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Re:[teacherartexchange] meaning as overemphasized...technique held in contempt


From: Diane C. Gregory (dianegregory_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Jun 27 2005 - 14:38:53 PDT

Hey all,

Great discussion topic about meaning and skill.

I have often heard complaints from my own students about the lack of direct
instruction in their studio art classes. It is a common complaint I think.

Consider that teaching art is more than making art and consider that most
students K-12 will never be professional artists. They will be teachers,
plumbers, sales clerks, engineers, professors, scientists, doctors and lawyers,
carpenters, etc. I question the direction of much art education today that
centers around art making activities. There are many ways to learn about
art...making art is just one. I enjoy making art myself and I generally prefer
to help others know about art by helping them make art themselves. However,
some people actually prefer to know about art history, aesthetics and
criticism. They do not enjoy making art themselves. My point is that we need
to think about a variety of ways of knowing about art. Making it is just one
way of many. Some students I have talked to say they like art, but don't feel
they can make good art. Given the usual limited amount of time we have with
students it may be unrealistic to expect all students to gain enough technical
skill so that they enjoy their own work. Many would enjoy learning about art
history, artists, and how to talk about art. I think we turn a lot of people
away from art, when we focus primarily on making art.

Even if we were to focus on technical skills, I believe that teaching an
aesthetic eye and nurturing expressive power is far more important than
technical skill. I often thought that Kandinsky could not draw at all. His
paintings, however, are brilliant because of their expressive and aesthetic use
of color. One could say the same about van Gogh. I believe meaning is more
important than skill. However, meaning without skill or sensitivity to ones
own intentions is not good either. The challenge is to help students to create
works of art that "work" given their current level of skill. This takes knowing
and appreciating ones own abilities and then using them expressively and



Dr. Diane C. Gregory
Director, Undergraduate & Graduate
Studies in Art Education
Texas Woman's University
Denton, TX  76204
Quoting Jerry Vilenski <>:
> Hi All,
> Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long-overdue discussion of what should
> be an important issue for all artists and teachers of art.  I attended
> university from 1969-1973, and during that time I discovered exactly the same
> approach to teaching and art that Larry seems to have encountered.  The
> over-emphasis on process over product, lack of critical analysis, and almost
> outright disdain for technical know-how was as pervasive then as it is now.
> In graduate school, it was even worse.
>  In my opinion, a lot of this attitude and approach came about because during
> the 60's and 70's, abstract expressionism was the cutting edge form of
> artwork out there, and most art schools and universities rejected most other
> traditional approaches out of hand. At the time, most of my professors were
> painting blue dots in the corner of a 6-foot orange canvas or engaging in
> "happenings" of one sort or another.  The only instructors I had that taught
> technique or specific skills in a given media were the Asian or European
> immigrants, who were well versed in traditional art forms.
> In addition, anyone enrolled in the art education department was regarded as
> not being a serious artist, and generally treated like a second class
> citizen.  I found this particularly ironic, because those professors with the
> most disdain for art teachers were themselves art teachers!
> Long story short, a lot of those people are still professors in our
> universities or have trained a whole new generation of professors who think
> along the same lines, so I don't expect things to change much.  There are
> some excellent instructors out there, but they tend to be in the minority, at
> least in my experience.
> The end result of this pervasive attitude is the "everything is art" theory
> that many preach.  If that is true, then engaging in meaningful dialogue
> about good or bad art, good or bad design, the reason for studying art
> history--all becomes fruitless. As in most controversial subjects, when
> artists get themselves into conversations about art theory and approaches,
> they tend to look at things in terms of black and white, when in reality, the
> truth is steeped in shades of gray.  Not all abstract art is bad, not all
> representational art is good, but we can probably all agree there is a lot of
> bad art out there among both approaches, and a lot of it has to do with a
> lack of skills!
> My greatest fear is that we have produced a couple of generations of art
> teachers who don't have a fundamental understanding of the technical part of
> art, and that is where the lack of teaching techniques or technical skills
> lets us all down.  Your professor probably doesn't approach teaching those
> skills in your workshop because she doesn't have them herself, or hasn't had
> to use them for years.  I teach with art teachers who haven't practiced fine
> art themselves since they graduated from schools in the 70's.  How can they
> begin to teach the nuance of art media to their students if they don't
> understand it themselves? You can understand art theory all you want, but if
> you can't put the theory into practice, what good is that knowledge?
> I hope all of you take the time to weigh in with this discussion--it really
> is goes to the heart of why we teach art.
> Jerry
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