Art Studio Foundations

Studio Artist's Freshman Year

Art Studio Foundations exposes students to a multitude of new experiences and techniques intended to set them down the path towards success as a major in visual art, art education, visual design, or art history. More than simply a set of core competencies, the Foundations program has been designed to bring each incoming art student into the social fabric of the school. During their Foundations year, students build strong connections with their peers, develop effective work habits, and learn to ask complex questions—in addition to being exposed to the full range of formal art and design principles.

The Foundations program borrows from intensive, art school Foundations formats, while leaving room for students to pursue general core requirements. Students attend class two days a week (Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday), and on Thursday evenings attend lectures and other activities.

Each semester is divided into halves (first eight weeks and second eight weeks), and each half presents students with two sections taught concurrently (split into morning and afternoon sessions). In all, from the beginning to the end of the program, there are eight sections that each Foundations student moves through: Creative Thinking, Observation and Visualization, Form and Space, Form and Surface, Extended Perception, Image Making, Time and Motion, and Collaborative Thinking. Also, Foundations students are required to attend a Thursday evening lecture series. Most of these lectures feature prominent artists, designers, and historians brought in from around the country to speak about their work. These lectures also form the backbone of an ongoing dialogue and series of assignments.

First eight weeks: ARTS 1919 - Art Studio Foundations I

  1. Creative Thinking
  2. Observation & Visualization
  3. Form & Space
  4. Form & Surface
  5. Thursday Evening Programming / Drill Journal

Second eight weeks: ARTS 1929 - Art Studio Foundations II

  1. Extended Perception
  2. Image Making
  3. Time & Motion
  4. Collaborative Thinking
  5. Thursday Evening Programming / Drill Journal

Below is a list of the objectives and core skills and concepts addressed in the Foundations program. Each section is given its own list, and each section represents 20% of the final grade assigned to each course.

ARTS 1919 - Art Studio Foundations I

1. Creative Thinking & Visual Practice

Focuses on the development of strategies for idea generation, project planning, and communication of ideas, as well as the introduction of students to the tools of critical assessment in contemporary art.

OBJECTIVES / In this section, students will be introduced to:

  • Strategies for the production and selection of creative ideas
  • Methods for conducting art-related research and critically assessing research discoveries
  • Multiple methods of documenting and communicating ideas
  • Strategies for working beyond one’s place of comfort or beyond pre-formed habits/biases
  • The world(s) of contemporary art and common art dialogues
  • Strategies for the critical analysis of difficult and/or unconventional artworks
  • Basic methods for composing written analyses of artworks
  • Techniques for fostering heightened intellectual and sensory investigations
  • Tools for flourishing in an experimental and improvisational classroom environment

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be:

  • Able to generate ideas with ease and rapidity in response to varied prompts and conditions
  • Comfortable working through ideas with a pencil continuously in-hand
  • Able to approach the analysis of artworks with nuance, complexity, and open-mindedness
  • Able to think critically about the development of their work and the work of their peers
  • Comfortable expressing thoughts in written, verbal, and illustrative/diagrammatic forms
  • Aware of major trends in contemporary art and art discourse
  • Able to demonstrate resourcefulness in the development of creative ideas
  • In possession of good, universally applicable creative habits
  • Skeptical of conventions in media and “traditional” standards of art appreciation

2. Observation & Visualization

Focuses on problems dealing with materials and techniques of drawing, including basic concepts of line, perspective, and value.

OBJECTIVES / In this section, students will:

  • Learn fundamental skills of observational drawing (that is, drawing from life, rather than from photographs); the course will focus primarily on still life but self-portrait and landscape may be introduced
  • Learn how to understand and apply basic perspective, sighting/measuring, value contrast, contour line, cross contour, line weight, positive/negative shape, figure/ground, space, gesture, composition
  • Become familiar with drawing materials
  • Learn to document work
  • Learn to describe work in written form 

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Apply basic drawing concepts in the construction and development of a drawing
  • Apply visual measurement to accurately draw the visible world using line and value
  • Select from the visual field to compose on the paper format
  • Recognize and manipulate negative/positive shapes and space
  • Perceive and utilize relative values for describing form, space, and structure
  • Vary line quality to represent depth and space
  • Understand and utilize basic principles of Renaissance linear perspective
  • Compose effectively in a drawing
  • Participate in the evaluation of work using art vocabulary introduced throughout course
  • Rework drawings when necessary
  • Critique the work of peers in a constructive and useful manner using art vocabulary
  • Write effectively about their art

3. Form & Space

Focuses on studio-based problems involving 1) elements and principles common to three-dimensional art and design, 2) practical and philosophical considerations in the construction of art and design objects, and 3) investigations of the body’s relationship to the built environment.

OBJECTIVES / In this section, students will be introduced to:

  • The elements and principles of three-dimensional design
  • Further practice of perspectival drawing techniques first introduced in Observation and Visualization
  • Methods for working between two-dimensional representations and actual space
  • Tools for analyzing objects through the lenses of art and design
  • Physical investigations of the body’s relationship within the built environment
  • Practical construction methods and tools for working with dimensional materials
  • Basic structural considerations when constructing in three dimensions
  • Common materials employed when designing in three dimensions
  • An introduction to contemporary and historical artists and designers who have demonstrated effective use of spatial concepts
  • Techniques, tools, and setup for proper documentation of three-dimensional objects

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be:

  • Able to articulate an understanding of 3-D design elements (Line, Plane, Volume, Mass, Space, Texture, Color, Light) and principles (Balance, Scale and Proportion, Proximity, Contrast, Repetition, Composition, Construction)
  • Comfortable navigating the interplay between two-dimensional representations and three-dimensional constructions
  • Fluent in the creative and aesthetic uses of space, volume, mass, etc.
  • Able to assess and analyze three-dimensional objects via art or design standards
  • Keenly aware of the body’s relationship to the built environment and ways of modifying it for specific ends
  • Able to articulate in verbal and written forms the intentions and interpretations of their work and the work of others
  • Skillful and safe in the manipulation of materials, tools, and related equipment
  • Able to confidently document three-dimensional work.

4. Form & Surface

Focuses on approaches to abstract drawing, with emphasis on the elements and principles of design.

OBJECTIVES / This section will:

  • Develop students’ understanding and successful application of two-dimensional composition: Gestalt principles (grouping, closure, proximity, continuity), elements of art (line, shape, value, texture) and principles of design (balance, variety, repetition, rhythm, proportion, emphasis, space, unity, economy)
  • Develop students’ aptitude for non-objective and partially mimetic forms of visual expression
  • Expand students’ understanding of the concept of drawing to a fuller capacity, including forays into 3-D, concept-driven, and time-based approaches
  • Introduce students to documentation of work
  • Introduce students to writing about their own work
  • Challenge the generally received notions of “finish” and “drawing”
  • Foster meaningful connections between verbal/conceptual motives and visual expression

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Recognize and apply the art elements and design principles
  • Recognize and apply a variety of motives for expression
  • Prepare and develop ideas in stages (iteration)
  • Evaluate work using relevant terminology in critique and other interactions
  • Participate constructively and respectfully in course activities, including critiques
  • Express themselves using effective forms of verbal/written communication
  • Successfully document and present their work

5. Thursday Evening Programming / Drill Journal

Offers Thursday evening lectures, visits to exhibitions, and general reflections on Foundations course content, allowing students to gain exposure to the professional-level output of leading practitioners in the visual arts, and to learn to process observed content through written and verbal responses.

OBJECTIVES / In this section, students will:

  • Be exposed to contemporary art and common art dialogues
  • Foster meaningful connections between verbal/conceptual motives and visual expression
  • Be exposed to exhibition and professional presentation expectations and conventions.
  • Be exposed to advanced levels of critical/analytical discourse
  • Be exposed to a wide range of artist-models (modes of thinking and production) and fields of specialization in the visual arts

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Recognize major trends in contemporary art and art discourse
  • Write effectively about the art of others
  • Articulate in verbal and written forms the intentions and interpretations of the work of others
  • Articulate in verbal and written forms the student’s observations and opinions on works they are presented with
  • Exhibit intermediate-level critical thinking and analysis

Art Studio Foundations II

1. Extended Perception

Offers an intermediate-level investigation of visual phenomena and their application in art making, complemented by challenges in critical thinking and analysis.

OBJECTIVES / This section will:

  • Enhance students’ understanding of visual experience and ability to translate those experiences into visual expressions via abstraction
  • Thoroughly introduce students to the properties of color and color interaction
  • Challenge students to both broaden and deepen the intellectual content of their verbal and visual expressions
  • Build on visual skills established in ARTS 1919

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Recognize and successfully use properties of color (hue, value, saturation) and of color interaction (including simultaneous contrast, after image) for image making/composition, including retinal studies (observation-based, perceptual color)
  • Engage in intermediate-level critical thinking, particularly the consideration of the relationship of context to meaning, in formal and conceptual applications
  • Articulate written/verbal ideas in a clear manner

2. Image Making

Focuses on the exploration of image, offering students an introduction to many contexts of visual communication as well as an introduction to computer software that is frequently used for art and design, with emphasis on tools/techniques applicable to graphic design.

OBJECTIVES / This section will:

  • Introduce students to 20th- and 21st-century approaches to art making
  • Introduce students to theoretical & structural underpinnings of visual art, including traditional design techniques (rulers, t-squares, triangles, etc.)
  • Develop students’ skill in computer software and electronic hardware (cameras, scanners), particularly Adobe CS (Illustrator)
  • Reinforce skills introduced in ARTS 1919 sections

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Recognize types and appropriate applications of precision
  • Recognize image types (popular, art, advertisement, entertainment, documentary, etc.)
  • Skillfully employ elements and principles of art and design in order to successfully arrange compositions in a variety of formats (digital/analog)
  • Employ, appropriate, and/or blend image types for expressive/communicative effect
  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of relevant software
  • Recognize artists who pioneered and developed modern/postmodern approaches to the image, and understand the role of image in pre-photographic eras of art making
  • Engage in intermediate-level critical thinking and analysis

3. Time & Motion

Focuses on intermediate-level studio problems in digital-format media for 2D, 3D, and 4D work, with applications to both fine art and visual design and with an emphasis on 4D.

OBJECTIVES / In this section, students will:

  • Build on existing skills from prior Foundations sections and learn about necessary software (Final Cut/Premiere)
  • Learn about elements and principles of 4-D media
  • Learn about time (tempo, duration, repetition, time types)
  • Learn about space/environment (architecture, spatial relationships, topography)
  • Learn about movement (shape, gesture/isolations, levels (high/middle/low & far/middle/near), balance, intensity, gravity)
  • Learn about sound (musicality (pitch/timbre/harmonics/loudness/rhythm/speed), dialogue, isolated sounds (sound effects – attack/sustain/decay), soundtrack, associative music, incidental/atmospheric sound, contrapuntal sound)
  • Learn about ordering structures (series/sequence, narrative, lyricism, point of view, context, sampling/appropriation, juxtaposition)

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of 4-D elements and principles
  • Demonstrate familiarity with web-based presentation
  • Engage in intermediate-level critical thinking and analysis
  • Write about their own work and others’

4. Collaborative Thinking

Focuses on the process of conceptualizing, researching, executing, analyzing, and re-working a piece of art; the process of working collaboratively in order to both observe and engage in the art-making process; and the process of working on projects that address a broader sampling of the general public, both in the projects' visibility and direct engagement of the public.

OBJECTIVES / In this section, students will:

  • Acquire skills necessary for independent creative action
  • Achieve an intermediate level of critical/analytical skill
  • Reinforce prior Foundations course content
  • Be exposed to contemporary and historical art, particularly nontraditional approaches/media
  • Make art that directly engages the public
  • Work in groups, collaboratively

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Work in stages and to re-work a piece as needed
  • Work in collaboration with others
  • Engage in intermediate-level critical thinking and analysis
  • Use installation techniques (altering spaces for display, i.e. wall-mounts)
  • Demonstrate knowledge of procedures for nontraditional exhibition
  • Demonstrate knowledge of and apply methods for publicizing exhibitions, performances, and other artistic activities
  • Engage the public for arts purposes
  • Clearly and concisely articulate ideas in verbal/written expression

5. Thursday Evening Programming / Drill Journal

Offers Thursday evening lectures, visits to exhibitions, and general reflections on Foundations course content, allowing students to gain exposure to the professional-level output of leading practitioners in the visual arts, and to learn to process observed content through written and verbal responses.

OBJECTIVES / In this section, students will:

  • Be exposed to contemporary art and common art dialogues
  • Foster meaningful connections between verbal/conceptual motives and visual expression
  • Be exposed to exhibition and professional presentation expectations and conventions.
  • Be exposed to advanced levels of critical/analytical discourse
  • Be exposed to a wide range of artist-models (modes of thinking and production) and fields of specialization in the visual arts

CORE SKILLS CONCEPTS / At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • Recognize major trends in contemporary art and art discourse
  • Write effectively about the art of others
  • Articulate in verbal and written forms the intentions and interpretations of the work of others
  • Articulate in verbal and written forms the student’s observations and opinions on works they are presented with
  • Exhibit intermediate-level critical thinking and analysis

Coursework required of the Foundations student is wide-ranging and covers both the elements and principles of visual design, as well as introduces students to dialogues that are conceptually and theoretically driven. At the end of a Foundations student’s 18 hours, it is expected that they will be able to assemble works confidently and with clearly articulated objectives. Ensuring that successful results are being achieved from students throughout the process, faculty in the Foundations area use a number of mechanisms to observe student development over time. Our results are ensured by the following mechanisms:

Demonstration of Technical Proficiencies — Students enrolled in the Foundations program are introduced to a wide variety of techniques. At all stages, these technical proficiencies are incorporated into class assignments, which can be assessed by the faculty at the conclusion of each assignment. Students receive direct feedback on their technical development, an integral part in the tabulation of their course grades.

Formal Critiques — The students in the Foundations program are introduced to the critique process in their courses as they present work for peer and faculty review. The assignments produced for classes are evaluated for formal and conceptual proficiency, a large component of each section grade. Where individual deficiencies are found, the critiquing body immediately addresses them as needed. Assessments made by the faculty are calculated into course grades.

Writing on Artworks — As an integral component of the Foundations course, every student keeps a “Drill Journal” in which they record notes on Thursday programming, personal responses to what they have seen, and directed “reflection” assignments which further formalize their thinking in written form. These journals are the basis of 20% of each semester's grade and are administered and evaluated by the TA’s (under the direction of instructors).

Class Discussions — Active participation in discussions is a required  component of the grade for most Foundations courses. Class discussions often center on required readings or other required information digested outside of class. Discussions are often calculated into the “participation” component of each course grade (although it is under the purview of each instructor to make this determination).

Documentation of Artworks — Students are required in every level of Ceramics to properly document their works. Each instructor spends time demonstrating proper documentation techniques common to the Ceramics specialty, and students must present their results for assessment. These images are often used within the school for applying for awards and exhibitions.

Foundations Faculty Meetings — At regular intervals during each semester, faculty meet to keep in touch about the progress of individual students, the success of individual assignments, and approaches that are being explored by faculty. These meetings happen monthly and allow all faculty members and TA’s to keep abreast of developments in the program.

Foundations Assignment Reviews — As students document their work and faculty members collect it, the results of assignments are easily shared with all members of the Foundations faculty. Typically in the last meeting of the semester, faculty members are asked to present examples from the assignments they have been teaching to all faculty and TA’s. This encourages input, accountability, and innovation in the program.

BFA Reviews — Students may apply for the BFA program shortly after completing Foundations, and work produced during Foundations is labeled as such in their BFA applications. In this way, faculty members from all areas of the school are exposed to the results of the Foundations curriculum. 

Student Surveys — In addition to the standard course evaluations students are asked to complete for each instructor, we also ask students to fill out an additional survey/response regarding their time in the Foundations program. While student opinions themselves aren’t always the best barometer for the success of the program, we feel this added step does help us in locating problematic assignments and to gauge the progress students have made in their thinking about the subject as a whole. 

Input from Individual Areas — Faculty members from all areas of the school are encouraged to contribute to the ongoing development and refinement of objectives for Foundations. As they see needs arising in their classrooms, they are able to register their needs with the coordinators of Foundations.