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Lesson Plans

Re:question of value

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Betty Bowen (
Tue, 13 Jul 1999 14:24:43 -0500

>I see a number of lesson plans which culminate in a student painting
>like some other dead artist. Why is this valued?

I don't think this is an unreasonable question to ask. I think it is very
healthy for art educators to question the way things have always been done.
I certainly don't think the asking of it is any reason to question the
poster's profession.
If technique is the reason, and we were Really using the same techniques,
that's one thing, but that rarely happens, partly from toxicity, expense,
time, obscurity, or lack of technical experience of the teacher - who spends
that much time learning to grind natural pigments? And anyone who has used
those pigments knows that they handle completely differently than non-toxic
acrylics, much less Crayola tempera. So are those techniques really even the
same thing?
We really don't paint like the old masters, with all those glazes. We might
make lots of pretty dots, but it it rarely really optical color. I think it
is ok to ask -- what about those techniques are so important in growing an
artist? Specifically what is there about the particular technique in
question that is valuable to you - is there another way to teach it, or is
copying the only way? Are they REALLY experiencing the technique or simply
copying the way the last step ends up looking? Is that as valuable? How much
of the artist's technique grew organically out of the art making process and
will never ever be communicated by copying the last step? For me, copying
divides art into The Creative Process as separate from The Manufacturing
Process. Copying El Greco will not tell me how it felt to be El Greco -
copying a view of Toledo from a small reproduction in a temperature
controlled environment is not going to tell me much about seeing Toledo
under cloudy windy skies swirling with all sorts of unseen saints and angels
and feeling powerfully moved to paint it. I guess what it comes down to for
me as an artist is that knowing how it is to be powerfully moved to make art
about something, to the point I can't sleep and have to get out of bed and
start pulling out art supplies, it is inconceivable to me that someone else
would feel any part of that experience by copying my final product.

This isn't the first time we've discussed copying, and I expect we'll all
disagree just as much this time around. I'm still not totally 100% convinced
it is necessary or all that productive in the long run. I think learning
similar techniques and materials by producing an image that is meaningful to
the student would be a more lasting lesson. Besides, I think it's really
depressing to see a high school kid's portfolio full of somebody else's art.