Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Teaching Art


 I teach through action and immersion. Just keep moving, contemplate later. In art, for me at least, there are times of rest and contemplation, and times of work. Art making is a time for work. It is the time to pull from the mental and make physical. Create a reality, a piece of art. For this the contemplative brain needs to move over, the art critic side isn’t even invited to the party. Learn to ask and answer your own questions on the move. The sooner I can get a student making art the better. Get something done and then we have something to talk about. Auh but here is the rub, your best contemplative thoughts will come to you while working. So I use the artist tool of the sketchbook. The thoughts that come to you while your working will not come again. Write them down and keep moving.

The group critique is important, yet the most important question to ask is, does it serve your art? Is this work serving my concept and is my concept serving my art. Why are you using oil paint, watercolor or acrylic which one serves you best? Would mixed media serve you better? Why 2D, why 3D? Why make an image in the first place, should you bring in the object that already holds the meaning your looking for? Critiques teach you to see. You need to learn to be honest, but to really do this you must feel safe. Critiques must always feel safe.   As the instructor it is your job to keep this balance.

You must be excellent at your technique yet I think of techniques as tools. The more tools in your tool box the larger your range, but the tools are not the art. The tools give you the ability to work out your concept more clearly but never confuse it with your art.

Know the history behind what you are doing, it will follow you no matter, you might as well use it. Context is everything, so you had better understand yours. For example if you are painting people in oil the whole history of oil portraits well influence the work. Both you and the observer will bring that to the work. For this reason I use art history in my teaching. If I think another artist or period of art has something to offer my student I make sure to open them up to it.

Know you inspirations and acknowledge them. As a teacher this is a hit and miss.  I look at what your doing show you work that I think might apply. The best way to do this is through emersion. This is why I show a lot of work in my classes. Half of art is learning to see, to do that you have to look at a lot of art.

I image my students going home tired but full, creative juices flowing. I like that image.