Teaching Philosophy

Jacob Romeo Lecuyer: Teaching and art directing philosophy

In my early 20’s while living in San Francisco, I began training with a wise and eccentric master painter. In a thick Greek accent, he used to tell me emphatically “Art is not technical Jacob, it is physical!” His statement was hyperbole of course because making art is both a physical and intellectual exercise. The meaning of his report, however, that art while being partly mechanical is primarily material, has been foundational in my teaching philosophy. My greek instructor helped lead me to an obvious, and essential realization. That the person who is most likely to develop into a professional within the field of drawing painting and design is the individual, who doesn't just observe, read about, and engage in conversation about art, but is the one who is inspired to relentlessly produce it.

Though I spend a great deal of time lecturing about art theory and technique, I believe my most impacting role is that of a coach. All the art theory I can cram into an aspiring artists head doesn’t mean much if they are not physically producing a tremendous amount of art. I am a coach, and since I care for the players on my team, I must motivate them to train hard and efficiently. Practically that means driving them towards daily drawing, painting and design practice. I believe that any student whom I don’t coach into developing this training will be very unlikely to play well "in the majors.” But there still remains the question of how to train. My secondary role as a teacher addresses this problem.

I am a Coach, but I am also an academic conveying technical and theoretical information to the artists placed under my care. Because I get to see an individual student for relatively little of their total educational life, my teaching career has been a quest to boil down the most relevant information into the purest concentrated forms. I want every hour that a young artist and I spend together to be as effective as I can make it. To this end, I teach four elemental principles: structure, gesture, contrast, hierarchy.  A student training under me comes to understand structure: draftsmanship, anatomy, and surface rendering. To balance the inherent coldness and formality of this fabric I place great emphasis on gesture and rhythm. These two fundamental elements sit like weights at the opposite end of a pendulum. In conjunction with construction and gesture, my students are trained to understand the design principles of contrast and hierarchy. My pupils are instructed to observe and take design inspiration primarily from the natural world. “What,” I ask “do we observe there over and over again!? Contrast and hierarchy: contrasts in shape, color, line, value and the way in which these elements are composed together. In the branches of a tree, the stripes on a tiger, segmented forms of an insect there is always Hierarchy: Big, medium, small; high-key, mid-key, low-key; warm, cool, neutral, etcetera, etcetera." I train students to take their structurally stable, and rhythmically sound visual development work and integrate it into the pattern of design matrices we observe in the universe, which surrounds us. This results in timelessly good design. Good design happens when a student learns to incorporate contrasts in value, composition, color, shape, and line and has set those distinctions constrained within a clear design hierarchy. I demonstrate the principles of contrast, dominance and the authority of good design through methodical demos,  teaching them how to observe these patterns in nature and through the artifacts left to us by great narrative painters, animators and visual development artists.
Students training to enter the world of the entertainment industry must achieve technical mastery of color, line, value, shape and composition, but that mastery cannot be solely intellectual. It must be learned through muscle memory, through thousands of hours of drawing and painting. I am an academic instructor who must convey technical information to my students. I am also a coach offering strong, but kind words of encouragement to keep going when their physical discipline of daily drawing and painting fails. A professional in the entertainment arts is a master of technique but is first and foremost a master of the physical disciplines of daily drawing and painting.