Review Comment

[VIARR4005 (001)] Problems in Drawing

July 27, 2020

Minoff, Edward
[VIARR4005 (001)] Problems in Drawing

Seriously, the best art instruction I've received at Columbia, and I'm a major, and have taken lots of courses. Edward Minoff is kind of the perfect art professor. He's dedicated, never cancels class, outrageously talented, gives super honest feedback (he doesn't give the passive feedback that most of the Basic Drawing and Painting I professors notoriously give), genuinely helps you work through your drawing, and is willing to be just as committed to your drawing as you are.
I highly recommend this class for anyone who deals with light. It rearranged how I perceive light and shadow. It is knowledge that is translatable to basically all other forms of visual art. I don't know why this class isn't required for majors. This class took me from feeling like I was a phony to actually feeling like I could draw anything after it was over. Edward demystifies drawing and if you think you have a world of drawing experience and couldn't learn anything more about the skill I think you'll find out that you're wrong once you get in the classroom with Edward Minoff. But he's also just a normal guy, too, not a high and mighty weirdo or self-absorbed artist. He just kind of has the vibe of a generally good person who likes what he does and helps others improve their skill set. He has no idea that he's so beloved by his students, which is always the mark of a good professor, in my opinion.
He's introverted and slightly awkward but is kind and he has really cool stories, so you should just keep bugging him for information about his work and life experience.

Workload:

Tiny homework assignments at the beginning of the semester to just work out a few basic skills for the rest of the class. Otherwise you just need to show up to every class, if you don't, you'll definitely fall behind, and it's the kind of class where you really want his feedback. Unlike many visual arts courses, working alone isn't as productive as working in class. He gives constant guidance in class, and you'll need it.

April 28, 2018

Minoff, Edward
[VIARR4005 (001)] Problems in Drawing

You should definitely take this class if you are interested in improving your technical drawing skills and/or just want to have a really positive experience in a visual arts class for once. I've taken so many boring drawing and painting classes at Columbia that just feel like busy-work and honestly, before this class, I was so disenchanted by even finishing my concentration in Visual Arts because classwork for art classes felt too much like a rushed chore to me rather than something I actually enjoyed and could be proud of. While this class can get tedious, I can definitely say I am proud of what I've done in this class.

This course is taught from a very technical level (inspired by the draftsman drawing work of the 19th century), which is not something available in any other Visual Arts course at Columbia. While it accommodates students from a range of experiences, you really need to have the patience and discipline to work hard in order to do well in this class. You work on a SINGLE hyperrealistic drawing of a plaster cast. Along the way, Minoff teaches you draftsman skills in blocking and measuring proportions (highly applicable in any sort of observational drawing like figure drawing/anatomy), and shading with precise control. You also learned a lot about light and form as well as how to overcome the inaccuracy of humans' visual perception by approaching the drawing from a technically rigorous (and sometimes physics-like) perspective. And definitely a lot patience. The result is almost always a carbon copy image of the plaster cast (or varying degrees of completion of one, but at least the parts you finish will look utterly photorealistic). The one thing this class doesn't offer is room to draw stylistically and work creatively with "artistic expression," but thats what the rest of those regular drawing and painting courses (I/II/III) are for anyways.

The class is structured in a very specific way that Minoff goes over very clearly during syllabus week. The small homework assignments in the beginning of the semester were really helpful to introduce students to techniques that would be used for the rest of the semester. The rest of the semester had no structure except to finish the drawing by finals. I wish there were more concrete check-ins/milestones scheduled to give students an idea of what % of the project they should finish i.e. 4 weeks in, 8 weeks in, 12 weeks in, etc. Because the class is small, I think this could be done one a 1-on-1 basis between student and professor, taking into account the students' different subjects and experience levels and strengths. But since, there isn't, if your goal is to finish things in time for the end-of-semester visual arts department show at prentiss, make sure to pace yourself accordingly and be prepared to put in a few additional hours each week rather than pulling all-nighters on the week of or just deciding not to finish. The semester I took it, the prentiss show was cancelled so I didn’t need to cram to finish my drawing. If I did, then I would’ve probably dedicated an additional 20-30 hours over the last 2 weeks. However, there is absolutely no pressure to finish by the show as Professor Minoff makes it clear that he’s totally willing to meet with you during finals or even during the summer (!) before grades are due to look at your finished project. I’ve never EVER had a more accommodating professor.

Professor Minoff is extremely knowledgable even though you don't necessarily get that impression from how friendly and easy-going (though sometimes awkward) he is. He communicates so clearly and effectively during class, and he provides insightful feedback to students which is very valuable when it is often so hard to put in words all the nuances involved in creating such life-like work. Minoff honestly reminds me of Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds (which sounds strange lol) sometimes with the way he speaks, but also from his sharp eye and mind and constructive feedback, no doubt from his many years of experience both as an artist and as a teacher at Columbia and at the Grand Central Atelier teaching this one course. While Minoff used to be a self-employed animator, now he's been obsessed with painting ocean waves from life and from notes/sketches rather than photographs (which means he gives great drawing AND painting advice...2 for 1 what a steal). His personal work is incredibly traditional, and he's researched a lot about the physics of waves to understand them and be able to draw them so realistically. This methodical/meticulous way of getting to really understand and research his subject is evident in class when he's unexpectedly able to name obscure anatomy on regions of the plaster cast's mouth or nose.

Minoff's dedication to his students is more obvious by how he always shows up to the studio at least an HOUR (!!!) in advance to prepare the studio for class (fixing lighting, etc). I know this because I'm usually in the studio an hour early to put in a little work before class starts and he is ALWAYS ALREADY THERE. During the semester, Minoff also worked on his own study of a cast both before (after he's set up the studio) and during class when he isn't walking around helping students and giving 1-on-1 feedback. Seeing the guy's work is breathtaking in person, it's so damn realistic. I swear he's like a highly intelligent xerox machine who can just look at something with his eyes and recreate it on the paper in front of him. Even if that's not what you aspire to be as an artist, you gotta have mad respect for that kind of skill.

Overall, great class, great professor, and the (incredibly high) quality of student work in this class is very much a reflection of Minoff's exceptional teaching ability. HIGHLY recommend.

Workload:

Beginning of the semester: 5 hrs (4 hr class + 1 hr homework)
End of semester (last 12 weeks): 10-12 hrs (4 hr class + 6-8 hr working on final drawing) but those additional homework hours aren't mandatory.
Class itself is 4 hours long (5-9pm this semester) but he let's us take a 30-40 min dinner break (not very strict on when we come back or tardiness in general)
No critiques or class trips or readings or any of that fluff. Final grades are determined by completion of your homeworks in the beginning of the semester, attendance, and the quality and completion of your finished drawing (taking into account the difficulty of your plaster cast subject and the size of your drawing)

July 29, 2016

Minoff, Edward
[VIARR4005 (001)] Problems in Drawing

This class is THE BEST class I have ever taken at Columbia (I'm a rising senior now). If you are even considering this class TAKE IT. This man changed my life. Before taking this class, I exclusively drew anime and was not formally trained. I didn't know any basic art techniques like: Measuring, Shading, etc. However, that didn't matter, Edward took my anime skills and flipped them inside out. Showing me that classical drawing is accessible to anyone willing to try.

Edward's class is formidable but he equips you with all the skills necessary to succeed. He truly teaches from the ground up and doesn't make any assumptions about a student's abilities. He taught the entire class how to measure, analyze light, shading/sculpting a 3d object on a 2d plane. Perhaps what I loved the most about Edward's teaching was his references to animation. Edward was a classical 2d animator. So it's no surprise that he used this knowledge to make the complex topic of light/shade understandable. "Abstract the shadows and look for animal shapes!" Edward would say. He helped me find pizzas and dragons on my very serious cast drawing of Micheal Angelo's "David's Eye".

Now onto Mr. Minoff himself. Edward is an extremely kind and unassuming man. His teaching style is individualized to each student. As he walked around the room, I could see different aspects of his personality at play. It was as if he adapted himself to address each student's personality and weaknesses. But what he impartially showed us all was a genuine belief that EVERYONE could accomplish the cast drawing successfully. There was no favoritism in his classroom (students' attempts at sucking up was awkwardly ignored). Also, if you want to learn more about art strike up a conversation with him!! I would ask him for tips/tricks for my other art class and he gladly helped me out.

Finally be forewarned, Edward is a HONEST GRADER. He loves his craft dearly. This isn't a game to Edward, it is his livelihood and most importantly his passion. Do not sign up for this class thinking you can get an "easy A". You get what you deserve. So work hard and discover new artistic talents with Edward. He changed my life and I am forever grateful.

Workload:

In the beginning there are small weekly assignments to help you hone the techniques shown in his drawing demos. After all the techniques are presented, you have to finish the one and only drawing in the class. This is NOT EASY. It takes A LOT OF TIME TO FINISH WELL. I spent many weekends and nights in the studio. Manage your time wisely.

September 06, 2015

Minoff, Edward
[VIARR4005 (001)] Problems in Drawing

This class, with this professor, was incredible. I am not an art major, but I love art, and he challenged me more than I have every been challenged before in this subject. I wanted to take a class that pushed the boundaries of my artistic capability, and this one did. The class is long, and you will probably need to put in extra hours, just considering you are trying to make a replica of a cast (but on paper). When you are done, though, the product makes it so worth it.

Professor Minoff knows what he is doing. He does this kind of work for a living, amongst other drawing and painting techniques , so he is experienced. He periodically roams the room and gives very honest, constructive feedback. With this kind of intricate drawing, his trained eye was invaluable during the drawing process. He is super friendly and sweet to everyone, and will give credit where credit is due.

If you put in enough effort, and really try hard to perfect your drawing, an A is attainable (though not necessarily easy). He defines an A student as one who consistently goes above and beyond the drawing expectations, and he is consistent with that in class.

I HIGHLY recommend taking this class, but it definitely takes a lot of work. Also, if you don't want him drawing on your paper, just let him know you'd prefer he teach on a separate sheet and he has no problem with that.

Workload:

Reasonable, but heavier towards the end of the semester as you finish up. If you plan it out it should be fine

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