When I first met Alan Bull to learn about his role as an art instructor, I was aloofly (yes, that is a word) prepared with the following question: What is your profession outside of creating and teaching art? Unbeknownst to me, a recent college graduate still treading through the trials and errors of the professional landscape, I learned that it is indeed possible to make art your full-time job, which is exactly what NAA member and art educator Alan Bull has done. Since 2005, Bull has taught everything from figure drawing to portraiture at the NAA. As winter approaches, Bull will continue his “Drawing for Painters” course, which focuses on visually deconstructing paintings, and encourages painters to tackle difficult areas they come across through drawing and observation exercises. All levels of artists are welcome – from the hesitant novice to the experienced gallery exhibitor – and Bull’s goal is to work with each artist on an individual level to solve problems.
Bull, a native of Old Town, Maine, studied fine arts at the Philadelphia College of Art back in 1982. At the time, he had no interest in teaching. Post-graduation, Bull started working in galleries and frame shops in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t until he started working with glass artist Dan Dailey, whom he met at an alumni show, that he saw what is was like to be a full-time artist and art-instructor.
While working for Dailey Bull decided, You know what, I could really make a living out of my own artistic endeavors, an epiphany that he promptly obeyed to follow his creative passions. That was nearly twenty years ago – now Bull teaches several classes a week and displays his artwork in galleries spanning from Cleveland to London. Although art sales and commissions are his main form of income, teaching allows Bull to add another level to his creative pursuits, and to foster conversation between other artists seeking to express themselves. “I’m doing what I love, and the more I teach, the more I love teaching,” he says. “I see results, and I feel like I’m passing on what my teachers gave me.”
In order to achieve the results Bull and his students are looking for, specifically in his “Drawing for Painters” class, Bull likes to push people out of their comfort zone. If you do not like the nuisance involved with drawing tree branches, Bull will make you observe a forest landscape and sketch it. Are you intimidated by buildings and perspective? Well then, it looks like your next assignment will be re-creating the perpendiculars of a cityscape. The first session of any class is always somewhat nerve-wrecking for Bull and the students – an instructor has to earn a student’s trust and vice-versa to create an environment of artistic confidence. Bull’s hope is that his students will feed off each other, all tuning into their artistic frustrations and solving them together. This creates a collective atmosphere, a unification of artistic powers, if you will, that overcomes the evils of foreshortening and drab composition.
Recently, one of Bull’s students and NAA member Renée Leverrier received “Best in Show” for her acrylic painting “Jazz.” Leverrier, who only started painting a few years ago, uses black and white acrylics to create a chiaroscuro effect of a jazz musician sitting a chair, not unlike the dramatic Caravaggios found in baroque Italian cathedrals. For Bull, Leverrier’s achievement is why he continues to teach. “Seeing one of my students try something new, find a new understanding with her medium is exactly what I hope to bring to all my students.”
Alan Bull currently teaches at the NAA and will be returning for future class and workshop offerings. Please contact the NAA, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more details. If interested in learning more about Alan’s work, please email him at email@example.com, or visit his website at alanbull.com.
by Allison Lynch
Allison Lynch is an NAA Gallery Associate. She enjoys writing about artists and their work.