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Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss…
I Want to be a Graphic Artist!
Commercial Art – Class 10
Art Teacher knew that this 3-week afternoon block unit would be more difficult than most. It was Graphic Arts, and prior to her becoming a high school teacher, she had been the studio manager of a large city commercial art studio. There’s a kind of cryptic equation in pedagogy, that the more you know about a subject, the worse you teach it! Perhaps it has something to do with – “Ho, hum – here we go again”, or unrealistic expectations of the students – “this is not difficult, I could whip it up in 5 minutes!” so she knew that she must maintain both her enthusiasm and her patience.
“I want to be graphic artist when I leave school.” she was informed by a strongly built 16-year-old boy with straw blonde hair.
“Well, it’s not as easy as you think,” warned Art Teacher “it’s a very competitive field, and there are a lot of highly talented people out there. Besides, the work is not as simple as it seems. One doesn’t just become a graphic artist, one usually specializes. The aim of this lesson is to show the broad range of areas one can become a specialist in.
Now we have 3 weeks every afternoon – except Fridays, when you play sport – that leave about 12 days. About? Well, I’ve planned an excursion; one of the parents, who actually owns an art studio, has agreed to a visit. It’s very important to imbibe the atmosphere and observe the conditions of the working world. One look at the place Johannes, and you might say – ‘Not for me!’
“Then again I might not,” retorted the would-be artist smiling wryly “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time – as you know, I’ve always been able to draw better than most. It’s about the only thing I do well.”
Art Teacher had to silently agree as she folded her sun-tanned arms and continued. “With 12 days, I have programmed 6 activities at 2 days each. Now you realize that in an art studio, each of these is often done by a specialist…”
“Which did you do?” asked Johannes in genuine interest.
“Ah, well, I’ve done them all really, but if I had to choose a favored area, it would be in the conceptual side. This is the first of the 6, in which I’m going to teach you the main processes and elements of Concept. (Who usually cooperate with copywriters at this stage.) The 2nd will be the rendering of that concept, the Layout.”
Art Teacher looked around at her students, yes, they were still with her, so she went on “The 3rd exercise will be Lettering; even with the advent of clever computer lettering, with the plethora of fonts avail …”
“Fonts are typefaces; you know, the various styles of type design one can choose to enhance the visual appeal of your poster, magazine or whatever!
After that, we’ll look at Illustration. Drawing isn’t simple, again there are specialists, like: fashion artists (women’s and men); car illustrators, cartoonists, etc., etc.! If you are the best in your field, you command great respect indeed, both within the industry and without.”
“That’s what I thought: I want to be a designer.” Interrupted Jahannes, as he saw the gilded vision of his illustrious and highly paid future before him. “So, what are the 5th and 6th?”
“The 5th area of specialization is the handling of photography – ‘retouching’ it’s generally called. This is bigger than you might think. There’s an awful lot of photographs used in commercial art, most of which have to be ‘improved’. Never believe what you see; the model in the cosmetic full-page color ad most assuredly isn’t as perfect as she looks. The retouch artist has spent hours removing lines, bags, moles… putting a tincture of blue in the eyes – and even adding that come hither look!”
And that’s just what she saw in young Johannes’ eye, as he rested his head in his hands and smiled winsomely at her. Oh-oh, another schoolboy crush incubating. She’d better mention her husband quickly to throw a bucket on the hot coals of adore! “Which brings me to the 6th; the least glamorous but equally important. This is called Assembly (or ‘paste up’, an inaccurate and insalubrious term). We might only have one day at this, due to our excursion. My husband was an assembly artist when I met him. His job was to prepare the artwork for camera, printing press whatever – for reproduction.
The laying down of type, photos, drawings, color overlays, registration – and other elements on what is officially called the Finished Art is what the assembly artist does. AS you know, he’s a schoolteacher now; but as an artist, he had to know all about the different media requirements, like various magazine and newspaper formats; how to prepare artwork for silk screen; what bleed and grip to provide for printing – it’s all very technical. Of course, we’ll just do an overview of all this, and a small exercise.” Johannes assumed a bored look and looked out the window at mention of his ‘rival’!
Over dinner that evening, Art Teacher turned her attention from the dessert to her husband. Their two children had already run off to play. This sensible family didn’t own a T.V., so they – at this moment Mum and Dad – actually got to talk to each other. “I’m concerned about the ethics issue in my Graphic Arts unit;” she said frowning “every other of the 15 Visual Arts units in high school are unequivocally ‘fine art’.
They are an end in themselves – and morally defensible (content withstanding); but with this one, the art serves another master – Mammon usually. This is not a reason to exclude it from the syllabus, perhaps it creates an ever-greater necessity, preparing the students form the real world as we do. That is unless computer graphics take over as they seem to be doing! The word prostitution drifts around on the sidelines of my mind when I think of using these sublime aesthetic talents to advertise something like – beef week!!
“It’s a meat er, – moot point,” replied hubby slowly “some purists would call commercial art a sell-out. I know I had a constant inner conflict when I was in the game – that’s why I, both of us in fact, became teachers. There’s no ethical conflict-of-interest in education.
As you know, in the 12-fold Subject Zodiac, the Visual Arts are inspired from the high realms of Capricorn, with its nominal Sense of Sight. When a person looks more consciously, as they must do when engaged in one visual art or another, they awaken their Capricorn spirituality. Potentially this can lead the see-er to become a seer!
The visual arts are indeed a transitional path to higher vision. In the 12 Philosophical Viewpoints exposition given by Rudolf Steiner, to mention another kind of vision, that ascribed by the Master to Capricorn is Spiritism. How vital then to reassure oneself of the inherent ‘spiritual’ properties dwelling behind all genuine Visual Art expression.
If this principle is applied, even to commercial art, then the correct ethical path will surely be evident. Yes, this ‘art of commerce’ can be used for good or ill (advertising a cultural festival or cigarettes respectively); but a recognition of the potential Spiritism behind the images can be a lantern in the ethical gloom.”
“Thanks for that; I’ll have to emphasize these points throughout the lesson. One is always free to choose to accept a commission or not. The principled person is more likely to flourish in the long run anyway. The students are all really keen though; this can be put down to their developmental stage. In this, 3rd 7-year path, that of the Astral Body, they are unfolding the soul-flower called the Pictorial Aspect of the Astral Body – the picture aspect of the picture body! No wonder these Class 10s are keen to heighten their picture consciousness.
The class were even interested in a dry run-down I gave them of the various print media that graphic arts serve, like newspapers; magazines, leaflets; point-of-sale displays; window dressing; posters (including those vile 24-sheet hoardings); book publishing; and packaging. The test exercise at the end of the unit will be to choose a ‘commission’; including selecting one or other of these media and producing, first a concept, then a design, and finally finished art.
One student might create a poster for a coming school function: another, a design for a display ad in a local newspaper for the family’s business – including marking up and ordering type. Yet a third may … well, you get the idea. These assignments work better if they’re for a real job – there is greater incentive that way.”
“With layout – sometimes called a ‘rough’,” said Art Teacher a few days later in class “we start with the thumb sketch. First we more or less decide on the format of the finished work, the proportion, whether ‘landscape’ (longer width), or ‘portrait’ (ditto height). We work on a clean sheet of paper, just starting lightly sketching ideas. Don’t be afraid to discard – the mark of the amateur is that s/he picks the first, and usually the only, one.
Let the hand, and by extension the pen or pencil, do the thinking, lightly lettering in the heading, etc. and indicating the larger compositional elements. When you start to like a design, throw it away and do a better version, honing the drawing, relating light and dark areas, making firmer decisions on lettering styles. Only after this ‘rough’ stage does one render a proper layout’.
We can assume that the job has to be presented to a client for approval; these people often can’t judge a layout very well, thinking that the rough lettering is how it’s going to look; so, a fairly well-finished version is often necessary – complete with color.”
And a couple of days later: “Virtually every commercial artist needs to be able to letter; either for creating good layouts, or to design their own fonts, er, typefaces. The original, newly created lettering style can be very impactful, and after I teach you the fundamentals of that archetypal face; that which is the foundation of all our lettering (not ‘writing’, as some would call it), Classic Roman, you will design your own alphabet, including lower case, numerals, and punctuation points!”
“Wow, that sounds like fun!” exclaimed Johannes “I’ve spent ages looking through lettering books, wondering who created all those fantastic ‘fonts’. I know I can come up with something new – maybe as good as the ones in the books?!”
“Really?” Art Teacher loved this boy’s enthusiasm, at least.
“So, there are 4 proportions in the Roman capital alphabet (lower case was added in the middle Ages). These are – 4:4, 4:3, 4:2, 4:1. Here is a photocopy of the alphabet I want you to draw; now notice that I said ‘draw’, not rule. The artistry of this remarkable script (not in the ‘style’ sense) is the fact that there are no straight lines. There is actually a delicate ‘entasis’ on every apparently straight line; so, they’ve all got to be drawn by hand. Look, even the serifs are gently curved, Little Ss. If you can letter Roman, you can letter anything!”
AS the students worked away, she taught the wisdom of this remarkable face; that in which the 4 proportions actually reflect the 4 Bodies of man. 4:4 letters, Mike M and O, are of the Physical Body; these fit in a circle, ‘curve of the physical body’. The Etheric Body expresses through the 3:4 (3 wide, 4 high), found in letters like A and N. These can be constructed in an ellipse, ‘curve of the etheric body’.
Then there are the Astral letters, the ‘half’ or 2:4, such as S and B, modeled as they are on the lemniscate, the ‘astral curve’. And finally, the Ego, which incarnates in one letter only of the alphabet – the image of the Self – that which, when spoken, can only be used in the first person, the 1:1 I of the hyperbola. Ah, if she could only tell them everything she knew about this divinely inspired miracle, the Classic Roman Alphabet!
Drawing of course is the 3rd of the 3 Visual Arts strands, and relates, of the 3 soul forces, to Thinking. One can’t draw well without exerting cerebral activity of a high order. This of course is layered over the foundation of all afternoon lessons, being essentially of a Will nature – so, ‘thinking in the will’! Art teacher was idly engaged in such lofty thoughts on the last day of the unit when Johannes walked out with his hands behind his back.
“How’s the test assignment going?” she enquired sternly “I haven’t seen a thing you’ve done, so how can I assist you? Remember, it won’t help me to write a good report if you don’t hand in a job. After all, you’re the one who said you wanted to work in the industry … oh my gosh, that’s fantastic, I … I couldn’t do better myself!”
Johannes had designed, done finished art for, printed, and hand-colored a wonderful original cassette package for a tape the class had produced in their Class 10 Music unit. When he left school, Johannes did indeed become a top-class designer in a graphic arts studio!