Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Introduction to Art: Week 1 ~ Allow Me to Introduce Me!

So, once again I am taking part in a project that scares the heck out of me. At least I was able to blame my friends for the whole Sketchbook Project predicament. This time I have no one but myself to blame. I got into this mess on my own.

I am taking the course "Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques" offered by Pennsylvania State University through Coursera. The following is from the catalogue description of the class:

Learn to identify and define various art movements, artists, and their artworks. Convey a personal appreciation for art concepts, techniques, and approaches through the creation and sharing of your own original artwork.

Sounds pretty harmless, until you get to the bit about creating and sharing original artwork. What. Was. I. Thinking.

I was thinking that I missed the frenzied acts of inspiration that went with creating my sketchbook. This class seemed like just the thing to ensure that I had more opportunities enjoy that process. Besides the class was billed as "an art appreciation course created for individuals without any artistic background." Sounded like a good playground for a novice like me.

Our first week's assignment was to "create an artwork that reflects you or your interests and provide a short artist statement explaining the piece and introducing yourself to the class." The artwork and the statement were to be shared with our classmates in the class forums.

Determining how to introduce myself, particularly given my limited artistic abilities, was difficult. I browsed though my classmates' assignments and hoped for some inspiration. That was a mistake. It quickly became obvious that many of my classmates didn't get that this was a class for people without any artistic background.  There were some very experienced and very talented people posting in the forums. One woman even apologized for the quality of her work, as she was away from her studio and had limited resources to work with. STUDIO!!! What beginner has A STUDIO?? Is there some definition of beginner that I'm not aware of? Aaaarrrggh! 

Once I got over my panic, I decided to just jump in. In fact, that became the theme for my piece. I knew I wanted a picture of someone about to jump from a cliff into a sea of art, and given my drawing abilities, I knew that collage was going to have to be a large part of my creation.

I quickly realized that I wasn't going to find exactly the pictures I wanted, so I sketched a frightened little guy standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. I chose a monkey pencil to create my picture, as I needed to remind myself to keep a sense of humour about the process. Nothing like a monkey pencil to keep panic at bay.

"Don't be so serious!" says Mr Monkey.

His wee monkey collar spins and his elastic legs wobble as I work. 

Then I spent the morning flipping through magazines and cutting out words that related to our first week's lectures. It was interesting to see how the vocabulary of art has spread into other disciplines. I snipped art-related words from articles on interior design, photography, technology, medicine and fashion.  I think my favourite was finding the word "line" in an ad for Juvederm. I never thought about the art involved in cosmetic treatments before. I probably never will again.

I was really pleased to find the words "plunging in" in one of the last magazines I raided. Finding a phrase that so perfectly described the theme of my artwork made me feel like I was on the right track. I cut it out for the title of my piece.

Once I had my words, I gathered my art supplies. Again, I deliberately chose to work with child-like materials. It seemed appropriate given my level of experience and ability, and I felt that the less-sophisticated supplies would indicate to my classmates that I am truly a beginner. Besides, it's what I had in the house. 

Art supplies generously supplied by Hubby when I was working on my sketchbook.
Here's what I shared with my classmates: 

I probably shouldn't have looked at other introductions in this forum before attempting mine. I am truly a beginner, and after browsing the works of my classmates I realize many of them are not. What a talented group!

My introductory artwork was created on standard-weight cartridge paper using a monkey (yep, monkey) pencil, Crayola crayons and coloured pencils, and collage. 

The thought of sharing my artwork terrifies me, but like the character in my picture, I'm ready to take the plunge into the world of art.

I chose my  materials to remind myself, and my audience, that the last time I took an art class was in elementary school. Back then crayons and coloured pencils were often our only tools, and decorated pencils were much sought after.  I hope the viewer gets a sense of the fear I'm feeling as I embark on this journey, and I want let everyone, including myself, know that I'm here to have fun!

Within minutes of posting my introduction, I had responses from my classmates. I was surprised, touched and pleased with the kind and encouraging things they had to say. I'm still a bit frightened about sharing my work, but I'm so glad I took the plunge. I may not win any gold medals for style, but I'm now confident that I can keep my head above water!


  1. You are my hero, Laurie....Relentlessly pushing your own boundaries and fears, and sharing with the world about it. Fearlessly famous. Keep up the inspiring posts! Thank you.

  2. Good for you for stepping outside of your comfort zone Laurie. I never dared consider myself as an artist. I never took art classes in school or create fridge magnetable artwork. When I was an adult, I just knew I had to try, and I registered in two 'beginner' classes at community night school. The first class had me in tears on the way home. Everyone was soooo skilled, and I was a beginner,and totally intimidated. I didn't go back, but I did work up the courage to go to the beginner watercolour class later that week. Again, not everyone was a beginner, but this time I was not alone, and the energy of the class, the instructor and the participants was a good fit for me. Since that time years ago, I have been 'everyone' in various classes. The beginner, the in-betweener, the advanced artist. What I have learned is that we all learn from everyone, regardless of our skill level, and that we all remember being 'there', and we all support and lift each other up.

    Your piece is original, creative, and puts a smile on my face. I couldn't ask for anything more.

    Bravo....I'm your first Bloglovin' follower. Thanks for claiming your blog.

    Sue xo

  3. Sue and Chris,
    Thank you so much for your kind words. Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I must admit I was overwhelmed by your comments, and I was a little bit scared too. I gather my courage to put this stuff out there, then I get frightened when anyone notices. How odd is that? In spite of my issues, I do appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to comment. You make my day.


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