Tokyo Tech News
Published: July 30, 2020
Twice a year, Tokyo Tech offers students the opportunity to draw inspiration from its Art with an Artist seminars under the guidance of painter and poet Zuse Mayer.
Due to the exceptional circumstances, the first sessions of academic year 2020 were held online on June 10 and 17. Eleven Tokyo Tech students, including five first-year students who only recently joined the Institute, attended.
Mayer, a graduate of the Berlin University of the Arts and former lecturer at Tokyo Tech, is an artist based in Berlin and Tokyo who runs an art school and art workshops in both Europe and Asia. Despite the new challenges of conducting a hands-on event such as this online, both Mayer and the Tokyo Tech participants embraced the experience.
As in previous years, Mayer lectured in both English and Japanese on carefully selected themes. After this, participants created various forms of works with pencil sketching, crayons, and paper craft. The seminar closed with the sharing of all works among group members and both personal and shared messages from Mayer.
Art with an Artist is not about learning techniques or competing, but about discovering one's creativity through feeling and doing. To help students achieve this, Mayer strongly encourages participants to draw or sketch with single strokes, and to use their non-dominant hand to give way to artistic freedom and creativity while setting aside conscious control of the dominant hand. These are important elements of the experience.
This year, facilitating this experience was particularly challenging as Tokyo Tech hosted the event in a virtual environment due to COVID-19. To make things smoother, Mayer selected the theme of "still life" so students could easily create their works at their places of residence. During the lectures and discussions, students connected with Mayer and Tokyo Tech's Student Support Center via Zoom.
Mayer began the first session on June 10 with a historical perspective on still life painting. During her informative talk, she shared with students images of various works by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso.
After this, each student shared with other participants the items they planned to use in their still lifes. They then received advice from Mayer regarding the arrangement of the subject matter and the use of single strokes, and were given 20 minutes to sketch out their targets. This was followed by a commentary session during which each student showed their works through the cameras on their computers.
To finish off, students practiced creating still lifes using crayons and their non-dominant hand. Critique from Mayer regarding these pieces was sent individually to each student via email.
During Day 1, it became evident that displaying art in an online environment poses certain technical challenges. For instance, students had difficulty positioning their web cameras to clearly display their art to other participants. Even when they managed to do so, the lighting in the room often would not allow the camera to render the works faithfully.
One task on the second day of the seminar was to solve some of these practical issues. To do so, students photographed their works and sent them to Tokyo Tech's Student Support Center, the host of the event. Tokyo Tech staff then sequentially shared the works on Zoom, allowing Mayer to provide more detailed feedback.
At the end of conventional in-person seminars, the common practice is for all participants to comment on each other's works. This time, however, Tokyo Tech staff created a collection of all the works which were then sent to participants by email. This collection included comments from Mayer.
After the seminar, Mayer shared the following message with all participants:
When hosting practical workshops such as the Art with an Artist seminar online, it can be difficult to create the same desired effect that is achieved during in-person sessions. Although unexpected issues emerged, Tokyo Tech's Student Support Center, the host of this event, was able to resolve these issues by trying various approaches and aiming for improvements as the seminar progressed. By repeating these steps, Tokyo Tech staff members were able to support Mayer in bringing out the essence of her seminar in a virtual environment.
Tokyo Tech is already looking forward to hosting the next Art with an Artist seminar in November 2020, regardless of whether it is in person or online.