Friday, March 26, 2010

Musings on the relevance of demonstrations

Occasionally, students request a demonstration. They want to see how it is done. This request came up again the other day. It occurred to me, that in my undergraduate and graduate studies, no professor had ever given a demonstration per se. The thought never occurred to me to ask them to paint a picture and let me watch. I am currently teaching older adults, people that have often put their love of art on hold while they pursued other careers. Perhaps they want to catch up for lost time and find the quickest way to competency. I just don't know if that can be hastened in any way by watching someone else paint.
There are definitely basic building blocks of information, and we all learn from other artists. That is why I like teaching in a class environment. But I don't want to make it look like magic. It is hard work, and the fact that I can appear to do it easier isn't because I am some sort of wizard, it is because I have covered miles of canvas and made hundreds of mistakes. Each mistake I have made in the past helps inform the decision I make in the next stroke. It is a personal discovery and process. Art is about more than technique, and technique is about more than a tool box of tricks. In order to discover who we are as unique individuals with something personal to say with our art, we have to find our own way of ordering marks and colors.
So, I am happy to put on a show of how I make it all come together, but not for an instant do I think you should take the same approach because that would be a waste of who you are. My role as a teacher, is to help my students start to see the things in their paintings that help define that.


  1. Mary, you definitely have a way with words, and I agree with your musings. I enjoy watching demonstrations more when they are outside of a class, when I'm not chomping at the bit to start my own painting! However, in class demonstrations are also helpful, as I am a visual learner.
    I enjoy viewing another artist's approach to making art. I also like to think I can take a bit from every artist/teacher I see, whether it's a technique, a philosophy, or even a "trick" that helps make me a better artist and make my art, "my own".
    I look forward to reading your future blog entries!
    Carpe Diem! Eileen

  2. Hi Mary, congrats on your blog. As a teacher, you will be able to impart some of your knowledge to students who are interested in your process. But it will always be YOUR process. I have learned that process/technique & finish are always the result of thinking, feeling, and yes making many mistakes. The finished painting is always the result of a very personal inner voice which will emerge if allowed, and no amount of watching technique can create it. But it can certainly help in the larger sense to add a piece of memory to the many-faceted aspects of creating a painting. The rest is up to the artist.

    Good luck, and thanks for sharing your time and thoughts. I will be on the other side of the screen thinking and feeling with you!