Liberal arts colleges and universities often encourage or require students to take fine arts courses as a part of their core or elective requirements. The benefits of art in education have been written about extensively, including by yours truly here and here on this blog. All art courses challenge students to think critically and explore their creativity, but each course may achieve these goals in very different ways. When signing up for classes, non-art students sometimes find the course options intimidating and are left wondering which course to take.
The following are three common art course options for non-artists and what to expect to learn in them.
One of the first art skills that almost everyone learns from a young age is how to draw, but don’t expect to dig through a box of crayons or markers in a college level drawing course. Drawing is a foundational skill for art majors, so drawing classes are often very technical and rigorous.
That isn’t to say drawing courses aren’t rewarding, though!
There are a variety of different types of drawing skills that students will typically learn such as perspective, contour, and gesture. Each skill teaches the drawer how to see and interpret real life objects and scenes onto a piece of paper. If you find yourselves doodling on the edge of your notes in other classes, perhaps taking a drawing class is the choice for you!
Photography is one of the most popular art classes for non-majors to take. After all, almost everyone carries a camera around in their pocket nowadays.
A photography student will learn the basics of composition along with how to use a camera in different lighting situations. Many photography courses will also include building pin-hole cameras and developing photographs using traditional processes. Like many art classes, photography will teach students how to see and interpret the world around them in creative ways while examining the story-telling potential of images.
Depending on the teacher, students will often spend class time outside on “photo safaris,” exploring and photographing an interesting location. Now doesn’t that sound better than sitting in a classroom the whole time
While most people have drawn or photographed a flower once or twice, it is far less common for students to have had the opportunity to sculpt a flower out of clay, much less make a bowl on a potter’s wheel.
A ceramics course may ask students to make a set of coffee mugs, tell a story using a vase inspired by ancient roman pottery, or sculpt the head of their favorite animal. Students practice creative problem solving while learning the variety of techniques that go along with making and firing ceramic art. The process of modeling and carving the clay can serve as a therapeutic mental break for a student knee deep in books to read and notes to study.
These three options are just the tip of the iceberg for non-artists. They could also learn how to paint, sing, act, or play a musical instrument. All of these visual and performing art courses provide a creative experience that can be a welcome departure from the typical lecture courses in which many students commonly find themselves.
Art classes aren’t always easy (in fact, they are generally quite time consuming), but they can be rewarding. I’ve seen many self-styled non-artists come into my classroom and leave as artists wanting to learn more. The term “non-artist” only really applies when someone hasn’t given the right art medium a try.