Please note that my responses to this feedback are in italics at the end of the report.
This is a competent second assignment. You have clearly spent time on this submission and have produced some interesting material, showing evidence of more articulate observation.
You have also demonstrated a more secure grasp of appropriate referencing conventions, but it is worth looking at the new guide on Harvard Referencing available via the OCA student site.
Try to demonstrate your interpretive skills more and show further evidence of a developing critically evaluative and self-reflexive learning narrative. Systematically appraise key creative ideas and debates (extrapolate further on your research).
Given that you have found the process of note-taking difficult, the following suggestions may help you to reduce the amount of notes that you take:
Active reading: The mistake we often make when taking notes is that we write everything down because we don’t really know what we are looking for. You can improve your note-taking efficiency by taking some time to consider what you are looking for before you dive into a book. Setting goals for your searching can point you in the right direction, restricting the amount of material that you need to read.
Prioritising information: You can begin to cut down on the amount of notes that you take by staying focused. Read with a clear purpose and only answer the questions you have set yourself. Don’t be side-tracked by irrelevant information!
Different ways of taking notes: There are different ways of taking notes and what works well for one person might not suit another. Your notes must be useful to you. You should use a method that suits you and that you will be able to interpret later on. Here are some ideas which will help you to decide which note-taking style is best for you: short prose summary; numbered points or a structured list; linear notes – underline main ideas, indent subheadings; mind maps/pattern notes/spider diagrams; your own versions of shorthand (commonly used words etc.).
Once you have established your reading goals, you can choose the style of reading most suited to your task. The following types of reading are all commonly used, and you will probably recognise them. The SQ3R strategy might be unfamiliar to you but is a very useful technique for reading in the academic context.
a) Skimming: Skimming involves going through a text rapidly, probably at two or three times your normal reading speed, and being selective in what you read. It is a useful technique for deciding whether or not you are going to use a text. To skim effectively, remember to look at the index, chapter headings, introductory and concluding paragraphs.
b) Scanning: Scanning is a style of reading that is more targeted than skimming. It is used when you know exactly what you are looking for, for example when you are looking through a text for key words or phrases. When you use the scanning style, you must remember to be flexible because an author might not use exactly the same keywords as you. Be prepared to think around your topic.
c) Receptive reading: This style is used when you need a good, general understanding of a text or to discover accurately what has been written. It may also be used to prompt you to think creatively and reflectively. When reading receptively, you need to pay close attention to the text, perhaps allowing for periods in which to reflect upon what you have read. You work through the text in sequence, at a moderate speed. This style also allows plenty of time for you to make appropriate notes.
d) SQ3R: SQ3R is a technique that can involve all of the above reading styles. It stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review. Survey: Quickly look for basic information using the contents list, index, main heading etc. Question: Note down the questions that you want answered to keep your reading active and purposeful. Read: Vary your reading style and speed to identify and read the section which will help you to answer your questions. Make brief notes, if this will help. Recall: Try to answer your questions without looking at the notes you have made or the reading material. Review: Look back over the text to check if your information is accurate.
I understand your aim is to go for the Textiles Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment. In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.
Feedback on assignment
It was good to see you using the suggested headings to help you, but rather than producing two sets of notes for each chapter, try to condense your material into one set of comments per section.
Greek Art: In addition to thinking about the polis and its organisation, you covered topics such as the borrowing from Near Eastern and Egyptian art, and the quest by artists to achieve real human proportions and postures (ref. the Geometric Period through to the development of the anatomical canon of proportions in the High Classical Period).
Think a bit more about the importance in Greek culture of representing mythological figures and deities in idealized form, or the development of the notion of humanism (an ideological approach centred on the immense potential of the human being to achieve greatness, particularly in the arts and sciences). You could relate the Greek study of the human form to the idealized proportions of Greek architecture (Phidias, for example, and his efforts at the Parthenon).
Try to expand on the emergence of the named artist. I.e. it is through Greek art that we witness for the first time in the Western art historical canon a sudden profusion of artists signing their works, suggesting a newfound pride-of-place in being a respected artist.
Roman Art: Your reference to art as a status symbol was good, and it might be worth relating this more closely to the attitudes of Romans towards artists. (I.e. the prestige of artists was inevitably raised by the demand of the rich to possess works of art of high technical merit.) Think about how the decoration of Roman houses in the early imperial period was closely linked to the development of the art trade. Wealthy Romans employed connoisseurs who advised them on the appropriate kinds of sculpture and painting for their gardens and houses. Enormous prices were paid for works of art and even for sketches by the most famous painters.
You referred to both Plato and Aristotle but consider also the justification for imitative art, Roman portrait styles (realism vs. idealism), or the changes in wall paintings (from perspectival vistas and panoramas toward an attenuation of architectural elements and a respect for the inherent flatness of the wall).
The wide variety of Roman buildings (baths, theatres, temples) is significant in terms of the theme of Roman urbanism, so you might like to explore further the transformation of temples that are based on Greek and Etruscan prototypes, to something like the Pantheon. Reflect on the impact of Roman architecture on the architecture of post-classical times. E.g. how the Roman basilica became the Christian church.
Medieval Art: There are a few themes worth stressing in relation to medieval art, including the fusion of Mediterranean Christian and native pagan traditions, and the selective survival of artefacts.
In terms of the status of artists, it is worth restating that a medieval work of art is likely to display an artisan’s technical skills rather than their personal idiosyncrasies, preferences, and proclivities. Today’s concept that artistic innovation and the expression of individual artistic style are intrinsically desirable was unfamiliar to the people of the Middle Ages. Instead, creativity, with only the rarest exceptions, was obscured by a social system that favoured anonymity. Fine materials and skilled technical execution were valued above innovation. The person who would today be called an artist was regarded as an artisan practicing a craft. Even at the close of the Middle Ages, painters still did not enjoy the high social status they would achieve in the Renaissance.
Think about the impact of the Cluniac Order on the development of Romanesque architecture and sculpture, and technical innovations or experiments. Drawing on your reading of A World History of Art, have a look at this extract from the Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture and see whether you agree: “Before Saint-Denis Abbey, builders generally simply borrowed features, more or less unchanged, from other building projects. In the generations that followed Saint-Denis Abbey, when builders borrowed elements, they increasingly integrated them into the total design.”
You recorded the application of flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, pointed arches, tracery, and stained glass in the Early, High and Late Gothic periods, but consider the impact of these more complex design solutions and the new disciplined regularity.
*Use a range of sources – do not rely on websites.
General: To help you develop your observations take a look at the following:
o The rhythm and balance of masses
o The proportions
o The weight shift (enhancing the realism of the pieces and implying the concept of movement)
What are the most significant lines in these works? What are the major geometric and human shapes, and how are they used? Look at the modelling of the flesh – is it vigorous? How is it deepened and varied? How do the figures respond to the modern fixation on ‘core’ abdominal-muscle definition? (Are the groin lines incised? Do the hips protrude as they should?) Are any other devices used to convey a sense of the concomitant shifts and motions within the human body?
In terms of your study of the Discobolus, think about its feeling for the dramatic moment, the manipulation of opposites (ref. top half of the statue is smooth and open; the bottom half closed and angular), and how convincing
the movement is. (Ancient critical opinion noted that while motion and muscle are depicted beautifully, the face is without life or expression, too calm and relaxed for the tension of the body.) Your reference to the sense of harmony and balance (rhythmos/symmetria) was good, as was your note on the twist of the body, and Myron’s original bronze statue.
In examining the Seated Bronze Boxer (or the Terme Boxer), you identified how, in treating a traditional theme, the sculptor has approached it in a novel way. So you looked at fascinating details such as the many scars/scratches and blood drops on the boxer’s face (represented by inlaid copper), his broken nose, and swollen ears (i.e. the sculptor intended the piece to be a narrative of emotion). You also mentioned the powerful hands wrapped in leather thongs. Note that this figure is a heavily battered, defeated veteran whose upward gaze (and pitiful expression) may have been directed at the man who had just beaten him. (There is speculation that at one time the figure formed part of a group.)
In examining how the statue exhibited the highest grade of technical skill, you might have looked at the style (ref. exploration of reality/new experimentation and freedom), how the sculpture is soldered together from eight separately cast segments, or the ‘Herculean’ frame. Similarly, a brief note on the original purpose of the work could have been added. (It may have been a votive statue, dedicated by a boxer at Olympia or elsewhere, or it may be that this boxer is not an actual person at all, and that the statue belongs to the domain of genre.)
Note: You are encouraged to try and compare one annotation with the other.
St Mary’s Church, Derby
This exercise required a detailed account of both stylistic and formal qualities. More specifically, you were invited to consider the way that churches are built, and why they look the way they do. Your recognition of the salient features of the Gothic (Perpendicular) architectural tradition was relevant as to the facts, and included a solid historical overview which referred to Pugin. The longer record of your visit on your blog (augmented by your use of images) was very detailed and a strong piece of work.
Although you were limited to 500 words, it would have been good to see you examine more rigorously the evolution and interrelation of forms. To show off your existing observational skills to greater advantage I would recommend transferring some of your material from your in-depth account of your visit to your analysis. (E.g. your reference to the aesthetic delight vs. devotion conflict [carved/grotesque figures] and aspects such as the pointed arches,
Presenting factual material: Try to analyse as you describe – the reader should get a sense of the way you are thinking through the topic and your ability to reflect critically on the various sources you are engaging with. Make connections between the formal facets of the building/painting/sculpture, and the larger issues of context and personal response or point of view.
the rood screen, and the sacristy containing an interpretation of Michelangelo’s Pietà.)
A few further remarks on the stained glass windows would have been useful. Think about the society within which these images were created and consumed, and how the physical effects of stained glass had theological meaning (i.e. transformation of natural light into mystical lux nova). (Perhaps the most important function of these images was the creation of a theologically rich stage setting for the regular performance of Eucharistic theatre.) Try to assess the notion that stained glass was conceived and produced as a substitute text for the ignorant/ illiterate, providing them with a so-called ‘Bible of the Poor’ (acting as a lens, an educational tool).
How was the building appropriate to its purpose? Review and expand on any visual ‘clues’ you might have picked up on that helped you in discerning stylistic aids to devotion or spiritual edification.
Learning Logs or Blogs
Your learning blog is an important element of the course. It is the place where you should be recording the story of your development through the course as evidenced by: your writings on art; your engagement with questions of art theory; your reflections on how what you have learned is relevant to you and how you will use the new information in the future; your notes on the extent to which your learning objective has been achieved; the processes you have been through. (As I mentioned in my previous feedback, include a range of materials on your blog – notes on articles, perhaps sketches/creative responses to topics.)
Your reflective comments were good, and I would encourage you to weave more of this type of material into your blog (via regular posts) as you work through the course. (Just avoid tipping over into a diary extract format.) When reviewing your work against the assessment criteria, make sure that you show how you are covering the components of contextual understanding (knowledge and understanding), and synthesising information to develop your interpretations. (I would encourage you to demonstrate more of your critical thinking skills when looking at sources. I.e. Identify assumptions, evaluate issues/evidence, and draw conclusions.)
You incorporated some useful and perceptive reflections on your drawings of classical figure sculptures and their value in recording insights. Did you have time to accurately observe and understand the figures? How did you reduce the difficult puzzle of lines, value shapes, and anatomical landmarks into simple marks, so as to tackle and control the figures?
Your notes on your visit to the Ashmolean and selected artworks were interesting. In terms of the Augustus of Prima Porta try to think a bit more about the contrapposto pose and the gesture of the right hand (making an address or adlocutio), which abruptly breaks the overall rhythm of the stance. Look at how the statue adopts features from the Doryphoros of Polykleitos – in Roman times, figures of the Doryphoros were regarded as images of the
Greek hero Achilles. (I.e. Augustus was to be conceived as a “Roman Achilles” in the statue.)
Your reference to the jewellery on display from ancient Greece and Rome, specifically the pomegranate pendants, was good. (The pomegranate was associated with both Aphrodite and Persephone, the goddesses of love and of death, thereby making it one of the most versatile and suitable symbols to be used in jewellery which, we must not forget, served both as adornment for the living and as grave goods for the dead.)
In mentioning a black-figure amphora, you might like to refer to the technique involved. Black-figure was a cumbersome, restricted and quite artificial technique, but it is worth trying to spell out the ways in which the examples you saw testify to the variety of effects and the forcefulness of expression that it nonetheless permitted.
Your sections on both the Roman occupation and medieval architecture in your area were comprehensive.
Beard, M. & Henderson, J. (2001) Classical Art: From Greece to Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Kleiner, D. E. E. (1994) Roman Sculpture. London: Yale University Press
Scott, R. A. (2011) The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral (2nd Revised edition). California: University of California Press
Looking ahead to Assignment 3:
Baxandall, M. (1988) Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy (2nd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press
Pointers for the next assignment
Think about concepts, values and debates, and continue to develop your technical analysis on your selected images (style, technique and what they reveal about art) to balance your iconographic information.
Try to produce a ‘dialogue’ between the artworks you are studying and your observations and critical evaluations of them.
Focus on keeping your notes succinct (they should show that you are proficient at assessing the critical points).
Discuss new ideas on your blog.
My first response to this was relief as this assignment had been a major personal hurdle for me to get over – I had been very unsure about what I was doing as I have never studied the subject before and also had to work out at least some method with my note taking. About a third of the way through the assignment something finally ‘clicked’ and I began to really enjoy the subject and to get a basic idea of what was required and just had to hope that it would be what was required so the feedback was both very encouraging and incredibly useful for future assignment work.
My tutor’s first set of notes in the feedback was about my aforesaid problems with note taking and with suggestions of how to read and take notes – this will be kept on hand and I will be trying the different methods to see which works for me.
Further I think the fact that the feed back was on the whole very positive and with notes about points I could have included or pointers to look for has been very useful – I am aware I am still very much learning the subject and have been unsure about how much my own point of view is required or what exactly I should be concentrating on or looking for.
Assessment potential – this I fully admit to being thrilled about the fact that my tutor feels I could pass assessment with some work so now feel the need to keep both this feed back and my last one even more to hand than perhaps I had initially thought I would have to and to take on board, and more importantly, act on the advice given.
Greek Art – the comment are interesting particularly as I gave my fiance a book on Greek myths for Christmas last year and which I am now taking note of considering the images portray the mythological figures in the idealized form mentioned but I confess to totally forgetting about this book! The notion of humanism is one at the time I was unsure about in the sense of understanding but am starting to get to grips with at last and can now begin to relate it to architecture. Since receiving the feedback I have done my first drawing of a figure other than statues and the idea was to take the measurement of the head and divide the height of the overall figure into ‘heads’ and this then sorted out the correct proportions as can be seen below:
The figure is done from a photograph and the little girl is 5 heads tall whereas adults are usually around 7 – 8 apparently and this measurement may even have been one used in classical times. Now I understand through doing this study in tone and shading for my textiles sketchbooks how the proportions of the figure were used in the aforesaid architecture and I will make further more detailed notes in a separate blog. Part of doing this sketch was also to force me to look at the figure more closely as if I was looking at a statue or other sculpture and notice how the tones of the skin and think about how they could be represented in sculpture as well as paintings.
The named artist is one I was again unsure of how to expand on as there are so few signed works surviving but I also understand the importance in historical terms through being able to identify a specific artist and also therefore where he worked and the other factors that would have surrounded him or her at the time. My research I don’t feel was thorough enough in this field but I also was only just starting to understand how everything fitted together and how all the different factors had a direct effect on the artist – I now want to take note of my tutor’s comment and to read one of the recommended books (Classical Art: From Greece to Rome) which I have already purchased and to do as suggested and expand further in order to understand more about the importance of the artists signing their work.
Regarding each of the chapters I have added additional notes regarding this feedback in the appropriate blogs.
Roman Art: I do totally understand all the points made in the feedback and in particular how the trade would have effected the decoration of the houses and can also relate this to the villa that I visited. Regarding the connoisseurs employed I am now thinking about how the decorations of the villas and gardens would have been affected by different cultural influences in the far reaches of the empire such as Britain – surely the influence of local trade would have effected the opinions on what would have suited the gardens and homes as it does in modern times? the climate of the various countries must also have had direct effect and the connoisseurs would have to take this into account too. The works of art that were so expensive that decorated these houses or villas has comparisons with the works of art that decorate the large country estates of our modern aristocracy.
The above points raised in both the Greek and Roman feedback have given me questions that without doubt have made me think further and will ask in my future assignments – these are questions I had asked myself already but were unsure of the importance of them and think this is what I need to start making clearer notes on i.e. my own questions that arise right at the start and my own opinions on the matter with the answers given in a balanced way and with appropriate references.
This then goes on to ask me to consider justification for imitative art – I have never realised how much idealism is imitative but it makes perfect sense as you are imitating literally the ideal in much the same way as a cartoon character may be the idealised princess or masculine figure. Considering too justification for portrait styles or changes in wall art is also going to make me read more closely and think about answers – why does the wall art change and what purpose do the different styles serve? one question leads to another I guess but I am aware I need to be careful to consider what questions I ask and how important the questions are in relation to the topic studied without getting bogged down.
The paragraph relating to the architecture is of huge interest – pointing out how the temples changed is something that is so noticeable because of the impact on post-classical times that I feel it is something I missed perhaps because it is almost too obvious! That impact I remember reading about regarding the Frigidarium of the Baths of Diocletian that consequently became a church so therefore I realise it was not just basillicas that were converted but other important buildings too and this impact is clearly worth noting and realising as that in turn had further impact during post-classical times.
Medieval Art: I again understand all the points made and in particular the facts relating to works of art displaying the technical skills rather than personal idiosyncrasies – a strange concept when thinking about artists today whose work is individual to them and can be recognised by exactly those preferences etc. For me as a textiles student I can understand this point more as when I look at the works there are not the features that define individual artists but rather how the skills and materials used as mentioned in the notes. I also take note of the first point of the fusion of Christian and pagan traditions – as a Catholic but with pagan interests this of particular fascination and one that I am curious about and am making a point to do further research on this.
Annotated Images: in brief this and the section on note taking is where I am most grateful as all the points made both make sense and I understand how to use them for my next annotations plus in addition I am starting to understand the sort of questions I need to be asking myself. The annotations have been amended in accordance with this feedback with additional notes added.
Interesting by doing the personnel sketch posted above I also understand more deeply the points on the moment captured or the movement of the sculpture or figure painting. I am also now aware I need to think about for what purpose the piece of work was done for – in my sketch I am aware the little girl was posing in the living room proudly but my sketch does not show the surroundings in the same way that a sculpture in a museum does not show where it was displayed and you do not get a sense of why it was done. I am aware I need to think about the patron too – why did they commission the work and were there other sculptures or paintings done to be displayed alongside it? this point is raised about the Boxer perhaps being part of a group and again referring to my own sketch I could have done a series on the little girl and someone in the future could find them and ask why they were done.
The points on looking at the style is also one I need to make careful note of along with the aforesaid purpose – it is thinking about these questions I know I need to concentrate on.
As a point of note the little girl sketched was posing very happily for her Mum when she was about aged 3 and the observation skills acquired doing this sketch (although I am not happy about her face!) were all the more important because the sketch was done on her 16th birthday and her name is Erin and my not-so-little girl now … I mention this because I know the story behind the sketch in just the same way as the original artist knew the story behind their work or the patron who commissioned it and I now want to consider my research in perhaps a different way i.e. that of an observer through a window and asking questions that I need to work out the answers for.
Analysis of St Mary’s Church – like all the feedback above I really do understand the points made and it has raised questions that I know I need to ask. I particularly take note of the fact I need to analyse as I describe and this makes total sense – but I need to analyse with the knowledge of restriction on words so to pick my points carefully.
I am aware of needing to make connections between the points too because this was something I was worried I hadn’t been doing and was unsure just how much of my own point of view I could include.
The stained glass windows I don’t think I mentioned enough because their level of detail was so great and their impact so huge I found it difficult to put that into words in my handwritten notes but now am aware if I feel that is the case I need to get it down in my log by whatever means I need to – maybe the technical terms will be of use to enable me to do that along with all the points on note taking too.
Again there are notes of questions I could ask and these have been added to my list – as I state above I need to be aware of the right questions and how to ask them.
Learning Logs or Blogs – I found the feedback really helpful and informative as I am still very much learning how to do this and getting to grips with what to include and what is required. Including more sketches or creative responses to topics is of interest as I am starting to find my sketchbook work becoming more important as it is helping so much with observation and I am now really starting to look at a range of materials too.
Doing more regular posts and also how to review against the assessment criteria are both really useful feedback points that I am taking on board – I was unsure exactly how to do the latter so now I have that guidance I can work from. Demonstrating more of my critical thinking skills is probably an area I will find easy but at the same time daunting to do – I think I have held back on this because as I have mentioned above I have been unsure how much I should do this but at the same time am gradually gaining in confidence.
UPDATE: January 2017: At this point I am preparing for assessment and I believe I have come to fully understand the importance of showing my knowledge and understanding as well as synthesising information which helps develop my interpretations and understand exactly what my tutor meant although at the time I confess now to feeling a little overwhelmed and lacking in understanding!
The other points on my reflections on my drawings with the questions asked again give me insight into further questions I can ask in my sketchbook work and future annotations and the same applies to the points about my visits and references to particular pieces of art. I did not feel at the time I had sufficient time to accurately observe and understand the figures due to being limited by time constraints. However I tried to simplify the figures into simple lines rather than trying to achieve what for me is the impossible i.e. to draw an accurate and detailed representation of the sculptures which is just beyond my drawing abilities – I wanted to achieve a resemblance that was within my capabilities and in this way controlled the way in which I sketched.
Overall as I have typed this I have realised the advice given has been more than superb and incredibly informative and I have got to be confident in asking questions and putting down my own personal opinions. I am keep the pointers for my next assignment pinned next to my desk along with this feedback as a whole too so I can refer back to it where necessary as well as a reminder of the two research points and additional blogs that I wish to do.
I have invested in 3 of the recommended books both for further reading and am starting to slowly read them – I am still at this point finding the next assignment a little daunting as I freely admit it is not my favoured period but have managed to find some interesting library books that will undoubtedly help too.
Biggest note mentioned above to keep in mind – keep notes succinct including for next feedback!