We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Balkan, cofounder and Instructor at Atelier Dojo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Great, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
We knew that Austin had nothing like an atelier-style school for making realist art. Having been part of the figurative painting community for quite some time, we felt that creating a hub for realist figurative art in town would be very desirable — a place where those making this kind of work could gather, draw, paint and find their people. So we felt fairly confident that starting this business could be a success.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Atelier Dojo was born in 2018. We are founded on the principle that with rigorous training and practice in representational mark making with a master, one can learn and apply all the fundamentals of the craft and then once they find their own voice of expression, they can truly rise to mastery as an artist. Individually we founders came to the point in 2018 of opening our school after years of personal and professional work on our independent painting journeys. What sets us apart from other atelier-style art academies is the range of aesthetic differences in the styles of both founders and instructional staff. We believe that while solid training in observational drawing and painting is imperative to learning and advancing skills and craft in representational art making, true art happens beyond this point with the discovery of one’s voice and personal expression, often seen as “style.” We at Atelier Dojo have been open to our community needs. When our local figurative community desired more full-time instruction, we decided to start our three-year Academy program in addition to holding our evening classes and open studios. When the pandemic began last March, we had to quickly make changes to our programs and figure out how to survive financially. Our staff learned how to teach art remotely and hold open studios remotely. What’s incredible throughout this challenging time is that we have broadened our market to reach students and artists all over the world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have lived in this town for a looooooooong time, since 1995 precisely. And Austin has changed markedly during this time. There are still certain aspects of this city that remain that I would be excited to share with my people. That is: Barton Springs, the crown jewel of Austin, the very large pool fed by natural cold springs; going kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding on LadyBird Lake; going to get delicious breakfast tacos at Mi Madres Restaurant in East Austin; going to hear some live music at say the Continental Club, one of Austin’s oldest clubs, on South Congress Avenue; getting cocktails at say The Wheel on East MLK Ave; going to get some coffee and maybe lunch while listening to some local band outside at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress Ave; going to see and experience the stone building and art installation designed by Ellsworth Kelly on Blanton Museum grounds; taking a look through the latest East Austin Studio Tour catalog to see whose studio/gallery space might be open or hosting an inspiring exhibit. And for some fun vintage finds and shopping, I’d bring them to the NorthLoop area, specifically to Room Service Vintage to enjoy all the knickknacks and gems that could be found. oh oh oh and to the Alamo Drafthouse to see a movie while having some dinner and drinks.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
For one thing, I am part of a founding entity who includes Denise Fulton and Karen Offutt. Denise Fulton is the Founder/Director; Karen Offutt and I are Founders/Instructors. We are incredibly thankful to our families for supporting us in this endeavor. And to Laura Cisneros, who came up with our name and encouraged us to think of what we were about to embark on as our brand; AND who helped get us started in our pursuit.