Thursday, April 30, 2009

Open Studio/W.I.P.

"You learn more from a critique if you are given negatives rather than positives... "You have a nice painting. I think you have succeeded," tells a student nothing." - Annette Waterbeek

You'd think that with the seasonal change in daylight up here (20 hours of visible light) we'd have an abundance of energy, but seeing as how it's the last week of class before finals it was more like something out of a George Romero film. I was pretty fried myself, having been woken up by my partner's nightmare at 3am: seems I was in a pen with a bunch of werewolves, she really started screaming when I turned into one myself (guess I need to shave). But despite being a little fuzzy around the edges, class went good enough - no model, and I hadn't scheduled anything as a backup, but it was a good opportunity to play catch-up. Students worked on their finals, or reworked previous assignments and critique pieces, emptied out drawers in preparation for the final next Thursday.

In just over two hours I was able to call each and every student up one-on-one to review with them where their individual grades stood, barring disaster or miracle with the final and the state of their portfolios. This takes the edge off for me as well in alleviating the stress over final grading: everyone knows what's coming and why. It'll probably shake out to: one A+, an A, and an A-, a few B+'s, a few B's, and a couple B-'s, a C, a C-, a D+, couple D's and one F. A slightly higher than normal spread, as usually there's more in the "C" range, but in this batch there seemed to be an inordinate preponderance of folks willing to rework their projects and also contribute to critique discussions. Attendance is another major factor for perhaps a third of the class, but again, it's a technicality that's self-evident by the lack of quality in their pieces, so it becomes a moot point.

This last check-point and informal review is a good chance to offer sincere encouragement and advise to the handful of promising talents who might aspire to take more art classes, or even go so far as to declare art as a major or minor, and really screw up their lives. Seriously though, there's always a couple that would stand to benefit from sticking with it and experimenting with some other mediums. And then there's always a few others for whom it's a major achievement just to hang in there to the end of this class, or semester. Everybody's got their own criteria for accomplishments, and everyone's got their personal issues, but in the end I'm the one holding the grade book, and I have to be as fair and accommodating as possible. Like I told one struggling student who said she isn't ever happy enough with what she does to turn anything in: I said the only person you really have to worry about pleasing at this point is me - as in, I need to see the work regardless of your personal opinion of it. We can deal with the fine-points later, but for now it's time to produce. Some "got it," some didn't, some just did their jobs and got their work done on time. Everybody learned something, including me.

"Don't let criticism get in the way of learning. Whatever negative comments a teacher or a college or even your family may make, consider them. Take it as an opportunity to see your work with a different perspective." - Dana Levin

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