I have never enrolled to any licensed ‘Art School’. That short weekly class during high school doesn't count. I honestly haven’t the slightest clue how to teach myself art – properly.

I've composed a short list of books that I’ve bought over the years that I’ve used in my so-called 'Art Education':

Material I’ve read so far:
Basic Composition
Drawing Realistic Figures
ImagineFX magazines
Various “Learn How To Draw” books

Inspirational material:
Ballistic Publishing
Expose Four, Five
The Art of Videogames
Heavy Metal magazines
Various Hayao Miyazaki artbooks

These books are great, no question about that. However, there were times when I wondered whether I should’ve blown my cash in getting a real art education / degree. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to have a real knowledge about art history, philosophy, proper design and all that jazz? Being self-taught is fun, but it will only get you so far. That’s how I’ve come to understand things. There’s a serious lack of guidance, despite reading all these great advice.

So I was scouring the net to get an idea of what they teach in real art classes. You know, getting to know about those theories and whatever pretentious crap they’ve teach. That’s when I saw this old post on Conceptart.org, where this art professor was asking forum goers for critique about an essay he was planning to hand out to his students. This professor came with good intentions – to explain to his students his philosophy on art, as well as an overview of his upcoming lessons.

His original speech was around five or six paragraphs long (He has since updated it), but I will post his original un-edited version. This is so you can see how this Professor’s art class would’ve turn out if he had gone through with showing students his raw ‘masterpiece’.
The Professor’s Speech – “Why Art Matters”

”Before explaining my philosophy on art education, I feel I should discuss what I believe art is and why art matters, for those who study it and the world in general. As an artist, I see the importance of art every day, but I know that not everyone sees the world as I do. I define art as any means of communication between the maker and viewer, which has been thoughtfully and carefully designed and executed. Art can be a painting, a book, a movie, a song, etc. Every work of art has something to say, whether it is a historical photo, a novel, or a simple shard of pottery. Now, you might look at a piece of pottery, see a bit of decoration, and think nothing of it. But, as Jared Diamond notes in his book Guns, Germs, & Steel, with a trained eye, you would know where it was made, when, which culture made it, when they arrived in that location, where they came from, and something of their religious beliefs, icons, society, wealth, and level of technology. Every work of art holds a wealth of information about the person who made it, and the culture and time period the person came from. More importantly, for many past cultures, their artwork constitutes the only clue as to how they lived and what they believed.

I believe that art education has the same goal as other educational fields, which is primarily to develop skills that students can use throughout their lives, in college, in professions, and on their own. For me, the main question of art education is what skills should be taught? What skills are most beneficial for young artists today? Unlike some other subjects, art making encompasses not one skill or body of knowledge, but rather an endless list of related skills that build off each other. These skills include drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, computer graphics, animation, film & video, architecture, and many others. Although these abilities may not seem related, any artist will tell you that mastering one will influence all your work in the others. This is because working in one medium, say printmaking, will lead an artist to different kinds of lines than they would make by drawing with charcoal, and might result in this artist trying new kinds of line with charcoal, or pencil, or later in Photoshop, or jewelry making.

I believe the most appropriate skills to teach beginning students are drawing from observation, sculpting from observation, studying human anatomy, and mastering the intricacies of color theory, all the while incorporating art history, criticism, art theory, aesthetics, reading, writing, vocabulary, and research. I consider these four skills most important because they will enhance the work produced in all other arts. Anatomy alone allows for art involving people, portraits, illustrations, etc. Even if a student decides he/she wants to go on to make art unrelated to the figure, the familiarity he will gain with the materials, and the precision she will develop to perceive shape, size, proportion, and color will allow the artist to pursue any and all future projects. Ultimately, all the different fields of art are all founded on the same aesthetic principles of composition, emphasis, balance, rhythm, pattern, contrast, juxtaposition, color, etc, and by having students work in a variety of mediums, they will gain a greater sense of what these aesthetic principles mean. Also, as Phillip Dunn explains in his book Creating Curriculum in Art, from the NAEA Point of View series, these four artistic abilities also develop certain cognitive skills such as visual communication, visual literacy, speech and debate, hands-on learning, longitudinal thinking, problem solving, and making qualitative evaluations through critique and self-assessment.

I believe that any art course should first focus on developing students’ skills. In any beginning art class, there will be students of varying development and ability. Most will need to go through a series of technical exercises before they will be ready to try real projects. It is crucial with each skill set to break down the difficult concepts into short, manageable, learning activities for students to complete – and that students can complete. Giving them a weighty project on the first day that they feel they cannot do, will only bog down the class and erode students’ confidence, and I have seen this happen in other teachers’ classrooms. It is also important for students to know the difference between a work of art and an exercise. A work of art is a means of self-expression. So long as the work truly communicates what the artist intends, it cannot be wrong. It becomes infallible. It also cannot be marked over, as that would infringe the voice of the artist. When student work becomes art, it is therefore difficult to criticize and correct, and for students to open their minds to what they might learn from their teacher.

A technical exercise, on the other hand, is not about self-expression, but rather is a test to see whether a student can do a certain task, such as a realistic still life drawing, with objects chosen by a teacher solely for their educational value. In a technical exercise, it is not so important what students make as what they learn from what they make. These studies are like scales in music. A musician would never perform a scale before an audience, but must practice them every day to improve the real pieces. Given enough exercises, students in any art subject will feel confident, and be knowledgeable enough to begin real art projects of their choosing. When, on the other hand, an art teacher expects students to complete excellent drawings in the first assignment, and will not let students move on until they are excellent, this is like expecting a beginning musician to pick up a violin and play a Brahms concerto on the first try. It is an unreal expectation that creates a gap between student and teacher, and leads some students to doubt if the subject is right for them.

Art is ultimately a means of communication, and some thought must be put into what students are saying through their art. Beginning students should be introduced to art-related topics and concepts to debate, such as, what is art? Is art something you make for others or yourself? How do you know when a work of art is finished? Why make art, anyway – what makes it important? If a student goes on to become a professional artist, these questions will come up again and again, and any artist must be able to respond to them intelligently, and articulately. It is not enough to know how to make art, one must be able to talk about it. I believe any art class should cover these types of questions – but always allowing students to come up with their own answers. I have seen classes where teachers try to force their views on students to make the work meaningful, and almost always to a negative result. The work no longer belongs to the students, who constantly check and change their work to what their teacher wants. What these teachers need to learn is that their students do not have to make one large body of connected work, all centering on a theme chosen by the
teacher. Who cares if it makes a more cohesive exhibit? The primary focus of art education is not to show exhibits, but to teach skills students can use in future work. All a teacher needs to do is know each individual student, and figure out what they are really interested in doing, that they would benefit by doing.

All art courses must allow for students to say something of their choice, throughout their educational experience. A crucial role of the art teacher is to motivate their students, finding subjects and issues that inspire them, when their own inspiration is lacking. For me it is not important that students make any particular kind of art, but rather that their senses are refined enough to truly create what they want. A student might have a fascination with motorcycles, and by allowing that student to make art about motorcycles, he will work harder than he ever has in his life, make incredible work, and have a portfolio piece for college. Motorcycles might not be intellectual, or linked directly to politics, ethics, etc, but I hesitate to tell any student that their passion is unacceptable in my classroom. My ultimate goal as a teacher is that students will want to take what they have learned in my classes and go on to make great art and continue to study the arts throughout their lives.”

My thoughts:
Huh? Where am I? Damn! I dozed off! Did you honestly read that? Crap! If real art class was this boring, I’ll stick to my books thank you! But as long as ol’ ‘War and Peace’ is here, I might as well show you what a certain Kev Ferrera said about this overlong art class-grade stuff meant to him.

Kev Ferrera:

As far as your philosophy goes... You either need to go deeper or more general.

In your first paragraph you seem to indicate that Art only has value as historical or autobiographical artifact. Then you don't explain why such characteristics have value themselves. Yeah, it tells about the time period it was made. It tells a bit about the guy who made it. But why is that important? This question will lead you deeper.

"Art is a designed communication" - Does that make journalism art? What about the use of accidents?

"Every work of art has something to say" - Rhetoric. Define your terms.

You say "I believe the most appropriate skills to teach beginning students are drawing from observation, sculpting from observation, studying human anatomy, and mastering the intricacies of color theory,"

Since these are all technical matters, i must disagree. One of the fundamental things about observation based art is the synthesizing of Content and Aesthetics. Thus, it seems to me, these elements should be taught side by side. How can you even place a figure on paper without some discussion of design? Art is a gestalt mechanism, and it should be taught that way from the start, IMHO.

You write: "A work of art is a means of self-expression. So long as the work truly communicates what the artist intends, it cannot be wrong. It becomes infallible. It also cannot be marked over, as that would infringe the voice of the artist. When student work becomes art, it is therefore difficult to criticize and correct, and for students to open their minds to what they might learn from their teacher."

You don't explain that you are setting up a comparison in this section. You are making implied comparisons between the relative merits of having the students learn by making art for your critique or learn by making studies for your critique. But I didn't figure this out until I began re-reading your paragraphs. You should use "on the other hand" or "conversely" to begin the next paragraph, so we know you are setting up some comparison that demonstrates your superior teaching philosophy versus the straw man explained earlier.
My thoughts:
So good ol’ Kev eviscerates this Professor’s good intentions. Ah well, those are the strokes. Was it really a mistake to talk about art like this? Are my blog posts falling into these traps? I don’t know! I don’t care! Not all of us can be a Kev Ferrera!

Speaking of which, Kev decides to end his criticism on a positive note:

Kev Ferrera:

”Personally, I think this idea of your is horrendous. We learn what we practice. If we practice making art, that is what we learn how to do. If we make studies, we learn how to make studies. It seems you have found a rationale for not getting little Kimmy's panties in a bunch by subjecting her to serious art criticism. In this age of simpering PC aggrievement relativist bullshit, I guess I understand your fear.

But you can sidestep this whole percieved problem by simply switching back and forth between study and art making. And you can crit their previous art works, through current studies... with the hope that they will figure things out for themselves. ie. Have them do a portrait... then have them do some studies of facial muscles and bone structure and the masses of the head... and then have them do another portrait. And then you can compare their successful studies with their unsuccessful portraits. So, in effect, they crit themselves.

Anyway... I'll leave it there.”

My thoughts:
Well, call me a Tommunist! This is great idea for lesson plan! Taking up art education in some college seems irrelevant now! I’m starting to think it’s my lack of commitment that makes me end up in these stupid dilemmas. Why, oh why?? I could give you all the excuses in the world on this lack of passion that I’ve been feeling (at the time of this writing). My drive for art has slowed down significantly since the beginning of the year. Could it be these goddamn 8am-6pm work hours? Is my lousy routine of my life is zapping my passion?

MMG: Who? Who is that?

Voice: I AM ZOR.

MMG: Zor? Like that guy from Robotech?

MMG: What… but what would you h—ha-have me do? This… This is a blog you know. And I like to dwell on cra—


MMG: I-I don’t know. I-I-I like to blog and all, but talk about artistic stuff in the process! Isn’t that good? I guess that makes me you know… an artist that well… blogs!

MMG: No… noooooo… that’s impossible…


MMG: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!


StudioMMG’s Concept Den apologizes for these turn of events. We also wish to apologize for those who failed to see any point in this post. To make up for this foolishness, I wish to present 'Art School Confidential'. A comic that is sort of related with what was discussed today. I will be posting this short series bit by bit, when the post calls for it.

Still interested in enrolling?


Blogumulus by Roy Tanck and Amanda FazaniInstalled by CahayaBiru.com


About Me

On and off blogger.
View my complete profile