Deborah Harkins » My Art Class

My Art Class

[Paradigm: a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind. (Merriam-Webster)]

In simpler language, and for our purposes, a paradigm is a belief individuals hold about the way things are or should be. Often these paradigms are unexamined by the holder of them, as though they are just the way things are, or the way things should be.

It’s helpful to identify, then examine your own paradigms of all different situations in life, and to realize that others hold different, even conflicting, beliefs about those same subjects & situations.

As it pertains to art class, I ask you to think about your paradigm of art. What is art? What is the value of art to yourself, and the greater society? What do you expect to experience, or not experience in an art class? 

It’s important that you know that our art class is meant to cover a range of experiences: exposure to art history, introduction to skills and techniques, different purposes and genres of art, analysis and evaluation of art, and the art process (which is my favorite part).

Hopefully all of this is so enjoyable that you won’t even notice that you’re learning. It is important that you reflect upon what you create. Very often my artsy people don’t consider the natural process of art making a legitimate or valued experience.

Let me clarify. When we were very young, before we started school, we learned through self-guided experience. We pointed at things and our parents told us the name of those things. As we advanced, we discovered the properties of those objects/situations. Then we became interested in the surprises when unexpected outcomes happened. We incorporated those outcomes into our play/creation/experiments in other play situations. There was no grade, there was no failure - only discovery!

Who was driving all of that? YOU! You were the one in charge! Your parents might have given you information, even hints and tips, but you are in charge of what you learn and what is important enough, or interesting enough to retain it. 


Teachers don’t just pour knowledge into your brain. You can get that from books and tutorials ­from YouTube. Teachers are architects of experiences. We create opportunities to have a range of experiences. Most teachers do not want to take away your power, we want to empower you. Therefore, my class can be seen as a studio art class in which I have built the curriculum in such a way that you have a range of experiences and reflections to store in your toolbox of knowledge. 

The personal art making process happens something like this: you have an idea or inspiration for making art. That idea can be inspired by a new set of art supplies, a technique you’d like to use, or a subject you’d like to draw/paint/sculpt. We attempt, make mistakes, discover things, revise accordingly, and improve our skill/techniques/composition. Just the way we did before we started attending school and getting grades.
But most of us don’t see that the creative process is much like the scientific process. We have an idea, we apply it, make discoveries, adjust accordingly, and use the information in helpful ways.