You should definitely take this class if you are interested in improving your technical drawing skills and/or just want to have a really positive experience in a visual arts class for once. I've taken so many boring drawing and painting classes at Columbia that just feel like busy-work and honestly, before this class, I was so disenchanted by even finishing my concentration in Visual Arts because classwork for art classes felt too much like a rushed chore to me rather than something I actually enjoyed and could be proud of. While this class can get tedious, I can definitely say I am proud of what I've done in this class.
This course is taught from a very technical level (inspired by the draftsman drawing work of the 19th century), which is not something available in any other Visual Arts course at Columbia. While it accommodates students from a range of experiences, you really need to have the patience and discipline to work hard in order to do well in this class. You work on a SINGLE hyperrealistic drawing of a plaster cast. Along the way, Minoff teaches you draftsman skills in blocking and measuring proportions (highly applicable in any sort of observational drawing like figure drawing/anatomy), and shading with precise control. You also learned a lot about light and form as well as how to overcome the inaccuracy of humans' visual perception by approaching the drawing from a technically rigorous (and sometimes physics-like) perspective. And definitely a lot patience. The result is almost always a carbon copy image of the plaster cast (or varying degrees of completion of one, but at least the parts you finish will look utterly photorealistic). The one thing this class doesn't offer is room to draw stylistically and work creatively with "artistic expression," but thats what the rest of those regular drawing and painting courses (I/II/III) are for anyways.
The class is structured in a very specific way that Minoff goes over very clearly during syllabus week. The small homework assignments in the beginning of the semester were really helpful to introduce students to techniques that would be used for the rest of the semester. The rest of the semester had no structure except to finish the drawing by finals. I wish there were more concrete check-ins/milestones scheduled to give students an idea of what % of the project they should finish i.e. 4 weeks in, 8 weeks in, 12 weeks in, etc. Because the class is small, I think this could be done one a 1-on-1 basis between student and professor, taking into account the students' different subjects and experience levels and strengths. But since, there isn't, if your goal is to finish things in time for the end-of-semester visual arts department show at prentiss, make sure to pace yourself accordingly and be prepared to put in a few additional hours each week rather than pulling all-nighters on the week of or just deciding not to finish. The semester I took it, the prentiss show was cancelled so I didn’t need to cram to finish my drawing. If I did, then I would’ve probably dedicated an additional 20-30 hours over the last 2 weeks. However, there is absolutely no pressure to finish by the show as Professor Minoff makes it clear that he’s totally willing to meet with you during finals or even during the summer (!) before grades are due to look at your finished project. I’ve never EVER had a more accommodating professor.
Professor Minoff is extremely knowledgable even though you don't necessarily get that impression from how friendly and easy-going (though sometimes awkward) he is. He communicates so clearly and effectively during class, and he provides insightful feedback to students which is very valuable when it is often so hard to put in words all the nuances involved in creating such life-like work. Minoff honestly reminds me of Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds (which sounds strange lol) sometimes with the way he speaks, but also from his sharp eye and mind and constructive feedback, no doubt from his many years of experience both as an artist and as a teacher at Columbia and at the Grand Central Atelier teaching this one course. While Minoff used to be a self-employed animator, now he's been obsessed with painting ocean waves from life and from notes/sketches rather than photographs (which means he gives great drawing AND painting advice...2 for 1 what a steal). His personal work is incredibly traditional, and he's researched a lot about the physics of waves to understand them and be able to draw them so realistically. This methodical/meticulous way of getting to really understand and research his subject is evident in class when he's unexpectedly able to name obscure anatomy on regions of the plaster cast's mouth or nose.
Minoff's dedication to his students is more obvious by how he always shows up to the studio at least an HOUR (!!!) in advance to prepare the studio for class (fixing lighting, etc). I know this because I'm usually in the studio an hour early to put in a little work before class starts and he is ALWAYS ALREADY THERE. During the semester, Minoff also worked on his own study of a cast both before (after he's set up the studio) and during class when he isn't walking around helping students and giving 1-on-1 feedback. Seeing the guy's work is breathtaking in person, it's so damn realistic. I swear he's like a highly intelligent xerox machine who can just look at something with his eyes and recreate it on the paper in front of him. Even if that's not what you aspire to be as an artist, you gotta have mad respect for that kind of skill.
Overall, great class, great professor, and the (incredibly high) quality of student work in this class is very much a reflection of Minoff's exceptional teaching ability. HIGHLY recommend.