The Artmaking Process
Autumn 2007- AE 604D
In the beginning, I made art because I was assigned to do it. My teachers would give specific instructions to be followed. I would carry out each direction to complete a project so I would have something to take home to show. When I got older and my art assignments became more open-ended and my artwork actually began to look the way I wanted it to, I made art because I enjoyed the process. I still liked having an end product that I could show off to my friends and family.
When I became a teacher, I began to make art just to teach my students how to do one process or another. There was not much time to make art for myself. After teaching art all day to young students who could not always do what I thought they should be able to, I did not even want to make my own art anymore. I questioned why I had chosen the field of art at all. I still loved to look at art and wanted to try to processes that I had never tried. Other people started asking me to make certain artworks for them and that jumpstarted my creating process.
I make art now because I want to. Artmaking is a source of relaxation for me and I like the process of working and reworking pieces to achieve certain effects. I still like to have an end product to show for my work. I make art because it is fun to experiment with different media and see what turns out.
My artmaking process begins with finding inspiration. I look for ideas in my everyday life. When I see something that sparks my interest, I research it. I try to find all the information I can about the subject. Once I know more about the subject I want to make art about, I decide if I am still interested in making an artwork. If my interest is still peaked, I make some sketches for my artwork. I try to find a composition that is visually appealing.
Once I have chosen a composition, I think about what materials I want to use. I start to experiment with different materials and try to decide which ones are giving me the look I want. Once the materials are chosen, I begin to work on the actual piece. I usually chose paint as my medium. I begin my artwork by sketching out my piece with a pencil or charcoal and then go on to paint in my work. Often if I am not satisfied with how my piece is coming together, I completely start over. I rarely finish a piece before I move on to something else. Some pieces never get finished and some I finish quickly. Usually, I end up frustrated, uninterested and with nothing to show for all my time and effort.
When I first sat down to think of a Big Idea that I wanted to focus on for a whole quarter, my mind went blank. I thought “How can I know what will keep my interest that long? What if I choose something and then lose interest?” After much debate about what I am intrigued by and brainstorming several Big Ideas, I narrowed my choice to “social norms.”
I find it intriguing how many social norms have changed from what they were a few decades ago to today. I wonder about the correlation between changing social norms and behavior problems at school and crime in general. I think the change in social norms is significant because it affects so much of our lives and what is expected (or no longer expected) from us. I question whether locations where social norms have not changed greatly over the past few decades have as many social problems as we do in this area. I also wonder what social norms will be like in the future and if the good in society will continue to deteriorate as norms change.
My big idea and topic are important to me because I feel like it affects my everyday life and the way that I teach. The changes in social norms from when I was in school to now seem huge. I feel like the discipline problems I experience at work are a result of the change in social norms. Also, I wonder if the change in educational social norms is greatly affecting the way that my students learn. I am concerned that the impact of these changes will affect the way society operates in the future.
I want to focus my topic on the social norms that are present in today’s public education system compared with the norms that were once present in the public education system. I have been thinking about the things that are different where I teach as opposed to where I went to school. The discipline system, the arriving and dismissing procedures, the cafeteria and playground norms, etc. have all changed since I went to school. I see a difference in the way that my students act and the way my classmates acted many years ago. The rules themselves have changed as has the educational structure. I want to try to focus on the differences between the two.
I feel like the change in social norms effects us all. From the way we communicate to the way to the way we live our lives, social norms affect us. I think the changing social norms in public education will produce a future society that lacks respect for your fellow man, lacks the ability to communicate face to face, and views laws as simply suggestions rather than guidelines. I feel this is important to others because it affects every aspect of the way we live our lives now and the way we live them in the future. I want viewers to question the way we are teaching our future generation to learn and to act. I also want to make the viewers question the way we treat each other and the consequences of our everyday decisions.
When I first began contextualizing my objects, I wasn’t sure where to begin or what to change first. First, I chose the paddle (the object I had chosen to represent the changes in discipline norms). I thought about what it used to mean in terms of discipline and decided it should be large, bright, and in the foreground in my first drawing. Next, I thought about what the paddle symbols in terms of discipline today. I know that only a few districts (including mine) still have corporal punishment, so I thought the paddle should be small, dark and far away. I repeated this process with my other 8 objects. Each time I had to think of how the object once reflected the social norms and how it fits into the social norms of today.
2. How did context impact the meaning of your objects?
When I changed the context of my objects, it did change the meaning I intended for them. I found that the size, color and location of the isolated object changed the meaning the most. Items that represent common social norms, I showed as large and near the forefront of my drawings and items that represent social norms that have been replaced or changed, I showed as smaller and farther away. The color change represented the connotation I associated with the specific norm and how well I felt it served its purpose of establishing order in public schools. From this exercise, I see how important it is for us to think about the context of objects in our artwork when trying to portray a certain meaning.
3. Did context suggest any ways for thinking about your big idea?
Changing the context of my objects gave them a whole new meaning for me. It made me think about how I could make viewers see my big idea the way I do (or let them find their own meaning for the work). I started thinking about how other people see the social norms and how size, placement, color, etc. affect the way we view things. What do I want my work to say? The visual exercises are beginning to help me answer that question. The context changes have guided the way that I am focusing my topic from a big, broad idea to a smaller, more specific approach to the topic.
4. Describe your work with the drawing commands.
I started with zooming in on my objects. I thought about how cropping different parts of each object gave a different meaning to the drawing. When cutting out part of the object, the meaning changed significantly, often losing the meaning I had intended for it. I next multiplied the objects and thought about how having a single isolated object gave a different meaning than having several of the same objects together. I liked the new meaning this brought to the drawing. I thought that using several of the objects could show how widespread that norm was or is and using a single object could show, depending on how you look at it, how important it was or how it is rarely used or has been replaced. I took a negative approach as the command I created by switching the colors and surface quality of the object and its background. Switching the color between the background and the object changed the mood of the object itself.
5. How did the drawing commands suggest new directions for your big idea?
The drawing commands made me look more deeply into how each object should be presented to represent my big idea. By actually changing the different aspects of each object, I came up with new ways of how the social norms may be perceived. Sketching them this way has led to other ideas of what I may use or how I may use a specific object. This changed the direction of my big idea in that it helped me narrow it down more to what part of social norms I want to explore. It was a new approach to creating art for me. Changing the context and using the drawing commands has sparked new ideas and I am making more sketches to see what will work and what will not work.
My plan for building a knowledge base for this project has several steps:
Step 1: Make a KWL chart about social norms.
Step 2: Write a list of questions about what I want to learn about social norms to
guide my research.
Step 3: Write down the social norms I remember from when I was in grade
school. Ask my students questions about what triggers certain behaviors
for them. Compare the lists.
Step 4: Draw sketches of objects that represent social norms.
Step 5: Research current trends in educational social norms using the internet,
educational journals, etc.
Step 6: Research artists that have made work about the topic social norms.
Thus far, I have made a Know, Want to Know, and Learned chart and have filled in the first two columns. I have also written my list of questions that I want to find answers to about social norms. I have made a list of the social norms and their triggers that I remember from grade school and have also ask colleagues and friends about the social norms from when they were in grade school. I have discussed social norms with my students and have asked them how they know what to do when. I am also observing their behaviors in the classroom, in the cafeteria and on the playground and am making notes about the trends I see. I am ready to compare the two lists and see where changes have occurred. I have drawn objects that I associate with my topic, but am still reworking sketches and adding more objects as I observe different trends in my students’ behaviors. I am ready to begin my research on current trends in educational social norms and am trying to find artists that have worked with this topic to research.
I chose the big idea of social norms. After choosing my big idea, I made a word web of all of the things that I could think of that had to do with social norms. Once I had my word web finished, I listed the key concepts of my big idea and chose some questions that I had about my big idea. Next, I needed to choose a topic that would be more specific than my big idea; I chose the changes in social norms in public education. After choosing my topic, I began to observe the social norms at my school. I jotted down items and incidents that interested me that I saw on a daily basis at my school.
I decided to make a KWL chart about social norms. I then needed to work on finding objects to draw in my visual grid. I thought about the social norms that I could remember from when I was in grade school and the social norms that I noticed at my school now. I made a list of the norms then and the norms now. I chose my nine objects for my visual grid and then began drawing extra objects as the ideas popped up. Next, I chose one object and completed a sketch for each of the drawing commands. I then worked with my other eight objects in the same manner. This week, I have begun to research social norms in public education via the internet.
I chose the artist Tricia Earl as my first contemporary artist to research for my big project. Earl is an independent artist working mainly with photography, computer and video arts. She is currently an adjunct professor at Texas Tech University, School of Art. Earl’s work focuses on the contradictions in social norms mainly in the areas of gender and sexual orientation. I chose to research Tricia Earl’s work because she focuses on social norms and I was having trouble finding artists who deal with the same big idea that I am. I also find her artwork very intriguing and visually appealing. Earl alters her subjects and their environments to create a message about the way society labels groups of people, isolation, discrimination, and contradictions in social norms. She arranges different objects in a way that makes the viewer think about the message that she is trying to convey. I like the way that Earl breaks down social labels in her art to make others really think about how those terms affect other people. I would maybe like to digitally alter some of my objects as part of my process.
Earl makes her viewers really look at how people are stereotyped by norms and how social norms affect our lives. She wants her art to speak out to people and this is what I want from my art too. I want to people to have to take time and figure out the message behind the artwork. Earl uses experiences from her own life in her work to get her point across and I am using my experiences as a student and experiences from my own students to create my works. She alters her subjects and their environments to create a dialog about the point she is trying to make. I want to try to use the same object in different ways to create different meanings that all fit into my topic and I think that seeing how she changes her subject’s environments will help me with that. Earl also works with altering her images digitally and I would like to try that with at least one of my pieces.
This week I have been researching artists that deal with social norms. It was a lot more difficult to find contemporary artists than I had thought it would be. I am still researching for more artists who use the big idea social norms. I have also been trying to decide what medium I want to work in. I have decided that using a variety of media will help me produce better results and achieve different effects. I want to begin some of my artworks this week so I can experiment and see what will work and what will not work.
I know I need to focus my artwork on my topic but am worried that my pieces will not show the changes that I hope they will. I am still working on sketches and altering what I want to show in each piece.
This goes along with how I am going to show the changes in social norms. I want my artwork to have social significance but wonder if it will make sense when I am finished.
I am still leaning towards using different mixed media for each piece depending on the message or effect I am trying to achieve. I just do not know if my pieces will seem coherent as a series if they are all made from different media.
I do not feel like my project is going as smoothly as I had hoped. I need to set aside more time to actually work on my artworks. At this point, I do not feel like I have accomplished much in the actual putting it together process. I feel like mostly all I have done is the background work for making my artworks.
The problem that has focused my big idea/topic is how I can visually show the effect of the changes in social norms in public education. I want to show these changes and convey the effects they have on public education without coming right out and giving my opinion. I want the viewers to be able to make their own conclusions but am not sure exactly how I will do this without losing meaning in my pieces all together. I am still researching more artists who deal with social norms to pick up hints or tips on how to express what I want to express while still personally involving the viewer and their own opinions.
How can I show the effects of changing social norms in public education?
1. How did your use of oppositions help or hinder the development of your big idea?
Using oppositions helped me think about my big idea in a new way. I found that each social norm that I had been focusing on in public education could be broken down into oppositions. (While most behaviors fit into one opposition or the other, some fell into the gray area in between. I think this hindered my big idea when I could not fit a behavior into one of the oppositions.) Breaking behaviors into the oppositions gave me new ideas for how the social norms have changed over time and what each social norm looks like when I see it at school.
I started by thinking about the three rules that we use at my school (ready, respectful, responsible). The oppositions that I used were:
1. Ready v. Unready
2. Respectful v. Disrespectful
3. Responsible v. Irresponsible
4. Disciplined v. Undisciplined
5. Accepted v. Unaccepted
6. Acceptable v. Unacceptable
2. How did your use of oppositions problematize your big idea/topic?
Using oppositions helped me see my topic in new ways. It helped narrow my topic more for me by putting it into polar opposites and trying to visualize what each would look like in terms of behavior. It also makes me think that what I see as one opposition (being ready for instance) may appear completely different for someone else or even for my students. I wonder since we use less specific terms for rules if that’s why there are discipline problems thus creating a new norm.
This week I focused on using oppositions to create artworks. These oppositions led my work in a new direction. I think it has helped me focus more on what each social norm can be categorized as. Next, I want to involve my students in my artmaking process. I think I will present them with one of the objects I feel represents a social norm. I want to see how they view the object and what it means to them. I want to use their thoughts in my work and maybe have them create something involving the object to use in one of my works. I’m not sure how this will turn out but I want to see how they view the norms as opposed to how I view them.
1. What was playful in your artmaking?
The two main play strategies I focused on were multiplicity and collaboration. I started with the idea of collaboration. I wanted to involve my students in my artmaking process since the social norms are effected by and affect them. I wasn’t sure how to involve them and let them express themselves while still giving them enough information or guidance for them to make something that had to do with the topic. I started by telling them about the information I had already collected from them about social norms. We discussed what they thought about how these norms affect their school day and their life outside of school. I showed them grid from the beginning of the quarter and they voted to work with hands as their object of focus. I had each student trace their hand and then decorate it in a way that expressed them and the things they raise their hands for. They asked if they could write words on their hands to go along with their drawings. I let them choose whether they wrote on their hands or not. I’m not sure yet of how I want to put their hands together or what I want to use them for but I liked the idea of involving my students in my artmaking process. Having so many of their hands to work with also has to do with the multiplicity strategy.
I also used multiplicity with one of my other artworks. I have been working on making a large lunch sack out of lunch ID cards. Almost all of the students at my school go through the cafeteria line for lunch and breakfast. (In fact, 85% of the students are on free and reduced lunches.) They have to wait in these huge lines just to get their food and then must have this card to scan to be able to get the food. It makes me think about when I was in school and most kids packed their lunch. I thought making a lunch sack out of these ID cards that they have to have to get food would symbolize this transition from having parents who took the time to pack a lunch and provide food for their students’ lunches to having parents who send their children to school hungry to receive the 2 main (only meals) they have a day. I’m not sure how this will come out but that’s what I’ve been working on.
2. What risks did you take?
I took the risk of letting my students join me in my artmaking. I’ve never allowed others to help me with my artmaking because I felt that somehow it wasn’t my work if others helped. This put me outside of my comfort zone but I ended up really liking their involvement. It seems like it was more meaningful for my students to make their hands and put their thoughts into the project since they are the ones directed effected by the norms.
3. What elements of chance were present?
I do not feel like there were many elements of chance in my work with play. Letting the students express their thoughts in the artwork seemed like I was taking a chance. I was worried at first that they might write something inappropriate or make their hands doing obscene gestures because I didn’t make them write their names on them and I didn’t monitor them closely as they were making them. Luckily, they took a very mature approach to this and didn’t do anything I wouldn’t have wanted them to do. I want to take more chances with my artmaking and see how things will come out.
4. How did play impact your big idea?
Play has not impacted my big idea very greatly yet. I like the idea of collaboration and using others opinions along with mine in my artwork. I also like using the same object multiple times to create something else. I want to experiment more with the conceal and reveal strategy. I think this might impact the meaning of my big idea more but I’m not sure exactly how I want to incorporate it yet.
5. How did play problematize your big idea?
The play strategies added a new element to the way I can create art. It has made me look at what I want to portray in a new way. After looking at Antoni’s work, I thought about what new ways I could to create art. It has made me question whether the traditional ways of making art always hold as much meaning as these new, playful techniques.
This week I have been trying to incorporate the play strategies into my artmaking process. I collaborated with my students and let them make objects for me to use in my artwork. I have used the multiplicity approach and made sketches of how I could use multiple objects (from my original grid) to make other objects. I have been trying to focus more on the actual artmaking process and creating artworks I can use for the big project. I plan to still make more artworks this week and try to incorporate more of the play strategies into my artmaking this week. I have also begun to create the pages for my big project on my webjournal which I will work on more this week.