Entering Oatley Academy

I was awed and amazed recently when my family pitched in to help cover my tuition to join in at The Oatley Academy, specifically the “Painting Drama” class.  For those who don’t know him, Chris Oatley has done character designs for Disney, as well as taught in the animation and concept art industry for some time.  His website contains some very handy guides of pointed advice for concept artists and animators that I highly recommend.

Prior to this class, I discovered Chris through his inspirational posts, which had been whispered here and there by various artists on my Twitter feed.  Although he may be more focused in animation, something about Chris struck me.

He seemed to know exactly what was on my mind and what fears I was struggling with at the time I was reading his short and sweet newsletter emails.  His posts seemed to aim at the heart of what holds artists back, rather than echoing the emphasis on techniques that most classes and art blogs do.

I learned about Painting Drama after attending one of Chris’ online portfolio parties, in which he blitzed through various portfolios offering advice.  He spoke of his class during the party and how it focused on what it takes to really and truly tell a story visually.  I was intrigued once more because that is exactly what I believe is missing in my own work.  When it comes to telling a story with my art, I am that person that doesn’t know how to tell a joke.  I get it all out of order and then mess up the punchline. Ironic, because I can’t tell a joke in real life either.  Ask me to tell one if you ever meet me and hilarious fail will ensue.

So here I am nearly at the end of week 1 of Painting Drama and I have to say it’s exactly what I wanted, so far.   Chris’ lessons are like a motivational course mixed with thought-provoking discussions of what creates drama within paintings in the first place.  As an example, lesson 1 threw me for a loop by asking some important questions –  What fears are blocking me from succeeding and what are my strengths, if I were in my ideal state as an Illustrator?

Those simple initial prompts were far harder to answer than I thought they would be.

Already, I am facing my fears as an artist head-on, but also learning what my strengths really are, as well as what my goals are.  I may have been able to discover these things on my own, but it’s always helpful to have someone asking the tough questions we might be afraid to ask ourselves.

If there’s one thing that’s being cast in sharp relief for me lately with this class, it’s that nearly all fields of storytelling involving Creative Professionals are connected.  In literature, we ‘show’, we don’t ‘tell’, in creating an artistic composition, it is just the same. We show the narrative, we don’t just cast a boring, straightforward angle of the action.  We create emotion through composition.

To think, I paid twice as much for college courses that never touched on these vastly important topics.  That makes his class even more of a good deal, in my eyes. ($488 total tuition, or 3 monthly payments of $188).

Soon there will be a referral link for each student so I can invite you all in and also get referral bonuses to help cover my own class tuition (as I fully intend to come back for some of Chris’ other courses in the future).  Once the referral links go live, I will definitely be posting mine here for any of you who might be interested in joining up, but who also wouldn’t mind helping me make back tuition either.  In my eyes, this is so well worth the money and I cannot recommend it enough!

Expect more personal revelations posted here as the class goes on.  For now, onward to my ‘audacious accomplishment’!


  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela,

    This sounds like a wonderful academy! Is it an online course? The questions you mention remind me of the book “Art and Fear” which talks about the creative process and what keeps us from writing or painting. If you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend it! Wishing you the best in your creative and professional life!
    Anita Gleason

    • Hey Anita! I’ve heard of this book before and it is definitely on my to-read list.

      This is indeed an online course and it hinges around a website where we watch video lessons, discuss in comments, and then meet with the instructor once a month for live crits using an online video chat system. It’s all very new, but I like format. It lets me work at my own pace outside of other responsibilities, while still requiring a few assignments here and there to keep me motivated.

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