Levels of skill impact experience in art classes


Students reflect on the presence of varied skill levels in art classes. All artists at the high school must start with level one classes before moving on to more advanced electives.

Taeyeon Kim, Staff Writer

Sitting on a cold metal stool in the art classroom, a student considers her drawing. She then looks at her neighbor’s drawing, noting the good points and flaws so that she can improve her own artwork. Why are they so different?

Having students with different levels of experience and ability in art classes can be helpful to some students, but seem unnecessary to others.

Elizabeth Brennan, who teaches Drawing, Metals and Printmaking, has noticed that the discrepancy is particularly severe in the level I classes.

I think that particularly in the Drawing I class, or any level one class, we certainly have students that have a very wide range in terms of ability,” Brennan said.

Sophomore Jillian Kwitkiwski, whose art experience consists of elementary and middle school art class, feels that the ability to learn from others is very helpful.

“There’s someone who finished really early, and their’s was really good, and so you can also look at their piece,” Kwitkiwski said. “And looking at something that’s actually drawn instead of just an actual person, it can help because you can be like, ‘Okay, I know not to shade a ton right there.’”

Many students mentioned that the critique session that happens at the end of every project is a great source of feedback from peers. Jillian Kwitkiwski explained that when a class critique is held, students look at the work or their peers and give them constructive feedback.

“The class will be like, ‘Oh, I think you can work a little bit more on this’ or ‘That looks really good,’ and then the teachers will also say stuff, it’s good,” Kwitkiwski said.

After years of teaching herself how to draw, sophomore Maya Sekhar, who is currently taking Drawing I, agrees that the critique is useful, but notices that most comments are not as helpful as those made by people with more experience.

“I’d say that if I get feedback from experienced artists in the class, it’s quite good and specific feedback, whereas other people maybe have never done a critique before and they don’t understand what to say,” said Sekhar. “So, not as helpful as an instructor.”

Junior Rena Guo, who is very experienced with art and has taken many art classes outside of school, agreed with this sentiment.

“I think they actually talked about how everyone can learn a little something from everyone. I personally didn’t learn much from it,” Guo said.

The topic of whether more advanced students should be allowed to skip the lower-level art classes proves to be a complicated one. Brennan thinks that that all students have something to learn from taking a level one course.

“I do think that any person, particularly if you are a 9th grader, will benefit from a Drawing I class,” Brennan said. “It helps establish a common vocabulary that is going to be used in your level two, your level three, and your advanced classes, your AP. So for someone to skip that, it’s really a disservice to that student.”

In contrast, Sekhar believes that students with more experience should be allowed to skip a level.

“I’d say that it really only brings down the more-experienced students when they’re forced to go back through what they’ve already done,” Sekhar said. “I find that my art skills have at least been watered down, by sitting in drawing one for long durations of time. Most of the time, we’ve spent the beginning of class in lecture, getting materials, and it’s just review when I could be progressing.”

According to Brennan, a growth mindset is essential to improving one’s art, which includes learning the basics.

“You kind of need to be open to feedback, and that’s the biggest mistake that some kids make- is that they think that they know and even if they know a lot, you still want to get feedback,” Brennan said. “So we conceptualize, we actualize, we connect, and you reflect. If a student is really engaged in all of those, they’re going to do well in the class.”