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Re: artist research project for clay


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Nov 08 2004 - 07:24:54 PST

>. . . I have them pick an artist off of a list and then they get a
>checklist of information that they need to find on the internet. I
>give them a starting place, but then they really have to go on a
>"treasure hunt" and find and format all of the appropriate info.
>They will be taking the info and making a 10 page accordian fold
>book in my class. I did this last year with my 6th graders, but we
>made posters instead.
>Contact me if you aould like the lesson plan.

Your lesson seems like a great way to teach art history and
contemporary art. It brings to mind an assignment where I require
clay students to research a famous painter in order to invent clay
pieces that they think this famous painter would have made, had the
painter been a clay artist working three-dimensionally. In their
research, I encouraged them to read what the artist and others said
about the rationale behind the work.

My students were not allowed to use the painting style on the surface
of the clay. They were not allowed to use the same subject matter.
The subject matter had to come grow out of a student interest or
concern. The style and motivations of the painter had to inform and
determine form and style of their clay piece. Any clay process could
be used. We used painters whose work was strongly either surrealist,
pop art, expressionist, minimalist, conceptual, or any other very
distinctive style. In the critique other students were asked to
speculate on the intentions and on which style and artist might have
been used as inspiration. At the end of the critique of each piece,
the student who made the piece explained their thought process
including how and why they developed their ideas.

The idea for this assignment grew out of my own interest in the
formative phases of the expressionistic clay work of Peter Voulkos.
He moved from very tightly controlled national award winning clay
work to become one of prime originators of expressionistic ceramics.
In my opinion, he quite obviously became aware of the abstract
expressionist movement in painting when he moved from Montana to
California. He obviously decided that there was no reason not to
steal it for clay.

The assignment is based on the premise of stealing concepts and
motivations as an effective way to learn the thinking and working
habits of artists. Since they were required to convert the ideas
from two-dimensions to three-dimensions, I was confident that they
would need to go beyond copy work and mere borrowing.

This was an experimental assignment. In my assessment of the
assignment I found that the students who objected to the assignment
were those who were taking the clay class primarily to become skilled
potters (product centered students). Those who were art majors
interested in becoming artists were the most positive about the
assignment. Liberal Arts majors in English and History also tended
to be positive about it. All students could name things they learned
from the assignment.

I believe variations of this assignment could be written for other
art classes using a similar premise. I would be very interested if
any of you have tried similar ideas. If you decide to try an idea
like this, let us know what happens.


Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526
studio phone: 574-533-0171

"You can't never know how to do it before you never did it before."
... a kindergarten boy working with clay for the first time.