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The Mentor

2. The Mentor

The Mentor, in general, is an Artist and/or Designer. The Mentor is an artist/designer whose work you admire. An artist/designer whose movement, medium is similar to the works you may want to create in the studio. Deciding which artist/designer to choose to be your Mentor is no easy task. (http://members.aol/co,/humger7/amentor.htm) Qualified in terms of academic preparation and other requirements by Art Institutions. S/he delivers short talks about a particular problem or lesson for artist/designer-learners to internalize before art/design production, but more so, a Studio facilitator. S/he is the major reference material for time honored art traditions, learning conversation, critiquing and the assessor for studio course activities and output.

The Mentor enjoys the freedom to determine and to put to work the studio course description and coverage in a manner s/he sees appropriate and useful. The Mentor sees fit with a studio course description to provide particular lessons and learning strategies her/his experience dictate. This includes the determination of the number of art/design production projects and the allocation for a reasonable time to finish them.

The Mentor’s studio locomotion is a specific body movement to get through and between and around the artist/design-learners positions to monitor progress of production. In addition, after the selection of models and props s/he is made to apply a self-imposed requirement to move forward, backward, sideways and around studio artifacts and even to far ends of the studio to assess its appropriate lighting, visual clarity, composition and overall presentation.

education of perception

time honored traditions

mentoring/tutoring

criticism

Furthermore, s/he is responsible for studio management and decorum that presupposes a certain level of “trust” among the (studio) members. Values of competitiveness that are deeply ingrained in traditional settings (that) hinder (artist/design)-learners to engage in free exchange of opinions with great comfort (are identified and explained by the Mentor.) (This is to allow artist/design-learners to create an attitude were one) can emotionally distance themselves from their (art projects) and consider external feedback as a valuable and somehow necessary source of information (to enable them) to benefit from this procedure. (Fiedler, 1999)

Education of Perception

What is it that The Studio and Art/Design Mentor provide artist/design-learners? They provide what traditional instruction does not. This is the education of perception critical and very significant in all studio activities and art/design production projects. It should be noted that teachers of art history, criticism, and aesthetics need a theory of perception as much as (Mentors) of studio courses. That is because perceptual modes are not given by nature; nor are they fixed forever. The laws of optics do not change, and the physiology of perception does not change, but viewers change in the way they “pay attention” to the deliverances of their senses. The (Mentor’s) goal of “educating the senses” is really a metaphor forperceptual education . (Feldman, 1996)

Perception as Seeing

Since Studio courses fall under a general category of visuality it is imperative what vision is all about. It is about the perception of seeing. The eye can only be sharply focused for one viewing distance at a time. Fixating and focusing on objects via eye movements and accommodation in mechanisms are, of course, only the initial, preparatory steps in the visual process. There remains the main task of detecting and discriminating all the visual complex information that the objects can present. Detecting and discriminating patterns are visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Visual acuity is defined technically as the highest spatial frequency you can detect. Good visual acuity permits you to identify small or far-away objects or object parts, read fine print, and the like. Contrast sensitivity refers to your capacity for discriminating differences in light intensity (light-dark differences). (Flavell, 1985)

Visual perception is the first and main faculty, among others, in the Studio. Understanding perception of seeing lead us how we capture images and relationships of these among objects and onto us. It is here that we are interpreters of images set before us. They are deeply rooted mimicry and by- and-large our sociality. For this reason, seeing must be meta-seeing and needs nourishment and coaching. This is our education of perception. It provides artist-learners a seeing through, learning through and knowledge through. It is very significant in ordering our knowledge and levels of processing information that art production require. It helps in metacognition and the self. When introduced it calls for a paradigm shift and becomes a learning style characterized by seeing, introspection and application of tropes.

Feldman has this to state;

We arrive, then, at a provisional definition of “knowledge-
through” art: it is a type of insight based on encountering the
embodied meaning of a particular object, place, process, or
event. This encounter has cognitive and educational significance
for two reasons. First, the meanings of the artwork has an
reference to facts which do not depend on our personal preferences
or biases: they can be confirmed by others. Second, the
significance of the work does not yield itself freely: it has to
elicited, and that calls for study or intellectual exertion. What
we learn is contingent on (1) the information carried in the
deep structure of the work; and (2) the quality of effort expended
by the learner (guided, our hopes, by a good (Art Mentor).

Knowing through art or design is education of perception. It is a deviation of seeing perception towards metaphoricity of objects and ideas. It is where relationship through tropology that we express affectively and cognitively our communications in art. All works of art are created and experienced in unique social, cultural and historical contexts. The Fine Arts, in all intent and reasons, reflect a human need to understand the world. The Fine Arts are used to express and communicate experiences, thoughts and feelings and to design objects and events which meet personal and social needs. (www.bced.gov.ca, 1995) This is our humanity embedded as meanings in works.

Time Honored Traditions

By Time Honored Traditions we refer to the artist’s practices that were handed down by artist/designer predecessors. These traditions, upon investigation, lead us to the notion that they were created to educate our perception.

It include the painter’s “rule of thumb” for perception optical measurement. With a full arm stretched and thumb up, the artist, with one eye open projects and imaginary linear projection ray to the upper thumb in line with the uppermost section of an object under study. The length of the object is measured along the lower parts of the thumb against the lower section of the object. With this the artist can optically measure object dimension. When the thumb is set sideways a comparison is made against object height with object width. This is repeated several times until an approximate optical measurement and proportion is perceived. This process is done for other objects as well particularly if such are clustered. The rule of thumb when modified applies to other objects other than the thumb to include the brush, pencil and a hard edge.

The camera obscura began as a dark room with a pinhole in one of its walls. When light rays entered an inverted image it is projected on opposite wall. As this developed, artists modified it by setting small rooms or boxes with pinhole on one face and the inverted projected image on the opposite face. The image projected was used as referent-image of the model in front of the artist. It is to promote a series of “systems” and “vision-training aids” for instruction, it allowed a student to view the original subject and the painting of it side-by-side to compare tone and composition. (J. & B. Wilgus, 2004) Today, the camera obscura translates to an imaginary glass plane visualized between model and artist. It is an invisible wall with imaginary grids for the artist to see the model in quadrants. Both the painter’s thumb and camera obscura are used in mimicry of representation.

For composing, the viewfinder for perception size-up and space selectivity is used. This is done by extending both arms with the thumbs and index fingers of both hands creating the letter L and are set one on top of the other. Here index fingers meet the thumbs to create a rectangular frame similar to the camera viewfinder. It is used to scan wide areas for representation and allows the artist to compositional locate sites. It frames the representation in similar and analogous relationship to the area of the canvas or paper.

The reverse perception by rear mirror ontic presentation for analysis. Here a finished work is place in front of a mirror. The reflected reverse image is then analyzed against the real work image. Comparison of both reflected image and real image for harmony and unity at all angles is then studied. When one image rejects harmony with the other image then the integrity of composition is questioned and solutions are made.

Other methods include eye squirting for light perception separation, Pythagorian geometry for analytic composition and sectioning for focusing subjects on foregrounds, the LeBrunian convention for portraiture, Titian’s green paint priming for portraiture and figure painting, and so on.

Furthermore, for acts of visualization examples may include: technique rendering for mind recall in representation for familiarization, characteristics, spacing and usage; exercises for clustering (visual brainstorming) and mapping (organizing ideas in words, symbols or both), and creating imagery as metaphoric tropes for fixed or interactive or expressive communication.

These traditions are techniques for the education perception and are useful in so many ways. It is part of artistic teaching strategy and learning for application by both artists and studio learners.

Mentoring/Tutoring

Learning Conversation can provide valuable support for learners who are just beginning to develop their skills for self-organized learning.(Fiedler, 1999) Here we identify mentoring/tutoring. Mentoring/tutoring is a dialogue between Art Mentor and Artist/Design-learner . It is very relative and individualized. It is a conversation directed by the Art/Design Mentor to assess levels of performance for art or design production procedures and stages for completion of Artist/designer-learner’s projects. This conversation allows artist/designer-learners to learn the specifics of a problem and apply solution.Mentoring/Tutoring is interventionism to provide alternative procedures and solutions to artist-learners.

Criticism

Critiquing is an assessment of an art or design project. It takes as lot of skills to examine a project. It is strategized in stages: 1. Identifying and describing, 2. Analyzing, 3. Interpreting, and 4) Making Comparative Judgment. (http://instructional.calstatela.edu/laa/aesthetics__2B.html).

This is usually done when the project is in progress, just before completion of a project and when the work is done. This compulsory (criticism) require students to obtain critical feedback on their prototyped (projects) or design outlines. This valuable source of information does allow the (artist/designer)-learners to monitor where they are in their learning and (project) process and what is left to do in the remaining time. (At this stage) emerging needs or problems might require the adjustment of the chosen learning strategy, elements of the tool contract, and time planning. (Fiedler, 1999) It involves descriptive and signification discourse in a dialogue with the artist/designer-learner. Critiquing, in differing situations, is generally a learning conversation or as assessment of a project towards a final score point. This particular stage is done when the work is done and submitted. In whatever case, it is both a learning and teaching strategy even after work is done and submitted. It helps the artist/designer-learner assess her/his output through answers in response to questions posed by the Art Mentor. Criticism, therefore, at the end is value-judgment.

For value-judgment to be pass on to a project it would take the Mentor his thorough artistic/design experience. Such experience cover intensive and extensive art/design production in recent past or at current levels, in depth knowledge of art/design theory, art/design philosophy and history of art and design as partial to his academic preparation within or above Arts or Design. Further, it embraces the knowledge of an unwritten art ethics and morals involving originals against forgeries, copies or appropriations, and morality involving technical integrity of material medium precluded in craft, professional ethics and licensure. Bad or dishonest craft is not only a matter of working with inferior materials, or by exercising in visual sleight-of-hand. Bad craft means making a dishonest artistic statement for someone else to believe, to possess, and to cherish. (Feldman, 1996) All these make up the conditions to pass on value-judgment or criticism.