be for these younger students what I wish I could have had when I was their age, and it's truly wonderful to watch them improve." She enjoys working with each student individually and engaging with them on the things they most want to learn, offering guidance and instruction to foster their ideas.
Most of her work is for private commissions, but she has also done work for zines and has several other projects in development.
Mick is proficient in both digital and traditional media and uses both in her personal and professional work. See more of Mick's work at https://www.deviantart.com/lessmickable and https://amickableart.tumblr.com/
Paavo Jalki woofed his way into our hearts after Jim and Sarah adopted him from Midwest Animal Rescue when he was one year, one month old. At that time our black German Spitz had the inglorious name of Cubby Cougar. His first creative act was to rechristen himself Paavo Jalki. It means 'Little Shadow' in Finnish.
Next Paavo, being a film buff, reinterpreted famous film roles through innovative performance art:
Yet, it was not until Paavo read tales of the great Italian Counter-Reformation painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 – 1610), that he gained notoriety.
Our mascot was dumbfounded when he read a July 1597 court transcript describing Caravaggio. Luca, a barber-surgeon reported:
"This painter is a stocky young man, about twenty or twenty-five years old, with a thin black beard, thick black eyebrows and black eyes, who goes dressed all in black, in a rather disorderly fashion, wearing black hose that is a little bit threadbare, and who has a thick head of hair, long over his forehead."
Paavo gazed into a convex mirror and arfed, “Hey, that’s me!”
Much later, Paavo slabbered across a 1590’s letter by Cardinal Ottavio Paraviciano, recounting an intriguing correspondence with Paolo Gualdo, a cleric from Vicenza:
"He describes himself as extremely keen . . . of having some beautiful work painted . . . . But Caravaggio would have made for him some painting that would have been in that middle area, between the sacred, and the profane."
"Ar-rooff!" Ruffed Paavo. "I can do that!"
And so, he did.
In a darkened chamber he arranged cylindrical props to precarious heights. Satisfied with the composition, he yawped at studio assistant, Robyn Ehrlich, to snap a picture.
Here is the superlative result:
Come visit The Art Academy and see Paavo’s masterpiece of paw and passion in person!
Then, have fun watching him meander throughout our classrooms when you join our school.
LILLIAH CAMPAGNA is an artist of many interests, having studied Game Art, Animation, and Creative Writing at the Laguna College of Art and Design and Comic Art and Creative Writing at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her professional experience includes animated film, documentary illustration, comic art, and video game creation. Self-defined as a comic artist and writer, she is currently working on the realization of Rhupa, a comic series to which she serves as artist and author. She is also in the process of editing an original novel she has written.
"My approach to art has always been that of a storyteller. Even as a young child, I took up drawing as a way to realize to stories and characters in my head. My continued pursuit of art was born both from passion and from a fear that I would be the 'talentless' sibling in my family, which is a real concern to have when your elder siblings are artistic savants. I don't have that worry anymore."
Lilliah's art reflects a dark appreciation for both lovely and macabre, and is influenced by her interests in Mesopotamian history, botany, and cultural anthropology. Her pen-and-ink work draws heavily on aesthetic influences from visual artists such as Mike Mignola, Michael Kirkbride, and Jean "Moebius" Giraud.
"Teaching at the Art Academy is actually what prompted me to pursue art as a career," Lilliah says. "Before that, I hadn't realized that is was even an option for me, or that I had the potential to become a skilled artist. When I was offered an instructing job at The Art Academy at a very young age, that was my moment of realizing 'oh, someone thinks I'm a good enough artist to teach others.' It completely changed my perspective. Had I not gone to The Art Academy as a student, I'd likely be pursuing a PHD in Assyriology, or something equally as niche and stuffy."
Lilliah has been an instructor at The Art Academy since 2011. In that time, she has advanced from being an assistant instructor to helming the development of The Art Academy's Character Design Course, which she teaches alongside the Fantasy Illustration and Digital Illustration courses.
"Teaching students over the years has been a privilege. Meeting these kids who have all these ideas in their minds that they want to realize, and then being able to help give them the means to do just that, is definitely my favorite part of teaching. Their excitement and passion are infectious, and I'm proud to teach in a program that teaches students important techniques and skills that will help them in whatever medium of visual art they pursue."
Regarding character design, Lilliah states: “Almost all of my art holds the purpose of telling a story, but the narrator in each story is not an author, or the artist. Instead, it is the characters themselves . . . . It is their depth and variety which drives a story along and gives it meaning. So, it’s important for my characters to be unique, to be memorable, to be part of a culture, and to fit within the world they're inhabiting."
“To build a figure design with such purpose requires that I create a visual history; which in turn demands that I spend a good deal of time brainstorming and sketching to develop a believable character. That is what I try and pass on to my students, I want them to be able to have the skills to take what they see in their heads, put it on paper, and through thoughtful adjustment and imaginative improvement – combined with anatomy, gesture, costume and expression – realize that they can make their drawings even better.”
We’ve had the pleasure to watch many of our students mature into confident, talented artists. We have a strong culture of allowing our continuing students with interest and aptitude to grow into apprentices and instructors themselves. Here are some of the students who have filled that role.
ANDREW G. CARR, a graduate of The Art Academy, studied painting at Macalester College and received B.A.s in Philosophy and in English from the University of St. Thomas. After his time in college, Andrew wanted to find a way for his work in the humanities to bolster and enrich his relationship to fine art. To that end, Andrew has supplemented his technical training with an intense, individual study of aesthetics and historic art instruction, which includes the writings of artists Harold Speed and John Vanderpoel, and noted authors of aesthetics, art history, and art criticism Joseph Torrey, Kenneth Clark, and John Ruskin. Andrew has found additional inspiration by analyzing the insights of masters Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Auguste Rodin.
In addition to teaching at The Art Academy, Andrew has also been on the faculty of Trinity School at River Ridge since 2016, where he teaches Art and Art History to students from 6th to 12th grade. Teaching at Trinity has renewed his appreciation for the value of patience and method in the artistic process. In the last few years he has developed a passion for the writing of the late art historian and essayist John Berger. Through the instruction materials of Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922), Andrew has deepened his love for the compositional care, balance, and clarity of the Japanese masters Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Hiroshige, and Yoshida Hiroshi.
“These artists and authors,” says Andrew, “have changed how I think about art. Art is often talked about as an expression of oneself: ‘A painting,’ we say, ‘can express our thoughts, feelings, or personalities.’ What I’ve found is that it’s a two way street: In a serious relationship to art you leave an impression on your work, and working leaves its impression on you. A painting can make tangible the way you see things, but painting can also change the way you see. It can literally inform your vision. It can change how you think, what you notice when you walk around the block. This is one of the spectacular things about art—you can use it to express yourself, but it can also enrich who you are.”
“Additionally, reading and studying has impressed upon me the value of thought in art. By this I mean that I believe that many of the challenges an art student faces can be resolved through an increase in understanding. It is certainly the case that success in drawing and painting depends on consistent application and practice. I’ve also found, however, that a change in how one thinks can have tremendous implications on the page. For that reason, art history and aesthetics have become very important to me—both as an artist and as a teacher. It’s amazing to see how a struggling student, when given the ideas they need, in a way they understand, can dramatically improve over the course of a single evening. That happens when the hand is being trained at the same time as the mind.”
“For that reason, I think that an art instructor has at least two major concerns. The first is to encourage students to apply themselves, to give them confidence, to help them defy those self-deprecating axioms that so many of us seem to acquire: ‘I can’t draw,’ ‘I’m not creative,’ ‘I’m not talented,’ and to show students that nothing could be further from the truth. The second is to provide students with the tools they need. That is to say, an art teacher must know how and when to give those insights and instructions that will allow students to overcome the obstacles they face. Nothing kills a love for art faster than a sense of futility. But nothing encourages students like the knowledge that they are making firm, steady, and methodical progress towards becoming the type of artists they wish to be.”
JAMES ROBINSON earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Columbia College, Chicago in 1981. He spent six months studying Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art through Loyola University's Rome Center in Rome, Italy. During that stay he traveled extensively throughout Europe, visiting museums to gain a firsthand understanding of art history. On his return home Jim entered the field of children's text and trade books where he worked in production, design, and illustration for nine years.
Wishing to expand his knowledge of drawing and painting techniques further Jim moved to Minnesota to study at Atelier LeSueur and Atelier Lack, schools which emphasized the disciplines of nineteenth century academic and impressionist painting. Following his graduation, Jim became an instructor in the full time program at The Atelier, teaching drawing, painting and composition to adults pursuing careers in the fine arts. He has also taught workshops on color theory and Renaissance oil painting techniques throughout Minnesota. In 2004 Jim was nominated to be listed in Who's Who Among America's Teachers, a publication reserved for the top 5% of teachers in the United States.
In addition to teaching, Jim has also written and lectured on artists and the importance of art history in professional artists' lives. His articles have been featured in international publications.
In 1993 Jim founded The Art Academy:
"I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be an artist, but I grew up in the 1960's. The sixties was a vibrant decade in many ways; but it was an abysmal time in art education if you wanted to learn how to draw and paint following traditional methods. Consequently, every place my parents took me, from the local art school to the Art Institute of Chicago's children's program, shared a similarly modern teaching philosophy. We were given a lot of supplies, asked to express ourselves, and then we were told how wonderfully creative we were regardless of what we produced. The absolute minimum amount of instruction took place because it was believed anything more would squelch our artistic uniqueness.
"This proclivity continued through my college years. I received my BFA without ever being taught the proper way to hold a brush, how to apply color theory to a specific pictorial problem, or how to draw something accurately and correctly without encountering a struggle. Art history was an afterthought and its link to art training was completely ignored. As students, however, we were thirsty for knowledge and understanding. We tried to teach ourselves everything we could from previous generations of artists. As I began reading the works of Kenneth Clark, Bernard Berenson, Howard Hibbard and others it began to dawn on me: An artist of the past received more training in a few months than I had in all my years in school. The technical problems that my colleagues and I faced in our own work were a struggle because we had never been taught how to solve them. Everything was based on the 'teach yourself' principle, which is a very difficult and time consuming way for anyone to learn. As a result, many students abandoned their dreams; very few of us continued on in art.
"The truth is none of us were taught how to see. Andrew Wyeth (1917- 2010) speaks of the importance of this: 'Art, to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes as well as your emotions, as one without the other just doesn't work.' Of course, the seeing of an artist is different from the seeing of the average person. It's based upon a thoughtful understanding of art history, advanced technical training, direct observation, and a lot of hours spent in front of an easel working with a knowledgeable instructor who can explain the intricacies of art and nature in the simplest terms. Simplicity, in fact, is always the key. The great artists who have helped shape our culture did not produce huge volumes of work by painting in a complex manner. They reached their goals and achieved their recognition through simplicity and understanding. 'It is not enough to believe what you see, you must also understand what you see,' wrote Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). It is why I've searched out so much post-graduate training, to acquire that knowledge and skill.
"Though my personal tastes center around Rembrandt, Vermeer and the other great artists of the seventeenth century, then culminate with an interest in the great representational movements of the 1800's, I can also appreciate abstraction in its most dignified and decorative forms. What has been eliminated from the equation when considering the majority of these painters, however, including the lives of notable abstract painters, is their past. Take Georgia O'Keeffe as a case in point. Here's a modern painter who has widened and enriched our world, but that didn't just happen. Look at her training: drawing lessons at age eleven, painting lessons at age twelve where she copied other artist's works, off to the Art Institute of Chicago to study anatomy with John Vanderpoel, off to The Art Students League in New York to study painting with William Merritt Chase and F. Luis Mora, and then composition with Arthur Wesley Dow and painting with John Marin at Columbia University. Then there's the influence of Alfred Stieglitz and the expanse of the great southwest. It was these cumulative experiences, combined with her inborn talent, that helped formulate her work. One was not independent of the other. This is something you find repeatedly throughout art history – a solid foundation in the fundamentals during one's formative years was a preparation for mature achievement.
"While in the past a structured and focused training was desired and revered, today in many art schools it is summarily dismissed. Students are encouraged to leap from activity to activity and medium to medium without ever being asked to put in the time or effort to master any one of them. Usually, this is done in the name of creativity. The end result, though, is often a lessening of skills and a lowering of standards. Freedom is less a key to talent than commitment.
"The artists of the past were very conscious of this fact and were very centered on what they were doing. Even thematically they were very focused. Monet, for example, was a painter of landscapes. His portraits and still-life were occasional. Consistency and dedication were a prerequisite to achievement. Everyone acknowledged that.
"In the last hundred years, however, we've fallen in love with the romantic notion of 'genius' – the untaught artist coming from nowhere and revolutionizing the world. The truth is this has rarely occurred in the history of art. When you read Van Gogh's letters and find him writing: 'I work as diligently on my canvases as the laborers do in their fields.' such notions quickly fade away and a more realistic view of an artist's life emerges.
"I founded The Art Academy because I believe skill development and creativity are closely linked. I want to give children and adults the opportunity to really learn how to draw and paint well so they realize they're much more talented than they ever could imagine. I want them to see that the link between effort and achievement in art is very similar to other activities they're involved in, and it's not just something miraculously bestowed on a very few by some 'higher power'. I want them, too, to have the opportunity to get a solid training in fundamentals. I firmly believe that a rich understanding of drawing, painting, color, and composition is the foundation for success in all the varied forms of expression in art today. We continue to stress the basics in music and dance education and I believe it's still applicable in the visual arts.
"I worry, too, about the way people are moving around today, sampling one thing now and another thing later. In an article published in the January 27, 2002, New York Times entitled Practice Makes Perfect; writer James Schembari described this phenomenon regarding his children: My three sons, ages 7 to 11, play on community baseball and T-ball teams and once played organized soccer and basketball. They have taken trumpet lessons and chess classes. My daughter, Marian, 14, has been a member of the Brownies, has played the violin and is now taking piano lessons. She has also joined the drama department and the choir at her school….Kristin A. Moore, the president of Child Trends (a nonpartisan research group in Washington), said there was a downside to all this. '(It's) good for children until you get past the midpoint and everyone is overwhelmed by the sheer quantity.'
"Instead of quantity, I want to present children and adults with an art environment where quality is the message. It seems logical to me to create a program based on the values of consistency, dedication and long term goal-setting when one of the most important things we want to achieve in life and pass on to our kids is a sense of commitment and self-worth. You just don't get a full sense of achievement when you're dabbling in things. Mastery and its related feeling of fulfillment are a much more enriching life-force for a person to grasp than repeated variety.
"Quality is most often achieved by focusing on one activity over an extended period of time. We see this with Olympic athletes who attain proficiency by devoting themselves to the mastery of one sport. Well, it's the same with art. Consistency is the key. By bringing this philosophy and a tradition of reverence for the technical methods of the past to our teaching an amazing thing happens: An ever-expanding sense of pride fills our students for having the courage, strength and understanding to work through a drawing or painting to its ultimate conclusion. It's an important life skill that filters into every aspect of a person's life.
"So much has been misunderstood in art education over the last century. Today the scales have been tipped to emphasize creativity and individuality to the exclusion of skill development. The belief is constantly put forth that artists are always creating, always inventing something new, and therefore an arts program should always be creative. But history doesn't bear that out. In fact, very few artists have spent their careers continually inventing new forms of expression. Rodin (1840-1917) declared: 'I invent nothing; I rediscover,' and Degas (1834-1917) exclaimed: 'Art does not expand, it repeats itself.' What art careers are really about is exploring a theme over and over to the point of revelation. Yet, since Picasso and other 20th century abstract artists, we've come to believe that newness is the key to artistic fulfillment.
"Throughout history there have always been discussions on the most effective way to teach students art. Interestingly, there has been a considerable consensus among noted artists as to what that training should emphasize. 'Teach only uncontested truths, or at least those that rest upon the finest examples accepted for centuries. You can be sure that once out of school the pupils will create the truth of their own time from this noble tradition,' wrote Hippolyte Flandrin in 1863. It was this philosophy which made Flandrin one of the most highly regarded painters and teachers of his time. Today, you have artists like Frank Stella declaring: 'One learns about painting by looking at and imitating other painters,' and Audrey Flack lecturing: 'Art students often worry about losing their originality to instructors, other artists, or even themselves, through their desire to copy work they admire. There is nothing anyone can do to take your originality away from you!' What is repeatedly stressed by a vast array of artists across many centuries is that a good amount of time of one's early training should be spent on fundamentals.
"When it comes to our younger students, my personal desire to teach them comes from a growing concern about children and teens who have a calling to choose art as a career. Too often they will go off to attend an arts college where they will acquire a large debt and graduate without any marketable skills. Students graduating from these organizations often face a future that can be less than bright – working off a student loan in a low paying, dead-end job while they wait for their 'big break'. For these career-minded individuals The Art Academy has something special to offer. At a young age our students are shown that if they work hard they can become personally responsible for their own success. As they finish more projects and their skills improve their portfolios become more impressive. With the work they've done in class and the projects they complete on their own they have the resources to compete for scholarship money to offset student loans. Most importantly, though, they get a head start. Our students approach their future with an understanding of drawing and a wealth of experience in watercolor and oil painting. This background, combined with what they will learn in a post-secondary school, makes it possible for them to achieve success at an early age. These kids sense a hopeful future as they enter adult life.
"The school is a labor of love. For a handful of hours each week a group of dedicated individuals come together to pass on traditional drawing and painting practices to children, teens and adults. I've spent years reading through texts, studying old studio practices, trying to decipher some of the methods that were used to teach apprentices and young artists from the fourteenth through twentieth centuries. From that knowledge we've organized a simple arts program that passes on a solid foundation to our students. We review its effectiveness on a regular basis to continually improve its efficiency. I started teaching out of my home and from there things grew. Now we have students coming from as far away as Wisconsin to attend our classes.
"There's something infectious about teaching art, to see students produce work they never dreamed they were capable of doing. It's very satisfying to know you're affecting a life in a positive way. And it's not just one life. When students take home works of art that they create they have something tangible to share with the world. That's one of the great things about the methods we pass on to them. Unlike music or dance, there is nothing ephemeral about a drawing or painting properly done. In a material sense it is a permanent record of a specific time and achievement that lasts. While it's gratifying to know that our students will be showing off their work to others today, the real thrill is contemplating that the painting some student has just completed will be around to grace and inspire future generations tomorrow. Think of the continuity. There's real power in that."
Co-Director; Instructor, Traditional Drawing and Painting Methods, Child & Teen Classes
SARAH HOWARD, one of our most popular instructors, brings a warmth and concern to all her teaching responsibilities. Sarah's interest in art began at a young age when she started working on her own in rural northern Minnesota. "While everyone else was out snowmobiling and playing sports I was holed up in my bedroom, drawing. I was a champion night owl, too. I'd be the only one awake, so I would move all my stuff down to the kitchen table and draw there. It helped make those long winters tolerable."
At the University of Minnesota, Duluth, Sarah began enrolling in drawing and design courses. She supplemented what she learned by taking a workshop with local wildlife artist Terry Palm and traveling north to study watercolor at Bemidji State University. Soon she was winning regional competitions for her watercolor and colored pencil paintings. But she was dissatisfied with her work. "There were too many gaps and I wanted to acquire a formal foundation for my art."
Eventually, Sarah found her way to the Twin Cities to study drawing and oil painting at The Atelier in Minneapolis. She took additional classes and workshops with artists Frank Covino, Paul Oxbourough, Jeff Hurinenko and Joe Paquet, and became knowledgeable in the practice and use of egg tempera. On her graduation from The Atelier, Sarah joined The Art Academy to become an indispensable member of our staff.
On teaching Sarah comments:
"To be a good art teacher is harder than most people could ever imagine. There's a delicate balance that you try to establish with students that fits each of their individual personalities and learning styles. On the one hand you accept who they are and where they're at, on the other you're nudging them forward to that higher standard to unlock their true potential and unveil all the hidden talent that they themselves hardly see.
"It's a rewarding experience. You always get more out of it than you put into it. The best thing is when you see someone grasp a new concept. There's an energy there that you can't help but pick up. Being with kids reminds me to ask better questions instead of always looking for the answers, whether it's in art or in life."
Instructor, Home School Classes, Traditional Drawing & Painting
MARY KLEIN has always pursued art as an interest. "When I was young I wanted to be able to draw what I saw in the world around me. If I wasn't sketching I spent my time looking through art books. Soon I fell in love with the works of the Old Masters and the Impressionists. I wanted to learn to paint like they did. Unfortunately, when it came to taking classes I was in for a shock: there wasn't a single arts program for children or teenagers that taught even the most basic drawing skills. Everything was centered around learning crafts. No one was interested in showing kids how to draw realistically. It was frustrating, and my life soon turned into one long quest to find decent instruction."
Mary's search finally led her to study at Atelier Wicker-Howell and Atelier Lack, where she received training in traditional drawing and painting methods. She completed her studies at The Bougie Studio in Minneapolis and has supplemented her education by taking additional classes and workshops. This Fine Arts background, coupled with a Commercial Arts degree from St Paul Technical Institute and classes in Layout and Design from the University of Minnesota Extension, gives Mary a well-rounded basis from which she creates her artwork.
After Mary completed her schooling she spent ten years working in production, design and illustration for Daytons, Merrill Corporation, and Palmer Printing. As her family grew and her painting demands increased she abandoned commercial work in favor of teaching. "I wanted to make a direct contribution to people's lives through sharing what I love."
Mary explains her desire to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of artists:
"For me, teaching kids is an important part of being an artist. So many children have a strong desire to reproduce what they see. They have this need to identify with the people and events in their surroundings through pictures. It's a way to show off who they are and explain how they fit into their world. As a teacher I get to de-mystify the process of drawing and painting and enrich my students by helping them fulfill their dreams.
"This is a great program and I'm proud to be a part of it. We take children at every level of ability and show them that they can draw and paint well if they just try. It's really amazing and exciting to watch. Kids come to us without knowing how to hold an ink pen and in a few short years they're completing major watercolors, working in oils, and winning awards. All this is coming at a time when they have this wonderful future ahead of them. Who wouldn't love encouraging potential in this way?"
In addition to being an instructor in our evening classes, Mary also teaches in our Homeschool Program and Adult Classes. These are all daytime activities that take place at our location. The specific times of these offerings can be found on our Class Schedules page.
Charlotte, Sarah’s wonderful dog and loving companion, was our faithful mascot at The Art Academy for many years. She passed away in 2008. In loving memory we preserve her Instructor Page on our website.
CHARLOTTI BISCOTTI, studied painting at the famed Ecole des Bones-Arts in Paris under the great Leonardo dog Vinci. From there she apprenticed with Henri Muttisse and became the inspiration for many of his most well known paintings. Charlotti's own inventive Paw Prints stunned the art world when many critics compared her work to the revolutionary drip paintings of Jackson Pollock. Her one-woof show at the Museum of Modern Art was an immediate sellout; the New York Times was a-buzz with favorable reviews. When interviewed by Bill Moyers for American Masters on PBS following the show she explained that she likes the texture of her canvas "R-R-Ruff!".
Charlotti never worked for money; her lofty ideals prevented her from accepting any financial reparation. However, a little nibble of a sandwich or cookie was always appreciated. VIVA LA SNACK!