RISD Teaching and Learning Symposium

This morning I went to the RISD Teaching and Learning Symposium, where various RISD faculty from different departments each did individual talks about ideas and concepts in their own classrooms. The diversity and range of methods, concepts, and formats was fascinating to see and highly engaging. It’s rare to have this opportunity to see in so much depth what’s happening in other classrooms. I came away from the morning inspired, excited to get back into the studio, and brimming with ideas. I won’t even attempt to represent everything that was presented today, but I thought I would share the concepts that I felt were most applicable to my studio practice right now.

Tom Mills, who is a Professor in the Division of Foundation Studies presented an intense and dramatic segment on Drawing. The title of his lecture was “Making and Unmaking”. He introduced drawing in terms of the process of being a mapmaker; that like maps, drawings are never truly accurate and crossover into the unknown. He thinks of drawing as being a place where the invisible and visible meet, where the observed and intuitive intersect, and where the seen and unseen come together. He discussed how when we draw, everything changes; borders dissolve and about how we draw what we remember. His view is that drawing presents unanswerable questions and unleashes unseen forces.

Tom discussed in tremendous depth several assignments that he gives in his classroom, and it was wonderful to see all of his concepts tying in together through his various exercises and assignments. I won’t get into the details of the assignments, as I don’t think I could possibly do any of it justice in my own words. Tom stated that he expects his students to be responsible for every mark they make in a drawing. Drawing is not about imprecision, rather it’s about authority and precision. He explained that the end of the day, if you have only one mark that you can stand by, that’s a perfect day.

Andrew Raftery
, a Professor in Printmaking who is also my former professor gave a wonderful talk about his curricular connections established in his role as a faculty fellow in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the RISD Museum. He discussed the various roles he took on working with the curatorial staff at the RISD museum, as well as collaborations with RISD faculty who brought classes to the print room to extend their study beyond the classroom. The relationship that he worked to establish was essentially based around object based research making its way into applied studio practice.

One detail that I liked was when he explained the importance of getting students to understand how to know what to look for when they are in the actual presence of a print/drawing/photograph. In an era where digital reproductions are more ubiquitous as ever, it’s important to ask why it is important to look at an actual print itself. Aspects to note would be for example the scale of the marks, the effects of time on a work, the quality of ink and paper, etc.

I met Andrew my sophomore year at RISD when he taught a Drawing class I was in.  I’ve done casting work for his engraving projects which incorporate sculpture in the preliminary process. One of his engravings is hanging in my living room, and it’s amazing to me that as long as that engraving has hung there, I’m still finding new details. I’m convinced that 30 years from now, that will still be the case.

“Suit Shopping: An Engraved Narrative”, copperplate engraving
Andrew Raftery 2002


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