ForThCo Vision: Supporting FTC™ as A Balanced Way of Seeing™

ForThCo Vision is a knowledge network designed to nurture “forthcoming” vision leading to deeper insight in learners of all ages.   Developed by Dr. Renee Sandell, FTC™ enables any viewer interested in learning to SEE using Form+Theme+Context™ (FTC)™– a balanced approach for decoding and encoding artworks and other phenomena such as a museum, musical recording, poem, or film.  FTC™ process works best in interactive workshops where communities share discoveries and learning directly derived from experience.



Form+Theme+Context (FTC)™

Form+Theme+Context™ (FTC) is a balanced approach to exploring the form + theme + context of an artwork (as well as other phenomena) for deeper understanding.   It is an easily accessible methodology that helps individuals create as well as understand complex layers of meaning in visual language while developing higher-order thinking skills and delving into deeper interdisciplinary engagement.  FTC provides universal access to visual and artistic literacy, which results in deeper engagement through balanced seeing.



Brian Reverman’s Videos: “Discovering Art”

Discovering Art: Search for Meaning video, produced by Brian Reverman, Art Department, International School of Beijing, discusses Renee Sandell’s FTC research and methods about how to use Form, Theme, and Context in decoding art work.

Reverman’s new video Discovering More About Art: The Search for Meaning Continues… shows tools and methods for analyzing a work of art to try to find its meaning and relevance. It highlights the ideas of Dr. Terry Barrett and Dr. Renee Sandell and shows students how to extend these ideas using critical thinking to explore art on a deep level. Designed for high school students, it extends the ideas in the video “Discovering Art, the Search for Meaning” and is a companion video to the graphical analysis tool, the Art-o-matic 2.0 which can be found at…

Decoding & Encoding

Decoding the meaning of a work of art can be likened to the experience of preparing to eat an artichoke.

An artwork as well as this strange vegetable may present some unique challenges when you finally try to prepare or eat one. The process for eating an artichoke seems somewhat unintuitive – its fruit can’t be eaten in its raw form because its sharp leaf tips and tough fibers can wreak havoc on your digestive system. On the other hand, when carefully approached, an artichoke can be a delicious, healthy and unusual addition to almost any meal.

Because a work of art just sits (or hangs) there, the viewer has to actively do the work to decode it.  At first, peeling the sharp tipped, tiny leaves of artichoke seems to provide little reward, but as we continue to pull off the leaves they begin to reveal some flesh that gives us a light taste of the vegetable.  Finally, as we go persist and get deeper, we locate the heart of the artichoke and, once we remove tough fibers, we can taste its soft and unique essence.  When we seek the meaning of a work of art, and take …

About FTC™ Palettes

FTC™ Palettes are Form+Theme+Context graphic organizers that are designed to promote interdisciplinary exploration and deeper learner engagement. A  balanced approach to exploring the form+theme+context of an artwork helps individuals create as well as understand complex layers of meaning in visual language while developing higher-order thinking skills. Discover how to use an FTC Museum Palette to decode a museum–in your community or around the globe–to connect more deeply with the museum itself as a work of art along with its art contents and other dimensions of meaningful learning…

Palette Components

As we explore form, or how the work “is,” we discern the artist’s many structural decisions embedded in the creative process that lead to a final product.
As we examine theme, or what the work is aboutwe examine what the artist expresses through a selected overarching concept or “Big Idea” that reveals the artist’s expressive viewpoint connecting art to life
As we investigate context(s), or when, where, by/for whom and why the art was created (and valued), we comprehend …

Annotation & Analysis Video

Updated FTC Digital Annotation & Analysis Tool Instructional Video by Brian Reverman

SummerVision DC

The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. –Marcel Proust

Growing out of NAEA member requests for additional professional development in addition to the annual convention,  Renee Sandell initiated SummerVision DC  in July 2010 as a successful pilot professional development experience for educators and was transformed into a professional learning community from 2011 to the present.  Read about SummerVision DC 2014 To date, the program has served 240 participants from all over the US and beyond.

SummerVision DC is designed to:

Build a summer professional learning community for art and non-art educators throughout the United States and beyond;
“Nurture the nurturer” by meeting educators’ needs for summer professional renewal through art-based, city-specific museum expeditionary learning in critical response and creative expression;
Study the NAEA book The Museum Experience: The Discovery of Meaning by Carole Henry;
Partner with art museums, to showcase best practices in critical response to art while enhancing creativity through visual journaling;
Utilize research skills through a balanced, interdisciplinary Form+Theme+Context (FTC)™ Palette to decode Museums and Works of Art to enhance visual learning;
Engage art teachers and other educators in using Marking & Mapping™ to develop visual journals that foster creative expression, document aesthetic experience and generate teaching ideas;
Develop leadership, pedagogical, research, and …

Process & Applications

Since many people find the acquisition of traditional drawing and compositional skills intimidating or even threatening, I use the construct of Marking & Mapping™ to rekindle the pleasure we all remember from early years. It doesn’t take us long to discover that we are already fluent in a latent, highly personal yet universally understood mark-making vocabulary that delights and unites us all.  Everyone can easily engage in this kind of data visualization for communication and pleasure.



Having spent most of my career “making my mark” on students of all ages, primarily by training artist-teachers, my written work uses marking and mapping for creating and critically responding to works of art through a balanced Form+Theme+Context (FTC) approach. My FTC Palettes–visual charts that help the user encode and/or decode works of art assist viewers in navigating the artistic process and product. Believing in the power of art to facilitate human interaction and transformation, I teach Marking & Mapping workshops intended to foster insight and vision for individuals within organizations, health spas, businesses, and museum-based learning programs such as NAEA SummerVision DC.

Visual Fitness™: Using Marking & Mapping™ to Express Ideas, Feelings & More

What is Visual Fitness™ and why is it important for all learners?  Marking & Mapping™ is a highly accessible way to creatively express ideas, feelings and more–in a unique and authentic way.

For examples, take a look at my Marking & Mapping e-portfolio and Marking & Mapping on My Pinterest Boards   The video, Journey of An Artful Problem, shows some early ways in which I used Marking & Mapping™ to engage preK to middle school learners in meaningful self expression. The artful problem creatively evolved as a result of FTC different forms , themes and contexts.

You can see my evolving Marking & Mapping™ work featured on the January 2017 Rancho La Puerta Blog

Here’s another example of my work:  Still digesting all I learned  from my Marking & Mapping of the powerful experience of speakers, topics, and insights as a day-long visual journey–shared here.   Hear the  “Start Now” TEDxMidAtlantic talks to see what inspired me.

Hands-on Workshops

Explore Visual Journaling for Balanced Seeing and Storytelling!  Firsthand Experience at NMWA May 14, 2016. Guest artist Renee Sandell led this visual journaling workshop inspired by the special exhibition She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World and its celebration of storytelling and documentation. Participants explored the exhibition for inspiration and expressed their stories through drawing, Marking & Mapping™, and writing exercises. This workshop was designed to engage audiences 13 and older. Materials and instruction were provided.

Marking & Mapping™ Your Career Pathways

Join Emerging Art Leaders of DC (EALDC) members to explore your career pathways through the playful experience of visual journaling as you activate your innate creativity and insight.  June 5, 2015 12:00- 1:00 PM, Arts & Humanities Council in Silver Spring

In this 1-hour hands-on workshop,  use visual journaling to explore personal and professional histories, current lives, and future directions. Starting with warm-up activities and using special art tools, engage in meditative markmaking, play with art materials, and possibilities for visualization.   Use line and color to create marks that visually encode ideas, actions, and feelings into a “Career Mini-Map” that reveals significant insights into your unique personal/professional calling.  Absolutely no previous studio art background is necessary. Join us for this …

Noteworthy Musings…

Visual Fitness for Creativity and Insight™

Renee teaching how to read Frida’s art…in Mexico!

SummerVision DC

SummerVision DC 2017, July 18-21, 2017

Sharing SVDC 2017 “New Eyes” Maps


Seeing More in Museums

Renee Sandell views museums as extraordinary exploratory sites for learners of all ages. While teaching at Maryland Institute College of Art from 1991-2003, she and her MAT students collaborated annually with the Baltimore Museum of Art to create unique, object-specific tours for families.

For 9 years at George Mason University, Sandell has facilitated Artful Adventures for Families, based on university-museum partnerships with Washington DC museums, connecting pre-service art educators with original art works at The Kreeger Museum, The Phillips Collection, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Smithsonian American Art Museum  and the National Portrait Gallery.

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