Transition from Traditional Classroom to Online school at Home

When I first decided to obtain my Master of Fine Art degree, I realized that I was going to have to deal with several challenges.  The first was the cost of the schooling and the other was location.  Since I was not able to live in an area where a MFA program was available, I had to decide to do this online or else give up my quest for a higher degree.  So I snuffled about the Internet trying to figure out what school was the best choice and which one had the accreditation that I was concerned about.  I have no idea if I will remain in my current location, so I needed to be flexible, so the online choice was good, but I also wanted a school that had the reputation that I could possible transfer credits from if a traditional in class setting could be obtained in the future.

Frustration coming to the surface like a boxer

Then my next concern was if I would be able to adjust to online art courses.  Being in a class room where other students are working on projects, one can learn to gage if one is on track with what the professor wants or not.  It is also enjoyable to learn and be inspired by one’s fellow students and this is not really all that possible in an online setting.  It can be rather cold and mechanical unlike the traditional setting where one can feel the energy of enthusiasm or frustration in the air.  Either way, it guides the artist and builds a knowledge based upon experience .  The first thing I learned was that written communication on the teacher’s part is vital.  I have already encountered lessons that are not clear, and I would finish reading  and then re-reading wondering if I clearly understood what was expected of me, so one has to wait and email the professor for clarification, which can be to said the least is annoying or frustrating if you are all ready and excited about getting something done right then and there.  It’s like putting a race horse in a starting gate and then pulling him out after him being in there with all the other horses for five minutes just chomping on the bit wanting to get going.  It kills the enthusiasm.  So this too has been a major adjustment.  I have to prepare myself for a potential let down each time I sit down to read the next lesson plan.

But probably the worst of my difficulties so far has been the realization that the teacher really has no real knowledge of who I am and cannot appreciate me as a person who is struggling and striving to be  better.  I am just a picture, a short bio, and a response on a computer screen.  I have hit a point in my class where I need that masterful mentor’s reassurance that I can learn this and that I do have talent.  I have just recently realized that my undergraduate training is very different and perhaps almost the opposite of what I am being taught now.  Here are some examples of how my art minor’s courses went in contrast to my current graduate studies in Art.  My old teachers were very much against anyone working from photographs and their attitude was that it was not really your own artwork unless you changed something from the photograph image.  You had to make it your own according to them or else it was some kind of cheat.  Imagine my frustration when I received a B instead an A for a drawing project because the shadow lines on the ground and the automobile in the driveway were not exact.  I was not trained to make pictures look exactly like a photo because the previous teachers felt it was somehow a cheat or the stealing of a photographer’s work.  A direct confrontation between older training verses newer training methods.  I am also experiencing other problems such as when I first learned how to gesture draw in college, we did not do the mannequin style of blocking in areas of the body.  We did the other techniques and we were encouraged to make the lines dark  and bold, and we were also told not to be afraid to make a mark on the paper.  Make darker and bolder lines. And don’t touch the eraser!  Now I am being told to make the lines light after years of being told to make them darker and heavier.

I feel like tearing my hair out.  Will I be able to adjust to this different school mindset?   Was my old art educational experience invalid?  Do I know anything?  Am I ready or even qualified to be in a graduate level art courses?

When I think about my previous drawing instructors, the ones I recall the most were both intelligent and very capable artists, but their style was more relaxed and neither of them were mainly drawing instructors.  One fellow was an amazing print making instructor while the other man was the ceramics teacher mostly.  Who was the drawing instructor!?!  I can’t recall any professor being designated as such. I am now questioning the strength of the drawing instruction that I received.  I also recall very much that realism was almost considered a dirty word at my previous university experience.  Most of the work that hung on the student gallery walls were impressionistic works of art.  Some of which I could hardly call art.

I feel lost.  I feel as if I have lost my foundation and I have no place to stand anymore.   What do I do?

I will certainly finish the drawing course, but is it worth me going on for another class?  I have already signed up and paid my non-refundable fees for the fall semester.  Is this going to be a colossal waste of time and money?

I am definitely worried

♥ P.S. – After composing this blog, I contacted my drawing professor and she really assured me that my frustration was a sign that I was learning and that the grading system at the school is tougher than regular schools.   I felt very relieved after receiving her kind and very re-assuring response.  She too said it was a big transition for her to go from a traditional classroom setting to an online system.  So if you find yourself in the same situation, contact your teacher and tell them your concerns.

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Gretchen Winkler is a Writer, Artist, Radio Show Co-Host, Costume Designer, and ordered Knight. For the past 20 years she has authored several informational websites, started several technical companies, and has been an avid student of art, literature, history, technology.

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Posted in Art, Online Study

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