The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
By Ted Orland (2006)
By Ted Orland (2006)
Chapter 4: The Education of the Artist, Part 4
This last and final section of Chapter 4 is directed toward art teachers. Orland writes: Teaching has its consequences. As a First Principle, teachers would do well to heed the counsel of Hippocrates: “First, Do No Harm.”
As students of art, we trust our teachers on many levels: to provide us with accurate and useful information, to serve as a role model, and to inspire us to innovate according to our own sensibilities with skill.
I’ve been teaching in one capacity or another for nearly forty years and understand the bond of trust between teacher and student. It’s one that should never be violated, and it’s an awesome responsibility. As a teacher, you never know how someone will react to what you say or do. We can inspire without even knowing it, and we can also destroy creativity and desire just as easily.
By my accounting, Orland writes, good teaching is more a process of raising the next question (or hundred questions) a student needs to confront in order to make headway in their work. Isn’t that the truth? It’s like the old adage about teaching someone to fish. He also writes, You soon realize that your real purpose as a teacher may simply be as a catalyst, offering a few provocative ideas here, clearing the way past a few technical hurdles there, and eventually just pointing the way to the far horizon.
As a teacher, it’s important for me to show my students how to think critically, creatively, and independently. As Orland puts it, no one else has the answers you need anyway. He recounts a tentative student whose creativity needed to be released. So, he asked her four important questions that I’ll paraphrase for us painters:
What’s the easiest subject for you to paint?
What’s the emotionally riskiest subject you’d dare approach?
What do you have a passion to paint?
What’s the single greatest obstacle standing between you and the art you need to make?
These are great questions!
What are your thoughts?