The Importance of Foundations Classes / by Chris Hall

Joseph Beuys, teaching.

Joseph Beuys, teaching.

"Craft is about right and wrong, preserving tradition, not reinventing the wheel. The teaching of craft in art school tends to create artist-technicians who so clearly know what is right and what is wrong that they will never do it the really fucked up/interesting/revolutionary way. Craft dulls the potential MakerThinker. It creates false security and throws up barriers to understanding. Craft is conservative."  Deborah Fisher


I disagree with Deborah Fisher.  Learning the formal elements of composition, form, line, value, color, etc. is useful no matter what field or art medium you chose to practice in the future.  If the artist is put into this world with the innate desire to construct a world of their own, what tools are they going to use for this construction?  Foundations classes gives students those tools.  Even if you pursue a conceptual path, void of aesthetic considerations, it is still helpful to know art language and terminology, as well as develop visual critical skills.  Joseph Beuys realized this, and while his later life practice was primarily of a conceptual nature, he always maintained that his students should have drawing classes.  It is better to think of foundations classes not just as a boot camp for technical skills, but also a place where one can begin to exercise critical creative thought.  How are you supposed to break the rules if you do not know what they are first?  Craft and technical ability is not conservative; it is a stepping stone necessary for future progress.