For the next nine months, I'm teaching drawing. Drawing with a little color theory and basic painting thrown in. Back to basics, which, considering I began art school in 1995 (almost twenty years ago!) is waaaay back for me.
It's wonderful. I have a group of students who all want to be there. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy
I'm getting to draw too. Actually, considering how so much of my drawing in the past few years has been purpose-driven - for a print, for a project - I was a little nervous at first. It's been a while since I've had time to just draw for no intention but drawing. And at first, I kept remembering some of my teachers who liked to show off, to show how "good" they were, how "perfectly" they could draw, how much cred they had.
And then I remembered teachers who taught the technical skills, but also made sure to teach the gestalt, the passion, the magic of drawing. One distinct memory is of being in a life drawing class with the professor linked above, and being shown sketches by Pontormo in which he had erased and redrew figures, adjusting them till everything felt complete. And I thought about this in comparison to the teachers who showed off.
The teachers who showed me the mistakes taught me to see drawing as a journey, an adventure, an experience that enabled growth and insight.
I'm also familiar with the story that many art school survivors tell - that the study of art can drain the passion for it. This happens for many reasons - sometimes for teachers who are closeminded or threatened by the questions and new ideas that students present, that feel that Art fits a certain definition that a student doesn't fill. Sometimes its because a student encounters the rigor, demands and sacrifices of what the academic study of art requires and chooses a different path. So a midst teaching a technical grounding, I'm simultaneously trying to build gestalt, passion and awareness of their own growth.
For instance, I remember in Basic Drawing with Frida Fehrenbacher, spending two extremely focused hours drawing cross contours of objects. When we had about forty minutes left of our three hour class, she told us to put these drawings away and to take out a new piece of paper. And then she engaged us in scribbling, erasing, and loosening up. I remember how energizing the experience was, gifting us with a balance and also insight into drawing as a place. The memory of this moment has stayed with me; and it is something I incorporate into my teaching now.
Next week, I'm taking my students to the Cantor. By taking them there, of course I want them to be inspired and to develop understanding of some great works of art. But I also want them to understand that by choosing to study art, these works are their inheritance. Not just theirs, of course, really all humanity (which is why they belong in museums, particularly museums with free admission like the Cantor). More than that, I want them to consider that by choosing to be an artist, a person says that yes, sometimes the world sucks, but they believe that that is not the default model of humanity. That by learning to draw, they are embarking on a path to making the world better.