Friday, December 11, 2009

Figure It Out (Part I)

"There is no such thing as an amateur artist as different from a professional artist. There is only good art and bad art." - Paul Cezanne
There's a definite exponential increase in class ability by this time of the semester, and after instilling the fundamentals and working with them for months now, it's always a wee bit sad to let 'em go. This is the relatively boring stage of budding talent, and one of the more sublime pleasures and fringe benefits is seeing the comparatively small fraction persist and continue. Even at the student art show there were a couple former students of mine whos works had been steadily evolving and maturing into interesting, provocative directions neither of us could have foreseen in Art 101.

This is the time when I tend to back off from students working - aside from the intermittent patrolling and mid-flight course corrections before spectacular crash & burns, it's mostly offering encouragement and giving compliments; my commentary (unless asked) is almost superfluous by now. At this point they should know, if not better, then enough to understand their choices and judge their efforts accordingly. Which is to say, I'm confident enough for most of them to just simply be a silent partner and the occasional tactical support - pretty much what one does when part of a circle of fellow artists within the creative community-at-large.

Goes without saying that I'm pleased and even proud of their collective efforts. Being cognizant of the time and energy it takes to crank out a lot of artwork over the course of a busy semester, stressful course-loads, academic pressures, and the everyday occurrences (shit happens) leavened into another demanding Interior Alaskan winter - getting good results can be as much of a challenge as it is just maintaining consistent output. That never changes for amateur, student, teacher, professional and master alike.

Regardless of whether or not the majority ever draw anything again, and within the context of earning a college degree whatever the majors and minors, they can all take away from this one class something very basic, and perversely one of the tougher challenges - partaking in a simple pleasure or all the way to the other extreme and pursuing a professional career - the self-confidence to make art, withstand the internal criticism and self-doubts, and reach for solutions that can't be taught. Guess that philosophically fulfills in part the premise and the promise of the Liberal Arts. From the Fulbright canon:
"The liberal arts philosophy is a unique feature of the U.S. higher education system. The mission of a liberal arts college is to offer a broad education - with courses in the arts, humanities and sciences - so that the students will be able to apply their skills to a wide range of careers. The diverse body of knowledge you will acquire from a liberal arts education, together with the tools of analysis and examination that you will learn to use, will help you develop your own opinions and beliefs, based not on the authority of others, but on your own understanding, examination and evaluation of argument and evidence. Liberal arts education fosters creativity, critical thinking, effective communication, strength of character and a spirit of inquiry. It also deepens the specialized knowledge of a discipline with a comprehensive world view."

"We should talk less and draw more. Personally I would like to renounce speech altogether, and like organic nature, communicate everything I have to say in sketches." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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