Experiencing a brutal Roland Young crit


This semester the world famouse art director Roland Young is a National Taiwan Normal University teaching design on break from his day job at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design. According to an article writen by Colin Berry in the CMYK magazine Young has a reputation for being quite a harsh critic.

How did my crit go of the above photos go last week? Brutal! Brutal! Brutal! The photos were deemed superficial and meaningless. A technically proficient yet boring example of portraiture. “Artists have to have meaning they have to say something that other people can’t” emphasized Young. He asked the class what they thought about my photography. They thought it was crap. He asked me if one photo represented my childhood and told me that the trauma that I have experienced in life must come out through my art. Needless to say I almost cried. He spent a good twenty minutes laying into me. It was the worst art crit that I have ever experienced.

However, Young is right about the photos. They are superficial, meaningless, albeit technically proficient. However, it still stunk to have to stand there take in the lengthy crit.
Over the years, I have gotten emails from photographers sharing their images asking for positive feedback, asking for praise. It is easy to see why. Art is close to the heart and it hurts to have it rejected, especially in a lengthy public fashion.

Yet, I also know that as people and artists we can do the most growth through tough honest criticism. I understand that artists need to be pushed to actualize their vision and potential. Nonetheless, having a Roland Young crit is a tough experience to go through once a week. It is also a lot of pressure to come up with a masterpiece in a matter of days and have it sent to the printer and ready for Thursday morning. What is my next assignment?

Man Ray.
Would anyone like to model?


30 Responses to “Experiencing a brutal Roland Young crit”

  1. 1 Luke
    April 3, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Hello Joanna,

    Sorry to hear of the bad critic…i guess you know it is everyones own opinion of what is art….

    So i guess in your field there is going to be ups and downs like everything else in life. Some people will love what you do…others wont….kinda like everything in life. So dont take it to personally…and look at the big picture…he wants you to be like him….he is looking for what he wants…not what you want or see…he sees only through his eyes..;) I think some of you pictures are amazing and some of them..well pictures 🙂 It is not nice to rip into anyone. Now only if more people thought like myself 🙂

    Keep up the amazing work, and always be yourself, that is what we all love about you 🙂

    Always your friend,

  2. April 5, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    I know you have it in you to make beautiful, meaningful art. You were there on one of the happiest days of my life and on one of the saddest. The portraits you took of me at Whistler still send shivers up my spine because you captured my emotions so well that they make me remember exactly how I was feeling at the time.

    All you need to do is find someone who is experiencing emotional intensity that you can capture in your own incredible way.

  3. April 6, 2008 at 2:39 am

    Thanks Rachelle! Your comment means a lot to me. I remember those two days very well. I agree with you about finding the right model in terms of getting the right photo. That is a large part of the equation and is easier said than done. Needless, to say I miss you a whole bunch and can’t wait to take photographs of you again this summer in Victoria.

  4. April 6, 2008 at 2:40 am

    Thanks Luke! You are always so supportive and are a wonderful friend!

  5. 5 wenny
    May 8, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    hi, there
    can you tell me what roland’s teaching schedule is? i used to be his student, am going to taiwan this summer, would like to see him if he is around.
    couldn’t find out on National Taiwan Normal University site.
    would much appreciated if you can give me the info.

  6. May 20, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I have so much admiration for Roland Young from my time at Art Center College. I know of very few people that can zoom in on the key issues in a design project as fast as Roland. I think what is very important to understand is that he asks much more of him self than the students he reviews. All work is not good and good intentions do not make good work… it is not just what you think about your work but where your work stands in the great body of work before us all. Roland will make you better and your work stronger.

  7. 7 Alejandro Reynoso
    September 24, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I remember when I had Roland Young. He can be brutal but he knows what he is talking about. The only reason he is brutal in that class is to make those designers who think they are great reevaluate them selves. He wants you tho think outside of the box and show you that you have potential to do better. He might say your work sucks and make you cry but he makes you think about your work and really pushes you to make better design.
    I tried looking at your work but for some reason I can not find it. Just remember he is hard and says allot of BS with allot of help full information. Just have to learn how to sort it out.
    Good Luck!

  8. March 25, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Roland was one of my finest teachers at the Art Center. Keep growing!

  9. 9 zim
    March 30, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Dude – take his advice for reals. Had him twice. If he thought you had no potential he would not crit so hard. Think about those who got long bad crits and those who got short bad crits. Think about it. He doesn’t waste his time on people or projects he thinks are losers! Really. That took a long time for me to figure out. I used to quote him all the time when I was teaching. His crits/advice has helped me for 15 years!

    I’ve been trying to reach Roland. Anyway you can forward my info to him or send me his email address?? Thanks.

  10. April 1, 2009 at 2:41 am

    Roland was in Taiwan for one year and as far as I know he has returned to Art Center. He was a great teacher and taught me a lot about design and just the process of making worthwhile art. He used to ask “Are you fine? Because I’m not”, meaning that artists are conflicted and have something significant to say through their work.

    He did break me down a few times and it was not easy. However, I now see my work and objective a lot differently thanks to him. Design/art/photography are all about communication and he made that very clear.

  11. 11 Someguy
    April 7, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Go to youtube and watch this:

    Roland seems to have a habit of beating on you till you capitulate. I guess what he’s trying to do is beat the narcissism out of you, but at the same time he was notorious for doing some skirt chasing with his students, despite being decades older.

    Roland might be God, but not like a Christian God…..more like one of those polytheistic Gods who would strike with rage against those who’d defied him.

    I don’t know. I guess it’s all in the same tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso…..sowing personal havoc, amongst family and coworkers, all in the name of art.

    Art Center is going through its own corporate hierarchal demons right now:
    futureofartcenter dot blogspot dot com

    If you want to locate Roland Young he’s teaching at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

  12. April 10, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Thank you for the video link Someguy. I can’t believe Roland mooned the class. That was pretty unbelievable. There is no question that I would get fired or severely disciplined if I tried that!

  13. 13 Someguy
    April 16, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual harassment and God knows whatever else goes on behind corporate doors is considered perfectly acceptable behavior. I get the feeling if you label the behavior for what it is then it is dismissed as bourgeois values, and you are incapable of being creative.
    No boundaries, no limits.

    I’m just wondering what kind of values artists believe in?

    If people try to con you into thinking this is ‘normal’, be very wary. Control freaks and narcissists have a habit of charming you into believing that human dignity does not matter and they have all the answers.

    Pablo Picasso and Frank Lloyd Wright were narcissists.

    Go to youtube and watch this:

    I met an ACCD graduate, class of 1994, that was an instructor at a community college. She felt very offended when I would question her. Knowing how I write and my believes in moral fortitude, how offensive could my questions be?

    Then she would turn it all around and praise what a great instructor Roland was. I don’t know. It’s like bizarro world.

  14. 14 Zim
    April 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

    First, Roland, flirted… alot. He flirted with me. Last time I saw him (8 years post Art Center) he flirted with me. He flirted in the sense that he gave you that look, stood very close, made a lot of jokes (none sexual), he’s very comfortable with himself and being around people (esp. women). I know this made some women uncomfortable, but I have NEVER heard of him crossing the line. He really is an honorable guy.

    Anyone who talks about “Christian” values on a blog about an art teacher… whatever. As for your teacher not liking it when you challenged her? None of the teachers at Art Center liked it, by your 8th term at AC you learned how to defend yourself and your work, you challenged the teachers. If you couldn’t take the criticism your teacher dished out and defend your own artwork, then it then it wasn’t worth defending.

  15. 15 Someguy
    April 16, 2010 at 9:22 am



    His law of the jungle mentality seems to emphasize traits of being bipolar. Before you get upset with that accusation, this runs in my family. I recognized it immediately.

    There’s nothing Christian about my beliefs. It’s just common decency….especially if you claim to follow Buddhism, which Roland does.

    Actually, I’d rather hear about what he taught rather then what a badass he was.

  16. 16 Someguy
    April 17, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Sometimes I wonder if ACCD was based on a cult like institution. Well, David Berg and the Children of God was started in Los Angeles. Jim Jones and the People’s Temple was started in San Francisco, Roland’s hometown. I don’t know. Makes you think.

  17. 17 Someguy
    May 27, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I think Roland watched too many Stanley Kubrick movies.

  18. 18 NoSeRider
    December 27, 2010 at 1:28 am

    Also, the teachings of Roland Young, who made the entire class, including myself, eat grass on our first day of art school. He was communicating to us how we are subservient to authority and took us outside of the classroom to this bed of grass. As we were talking, he told us “rip some grass off the ground.” We did. He then told us to “eat it.” No one budged. He then screamed “EAT IT” and all of us shoved the grass blades into our mouths. Roland taught us the necessity of concept……


    You guys are fucking out of your minds.

  19. January 5, 2011 at 6:52 am

    He made the whole class eat grass. That is crazy! I will always remember him saying “I’m not fine!” to remind the class not to be placid and stay in touch with their emotions/society. “People who are fine are not good artists”

  20. 20 NoSeRider
    January 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

    “to remind the class not to be placid and stay in touch with their emotions/society”

    I absolutely agree with that, but you don’t have to be abusive to convey it, nor be pathological in your behavior. Chouinard Art Institute and Art Center College of Design were built on the GI Bill and soldiers expect a society that demands obedience. The problem with obedience is that it often requires submitting to authority without question, without thinking.

    I think ultimately a cognitive philosophy is often superior to a visceral one. Besides when I look at those Roland videos, he’s ultimately demanding that you ‘think’ about what you do, not just feel.

    Here’s a different perspective. How is this less creative?

    I think it’s more about tangential thinking, looking at all the possibilities.

  21. 21 NoSeRider
    January 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    [audio src="http://www.byoaudio.com/export/P7533ec705b8a20a8e7268fcbd6e2dba1Zlx5QVREZGV3.mp3" /]

    I’m just putting this up out of spite.

  22. 24 NoSeRider
    February 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    If you can’t tell when people are abusing you, then you’re a fucking tool.

  23. 25 NoSeRider
    August 10, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Reason why I keep doing this is because I’ve encountered several Art Center graduates, and I think they were taught a philosophy based on a bipolar mindset. I often wonder if you have to be emotionally out of control to be an artist?

  24. 26 NoSeRider
    August 13, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I believe this ‘is’ the reason Roland was telling you you have to be fucked up to be a good artist.

    Manic-depressives frequently become paranoid and irritable. Moreover, their speech is often rapid, excitable and intrusive, and their thoughts move quickly and fluidly from one topic to another. They usually hold tremendous conviction about the correctness and importance of their own ideas as well.

    Studying the speech of hypomanic patients has revealed that they tend to rhyme and use other sound associations far more often than do unaffected individuals. They can also list synonyms or form other word associations much more rapidly than is considered normal.

    Or perhaps it’s the other way around? Perhaps people who are highly creative and intelligent tend to develop bipolar disorder? After all most manic-depressives do not possess extraordinary imagination, and most accomplished artists do not suffer from recurring mood swings.

    Consider the quote by Henrik Tikkanen who said that, “Truly great madness cannot be achieved without significant intelligence”.

    If people tell you things, just don’t accept it, but research and question it.

  25. 27 NoSeRider
    August 13, 2011 at 10:29 am

    If people tell you things, just don’t accept it, but research and question it.

    In actuality, that’s what bipolar/creative types do….according to that above article.

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