Home-Study and Studio Art Instruction for Children and Adults-Teacher Training

The Program’s Principles and Goals:

The New Masters™ program was developed and continues to be conducted on the basis of the following principles.

The perception and invention principles

The analysis, manageability and mastery principles

The goals of the New Masters™ program

The Perception and Invention Principles:

Perception-Based vs. Invention-Based Art Instruction

There is a fundamental difference in principle between the New Masters system and most other Art Programs. While most art programs today are based on the invention principle: the idea that creativity is primarily a product of the imagination, the New Masters Program is based on the perception principle: the idea that individuals are more fundamentally creative in the way they perceive the real world than in the way they invent or imagine fanciful inner worlds. What this means, among many other things, is that art programs based on the invention principle have no external or objective basis for judging their effectiveness or the progress of their students. Teachers in such programs cannot determine how successful their students are at working from their imaginations because they have no way of knowing what their student’s imaginations actually contain. The only imagination teachers have any direct knowledge of is their own — which explains why most art instruction today is based primarily upon the personal artistic tastes of the instructor and the passing trends of the day. It explains why such programs vary so widely from school to school, and why art education is the only field today that attempts to function without a viable system of standards.

Because perception-based art instruction is founded on objective, rather than personal, references:
the objects of the visible world, it has a stable basis for the establishment of standards. Whether those objects are simple cartoon pictures or complex still lives, the teacher and the student can judge the student’s progress (up to a point) by comparing the student’s artwork with the original object — something they both experience in common.

Proponents of invention-based art instruction often argue that copying pictures is not a creative activity. Such statements, of course, are based on the modern concept of creativity, the idea that real art, the highest art, comes from the imagination rather than the senses. While copying pictures may not be creative in an inventive sense, it is an essential element in the development of creativity in a perceptual sense. The importance of copying pictures is not to be found in the artwork produced, but in the skills developed in the process. These skills are then applied to what is, in our view, the highest and most creative of artistic acts: the truthful rendering of nature directly perceived, as it is perceived.

While personal experimentation and free-exploration types of art classes can provide valid and potentially rewarding experiences for certain students under certain conditions, it is important to note that such activities are not skill-development activities and do little to prepare children for the time when their developing perceptions of the world can no longer be contained within the simple symbol-systems of early childhood. It is important to note that even though the New Masters System emphasizes perception, it does not ignore the imagination. It simply reverses the emphasis found in most art programs today. Its emphasis on developing the ability to draw and paint directly from visual experience is enriched by added training in the strategies of invention — training in drawing and painting techniques and design principles that enable students to use their perceptual and technical abilities in ways that free them from both inventive and perceptual conventions.

The arguments supporting Perception-based art instruction can be briefly summarized as follows:

1. Experts in the field of visual perception almost unanimously agree that seeing is a creative act — perhaps the most creative of acts. Each of us experiences the world in a uniquely personal way.

2. Abstraction, the primary instrument of “expression” in the field of invention-based aesthetics, is defined as a departure from the world of sense-experience, and is, therefore, a departure from that which is most creative and most unique about us: the way we view the world as individuals.

3. The goal of art under the perceptual aesthetic is to learn to see the world in one’s own terms, free of the limitations imposed by inadequate technical skills and free from the influence of intellectual trends and visual conventions, both perceptual and inventive.

4. Perceptual art is based on a more substantial and legitimate historical tradition than that associated with the Modern Art movement. The modern art tradition is supported by questionable references to El Greco and Goya, and by justifiable references to Gauguin, the Post Impressionists, Picasso, and Matisse. The perceptual tradition has its basis in the work of Giotto, Leonardo, Carravaggio, Rembrandt, Velazquez, the Impressionists, and Paul Cezanne. (We take the position that Paul Cezanne was a perceiver rather than an inventor and that he has thus been improperly associated with the Modern Art movement. The true “father of Modern Art,” in our view, is Paul Gauguin.)

The Analysis, Manageability and Mastery Principles:

The Analysis Principle
The New Masters™ curriculum is the result of exhaustive analyses of the processes of drawing and painting conducted over a period of several years. This research was undertaken with the conviction that all artistic skills, regardless of their difficulty, are made up of component skills that can be mastered by anyone — if they are arranged in a logical sequence and practiced regularly. Thus far over 190 component skill groups involved in the drawing process have been identified. Students master these skill groups separately on worksheets and then integrate them by applying them to projects of gradually increasing difficulty.

The Manageability Principle
One of the most important reasons the New Masters™ Program works as well as it does for all students is that the process of drawing has been broken down into tasks simple enough for any person to master. With the availability of this program, then, the only real difference between “gifted” and “un-gifted” students is that gifted students require fewer steps and less time to attain artistic mastery than do un-gifted students.

The Mastery Principle
The mastery principle states that if one can manage a task, one can eventually master it. All New Masters™ students must master the task at hand before they move on to the next. Thus, success in this program is not something that is sought after or strived for or hoped for; it is insisted upon. It is built into the curriculum every step of the way.

Other of the program’s guiding principles include: The Progressive Principle, which assures that instruction proceeds, as does formal training in mathematics, music and language, in a logical and systematic manner from the simpler to the more complex skills; The Individualization Principle, which assures that each student is guided by a curriculum adapted to his or her own learning rate, needs, and interests; and The Enjoyment Principle, which states that effective learning must at all times be as stimulating and “fun” as possible.

The Goals of the New Masters Program:

  1. To provide all students with a solid technical foundation in representational drawing and painting skills — to be used either for their own enjoyment or as a basis for further training in the commercial or fine arts fields.
  2. To help students develop skills more fundamental than drawing and painting, those general skills necessary for success in any field: patience, endurance, concentration, the ability to work carefully and deliberately, to analyze problems and develop intelligent strategies to solve them, the ability to be self-reflective and self-critical.
  3. To help students adopt personal standards of excellence that will carry through into all areas of their lives.


New Masters private lessons are available for children ages six and up or for anyone who prefers private lesson over classroom instruction. (Age exceptions will be made based on the parent’s conception of their child’s maturity and capability.)

 For more information call 1-800-210-1220 or e-mail Gordon school of art at: gordon@newmasters.com.