The Arcanum – Exposed!

Trey Ratcliff, Peter Giordano and Bel Jones sit down in a G+ Hangout with Frederick Van Johnson to discuss Trey's newest project – The Arcanum, Magical Academy of Artistic Mastery. It's an online reimagining of the master/apprentice learning method, applied to the creative arts.

Promotional Video for The Arcanum

Q&A from TWIP Interview 2013 12/03

As answered by Peter Giordano

We received many great questions during the interview! Thanks! We'll take each one down below, but we'd also like to refer you to the Frequently Asked Questions on the Arcanum site at

After learning more about The Arcanum, are we able to amend our application?
Yes. We will open up the ability to edit your profile and application soon. Stay Tuned!

Are there guidelines that Masters are asked to follow in terms of frequency of contact/feedback with Apprentices?
The most important “structured communications” revolve around Apprentices and their goals around Leveling up. Check out the Leveling System for Sphere 1 here:
Beyond that, we encourage Masters to articulate to their Cohort how best to communicate within the Cohort.

Is there a set date for the start of The Arcanum?
We officially launched this week and opened up for applications for both Apprentice and Master positions. We expect the Masters will begin working with the first set of Apprentices sometime in January 2014

Are selections for Apprenticeship still on schedule to start in early January 2014?
We expect Masters to begin selecting Apprentices in January, finalize the first “class” and start the first class of The Arcanum in early January.

About how long it would take to reach Level 20; Do all Apprentices start at the same “Level?”
All apprentices start at the same Level, Level 1. There is no minimum or maximum time requirement for Leveling up. Leveling up is based on one's progress on their own path. That said, completing Level 20 will some take some Apprentices several months, for others it may be longer. Keep in mind that there is no shortcut for experience ;-). For an example from the photography Discipline, see:

Can the educational model also be in person, say if I'm traveling and an Apprentice is in the city I'm visiting?
Absolutely. We want your experience within The Arcanum to be personal and to make a personal connection with your entire Cohort. We feel this human-to-human experience will be the most valuable. We encourage members of a Cohort (Masters included) to connect online and in real life whenever possible.

[From Alberto Mejia] I am a teacher in Vancouver Canada. I teach Photography and Design. I find that 20 may be a big group. 12 to 15 is a better ratio in my experience.
Thanks very much for your insight and perspective Alberto. We're just getting started and beginning with 20 Apprentices within each Cohort. If it becomes obvious that 20 is too many, we will make adjustments. We also anticipate the online environment to be a different beast from a classroom environment, so the nature of the interactions will differ.

With 30 Masters taking 20 Apprentices, how are you going to pick the initial 600?
Masters will have tools which enable them to review Apprentice applications and select their 20 Apprentices for their Cohort. Every selection will be very personal, and each Apprentice will get a personal invitation from the Master.

What if, the Master and the Apprentice do not get along well? The human element, you know.
We understand that with human-to-human interactions the “human element” can become a factor. We trust everyone will treat each other with respect and dignity. However exceptions will occur and we will handle them on a case by case basis.

How are you going to handle teachers whose passion is to shoot in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles from any type of data connection? 😉
First we hope that Master is focusing on the Landscape Discipline 😉 But seriously, we embrace it! Masters may not be connected all of the time while they are making photographs, but they can still capture and create amazing content to share with their Cohort and The Arcanum at large.

Apprentices will probably have very different skill Levels, do they have to Level at the same time or will we see people going faster?
We expect Apprentices to Level Up at different rates for exactly the reason you state. What's important is that they Level Up at a pace that best suits their skill and passion.

When will the fee schedule be published?
The monthly fee is already posted on, USD$29.97 per month. There is no long-term commitment. You may cancel your membership at any time.

There seems to be a focus on Leveling up as a cohort, which is great. What happens if/when people drop out of the cohort? Are new individuals added in who are Level 1?
The cohort does not level up as a unit; each individual levels up at their own pace. And yes, if an Apprentice drops out of the Cohort a Master is granted the opportunity to select a new Apprentice to take their spot. The new Apprentice will start at Level 1 as per the Leveling System:

Do Masters get paid?
Yes. Masters will receive remuneration for their efforts.

[From Amy Proctor] The idea that education can circumvent traditional photography teaching is excellent the only thing I worry about is security. As a female photographer, does this program have safeguards to my safety knowing 20+ people will know my exact location at times?
We agree. You should treat your privacy within The Arcanum with the same intensity you do with any other online service. That said, there is no requirement to divulge your location. You are responsible for ensuring you've selected the appropriate privacy settings within services such as Google+, your wireless carrier, etc.

[From Chris Hom, For Bel Jones] For the Hand Drawn Art Discipline, can you be completely new to drawing?
Yes! Beginners are welcome to join and select any Discipline within The Arcanum.

Will there be showings or ways for the Apprentices to share their work?
Yes! The most common way of sharing will be via posting one's images within their Cohort Community (a Private Google+ Community). If a Cohort would like to organize a showing in real life, we love it!

Will it be purely virtual or will live sessions be integrated?
By “live” we assume you mean in real life 😉 While we're using services such as Google+ for private communities and Google Hangouts for live online conversations, we encourage members of a Cohort to connect through whichever means possible. Meeting in real life will undoubtedly happen at some point for some members of a Cohort.

I don't have Google Glass. Would an iPhone with LTE connection mounted to my camera work in the field for teaching? Would I be better off to use an Android device?
Any modern smartphone or digital camera with the ability to record video is sufficient for capturing and creating educational content. You'll need some method of editing your content and uploading it to The Arcanum. Additionally, you can do all sorts of things just on your computer with your webcam and screencasting to describe and show various techniques.

What does it take to prove I can teach and guide others?
We'd love to have you become a Master at some point. The best way is to go through the Apprenticeship process because you will learn how The Arcanum works from the inside, how the interactions occur and what they unwritten rules of The Arcanum will be. I'm sure you will Level up quickly and you can let the Master know your interest in teaching.

Are there gonna be Masters that will teach in different languages?
At the start we're focusing on English as the common language and will add more Masters with additional language skills as we grow.

Google Glass. Cell Phones. All this connectivity of being constantly connected. Isn't the younger generation [of guys] going to lose how to just flat out talk to the ladies?
The Vanguard at The Arcanum has discussed this matter. We have concluded that is good news for Frederick Van Johnson, because the thinning of the herd will be a tremendous boon to his dating scene.

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