Visual Literacy Skills: How to See

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Poor course I have shelves full of Great Courses. This is the first one returned.
Date published: 2020-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've been an artist for most of my life. This course reminded me of some basics I'd forgotten and explained things I didn't know.
Date published: 2020-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Definitely recommend I am an industrial designer currently teaching a similar course at a college level and am familiar with the topics presented. I took it out of curiosity for how such topics are presented from an artist point of view. The course presented by the professor was enjoyable and covered most of what’s important as an introduction to creativity. Since “design thinking” was mentioned a couple of times during the course, I’d like to clarify that it is an integrated problem solving methodology and an involved process that utilizes intuitive and emotive qualities (art), as well as rational and analytical expertise (technology). As such, the process can be applied to many problem areas including mass production of products, but also to art challenges. I add my recommendations to interested individuals to conduct hands on practice and experimentation of the topics presented to enhance their visual experience (as was suggested).
Date published: 2020-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Just aired watching the. Video as and am captivated!
Date published: 2020-01-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Could be done much better At the time I wrote this there were only nine reviews. Based on those reviews this course has the most bipolar distribution of reviews I can remember reading. Apparently the reviewers either loved it or did not like it at all. I am one who found this course almost useless. I hate to say that. I've only written one other review of TGC products that I gave this low of a score. Perhaps your experiences in art heavily influences your opinion of this course. I started photography in 1960. I started drawing and painting about 1955. I have been reasonably successful as a photographer in many amateur (and some professional) competitions. I don't want to brag but I've "been there done that." I have been through hundreds of photo critique sessions and numerous art classes (mostly photography). This TGC product appears to be an attempt to put a full college art curriculum into twelve hours of lecture. A noble attempt; but, too much in too little time. Many times the teacher compares image A to image B and says 'you can see how A does X and B does Y.' I looked at those images and said " how did she conclude that ?" More explanation of how she drew that conclusion is desperately needed. As a very INTRODUCTORY course in ALL the elements a painter, photographer, architect, designer has to consider in their work it is a success. It is truly an introduction to all the elements a person should know and "see" if they are engaged in an artistic endeavor. However; it needs much more explanation of the various examples to drive the point home.
Date published: 2019-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helps me see the world differently I think this course would be especially useful for people who have not previously taken formal art classes. Although Dr. Patterson's approach is gentle and encouraging, her lessons are packed full of information, She thoughtfully incorporates principles of art, architecture, psychology, art history, graphic design, and interior design to make a strong case for why we should develop visual literacy skills.
Date published: 2019-11-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A visual literacy course that needed more visuals I was excited to buy this course, especially after watching a free lecture made available by Great Courses, but sadly, I found it very disappointing. For a course on visual literacy, visuals were few and far between so for most of each half hour, the instructor was all there was for me to watch. She did have much information to convey, maybe too much. Rather than feeling like she was teaching, though, I felt read to, at too fast a pace for much to be absorbed. Visuals were sorely missed, as was the spirit of creativity.
Date published: 2019-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect for Beginners I am not an artist, and I loved the way the instructor covered the information. It was very easy for me to follow, and I loved the way she spoke. She was very relaxed and it made me feel like I was talking with a friend.
Date published: 2019-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Practical examples for students and teachers It took me a bit to warm up to this topic. I actually had to take a break for life stuff and when I went back, I realized what a cool thing Patterson was doing. He lessons were about taking the everyday experiences and seeing them in a way that
Date published: 2019-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It’s a good and complete title - says exactly what We are tuning up some photographic skills and my husband feels he needs a more artistic way of seeing. He saw the title and thought it would give him some tips on how to see less analytically. We’re only 5 lessons in and he is talking about it daily. I started applying insights the day after the first lecture in my practice.
Date published: 2019-09-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Really bad I bought this course thinking that it would expand my knowledge. However it was a real disappointment and I wish I could get my money back.
Date published: 2019-09-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I didn't find much of value in this course. It's really simple, like it's written for a child or someone that knows absolutely nothing about art. The instructor does litle more than introduce some basic terms, followed by some vacuous statements and examples that provide no depth. The lectures are quite short. Most are less than 25 minutes.
Date published: 2019-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art like I’ve never seen before! This was a creative course that identifies many ways to look at art. There is a lot of new vocabulary to learn. There are directions for designing and creating visually pleasing works. I especially liked the scientific principles that were discussed. I enjoyed learning about how the brain can get used to operating upside down. I liked the progression from 2D to 3D and then into how time is displayed visually. Neat stuff!
Date published: 2019-09-01
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Visual Literacy Skills: How to See
Course Trailer
Visual Power: What It Is and Why It Matters
1: Visual Power: What It Is and Why It Matters

First, take into account the dominant role of visual input in the way we perceive, understand, and navigate the world. Consider the value of examining our visual experience and the visual choices we make, as they shape how we think, feel, and act. Practice two experiential exercises that train you to carefully observe what you see, and to explore the visual world through your other senses.

24 min
Seeing as a Skill
2: Seeing as a Skill

Begin to explore the components of visual literacy through specific exercises. Grasp how visual literacy involves accurately seeing, describing, and constructing meaning from your experience. Learn about the nature of visual syntax, and the importance of the function and context of what you see. Finally, examine how the modes of representation, abstraction, and symbolism function in art.

27 min
Sensing and Perceiving: How You See
3: Sensing and Perceiving: How You See

Study the anatomy of the eyes, the physiology of seeing, and how the eyes process visual sensations. Then, observe how the brain translates sensation into perception by selecting, organizing, and interpreting information. Look at visual perception using the principles of Gestalt psychology, as the principles describe how the elements of perception are organized into a holistic visual experience.

27 min
Should You Believe What You See?
4: Should You Believe What You See?

Delve into the most important aspect of our visual experience: the ways we create meaning from what we see. Learn about the nature of human cognitive function and how we conceptualize our perceptions of the world. Explore optical illusions, and how they’re used in Op Art. Then, examine how changing cultural norms affect the work of artists and architects, influencing their visual choices.

24 min
Representation and Illusion
5: Representation and Illusion

How do we define what is real? To begin to answer that question, look into representation in art, and how we value artists’ ability to create the illusion of form and dimension. Observe how photography alters our experience of the world, and how we tend to view photos as “truth.” Grasp the ways in which, in both photography and art, images are “constructed,” and how fact and fiction can overlap.

22 min
Elements of Visual Syntax
6: Elements of Visual Syntax

Visual syntax is the foundation for visual language. Look first at seven formal elements artists and designers use, such as line, shape, color, and texture. Learn about the principles of design that create a composition, including unity, emphasis, and balance. See how these elements and principles are used to create specific effects, by studying historic and contemporary interiors.

21 min
Visual Foundations: Dot, Line, and Shape
7: Visual Foundations: Dot, Line, and Shape

Take a systematic look at the visual elements artists and designers use in their creative work. Start with the dot, an individual point in space. Observe how artists use dots to establish location, form, and value. Continue with the properties and expressive uses of lines and implied lines in art. Finally, discover the principles of shapes, and study positive and negative space.

22 min
Visual Foundations: Value
8: Visual Foundations: Value

Continue your study of visual language with value, the degree of lightness or darkness of a hue or a form. Assess value in the work of celebrated artists, and practice exercises that train the eyes to see value. Note how the materials you use influence your work with value, and evaluate the value of colors using a grayscale. Learn to change value in paint colors through tinting and shading.

21 min
Visual Foundations: Color
9: Visual Foundations: Color

Observe how each human culture possesses a “language” of color, and how we assign meaning to colors. Look at different scientific systems for understanding color, and practice exercises to identify the dimensions of hue, value, and chroma. Grasp how color is relative to its surroundings, and how knowledge of color plays a key role in art, design, architecture, and any visual decision.

26 min
Visual Foundations: Texture
10: Visual Foundations: Texture

Consider texture as a vital component of our interaction with the visual world, noting how we experience texture through both touch and sight. Look into the physiology of touch, and the power of texture to produce strong physical and emotional responses. Explore texture through the techniques of collage, montage, and assemblage, and practice minute observation and the copying of textures.

21 min
Visual Foundations: Space
11: Visual Foundations: Space

Study how artists and designers create the illusion of space in two dimensions. Begin with shallow space, a compositional approach which stresses the two-dimensional aspect of an artwork. See how artists indicate space and depth through the placement of objects and measuring of proportions within the picture plane. Learn about atmospheric perspective, linear perspective, and projection.

22 min
Thinking in Three Dimensions
12: Thinking in Three Dimensions

This lesson explores the principles of three-dimensionality in art. Begin with a study of low relief artworks, where forms stand out against a flat surface, and do a studio exercise creating low relief in clay. Continue with high relief technique in clay, learning to model the volume of a form. Finish with a look at fully three-dimensional art, and create a simple freestanding sculpture.

31 min
Building in Three Dimensions
13: Building in Three Dimensions

Architecture, design, and 3D art all rest upon knowledge of volume and mass. Grasp the vital role of the materials used in architecture, as they affect structure, volume, and the the experience of a space. Review a case study of a designed house, for its use of volume, material, proportion, and scale. Observe how design must balance volume and mass for both functional and visual concerns.

28 min
The Limits of Space: Visual Landscapes
14: The Limits of Space: Visual Landscapes

Through landscape, explore how artists and designers navigate the complexities of space. Take a deep look at the rules of linear perspective as they apply both to art and to our immediate experience. Witness how artists capture the disordered sense of built environments through other perspective systems, and how they evoke a sense of timelessness and the infinite in depicting natural landscapes.

30 min
Principles of Design
15: Principles of Design

Here, begin to refine and deepen your own skills as a visual communicator. Look first at the nature of composition, the arrangement of visual elements in relation to one another. Then delve into four fundamental principles of design: unity and variety, emphasis, balance, and proportion and scale. Learn specific methods for cultivating and applying these principles in your own life.

21 min
Exploring Visual Time
16: Exploring Visual Time

Witness the remarkable ways in which time operates in art and visual communication. Note how the experience of art is influenced by the creation time of the work, the duration of viewing, and how artists capture fixed moments and the progress of time. Practice ways of seeing and expressing time visually, and observe elements such as tempo, implied motion, and real time in visual experience.

21 min
Strategies for Visual Storytelling
17: Strategies for Visual Storytelling

Unpack the principles behind visual art that conveys a narrative or story. See how a narrative can be expressed within a still image (static visual narrative), within a moving image (dynamic visual narrative), and within a format that requires the participation of the viewer (interactive visual narrative). Practice the skills of static narrative, and learn to convey a story using still images.

23 min
Symbol, Subject, Content, and Context
18: Symbol, Subject, Content, and Context

Explore how symbols, subject matter, content, and context work together to create meaning. First, delve into the function of signs, symbols, and logos, and assess their remarkable power. Delineate subject matter in art, in relation to content, the impact or meaning of an artwork. Then grasp the vital importance of context, as it affects our understanding of symbol, subject, and content.

23 min
Making Choices: Material, Method, and Style
19: Making Choices: Material, Method, and Style

In art and design, your material, artistic method, and style all carry meaning. Take a thorough look at the matter of choosing your material, and the practical and aesthetic factors bearing on that choice. Observe how the artistic method you employ affects the work and its meaning. Finally, define what style is, and grasp how to develop and express style in your work and your life.

27 min
Cultivating Creative Habits
20: Cultivating Creative Habits

Look at ways to build daily habits that engage your visual skills and cultivate your creative self. Consider taking time at the start of your day to set the stage for creative thinking and work. Study strategies for remaining flexible and open, refining visual consciousness, and capturing creative thoughts, using drawing, reading, and writing. Identify artistic habits that you’d like to grow.

18 min
The Visual Life: Active Observation
21: The Visual Life: Active Observation

Investigate what it means to become an intentional active observer. Consider practical ways to challenge or suspend ordinary perception in order to see in new ways and change your perspective. Practice convergent thinking and divergent thinking, non-linear brainstorming, sketching, and other techniques to expand your awareness and strip away assumptions about what you see.

27 min
The Visual Life: Exploring and Connecting
22: The Visual Life: Exploring and Connecting

Contemplate the essence of innovative thinking, in making connections that may not be obvious within phenomena you observe. Practice pushing your thinking into new areas by arousing curiosity, exploring connections, doing research, and looking at the large picture. Study scenarios that foster original thought, ways to generate ideas, and how to structure a period of creative work.

25 min
The Visual Life: Collecting
23: The Visual Life: Collecting

Examine the human impulse to collect, curate, and appropriate objects, and consider collecting as an essential skill for artists and designers. Observe examples of personal and historical collections, as well as public and private collections, and look into how to begin collecting yourself. Also, learn how to curate and display your own collection, and study guidelines for collecting art.

23 min
The Visual Life: Becoming a Maker
24: The Visual Life: Becoming a Maker

Conclude with an inspiring view into the process of creating art and design. Inquire into what type of artistic works attract you, and explore different paths to becoming a maker of art. Learn to set creative goals, set up a workspace, and select materials. Finally, look at how to identify a theme and subject matter, and consider ways to discover your unique creative process.

35 min
Carrie Patterson

Teaching and making art are inseparable practices. I learned everything I know about teaching from outstanding painters who taught me the importance of passing on the tradition of making objects.


St. Mary’s College of Maryland


University of Pennsylvania

About Carrie Patterson

Carrie Patterson is a Professor of Art at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She earned her BFA in Studio Art from James Madison University and her MFA in Painting from the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Patterson has been with St. Mary’s College of Maryland since 2004, teaching both undergraduate and graduate art courses and working across departments to foster an interdisciplinary approach to art education.

Professor Patterson is also a visual artist whose work considers how color, form, and line can measure and express our physical experiences. Her artwork has been exhibited across the country with solo shows in New York City, Philadelphia, Virginia, and Minnesota, as well as at Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá, Colombia. She has received several awards for her work, including the Savelli Painting Award and the graduate teaching award from the University of Pennsylvania, a Virginia Governor’s Fellowship award, and a Seedling Painting Award from the Leeway Foundation.

Through her studio in Leonardtown, Maryland, Professor Patterson promotes lifelong learning with a wide range of art classes for students of all ages and experience levels. She is currently developing an art curriculum for early childhood and K–12 students to encourage the establishment of critical visual literacy skills as part of foundational learning.

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