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Lesson Plans

P&E of design

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mark Larson (mlarson)
Sun, 31 Mar 1996 22:06:01 -0600

Just a shaort response (Ihope...) to a curious statement.

Kathryn Cascio wrote in response to B. Reed's questions:
<"Why is it important to have a complete understanding
of the elements and principles of art in order to carry
out a successful work of art?"

I'm not so sure it is important. My graduate program focused heavily on the
need for an understanding of the elements and principles but my more recent
experience teaching teachers proves otherwise. When we visit the classrooms
of teachers who attend our professional development institutes, we recognize
how limiting lessons on the elements and principles can be. They are very
comfortable lessons to teach because they are so definite but that is not
what art is all about.>

I guess I have kind of a problem with that kind of belief, although I
suppose in the grand scheme of art education I can certainly concur that an
over dependence on priciples and elements is not good, it IS important! I
have always tried to teach conceptually, even in elementary school, and the
"Big Questions" were usually a part of each lesson and activity I presented
to my class. But are the foundations really "not important?" My question
stems from two recent encounters:

1. Somewhere (maybe even this listserv) I came across the example of music
composition. Are musicians expected to write music without the
foundations---meter, time signature, key, rhythm, etc.? Or can they just
explore emotions, ideas, and the "Big Issues"? Somewhere there has to be a
balance---those foundations can't just be written off as not important.

2. I just had lunch with an ex student of mine attending a graphic
design/illustration school in Madison, WI who had some strong criticism for
the UW-Madison art department's approach to teaching art. He felt that the
"anything is art" attitude that predominates the campus really shortchanges
those students. Yes, the art is trendy and filled with angst. It tends to
be controversial for the sake of controversy, so heavily idea laden that
the fact that a lot is just bad drawing and naive primitivism is lost on
most people. Lots of feeling and very little consistent talent. This is
from a very talented printmaker and painter whose own style is generally
loose and almost neo-primitive as well, but has had a lot of foundation
work in design of late --- anatomy, P&E, studio techniques, etc. He said
that this background in structure didn't harm his own style, but has
refined it and enhanced it so that he can make intelligent decisions about
his own work.

I by no means am advocating a studio only approach --- that IS awful, but
somewhere out there, there HAS to be a balance between ideas, criticsm, and
technique so that our discipline can move forward with the respect and
importance it deserves. While it's true that musicians like John Cage and
artists like Barnett Newman can get away with a kind of nihilist approach
to their art, they are the exceptions, not the rule, and art educators need
to shore up the foundations so that the art product (no matter which
direction it takes) will be enhanced AND our students will also be able to
discuss and critique art intelligently as well.

Keep on thinkin', gang!

* Mark Larson, Art Teacher *
* Lincoln High School *
* 1801 16th Street So. *
* Wisconsin Rapids, WiI 54494 *
* School: 715.423.1520 *
* e-mail: mlarson *

See you soon on the World Wide Web!