200-Level Art: Perception and Notation (Writing-Intensive)


I think that it's important for students to know how to write in their discipline. I've changed this assignment four or five times over the semesters to refine it to get the students to write in different ways.--Lecturer Laura Ruby

Using the vocabulary of art helped me to add details to my descriptions and understand the concepts of my discipline. -- Student


The goals of the course are to teach the language of the discipline, the course content (light logic, color, mood, shadow and emotional tone), and writing skills.



Students are required to attend an art event in town (i.e. art exhibition, music concert, play, dance concert, film, or any other event approved by the instructor). They then write two three-page essays, describing the event in terms of light, mood, shadow, and color, while analyzing the event's visual elements and compositional structure. Students are to write the first essay addressed to someone who has not been to the art event and who is not familiar with art events in general, perhaps a cousin or a pen pal. Reviewing the same event, students are to write a second essay using common art language, characterizing the lighting and color relationships used in the art event.

The assignment takes the language of the course and applies it to some experience outside the classroom. I think it is important that students learn to analyze things outside the University setting. --Lecturer Laura Ruby
In order to fulfill the demands of this writing assignment, students are asked to:
  1. do freewriting after visiting the event to discover areas of interest, form ideas, organize field notes, and produce some sort of text with which to begin drafting;
  2. compose parallel drafts using the same subjects but different audiences;
  3. receive peer and teacher feedback on drafts before composing a final draft; and
  4. respond to other student texts in the setting of small groups.
The "On the Town" assignment was fun. We got to go out into the community, see an art event, and get credit for it.--Student

The purpose of this assignment is to foster student writing, to give students a working knowledge of art terminology, and to get students to think and write like artists. This writing assignment links many writing activities into one project. The assignment presents an opportunity for students to engage in activities in their field of study. The use of parallel drafts enables students to see the differences between specialized and non-specialized language and forms.

Doing the drafts helped me to practice writing (and clean it up) before turning it in for a grade.--Student

Students are required to maintain journals throughout the semester. Topics for journals include light logic, shadow, value, and color as well as definitions of important art terms. Some journal entries require multiple drafts, while others incorporate artwork with written text. All journal assignments require students to use and grapple with art terminology, and all journal entries correspond with lectures, student artwork, or other written assignments, allowing students to explore or reflect on course content. Students are responsible for a journal presentation at the end of the semester, recapping a term's worth of entries addressed to self and peers. Also, students learn and explore new and important art terms each week.

This assignment changed the way I will view an art event in the future. Instead of viewing for entertainment only, I now look at the creator's intent as far as color, mood, shadow, and light is concerned.--Student

These journals in part serve as a prelude to the "in town" essays:

  1. the concepts explored and articulated in the journals are the same concepts students will be describing nd reviewing in the essays;
  2. the journals afford students an opportunity to practice writing; and
  3. topics for the "in town" essays are taken from the journals.
Doing this writing assignment has given me confidence in writing.--Student