Developing Visual Art Curriculum: The Art of Moving from Full-Year to Semester Courses

By Caroline Loose, Upper School Art

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For Craft of Art

As the course developed over the last five years, adjustments and refinements were made.  Some projects were dropped because they did not fit into the larger vision for the course, or were repetitive, while others were added that increased students understanding of materials and how they could be used.  For level 2, I will work with the individual students to determine their curriculum.  For instance, one of my second year students has an incredible sense of design and meticulous craftsmanship.  I will work with him to develop projects related to those strengths that parallel the curriculum of the first year students.  For instance, when we are working with paper, I will ask him to consider how his paper will be used.  I will ask him to look again at the video “Between the Folds” with special attention given to the artists Robert Lang, Chris Palmer, and Paul Jackson.  (There is also a TED talk given by Robert Lang.)  One of my students took Craft of Art two years ago and there are projects that we will do this year in level 1 that she has not done, and I will ask her to.  (She did not work with staining, tearing and collaging when working with paper pulp. I don’t believe she worked in batik.)  As with the other student, we will meet individually to plan.  In the time working with pulp I will ask them to make a latex mold to cast in, building on the work they did casting into E-Z cut blocks.  When the first year students are making their simple box of heavy weight bristol paper, they will determine the size and shape of a binder’s board box, as well as how the board will be covered.  They will certainly be involved in the Innovation project!

For Drawing and Printmaking and Drawing and Painting

Unlike Craft of Art, in which, essentially, I needed to condense an existing, full year course into a semester, Drawing and Printmaking required a completely new approach.  Previously, Drawing, Painting and Printmaking existed as distinct trimester sections within either 2-d Studio Art or Drawing, Painting and Printmaking. In developing both courses I wanted to better integrate the drawing experience with the work in either printmaking or painting.

When considering Drawing and Printmaking, for this year I needed to work with having a visiting artist, Melanie Yazzie, who would be working with students in one area of monotypes.  Her visit is very early in the term, the second week of classes.  Thinking about how best to integrate this into the curriculum, I realized that beginning the semester with the many ways that monotypes can be made could be a very good, immediate introduction to printmaking.  The different techniques can be approached on many levels, and inking techniques can be carried over to the more traditional print mediums.  I then wove in what I have done in the past, in some cases bring in ways of working that I have not included for many years.

Drawing and Painting was the more difficult of the courses I needed to revise.  While I have taught multiple levels of drawing and painting, it has been several years since I taught Painting, particularly at the upper levels.  Additionally, I am somewhat unfamiliar with what has been taught in previous years.  As stated in the opening of the overview of the curriculum, my goal was to create a course that combines the strong elements of drawing from past years with a painting curriculum that focuses on fundamental aspects of paint – color, paint manipulation, and  student awareness of the many different ways that artists over the years have approached working with the medium.  In the second, third and fourth years, I have considered how they have been working in the past (through observation of their work), and aim to build on that experience.  Third and fourth year students will be given greater latitude in their approach, working in a more self-directed manner.  Because I don’t know the calendar into which this curriculum must fit, I cannot be as specific as I was with the Drawing and Printmaking.

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About Westtown School

Westtown School is a Pre-K through 12th grade Quaker, coed, college preparatory day and boarding school in West Chester, PA.
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One Response to Developing Visual Art Curriculum: The Art of Moving from Full-Year to Semester Courses

  1. Margaret Haviland says:

    What I like about your rethinking of the courses is the integration of fundamentals with exploration, challenge and individual exploration. I looked at Robert Lang’s website http://www.langorigami.com/art/compositions/compositions.php and was impressed with his work!

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