We are all different; we look at the same things, but we all see things differently.
At the beginning of July I had the pleasure of conducting a five-day coloured pencil workshop at the McGregor Winter Arts Retreat in Toowoomba, Queensland. Workshops of this length can be demanding on both tutors and students but we got through okay, no doubt assisted by the first class organization that prevailed throughout the week, the planning stages and post-workshops.
My teaching style is as much about the ‘why’ as it is about the ‘how’. Why create art if you don’t know why you’re doing it? Technique is important, but it’s not essential. Skills will come over time with practice, but motivation, understanding and accountability to one’s self are vital if art is to have any personal meaning. The process of creating art is very therapeutic, but rarely is it simply ‘busy work; the product is the bonus. Understanding what you are doing and indeed why you are doing it gives one a much greater chance for success than simply ‘doing it’.
My classes are not based on everyone drawing the same thing for the same outcome. I don’t believe in that method of teaching. We are all different, we look at the same things, but we all see things differently. Art is based on personal expression/interpretation. What’s the value in drawing the same subject to an exact formula? I teach individual programs as I did for the majority of my career as a full-time art teacher. It’s not that hard to do. Skills and techniques that are taught are far more relevant if each person chooses their own subject matter. It’s also likely to increase self-confidence knowing that you have had some influence on the lesson outcome. I struggle with the teaching of photo-realism as an art response. What individual response is there when what one creates looks the same as everyone else’s?
Each of the 5 days at my Toowoomba workshop saw a different topic, with a different outcome. My 10 students performed admirably and considering their wide range of abilities and art experience, there was no doubt that the week was successful. I was particularly pleased with the final session on the last day, where several students spoke with passion to the rest of the group about their ‘journey’ throughout the week.
A summary of the week’s activities:
Day 1: Introduction to the materials on offer – Caran d’Ache Lumimance, Supracolor and Museum Aquarelle pencils, Canson Mi Teintes papers, Montval Watercolour paper, drawing paper and recycled drawing paper. The role and value of visual diaries. Colour pencil and paper identification and testing followed by an individual response to a set exercise.
Day 2: Construction and techniques of landscapes.
Day 3: How to compose a successful still-life from objects seen and/or collected.
Day 4: Creating abstracts from Nature that have a personal meaning through the markings of the scribbly gum moth.
Day 5: Resolve unfinished work from the previous 4 days. Create a drawing that contains elements from the previous 4 days. Discuss your work and share your experiences.
This is why I still love teaching art.