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.