News // September 3, 2014

Drew Introduces VALT

BY: Drew Peterson

Drew Peterson SmallA youth artist’s first venture into the world of JXTA begins with the Visual Art Literacy Training course, also known as VALT. For 8 to 12 weeks beginning in the fall, winter/spring, and summer, participants develop the technical drawing skills necessary to be hired and succeed as apprentices in a JXTALab Studio. When it comes to VALT, its all about how you start. Youth artists between the ages of 10-21 are encouraged to apply for this free course, here

Portfolio progression + collaborative exercises + individual development through technical drawing skills. Drawing is the infrastructure for an array of artistic and professional disciplines – think painting, sculpture, graphic design, and architecture. That’s why the beginning stages of VALT are rudimentary drawing lessons that guide participants through the learning of the materials, the pencil, the paper and physicality. Still life and portraiture both fall under representational art making and cover the object-based and figurative drawing styles that we teach in VALT.

As the instructor, the still life pieces I design for the students to draw consist of simple forms and objects. Take for instance a drawing of a coffee mug. The mug is geometric and void of complex textures and weird shapes. As the students become more comfortable with rendering the objects like the mug, we then introduce other technical variables, such as value studies. Simply put, a value we use can be the spectrum between light and dark. With practice, you will be able to identify the value spectrum of the still life and figure out how to use various levels of shading within the drawing to give the piece dimension.

The type of figurative drawing that we focus on is from-the-shoulders-up portraiture, which provides a straightforward perspective of the face. Each student works from a clear black and white photograph of a classmate.  We also do perspective drawings, defined as either an exterior landscape or an interior space. In the winter, we’ll set up in the classroom from a vantage point that gives us a dynamic view of the room. A variety of angles, range and depth gives you the most interesting experience when learning how to draw perspective. In addition, we will spend time developing strategies for measuring and for understanding proportions.

“VALT is unique in the sense that you are in a studio classroom environment where you are provided space and ample time to get into a process. This involves a lot of personal time management. You have to figure out a new relationship to that amount of time. It is an important skill to have.” 

You are going to be in an environment where you’re with other young people who are at similar stages of their artistic development. Although we have such a diverse range of ages in the classroom, there is a type of camaraderie that happens and a collective development that I find to be important. Depending on your age, you’ll have an opportunity to be a mentor and potentially influence the people that you are working around, which strengthens leadership values.

We’re not only teaching the technical act of drawing which is applying a material to a piece of paper. We use a classic approach in each lesson because it is our desire as instructors for each individual to understand how to look differently at the world and use the power of observation to refine your personal style & technique.

EXTRA: Drew Peterson is a practicing artist and instructor who is also a JXTA alum. In addition to his work at JXTA you can find him at Highpoint Center for Printmaking as one of three recipients of the Jerome Emerging Printmakers Residency for 2014-2015.