by Christopher Hutchinson
Note 8- the foundations are the foundations
Many students start off with a foundation course with the wrong intentions, perfection being one of them. This idea of being a perfectionist actually slows the learning process and sometimes renders that foundation course useless. The “perfectionist” student is having a philosophical debate about something that actually has linear steps to grow in art pedagogy. The steps of the foundation course cannot be skipped without proper understanding of the previous lesson.
The foundations are repetitive exercises to build the individual artist’s tool bag. Questioning these foundation steps confuses the “perfectionist” student, not the professor. The professor already knows how to accomplish these steps. The foundations are the foundations. These courses are arranged to crescendo based on the previous lessons learned. Foundation courses work much like learning your addition and subtraction math facts. Imagine trying to learn addition and they constantly challenge the previous fact learned. That is the difficulty with challenging the foundation classes, especially when there are so many facts to be learned before a true challenge to the art-making practice can be articulated. In the foundation courses you get the tips and tricks to make the steps easier and gain actual repeatable knowledge that becomes second nature.
Many of these “perfectionist” students may grasp one lesson and then have a hard time getting the next lesson. The classes crescendo. The stopping and starting, coming late, setup time, and flow of the class have a lot to do with grasping all the facts necessary to move on effectively. These students complete the course and move on to another art class only to run into the same “art facts” skipped in the previous course. These students are choosing to accept only the lessons they feel suit them. This then breeds an incomplete artist with limited experience and low-confidence to attempt things they feel to be too difficult. This person ends up not challenging anything, becomes super sensitive during critique, and ends up quitting or changing majors. Confidence begins with knowing as many foundation art facts as possible. Develop the patience and drive to achieve and exceed every lesson—that is the “perfectionist” that is a joy to teach.
Note 9-The Apprentice
1.a person who works for another in order to learn a trade: an apprentice to a plumber.
2.History/Historical. a person legally bound through indenture to amaster craftsman in order to learn a trade.
3.a learner; novice; tyro.
4.U.S. Navy. an enlisted person receiving specialized training.
5.a jockey with less than one year’s experience who has won fewer than40 races.verb (used with object), apprenticed, apprenticing.
6.to bind to or place with an employer, master craftsman, or the like, forinstruction in a trade.verb (used without object), apprenticed, apprenticing.
7.to serve as an apprentice: He apprenticed for 14 years under a master silversmith.
Today’s lack of work ethic, required of an apprentice, may derive from the success of postmodern ideals. Ideals that advocate the erasure of craft and praise celebrity rather than grueling art practice. This generation of students wants to completely skip the foundation process and go directly to postmodern conceptual practice. A real artist would enjoy every bit of every mundane exercise presented in foundation courses. Only in going through and mastering those exercises will the artist begin to develop a vocabulary that could articulate a postmodern discussion. Postmodernism and conceptual art are only two movements in the history of art already dated.
Once again one may want to have a discussion on postmodernism and conceptual practice but run into the same issues that were not mastered in their foundation. If students do not achieve smooth transitions in their compositions of still lifes, their postmodern and conceptual ideas will certainly be rough as well. An artist has to have had exhausted the foundations to begin their art theory practice. One has to learn multiplication and division before being ready to solve for x or do calculus. One has to practice communicating successfully before achieving the subtlety of irony.
Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.