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Studio art majors learn from current and historical masters

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University of North Georgia senior Stephanie Waddell, an art education major from Gainesville, Georgia, works on a portrait in the Roy C. Moore Art Gallery on UNG's Gainesville Campus. She is in Erin McIntosh's studio art class.

A handful of University of North Georgia (UNG) students armed with easels, paint and brushes sat in the Roy C. Moore Art Gallery looking from portrait paintings by Art Rosenbaum to their own canvas, trying to replicate his works with all of its layers of color, lines and light.

Students were excited by the task since it is learning outside of the classroom and directly from Rosenbaum, who is an important regional artist from Athens, Georgia, known for his portraits and complex narrative scenes of the South.

"Learning from a great master is the best way to learn," said Stephanie Waddell, a senior from Gainesville, Georgia, majoring in art education. "You are able to see all of the fine lines and details in each of Art Rosenbaum's artwork displayed in the gallery. We are trying to break down the layers of his art piece that we have chosen to replicate and try to figure out how Rosenbaum created the piece within our own master copy of his work. It's similar to figuring out a puzzle."

This particular lesson in portrait art is twofold. Students are learning how to paint portraits inspired by approaches to instruction and techniques from centuries ago in Erin McIntosh's studio class. Students are also learning about how artists from the 14th to 16th century created self-portraits and portraits of other artists in Dr. Michael Kemling's art history class.

"It's not an official learning community," Kemling said. "It could be better described as a 'pilot program' for teaching an art studio and art history class in tandem."

By teaching the classes in the same semester on alternate days — McIntosh's class is on Mondays and Wednesdays and Kemling's class is Tuesdays and Thursdays — students can put certain artist methods into practice while studying and understanding the complex history of a portrait.

"We're learning about the distinct transition from Medieval to Renaissance art and the origin of the autonomous self-portrait in Europe," said Isabella Martino, a senior from Cumming, Georgia, majoring in art studio. "This all leads us to the prominence of portraiture relevant in today's art scene."

Students are also learning how portraits and self-portraits allowed artists to become well-known.

"We are inspired by the themes and the methodologies of these historical masters, which aid in the formation of our own work and artistic style," Martino said.

Recalling the history lesson and connecting it to their studio art project is the purpose of pilot program, McIntosh said. Kemling said pairing these two particular classes has not been tried before.

"Normally art history and studio are on two different pathways," Kemling said. "And I've never heard of art professors teaching two courses this way. But we have asked ourselves 'How can art history better serve the studio artists?'"

It seems to be working as students are recalling the history lesson while painting in the gallery.

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Erin McIntosh, assistant professor of visual arts at University of North Georgia, talks to UNG junior Alex Imperial during her studio art class.

"It gives me a different perspective and to see how they started out with a different purpose than artists do today," said Alex Imperial, a junior from Flowery Branch, Georgia, majoring in studio art.

Students also are looking forward to meeting the artist whose work they are trying to replicate. Rosenbaum, a retired professor from the University of Georgia, will speak at a reception for his work from 2-4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, in the gallery.

"I'd like to ask him about his progress on his work and what inspires him," Imperial said.

McIntosh and Kemling hope the students will have a new and unique learning experience that will be further enriched through their direct contact with Rosenbaum.    

Art Rosenbaum artist talk and reception

When: 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4

Where: Roy C. Moore Art Gallery, Continuing Education and Performing Arts Building, Gainesville Campus

More information: https://ung.edu/art-galleries/gainesville/index.php

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