|What do you study
when you study art?
Visual-aesthetic education can be defined as the process whereby one learns how to produce art, engage in the aesthetic and critical analysis of art, and to talk, read and write about art. Although this definition is broad in scope, it does not begin to describe the concepts and activities involved in becoming visually and aesthetically literate. The process of learning has both form and content; form is concerned with how one learns and content pertains to what is actually learned. Students of art are confronted with two basic questions:
What do I want to learn about art?
What skills and knowledge do I want to acquire as a result of my efforts?
To answer these questions, one must first be familiar with the ideas, images and practices associated with the visual arts. The varied facets of the subject need to be investigated in order to recognize which aspects would be most appropriate at particular times and for particular needs. What is already known must be identified before one decides what has yet to be learned. It is, therefore, essential to consider the topics which constitute the subject matter of art.
What types of art forms and events
The most obvious topic associated with the visual arts to be explored is the variety of aesthetic phenomena described as art. This exploration should not be based upon a narrow interpretation of what constitutes art. One needs to be exposed to a multiplicity of stimuli ranging from functional objects to monumental sculpture. For example: domestic, commercial and industrial architecture; automobiles, furniture and fashions; photography and film making; all manner of hand crafts; as well as painting, sculpture, and printmaking.
Who makes art?
Another topic which requires consideration is identifying the producers of art. There are, of course, many types of artists. Artists are people who make aesthetic decisions as they produce objects (paintings or pottery) and/or organize events (motion pictures or television programs). Artist-designers plan and/or produce all manner of commodities. These range from packages for food to children's toys which stimulate imagination, from photographs and illustrations for books and magazines to symbolic forms which enhance religious ceremonies. Learning about the people who produce art, in its myriad forms, is an important aspect of studying the subject.
What types of problems and situations
There are many occasions which are potential sources for aesthetic experiences. Translucent light qualities can be observed when looking at the action of sunlight on trees and shrubs; the angularity or flow of sculptural planes can be sensed when looking at an automobile; or changes in texture and color can be identified as pliable materials such as clay and cloth are stretched, flattened or crumpled.
Problematic situations may also contain the ingredients for aesthetic encounters. Deciding what to wear requires attending to relationships between shapes, values, colors and textures. Even athletic contests include aesthetic components. These are experienced if one has been sensitized to carefully observe and feel the contrast between the arc of a swinging bat and the angularity of the baseball player's body, or the counter movements of right and left legs as they pivot out from a kicker's hips when a football is punted.
One must realize that aesthetic experience exists within the eye of the beholder and can be evoked by all manner of stimuli. It is important to emphasize that whether one responds to an athletic event, social celebration, recognized work of art, or objects created by natural forces, aesthetic components are experienced meaningfully (and not superficially) primarily by those who have developed an "educated eye."