Art History and Appreciation is boring….or is it?
Is it really that dull?
When going to art school or taking classes I note they give a lot of attention to the old masters. Art history and it’s appreciation is often a requirement. This is understandable, for knowing where we come from is important.
But how many of us truly have started art because of them? In my case, inspiration came from elsewhere and only later did it lead me to an appreciation of it’s history.
Art of the Story
My love of horses came from books I read and movies I saw. This means that illustrators, writers and movie makers had an impact long before I realized they were artists in their own right. A peacefully grazing horse or one napping in it’s stall is lovely. But the ones rearing, galloping, leaping and playing are the ones that seem the most alive. To me, they are art in motion in and of themselves. Some films like The Black Stallion revealed this in full glory.
Art of the Movie
As a fan of science fiction I only gradually realized that my beloved Star Wars had to start in an art studio. Without Ralph McQuarrie’s designs, it may never have come to pass. Artists painted backgrounds, built models and invented an entire industry for special effects. Some of these same artists went on to create Photoshop and the modern software that now creates art in 3D. And where would it be without the awesome movie poster art of Drew Struzan?
Art of the Game
Video games are created, in part by artists and I am highly and personally aware they are on target in their ideas about education and games. I recall flunking lessons in how to read music in grade school. Yet I started to get the hang of it playing a video game version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I never did finish the game, but I did learn to read music enough to play the right tune on the skulls! Amazing what a difference the approach makes. I couldn’t learn for the grade, I doubt if you offered me money I could get it. Somehow getting Indy through to that tomb helped me learn it!
Art History meets them all and becomes more appealing.
Finally, full circle I’ve come to notice art history, not just through art classes but through TV and the movies. A few odd artists are more intriguing when encountered by a very young Indiana Jones. An episode where Doctor Who meets Van Gogh suddenly makes the man come alive in a way the old school story of ‘he’s the guy that cut off his ear’ never did. Then there is my favorite show White Collar. Take and FBI agent and his ‘former’ art forger criminal consultant, set them loose in New York solving art heists and the like and the whole world of art history and museums has an all new appeal. Their accuracy is questionable: this is fiction after all. Sometimes they use real artists, sometimes they invent them. But the real point is not whether it’s true. It’s the fact that they got my attention and aroused my interest in the first place.
Tapping into what’s already there.
Is it just me changing? I don’t really think so. I think it’s always been true, that if you plug the subject to be learned into what a person is already interested in, it engages in a way that would otherwise be dry and boring. As my growing curiosity about art history leads me around the web I’ve definitely noticed who seems to be tapping in and who doesn’t and how.
Art Galleries Online
Some art galleries have gone highly interactive. A look at the Google Art Project. It can take you to museums around the world many of us will never have a chance to set foot in. Some have podcasts or videos online. Some have interactive games or tools to study certain artworks or artists.
Others still have the most boring, bland websites with tiny print and navigation that certainly doesn’t take account for people who might have trouble seeing it. They may be easier on an older computer in general, but they are definitely a turn off in comparison. The odd thing is the great stuff is usually for kids. Why is it the world thinks adults want a ‘dull’ approach? Why can’t it be fun no matter what your age?
A few cool Art Galleries online:
So now I’m gradually coming to know who of the old masters I like and why, what mediums I’d like to try even if I have to imitate them on the computer. I love drawing and am willing to try drawing nearly anything. But I could do horses with my eyes closed and in my sleep. As for my writing, well, it’s no surprise I’ve written Star Wars and White Collar fanfics and I love their websites. I’ve written other science fiction but I’ve yet to try and publish it.
Warning: Creative License may bend the facts.
And then there is that little catch to all this. If you are going to tap into these interests – learning through pop culture can’t end there. Don’t assume pop culture did it’s homework. Pocohantas and Mulan are wonderful female heroes. But Disney’s version isn’t exactly full of truth. The movies, games, TV and historical fiction are a springboard to look deeper. These aren’t flat words on a page or a cardboard picture painted by some guy way back when. They were real people and events with lives and loves, fears, mental illness and physical and economic challenges. That’s the part that’s inspiring. How many of them would imagine our world today? How many would dare dream it’s technology? Would they dare even imagine the prices their work would sell for or the things we would say? Would they be amazed at how much we know or fall over laughing at how far from the truth we had come?
What are your inspirations?
Here are a sites for some of mine that include games, episodes, forums and all sorts of interactivity.
*Note – Remember when doing fan art or fan fiction it is not something you can legally sell. Making money off of it violates copyright law. It makes great practice and can be shared for free fun among your fellow fans. But please remember the actors, writers and artists of these shows too, are out there to earn a living. We wouldn’t want them to stop our favorite show to earn money waiting tables. At least, I wouldn’t!*