Monday, November 14, 2011

Hands-on Online?

A guide to linear perspective I created for students

Some questions posed by my friend Kate:
Since art is so literally a hands-on discipline do you ever struggle to get certain points across to your students that - in a normal classroom - wouldn't be a problem?
Art is very much a hands-on activity, however it is also more than that. Through my education, I learned about the world of art education transitioning from a discipline-based method (art production, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics) to a method more focused on big ideas, big questions, conceptual thinking, and exploration. The focus is no longer on creating perfect art products, but rather students and teachers putting the importance in the process. That being said, occasionally in my curriculum I do teach a particular technique, such as linear perspective. Linear perspective as a technique was the most difficult lesson for my students to grasp thus far. I do believe that some of the difficulty stems from the fact that I did not show them what I was doing with pencil and paper. I created resource pages showing the various steps of linear perspective, held multiple live lessons and help sessions, and used SMART notebook to have students walk me through each step as I would in a brick and mortar classroom. Even with these many methods I still was unable to reach every student. Since I taught this lesson, I created a video of myself drawing the various steps of linear perspective that students will be able to access in future semesters. I am hoping this will help. There is a definite challenge when it comes to getting consistent results in a project that stresses a particular visual requirement. Sometimes I do wish I could go over to a student’s desk and help them draw it out, however when I am not emphasizing a specific visual result, students are encouraged to explore the materials and focus on the process of creating an artwork. Sometimes exploration leads to mistakes and challenges that I believe will make them more self-reliant artists.

To me personally, art is about freedom of expression and creating things that are both personal and beautiful. Keeping this in mind, do you think your students have more freedom to express themselves without a teacher in the room looking over their shoulders? Conversely, do you think the students sometimes struggle more to bring their visions to life without hands-on instruction?
In some ways I do believe that students appreciate the freedom and privacy of creating art in their own space. More than the lack of teacher in the room, I think the lack of classmates can be helpful for some students. In a brick and mortar setting, many students who do not feel skilled in art are reluctant to create art in front of their peers, for fear of judgment. For these students, they have less of a risk of embarrassment and are free to create, knowing I am the only one who will see their work in most cases. I have spoken with students who have done poorly in previous art classes because of distraction, embarrassment, and the lack of flexible time to complete a project who are feeling positive about their experience in an online environment. I also see struggling students who miss that hands-on instruction and face-to-face motivation. In my classroom it seems that the students who are excited and put in the effort required do not seem to have trouble bringing their visions to life, however the ones who do not push themselves show a lack of vision in their artwork. I feel that this is a the case in any art classroom, but perhaps online it is easier to tell which students are not inspired to work independently and who are, since I am not there to breathe down their necks and require them to work a certain amount of time “in class”.

Remember, I encourage any questions about my profession, and I will answer them in blog entries right here!


  1. Through both my formal and informal art education, some of the best parts were collaboration and inspiration for other students. It was always great to just walk through the studio and see what everyone else was working on. Are there any analogous experiences in your online class?

  2. Fascinating. I remember way back to high school when we were learning about perspective. Not being very "artistic", I always struggled with it to say the least. But by looking at your diagram, I now understand it. I think by seeing it with my "left brain", I can apply it logically rather than artistically. This online art might be just the thing for me.

  3. Maybe this is silly, but have you thought about using fabrics for teaching. Painted fabric is currently a trend in quilt-making. If you can turn this into a question for your thesis, I would be really excited. I can't seem to think of a good way to phrase it.
    (I think I will phrase that as a general question about how I make decisions about what materials to use and to assign to students.)

  4. How do you deal with authenticity of work? It seems it would be easy for someone else to do the work or for them to download a picture since you don't see the original document.