Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Personal Still-Life

"While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality - true art lies in a reality that is felt." - Odilon Redon

One of the nicer, covert ways to make beginning drawing assignments more relevant to students and hopefully invest them with more personal content is with this particular approach. I mean, it's an opportunity to collect an assemblage of items that best represent you and your interests, what you consider to be the most important and valuable objects in your possession (and no money or drugs showed up with this semester's batch).

Ostensibly, what's turned in is a symbolic illustration containing everything, plus it's another piece that should demonstrate all the accumulated lessons and principles taught to date. And if that's not enough, there's a bonus introduction of a new medium (water-based/wash) to experiment on simultaneously. Overall I was very pleased with the works, most everyone succeeded and there was a few significant improvements. And we also enjoyed the little rundown each student gave about the piece and what the objects meant to them and why they included them in their compositions - some insightful stories were shared. A meta-lesson in that one never really knows exactly what the story is or what's truly going on with any given artwork: input and commentary from the creator often adds a lot of interpretive depth. Of course, there are those who can and do draw any old thing and their craftsmanship alone carries the entire piece; others who have less skill can utilize other means by which to make a statement.

And then there's always a few who couldn't care less either way, about looking at or making art. A couple of whom have made the good call to drop the class before week's end and the dreaded Faculty Initiated Withdrawl ("this is for your own good"). Tomorrow's class is the third critique of a major piece, and I'm planning on yanking the rug out again by not doing it the way we've had them so far - instead of hung on the wall for discussion it'll be one-on-one in another room. This can be stressful, even scary, for both parties: it rolls the dice as some students might prefer the privacy or relative anonymity of group critiques and might be uncomfortable being singled out from the herd. Either way it's a good opportunity to make sure I can personally address any concerns and answer questions either of us may have, and discuss their mid-term grades. The flip side of this is removing the pretentious, clinical objectivity that can sometimes develop between the instructor/student relationship, and can impede understanding. I've experienced my fair share of teachers who were just not really there, who hide behind the academic buffer zone so they don't have to honestly interact face-to-face with students as real people. The balancing act between individualized attention versus keeping everybody in the whole class moving along together and all on the same page is yet another daily challenge. Sometimes I joke about being an "art coach" but really that's what it feels like; part cheerleader, part drill instructor/disciplinarian, and a tiny bit of selfish and psychotic parent screaming from the bleachers who calls the stupid referee all kinds of nasty names.
Go team, yay 'Nooks etc.

“Art is the only thing you cannot punch a button for. You must do it the old-fashioned way. Stay up and really burn the midnight oil. There are no compromises.” - Leonytne Price

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