professor
Danny Balgley

Nov 2009

Danny Balgley walks into the first Basic Drawing class and you think, Oh, he must be sweet and adorable, because look how hobbitish he looks! And so you take the class, thinking it can't be all that bad. Unfortunately, Danny is not at all like a stoic hobbit; instead he seems more like a prepubescent teenage girl. He gushes over certain shows he's been watching recently in the mornings, and exhibits mood swings faster than you can say PMS. He does not seem to have the thick skin to take students questioning his artistic judgments in a class about seeing, so never comment if you don't see it the way he does - your comment will not be heard - rather, he'll hear someone undermining his authority, and possibly say something nasty in response, or, worse, send you an email telling you not to take further art classes. Not particularly encouraging. He also forces you out of your chair to personally edit your work, which does not lend to improvement in the class setting, once again in a class about seeing. Nor was his technique, during critique, of having fellow students vote on what they thought was your best work altogether helpful, particularly when it was followed with, "Keep doing that" rather than strong qualitative analysis. Because the emphasis is on how Danny sees it, there's little building of personal style or mark making, and so when you get to critique, there's really not much to discuss; suffice to say, critique was hardly helpful and often condescending. Danny also appears to pick certain students as favorites based on talent, which is problematic in a class where not all students enter with previous practice. Also, if you consider the "voting process" critique in addition to the totalitarian viewpoint, one wonders if Danny realizes the inherent problems of this process in an art world where minority views have been traditionally ignored by the larger market, and additionally the problem of making art that just caters to your audience rather than actually doing what you want to do. If you are looking for an art class where your opinions are not valued and your mistakes will be fixed for you, take this class. But if you're actually looking to improve your drawing skills and be treated like an adult, you'd be better off looking elsewhere.

Feb 2009

Danny is a great teacher. He really focuses on drawing from observation or “direct perception” as he calls it. The lessons really instruct and teach drawing unlike some other classes where the teachers are laid back and lazy. He gave me an A and I found his class to be one of the better art class offerings at Columbia.

Apr 2008

Easily the worst art class I've ever taken. He gave me a C+ and no grades were given before the final to suggest that I was doing poorly or otherwise. All I have to say is that you better not have much of a creative opinion. I'd also recommend not surrendering your chair to him unless you're prepared to have your work massacred. He'd rather draw all over your stuff and then erase it if he messes up than demo on a separate sheet of paper.