Saturday 24 May 2014

Thick Description (1) - Live! CalArts (Coursera)

Its been couple of weeks since Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers by California Institute of the Arts aka CalArts on Coursera (MOOC) platform ended. It was a great learning experience and was quite inspirational in fact. The course was about 9-weeks long and taught by amazing Jeannene Przyblyski.

For more information about the course, check out:

There were four required assignments in total and weekly sketch book assignments which were optional. Due to time constraints, I limit myself to only required assignments. There were two tracks to choose from, for doing required assignments, such as Track A: For Visual Thinkers and Track B: For Those Who Prefer a Text-Based Approach. Well I feel more comfortable with the latter.

I'll be posting all the assignments which I did in this course. The assignments as well as peer to peer feedback helped me a lot to see, feel and interpret art. Hope you enjoy the read!

Required Assignment 1: Thick Description

This assignment is taken from an excellent book entitled Draw it with your eyes closed: the art of the assignment (New York: Paper Monument, 2012). It’s also listed in the course bibliography. I credit it to Fabienne Lasserre, who credits it to Jim Cambronne.

Go to a local museum or gallery. If there isn’t one near you, visit the website for the museum of your choice (this is not as good an option, but it is an acceptable one. Recommended options are below). Give yourself at least an hour for your visit.

Suggested museum websites:

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Museum of Modern Art, New York
British Museum, London

Choose a work of art--any work of art that sufficiently attracts you, for whatever reason. Spend one hour with the work, recording your thoughts and perceptions. Focus on the work of art, but be alive to your awareness of ambient light, noise and activity in the exhibition space.
Organize your thoughts and perceptions, and write a 300-400 word essay, list or narrative.

The Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936) by Salvador Dalí
The Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936) by Salvador Dalí

The Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936)

painted by Salvador Dalí

The Anthropomorphic Cabinet is one of the few painting which really swept me away. The tone really set the mood and it is a sad one as I can feel. It's a great composition and it makes the eyes travel from the center of her body to her head and then to the hand and later towards the public in the background. There is great attention to the detail given to the female figure. The surrealism of this painting, is one of the things which interests me the most as well as it's simplicity of the composition.

A female figure laying on the floor in the dark with a gesture of, "leave me alone". Cutting herself off from the society which have given her nothing but trouble. It looks like she has been abused for a long time and all the things which she owe has been stolen (opened cabinets). She has given up, as shown through her head down.

Every individual carry a secret life with themselves beside the image they portray to the society. And as all the drawers got opened, there's nothing left under that skin than the little bit of courage.

The chest made of drawers which kind a resemble to the drawers of our mind or self which is hidden from the outside world. And whatever goes in there is only known to yourself. To show the disconnection from the world, he adds the contrast of woman in dark empty room, with a gateway to the world or society as we know it. Her hand gesture is the powerful one as it connects foreground with the background together. Most of the drawers seems empty but showing a piece of cloth handing there conveys to me that there is still something left, a bit of hope maybe. The details on her skin tells her old age and the hardships that she have been gone through her life.


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