• Course Introduction

        This course is an exploration of visual art forms and their cultural connections for the student with little experience in the visual arts. It includes a brief study of art history, and in-depth studies of the elements, media, and methods used in creative thought and processes. In this course, you will learn how to develop a five-step system for understanding visual art in all forms, based on the following:

        1. Description: A work of art from an objective point of view – its physical attributes, and formal construction.
        2. Analysis: A detailed look at a work of art that combines physical attributes with subjective statements based on the viewer’s reaction to the work.
        3. Context: Historical, religious, or environmental information that surrounds a particular work of art and which helps to understand the work’s meaning.
        4. Meaning: A statement of the work’s content. A message or narrative expressed by the subject matter.
        5. Judgment: A critical point of view about a work of art concerning its aesthetic or cultural value.

        After completing this course, you will be able to interpret works of art based on this five-step system; explain the processes involved in artistic production; identify the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic issues that artists examine in their work; and explain the role and effect of the visual arts in societies, history, and world cultures.

        After familiarizing yourself with the following course syllabus, enroll in this course using the "Enroll me in this course” button. Once enrolled, navigate to Unit 1 of the course to read the Unit Introduction and Unit 1 Learning Outcomes. Links and instructions for all unit specific course resources will follow the introductory materials.

      • Unit 1: Definitions, Artistic Roles, and Visual Thinking

        How would you define art? For many people, art is a tangible entity: a painting, sculpture, photograph, dance, poem, or play. Art is uniquely human and tied directly to culture. As an expressive medium, it allows us to experience joy, sorrow, confusion, and clarity. It gives voice to ideas and feelings, connects us to the past, reflects the present, and anticipates the future. Visual art is a rich and complex subject whose definition is in flux as the culture around it changes. This unit examines how art is defined, and the different ways it functions in societies and cultures.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.

      • Unit 2: Process and Training

        This unit explores the artistic processes and the art industry: individual artists turning ideas into works of art, collaborative creative projects, public art, and the viewer.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.

      • Unit 3: How Art Speaks – Finding Meaning

        Art, by its nature, asks questions and holds meaning. It explains ideas, uncovers truths, manifests what is beautiful, and tells stories. In this unit, we will begin to explore the meaning behind particular works of art within the context of various styles and cultures.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 16 hours.

      • Unit 4: How Art Works – The Elements and Principles of Visual Language

        In this unit, you will begin to learn the terms that used to describe and analyze any work of art, and you will explore the principles of design – the means by which the elements in a work of art are arranged and orchestrated. Just as spoken language is based on phonemes, syntax, and semantics, visual art is based on elements and principles that, when used together, create works that communicate ideas and meaning to the viewer. We can think of them as the building blocks of an artwork’s composition – the organized layout of an image or object, according to the principles of design.

        Completing this unit should take approximately 16 hours.

      • Unit 5: Artistic Media

        Artists find ways to express themselves with almost any resource available. It is a stamp of their creativity to make extraordinary images and objects from various, but somewhat ordinary, materials: Using charcoal, paper, thread, paint, ink – and even found objects such as leaves – artists continue to search for ways to construct and deliver their message. In this unit, we look at artworks created from two- and three-dimensional media and arts made using different types of cameras.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 24 hours.

      • Unit 6: Architecture

        This unit explores architecture, its history, and its relation to visual art. Architecture is the art and science of designing structures and spaces for human use. Architectural design is an artform realized through considerations of spatial design and aesthetics. Related to sculpture, architecture creates three-dimensional objects that occupy a given space and create a visual relationship with the area surrounding them.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 16 hours.

      • Unit 7: Our World – Nature, the Body, Identity, Sexuality, Politics, and Power

        In this unit, we will look at how artists express and interpret our world. If nothing else, visual art provides an avenue for self-expression. As a primary source, artists express attitudes, feelings, and sentiments about environments through personal experiences, social interaction, and relationships with the natural world. In short, art helps us perceive and react to our place in the world. In Unit 1, we referred to description as one of many roles art takes on, but this description is often imbued with the artist’s subjective interpretation. In this unit, we will examine how art operates as a vehicle for human expression – a kind of collective visual metaphor that helps to define who we are.

        Completing this unit should take approximately 28 hours.

      • Unit 8: Other Worlds – Mortality, the Spirit, and Fantasy

        Humans use art to capture ideas about worlds outside our own. Art is often a vehicle for myth: how we understand and explain concepts of a spirit world. Cultures use iconography to symbolize abstract ideas like dreams, love, power, and emotion, and societies call on the artist to create them. Art also plays a significant role in ritual and ceremony. In this unit, we will learn how human thought, belief, and imagination are materialized through art.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.

      • Course Cumulative Essay

      • Unit 9: Art in Time and Place – The Western World

        The formal and stylistic aspects of artworks are often determined largely by the era and location in which they were created. In this unit, we will study art through its evolution in time and place in the Western world. You will develop the tools you need to identify the major formal and stylistic trends punctuating the timeline of Western art history. This approach will enable us to see the relationship between works of art and their specific social-historical contexts. This unit will also reveal a certain continuum that runs through Western art from Ancient Greece to modern times.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 15 hours.