Jakarta School Makes Art for the Real World – The JakartaGlobe

Carrot Academy di The Jakarta Globe :

The name Carrot Academy may sound like a whimsical college somewhere in cartoon land, but this illustration school is making a serious reputation for itself thanks to the quality of its students’ creations.

As it produces illustrations rivaling the best of US, European and Japanese comics, and worthy of world-class advertising campaigns, the academy has local artists across the country clamoring for an opportunity to take part. But there’s a catch: The school might not have the size yet to handle all the interested students heading its way.

With an emphasis on marketable art skills, the academy aims to position design school graduates as an intrinsic part of big business. And while that rather blunt commercialization of artistic expertise may irk art purists, the academy’s founder, Putra Adi Setiyawan, stands by his conviction that people who want to draw for a living must focus on marketability to amplify their prestige and tangible value.

His conviction seems to have paid off: Many of Carrot’s students have gone on to work in the commercial field, particularly in marketing and advertising campaigns.

Located in a modest house-turned-school in the Kayu Putih area of East Jakarta, the academy was established in December 2008. It gradually built its reputation through word of mouth among online art communities, though it wasn’t until last year that an almost cult-like following developed. By early 2012, the school’s four part-time teachers were struggling to contain the excitement.

The academy could only host a limited number of students and was forced to turn away many of its prospective disciples. Currently, only some 100 students are enrolled.

The academy’s allure is a natural by-product of its students’ talent. Although there are many other illustration schools in the country, they typically focus on a specific style and lack the agility of Carrot.

As a result, Putra says, most Indonesian illustration schools inadvertently limit their students’ career prospects, demoting the art of drawing into a mere hobby and robbing it of its own potential worth.

Putra says Carrot aims to disprove the notion that an Indonesian illustrator’s best-case scenario is to become a comic writer.

“Illustration should mean you can draw anything in any format,” the 31-year-old says. “We’re trying to show that there is plenty of work that an artist can do in the real world.”

He cites examples ranging from working in a company’s design department to becoming a recognized tattoo artist or a custom motorcycle painter.

This goal of “opening people’s eyes” to the endless possibilities for illustrators is encapsulated in the academy’s Vitamin-A-filled, eye-benefitting vegetable moniker.

“Two things are important to be a good illustrator: a good perception and passion,” Putra says.

Good perception, he says, means understanding which doors may be opened with solid illustration skills.

“One of my students discovered that his true passion was in accounting after he enrolled [at Carrot], so he was able to objectively see what he wanted to do with his drawing skills,” Putra says. “That goes back to our aim of opening their perception.”

Another “myth” Putra tries to dispel is the notion that some people are naturally more artistic than others.

At one time he believed he was far from naturally “talented,” but now he says he is certain that every one of his students has the same chance to create awe-inspiring drawings.

He is also appalled at the preoccupation among many hopeful illustrators on manga, or Japanese comics.

“We’ve got to rid of this habit of local illustrators running off excuses like ‘I’m only able to draw manga-style’ or ‘I’m just not a whiz,’ before trying their utter best,” he says.

A a former musician who spent many nights playing everything from Top 40 tunes to heavy metal burners in city cafes, Putra moved to the Jakarta area from Temanggung, a small district in Central Java. He managed to survive by accepting paid gigs and paid songwriting opportunities, and in the process he met friends who were passionate about drawing both professionally and as a hobby. He was eventually inspired to dig through the comics of his childhood and teen years, which were mostly culled from the manga style.

Unsatisfied with the uncreative stiffness of local art school, he dropped out of his studies in visual communication design at Interstudy University and considered opening his own school to help people grow into better artists.

He was particularly inspired by Singapore’s Imaginary Friends Studio, an art studio whose student population is 80 percent Indonesian and “extremely flexible in what they can illustrate.”

Along with some friends, Putra says he “gambled” away his savings to rent the house for his academy. In the beginning, he and his entourage became part-time tutors there, and he says the early days were anything but smooth sailing.

“We had OBs [office boys] quitting all the time and stealing our equipment,” he says. “We had the early tutors quitting right away after Carrot was established to work better jobs, and worse, we had a former security guy completely rob us blind, stealing almost all of our equipment, including computers.

“It was far more challenging than I thought it would be.”

But Putra trudged on, recruiting a few new tutors to build up the academy’s current base of four staff members, including himself, who all still work other jobs to survive.

It isn’t immediately obvious why Carrot’s students can churn out such quality illustrations, but Putra’s ability to work within the realms of both “analog” and digital illustration undoubtedly gives him and his school an edge.

One of his students, Samudra Utama, says he has learned an immense set of skills at the academy.

“I learned how to digitally edit the images in a way that I never did in other schools, though I can’t really explain why. It was just different and more powerful,” he says. “Maybe it was the closeness we felt with the tutors, like they weren’t teachers, but buddies you could hang out with.”

Another student, Banu Satrio, says Carrot’s strength seems to lie in its balanced ability to teach everything from “traditional to digital art.”

As for the academy’s characteristic strength in digital manipulation, Putra says it is again necessary to prepare students for job opportunities.

“They have to be digitally prepared,” he says. “Right now, everything is digitized, including communications with clients. These days, for illustrators, the laptop is their studio.”

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