Friday, May 27, 2011

Here I Go Again

It's Friday, and as I'm typing this, Carl Dobsky is probably in his studio blasting Slayer and painting while a dozen students fight with their cast drawings, block-ins, and figure drawings. Why? Because at Safehouse Atelier, every Friday is Slayer Friday.

This is where I begin describing a “normal” day at the Safehouse Atelier and how wonderful it is. I could talk about the furry art in the bathroom or the self portrait of McLean Kendree that stares at you while you pee. Or the time we looped A Glorious Dawn on Youtube for three days. Or the Carl Dobsky designer t-shirt line.

The simple fact is that there's no such thing as a "normal" day. Take a dozen students with the desire to become the best in the entertainment industry, add in a classical art foundation, and top it off with an internship and project review at a top notch concept art studio, and what you get is something rare and unique. Take that school and put it on top of rented studios filled with local painters and concept artists?

The result is way more than a school; it's a way of life.

Last week I left that place, and I've been looping Michael McDonald and crying into my pillow for days. I made a playlist of Safehouse classics to get myself through these tragic times. What's saddest of all is that you probably think that's a joke.

The Atelier has a way of taking over your life so that when you leave, it feels like resurfacing into the outside world. You wake up on Monday and you panic because it's 8:45 and someone is going to throw a coffee pot at your face if you're late. Oh, right.

You're out of school, but the memories of El Coro and Kemp Remillard singing R. Kelly are still fresh in your memory.

The full-time program itself is fluid, and differs from student to student. Classes have changed based on student feedback, and projects will change as students learn and progress. It's designed to keep pushing a student. When they've fully grasped a concept and feel comfortable, there's a new challenge waiting to make them want to bash their face into their drawing board all over again.

What Safehouse teaches is more than technical skill or design. There's a work ethic that is shared by all of the students. It's a nose-to-the-grindstone approach to pursuing knowledge, and it leaves little room for people who aren't prepared to give it their all. Once it's there, you can't get rid of it. Even though I no longer have Carl coming in to check on my progress or Coro telling me that my illustration is killing him, that nagging need to draw remains. Like a drug addict getting the shakes, guilt sets in within a day of not working. As does the constant fear of failure that keeps me moving forward.

For me, that was the true value of Safehouse and the time I spent there. Understanding the amount of work it takes to become a great illustrator or concept artist is daunting. I can see how much farther I have to go, but I can also see how far I've come, and I owe that to Safehouse and the amazing artists of Massive Black. Particularly to Mr. Dobsky and his countless hours of teaching me to just shut the hell up and stop arguing with someone who has a decade of experience on me.

He would be appalled to know I am saying nice things about him.

To top it all off, Safehouse knows that not everyone has the ability to attend a full-time program. Which is why a few nights a week, Carl teaches night classes in figure drawing and painting. If you're interested, drop a line at

With all of that said, if you're on the fence about Safehouse, get off of it. Find your big girl panties, suit up, and drop in a portfolio. It's worth it.


[by Carmen Cianelli]

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