The Laws of Nature

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Education of the Artist, Part 4

The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
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?


Celeste Bergin said...

Yes the student can "hear" all sorts of things from the teacher.... I quit painting for a year over something my first workshop teacher said to me. Of course, after returning to painting and thinking about what he REALLY said, I realize he never said what I thought he said!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy, Coincidentally, I was thinking tonight about art teachers as being facilitators of learning. I think this is the same thing that Mr. Orland is saying.

There is so many good points in this article I keep saying, "yes", "yup" and, "oh yes! that's what I've been thinking".

The last question hit home! That's a question I want to work on as I try to figure out how to paint what I feel.

-Don said...

These are all great questions, and wonderful food for thought. I'll be chewing on them tonight as I create...


RH Carpenter said...

These questions were definitely a kick in the pants this morning for me! I could answer them all and the answers didn't surprise me but may open other directions for me to travel.

Linda Roth said...

Food for thought questions--particularly what WAS standing in the way. I was standing in the way, but not anymore. I've dropped my judgmental tendencies and am forging ahead. Now it's just stuff like the laundry standing between me and my studio.

Children are the easiest to paint. Their purity, their promise, their honesty is right up front.

The emotionally riskiest painting I did this summer was a landscape, but I didn't know it till I was into it. I shot the photo I used right after I finished chemo and radiation therapy. And when I went to paint it a year later, my anger shot onto the canvas. I made a summer landscape look hellish. I should have left it like that, it was great. But I chickened out and brought it back to the loveliness that was the scene. I was a coward.

I have the passion to paint whatever it is I'm painting--or else I wouldn't have chosen it to paint. Eight years ago it was flowers. This year it's pastries and the woods behind my house. The two don't mix when you talk about them, but I'm sure somewhere deep inside they have something to do with what's going on with me.

hw (hallie) farber said...

These are great questions. I think age removes some of the risks and obstacles; someplace I had copied a great quote to that effect. I looked--I didn't find the quote; instead, I found my Leatherman tool (missing for at least a year). Thank you!

My best teachers were the ones who allowed me to question and try things that might not work.

M said...

I certainly can't argue with any of these comments about teaching. I've always felt that my role as a teacher was to provide a positive environment where the student feels comfortable to question and take risks. Of course there are lots of other things you need to do but these are the touchstones.

Good questions at the end. Interestingly enough what I love to paint and what I'm passionate about painting happens to be the same.

Unknown said...

Hi Celeste - Oh, dear!! I'm glad to know that you returned to painting. Whew - close one!

Hi Peggy - those questions are real "zingers." I need to post them in my studio!

Hi Don - happy chewing!! I'm doing the same.

Hi Rhonda - definitely a kick in the pants. Happy traveling!

Hi L.W. - it's great that you emote through your work! Painting is a great release - as are all the arts - especially during difficult times.

Hi Hallie - so glad you found your tool! It seems to be true that many of us lose our inhibitions as we age. Now, if I could also lose my bad habits all would be well!

Hi Margaret - you've found your bliss! Wonderful