Sunday, December 13, 2009

Figure It Out (Part II)

"Perhaps I have no talent, but all vanity aside – I do not believe that anyone makes an artistic attempt, no matter how small, without having a little – or there are many fools." - Paul Gauguin
The weekend before the class' final critique and portfolio turn-in, and I'm shoveling through the backlog of personal projects trying to clear the deck before break. That'll be the chance to take a running jump into the compost heap of back-burner ideas: I do get a bit of momentum purely off the energy generated by the art department these last couple weeks. There's so much creative juices flowing around the studios the floor is slippery. Eww.

Seriously though; that's probably the biggest fringe benefit of teaching; it's the utter ass-kick of inspiration. It's a positive feedback loop where I'll show up on the first day of class next semester burnt-out, blissed-out and rarin' to get to work on the next group: fired up from my own output the yin-yang of expectations comes into play again. "Look what I can do - you can too - here's how I did it - now you do it - hey now I wanna play" etc.

"In a post-modern world there is an increasing demand for creativity, seen as the competitive key to innovative ideas and the continuous development of the marketplace. The search is constantly scrutinizing candidates who are attentive, problem solver, and who can make decisions without hesitation." - Why Teach Art
Toiling away in relative obscurity in a tiny cabin in the woods of Alaska can give you so much insight you lose perspective on the big picture: spending time in other people's studios and in the classroom is a healthy way to stay grounded, an antidote to the ingrown artistic myopia of another long, cold and dark winter. In the classroom I get to look over what a bunch of previously unexperienced (by varying degrees) people have managed to crank out over this past fall and take part in the educational and creative osmosis. Being an adjunct is kinda like keeping a toe in the tub, but with one foot firmly planted in the surrounding community, which is a balanced perspective on the local art scene.
Concurrent with the end of the semester there's the Pottery & Print sale in their respective department studios. From the News-Miner:
"The learning curve of University of Alaska Fairbanks student potters and printmakers goes beyond their artwork.
The fledgling artists also earn a little cash and engage in an economic lesson by selling their wares at a pottery and print sale at the end of the semester. Buyers also benefit, purchasing original art at nominal prices."
Put into context of the two oldest galleries in Fairbanks closing down, there's grim irony in the lesson for "fledgling artists." Still, the teaching goes on, and the art gets made. That's the lesson.

I've tossed many quotations into the mix for all these blog posts, but if there's one that could be considered a mantra that I've adopted, it'd have be a line from one of Shel Silverstein's poems:

"Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before."

I think that just about sums up my whole philosophy behind cartooning and drawing, even the "serious" stuff. It's what I say and demonstrate daily to my students, family and friends: even if it's been done before and maybe even done by someone better, it's still yours, a unique original. Maybe I'm easily amused, but the pure pleasure of making something up that isn't there and drawing it into existence never gets old.

"ART IS ALL OF THESE THINGS, BUT MOST OF ALL, ART IS ART: It allows a human being to take all of these dry, technical, and difficult techniques and use them to create intense beauty, and powerful emotional response. This is one thing that science cannot duplicate, mathematics cannot calculate, foreign language cannot translate, history cannot legislate, and physical education cannot replicate.

THAT IS WHY WE TEACH ART! Not because we expect you to major in Art. Not because we expect you to create art all of your life. Not so you can relax or just have a hobby." - From Why Teach Art?

Just like the extreme individuality of creating a unique piece of art there are as many differing opinions on how to go about teaching someone to make art as there are on how to make art. The results will speak for themselves come final portfolio time this week, and that will work both ways. It's already been well worth it.

"Few things in life are more satisfying--or more frustrating--than teaching. The rewards can't be measured in money (not with the kind of pay a teacher gets, anyway) but being remembered by another person as one who made a difference for the better in his or her life is a good reason for feeling proud." - Brian the Angry Art Teacher

"What's important is finding out what works for you." - Henry Moore

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