Final Portfolios; My Project in Painting 351

On December 13 final portfolios were in and I could document the students work results, especially the ones of the Still Life Transformation Project. I truly appreciated the students’ hard work and thorough research (in most cases) for both Part 2 and Part 3 of that project – the historical reference piece and the conceptual piece. Quite often the work that started with some mediocre piece for the observational painting of the still life, later developed into a quite a remarkable conceptual piece.

I am going to post just a few examples today (I collected more than three hundred images just from this project) but I will try to present them in the order they were completed to show the development of the ideas (I am going to use just the students’ first names to introduce each work):

1. Kelsey

20-minute studies (8″x10″):





Some examples of the work in the sketchbook for Part 2 and Part 3:



Part 1: Obesrvational painting of a still life:


Part 2: Rendering the still life with art-historical reference:


Part 3: Conceptualized Still Life:


2. Elaine:

20-minute studies:





Part 1: Still Life:


Part 2: Synthetic cubism:

Part 3: Conceptualized:









Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3: Conceptualization:












Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:









Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:









Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:



Part 1: Still Life:


Part 2: Art-Historical Reference :

Part 3: Conceptualized:

I will post many more examples of the students’ work here – I am so proud and really fascinated with their achievements!



 Part 1. Still Life:


Part 2. Art-Historical reference:


Part 3. Conceptualized:





Part 1. Still Life:


Part 2. Art-Historical Reference:


Part 3. Conceptualized:



Still Life Transformation – My Project in Painting Class

Sarah de Boer at work on #2 of the Still Life Transformation Project

l portfolios were in and I could document the students work results, especially the ones of the Still Life Transformation Project. I truly appreciated the students’ hard work and thorough research (in most cases) for both Part 2 and Part 3 of that project – the historical reference piece and the conceptual piece. Quite often the work that started with some mediocre piece for the observational painting of the still life, later developed into a quite a remarkable conceptual piece.

I am going to post just a few examples today (I collected more than three hundred images just from this project) but I will try to present them in the order they were completed to show the development of the ideas (I am going to use just the students’ first names to introduce each work):

1. Kelsey

20-minute studies (8″x10″):



This project is still in progress; it started on November 15, and was planned to take four classes of active group interaction and time (Nov.15, 17, 22, and 24). The work is to be submitted to the final portfolio on December 15. My complete observations on the project’s outcome will be posted here by December 20, after the work has been assessed.

Meanwhile, I would like to share my observations of the process.

 This project is an amalgamation of several done by me as a student + some attempt at inspiring a more contemporary piece of meaningful art.

 This is the plan and the instructions the students got:


 Still Life Transformation Project

Painting 351, Fall Term 2011

1.      Part One: Painting from Observation

Arrange several (3) found objects in a composition using a viewing window. Re-arrange the objects until you are satisfied with the placement and the flow of positive/negative space. Make several thumbnail painted sketches of the composition on canvas or board panels (4 panels 10”x8”) then make a final observational painting on your choice of support (cradled board or stretched canvas). Choose the size appropriate for your still life painting with each side of the support being not shorter than 20” and not longer than 30”. Use big brushes and/or larger palette knives. 

2.      Part Two: Still Life +Art Historical Reference

Research different styles of particular artists and movements in Art History (e.g. cubism, fauvism, pointillism, etc) and render your still life objects in a composition and style so that the reference could be easily recognizable. (The composition can be re-arranged if desired). Use the same choice of support and its size.

3.      Part Three: Still Life – Conceptualized

Consider different examples of contemporary art work. Think of the objects in your composition and extrapolate an idea that does not involve an illusionistic rendition of the objects but:

  1. is common to the objects
  2. ties the objects to one another
  3. could grant a different meaning to the objects
  4. could give the objects greater significance because of context
  5. can transform the found objects into a new one
  6. could be used as a metaphor for the objects

Suspend the initial impulse to act and avoid obvious (or cliché) solutions. Make sketches and diagrams and register related words (brainstorm) in a sketchbook made of 2 sheets of Mayfair paper.  After the idea takes shape make a work of art to convey the message.



The Power Point Presentation which was done on November 17 included 12 images of work such as:

Learning Curve by Buzz Spector:

Some/One by Do-Ho Suh (the dog-tag sculpture):

Arabian Delight by Huma Mulji:

Grass Dress, by Gardiner Funo OKain:



On November 15 I started handing out the assignment sheets. After 5 minutes of reading we discussed the possibilities, I answered the students’ questions and introduced the mini-groups’ list  – asking them to get into ‘color-coded’ groups:


By doing so I was hoping to break the routine of ‘lecturing’ instructor – passive students’, as well as promt the students to change their locations, get out of the familiar circle of buddies and open themselves to different opinions and influences.

The results of this simple procedure were just amazing: immediately after they knew which new mini-group they are in everything started to move around, still-life compositions were assembled and after an hour of work on 4 quick painted studies on 8″x10″ panels the 7 groups critiques started with me just as an observer! Never has delegating the power felt so sweet before… It was working! (We had planned the length of the studies together just prior to getting into the mini-groups, as well as the time for the first mini-groups’ critiques. After 20 minutes of group critiques the students got back to work on their larger still life painting.

On November 17 I presented the PPP titled Meaningful in Contemporary Art, saying that by no means the selection presents any ‘official’ list. It was rather an excercise in attaching meaning to an artpiece. Together we constructed a model of an “artist’s intention vs a viewer’s reading” and suggested  several models of this interaction. (Oh, yes, we remembered Barthes, too). Work was given special importance as a conveyer not a container of ideas. This PPpresentation together with students’-suggested interpretations and working out of the models of artist-work-viewer interaction took precisely an hour, after which we returned to the studio and continued working on #2 and #3 of the project.

Observation: On November 15, 17, 22, and 24 the attendence was unusually high; and on November 17 it was 100% – all 21 students showed up for the class and stayed throughout – something that has never happened before. (It could be that they knew their group are dependent on their participation). I tossed the names in new color-coded groups twice.

Knowing the names of your students is vital for dividing students into groups: you think of what combination could produce the best results. It is true that very often our expectations are exceeded by certain students – but that is just a cherry on top of the cake, so to speak. And that happened – all of a sudden ’shy’ and ‘silent’ students had a lot to contribute.

The completed sequences of the students’ work (#1, #2, #3) will be posted here after December 15th, the Final Portfolio Assessment day with more notes and conclusions to the project. 

Midterm Portfolio - Examples of Students’ Work

341 Drawing

Anamorphic Drawings.

 I was truly amazed how through a series of analytical proceedures students have arrived at these very sophisticated expressive drawings:





Painting 351

The Postcard Project.

A series of careful studies of a postcard + a “distance test” (no details, all 4″x6″ tiny panels were viewed from 6 -yards distance): perceived/reversed colour and value and B&W perceived and reversed in different combinations and a final painting on cradled board 2′x3′. The students were required to increase the size of the tools 6 times as they moved from studies to the final painting:



Step by step progress:












More examples of small studies:




More examples of final paintings:




Observation: Almost all final paintings (in a 21- students group) looked a bit better than your average first year painting students’work does. They received very clear instructions, they got to the larger-scale painting after a series of little post-card-size studies but the final result looked quite amazing to me.

My next question is: Will the students be as confident in a work where absolutely all decisions (size and type of support, choice of subject, choice of composition, value range, saturation, temperature and size of tools) will be their own – as opposed to the Postcard Project where every next step was pre-determined by their initial choice of a single postcard? I will certainly get some feedback on this one in my own Still Life Transformation Project that I will present on November 15…


November 2, 2011

Assessment Week (Midterm Portfolios Assessment)

 Professor Peter Deacon ‘Watercolour Project’ presentation to Drawing Class 341, Nov.2

When the portfolio assessment date at UofC was approaching I found myself a bit nervous: I remember getting my first Midterm assessment sheets in 300-level BFA (Painting) at UofA and not being able to believe my eyes – the tentative grades I received were extremely low (or so I thought). When I looked around the group I noticed that everybody was upset, there were tears. My tentative B — B+ turned out to be one of the highest in the group. The rationalle of our instructors as we learned was to be very rigorous and conservative at midterm time to force us work “twice as hard” and “really earn” our good grades at finals. With time I got used to the low midterm grades and somehow managed to get A- or even A for the final portfolio assessment.

So I anticipated the change of the mood in the group to settle in when the brutal reality sets in here as well. I was pleasantly surprised, however.  

Professor Peter Deacon believes more in the encouragement at this initial level of painting (Level 1 Painting). Not only his expectations and instructions are clear, his teaching methods (probably verified in years of experience) allowed him to achieve a few jaw-dropping results in students work. (The examples of this work will be published on this site tomorrow, November 3 – for disclosure reasons they cannot be published today in this post). So when Peter told me that he feels that most of the students deserve top-end grades I felt a relief. The assessment was very thorough, each person’s work got a lot of attention; assignments’ requirements were re-visited for each individual piece; the overall performance and participation were taken into consideration as well. The grades were discussed and I certainly felt my input mattered. The grades varied from B- to A. There were 5 straight A grades in the group of 21.

I started thinking about the rationalle of being positive and encouraging with grades. Grades (or marks) can be considered a very powerful tool in teaching. Everywhere you look in pedagogical theory, you will learn that the assessment criteria should be easily measurable. These criteria have to help you know whether your students have achieved the learning objectives. Each assessment criterion should describe the results you expect from a student who has achieved the objective. So, if the criteria are met and the objectives have been achieved – there should be no restraint to hold you back in your positive feedback (sometimes such restraint could be some considerations of the curve – or relative assessment, or considerations of being ‘too generous, too soon’).

As one of my questions for this Internship programs is the interconnectedness of the teaching/learning process at the university level with the contemporary art world and contemporary society, I am interested to learn how achieving good or oustanding results (and grades) is viewed by the students. The possible benefits of getting good grades at the beginning of the university year could include

a. generating of a favourable self-image in the university-level context

b. assisting in acquring some professional confidence

c. inspiring a more enthusiastic involvement in the learning process with the possibility of yet more outstanding results

The possible drawbacks in this pattern, as I see it, could be:

a. generating of a favourable self-image that might be slightly less corresponding to the hierarchy of the art community in contemporary society

b. promoting achievent of overly confident attitude that might not be seen as adequate to the quality of the work by the contemporary art community

c. allowing a more relaxed attitude to this particular course and a reduced involvement in it as a result 

My  reasons for including c. consideration is the pressure that a university student with an average academic load is exposed to: there is always some other subject/ subjects that requires their immediate attention and an increased effort.   

However, the outcome of this favourable assessment will be in the spotlight of my research as well for the next 6 weeks till the final portfolios are in for the assessment.

My Project in Painting. Still Life Transformation

This project is an amalgamation of several done by me as a student + some attempt at inspiring a more contemporary piece of meaningful art.

I will present it on November 15, and support the written description of it with a PPpresentation with a working title of Meaningful in Contemporary Art:




These examples (and more) will be presented for the students to elaborate on the possible artistic intent and readings that these pieces can evoke in a viewer. This will be done to possibly equip them with some knowledge of contemporary thought development and realization in the field of visual arts. They will have to demonstrate this knowledge in their own pieces in Part 3 of my project.



October 18, 2011

Minutiae Project – Teaching My Project in Drawing 341

I taught a project that was planned (modified from a project I did 5 years ago as a BFA student), introduced and supervised entirely by myself. It started last week, October 11; consisted of three parts and was group-critiqued in class today:


Minutiae Project

Exploring the use of the found objects in creating drawings

Materials Required: Somerset paper 30”x22”, 2-3 sheets, a full set of graphite pencils, soft (4B, 6B, 8B) graphite sticks, charcoal or soft conté chalks, individual electric light. 


  1. 1.     Organizing pictorial space, value study

Arrange several (3-5) objects on a sheet of paper. Rearrange the items under the individual light until you are satisfied with the play of positive and negative space and the movement of the eye through the composition. Using very soft graphite/ conté/ charcoal draw this composition as a value study. Enlarge the scale slightly (indicate the ratio in the corner of your drawing) but preserve the proportions of the objects. You will need a half-sheet of Somerset paper for this drawing.


  1. 2.     Trompe L’oeil, Flat space

Using the same objects, arrange them again on a sheet of paper. Draw the composition in graphite pencils on a half-sheet Somerset trying to achieve the Trompe L’oeil effect. Preserve the scale of the objects.


  1. 3.     Choose one of the two possibilities:
    1. a.     Playing with the scale and viewpoint; adding narrative

Re-arrange the same objects this time altering your viewpoint in such a way as to create an exaggerated feeling of space and depth. (You can change the scale of some objects and/or preserve the scale of others for the purpose of this composition and drawing)

  1. b.    Creating a ‘scientific’ (‘biological’, ‘architectural’, or ‘engineering’) drawing

Render the object/s (the minimum of two and the maximum of three if drawn individually) consistent with the standards of the chosen field and applying the knowledge of perspective or orthographic, isometric, or oblique projection and labelling appropriate to the chosen type of drawing. Scale can be enlarged for the purpose of this drawing.


I have planned this project to be consistent with the curriculum of this class (it makes use of the students’ knowledge of perspective and different kinds of projections as well as a ‘scientific’ drawing), but also introduce a different element – illusionistic drawing and Trompe l’oiel – a technique which was to be discussed for the Anamorphic Projection Project of Peter Deacon the following week.

Parts 1 and 2 were carried out enthusiastically and without any difficulty, while Part 3 – a more open-ended part of the assignment was preceded by lengthy discussions, brainstorming and yielded 14 pieces of finished (or almost finished) work in the class of 19. Some of these drawings are still in progress.

I made sure that Part 3 is discussed and brain-stormed extensively before some examples of existing work were introduced. By doing so I had tried to avoid being prescriptive. While there were a few interesting pieces, I felt I somehow hoped to see more creativity on the students’ part.

                      Part 1: The Value Study:



                              Some Examples of Students’ Work (Part 3a & b):





I started to think about the nature of creativity and whether or not (and how – if yes)being creative could be prompted/ stimulated in an art-educational institution. I believe there are a few answers to this question in the book of Robert Kelly – Creative Expression, Creative Education - that I have just started reading. Robert Kelly is one of the faculty at the Art Department of UofC, and I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to discuss any pedagogical issues and pressing questions with him! Right now I am getting acquainted with the vocabulary and different theories of creativity. I am planning to post my thoughts on this book here next week.

Observation: Kristina Lee Podesva’s model of critique is and amazing one indeed: not only the students were incredibly active during the critique today (and also told me later that they really liked the structure of it and found it very useful), Professor Peter Deacon who was observing it congratulated all of us on a great effort in it.

October 4, 2011

Studio Report in Images

Drawing Project: Overlapped Perspectival drawings with Orthographic and Isometric Projections drawings (selected frames); line-only Vs colour-coding with legend and rationalle:



 Professor Peter Deacon in the painting studio


Observation: A Sothbeys poster on Art Career Opportunities on the Art Department bulletin board:

  Nice job… if you can get it …

Projections and Colour/Value Studies

September 28: It has been two weeks since my last post on this page. Meanwhile the students of Art 341 (Drawing) and Art 351 (Painting) have been getting more and more involved in their studies and I have been getting more confident as a TA to Professor Peter Deacon at UofC.

The Drawing class has been exploring perspectival drawing and projections: orthographic, isometric, and oblique. The still life composition arranged by the instructor a bit differently for each class/projection feels a bit ‘old school’ to me, so I am looking forward to introducing my own project (3-4 classes, three assignments) after the midterms - in which I am planning to offer a wide variety of tiny found objects for the students to draw using the acquired and well-revised by that time knowledge of different kinds of perspective and projections, as well as exploring unusual (or exaggerated) viewpoints, extreme light and shadows, and scale shifts which should lead to creating narrative in their work. I will post the detailed plan and description of the project’s stages as soon as it is all decided upon and approved by Professor Deacon.

The careful explanations offered by the instructor are very useful and seem to lead to quite successful execution every time. I have been thinking of opening this part of the class a bit – by eliciting the needed information from the students themselves / brainstorming instead of ‘lecturing’ – that might have resulted in a more dynamic process of learning and skill acquisition.

Observation: I was greatly impressed, however, by a quite lively co-operation the students had to get involved in for figuring out the scale and the rules of orthographic projection.

The painting class has been working on multiple color/value studies within the “Postcard” project. It resulted in 9 different ‘permutations’ of the original image in the postcards, chosen by the students. Those include a black and white rendering of the image – a value study, a reversed value study, a direct color/value study, a reversed color/perceived value one and visa versa. While the rationalle is clear (working on the skills of color and value implementation for creating successful paintings) the results of the work never seize to surprise me: this project handled in thick paint and big brushes literally shows the way from general to detailed and specific. The students learn to dismiss the unnecessary and focus on the crucial elements of color and composition.

In my own project which I have been asked to introduce in a month from now, I am planning to introduce the idea of working in different styles starting with a carefully observed rendering from a [still life] and moving through ‘time’ (which I might ask to research prior to the actual project) in art history. Some could be illustrated – though this might restrict the students choice. It will certainly be extensively discussed. The third stage of the project as I plan it, will have to be executed in a conceptual form. For the first two stages I am planning to move to a bigger size of support which should present its own challenges to the students. The conceptual part of the project will leave the choices radically open.     

Observation: With all the budget cuts on Fine Arts - literally: The Department of Fine Arts – with the word Fine officially crossed out, the longest waiting list is to the Painting Class of Art 351. Weird!


First Classes, September 13

Yesterday, September 13 was the first day of classes at the University of Calgary, where I am doing my internship in TA-ing to the head of the Painting Department, Peter Deacon. I am assisting him for two classes: Art 341 Drawing and Art 351 Painting.

We have had a prolonged discussion about teaching Fine Arts in general and got to the teaching methods and strategies that are suitable to the field, earlier in September. Peter gave me some insights into his rationalle and outlined the content for the first classes in general. He explained what basic skills he expected the students to have by the time they reach this 2-nd or 3-d year level and what revisions he was planning on doing with them before gradually building up the content (like detailed information on kinds of perspective in drawing and some art-historical information on the subject, as well as the development of the concept and its application in contemporary art, architecture and engineering). Having taught one of drafting classes for the Department of Emgineering at UofC himself and contributed to the development of a publication on the subject, Peter has some significant experience in teaching skills that could be applied within and beyond the field of Fine Arts. That was of particular interest to me as one of my goals was to trace the possibility of imlementation of the skills acquired in the classroom and incorporating them in the ‘portfolio’ of marketable skills in the future.

The first two classes were highly informative, were held in a friendly and invinting atmosphere. I noticed that the instructor asked the students to purchase only a limited amount of the supplies necessary for the first projects. When asked about that later, Peter confirmed that it is habitually done by him in order to allow more flexibility into the curriculum – depending on the level and aptitudes of his students – to change the character of the assignment as needed. Even though his planned projects were already clearly outlined to me, he stressed that they could be modified or changed altogether at any point as necessary for the better development of the students.

Both groups are relatively large: 20-22 students in each. I see plenty of possibility to be involved in both teaching and assessing, as well as planning the projects together as the term progresses. Peter suggested that I should develop my own projects (one per course, taking 2-4 classes), each weighing 10% of the final grade; present and carry them on  and assess them after the first 7 weeks of the classes (after the Midterm exams). I believe this time will be needed for carefully assessing the needs and abilities of the students for modifying the projects I have in mind.

Very exciting start to this school year! Even the long weekly commute of 6 (!) hours to Calgary did not cloud that :)



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