Art 475 Independent Study

Introduction and Description



Question:  do I have to do all of these assignments? 


Or, rather, not usually. 

This is a list of assignments that I have used in one form or another for Independent Study courses. Consider this a source of ideas that we might use to generate specific assignments for your Independent Study.   You and I will select the assignments that meet the goals that we set for your course.
I’ve written them all down here so that I don’t have to repeat my explanations endlessly.

Portfolio of Prior Work

Goal: Show me the work you have already done that is related to the goals/knowledge/media that you will be exploring in this course.

I need you to help me know where you are starting -- what skills, knowledge and ideas are already yours?
That helps me figure out how to help you get where you want to go. Anytime we grow, we have to start from where we're at. This project helps me understand where that is -- and it may clarify things for you, too.

Your job is to demonstrate your existing skills in the medium that you are studying.  You are also to demonstrate that you can put together a competent, presentation of your work.   (this might involve taking photos, editing and printing photos, mounting and labeling photos)

Label your images with essential data– title, size, medium, date.

Some works need to have several views presented — especially sculpture, installations, interior/arch models.

You might also include a few sentences or paragraphis describing the context of the work – what motivated this work?  What were you trying to accomplish?  How does it relate to other art or to its context? What thoughts or feelings or questions were you hoping to evoke in your viewers? What did you learn from it -- from the process of creating it, from exhibiting it, from viewers' responses?

Portfolio of Exemplary Professional Works

Goal: Select and present a selection artworks that you admire and respond to.

Explore your own interests and standards – just what kind of art do you value?  …what themes, what forms, what techniques? What ideas have you dealt with and what questions interest you?

Why: This helps me understand where you're trying to go as an artist/designer. While I can ask you to describe your direction as a visual artist, words usually do not suffice to express visual form — imagery and form are languages separate from verbal/written language. So, I'm asking you to show me what you admire. Show me artworks that have the qualities that you'd like to be able to control and use.

How: you can show me works by...
...photocopying books, magazines, etc.
...bringing books, magazines, posters, prints, etc. (Feel free to use Post-It notes to tab important pages.)
...collect (copy/paste) web links to online images and galleries. Paste these into an email or wp document. Go ahead and write notes on what impresses you, or interests you at each link.
...add links, notes and/or images to your blog.


Critique of Professional Works

Write about the strengths, weakness, content, form, craftsmanship, motivation and/or context of one or more works created by professional artists/designers.

There are many types of critiques. A critique is simply a description of observations and insights into a work or idea. Normally there will be particular questions or concepts to focus a critique. So before beginning a critique, find out which criteria are important -- which issues are you assessing now, in this critique?

Critique of preferred or admired works (examplary professional works):
Explore the works that you have collected.  Look for common denominators – just what do these works have in common? Describe the traits that are really important to you — if you love Claude Monet, is it because of his color harmonies, becaues of his loose, textured paint, because of the atmosphere of light he created, because you love landscapes or because you love anyting that depicts the late 19th century?
There are a lot of things that you might be responding to and admmiring in any particular artwork. I need to understand what you admire so I can help you figure that quality out.
The goal here is to get to know your own expressive temperament.  The premise is that the works that you admire, give you a clue to what you most want, or even need, to create.  Every artist and designer is responsible to discover and develop their own image, their own voice or, if you like – style.  It may be a type of imagery, it may be certain forms, it may be themes, it may be tactics for interacting with viewers – there are endless ways to define your own territory.
Your job, here, is to put into words* what you admire enough to pursue – what kind of art are you willing to work at achieving?  That’s your choice.  Once you know your general direction, your professor will help you revise and refine it – clarifying you intent and honing it down to goals appropriate for a semester’s study.
(*and, if you like, sketches or annotated sketches)

Critique of Personal Works

Write about the strengths, weakness, content, form, craftsmanship, motivation and/or context of one or more of your works.

The intent is to look squarely at your own work and identify what's there — what's working, what's not and why.

Critiques are just episodes in concentration, honesty and clarity. A big part of moving forward as an artist is identifying where you are — where you really are.
That's what critiques are for.

Statement of Goals and Objectives (Artist's Concept Statement)

Goal: Put into concise and clear writing, what you want to achieve.

This is basically a well-developed concept statement for your personal creative-expressive work. Describe the priorities and the motivations that are driving you to create.
You'll need an artist's statement for each project as well as for the course overall.

The more clearly you know where you want to get to, the more I can help you get there.

Semester Schedule

Goal: Outline how you will use your time during this course.
What are the milestones of progress made and when do you expect yourself to reach them?

A schedule makes the semsester concrete.
If you've got a long term plan, you can begin to plan what actually needs to be done today. That's important.

Research of State of the Art

Explore the present status of some specific techniques, materials, processes, ideas or expressive forms.

What do you see going on today that deals with your art? Who are the artists/designers who are doing work that you respect? Who is talking about or exploring the ideas/content that you value?


Research an Artist/Designer

Readings/research/critiques of assigned artists/designers/theorists. 

Take time to get to know the artists that you admire.  Investigate artists who have dealt with themes or techniques related to your own goals. In short, attempt to build on what others have already explored – learn from their experiments and insights before exploring on your own.

Identify particular questions that you want to get answers to. (What artists influenced this artist's ideas and work? What motivated this artist? What issues was the artist most concerned about?
Write a report or prepare a presentation on the artist's work.

Explore a style, technique or medium

Here the job is to really get to know some visual tactics well.
— First, find works that use those techniques well.
— Then analyze them via descriptions and then with visual studies (small artworks).
— Then develop concepts for your own creative pieces, and execute them.


You might...
a) pick several (8-15) artworks and/or artists that use very similar tactics, then
b) make notes on the features/traits that you see in those works. Try to describe the technique (what order were the colors laid down...what tools appear to have been used), the materials used (what kind/color paper, how many obvious colors can you find...what are the colors used?) then do
c) 6-12 small studies (say, 6x8, or 8x10) as experiments in technique, materials and process. then
d) develop sketches/ideas for 1 (to 3) larger pieces using the same skills. then
e) work out those larger pieces.

Propose a timeline (i.e. deadlines) for each stage... ...then lets talk.


Preparatory Works for Project

This is hands-on visual exploring. Fill up that sketchbook with ideas, variations of ideas, refinements of ideas and gradually clarified ideas.

Respect your projects enough to to the hard, private and often thankless work of preparing excellence that will enrich the rest of us.

Major Project

This vague topic covers most of most Independent Study courses — its the making the artwork part of the course. (finally!)

Develop a concept statement. What are you trying to achieve or deal with in this work?

Develop preparatory sketches, research relevant content, artworks or technical info.

Plan the making. The process of making a unique work is, itself, a unique work. Take time to think about, conceive and design your method of evolving your project from sketch to presentation.

Execute it.
Crtique it.
Revise it.
Repeat as needed.

Prepare it for presentation.

Document it. (usually, taking a set of photos that can be used for advertising, for portfolios or for web sites).


Goals: Introduce, show and discuss your work in an orderly way.

The audience might be a group of fellow students, your professor or a community arts organization. Plan to speak about who you are, your background and creative interests, and then describe the works being presented. Offer your audience an opportunity to ask questions (and, of course, be prepared to respond to those questions.)

If public speaking is intimidating (it is for most of us), take time to plan, rehearse and get feedback on your presentation. Selling art almost always involves interacting with clients and potential buyers, as well as with dealers and other arts organizers. It is important to get comfortable with talking about your work — most people don't want you to give a speech, but do want to hear your point of view, your motivations and your explanations.


Goal: Prepare, market and mount a unified, professional exhibition of your work in a public setting.

Identify spaces (art galleries, community arts centers, office buildings, libraries, coffee shops, etc.) that might suit the presentation f your work to a receptive audience.

Develop contacts with those who manage these spaces and initiate discussions of exhibits. Explore open dates, cost and liabilities and other issues relevant to a successful exhibit.

Plan and create the works that you will exhibit.

Prepare works for exhibition. (Mount or frames works. Prepare price lists, descriptive information, press release, display labels, etc.)

Prepare, implement and/or arrange marketing for your exhibit. (Mailings, press releases, radio announcements, email and web announcements and information sites.) Note that this should be coordinated with the dealer or proprietor of the space in which you will be exhibiting. Art dealers are usually responsible to handle much of this, but you should also maintain a contact list of individuals who have contacted you, expressed interest in your work or have bought prior works.

Gallery Visit
Goal: experience, respond to and describe the works of contemporary artists that you have encounter face-to-face..
Market Research

Explore buyers, dealers, exhibitions, commissions relevant to the works that you would like to create and sell. Develop notes and contact information on persons, organizations and events that might be involved in marketing and selling your work.

Opt 1: Identify and document demographic traits of likely buyers, motivations for buying, critical issues in sales decisions, as well as opportunities and methods for presenting your work/services to them.

Opt 2: Identify and document dealers, art representatives, art organizations and other professionals who facilitate sales and marketing of artwork such as yours.

Opt 3: Identify and document juried exhibits, art fairs and commissioning patrons relevant to sales of artworks such as yours.

Business Plan (marketing of artwork. Professional development strategy.)

Create a plan that describes concrete steps that will enable you to develop a body of marketable works, develop means of marketing that work, and gradually building sales and/or commissions.

The plan should outline your activities over at least 18 months — and might extend to a 5-year plan. Develop a series of outcomes or goals that you would like to achieve every 3 months. Identify particular actions that you can take to achieve those goals. Identify resources (time, equipment, materials, costs, expertise/consultation, and outside services) that will be needed to move your work forward.

The aim of this plan is to establish a long view of gradual success, by identifying foundations that need to be laid and resources that can be accessed.

Design, create and maintain a website or social media presence for marketing your work.

All independent artists, illustrators and designers should have a web presence as a part of the marketing of their work.

As social media progresses, ample options unfold and contend for the "best way" to build, reach and sustain your audience. Your job is to get familiar with web site postings, with instagram, Deviant Art and online galleries as possible vehicles to market your work. Assess which avenues offer you a feasible and effective route for generating awareness of your work and, better, generating sales.

You do not have to pay thousands of dollars to create and maintain a website — though sometimes such expense is justified. It is, for instance, possible to trade services with a web designer. It is possible to post images of your work to a gallery or blog maintained by someone else. There are many, many template-based web sites (e.g. that allow well-organized image galleries and involve very little cost. Every year adds more and more web sites that cater to artists who want to post and maintain their own online galleries. You do not have to know html, or Dreamweaver or PHP or any of that (though it can help). As long as you can scan or photograph your art, do a bit of organizing, a bit of copywriting for self-promotion, and just a bit of digital image editing, then you can set up an online gallery.

I'll help you explore alternatives that are affordable and non-geek manageable. You can purchase a complete web domain and site for less than $75 a year, and there are free options that would be much better than no online presence.

Final Presentation and Summary (end of semester).

At the end of the semester, we'll wrap it all up -- we want to see what you accomplished, what you attempted, and review what your goals were to begin with.

Here are the key tasks involved in finishing up your independent study:

Prepare a set of images of your work for portfolio presentation; Document your work --

- shoot good, clean, high-resolution, well-lit, color-balanced, well-cropped digital images of all of your work. Sketches or studies may be included.
In practice, shoot more images than you need, including details that might be useful. If your work is multi-dimensional, shoot ample images and/or video to best capture what you have created.
You generally won't use all of your images in a single portfolio, but you do need to keep all of your image files on a CD, on cloud storage or on a long-term drive for any later use. Organize your image files for easy retrieval -- I keep works from a single year in the same folder. Each project or work has its own folder within the year's folder. Over time, that makes searching for works fairly easy.
- write the key facts about each work: size, medium, title (if any), date. Include any other details that might be relevant.
- write a brief artist's statement about each work or group of works -- basically describe what you were aiming to accomplish or explore.  

All of these are easy to come up with now... but months or years later are hard to collect (and recollect).
The professional practice is to document all of your work while it is fresh, familiar and available.

Arrange your documentation in a digital portfolio so we can review and discuss them.
Options include:
- a PDF
- a website
- a (shared) Google Document (which is easiest and perfectly fine for our purposes)
Write a general summary of what you aimed to accomplish, what you researched, experimented with or created.  
Describe what you learned and what you have yet to learn or explore as you move forward with your work.

Arrange a time for us to go over your work (originals and digital portfolio)
(email or visit your professor to arrange a meeting during dead week or finals week.)

What is an Indep. Study course? | Who can take 475? | How do I sign up? | Sample assignments | Outline of a semester |



Greg Clayton
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