28 June 2013

MOOC week 4

 A bout of illness meant I could tackle the materials by mid-week. For the first time, I noticed some shonkiness. Missing images referred to in the text, misspellings of key names (Stieglitz and O'Keeffe). The kind of thing that students would get hauled up for at uni... Otherwise the standard has been high but it made me think that if a concept of MOOC is publicity for a uni, you need to make damn sure you proof-read it properly.  

Still, the week's topic of portrait photography was great and there were a range of artists right up to present day Cindy Sherman. Once again, I was ready to go off at tangents and learn more...but there are no suggestions for further reading. Is Google it really the answer? It is in the sense that you can find examples of artwork and maybe a biography, but not so much to find criticism or ideas or appreciation of the artist. Surely there must be some good articles on Cindy Sherman out there? Yes, I could probably track one down if I had enough time but how encouraging to have had a link right there and then... There is an iTunesU version of the course which has more of this kind of thing. I'm not sure why they would have stripped it out for the MOOC?

Another issue that cropped up is pictures of people and getting their approval to post them online. No mention of this at all in the assignment brief, but in the forums others pointed out you can get apps now for in-the-field approval from people to use their image. Again, it would have been good to know best practice, even if it was not applicable for us as stumbling beginners. 

I managed to cobble together an assignment this week by deciding to do something a bit ropey rather than nothing at all. So I'm still hanging on in there...determined not to be in the quitter MOOC demographic!

20 June 2013

MOOC Week 3 - Return to Sender

This was the week the MOOC (temporarily) crashed and burned for me. I did the readings, videos and quiz but failed to submit an assignment. This is sort of OK - you only need to complete 2 to pass the studio track - but I had intended to do them all as doing the art is the reason I'm doing the MOOC. The cause of failure was primarily lack of time - the whole weekend was taken up with (very welcome) visitors and a music festival and the week before had been busy too.

I think it was also a slight lack of enthusiasm / direction. This week's topic was Mail Art - interesting as an idea, but not life-changing. I'd never heard of any of the artists being discussed and although I looked at their work and other people's, I didn't really come away understanding the motivation for it. Actually, I didn't read the Wikipedia article and that may have explained it better than the readings we were provided with :o/ (you don't get any further reading recommendations). Pinterest and Flickr come into their own as visual resources for this kind of topic. The assignment was also pretty vague ("Memory") and I didn't come up with an idea that grabbed me like the last one but - hey - that's my failing.

We did get our peer review feedback from the previous week's assignment. I was pretty pleased with mine although there were a couple of comments I felt I wanted to respond to but couldn't (as it's anonymous). Not to whinge, just to discuss. I enjoyed doing peer review but felt very inexpert on judging someone else's work against the rubric we were given. From the forum posts, some people were pretty insulted by some of the feedback they got. There has been a confusion as well about whether you can do digital art which didn't help.

I'm back on track this week...so far...

9 June 2013

MOOC - Week 2


This week the MOOC really kicked in with the first of our art movements to study. I started the week excited to get going. I've ended the week enlightened, informed and with full momentum to keep going. I'm very embarrassed to admit that when I heard this week was on "Fantastic Art" I thought it was all about sci fi monsters and women with unfeasibly large bosoms. In fact (of course) it's all about surrealism and Dada and early inspirational artists like Rousseau, Chagall and Di Chirico. We had some introductory reading, 9 short videos on the artists and a demo video of making a collage. Then we had to complete a quiz and, if you're on the "studio track", produce a piece of artwork inspired by the genre.

Things I like love

  • The topic. Most of it was new to me and I was fascinated. It has transformed how I view artists like Dali or Miro.
  • Bananas. Discussion has raged in the forums over the videos we watch about the artists. Re this painting by Di Chirico, the voice in the video claimed the bananas were a sexual symbol whereas the forum consensus is that they are probably, well, bananas. Perhaps he was hungry, who knows? Read into it what you like....yet the videos we watch are quite dogmatic about what the paintings mean and this cuts to the heart of how you analyse art, whether you can ever claim to know what a painting means and whether you can read sex into anything if you are so inclined.
  • I did a painting. It got me actually doing it. 
  • Great fellow students. Really enjoying the social aspect on the forums and on Twitter. There is no pressure (or requirement) to interact and I'm enjoying it all the more because of that.

Things I don't like
  • No suggestions for further reading if you're interested. Yes, you can google but I'd like to know what are the best books on a given artist, any particularly useful websites or in-depth studies of them rather than just a few works and a short biography. (Oddly, there are more recommendations in the iTunesU version of the course).
  • Someone asked about copyright when using materials for collage. I suspect this can be a bit of a minefield in the professional art world but we have not had any real guidance on it. Given that many people are posting their work online, I think we need to take it seriously. Also, raising awareness that copyright exists on all images (unless it says otherwise) is surely a wise move for art beginners. Not least so we can look after our own images.
  • Both of these things could have been sorted out by a librarian hovering around the forums or having input into the course. See "Librarians: your most valuable MOOC supporters". Oh yes.

2 June 2013

MOOC - week 1

Don't laugh - that's my assignment for week 1 of the Coursera Pennsylvania State University MOOC "Introduction to Art - Concepts and Techniques". You had to introduce yourself by way of art, preferably using the techniques covered briefly (drawing with pencils, charcoal, ink, pastels, paint). So this is me, being grumpy in a coloured pencil sketch, facing the lovely Carmarthenshire countryside, which I photographed as I ran out of time to try and paint it...

I do like art - I regularly get annoyed at failing to create art - but the main reason I signed up is to experience the MOOC effect. We have been discussing them at work for a while now so I got quite excited when my course finally kicked off last week. I'm hoping to reflect weekly on how it's going...

Things I like

  • I believe it has about 54,000 students taking part and they come from all over the world. It has an amazing global community feel to it all.
  • Finding other people from Wales - the forum threads often gravitate to local sub-groups. Virtual ex-pats? 
  • It is really well done - it must have cost a bomb to produce. The site has been very robust, the materials are slick, the forums work well once you are used to them. There was a glitch with a survey not working but that got sorted pretty quick.
  • Watching art videos - I grew up watching Tony Hart so, although I normally dislike learning via video, I can watch someone do art quite happily. 
  • Anna Divinsky seems really nice - a calm, cheerful presence at the helm.
  • The launch really felt exciting when it all exploded into life. The forums have been a constant buzz of chatter, social media less so than expected but if you search on #artmooc, there is activity. 
  • I have learnt as much from looking at other students' work and "artist statements" as I have from the course materials themselves.
Things I don't like
  • Initially the forums seemed a very fast-moving, overwhelming place. I think we could have done with a quick overview of how to use them. At first I was getting zillions of emails every time someone posted a comment so I had to work out how to unsubscribe from some posts. Only today did I realise you can click on someone's name to see what else they have posted (i.e. their artwork).
  • This is very intolerant and shows me up as a complete prig but...people who don't read or don't follow the instructions... 
  • The hard part for me is thinking how to approach an art assignment. Some guidance on this would have been really good, perhaps showing how different artists go about developing ideas. Technical videos are fine but if, as they say, they want us to challenge ourselves and push our boundaries as artists (eek!), I'd have welcomed a bit more guidance.
So, week 1 over. I'm feeling very positive, nervous about the time commitment but keen to see what comes next. We start the real assessed stuff tomorrow...