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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. John Ford


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 429A

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23931

Office Hours: Monday 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. TSH 429a

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course develops pictorial thought processes through the vocabulary of painting. Balanced emphasis is placed on expanding conceptual and practical knowledge utilizing a variety of pigments, mediums, supports, tools, alternative and hybrid approaches.

Course Components

The course includes demonstrations, discussions, critique, and the production of preliminary work, a body of completed studio work, presentation, critical reflections, research.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Studio Fees

A studio fee of $50 is required for this course. Your studio fee will provide you with many of the basic materials to create traditional paintings, such as canvas, gesso, newsprint, some other papers, some paints/inks, screws, staples, etc. It will also provide for some alternative materials to execute photo transfers and other alternate methods of contemporary painting. 



Tuition covers instruction, technical and administrative support, equipment, tools, facilities/utility costs, models, visiting artists, and resources such as McMaster Museum of Art, Library, Anatomy Lab, etc.

Method of Assessment:

Overall evaluation of term

Assessment of student outcomes in this course will be based on the quality of a portfolio of preparatory and finished works of art, created in reaction to project assignments (visual, written, or presented as may be the case) and any independent initiatives. There will be at least two written assignments, brief essays describing what each student learned from comments at their critiques. Each assignment and/or project will be evaluated at the time of critique or turn-in, the evaluation available to student in one-on-one meeting with the instructor (this insures an open channel of communication between student and instructor).

An overall, mid-term mark will be available to student, the purpose being to assess the standing of said student were the term to end unexpectedly at that moment.  Instructor will make a concerted effort to meet with each student at mid-term to offer constructive feedback, and to respond to individualized student questions and concerns.  This mid-term mark, while intended as a fair assessment of the student work at that point of term, will not necessarily handicap student from elevating the final mark, or assure that the final mark may not be lower.

At any point in the term, instructor encourages students to seek feedback on their standing, to ask for personalized tutorials and/or mentorship, and generally discuss their viewpoints and ambitions as young artists.

Final course marks will be based on the final portfolio submission (80% overall grade*), and overall participation in the course, including prompt/full attendance during studio sessions and also outside of class (20% overall grade*).

  • Please be mindful that instructor not only evaluates the quality of work in the portfolio, but the level of quality in its presentation.
  • Please also be mindful that instructor will take class roll at the beginning and end of class, at least one measure of student participation and engagement for the course.

The success of studio courses is dependent on the active engagement of all participants. Learning is accelerated in a hands-on environment where work and ideas can be discussed as they evolve and challenges and successes can be shared. Important health and safety information and safe operating procedures are communicated during class time. You must receive this information to work independently in the studio and you may not operate any equipment or use any process that you have not received safety training for.

Class Discussions and Critiques empower individuals to take risks in their art practice and learn from each other. It is of utmost importance that all students participate fully by attending all classes and remaining welcoming and open to all points of view. The atmosphere of the studio 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. It is your responsibility to contribute positively in this shared space and come to class prepared, on time and ready to contribute to the activities of the day.


A sampling of criteria used by instructor to evaluate projects, and visual art in general:

  • Is the project turned in when required; how complete is it, how many are there?
  • Does it complete the minimum requirements, fall short, or go well beyond the limitations of assignment?
  • Does it seem timid or brave?
  • Does the work demonstrate competence with media, fall short of competence, or demonstrate mastery?
  • Do the works demonstrate a serious intent, an ambition, does it go beyond comfort zone?
  • Does the work contain meaning, content, and if so, how complex or sublimely insightful is the result?
  • Does the work demonstrate, even quietly, a knowledge of historical context?

Attendance is Mandatory

Failure to attend class can result in failure for the course even if assignments are complete. There are 12 classes per term each four hours in length so an absence is a significant loss of time.  Each student is entitled to one absence if reported with the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF). This system is in place to accommodate illness and other extenuating circumstances that warrant a missed class. However, students who miss 4 classes (33% of the course) or more may not receive credit for the course.   





Projects will be relatively brief and intense as a way to cover several contemporary themes


September 9, first day introduction, announce first projects, demo collage tips, show video Herb and Dorothy,     brief conversation about serious play, show images of McMaster wilderness sight, intro to Jim Reid visit.


Project 1 / Embedded Messages – in two parts, will address one of the most critical aspects of painting and other art forms, an effort to best comprehend the use of colour, in this case, using paint as the medium; an attempt to understand colour’s technical properties like brightness-dullness, transparency-opacity, or its viscosity; the visual qualities regarding retinal impact or after-effect, light absorption-reflection, its ability to create illusions of depth and distance, its textural effects; the ability of colour to affect us in emotive or psychological ways, and also its personal and cultural associations that become very important to understanding and appreciating content. And last but not least, it is incumbent upon all visual artists to develop and own their own sense of colour, so this exercise should begin to indicate, if student doesn’t already know, what might be their personal inclinations in terms of colour palette.


To explore these aspects of colour, students will create a minimum 6 collages by cutting or tearing magazines, calendars, or other printed matter, glued to simple substrate (foamboard or cardboard), to achieve the most varied colouration and complex design possible (images maybe pictorial, but it is recommended that representational concerns be limited). Once complete and critiqued, the student will select one of the collages as the basis for a larger scale painting as a way to interpret and “colour-match”, to viscerally understand the effects of translating a graphic abstraction into a saturated colouration on canvas. Technique for collage enlargement will be demonstrated.


Ideation – Perhaps at the collage stage, and definitely at the painted stage, each student must react to the theme of embedded messages within their work. It is an opportunity for the student to “embed” some kind of hidden messages, either graphically, textually, or other kind of message altogether, as a way to tantalize the viewer with an image beyond simple appreciation of colour and form.


Instructor suggests students begin this process immediately after first day of class, collecting scrap materials for collage, perhaps beginning collages, considering substrate for the large-scale painting, obtaining paints and brushes, considering personal interpretation of project.


Preliminary discussion about Plein Air project with Jim Reid.


September 16, work day, develop collages for larger scale paintings, feedback about work during session,           further considerations of activities for day with Jim Reid. Initial introduction of second major project.


September 23, special project, on-site Plein Air “painting” with Jim Reid, shuttle bus to wilderness site.


September 30 (tentative), collage/painting project due for critique, further conversation, finalization, and       assignment of project 2.


Project 2 / Translation and Conversion – Appropriation has become an accepted yet contested methodology in language of contemporary painting as well as other forms of art. Students and instructor will discuss the ethical questions involved, and will determine the path to realization for a project that will involve the conversion of a pre-existing art object or objects, such that the resulting image and theme becomes completely separate from its original state and intent. Students must start scouring junk shops and dollar stores for “art” that might induce you to create a hybrid, made of its existing character with the addition of your personal touches. Students are not limited to the number of such images they may choose to transform, or the methods they may use to transform them.


October 7, Turn in self-analysis of work from project 1, show video of Chuck Connolly, work day on project 2,          begin discussion for project 3, take 8 x 10” photograph of students.       


October 14, Thanksgiving holiday, no class.


October 21, Critique of project 2, assign self-analysis of critique, finalize plan for project 3.


Project 3 / Inside-Outside (large self-portrait) – Artist Chuck Close employed a traditional and rather methodical process to translate photographic images of himself and his friends into very large-scale, photo-realistic portraits. Students will approximate Close’s methods, creating a photo-realistic painting of themselves. Canvas size must be a minimum 4 x 5 feet, and must be proportional and accurately represent the colouration of their personal, 8 x 10 inch photograph.


October 28 – Turn in self-analysis of critique 2, work day project 3, instructor will demonstrate processes for   project 4, instructor will distribute mid-term student assessments and set up individual meetings for those who wish to meet and discuss their progress in the course.


Project 4 / Photo-image transfer – There are interesting and safe methods for transferring photo-images to canvas, paper, and other substrates. Instructor will demonstrate several methods including inkjet transparency transfer to paper, and magazine or laser printed images to canvas using acrylic mediums. This project may involve use of the etching studio to demonstrate how the inkjet transfer method maybe incorporated into unique monoprint images (tentative, depending on availability of facilities, time, and resources).


November 4, critique of project 3, assign self-analysis of critique, finalize plan for project 4.


November 11, Turn in self-assessment for critique of project 3, work day for project 4, initial discussion of    project 5


Project 5 / Independence Day – Using any combination of materials and techniques learned in this class, or employing methods of your own research and design, create a series of works that most completely demonstrate your artistic vision.


November 18, work day


November 25, work day


December 2, last class meeting, informal review of works for final feedback


December 4, classes end


Studio clean up will take place following the last day of classes.

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.

Other Course Information:

Office Hours


Office hours are intended to provide additional assistance and you are welcome to visit often to discuss course projects or seek assistance on difficulties you may be experiencing. It is always better to deal with an issue while there is still time remaining in the term to seek solutions. Office hours are not a replacement class for those opting to miss class time without valid excuse. Office hours will not provide feedback sessions if you miss a deadline. It is important that you learn to manage your time. Of course, extenuating circumstances can sometimes occur and requests for accommodation should be discussed with the instructor a.s.a.p.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF online at Please note the following stipulations.