Friday, October 10, 2008

Entertainment or Learning?

I did a quick search on YouTube for drawing videos. The return that came back was 249,000. For painting videos, a search came up with 324,000.

I get requests to make drawing videos from students and have declined to date because I am not sure just how beneficial they are to the learning process. Yes, some learning is achieved through demonstration, but I wonder if any research has been done as to how many people actually learn and retain information from art related videos or are they simply entertainment?

I know I am old school and learned the traditional way from practical theory, life demonstrations and hands on practice. So yes, I did have those demonstrations but done in addition to books, lectures, professors, art instructors and my own self discipline in practicing the skills I learned.

I've watched several videos, professional and amateur that show drawing specific subjects and I have to say I have not really learned anything new. I have enjoyed watching someone else's technique or say to myself, 'yes, that's how I approach it too'. There is usually a basic shape or gesture drawing that is then refined through accelerated frames to a final product, making the process look very easy. For the beginning artist, it may make it look almost too effortless in some ways.

Is there a difference in how an individual learns a drawing skill from a written form with illustrations a demonstration in real life or a series of 5 minute videos? And what about retaining that information or honing the skill from each of these methods? Done in isolation, videos do make it look easy - and quick. That is just what today's society wants and expects from everything. The populace wants skills that should be effortless and without a time commitment involved but be professional looking as well.

I have been looking for any research that has taken place on the use of video in teaching art techniques, drawing in particular but haven't been too successful to date. So I'm turning to my experts, the readers of the blog to see if they can shed some light, or at least their two cents worth, on this subject.

Is video demonstration simply a trend that is used for entertainment or is it a valid learning tool?


Rose Welty said...

I'm feeling a little I'm going to answer with a question, is that tongue rolling picture humor or art? :D (it's certainly an eye grabber! catches my eye every time I load your page)

Seriously, I think the answer is both. While I agree that I don't ever learn much from a video, I won't go so far as to say never. I watched Carol Marine's painting demo and decided to just be confident in making brushstrokes - rather than spending some time being tentative. I also watched Qiang Huang's demo and realized there is also a place for careful strokes and tiny adjustments.

I think sometimes when I read about a technique, it just doesn't make sense. Then if I watch a video and then reread it, it makes more sense.

But, I do think that nothing replaces experience and practice - neither books or videos.

Jennifer Rose said...

Video can help explain how something is done, but Rose is right. It doesn't replace practice. Sometimes it is easier see how an effect is done when you are shown in person, but video helps (as long as it is clear and well shot). Because the video is often sped up people don't realize that it can take a lot of time to finish an art piece, so people do get frustrated, and possibly give up. :/

I do like watching videos of artists at work, even if I don't learn anything that I can use. Its interesting to see an artist at work, and see a piece from start to finish in a few minutes.

I am trying to set up our camera so I can show people how I use coloured pencils, just trying to find a tripod. Even if it doesn't help anyone, I can look back on the video in a few years and get a laugh from the bad teaching :p

Anonymous said...

I agree Rose.
I see it on 3 levels:
Doing it -- by far the most beneficial for me; I get to see what it "feels" like to do it
Watching a demo (live or video) -- gives me all the info details about how it's done, but I have to cognitively put myself in the picture. 1 step removed from doing.
Reading about it -- getting only the details the author reveals, so only getting some of "the picture". Not only do I have to imagine some of the details, but then try to see me doing it. 2 steps removed.

On the other hand, doing it requires the most energy and risk. Watching it takes some energy/risk, while I think reading it takes the least.

Good thought provoking questions! Better get to the studio and "do" so I can go watch a demo today!

Jeanette said...

Yes, you're right Rose. The image fills both roles, just as I'm sure video can too.

I think seeing how something is done provides the 'aha' moment often and then leads you on to experiment yourself.

Practice and experimentation really is the only way that skills are honed.

My question comes from teaching beginners who often think there are shortcuts to drawing or painting and that video provides the magic bullet that will enable them to suddenly draw effortlessly.

I agree Jennifer, practice is the key, as well as understanding the basic techniques to get you to a level of proficiency.

Its that classic teaching quote isn't it Tracy: See one, do one, teach one. All are required in the learning process.

Anita said...

What a charming little drawing.

As to videos, I've been kind of sitting on the fence about them. I am sure to some people they might be a great help and occasionally I have been tempted to buy one myself though never got as far as actually doing it. I suppose seeing someone using a particular technique could be helpful if you have no idea how to start, but see that for less experienced artists that they might find themselves just copying a style and not developing their own. I have used books however just for techniques though I usually just look at the pictures rather than following step by step!

Robyn said...

I do think it is inspiring to watch a skilled person at work, Jeanette. I have a couple of watercolour videos I enjoy watching over and over again.

Anyone who thinks watching a video demonstration is a short cut to skill probably discovers as soon as they put pencil to paper that it's just the beginning of the journey.

And I think that is a charming drawing too!

Marsha Robinett said...

Although I'm not a teacher as you are, I too have been asked about making videos. I even went so far as to sink some money into a small video cam and tripod. Haven't had a chance to use it much yet...hope to this winter.

I believe the ability to draw is the basis for any form of art. Being self taught, I've learned much from videos about the techniques different artists use.

I personally think a student would benefit from the ability to "rewind" instructions. Few retain all that is demonstrated or said at one sitting...we tend to filter things or simply have a wondering mind.

I did do some research as you did and found there is already a lot out there. As for selling your video, I think you would sell to your following...those who like your style of work.

I say do it. Try one on a small scale and see what happens.