Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Art Teachers
I've been blessed with some really tough art teachers. Everyone has experienced them. They have their standards and you must reach them. I've never had a teacher whose expectation outreached my ability. But nonetheless, I've had my moments and I am here to say, I learned from every one of them (good or bad), making me the artist and teacher I am today.

Let's begin with one instructor that gave me absolutely no instruction at all. It was in a figure drawing class. As they did in the old classic days, the teacher puts a plaster figure in front of us at the head of the class (we were all in rows by the way) and tells us to take out our charcoal to begin drawing the subject. He didn't time us as is done in other classes--no 30-second drawings or two-minute drawings.  We were given an hour. That sounds good, although I've now learned that those short early starts in class are perfect for warming up.

A tall, gangly man of only 30 years or so, the instructor would return to class and begin to show me (and others of course) what I'd done wrong--using his own charcoal to show me where. Egads, I had worked on this project for an hour and BAM! this guy comes along and marks it up so much, I couldn't even see the original. Talk about frustration. After weeks of this with little to no instruction, I finally gave up and dropped the class.

I've been told that this was a teaching philosophy in the 60s and 70s. It left me so torn up that I decided to change my major to English. There are definite rules you can follow with words--although we can all spring off the board occasionally to make a point. Besides, although teachers expected me to do well in my writing, they continued to help me to stay within the parameters.

I guess what frustrated me most was that everyone gave glowing reviews to artists that simply put a big red dot on a canvas and called it art. But when I tried to express myself, it was wrong.

Now let me tell you about another teacher I had. She too didn't give any instruction like I do in my classes and workshops. She'd put a still life in front of us, and here's the difference, she'd stay in class to help us along, offering advice and encouragement on an individual basis. But of all my teachers, she was my toughest. She had high standards for me--well, at least I thought so, since she wouldn't let me slide.

For instance, I liked drawing with a grid back then. As many of you know I hand them out in all my classes. I use them to help students see things proportionally. I can either hold up the grid to see the subject before me or place it directly on my photo.  
It's easier to put all the pieces together when there's a grid involved. Besides, if I wish, I can focus in on one square at a time.

No, no, my art teacher didn't allow grids. In fact, if she caught me making little tick marks on my paper, she'd make me erase them. She also taught me to look for structure when creating an abstract. I didn't understand what she meant until I tried to just throw stuff on the canvas without some sort of order or composition. It surely became a mess.

For instance, let’s consider Pablo Picasso's (1881-1973) Guernica (1937). Before learning about structure, I always disliked this work. It made no sense. Now, of course, learning the backstory was helpful. (Hitler was using Spanish countryside to practice air bombings, be damn the citizens.) Nonetheless, you can see the anguish and devastation in the work, and it really does all come together. To this day, I appreciate her lessons. While she didn't lecture, she taught all of us very well through personalized example.

So after saying all this, how should you judge what teacher is right for you? Here are some ideas.
  1. Be flexible. Give the teacher a chance to prove herself or himself. In time, you will know without a doubt if you are learning something or not.
  2. Be leery of a teacher who doesn’t help you or give you specific instruction. For example, I found a lot of teachers don’t cover perspective because it’s hard. Not every teacher has to teach it, but every one of them should have a good general knowledge of how it's done.
  3. Ask around. That seems a bit hard if you’re not in an art community, but you’d be surprised how many of your friends have dabbled in art. They usually know who is good and who is not.
  4. If you can, before buying all your supplies, contact the teacher. Ask questions regarding teaching style and why some things are done and some things are not. Be honest if you're a beginner. This will help both of you
 And most importantly, believe in yourself. I didn’t understand or comprehend color when I returned to fine arts. Sure, I knew how to put stuff together for a pleasing advertisement or brochure, but when it came to painting, that was another story. I was at a loss. It frustrated me and also my teacher at the time. So much so, she wondered out loud if I had a color deficiency.

No I didn’t. I just needed better instruction on color theory, which I eventually sought. Anyone who has taken my color course of late would never worry if I were suffering from color ineptitude because I can create hundreds of colors from the three primaries* (plus black and white). The moral here is if it doesn’t sound right, then it probably isn’t. Go with your instinct. Learning color takes a long, long time—just like everything else!

Hopefully, you are all taking classes or workshops from fabulous instructors. However, if you're feeling frustrated, maybe it's time to share your frustration with your teacher or to look around for someone new. But be warned though, the teacher that demand the most out of you are probably the best.

*Magenta, cyan and lemon yellow

What's coming up?

Classes and Workshops

Glastonbury Studios Classes
Five-Week Session 
Begins Week of April 22 - Ends Week of May 20
Seats available in most classes

Pencil to BrushDrawing and painting
Every Tuesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
Prerequisite: Studio Acrylic Workshop*

The Morning DrawEvery Wednesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$80 Full

The Drawing Studio 
(Watercolor Sketching)
Every Thursday evening
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
To register email:

*Must have taken previous Acrylics Workshop/Class conducted by Jill Goodell

2018 Studio Workshops
All studio workshops are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Includes most supplies and lunch. Class size is limited to ten students. Pre-registration is required. Only payment reserves your seat. Cost is $85. For detailed information on each workshop, go to workshop offerings.

Saturday, May 5
Flowers in watercolor/pen and ink

Saturday, June 23
Keeping a nature journal

Friday, September 7
Watercolor painting with Brusho®

Saturday, November 10
Beginning acrylic painting

Registration closing May 1
Watercolor Sketching Cruise
September 14-21 2018
Autumn in Watercolors
(watercolors, pen and ink)For more information go to this link.