Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Opening Soon in downtown Los Angeles!!!!

It's been a long time coming but we are thiiiiis close to opening the Safehouse Atelier in downtown LA. I've been getting requests for information on the happenings and what the deal will be so I thought I would post a little of what's to come. We will be focusing only on fine art this time around. I can't tell you how excited I am for this thing to be getting off the ground. Anyway. Enough rambling.

 MISSION STATEMENT The Safehouse Atelier provides a specialized program of study that is heavily based on accurately understanding and representing the visual world and to take the knowledge gained from this study and apply it to work that is driven by the personal vision of the artist. Located in downtown Los Angeles, classes are taught in a workshop environment where studio practices are learned in a hands-on manner directly from instructors who work alongside their students to demonstrate how ideas and concepts are put to practical use. Beyond providing a strong understanding of the underlying principles of art, the Safehouse Atelier has the goal of being a place for painters, sculptors, designers, and draftsmen to meet and exchange ideas not only for their own personal growth but to contribute to the art community of the Los Angeles area. Lectures, workshops and exhibitions will be held throughout the year in order to provide a platform for artists and the public to engage with and inspire one another.


 The full-time program offers a course of study that will provide solid skills and understanding of craftsmanship that can be directed towards the creation of works that have a personal vision and voice. In order for this goal to be obtained, it is imperative that students gain proficiency and are able to think critically and technically execute each concept or principle that is presented before moving on to another in a series of ever more challenging exercises. Students are given as much time as needed in order to learn and accomplish these tasks and progress at their own rate.  The length of the program will vary from student to student with an average time being about two to three years for completion.

 The foundation of the program develops solid draftsmanship through the pursuit of traditional methods of drawing and painting. Time honored atelier methods are employed with students beginning with cast drawing, work their way through cast painting and still-life, afterwards moving on to life drawing, and finally life painting. These studies are taken to a high degree of refinement so that the student thoroughly learns how to bring each piece to completion. As a compliment to these time intensive studies, students also engage in quicker studies from the life model in order to learn to work in an efficient manner.  Human anatomy and the construction of the human figure from imagination are discussed in tandem with strategies of how to understand and approach principles of gesture, movement, proportion, and volume are developed in an effective and expedient manner.  Along with these drawings, students also learn to sketch in paint through the study of the portrait and landscape using alla prima methods. Through the examination of the connection of narrative to design and composition the complicated nature of image making is tackled and strategies for picture making are examined throughout the course of study with students learning how to combine the foundation principles from their other studies into finished works of art.

 Students of all levels may be accepted into the full-time program provided they show a strong work ethic, eagerness to learn, and can make a commitment to study for  a period of two years. A time commitment of 30-40 hours per week is to be expected. A maximum of 15 students will be enrolled in the full-time program at any time in order to keep the student to teacher ratio low, allowing for lots of one on one time so that the student may learn and grow at the fastest rate possible. The enrollment process can be initiated at any time during the year. If you wish to apply for one of the spots in the full-time program, please send at least 10 images of current work along with a letter stating your intent for studying and career goals to


For those who do not wish to make a full-time commitment or are unable to do so but are still serious about furthering their studies, the Safehouse Atelier offers Part-Time classes. Instruction in each class is tailored to the individual student and can accommodate the passionate beginner as well as the working professional who is looking to sharpen their skills. Students will be immersed in a workshop environment with instructors working alongside them presenting information in a variety of formats to enable people at varying levels to grasp and implement the concepts presented in such a way that it has immediate benefit in their work. Classes run on a monthly basis and are on a first come first served basis. Enrollment for a class starts a month in advance. When inquiring about a class for the first time, please include some samples of current work.

 WORKSHOPS Intensive workshops will be help throughout the year in order to provide artists in the Los Angeles area the chance to learn the approaches and techniques of prominent artists from around the country. Please check the workshop schedule for more information.



 Using traditional approaches to drawing and painting, students learn the foundations of drawing and painting through the completion of a series of exercises that are brought to a high level of finish. Students begin with Cast Drawing and work their way through Cast Painting, Still-Life. After the completion of these areas of study the student will then move on to Life Drawing and finally to Life Painting. Strategies and techniques for developing accurately observed shapes and proportions are heavily stressed. The representation of light and form is discussed in depth both as it relates to observation and to conceptual models that may be applied to work from imagination. During the Still-Life and Life Painting portions of the curriculum ideas pertaining to color, palettes, and painting materials will be examined and demonstrated.

 Instructor: Carl Dobsky


 Through plein air landscape painting, students will learn about color, light and the use of oil paint. We'll begin by reviewing all materials, discussing basic painting procedures and a system for color mixing. During the first weeks, our focus will be accurate color matching as the basis for all future work. By using a simple, logical process, each new skill will build on previous ones until a strong proficiency is gained. Once a student is able to mix color accurately, use paint effectively and create a convincing light effect, we'll introduce various design principles in order to begin composing pictures. As students advance in drawing and composition, they'll be able to tackle more ambitious subjects that can serve as backgrounds for figure subjects or pictures in their own right.

 Instructor: Ramon Alexander Hurtado


 This class is centered around understanding the figure from a gestural and structural perspective. We'll place a heavy emphasis on feeling both the movement and weight of the figure, aiming at representing the body as a three-dimensional entity in space. Initial lectures will focus on gesture, a basic system of proportions and seeing the body as a series of geometric solids. Once students have a basic grounding in the overall structure of the body, we'll discuss individual body parts. Our focus will be on both anatomical realities and useful simplified diagrams. As we progress through the curriculum, we'll also discuss tactile form rendering and basic multi-figure composition. The ultimate aim of the course is to arm students with the knowledge needed to draw figures confidently both from life and from imagination.

 Instructor: Ramon Alexander Hurtado


 The understanding, organization, and depiction of space is one of the cornerstones of representational art. The fundamentals of linear perspective will be presented in a sequential form. The mechanics of one, two, and three-point perspective will be thoroughly examined along with strategies of how to apply them to the making of pictures. Beginning with simple constructions and moving to more complex environments of both real and imagined spaces, linear drawing will be produced so that the student gains a thorough knowledge of who to arrange objects in a believable space.

 Instructor: Carl Dobsky


 Taking the principles learned from drawing, students will learn how to apply them in paint in a quick and efficient manner. Paint handling, color, palettes, brushes, and mediums will be discussed and examined as they relate to alla prima painting. Methods on how to achieve accurate proportion and structure of the human head will be emphasized.

 Instructor: Shawn Barber


 Form and Content are intertwined in purpose and form an inseparable bond. This class will help students develop and define their vision through examining their own personal philosophy and artistic vision.  Examples of artworks from throughout history will be explored in the context of the time, place, and atmosphere in which they were created to help better understand how to develop images that have purpose and intent. Students will also develop original works in which they can explore the relation of image, subject, and intent.  The importance of thumbnail drawings and idea generation will be heavily emphasized as well as how to implement these into making finished works.

 Instructor: Shawn Barber



 This class will be centered around the accurate depiction of the human form through drawing and painting mediums. Traditional methods for tackling the complexity of the live model will be discussed and demonstrated and instruction will be geared to the level of the individual student. Techniques for the accurate representation of shapes and proportion will be examined in depth. The rendering of volume and its interaction with light will be emphasized especially in its relation to anatomy and the human form. Advanced students wishing to paint, will in addition to the subjects above also deal with the complexity of rendering the figure in paint. The mixing of flesh tones and their relation to volume will be stressed. Please note: If you wish to enroll for painting, competency in drawing must first be demonstrated to the instructor’s satisfaction.

 The class is structured so that the student can continue to build on past lessons and experience with each new month without unnecessarily repeating steps. This allows the serious and dedicated student to keep forward momentum in their study while progressing at their own rate. Each pose will last for the duration of the month to allow for ample time to work through and resolve as many issues as possible.

 Instructor: Carl Dobsky


 The focus of this class will be to represent portraits with solid dimension and skin tones in one sitting. Working from the live model, methods for how to quickly and efficiently represent the structure and shape of the human head will be examined. Varying palettes will be discussed with an emphasis on practical ways for mixing flesh tones. Paint handling, supports, and mediums will also be discussed. The class is structured so that the student can continue to build on past lessons and experience with each new month without unnecessarily repeating steps. This allows the serious and dedicated student to keep forward momentum in their study while progressing at their own rate. Each pose lasts for one session and a different model will be used for each class.

 Instructor: Shawn Barber

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Student Work: Cast Drawing & Still Life

Here at the Safehouse, Cast Drawing starts bright and early in the horrible San Francisco dawn, and continues until all of us--students and slavedri-, uh teachers alike--are driven outside by the hellish greenhouse heat of the afternoon studio. It is meditative and exacting, and nothing teaches you the details of rendering form more effectively.

Students at Safehouse start out drawing and rendering simple casts (David's eye or ear), progress to more complex ones (such as Nefertiti and Homer), and eventually proceed to painting the casts in oil.

The still lives at the end of this post are from Christian MacNevin's former digital painting class.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Space 9-11

"This time, they'll finish the job"

"Pioneered by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spacecraft and his New Mexico spaceport, low-orbit space travel is now how the fast-paced population of the future travels from Tokyo to New York in under 60 minutes.

In dishonor of the 30th year anniversary of 9-11 2001, space terrorists from Afghakistan in the year 2031 launch a massive hijacking of the Virgin fleet."

The purpose of the project was to provide a platform for students to concept a realistic--yet hilarious--dystopia of 50 years in the future. Part of the exercise was taking a hard look at what trends and cultural objects endure the test of time, vs. what new awesome shit the future may hold: Tradition vs. Innovation.

Artem Mirskov

Marco Sano

Artem Mirskov

Carmen Cianelli

Marco Sano

Keith Liu

McLean Kendree

Marco Sano

Alex Lan

Dawn Carlos

Dennis Bolsner

Dawn Carlos

Vencenza Surprise

McLean Kendree

EG Gauger

Artem Mirskov

Dennis Bolsner

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]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Safehouse Student Work!

On Tuesday afternoons, Safehouse students head down to Massive Black for concept art review. Every few months a different project is assigned, with settings varying from high fantasy to sci-fi. Our current project is set fifty years in the future, and students have been designing characters and tech set in the year 2051.

Below is the design process for an airport loader assistant from Safehouse student Artem Mirskov, from his initial concept sketches to the final design. Done under the guidance of project leaders Kemp Remillard and El Coro, Artem's work shows the design process from start to finish, with adjustments made to improve both functionality and visual appeal.

For those interested in attending, we will have a couple of spots opening up in May! Please send applications or questions to



Sunday, November 7, 2010


Block-ins are the second step of the morning program. During this step, students train their eyes to accurately see and reproduce the shapes that make up an object. This image done by one of the Safehouse students shows the steps of a block-in done over one morning session (~three hours) with progress photos taken every twenty minutes, along with a photograph of the actual skull being drawn for reference.

Many students consider block-ins to be one of the most important steps of the program, as it trains an artist to be able to draw shapes as they are rather than as we think they are. Most students see immediate improvement in their sketching, figure drawing, and still life studies after beginning block-ins. For a more in-depth explanation of the block-in process, you can pick up a copy of Anthony Ryder's “The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing” .