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Doing an Independent Study

Erin gives more detail about her independent art study.

Erin gives more detail about her independent art study.


I’ve always loved to be challenged, and to do self-directed work. Proposing an independent study at Carleton has been the perfect avenue for this!

How Did I Propose It?

My art professor told me about the option of doing an independent study at the end of last term, a little while before I registered for winter term courses. He knew I was very interested in art (and am a potential studio art major), so he really wanted me to explore my interests as much as possible.

Since there is often limited space in classes (especially considering Covid occupancy restrictions) I wasn’t able to get into any studio art classes this term. I was very interested in doing another class called Figure Drawing, so this is what he suggested I roughly based my independent study around. Because independent studies can’t be exactly like another class that’s offered, I had to change the goals of the study a little bit.

After figuring out a core idea for my study and talking to my professor about it, I submitted the proposal!

Basically, I answered questions about my motivations, the project’s key goals and concepts, and what skills I would develop through it. I also made a syllabus for it, which helped get it approved by my professor, academic advisor, and the registrar. I was so excited to add it to my winter term schedule!

My plan:

My proposed course is a combination of improving my art skills and representing feminist statements.

I’m doing a study on the human body, specifically focusing on detailed elements. Specifically, my focus is to portray features that are usually considered “gross” or “ugly” when on a women’s body; for example, body hair, stretch marks, and cellulite. I’m also playing with ideas of gender and physical expression through my art.

In doing this, I not only get to improve my drawing skills, but am also able to learn more about gendered barriers and the history of women’s oppression and objectification.

art study 1
Study in Charcoal

What I’ve done so far:

Generally, I spend an hour or two a day working on my study. So far, I have done studies on the figure (in graphite), and have just started to work on color and skin tone and texture variation (in charcoal and pastel). I meet with my studio advisor every week so we can discuss my work, talk about how I can improve, and where to go from there. Next week, I hope to start going to the Weitz Center more regularly to work with watercolor, and eventually, live models!

art study
Study in Charcoal

I’m so glad I was able to do this study—I couldn’t imagine a term without some sort of artistic work!

If you also love to be challenged—and to follow your own interests that may not be represented by an official class—I would highly recommend proposing an independent study.

art study 3
Study in Charcoal

Erin grew up catching salamanders, recklessly climbing trees, and running around barefoot in the Appalachian Mountains in a small town in North Carolina. This is her first year at Carleton, and she’s looking forward to meeting new people, exploring campus (especially the arb!), and experiencing her first Minnesota winter. She is currently interested in studying psychology and gender, women’s, and sexuality studiesMeet the other bloggers!