Independent study gives students options

Senior hones her artistic talents during alpha period

One of senior Izzy Arneys pieces she created in her alpha period independent study class.

Photo submitted

One of senior Izzy Arney’s pieces she created in her alpha period independent study class.

Andrew de las Alas, Reporter

A fundamental aspect of the high school experience is discovering a form of self-expression that can be used to communicate your thoughts and transform the more untouchable components of your life into the physical. Art, in its multitude of forms, stands out from other activities for its appeal to the onlooker’s senses.

While the curriculum offers an opportunity to realize a passion for visual expression, sometimes a student will pursue a higher level of understanding in order to build on some of the introductory skills learned in the first few art classes. Senior Izzy Arney has been able to continue her artistic studies through her independent study class. 

Arney said that one of the main reasons she sought to continue her artistic education is because “art is something that I was consistently good at my entire life.” Arney said, “I started in darkroom photography, moved to digital photography and then moved to independent study this year.” 

During alpha period, Arney will walk into Cunningham to her independent study class taught by Ms. Joellen Desautels. Seniors Lily Wagoner and Gabriella Bunting are also enrolled in the class. Arney said, “(Usually) I’ll go and edit photos that I’m working on, tweak a few things or update my Weebly blog.”  

Desautels said that these blogs that give written background on a piece of art “give some three dimensionality to who (students) are as an applicant.” It gives art students a portfolio, as well as demonstrating critical thinking skills for non art students, and can even show that an applicant might be “a bit of Renaissance person,” said Desautels. 

The presence of other students in her independent study course is an opportunity for additional feedback. Arney said the other girls give another set of eyes on a piece, and that they frequently will offer advice and help to each other. 

Each semester, Arney and other independent study art students will select a theme that serves as a central focus and will be present in some way in their projects throughout the period. Last semester, Arney chose the theme of light. Arney said, “I wanted something that could play into everything but then also stand out. I chose light because it’s a huge part of photography. A whole picture is based off of it. There are so many ways to change and it can change the mood or theme of a picture. I wanted to see how much it affects each picture.” 

Students will be assigned a project that can be viewed through the lens of the chosen theme. Arney said that some project categories she’s worked on are centered around doorways, typology and film noir. For her film noir piece, Arney took a flash photo “with a neon sign to give it an old timey feel.”

Desautels said Arney is “fantastically creative” and is “fearless when it comes to being creative.” Her film noir project stands out. “She wasn’t afraid to grab a friend and say, ‘Let’s go to Broad Ripple,’ grab a camera and take some shots, whereas some students might stay at home and take pictures where they feel safe,” said Desautels. 

One of Arney’s favorite projects involved typology, which is a presentation style that features multiple pictures with a similar theme all together on one board. Arney, using her theme of light, incorporated multiple pictures of fire and when grouped on a poster. She said, “It turned out very nicely.”

Arney said, “Whenever we’re given an assignment, we’ll create a list of ideas and look at Pinterest or Google. We get an idea of what works and then put our own spin on it.”

For second semester, Arney chose nature to be her theme. She said, “I really love landscape photography. I wanted to do something with nature because it’s all around us, and I wanted to capture what people miss out on, especially because we’re building on about every piece of green land.”

For the project assignment of abstract, Arney took a picture of mud, sand and snow and then altered the images on Photoshop. Arney said this distortion is a key part of abstract, and that it can stimulate questions surrounding the initial image and the process to the final outcome. 

The versatile and open nature of a chosen theme allows for an exploration of creativity. The class offers potentially redefining moments where students can use their prior artistic knowledge to plunge deeper into new techniques and concepts. 

Initially, Arney didn’t know about the independent study option until learning about it from some other students in her digital photography class last semester. She realized she wanted to continue learning, but there was no higher traditional level class. This class gives her an opportunity to carry on. 

Desautels said that independent study will depend on a student’s availability, but if they are able to fit it into their schedules, the individual student will create a curriculum with her. Entering into an independent study gives students a chance to explore and see “what you’re made of creatively,” she said. 

Arney said, “If you’re really into art and you’ve taken the classes and you know the base of what you need to know, you should do independent study because then you’re able to expand on what you already learned.” Arney said that a teacher can go beyond a curriculum and “push you further and force you to look at things differently.”

Next year, Arney plans to study art education and photo image making at Colorado State University. Desautels provided inspiration to pursue art education, and Arney said that she’s come to realize that “I like being able to share my knowledge of art with other people and see outcomes in their work.”