Teaching art is about inspiring students to connect with a medium that becomes a record, which they can share with themselves and others. In order for art to make an impact it needs to connect with truth. A vision of purpose is necessary in order create artwork. I expect students to be interested in learning and to engage in class. I find learning is an ongoing process of discovery that helps me to grow as an artist and person. I want students to come away from class with the skills and fluency with the medium, and a confidence in expressing their own ideas. In teaching I want students to discover methods of expression that excite and inspire them to explore possibilities. It is through the process of teaching techniques through exercises that students begin to realize the methods that through practice and experimentation can transform their ideas into inspiring conversations of creating.
Although mediums and motivations may be different for each student, people want to create something that inspires themselves and others. When students create work that they are excited about, this enthusiasm is contagious and encourages conversations to develop between students, instructor and their projects, changing the whole dynamic of a class.
I have found several ways to start the process of creative conversation flowing. During a studio class, I like to start out with quick exercises to get the students making things without over thinking and planning, relaxing an artist and turning off the inner critic. I can then introduce larger projects and help them with any questions that arise during the exercises. One part of each assignment that has stuck with me since college is the process of creating at least ten quick sketches for each composition. I find that the final composition benefits from being able to combine the best elements from each of the sketches. Challenging students to create projects that will be instantly visible by the community such as painting murals or benches endows projects with purpose and shows students that their work is valued. I like to help students create basic websites and put their work on social media such as Instagram. When we take the student’s artwork seriously, the students take pride in their work.
Although I try to get students to turn off their inner critics while they creating, critiques are a very important part of the creation process. We first discuss individual reactions to the projects. I often like students to write a quick paragraph about their project before presenting it in class as well as walking around to look at every project while jotting down one short comment about each project. In this way every student begins with something to say about both their own project and that of the other students. It also helps people to express their first responses to the projects without being influenced by my reactions or those of other students. It is helpful for the artist during a critique to hear the reactions of others as a way to compare with their intentions. Intentions of an art piece can greatly alter one’s perception of the content. It is important for students to determine what to share as far as intention.
While I believe that exercises during class are important to developing a creative conversation, I think that assignments are essential to keeping that conversation going and growing. Assignments are how students refine their skills and develop their own ideas and methods of creating art. Most students in my classes want specific guidelines that let them know the expectations for an art project. The need to be told what to do surprised me when I first started teaching. I expected students to be self-motivated with their own inspiration for creating. I find that when I give specific assignments, students begin testing the limits of the guidelines as they grow more confident in their abilities. As students push the boundaries of the assignment their projects show improvement and provide inspiration to the entire class. When a project moves beyond the assignment, the work becomes more empowering, inspiring students to use assignments as catalysts rather than limitations.
In order to help each individual student to reach their potential, I believe it is important to have one-on-one conferences with each student. At these conferences students bring their notebooks and sketches, and we discuss their ideas for projects and the direction of their artwork. I like to bring up artists that the students can look up for influence and context. During this time we can discuss the whole range of art practice from concept to techniques and composition. Individual meetings with teachers, have created some of my most important learning moments as both a student and teacher.
Finally, I believe that it is important that the students learn about the history surrounding the artistic practice, and to consider influences outside the artistic practices. While encouraging individual student expression, it is important to consider influential sources and motivations. Through sharing art history and acknowledging influences and motivations I can help students to develop methods of image making, and thought processes of creativity that help them to develop conversations in creativity and engage their community.