Deviant Art in the Classroom

Here's the problem that a lot of art teachers have with Deviant Art: a lot of the images are violent, exploitive, juvenile, and very often - really bad.

This is of course, only a problem in the context of students logging on in the classroom. We're trying to teach Rembrant and the students are looking at images of scantly clad busty women with swords that are dripping with blood.

However- a if we take a look at how the site works, and a bit of a closer look maybe we can find some common ground between what we want to teach and what the students want to learn.

Deviant Art is an open forum for people to post their artwork, and as a result, you're going to get what is essentially a microcosm of the rest of the internet: a lot of inappropriate junk, but also a good deal of interesting and educational stuff, especially when you know which pages to bookmark.

Just to pick an example - artist Heather Horton does beautiful, serene paintings - not a hacked limb or bulging corset in sight. In other words, since students are responding to the format and interactivity of Deviant art, with a little looking around there are plenty of really talented, and largely 'undiscovered' artists to be found here.

Tangent - what does it mean, really, to be 'undiscovered' if, like Horton, you have 46,675 page views?

Back to the main point- you can also find wonderfully imaginative watercolors, like the work of "Scarlet Dragonchild:

You can also find examples of blossoming artists whose work reflects the ideas themes of adolescent art, like this neat little tribute by 'The World Joker':

Of course, I'm being selective. The predominance of violent and exploitive imagery on Deviant Art is explained by its popularity with high school students. As we all remember from our readings on 'artistic development of adolescents', high school often bring themes of solitude, loneliness, violence, and death into their art making. If we can accept the concept that its not just 'ok', but healthy for students to be working through these ideas in their artwork, perhaps a case can be made for the images that they find on this website becoming an important part of class discussion.

Finally, the thing about Deviant Art, that I find absolutely fascinating - because so many students post their images there, it has become, in essence, an enormous online art show that they are curating themselves.

Essentially, its one big amazing "Art 2.0" tool. Accomplished artists, new artists, photographers, graphic designers, painters and drawers all have equal voice here. Obviously, there are issues about using it in the classroom, especially if your school uses a filtering system. Its also really easy to 'stumble upon' some not-school-appropriate images on the site.

Basically, that amounts to making it a difficult site to integrate into the classroom well. Yet, it seems like a great way for students to showcase their work outside of their school community, respond to and critique the works of others, and perhaps discover some new styles, techniques, and mediums that they might like to try out for themselves.


  1. tinymango! said...
    i am no artist. i am a foodie.

    however, i love the paul cezanne quote. and the quaker oats green beret. etc. etc. food, whatever.

    in my past life, i was an artist. i swear.
    Somtirtha said...
    just a awesome blog!! Pictures are too attractive! Punching of food and art can b amazingly enjoyable...ur blog proves it...

    If you are interested then pls visit my blog full of weird and uncommon news of the whole world,n u cn chat wid me in "talk to me" forum...im really waiting 4 u...
    Anonymous said...
    all these are awful!!!!!!!!!!!
    with love,
    Lindsay said...
    I'm a big fan of DeviantArt, even tho it is all those things you said. Too much bad manga, violent and stupid stuff...

    but you were right on the money with it being an 'online art show that [the users] are curating'. And to be honest, that's why I like it so much. A place that is easier than a personal website to keep up, but I can still send a link to my friends at other colleges so they can see what I'm up to. And that occasionally I'll stumble on some artists that are really good or have a unique style and it will make me feel inspired and really nice.
    www.myartspace.com might be a place you'd like to look into. It's a little more... classy? than deviantart.

    Anyway. nice read. :)
    babooshka said...
    Found your comments about teaching art deviant art interesting. Why?
    Because my partner is a supply teacher and the bbc politcs show website cartoonist, and they are controversial.
    check out my blog for the links to his work.
    great site.
    lilliodillo said...
    Do you use deviant art as a presentation tool to display the kinds of everyperson-contemporary art examples to your students in the planning/research phase of art as possible outcomes to media use? Do they log in on their own and do targeted research? Do they log in and do informal research? Am I assuming too much to think that you're using it as a preliminary activity and not a tool to situate assessment or criticism?
    I think the site has potential, too. I use it to talk to undergrads about the concept of "canonized art" (related to the aesthetic/criticism conversations we have) and the breadth of art forms they may encounter as practitioners.
    dsgran said...
    @tinymango- i know a lot of foodies who make cookingn into an art!

    @somtirtha- thanks! I can't take too much credit for the pictures though. I can only give credit to those whose work i post here. :)

    @anonymous- oh well, can't please all the people all the time!

    @lindsay- right on! great resource- in fact, i just posted about it thanks to your comment! Thanks!

    @babooshka- nice! Very interesting stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing more. Thanks!

    @lilliodillo - great questions!!! Actually, i haven't used it at all with my classes in any formal sense. My feeling though is that it might not be as good a tool for 'research' (at least in the traditional sense of the word) as it is for networking with artists who are working in similar mediums/themes and even levels.
    Naco said...
    Love the pic. Amen to peace :)
    Anonymous said...
    It has been said that as much 60% of the traffic to deviantart is from teens 18 and under. So that might give you an idea as to why a poorly drawn zombie with a fox tail has more views that a master work of art. The value of art is in the eye of the beholder. Not to sound like an old man, but young eyes tend to go for gore these days.

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