“One kid said to me, “See that bird? What kind of a bird is that?” And I said, “I haven’t the slightest idea what kind of bird it is.” He says, “It’s a Brown-throated Thrush” or something, “Your father doesn’t tell you anything!” But it was the opposite, my father had taught me, looking at a bird he says, “Do you know what that bird is? It’s a Brown- throated Thrush. But in Portuguese it’s a “Honto La Pero”, in Italian “A Chutera Pikita”, he says, “in Chinese it’s a “Chong-ong-tok” in Japanese “Apatara kupudecha” etc. He says now if you know all the languages you wanna know the name of that bird is, and when you finish with all that, he says, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You only know about humans in different places and what they call the bird. Now he says “Now let’s look at the bird and what it’s doing.” Isn’t that wonderful?”
― Richard P. Feynman
Alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, burnt umber. An entire course could focus on memorizing the names of different colors of paint, techniques, and some basic anatomy. In this class students could achieve a perfect grade without painting, drawing or even touching a pencil. These students are not learning how to draw or paint. They are instead learning what people call art materials and techniques that artists use. That distinction is crucial because it distinguishes memorizing what paint is called vs. actually knowing how to use paint. I used a quote from Richard P. Feynman because as a theoretical physicist, he so eloquently describes that you should be aware of what you’re learning and the use of such information. For example, books about bikes are wonderful and informative, but they won’t teach you howto ride a bike. Similarly, art instruction, like philosophy, was never intended to occur passively in the mind. Art is to be acted upon and engaged with life. I aim to teach all students to internalize how to draw and paint from a strong, self-directed, intuition that develops from practice, dedication, and experimentation.
As a Drawing/Painting instructor, it is one of my goals to prepare students to embrace the global contemporary art world in culturally relevant ways. Enriching students to the diverse history of art, broadens their perspective and conceptual toolbox, strengthening their ability to create and critique their own work. Art history solidifies a strong base upon which students can expand and explore new and innovative practices. In class I screen documentaries of contemporary and international artists speaking about their work, process, and inspirations. For example, during a lesson about positive and negative space, I will base a lesson off of Kara Walker’s black and white silhouettes, guide a lesson about her references to America’s history of slavery, and then tie it into recent work such as Donald Glover’s, “This is America”, and the work of Jayson Musson.
When students have a successful day or assignment, I make sure to acknowledge their work. Focusing on successful actions in class creates a positive atmosphere of integrity and achievement. By focusing on process and growth, students are comfortable taking risks to grow and improve. Lessons and assignments are specifically structured to place focus on the planning, sketching, and outlining of work. When I present students with major projects, I list the number of hours to be spent on each project. For example, 30+ hours per unit assignment in a Drawing I/II course. While 30 hours of work may not finish a major drawing project, an unfinished piece with 30+ quality hours of work is preferable to a rushed and finished 7-hour drawing.
I provide effective and high-quality Drawing and Paintings lessons for students. To introduce a project, after an art history lecture, I will demonstrate techniques, styles, and materials live and in front of all students, so they can see the subtle gestures and marks being made. This vulnerability encourages all students to also be present and courageous in class. I balance this approach with thoughtful, and consistent 1:1 feedback for each student. Students tell me what they love most about my lessons, is when through individual/group critiques, they are able to define and see for the first time their distinctive way of drawing or painting. Frequent peer to peer critiques create an equitable space of engaged students. I then cultivate and mature their methods of drawing/painting in traditional paths, or in interdisciplinary directions incorporating sculpture, video, sound, performance, projection, and installation.
Each day lessons are thoughtfully designed to maximize learning potential, each minute of class from start to finish has a purpose. Lesson materials have individualized accommodations for students with IEP’s, and provide sheltering, and supports for Emerging Bilingual students. The classroom, lecture materials, artists studied, and projects are designed to be culturally and linguistically responsive and diverse. Students have strong voice in my student-centered classroom, and constantly engage with each other to create a determined class culture. My skills embrace both multiple art media skills and multi-cultural teaching environments. Painting/Drawing courses give students a broad visual vocabulary, and the ability to research, expand process, and approach their work with a base in composition, design, and mark making. Students develop a unique and innovative practice to source inspiration and advance their technical and experimental skills.
I guide students to discover perspectives beyond their pre-conceived, personal, safe boundaries by discussing that experimentation, process, and practice are often more beneficial in the long run than always wanting to create a ‘masterpiece’. I guide students from being ‘masterpiece’ oriented, to process and practice oriented, by focusing my attention and grading on their process, practice, and adventurousness. I am committed to helping students develop a diverse creative process and foundation to build upon as their careers unfold. I feel I have succeeded in teaching if students leave a course with an increased confidence, passion, and a self-directed ability to learn beyond class.