Reflective Essay

So my Coursera class on the history of art is just about over. I really enjoyed it and learned much more than art history. I think the assignments were the most helpful in bringing enlightenment to my own work, not because of the artwork created, but because of the evaluations and the evaluating process. Feedback is always welcome (when it’s constructive), but I learned that giving feedback can be just as helpful. The final assignment of the course was to write a reflective essay on just that. Here is mine:

The very first required assignment of this course opened my eyes to the need for me to question what I’m doing in my creative work and why I make the choices I make.

The first required assignment had to do with objects and the frame of presentation. I sit near a large bay window when at my computer, and it is divided into 15 squares, or “frames.” I had a flash of inspiration that somehow it might be interesting to include one of those frames in my picture, because it would work as three frames: a frame for the submission, a frame for the objects I put thereĀ , and a frame for the yard behind it. I have to admit, I didn’t really think much beyond that. I decided to include my hand holding one of the objects and make it a sort of symbolic self-portrait, but honestly, my choices were not that carefully considered.

When I gave feedback on the assignment, I enjoyed seeing the different ideas submitted, and I really liked looking at them carefully enough to ask questions or to verbalize what I noticed first and what I noticed only after further consideration. The part of the feedback where I had to describe exactly what I saw, though, that seemed kind of pointless… until I read how others described what I had submitted.

Reading the descriptions was a little bit like seeing a photograph of a scene you took and noticing all the extra stuff you didn’t mean to get, or realizing that something unintended was the focus rather than what you’d been trying to capture. So I discovered how helpful that feedback was after all.

Then the questions, the things people noticed (or didn’t)… well, that gave me a much clearer idea of my intention, or in this case, the lack of intention. Why did I put those items together as I did? What did I want the audience to see? What was the point?!

Which now takes me to our first sketchbook assignment: What is art to me, as it should be? and what is it to others? I believe that after this course, I am clearer in my own mind about maybe what art should be –what my art should be. First and foremost, it should matter. It should have a point. It should be considered enough to where everything is intentional. When I sit down to make art, I should have at least a starting idea of what this exploration is. As I am writing this, I am running through my mind of things I’ve made in the past. Was it as unintentional as I fear it was? Perhaps not. But perhaps the more meaningful work did have rather more intention. I am not sure yet. This is a question I am going to ponder further.