Teachers talk a lot, especially about teaching and we tend to "speak" for our students a lot in regards to what we think they think, want, enjoy, dislike, etc. I love to survey students because it gives me the reality check I need to realise that I don’t always know what they’re thinking and what they need. I’ve been doing some entries lately about creativity, documenting learning, and assessment and it occurred to me that my former students may have valuable opinions on some of these matters. I sent a list of questions to some of my former students who are now in University, some are now studying art and some are not, and have gotten their permission to post their responses as they trickle in. I cannot thank them enough for taking the time to respond; they are very special kids, students, friends, people.
Response from Erin Bammann who graduated in May, 2012 from The International School of Indiana.
I hope all is well with you and the family! Below are my responses to the questions you provided:
What type of art classes did you take in High School? (Program? Year levels?)
IB Art, Higher Level (years 11 & 12)
Why did you take art in High School? What was your motivation?
I have always enjoyed creating things and exploring perspectives. Visual art allowed me to experience the process of creating something in a variety of media and to think about the role of aesthetic, artistic action, and public reaction within the context of different cultures.
Can you remember and describe two of your favourite units of study in art class in High School? Please explain what you remember the point of the unit was and what you learned and created for the unit.
The figure drawing unit and the sculpture unit. I enjoyed the style of the figure drawing exercise where we used charcoal and/or graphite to draw from life in increasing time increments. In this exercise, we started with very quick, basic sketches of general shapes or value (lasting approximately 30 seconds, I believe) and worked towards drawing a more detailed picture in the final round (approximately 15-20 minutes, I think... not sure on the exact times). This exercise was really great because of the way you organized the picture you were going to create, based on the time that you had. For example, when you have less than one minute to draw a figure, you have to capture the most basic differences in size, shape, and/or value and forget about all of the details of a human that you would otherwise inevitably focus on (facial features, detail in clothing, etc.) We all created several drawings throughout this unit.
The second unit, the sculpture unit or 3D unit, was so fun. I liked the freedom we had to choose pretty much whatever medium or media we wanted. In addition, it pushed me outside of a sort of comfort zone I had developed with 2D artwork. For this unit, I designed a mixed media sculpture, but on its external surface was only cardboard. I based my design on the work of an architect, Frank Gehry. I peeled apart the layers of corrugated cardboard and cutout scales to build a fish on a plaster, paper, wire, and wooden base (core). I was inspired by Gehry's use of texture and the dimension he achieved using scales in his famous Barcelona sculpture.
Can you remember a unit in art that you didn’t enjoy? Please describe why it didn’t inspire you.
I didn't particularly like the still life unit, but that's just because I am uninspired by still life drawings and (usually) subject matter in general. I think they are a great way of practicing basic technique and learning about color and design theory, but, as a student, I have always found them boring. They don't inspire my creativity, rather it just feels like going through the motions.
Please describe the way you used your sketchbook/journal in your high school art classes. What worked well and what didn’t?
I thought the IWB was a great way to document inspiration. I used it as a way to record artists, techniques, ideas, and planning for my own projects. The IWB was an integral part of remembering, learning, and understanding what I was doing at all times. I think it would have been nice to start with doing pages outlining major art periods. However, that's probably just because I have a growing interest in art history now. (And I understand IB art is not an art history course!)
Do you think that using more tech in art class would have made the experience better/more relevant/more innovative? Why or why not?
Innovative and perhaps relevant, yes. As a college student now, even though I am not pursuing a career in art, I am exposed to a lot of different design and career applications that require knowledge of certain programs and technology-based techniques. I think it is crucial for the IB Art program to be well-rounded, since it is an entry-level point of interest for future artists, designers, etc. Incorporating a unit that introduces some form of technology-based art provides a more complete picture of what art "is" and what its applications are.
Do you think that creativity should/can be assessed in art class? Why or why not?
Yes, but only vaguely. Creativity is difficult to assess precisely because the judgement of something being creative is fairly subjective to the evaluator's experience and does not necessarily account for the creator's experience. However, I think it is important to encourage pushing boundaries in visual art because that is when innovative ideas and techniques will emerge.
What do you think is more important in art class, concepts or skills? Or are they equal? Explain.
Concepts are more important, because that value encourages creative, abstract, and critical thinking. I think it is much more important to develop the skill set to describe and understand the meaning of a work of art (whether it is your own or somebody else's) than to be able to replicate something that is considered technically "good". Of course, I think learning some degree of technique in drawing (e.g. perspective, proportion, value) is incredibly useful and should be a part of any art program. However, I think the concepts are most important because they guide the actions of an artist and they might even dictate how a work of art is received by a given audience. In addition, skills and how they are valued are constantly evolving, so it is not a fair point of judgement. For example, with the different art periods, different aesthetics and techniques were valued. For those kind of transitions to occur, new skills emerge, ones that cannot always be taught, predicted, and evaluated.
Do you wish you had had more personal choice in art class?
I feel like we had a lot of personal freedom/choice within each unit, so no.
What are you doing now in school and life?
I am finishing up a BS in Community Health from The School of Public Health at IU Bloomington, with a Spanish minor. I am currently in San Francisco as a Visiting Scholar at the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. I have continued to paint and create as a hobby, but did not choose to pursue art academically/professionally (at least for now). Over the past two years I also taught painting classes to children and adults at Wine and Canvas in Bloomington, IN. while attending college. Ultimately, I would like to pursue either a career in medicine or public health, the precise direction of that is still being determined.
What effect did taking art in High School have on what you have done since then? If any?
IB Art guided the development of my passion to create. As mentioned above, I worked at an arts entertainment venue, Wine and Canvas Bloomington, teaching 2-3 hour classes for adults and children over the past two years, and I would not have been prepared for that wonderful opportunity without IB Art. Moreover, IB Art contributed to my development as a student by teaching me how to explain my interpretation of the world around me and how to think critically (about everything, not just art).
I also took some art classes in college, since I developed such an interested for visual arts in high school, but again, ultimately decided it was something I wanted to keep as a hobby and not pursue professionally (for now). I will always enjoy painting, mixed media, charcoal drawing, and the overall process of deconstructing and reconstructing ideas and images.
Anything else you want to share…..
I did get commissioned to recreate a painting the painting I made for Three Sisters Cafe back in Indy for one of their customers! That happened my freshman year of college. Also, I've attached some paintings I did for Wine and Canvas along with some other paintings and drawings I've done for classes and for fun (if you want to see some stuff I've done post high school). Let me know if you have any questions!
Hope this isn't way too much info...