Monday, February 18, 2008

Grading Art

Is there actually any point in grading art?

art [ahrt] –noun
1.the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

I have a feeling my art foundation is going to show through on this one and I may end up using stupid flowery terms, so be prepared.
Art is as hard to nail down as creativity, but I would say essentially that art is about provoking a reaction in people. A lot of people get angry that things like this:are considered art, but by getting angry at it they're proving the work a success, even if it wasn't in quite the way it wanted to be.

On my art foundation, art was primarily about raw power, and not really about technical skill at all. There is a technical right and a wrong to art, but I guess they thought if you were that bothered about it, you could go figure it out yourself.
I was frustrated at the time because I'm someone that does value technical skill, and had been training it up throughout GCSE and A level, I suppose because the system had told me to. Technical skill is very easily gradeable, which is probably why it's pushed so much. You can dock marks for perspective or lighting being wrong, or give marks for good use of media.

Art Foundation was a shock because suddenly the goalposts had been moved. Who cares that you can paint a lemon in perfect photorealistic detail? Someone has vacuum formed a mould of it, shoved the lemon in a blender with half a newspaper and some dirt, shoved it all back into a lemon shape and explored something completely different to what you have. And at the end of the day, it's just as right as what you've done.

My Art Foundation seemed to be graded simply by whether you had the 'it' factor or not. Some people produced bugger all but got fantastic grades, and some people slaved away and had little to show for it. The frustrating thing was, you could see when people did have the 'it' factor, and when pieces of art had it too. The hard bit was getting it yourself, and I still have no idea how people managed it. Picking something to explore and chipping away at it constantly until it produced something interesting seemed to be one way of doing it, but some people seemed able to just pull it out of a hat.

Yes, my Art Foundation was frustrating, but it also taught me a lot about life and the art world. Nobody cares how long you spent on something or how you got there, it's simply about whether it's good and whether it has impact.

So that being said, why would anyone care what mark you got for your art degree? If you're going into the commercial art world, people are going to look at your portfolio and judge for themselves whether or not you have the 'it' factor they are looking for. If they decide not to hire you, you whingeing that you got a first won't change their minds.
Conversely, if you have completed your art degree but aren't going into the art world, no one is going to care about your portfolio, they'll only care about your grade. Your abstract representation of the war in Iraq using toothpaste and a piece of old tyre will probably not aid you in your interview for the position of regional manager at Generic Offices.

So in an ideal world, people would just be given whatever degree mark they felt like having at the end of it. Everyone could be given a first, and the commercial arts could simply not even look at the piece of paper with a grade on it, and go purely on portfolio like they do anyway.
And if people didn't feel like going into the games industry, or the art world in general, they could sashay off into a nice job with their shiny first. Everybody wins.

Yes I can see the millions of flaws in this plan, but if we just did it and didn't tell anyone, i'm sure it'd be fine.