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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Sally McKay


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 417

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23675

Office Hours: Thursdays, 10:00 am - 11:00 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description and Objectives: This course focuses on self-directed studio strategies responding to concepts and questions generated by the student. Students will integrate intellectual curiosity, beliefs, values and individual experience with ongoing research to guide studio production. Through class discussion and one-on-one critique, students will be supported in taking risks to develop ambitious studio projects that integrate self-directed research and aesthetic investigation.


This course involves four hours of in-class time each week and a minimum of two hours of additional work outside of class hours. Because this course fosters independent exploration of media and materials, it is the students’ responsibility to come to class prepared with the materials they need to complete their work.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:



Method of Assessment:

Assignments and Evaluation:


Aesthetics Journal..........................15%

Research/Creation Project..............30%

Independent Project Proposal.........  5%

Independent Project........................25%


Participation (25%)

Class discussions & critiques (15%): This course has a particular focus on empowering individuals to take risks in their independent art practice. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that everyone participate fully by attending all classes and remaining welcoming and open to points of view that differ from our own. The atmosphere of the classroom should be characterized by courtesy and mutual respect. Participating in group critiques is an important part of providing constructive feedback for your peers. Active questioning and differences of opinion, respectfully expressed in a spirit of collaboration and mutual exchange, contribute to a positive and supportive group dynamic. Missing classes, coming late, leaving early or failing to contribute positively to class discussion will impact your grade.


In-Class Exercises (10%): Short exercises will be conducted in class throughout the course. These exercises are designed to encourage independent thinking and the development of creative strategies in the studio. Students will occasionally be assigned simple homework tasks in preparation for class exercise the following week. These exercises are mandatory and must be completed during the class in which they are assigned. Students should come to every class with pens and/or pencils and blank paper (or sketchbooks/notebooks) of their choice.


Aesthetics Journal (15%) Due in class on Nov. 26th

(Briefly evaluated by instructor for feedback during class on Oct. 8th)

Students will make short entries in a sketchbook or notebook of their choice, noting daily aesthetic observations. An aesthetic observation consists of any perception through the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, proprioception, kinaesthetics (movement), and any thoughts that accompany such perceptions. This project is designed as a resource of personal observations to support your ongoing studio practice. Entries can be very short, and can take the form of sketches, written notes, collage, etc. Each entry must be dated, and a minimum of 5 entries/week is required. Once completed, the Journals will be evaluated overall on the basis of breadth and depth of aesthetic investigation. Journals will be reviewed by the instructor for feedback on Oct. 8th, and handed in for final grading on Nov. 26, in class. They will be returned to students in class on Dec. 3.


Research/Creation Project (30%) Due Oct. 15 (Critiques on Oct. 15 and October 18)

This is a major independent studio project exploring how to present in-depth research on a non-art topic of your choice as an aesthetic mode of inquiry. Final projects will consist of multi-media assemblages of work in progress. Students will choose a topic of personal interest to them (examples: penguins, climate change, social media, cooking). Focus will be on developing strategies for approaching research from an aesthetic standpoint, effective communication of ideas and process, and aesthetic presentation of questions and ideas, rather than on polishing finished works. Successful projects will demonstrate aesthetic innovation, creative use of materials, breadth and depth of research, ability to engage the viewer in the line of inquiry, risk-taking, critical thinking during process, and effective presentation during critique. Details and specific guidelines for this project will be made available in class on September 13th. It is your responsibility to make sure you thoroughly understand the guidelines.


Independent Project Proposal (5%) Due in class on Oct. 29

A one-page proposal outlining your plans for a major independent studio project in any medium of your choice. You may choose to further develop issues that arose for you during the research/creation assignment, or take a new approach. The line of inquiry for your final project may be related to content but should focus on formal concerns and active exploration of a particular medium. The proposal should include a description of your concept, your reasons for undertaking this particular project, the intended format and medium of the final work, and a schedule for implementing the project, including personal deadlines for research, sketches, assembly of materials, final production, and any other stages in the process that are specific to your project. A template for the proposal will be made available on Avenue to Learn.


Independent Project (25%) Due Nov. 26 (Critiques on Nov. 26 and Dec. 3)

This is a major independent studio project in any medium of your choice. The concept for the project should be thoroughly considered with careful thought and experimentation given to choosing a medium that is well suited to the idea and active exploration of that medium. The final project may be a large or complex single work or a coherent series of works and it must demonstrate an in-depth aesthetic inquiry, representing a significant amount of time and effort. Successful projects will demonstrate creative innovation, active exploration of materials and risk-taking, appropriate choice of media for content, breadth and depth of inquiry, effective presentation during critique and effective use of critical thinking skills during process (responsiveness to feedback, questioning, reworking & rethinking). Details and guidelines for the Independent Project (including specific information on how to write an effective proposal) will be discussed in class and made available through Avenue to Learn. It is your responsibility to make sure you thoroughly understand the guidelines.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:




Other Course Information:

Avenue to Learn: In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn.  Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course.  The available information is dependent on the technology used.  Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure.  If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.