Tuesday, October 6, 2009


... no, not a student - this time it's me.

After handling literally thousands of pieces of artwork over the years, one thing I hadn't yet done was destroy a student piece entrusted to my care. Words fail to describe the horror at watching a quadruple-shot mocha spread across a critique drawing by one of the better students in my class and one of the top three efforts turned in for that particular assignment. Okay, swear words sort of described it, lots and lots, and really loud (one nice thing about being in the department at 7am is the hallways are dead).
Stupid, stupid accident as a result of carelessness on my part. Fortunately the student was very gracious and kind in accepting my apology. Also I guess it helps that there's a positive side to not pouring one's heart & soul into creating a monumental elevation of humanity and grand, personal destiny into a drawing of, eh, one's living room. Maybe I should redraw it, or at the least offer up a couple of my own originals in exchange. Might seem like I'm pole-vaulting over mouse turds here, but it was a traumatic moment. If someone cares enough to invest the time and effort into a piece it deserves basic respect in exchange, especially when entrusted to your care. Even if it's mediocre, or poor.

Now over the years I've heard some truly lame excuses as to the condition of some homework, but in my experience this one gets a ribbon. But I also got a runner-up this week: after leaving class, another student had wound up rolling her car (fortunately surviving with just a concussion after not having a seat-belt on), and while being taken to the hospital by the ambulance, all her art supplies and materials (along with everything else in the car) got ripped off. That's not only a tough break but a fine example of community spirit on the part of Fairbanks. Some fellow classmates chipped in to crutching her through this little speed-bump.

On a related note, I think it's an urban legend to hear rumor of art teachers actually tearing up their students works during a critique. If that had ever happened in one of my classes, that's one artist/teacher who just might've had to learn how to draw with their other hand for a while. I mean, you got someone with that much hostility and contempt for student's work, then they really need both therapy and to probably get their asses fired. Then again, there's been some truly pathetic examples I've seen go up which really push one's sense of diplomacy and tact. Still, that's your job, and one hopefully expects teachers to rise at least a little above the maturity of the students, even if we are, as I just handily demonstrated, just people.

While I'm bitching & moaning, I would add that another major annoyance for an art teacher is being put in the position of having to trash works left behind - I mean, it's not like you can't objectively distance yourself from doing what needs to be done, i.e. cleaning up the studio, or even grading for that matter, but it still irks me to see an entire portfolio abandoned. There's a little grace period and even effort made to contact the student in case of an honest oversight, but there's simply too little real estate in the shared room to allow for any accumulation, and so into the dumpster it goes. Now if I could only be so ruthless when it comes to the piles of junk in my own cabin. But it's still a real shame to see that be the ultimate self-critique of an entire semester's worth of effort, along with second-guessing the value of the class in that person's opinion.

"I thought I would call myself a pig before the viewer could, so they could only think more of me." - Jeff Koons


  1. ...wow. That's a brutal spill. :( Glad she was understanding about it...mistakes do happen after all (albeit it's always nicer when they don't happen to us). And I'm glad your student survived her crash, even if she did lost her things (things are replaceable, even art is to an extent replaceable, her life, not so much).

    This entry makes me sad, heh. All rough stuff, no perks.

  2. Aw, but that's why there's funny drawings see... perky + rough?